Saturday, December 18, 2004

Blog Creation 101 (BLC101)

Frist off, I'm not the end-all be-all authority on blogs. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that can smoke me when it comes to HTML or Javascript. I am, however, familiar with the basics of how to play with your existing script so here goes.

NOTE: The first caveat to this is that since blogger likes to eat the carat marks (the little greater-than and less-than signs over your period and your comma on the keyboard) I'll be using the brackets instead. They look like this: [ ]. For everything in this article, just make believe that the brackets are the carats.

Since I'm familiar with Blogger I will be writing this from a Blogger's eye view. Please adjust things accordingly for your service. Once you initially join, you will have a fairly limited selection of templates to choose from. Select one of these at random as you probably don't want to stick with one of these. Once Blogger has created your initial blog you will want to go directly to the tab at the top marked TEMPLATE.

Once there, you will have three basic options:
1. Change your template.
2. Change the color of the blogger bar.
3. Edit your template code.

Since we're just getting started, go change your template. You wil now see that there are many more templates available than there were initially. The templates I would suggest are: TEKKA, BLUEBIRD, JELLYFISH, SIMPLE II, SPIT PEA, HERBERT or SAND DOLLAR. They are all found on the bottom of the list. The reason I recomend them is because their text is flexible. The words are movable according to the size of your sidebar or your individual screen resolution. All of the others have small text and a fixed size.

WARNING: If you've already been playing with your code, or installed haloscan, or installed anything into your sidebar, you will want to remember that changing your templates will destroy all of those settings. It does not, however, take away your articles, so everything you have written is still safe.

Now that you have a fair looking template you need to start installing your toys. Three tools that are absolute musts are Haloscan for commenting, Sitemeter for how many hits you get, and TTLB or The Truth Laid Bear which will rank you amongst the rest of the blogosphere by both inbound links and hits.

Installing Haloscan
Haloscan is fairly easy for blogger. Simply create your account, log in and on the first page that pops up the first install option will be to install haloscan commenting automatically. Click on the link and you will be able to install haloscan commenting without seeing a lick of code. Remember not to delete the comment haloscan adds because it has a tendancy to remove your haloscan commenting and revert back to your original code. There is more to haloscan and you should feel free to play around with whatever you feel safe with. Trackback is an especially important feature.

Installing Sitemeter
Sitemeter is nearly as easy as Haloscan but you have to know where to go to do it right. Once you sign in, click on the MANAGER tab at the top and you will have a sidebar on your left. Click on HTML CODE. From there you will have the option of several different editors. Scroll down until you get to "Adding sitemeter to a Blogger or Blogspot account". Click on this link and fill out all of the pertinent information. Your sitemeter button should now be installed. Again, there are many more features to sitemeter that are not stated here. For an example, if you want to install the javascript manually, you will be able to tell where people came to your site from. It comes in very handy.

Installing TTLB code
This is a tad trickier than the previous two. Instead of just clicking away and putting in your password a few places, you'll actually have to copy and paste something! GASP! It's not really that bad. You'll see. First things first:

1. Go Here.
2. Enter the important information. (Remember to add the http// to the front of your address.)
3. Click VALIDATE at the bottom of the page.
4. Scroll down again and, on the bottom in green it should say that your validation worked.
5. Click the CONFIRM button for the next page.
NOTE: If you don't want to display your status on your blog you can stop here. If you want to display the "I'm A cheeky Monkey in the TTLB status quo system" then proceed to the next step.
6. Copy the code on the acceptance page. It looks like this (remember, I'm substituting the carats.):
[script language="javascript" src=""]
[/script ]

7. Paste this code into your template. Okay, this is the scary part. It shouldn't be though. Hear me out and follow along and everything will be just fine.
a. Paste your code into notepad or word or something so you can find it later.
b. For Windows users hit CTRL+F. This brings up a find window.
c. Type in SITEMETER or BLOGGER and press enter. This should put a black highlight over the word. This is the part of the code you should be playing around with in order to get your code to work right.
d. go to the first blank line and past in your code.
e. before you save it you should preview to ensure you are not putting something in weird. So click on the preview button under the code box and make sure you are putting it in the right place.
f. If you don't like where the TTLB thingie is you can move it up or down in your code to suit where you want to put it.
NOTE: remember that web pages load from the top of the code to the bottom so pay attention to where things go and You'll start to understand where you should be putting things. And remember not to save until you are happy with where you have placed your code.

8. Once everything is where you want it click on the save button. a new window will appear and ask you to either save your entire blog or just do the header.
9. Click either one and wait for it to update.
10. Congratulations! You have just broken your initial fear of code! Now we can start on some of the more intricate stuff.

(End BLC101)
(Following lessons: BLC102 - hyperlinks, italics and other basic formats; BLC103 - changing colors and widths and other topics)

UPDATE: Blogger has a tendency to eat your entries. Enter your comments into Word or other non-web based editor before you copy it in. (Yes, blogger just ate BLC102.)

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