Blog Anatomy for Beginners (by Duncan Chappell)


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This presentation was offered as a contribution to the ELISAOpen Forum May 2007. It was first given at the SFEU CoP event in February 2007. Duncan Chappell is Librarian at Glasgow School of Art and was sharing his experience of setting up a very successful blog.

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  • The 3 most common blog editors are TypePad, WordPress and Blogger. All are web-based editors, which means you do not need to download any program onto your computer. You can also design, manage and post to your blog from anywhere with an Internet connection. All are free at the point of use.
  • Once you have created an account, the process of setting up your blog is very simple. Most editors provide simple-to-follow wizards, and a variety of templates. If you are happy with the way your blog looks and require no further customisation, you are ready to start posting. However, all editors do allow you to exercise a high degree of customisation through layouts. If you have knowledge of HTML you will be able to achieve an even higher level of customisation. Several blogs can hang off of a single account. For instance, you may want blogs for different subject librarians to maintain. The Dashboard provides access to all your blogs.
  • The post edit screen is extremely simple to use, and uses Word conventions everything is familiar with. Simple add your title, texts, and formatting, and click to publish. One-click publishing means that posts appear straight away with no delay, though you can go back and edit or delete any message, or else save it as a draft. Labels allow you to attach keywords to your posts, for instance subject descriptors. Readers can then click on any of these labels within the blog to retrieve posts on the same subject. Blogger remembers and displays your previous labels as you type, allowing you to very quickly build up a controlled vocabulary. The Template tab allows you to make changes to your blog’s design or structure. The Settings tab allows you to control how your blog is published. For instance, do you want to display 10 or 15 posts on each page? Do you want monthly or weekly archives?
  • Your blog should have a clear purpose, and an editorial style that reflects this. Think about what you are trying to achieve. Do you want to market library resources more effectively, or is the blog’s scope more broad? Do you only post on library resources, or include other online resources? Think about your different levels of readership: college, undergraduate, postgraduate, research. Think about different categories within these levels: mature students, distance learners, esol students. Analyse what blogs can do better and more effectively with added value, and use it for those purposes. If other modes of communication are better for certain things, continue to use them?
  • The very heart of your blog is content. Keep your posts short and concise, but with all the salient facts included.
  • Blogs are a visual medium. Use visual material widely, regardless of your subject discipline. Use design consistently, and a clean concise layout.
  • If you are talking about a website, then take a screenshot through Photoshop.
  • Many online resources and services provide scripts that you can incorporate in your own blog’s HTML code. This enables you to host search boxes within your blog, making information much more seamless. Students do not have to leave to blog to search services such as Intute. This search function is enabled through Intute Lite.
  • Google Scholar also provides a search box script you can add to your blog.
  • In fact, all these services provide search box scripts for you to import. And probably many more…
  • All blogs should have a Search This Site function. Most blogs will provide this function automatically, but the search box is often too unobtrusive, or tied to other searches that you may not want to be active. You can however create your own free Google search engine incredibly simply, and then incorporate the script into your own blog
  • Google Custom Search Engine makes the process very easy. You can set your engine to search just one particular site, whether that is a website, or blog. You can even include an RSS feed of popular searches on your blog, which will alert students to what their peers are searching for. … more about RSS later.
  • You can even create your own Net search engine, just like a Google search engine, only you have certain controls over the types of searching done and the keywords to include. These search engines, commonly called swikis, enable the administrator to specify keywords that should always be included in search terms, to exclude certain sites, or to promote certain sites within search results. It is a useful way for subject librarians to ensure their students are retrieving quality resources from the net, rather than from Google. The swiki displays a tag cloud of popular search terms, along with an image wall, which is a useful way of making your blog even more visual. This swiki was created using a free service Eurekster.
  • Your blog is an ineffective communication channel if no-one ever reads it’s content. As well as making it freely available online for the whole world to read, you should also employ a number of other devices to push your information out to people. This way you are reaching even those people within your institution who do not have the time (or inclination) to actually visit your blog.
  • All blog editors like Blogger will create an RSS feed for you automatically. There’s no need for you to do anything an a blog author – your RSS feed will be updated as soon as your add a new post.
  • Users can subscribe to an RSS feed in a news aggregator like Bloglines, and get information pushed out to them automatically as soon as it is published. To make it even easier for readers to subscribe to your feed you can add Subscribe To buttons to your blog’s template.
  • But you can do even more with your RSS by augmenting them though a service like Feedburner. Feedburner enables you to create an email subscription version of your RSS feed, for people who prefer to use email rather than news aggregators for current awareness.
  • Your readers will receive an email as soon as you publish any new content. This email will include all images and formatting, creating an attractive way to update your readers. Because the whole process is automated through Feedburner, all you need to do is post to your blog! With Feedburner you can even create News24 style dynamic displays that show rolling headlines from your blog, for inclusion on your website, VLE or Intranet. With RSS, emails, and rolling news headlines you’re already reaching hundreds more people than would otherwise be the case.
  • Blogs can be about print resources as much as online resources. With free web services like Library Thing you can create listings of new titles added to stock, and then place details on your blog along with cover scans. Library Thing creates an automatic script than you can add to your blog template, so everytime you add a title to your Library Thing list, it automatically appears on your blog.
  • The cover scans provide a visually arresting and interesting addition to your blog. Library Thing even creates an automatic RSS feed for you, so readers can sign up for a second RSS feed for new books. Run this RSS feed through Feedburner, and you’ve created another email newsletter alerting readers to new titles in the Library. Academic staff find this service particularly useful.
  • Social bookmarking websites allow you to create lists of resources and to tag them up with subject keywords. Other people, including staff and students, can then view your bookmarks. Sites like provide scripts than you can incorporate into your blog template. These then display your social bookmarks with the descriptive tags you’ve assigned them. Again, readers can sign up to an automatically generated and updated RSS feed.
  • If your Library also has a VLE site using systems such as BlackBoard, you should also ensure your blogs are heavily integrated into this. Rather than providing links to your blogs, embed them directly into the course, so that the transition is seamless.
  • Sites such as Sitemeter provide a really quick and easy way to get some dirty statistics on how your blog is operating, and being used. A Sitemeter hit counter will tell you how many people as looking at your blog, and when. Pollhost enables you to create very simple polls and surveys and place them on your blog. This is useful for eliciting user feedback. Google Analytics is a free web-based service. It provides an invisible script that you place into your blog template. It then collates a huge amount of information about where your visitors have come from geographically, how they discovered your blog, and the numbers of page views.
  • Blog Anatomy for Beginners (by Duncan Chappell)

