31 Days to a Better Blog – Day 3

Colosseum Search for and Join Forums on your Blog’s Topic

Today’s task is to Search for and Join Forums on your Blog’s Topic. So what is a forum? wikipedia defines it simply as: An Internet forum is a web application for holding discussions and posting user generated content.

I have always been a big user of forums and newsgroups. I have found that being a software developer working from home can become very isolating unless you take steps to become part of communities. It is good to be able to have a community of like minded people who you can bounce ideas off, contact when you need help and contribute to and help. I also encourage my students to join and use these forums, become active members to contribute their findings and use when they come across a problem they cannot solve.

msdnForums

Forums can take the form of communities that provide information and provide support for users. One such forum that has many different topic specific components is the MSDN Forums. They offers various forums for software developers about the multiple Microsoft, windows and .NET technologies.

If I follow the definition from wikipedia that would also mean that things like Facebook and Twitter would also be forums. With Facebook and Twitter I have found that I am involved with people who have some of the same interests as the focus of my blog but branch off into many other related areas. This can give me a different and interesting slant on things I am involved with and it is always good to get another’s view, especially if it is not their main focus.

With many forums you can just be an observer and only become a member when you wish to contribute. These sorts of forums also serve a purpose to share information. On occasions I have joined forums only to cancel my membership after a week. The requirement has been to have the forum activity sent as an email each day or week. I found that I did not have time to read all this email and my inbox was flooded. So I suppose it is just a case of try it and if the results of the forum suit you then good if not try another one as there are many to choose from.

FrancesSign

31 Days to a Better Blog – Day 2

770984_screenshot Day 2: Run a First Time Reader Audit

The second day exercise is to run a first time reader audit on my blog. This means getting a friend or family member who had not read your blog, loading it up for them to navigate through while we sit quietly watching. I was to take note of how they navigated through the blog, What they clicked on, What they read and what they missed. Then when they had finished as a few questions about design of the blog, first impressions etc.

So I asked my husband if he would be my first time reader of my blog. Just as Michele and Sue mentioned my husband has not read my blog either. So after he had returned home from working a 10 hour day I made sure I fed him first then got him to go through my blog.

This is what I saw:

The first thing he did was scroll down the page to read the second post. Asked what was my blogroll and MyBlogLog. He liked the pictures and that is what had caught his attention on the second post. Mentioned that there was a lot of information and was very interesting.  He then went on to ask how he would add some of the things I mentioned in the post about Firefox addins to the browser on his laptop.

Now it was my turn to ask him a few questions. His first impression was that it was a nice easy to read design, he liked the colours found it easy to get around. The things he liked best were the pictures and suggested that a picture should be placed at the top of the post rather than at the end, which is how had it on several posts. the things he remembered about the blog 10 minutes after was the design and the pictures that had been included. He also liked the idea (once I explained what MyBloglog was) of seeing who else had visited the blog. He did not know about using the categories or tags to find similar posts or even where if if he could add a comment.

And best of all he finished his tour of my blog with “You know I love you and think all of these things you do are great”  So everyone’s happy.

smile

What I learnt from my Audit

After 25 years of marriage my husband still loves me 🙂

As I have found when developing software – just because I know what something is or what its use is don’t assume that everyone else does.

Pictures tell a thousand words.

Changes I will make

I will change the wording of myblogroll to My Other Sites

Add a list of other blogs I read

I will put pictures closer to the top of a post if appropriate.

Add more images

Think about adding more information for the first time viewer about navigating site and explain things like tags and categories and how to add comments.

All in all a good exercise that should be undertaken more than once and always good to get feedback from readers, so please keep comments coming.

Now on to the next task – Search for and Join Forums on Blogs Topic

FrancesSign

31 Days to a Better Blog or How to win Chocolate

OK so now I have finally got around to writing up about my results from being involved in Darren Rowse’s the 31 Days to a Better Blog project or challenge when it includes 1kg chocolate for the winner.

email2Day 1: Email a New Reader

The first assignment in the 31 Day Challenge is to email a new reader This is such a simple idea and one that I have not routinely done. I have at different times left a comment in reply or visited their website if this  information was  supplied. It is always a thrill when someone takes the time to leave a comment and seems logical to reply and thank them but was not something I thought to implement as a “must do”. This is what is so good about Darren’s tips they are logical things to do or implement that will enhance and polish our blogs and bring them up to the next level.

So I have emailed everyone who has left a comment on my blog since we started this project and nearly everyone has replied back. It has opened up a whole new world to me and made the visitors to the blog feel more “real”. So if you comment on my blog I will reply.  Darren says “that the chances of the readers that you email coming back to your blog again increases significantly”. This I have found to be very true.

Please keep coming back , leave a comment and I will see you soon.

FrancesSign

31 Day Challenge has a life of its own

AllChoc2

Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.  Forrest Gump in “Forrest Gump” (1994)

The quote from the Forrest Gump movie is how I felt yesterday after the response Sue and I received with our 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge especially when the creator of this series of daily blogging tips Darren Rowse  wrote that the 31 Days Project Get Seriously Sweet this is about how I  added a wager to the challenge that the loser has to buy 1kg of chocolate for the winner. Mention chocolate and everyone’s ears prick up. It is certainly a universally loved food. Yes it is a food some even state that because it comes Cocoa Bean that it is a vegetable.

