Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blog feed for more than 500 posts

The folks at Blogger, bless their hearts, erect several obstacles to creative use of your blog's feed.

Some of us use our feeds--our whole feeds, not just the most recent stuff--to make an index of our blogs, or to reverse the order so that it begins with the oldest post.

The default Blogger feeds, however, show only the most recent 25 posts. This is pretty easy to get around: you just append "max-results=999" to the feed url, which overrides the 25-post limit (replacing it with a a larger one). So the feed for this blog, breaking the 25-post barrier, is
http://too-clever-by-half.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?max-results=999
It turns out that Blogger has a second, more-serious limit of 500 posts per feed. Here's how that works, and how to work around it if your blog has more than 500 posts.

This limit has probably been in place for a while. I missed it because it is not documented and also because I do not have more than 500 posts on any of my blogs. (Yet.)

Fortunately, this limit is also flexible, in a way. All of your posts are in your feed. However, you can only see them in 500-post increments.

For instance, if the first 500 posts of your blog feed are here:
http://YOURBLOG.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?max-results=999
the second 500 posts are here:
http://YOURBLOG.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?max-results=999&start-index=501
The "start-index=501" parameter (after the ampersand, which you must add) says to start the 500 count at post no. 501. If you have 809 posts in your blog, this will yield the oldest 309 of them.

Note the "max-results=999" parameter is still needed to override the other default limit of 25 posts.

This is a lot like the recent decision of Yahoo Pipes to paginate its feeds, and the remedy is similar.

You must treat each 500-post increment as a separate feed, manipulate each as you see fit, and then paste the scripts for them serially into your blog to create the entire series. (Use a service like feed2js to create the script for you.) You can also merge the feeds at Yahoo Pipes, if that works for you.

By the way, there is a similar 500-post segmentation of any label feed, and a 200-comment segmentation of the comment feed. In both cases the "start-index=" parameter gives you access to your whole feed, in chunks.

This is a nuisance and if it pushes you to say its not worth the trouble I do not blame you. However, with this workaround it is possible to get at your whole feed, if you need it, Blogger's limits notwithstanding.

Blog feed for more than 500 posts

The folks at Blogger, bless their hearts, erect several obstacles to creative use of your blog's feed.

Some of us use our feeds--our whole feeds, not just the most recent stuff--to make an index of our blogs, or to reverse the order so that it begins with the oldest post.

The default Blogger feeds, however, show only the most recent 25 posts. This is pretty easy to get around: you just append "max-results=999" to the feed url, which overrides the 25-post limit (replacing it with a a larger one). So the feed for this blog, breaking the 25-post barrier, is
http://too-clever-by-half.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?max-results=999
It turns out that Blogger has a second, more-serious limit of 500 posts per feed. Here's how that works, and how to work around it if your blog has more than 500 posts.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Feed "pagination" hobbles Yahoo Pipes

The quirky but useful Pipes web service has added a new kink, with implications for bloggers that use it to reverse the order of their posts.

Running your blog feed though the pipe I built will flip the order, and until recently you could then just port the pipe's feed to feed2js to show your blog in the order you want.

Frustratingly, Yahoo Pipes has started to paginate its feeds in blocks of 100 posts. So the feed url you get from Pipes only displays the first 100 posts in the series. To see the next 100 posts, you have to add the following to the feed url:
&page=2
You then run both feed urls, separately, through feed2js, and mash the results together so they look like a continuous feed.

Pain in the neck, but it's actually worse than that. You have to do that for each block of 100 items in your feed, so if you have 600 posts on your blog that means six separate feed urls, up to &page=6.

Heck, it is worse than that. If you keep blogging (and I hope you do), you must periodically add 100-post segments as you grow. You can't just set it up and leave it to do its magic as you could previously. There is potentially no end to the process.

Bad Yahoo!

Before I walk you through how to do this (and it's not so bad, its just that it should not be set up this way at all), lets review some other options.

First of all, you might want to paginate your own blog journey by year, as I do on my other blog. A script with hundreds of blog posts can take a long time to load and breaking it up makes it more manageable.

If you are going to do that anyway, and if you do not have more than 100 posts in any year, then you don't need to worry about this new curve ball from Yahoo at all. Plop your feed into my pipe, segment the feed by date for each year, and go. If there are less than 100 posts, the issue does not arise.

Second, Yahoo does not paginate its JSON object--it give you the entire feed in that format. If you have facility with javascript you can whip up your own script using the JSON. Unfortunately, feed2js does not work with that format.