    1. 1. Blog Anatomy for Beginners Duncan Chappell Fine Art and Design Librarian Glasgow School of Art
    2. 2. The Skeleton … Getting Your Blog To Stand Up
    3. 8. Web Links <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    4. 9. A Skeleton Needs Flesh <ul><li>Think about… </li></ul><ul><li>What is the purpose of your blog? </li></ul><ul><li>What are you trying to achieve? </li></ul><ul><li>Who are you trying to reach? </li></ul><ul><li>Why are you doing this? </li></ul><ul><li>Where’s the added value? </li></ul>
    5. 10. What a Blog Is Not
    6. 11. The Heart … Getting Your Blog Beating
    7. 13. Signpost Your Information Image Audio Text Video
    8. 14. Signpost Your Information <ul><li>Access: Free Athens </li></ul><ul><li>Key Resource: </li></ul>
    9. 15. Don’t Forget The Lifeblood <ul><li>Blog description </li></ul><ul><li>Subject Librarian details </li></ul><ul><li>General library details </li></ul><ul><li>Links to other library blogs </li></ul><ul><li>Athens information </li></ul><ul><li>Feedback </li></ul>
    10. 16. The Face … Getting Your Blog to Show its Best Side
    11. 18. The Hands <ul><li>… Getting Your Blog To Do Something Useful </li></ul>
    12. 21. European Library
    13. 22. Web Links <ul><li>Google Scholar Search Box </li></ul><ul><li>Google Books Search Box </li></ul>
    14. 23. Web Links <ul><li>Intute Search Box </li></ul><ul><li>Worldcat Search Box </li></ul>
    15. 24. Web Links <ul><li>European Library Search Box </li></ul>
    16. 28. Web Links <ul><li>Google Custom Search </li></ul><ul><li>Eurekster Swiki </li></ul>
    17. 29. The Voice Box … Getting Your Blog To Sing
    18. 30. Give Birth to Your Blog… Push Out! <ul><li>RSS </li></ul><ul><li>Email subscribe </li></ul><ul><li>Social bookmarks </li></ul><ul><li>Website integration </li></ul><ul><li>VLE integration </li></ul>
    19. 39. Web Links <ul><li>Feedburner </li></ul><ul><li>Library Thing </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    20. 40. The Brain … Getting Your Blog Analysed
    21. 42. Web Links <ul><li>Sitemeter </li></ul><ul><li>Pollhost </li></ul><ul><li>Google Analytics </li></ul>
    22. 43. Support <ul><li>LIS-BLOGGERS </li></ul><ul><li>British Librarian Bloggers </li></ul><ul><li>Blogger Help Group </li></ul>
    23. 44. Thank You Duncan Chappell Fine Art and Design Librarian Glasgow School of Art [email_address]