So we have had a few people come on board to be part of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog with the added Chocolate Challenge.

Michelle Martin Alex Miller Kate Quinn Sue Waters Laura Whitehead

So now I had better get into gear and start posting or I will be the one who has to buy the kilo of chocolate.

But before I go a big thanks you to everyone who has been coming through to have a read of my blog. It is great to see so many people from different places all over the world stopping by, and please feel free to leave a comment even if it is just Hi.

Images – left to right

Choc Baskets

Chocolate Swirl Flickr

Box of Chocolates

Challenged in more ways than one?

Well Sue has challenged me again and I have taken up the challenge to take part in the 31 days to build a better blog that is from Problogger Darren Rowse. Now last time she challenged me to go without Google for a day I made it through so will be interesting to see how we both go. Seeing that Sue posts more often than I do I like her chances better than mine. I think we should make it interesting and have a prize for the winner mmmm what do we both love and always want I know chocolate. So how about it Sue ? The loser has to buy the winner a kilo of chocolate are you up for that?

Anyway back to the challenge so for 31 days I will have a set of tasks to complete or as Sue calls them homework. Sue also introduced me to Michelle Martin’s The Bamboo Blog and her posts on 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. I will be a couple of days behind by the time I start but am looking forward to the challengers that lie ahead.

I find it is always good to see someone’s take on things, even if I can’t see the merit of what they are saying I am willing to give it a try. I would never have had a blog or Wiki’s if this wasn’t the case. I am so new to blogs that I am sure I will learn a lot and then pass this information on to you and my students.

So I will take a day or too to read through the challenge before I start ( give me a break its Saturday tomorrow) but will get to it as soon as I can and will keep you posted.

TwitterBlog

Snippet from Lynetter

The chocolate challenge has now really stepped up read more about it

Listen Add Read – Holiday Bliss

Update: Well I had such a good holiday – 3 weeks that it took me 5 weeks to upload this post 🙂 but here it is

Well I have been on holidays of three days now and have basically been surfing the web, downloading stuff, listening to podcasts.

ScreenGrab

Screen grab

This is one of my favorite Firefox extensions that I use very frequently and I used it to capture the image above. One of the best features in Screen Grab is the ability to take screen shot of a specific region of a web page. This is great if you want to a quick screen shot for your blog. I use it even to copy part of images directly from the browser without having to open Photoshop to cut or resize.

Showcase

 Showcase

Showcase lets you view open tabs as image thumbnails and also has a find bar that will filter your thumbnails. A great tool if you have lots of tabs open at once – which I always do.

Web Developer

Web Developer

Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.

del.icio.us Bookmarks

del.icio.us Bookmarks

This extension integrates your browser with del.icio.us

del.icio.us lets you search and browse your bookmarks and you can access your bookmarks from any computer. This gives you more freedom and great access to your bookmarks without being tied to one specific computer. You can also share your bookmarks with other and search for similar bookmarks in the del.icio.us network.

Here is my del.icio.us account

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon lets you “channelsurf” the best-reviewed sites on the web. It helps you find and share great sites.

Stumbleupon

MeeTimer

MeeTimer

MeeTimer is a very useful tool to monitor where you spend your time online, and to help you be proactive in becoming more productive.

MeeTimer gives you everything from a simple page timer to advanced stats on your usage habits; with a focus on highlighting where your time could be used better (more productive = more free time = better day!).
As it runs all the time, every effort has been made to make it fast & light; and it benefits greatly from Firefox’s inbuilt database for speed.

Colorful Tabs & ChromaTabs

Addon

Colorful Tabs colors each of your tabs in pastel colors, colours are assigned randomly and as long as that tab stays open the colour will stay the same. So the same tab will keep the same colour even if the URL for that tab changes.

ChromaTabs is similar to Colorful Tabs. The difference is that with ChromaTabs a tab’s color is determined on the hostname in the URL. If you keep the tab open and go to a different URL then the tab colour will change.

Twitter

Twitter

My favourite at the moment . It is difficult to describe in words how this works. I tried to explain it today but found it better to login and show how it works. Nat Torkington sums it up well when he describes it as “Think of it as a cross between blogging and instant messaging: you type a short message (140 or fewer chars) and your subscribers (friends) instantly see it. You can view a single “river of news” page that functions as a group blog by all your friends.”

You can follow me on twitter/developit

Twittervision Twittervision 3D and Flickrvision Flickrvision 3D

twittervision_logo

Twittevisiontweet

These two I discovered and found that they can be very addictive. Watching Tweets and images pop up, BUT be warned you may see chat or images that are not very appropriate for “G” viewing.

You can even get screen savers that show Twitervision and Flickrvision But will you get any work done when you download these?

Mac Screensaver

XP Screensaver

Nat Torkington has a post with more details about Twittervision and Brady Forrest has a post about Flickrvision that goes into more detail

And there is always Twitterholics

Twitterholic-