I think the JSON-javascript option may turn out to be the best solution. But so far my Blog Journey hack, for all its faults, has not required anyone to be a programmer. (Granted there is a script, generated for you by feed2js, but all you need to do is copy and paste it into your blog. Feed2js does all the heavy lifting and that, along with its great user interface, is why we love it.)

One great accomplishment of all these cloud-based web services, such as Pipes and Blogger itself, is that they put a friendly user interface between you and the underlying code. I try to honor and preserve that. I feel I am writing for some pretty smart people here, but I draw the line at actually programming.

So here's how to work around Yahoo's unfortunate pagination problem.
  1. Run the feed through my pipe and get the feed of the pipe output, as described here.
  2. Using a service such as feed2js, turn that into a script and paste it into into your blog.
  3. For each additional set of 100 posts in your feed, add &page=n to the feed url, where n is the page containing the set (starting with 2 for posts nos. 101–200).
  4. Run that though feed2js and add the code to the script you've already pasted into your blog in way outlined below.
  5. Repeat that for all the pages in your feed.

If you just paste the scripts one after the other, there will be a space between them in the output they generate on your blog. To avoid this, eliminate the spaces after the <script>...</script> and <noscript>...</noscript> tags. (Lots of stuff between those tags; don't mess with it.)

Those spaces make it a lot easier for the human eye to parse, but the script does not require them to run.

This whole episode is another reminder, not that we needed one, of the drawbacks of using third-party web services.

I still think that doing so avoids analogous drawbacks of trying to hack Blogger with scripts, but this sure has not been a good year for the third-party approach.

Feed "pagination" hobbles Yahoo Pipes

The quirky but useful Pipes web service has added a new kink, with implications for bloggers that use it to reverse the order of their posts.

Running your blog feed though the pipe I built will flip the order, and until recently you could then just port the pipe's feed to feed2js to show your blog in the order you want.

Frustratingly, Yahoo Pipes has started to paginate its feeds in blocks of 100 posts. So the feed url you get from Pipes only displays the first 100 posts in the series. To see the next 100 posts, you have to add the following to the feed url:
&page=2
You then run both feed urls, separately, through feed2js, and mash the results together so they look like a continuous feed.

Feed-based hacks get a new lease on life

Alan Levine, originator and keeper of the useful but endangered feed2js.org web service, announced last week that thanks to

the generosity of people who have donated financial support, and one anonymous donor in particular, I have sufficient funds to keep Feed2JS running at least through June 2013, and maybe longer.

Feed2js turns rss feeds into scripts that will run on blogger.

If you manipulate your blog feed to, say, reverse the order of posts, you can then run it through feed2js and just paste the result onto a static blog page or sidebar gadget. No javascript knowledge required. Genius!

Alan announced last summer that the popularity of the service had made it too expensive for him to fund out of pocket.

His latest news of a year-and-a-half reprieve (in dog years, that is more than a decade) is welcome news.

The full story is on Alan's blog.

Feed-based hacks get a new lease on life

Alan Levine, originator and keeper of the useful but endangered feed2js.org web service, announced last week that thanks to

the generosity of people who have donated financial support, and one anonymous donor in particular, I have sufficient funds to keep Feed2JS running at least through June 2013, and maybe longer.

Feed2js turns rss feeds into scripts that will run on blogger.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Web services and the kindness of strangers

Your blog can be a journey rather than a most-recent-first news site.

You can show your blog content in chronological order, instead of reverse-order default, using a method that relies on external web services to flip the posts around.

These services are web sites that let you manipulate data, in this case having to do with your blog's feed. The services are free and rely on the kindness of strangers.

Web services make my blog-journey hack a little daunting (though people have told me it's easier than it sounds). This approach requires bloggers to think of their content in new ways, and to learn how to use these third-party web services a little bit.

Besides that difficulty, however, there is another pitfall.

These free web services are subject to changes, sometimes without notice. Feed2js.org, which turns feeds into scripts that you can just paste into your blog, is so useful and popular that it may have to shut down (or find a revenue stream to pay for all the server time it consumes).

Similarly, the folks at Yahoo Pipes last summer completely rewrote their "pipes engine"--the software that, among other things, flips the posts around. Unfortunately their method was to switch abruptly to a buggy version and turn its user base into involuntary beta testers. It caused some problems for some bloggers.

In other words, we use these free external services, but consequently are subject to free external outages, changes, and other developments beyond our control, often without notice.

Is this acceptable to you? If you use Blogger, perhaps it ought to be. Blogger is itself a free web service, and from time to time Blogger experiences glitches and outages, or introduces unpopular or buggy changes without notice. But it is no fun when it happens.

