Friday, December 20, 2013

Backwards runs the blog

Why is your blog backwards?

Blogger, like other blogging platforms, standardly shows your posts in reverse chronological order.

Older posts spill down the page and onto archive pages.

To read your story from the beginning you must go to the end.

This does not work for everyone (and there are workarounds). But for most of us, most of the time, it is a good thing.

Consider your readers' point of view. Especially if they are returning (and aren't those your favorite people?), they want your latest work, not the whole saga of how you and your blog came to the present day.

Newest-first gives them exactly that.

Even first-time readers may be more interested, and inspired to follow or bookmark or return, if your timeliest content is foremost.

Short attention spans rule the web. If you want to keep your readers do not burden them with a single extra step.

Rather than force-marching your readers through a chronological journey, or a lengthy explanation, each time the visit, give your blog an informative title and tagline. Consider an "About" page.

For some blogs, the "journey" really is key. Travel blogs, in particular, benefit from an oldest-first telling, at least for individual trips. You could make a similar case for a blog about training for a Marathon or recovering from a heart attack or losing weight.

And of course, if the journey is over—if your year abroad has ended and there will be nothing further—oldest-first makes perfect sense.

If you want to share the journey, consider putting your content, oldest first, on a separate page that you can link to from your main page. You might alternatively put a chronological list of posts in a sidebar gadget.

You can do either for all your posts or for any category you have set up using labels.

Showcase older content of particular value in your sidebar, perhaps on a tabbed navigational widget. Serve your content on a silver platter, but don't burden your readers by trying to force them to interact with your blog in a particular way.

It won't work, and they'll go elsewhere.

Backwards runs the blog

Why is your blog backwards?

Blogger, like other blogging platforms, standardly shows your posts in reverse chronological order.

Older posts spill down the page and onto archive pages.

To read your story from the beginning you must go to the end.

This does not work for everyone (and there are workarounds). But for most of us, most of the time, it is a good thing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My top blogging tip: Just blog

You never really know what you think until someone shoves a video camera in your face and says, Quick! What's your number one blogging tip?

This happened to me recently at a conference about Google products. I was randomly ambushed by a team collecting advice about all of these (not just Blogger, but YouTube, Search, etc.).

As the camera rolled my blogging life flashed before my eyes. Many tips, but which which is primary?

Think fast! (Wikimedia photo/Creative Commons license 2.0)
Labels? Feeds? SEO? Best fonts? Facebook integration? Google+?

To my surprise the first words out of my mouth were, "Just blog." As in:

You'll learn by doing, so do it. If you make mistakes you can revise them. Experience is the best teacher.

It's okay to think about your design or what widgets to put in your sidebar or your url. But the important thing is to blog. Don't turn design considerations into excuses.

If you're feeling cautious, you can start your blog as private. Privately pick a template, write a few posts, and add some pages and sidebar gadgets. When you and your blog are ready, lift the curtain and show the world.

Do whatever you need to feel safe enough to engage with the medium and your subject. And if you don't (yet) know the medium, or the subject, or even what exactly your subject is, then dig in and learn by doing. Just blog.

You'll soon find yourself sitting on an honest-to-gosh body of work, actively engaged in your subject and the craft of writing about it online.

Is there more to it than that? Of course. Writing is hard work. So get busy.

I don't know what became of my video interview. And I sure was surprised at what popped out of my mouth.

But as the Buddhists say, First thought, best thought. It's my number one tip.

Just blog. The rest will follow.

Update: I'm flattered by the attention this post has received after being selected by Blogger as one of its "14 Blogging Tips to 2014."


Check out the others 13 at the Blogger Google+ page.

Happy new year, and keep blogging!


My top blogging tip: Just blog

You never really know what you think until someone shoves a video camera in your face and says, Quick! What's your number one blogging tip?

This happened to me recently at a conference about Google products. I was randomly ambushed by a team collecting advice about all of these (not just Blogger, but YouTube, Search, etc.).

As the camera rolled my blogging life flashed before my eyes. Many tips, but which which is primary?

Think fast! (Wikimedia photo/Creative Commons license 2.0)
Labels? Feeds? SEO? Best fonts? Facebook integration? Google+?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Take your blog off the web

Suppose Blogger made all of its blogs invisible except to other bloggers.

Imagine that Google rolls out a new version of Gmail, better in every way except it can only send and receive email from other Gmail accounts.

Or maybe you can send email to anyone, but non-account holders must open a Gmail account to reply.

The web is about being connected. Is a private email platform even email any more? Or just an oxymoron?

None of this is happening. Google isn't crazy. But something very similar is in the offing with the optional new commenting system for Blogger.

Earlier this year Google rolled out Google+ comments for Blogger.

You can switch to this new commenting system from the Google+ page of your blog's dashboard.

G+ comments are integrated into Google+, which creates a new channel for people to learn about your blog and your posts. They are exquisitely available, shareable, and plus-able in G+.