There are also advantages to using web services, which are less likely to break when Blogger tweaks itself or when Microsoft rolls out some new browser that breaks the Document Object Model. Nonetheless the services can be subject to disruption.

P.S. I continue to post news about the fate of feed2js as events unfold.

Web services and the kindness of strangers

Your blog can be a journey rather than a most-recent-first news site.

You can show your blog content in chronological order, instead of reverse-order default, using a method that relies on external web services to flip the posts around.

These services are web sites that let you manipulate data, in this case having to do with your blog's feed. The services are free and rely on the kindness of strangers.

Web services make my blog-journey hack a little daunting (though people have told me it's easier than it sounds). This approach requires bloggers to think of their content in new ways, and to learn how to use these third-party web services a little bit.

Besides that difficulty, however, there is another pitfall.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Suddenly, "please support feed2js" at the end of every script

As I write this there is an unexpected emergency note at the bottom of every feed script that runs though feed2js.org:
Attn web site owners: Please support Feed2JS!
This note, with this link, appears unwanted on every blog and web site that uses this service. Here's what's happening and how to make the message go away.

Feed2js, one of two web services used in my blog-journey hack, is a labor of love for a programmer named Alan Levine.

This service is useful and popular and has become the victim of its own success. Alan can no longer afford to pay for servers to keep feed2js running. He's asking for donations and looking for a long-term solution.

To let people know about this, he has appended a short message to the end of the output of every script from his site. That means that every user of my hack is suddenly showing that message on their blogs.

This is unpleasant and unfortunate, but I realize that Alan has no other way to contact us. We do not register to use his service and he does not have our email addresses. His unwanted postscript is certainly preferable, from my point of view, to suddenly finding that the service has been pulled completely and that none of the scripts work any more.

The short message links to a full explanation, and if you read it you will discover a simple way to disable the nag message with a few lines of css that you can add to your template. I tip my hat to Alan's thoughtful conduct.

The code is
li.f2jnag {
display:none;
}
Adding it suppresses the short note.

I have made a small donation, and urge you to do so too if you use feed2js. But Alan does not seem to feel that continually chasing small donations is a good solution, and he'd like to find a long-term home for his free service. If he can't, we'll all be looking for an alternative.

Alan suggests a few of these in his message, and I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has tried them out.

Update: Alan now says donations have bought five months to find a solution. In the mean time the service works fine and you can remove the nag line with the css above.

Update: As of Thanksgiving 2011, Alan has enough support to continue "at least through June 2013."

Suddenly, "please support feed2js" at the end of every script

As I write this there is an unexpected emergency note at the bottom of every feed script that runs though feed2js.org:
Attn web site owners: Please support Feed2JS!
This note, with this link, appears unwanted on every blog and web site that uses this service. Here's what's happening and how to make the message go away.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have your feed and burn it too

The justly popular Feedburner service comes with a 500-kb limit. Exceed that and Feedburner will not syndicate all your content, dropping the oldest first.

This is consistent with the model of a feed as a broadcast of your posts to subscribers (via feed reader or email). Such readers presumably are only interested in your latest and greatest.

However, complete feeds that comprise all of your content are broadly useful for other purposes, such as my Blog Journey hack to show posts in chronological order, oldest first.

There is no need to discontinue your highly useful Feedburner feed. You can keep it, and your old, unshortened feed, if you refrain from redirecting your blog feed to the one you burn at Feedburner.

Sure, Blogger and Feedburner advise you to redirect, by specifying your Feedburner feed at Settings > Other > Site Feed > Post Feed Redirect URL. That way anyone who accesses any of your old site feeds will automatically get the feed you control (and can customize) at Feedburner.

However, you also lose your complete feed if you do. So if you need a full feed but want a Feedburner feed too (for instance, to put Feedburner's automated subscribe-by-email gadget in your sidebar), just leave the redirect field blank.

If you've previously redirected to Feedburner, reset by clearing the field and saving.

Do that, and you can use Feedburner and your old feed--all of it.

Have your feed and burn it too

The justly popular Feedburner service comes with a 500-kb limit. Exceed that and Feedburner will not syndicate all your content, dropping the oldest first.

This is consistent with the model of a feed as a broadcast of your posts to subscribers (via feed reader or email). Such readers presumably are only interested in your latest and greatest.

However, complete feeds that comprise all of your content are broadly useful for other purposes, such as my Blog Journey hack to show posts in chronological order, oldest first.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blog-journey-hack problems SOLVED

I woke up on Tuesday to find that my blog-journey hack was broken, but the problem is fixed now.

Feed2js.org, one of two internet services on which the hack relies, had altered the way it processes feeds. The change was causing HTML code that was part of the feed to be printed on screen rather than executed.

The result was a loss of formatting and the appearance of some gnarly non-english characters on screen.

The problem was fixed when feed2js reverted back to its previous routine.

Feed2js.org is a very handy free web service that will take a feed and turn it into a script that you can paste into your blog.

The service provides a clear user interface and many options for what exactly is included. I use it in my recipe for displaying blog content as a "journey," in chronological order.

I'm very glad this problem is resolved!

I haven't changed a thing, though I may need to to resolve this problem.

You need look no further than the sidebar of this blog to see the messy results, which brackets the title of each post with HTML code.

I am trying to learn more and come up with a workaround. Meanwhile perhaps the problem will right itself, if the errant service is restored to its previous mode.


Very sorry! That's all I know right now.

Blog-journey-hack problems SOLVED

I woke up on Tuesday to find that my blog-journey hack was broken, but the problem is fixed now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The amazing "Configure Blog Posts" controls

Nested away in your blog settings is a control panel for blog posts.

I don't mean the screen for editing individual posts, of which you surely know already; this lets you change the uniform way all of your posts are rendered in your blog.

At stake are things like whether and where to show the date, labels, even title of posts.

Not every feature here is going to be important to everyone. However, there are so many options (Move "posted by" to the top? Or suppress it altogether? Change jump-break-link text?) that I think every blogger should know about these controls.

The only way to see these options is at Layout > Blog Posts > Edit.

The resulting screen has three parts: two generic "Main Page" settings, followed by a long list of sub elements, some enabled by default, that you can turn on or off, followed by a layout section.

In this third section you can arrange those elements by dragging them (mirroring the way you can rearrange sidebar gadgets on Blogger's layout page).

This is one hefty control panel, and you should check it out. Maybe there's some change you can make there that will make your blog even better than it already is.

The amazing "Configure Blog Posts" controls

Nested away in your blog settings is a control panel for blog posts.

I don't mean the screen for editing individual posts, of which you surely know already; this lets you change the uniform way all of your posts are rendered in your blog.

At stake are things like whether and where to show the date, labels, even title of posts.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Edit the elements

Blogger's layout page, at Layout, is the powerful graphical-interface control panel for your blog. There you can add gadgets and even rearrange them just by clicking and dragging.

Perhaps you know that you can also configure those gadgets by clicking their respective "edit" links. But look over at the rectangle labeled "Blog Posts." That's right, you can configure them too.

Every element is a gadget with settings that you control. The options for configuring blog posts are particularly powerful, but you can similarly edit your header, footer (the option is limited and called "Attribution"), even the Navbar.

You can edit the configurations of many of these elements directly from your blog pages. Just click on the tiny screwdriver-and-wrench icon (visibly only to you when logged into your account) at the lower right edge of any gadget to configure.

Blog posts, header, and navbar, however, can only be configured from the Edit Layout page.

Edit the elements

Blogger's layout page, at Layout, is the powerful graphical-interface control panel for your blog. There you can add gadgets and even rearrange them just by clicking and dragging.

Perhaps you know that you can also configure those gadgets by clicking their respective "edit" links. But look over at the rectangle labeled "Blog Posts." That's right, you can configure them too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blog elements

In the beginning was the blog, composed of posts.

But there are many other pages and parts of your blog, some added later by Blogger (such as static pages), others generated automatically (such as label searches).

It's handy to know what you can do with these. Here's a field guide.

1. Blog page (home page)
2. Blog post pages (individual post)
4. Archive ("Older Posts") pages
  A. and part 2
5. Label-search pages
6. Static page
7. Search-results pages
8. Header, title & tagline
9. Sidebar
  A. and upper horizontal gadgets area
  B. and lower horizontal gadgets area

APPENDICES
A. Elements common to every page
B. Limits on page size:
  1. Setting limits
  2. Automatic pagenation
  3. Strategies: Your blog on a diet
C. Tabbed navigation
D. Configuring blog elements
  1. Even blog posts themselves
Other blog elements (forthcoming)

Blog elements

In the beginning was the blog, composed of posts.

But there are many other pages and parts of your blog, some added later by Blogger (such as static pages), others generated automatically (such as label searches).

It's handy to know what you can do with these. Here's a field guide.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Better tabbed navigation with link lists, not the Pages gadget

There's an old Vaudeville routine about a man in an airplane and a series of reversals.
Unfortunately--he fell out.
Fortunately--he was wearing a parachute.
Unfortunately--it wouldn't open
and so forth.