Here's the catch: Only Google+ account holders, logged into those accounts, will be able to comment on your blog. Comments exist only in the Google+ layer. They are visible to all but, if you are not a member, behind glass.

Google is upfront about this restriction. Early on in its "About Google+ Comments" page Google says,
Readers will need a Google+ page or profile to comment on your blog.
Its "Google+ Comments FAQs" page includes the following:
What if my readers don’t have a Google+ profile or page? Can they still comment?
No, but they will be prompted to create one when they attempt to comment.
There are other issues with Google+ comments, including some problems with the rollout, especially with comment notification.

You can enable G+ Comments from your dashboard, but choose carefully.
Also, some users are grappling with a very different paradigm about Google+ versus traditional comments. (In G+, authors own their own content, so while you can unlink a comment from your blog, you can't delete it from the G+ layer that discusses your blog.)

But the big show stopper is the segregation of Google+ Comments from the world wide web. The world can look but not touch.

For some blogs, the benefits of the new will prove compelling. For others, not so much.

(Update: I've written a post about the potential benefits of Google+ comments.)

The bad news is it's either or. The good news is it's up to you.

What will you decide to do?

Take your blog off the web

Suppose Blogger made all of its blogs invisible except to other bloggers.

Imagine that Google rolls out a new version of Gmail, better in every way except it can only send and receive email from other Gmail accounts.

Or maybe you can send email to anyone, but non-account holders must open a Gmail account to reply.

The web is about being connected. Is a private email platform even email any more? Or just an oxymoron?

None of this is happening. Google isn't crazy. But something very similar is in the offing with the optional new commenting system for Blogger.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Identity crisis

Forgetting the password to an old Blogger blog (really, to its Google account) is not necessarily a big deal. Google's account-recovery tool can email you a reset.

Things get sticky, though, if you no longer have access to the email address associated with the account.

Not all is lost, however. Here is how I regained access to an old account of mine.

Blogger has been in business since 1999 (bought by Google in 2003). That's time enough for plenty of people to start and lose track of a blog.

If you set up a blog without a gmail account you can use any email address as your user name and contact. (Yes you can still do this, but it's harder today.)

Forgot your password? Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, by Rosetti. (Public-domain image.)
That's what I did when I started blogging in 2008. I did not even realize I'd set up a Google account or what that meant. I just knew I was blogging.

In 2010 I transferred the blog to another account with a gmail address. In 2011 my old email provider gave up the ghost. And in 2012 I tried to log into that old account for the first time in two and a half years.

I'd forgotten my password. The email account was gone and Google could not send me a reset.

I was locked out.

This was not such a problem for me. The old account had all the photos I'd uploaded to my blog in 2008 and 2009 but it would serve those older photos to my blog forever.

For many people, however, a lock out is serious. The Blogger Help Forum is full of people who want to resume or delete old blogs with forgotten passwords and dead email accounts.

If you are in this position, there may be help in the form of Google's account recovery page. This page deals with multiple problems and offers multiple paths to recovery besides an emailed reset.

It's enough to require a guide: fortunately, Brett Carver has written an excellent one.

I'm not going to try to improve on that except to say two things. First, read the guide carefully before you start, so you know what sort of information you will be expected to provide.

Second, I recovered my account in a way not included in Brett's guide, though his was still helpful to me.

Had I linked my account to a cell phone, or established "challenge" questions ("Who was your favorite teacher" sort of thing), Google would have let me reset the password without email.

Since I'd done none of these things, I needed to follow the path of "identity reset." Essentially this means providing details about my old account that only I would be expected to know, sufficient to prove my ownership of the account.

To improve my chances, I gathered all the information about my old account that I could. I was going to need to prove, for example, that I knew when I created the account and when I last accessed it.

I did not want to have to guess about these details, lest Google decide I was just fishing.

Fortunately I am an email pack rat and archive rather than delete such things as my "welcome to blogger" email from July of 2008. My gmail archive included the emails generated by blogger when I transferred the blog in February of 2010.

There was more information, and I wrote everything down.

I started the gmail account in late 2009. It had a password similar to that of my old account. I did not appear to have used the old account after February of 2010. The

Wait. "It had a password similar to that of my old account."

I'd completely forgotten that. This narrowed things down tremendously. Within minutes I was logged back in to my old account without using account recovery at all.


That's my alternative path to account recovery—research-driven recollection. I still give full credit to Brett, since following his guide gave me the clues I needed.

If you are stuck as I was, light a candle to Mnemosyne and try gathering all the pieces. You may need every scrap of information to use the recovery tool.

In the process you may uncover something that moves your missing password to your memory from your forgettery.

Identity crisis

Forgetting the password to an old Blogger blog (really, to its Google account) is not necessarily a big deal. Google's account-recovery tool can email you a reset.

Things get sticky, though, if you no longer have access to the email address associated with the account.

Not all is lost, however. Here is how I regained access to an old account of mine.