The unhappy conclusion:
Fortunately--he missed the pitchfork.
Unfortunately--he missed the haystack.
Well, fortunately, Blogger provides a nifty Pages gadget that automatically lists all of your static pages. Blogger nudges you to set one up if you publish such a page, and if you put it in the horizontal area over your posts, many templates render it as a handy tabbed navigation system.

Navigation gizmos like this can connect readers to your content, making your blog more useful, fun, and, ultimately, popular.

Unfortunately,
that gadget is probably not as useful as it looks. The Pages gadget can only link to static pages, which do not, for many bloggers, live up to their promise. You can't put posts on them for instance, like you can on a label-search page.

Although you can specify what pages to show on your Pages gadget and in what order, you can't have a label on the tab that is different than the title of your page. So if your titles are long, your tabs will not be very tab-like. They may not even fit.

Update: Fortunately, Blogger has a new Pages gadget lets you add non-Pages links, hybrid style. Unfortunately you have to use the inferior new Dashboard interface to get to it. Fortunately, for a limited time you can switch back and forth.

The Link-List Alternative
Fortunately, then, there is a better choice: the link-list gadget. Use it to link to anything on the web, including static pages but also the far-more-useful label-search pages and even other blogs or web pages.

You can specify short tab labels on a link list even with long titles. Just like the Pages gadget a link list will assume the appropriate horizontal appearance (e.g., tabs) when dragged over the posts. (It formats as a list in the sidebar.)

About the only thing Pages does that a link list can't is automatically add static pages.

You can install a link list like most other gadgets, from Layout > Add a Gadget. Scroll down the window that opens to find the link list.

Conclusion
The Pages gadget, like the static pages with which they are so tightly integrated, are specialized and limited.

Only you can decide what is best for your blog, but many bloggers who have installed that Pages gadget would be better off, with happier readers, with a link list that can link to all pages.

Fortunately, the decision is yours.

Update: Blogger is rolling out a better version of the Pages gadget that will let you add custom links just like the link-list gadget does.

The improved version is currently available through the quirky and unpredictably changing Blogger in Draft. Many features introduced there eventually make their way into all of Blogger.

Looks like some day this post will be obsolete.

Better tabbed navigation with link lists, not the Pages gadget

There's an old Vaudeville routine about a man in an airplane and a series of reversals.
Unfortunately--he fell out.
Fortunately--he was wearing a parachute.
Unfortunately--it wouldn't open
and so forth.

The unhappy conclusion:
Fortunately--he missed the pitchfork.
Unfortunately--he missed the haystack.
Well, fortunately, Blogger provides a nifty Pages gadget that automatically lists all of your static pages. Blogger nudges you to set one up if you publish such a page, and if you put it in the horizontal area over your posts, many templates render it as a handy tabbed navigation system.

Navigation gizmos like this can connect readers to your content, making your blog more useful, fun, and, ultimately, popular.

Unfortunately,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Your blog, on a diet

This is your blog, on a diet.

Blogger automatically pagenates your blog pages based on size. Exceed 500 kb, and Blogger continues your blog onto an archive page.

This feature (or bug if you prefer) is not going away. You can't disable it, but you can manage it.
  • Consider strategic use of the jump break to fit more posts per page. Put most of your large content, such as photos, behind the break, where it won't count against your 500 kb. Write an engaging lead that draws readers in, then jump!
  • The 500-kb limit applies to all dynamic pages, including relative archive pages (older, newer), but not to absolute archive pages (e.g. January 2010).
  • The limits do not apply to static pages, so if you have a gallery of many photos park them on a static page and link to it from a sidebar gadget, navigation tab, or regular post.
  • Think you can get around the limit? Think again. The "Show At Most" setting for your blog will let you override 500-kb per page, but only by making it smaller.
  • Regardless of size, Blogger will always let you show at least one post per page.
Clicking to see more content is the way of the world, not the end of the world, on the internet. Were your blog not paginated, readers would still have to scroll down to keep reading it.

Is there really a huge difference between clicking a link ("Older posts") versus clicking a scroll bar?

Your blog, on a diet

This is your blog, on a diet.

Blogger automatically pagenates your blog pages based on size. Exceed 500 kb, and Blogger continues your blog onto an archive page.

This feature (or bug if you prefer) is not going away. You can't disable it, but you can manage it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blog-page length

Write a post, and it will show up at the top of your blog page. Keep writing posts, and eventually your posts will spill over into archive pages, with links to older posts at the break.

Two things determine where that break is--and you only control one of them.

First, you can limit the number of posts per page using the Show At Most setting at Settings > Posts and comments.

Second, Blogger limits the size of your blog page based on kilobytes of data served. The limit seems to be around 500 kb, counting every blog element, such as photos, slide shows, and sidebar bling.

Blogger always allows at least one post per page. Otherwise if your page exceeds the limit Blogger will bump posts to archived pages so that only the most recent 500 kb are left.

As you can tell by phrases like "Blogger limits" and "Blogger will bump," this is not something that you can opt out of or override.

Both of these limits--the setting that you control and the 500-kb limit that you don't, are ceilings. Both apply, which means your limit or Blogger's, whichever is smaller.

You can't override Blogger's limit with Show At Most, except to make pages shorter.

Blogger calls this auto pagenation, though many disgruntled bloggers had a few other choice words for it when introduced in early 2010.

At the time Blogger touted the benefits to blog authors of optimizing load times, but the policy also conserves use of Blogger's servers, which was surely a consideration.

Update: Although you can't turn auto pagenation off, you can manage it.

Blog-page length

Write a post, and it will show up at the top of your blog page. Keep writing posts, and eventually your posts will spill over into archive pages, with links to older posts at the break.

Two things determine where that break is--and you only control one of them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Limiting posts per page

Bloggers with administrative privileges can limit the number of posts per page at Settings > Posts and comments > Show at most.

This setting lets you control the size of dynamic pages.

Sort of.

"Show at most" sets an absolute ceiling on the number of posts per page, up to 500. You can also specify a limit based on a number of days, as in "all posts in a 7-day period"--up to 500 posts.

Blogger put posts in excess of your limit on a subsequent archive page--or pages.

The limit you set applies not only to the main blog page, but also to relative archive pages (but not to absolute ones). Oddly, label-search and other search pages seem to be governed by a 20-post-per-page limit, see discussion in the comments below.

However, the setting does not disable Blogger's own 500-kb limit on the size of pages. Both of these limits apply: yours and Blogger's, whichever results in the smaller page.

Limiting posts per page

Bloggers with administrative privileges can limit the number of posts per page at Settings > Posts and comments > Show at most.

This setting lets you control the size of dynamic pages.

Sort of.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elements common to every page

Different pages display different content, but the design of your blog is constant throughout.

So it is that your readers, as they click through your blog, get many visual cues that they have not left your blog even as the content changes. Header, sidebar, gadgets, footer, color scheme, and typeface do not change.

This is valuable to you and your readers, and something that Blogger ensures without any work required on your part.

If you are familiar with javascript, it is possible to hide or show some gadgets conditionally based on page, and in this way change the sidebar elements from page to page.

Clever bloggers can make other page-design elements conditional, including color scheme, column width, font size and typeface, and even the presence of the header itself.

Alas, this trick is too clever even for Too Clever. I will just say, if you think this is a good idea, to be careful what you wish for.

Tinkering with the common page design risks confusing your readers and muddying the identity of your blog. Proceed judiciously and with caution, if at all.

Elements common to every page

Different pages display different content, but the design of your blog is constant throughout.

So it is that your readers, as they click through your blog, get many visual cues that they have not left your blog even as the content changes. Header, sidebar, gadgets, footer, color scheme, and typeface do not change.

This is valuable to you and your readers, and something that Blogger ensures without any work required on your part.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gadgets in the footer

The horizontal region in your blog's footer, after the end of your posts, is sub-prime real estate.

Gadgets you place here do not compete for your readers' attention but will only be seen by those who make it to the bottom of the page.

If your left or right sidebar region is longer than the length of the posts shown, there will be a blank gap between the posts and the footer-area gadgets.

Gadgets anywhere add to load time and subtract from the available page-size quota.

My own rule of thumb is that any gadget so unimportant as to belong down here is not worth including at all.

Some exceptions could apply.

Your call.
« Gadgets over posts Index Appendices »

Gadgets in the footer

The horizontal region in your blog's footer, after the end of your posts, is sub-prime real estate.

Gadgets you place here do not compete for your readers' attention but will only be seen by those who make it to the bottom of the page.

If your left or right sidebar region is longer than the length of the posts shown, there will be a blank gap between the posts and the footer-area gadgets.

Gadgets anywhere add to load time and subtract from the available page-size quota.

My own rule of thumb is that any gadget so unimportant as to belong down here is not worth including at all.

Some exceptions could apply.

Your call.
« Gadgets over posts Index Appendices »

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gadgets on top

Be especially discriminating about what gadgets you put in the horizontal region below your title and tagline and above your blog posts.

After your title, this is the first thing your readers will see.

Every time they visit.

You may believe your blog is best experienced in a certain way, for instance by reading an introduction or explanation first thing.

You may even be right.

Your readers, however, won't always agree, especially after their fourth or fifth visit. They want to see what they want to see, not what you want them to see.

Respect your readers in this or they may not return. Indeed, unless they see exactly what they are looking for as soon as they get to your blog, they may not even stick around.

For most blogs the only thing that should go in this space, if anything, are navigational links to static or other pages in your blog. Such navigational gadgets will reformat themselves if dragged into this region, turning into handy tabs.

(If you'd like to tweak those tabs a bit, you might be interested in this useful hint from an experienced blogger.)

Put whatever message or first impression you'd like to make in a tight and well-written title and and tagline.
« Sidebar Index Gadgets under posts »

Gadgets on top

Be especially discriminating about what gadgets you put in the horizontal region below your title and tagline and above your blog posts.

After your title, this is the first thing your readers will see.

Every time they visit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sidebar and other gadget areas

Most blog templates include a column on the left or right hand side where you, the blog author, can put photos, text, links, and many automated blog gadgets. Some have sidebars on both sides.

Sometimes called widgets, these gadgets can be dragged to horizontal positions at the top of the blog (just under, but not in, the title-and-tagline block), and the bottom of the blog (in the footer of every page).

Your sidebar, and the gadgets you add, appear on every page of your blog.

There are no end of gadgets; if you are talented you can even make your own. Two of the most popular ones are "About Me" and "Archive," which are include by default in new blogs.

These and other gadgets can add tremendous value to your blog, helping your readers to find content that interests them. That makes your blog more useful and fun, which over time translates into more readers and followers.

However, these benefits do not come free. Consider well the hidden costs of adding gadgets.

Every gadget adds clutter, competing visually with your blog posts and degrading your blog.

In addition, every gadget eats up some of the allowed page size. Adding many gadgets could thus mean fewer posts allowed per page.

Finally, gadgets add to load time--the time during which readers drum their fingers and think about whether to click away from your too-slow blog.

In short, too much sidebar bling can make a blog less useful and fun for your readers.

I urge my fellow bloggers: Put on your editorial green eye shades and be hard nosed about every gadget.

Does it really add more value than it removes? Is it really worth it? And is the net effect of all that sidebar bling acceptable, or is it too much of a distraction from your blog posts?

Special considerations apply to gadgets you put in the horizontal regions above and below your blog posts.
« Header, title & tagline Index Gadgets over posts »

Sidebar and other gadget areas

Most blog templates include a column on the left or right hand side where you, the blog author, can put photos, text, links, and many automated blog gadgets. Some have sidebars on both sides.

Sometimes called widgets, these gadgets can be dragged to horizontal positions at the top of the blog (just under, but not in, the title-and-tagline block), and the bottom of the blog (in the footer of every page).

Your sidebar, and the gadgets you add, appear on every page of your blog.

There are no end of gadgets; if you are talented you can even make your own. Two of the most popular ones are "About Me" and "Archive," which are include by default in new blogs.

These and other gadgets can add tremendous value to your blog, helping your readers to find content that interests them. That makes your blog more useful and fun, which over time translates into more readers and followers.

However, these benefits do not come free. Consider well the hidden costs of adding gadgets.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blog title and tagline

They introduce and frame your blog. New readers read or skip your blog because of them.

Are you getting full value out of your title and tagline?

Typically, the title names your blog while the tagline (or subtitle or description) explains it. Of course either can do a bit of both.

The internet is the world's biggest vanity press, and I am not going to knock anyone who picks an obscure blog name to please him or her self. I may be guilty of a dose of that myself.

But there is something to be said for readers, and pleasing or making things easy for them can be rewarding too. This blog's tagline --"Blogger hints, hacks, and attitude"--at least gives readers a fighting chance to know where they are and what they are likely to find here.

Your tagline can be as long as 500 characters, but brevity is the soul of wit. Show your readers a little consideration and keep things short and sweet.

You can change your title or tagline at any time at Settings > Basic > Title and >Description.

Titles need not be the same as the web address for your blog (which you may also change at any time), and titles need not be unique (someone else can call their blog the same thing you call yours).
« Search-results pages Index Sidebar »

Blog title and tagline

They introduce and frame your blog. New readers read or skip your blog because of them.

Are you getting full value out of your title and tagline?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Search-results pages

Searching your blog for a word or a phrase in Blogger's navbar (or from Blogger's sidebar search gadget) generates a dynamic page of those posts that include the search phrase.

The results of this search take the familiar form of all of Blogger's dynamic pages: Posts, in reverse order, spilling automatically into archived pages if needed.

But there is a big catch. Ironically for a company that is synonymous with search, this feature does not work reliably or predictably and Blogger seems unable to fix it.

(Check out Google's Custom Search as an alternative.)

« Static pages Index Header, title & tagline »

Search-results pages

Searching your blog for a word or a phrase in Blogger's navbar (or from Blogger's sidebar search gadget) generates a dynamic page of those posts that include the search phrase.

The results of this search take the familiar form of all of Blogger's dynamic pages: Posts, in reverse order, spilling automatically into archived pages if needed.

But there is a big catch. Ironically for a company that is synonymous with search, this feature does not work reliably or predictably and Blogger seems unable to fix it.

(Check out Google's Custom Search as an alternative.)

« Static pages Index Header, title & tagline »

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Static pages

In the beginning was the blog, made of posts.

Archive and label-search pages helped readers to find the posts they liked.

In late 2009, in response to popular demand, Blogger added static pages: Blog pages that do not comprise any posts at all.

Typical uses include an "about this blog" page, or an extended profile of the blog author, or an index of blog content.

Blogs are limited to no more than 20 static pages each.

These pages sit apart from the rest of the blog, but are integrated into it by (1) having the same page design (including sidebar gadgets) and (2) a Posts gadget that automatically generates links to all the static pages plus the main blog page. (However, I suggest that this gadget is not really very useful.)

Conceptually, these stand-alone pages sit outside of the blog's natural chronological hierarchy. They are all equally "now."

Static pages are not secondary blog pages to which authors may post blog posts. That is what is static about them. Blog authors seeking that functionality should investigate labels and label-search pages.

Within these limitations, pages are useful places to put "timeless" information (such as an About page). They are also good for very large collections of images, since Blogger's unavoidable auto-pagination feature would deform the pagination of the blog were the photos in a regular blog post.

A static page is also a good place to park a "journey" page showing your blog content in chronological order, which you can make using my blog-journey hack.

Just don't knock yourself out trying to turn your static pages into mini-blogs that comprise blog posts. Blogger will resist your every effort. Check out label searches instead.
« Label-search pages Index Search-results pages »

Static pages

In the beginning was the blog, made of posts.

Archive and label-search pages helped readers to find the posts they liked.

In late 2009, in response to popular demand, Blogger added static pages: Blog pages that do not comprise any posts at all.

Typical uses include an "about this blog" page, or an extended profile of the blog author, or an index of blog content.

Blogs are limited to no more than 20 static pages each.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Label-search pages

In the begining the blog page comprised blog posts. It was good, but we needed more.

Labels, and their related search pages, provide one of the most useful and powerful features of Blogger blogs: the ability to characterize posts, and to group like posts together on a separate page.

This is something you can't do using Blogger's static pages feature.

If you have a food blog, for example, of posts about fruit, bread, and cheese, you can label each post appropriately. These labels become hot links at the end of each post.

If your readers click on the "cheese" link, Blogger will generate a label-search page comprising all the cheese posts, and only those posts.

This page behaves in almost every way like a mini blog within a blog. If it is long enough to be subject to page limits, it will paginate into a main page and archived pages. (There are some minor differences, as these are really a kind of search page.)

Furthermore, although the page contents are generated dynamically, the url for a main label-search page is fixed, for instance
YOURBLOGNAME.blogspot.com/search/label/cheese
Consequently you can easily link to the page of all your cheese posts from within your blog. One powerful use of this feature is to put such links into a navigation widget, such as a set of tabs or other links positioned over the first blog post. (Use a link-list widget for this.)

In effect, your blog is a honking big database of which each post is a record. Using labels you can group and show your posts as you see fit.

You can apply labels on the fly or to many posts at once.

Labels can overlap; Blogger has no problem listing your discussion of what kind of Camembert goes best with what kind of baguette as both cheese and bread.

At best, label-search pages let your readers break free of the tyranny of the linear list to reach the content that they want.

A little forethought about how labels can organize your content for your readers will yield a blog that is accessible, easy to navigate, and better for your readers.
« Two kinds of archive pages Index Static pages »

Label-search pages

In the begining the blog page comprised blog posts. It was good, but we needed more.

Labels, and their related search pages, provide one of the most useful and powerful features of Blogger blogs: the ability to characterize posts, and to group like posts together on a separate page.

This is something you can't do using Blogger's static pages feature.