Friday, March 25, 2005

Bloggers narrowly dodge federal crackdown

Bloggers narrowly dodge federal crackdown

A March 10 draft of a document created by the Federal Elections commission would have required you political bloggers out there "to comply with the entirety of the regulations that apply to paid political advertising on television, radio and broadcast."

More than you bargained for? The bloggers have mobilized, and are gaining support.

I support the fact that bloggers, at least in the political arena, should be granted the same exemptions as "conventional" media when it comes to campaign finance reform and politcal reporting. The blogosphere has proven its lack of bias, much to the dismay of corporate media. For every "for" argument on an issue you can find an "against". That's not always true of the mainstream media.

"Bloggers are not subject to corporate constraints or concerns, and have shown their independence over and over. "

Saturday, March 19, 2005

What are those funny characters?

Despite the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get.) text editor that most blog hosting interfaces provide, many people choose to create their posts in their favorite Word Processor first. I have heard that it is because Word offers spelling and grammar checks, or because people have “lost” posts due to a web page malfunction. Well, here is my take on word processors – You have seen what food processors do to food, right?

I typed the paragraph above into Microsoft Word, then cut and pasted it into the interface provided after I logged into my account. A quick check with the preview funtion revealed that the funny characters I refer to in the title are not there.

Here is an example – sometimes the hyphen – when you create it with Microsoft Word, you use the minus key. Word is smart enough to figure out from the context whether you wanted a hyphen or you really wanted the minus sign. Unfortunately, some versions of Word, mine excluded apparently, use a character-encoding that is not alltogether web friendly. When you paste from one application into another, such as from Word to a web-based interface, the character encodings may not be compatible.

Two solutions: 1) Use the editor provided by your blog host. If it is a long post and you fear losing it, click the save as draft button often. Most mature blog hosts provide everything you need, including spell check, right in their application. 2) Copy your post into a simple text program like Notepad. Almost all Operating Systems come with a basic text editor. If your post looks normal there, copy it again and paste it into the interface provided by your blog and publish it.

If you still see crazy characters in the final result, edit your post and look for possible offendees like the single and double "Smart Quotes" or foriegn language characters like the ñ.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

See how easy it is? I didn't even read the directions! Posted by HelloThis morning I downloaded Picasa and Hello, both free programs. Without reading any directions, I selected the picture you see above from the Picasa workspace, and clicked on the Blogger button. That opened Hello. Hello had the picture pre-loaded into it's workspace, and it asked me to login to my blogger account (it uses the webpage login, so it was familiar). Still not having read any directions, I choose the correct blog (this one) and hit the publish button. That was it. I went and looked at my blog page and there was the picture and the caption that I had typed in using Hello. (I edited this text after the picture had been posted.) Absolutely ANYONE can do this!

Blogging Glossary (WikiPedia)

These are some terms that new Bloggers will become familiar with. Links within are from Wikipedia...a free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Read it here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Oh, another cool thing!

Since I just got done talking about Google and how they integrated Picasa with Blogger, I should mention that the Google email service, Gmail. also integrates with Picasa. Gmail will create thumnails of your images in your emails when you send pictures to friends and family. No more ugly little document icons with the paperclip...I mean really, who ever bought the digital paper clip metaphor for "attachments" anyway?

Gmail is great, and it has replaced my Hotmail (MSN) account for personal use. You get 1000MB of space, so feasibly you never have to delete an email. I have 21MB currently, about 2%. Gmail lets you apply labels to organize your messages, or you can enter a search word and get all your emails that have that word in them. Kind of like Googling your inbox, if you know what I mean.

If you would like to try Gmail, and perhaps its interface with Picasa, email me here and I will send you an invitation to Gmail. (Its very elite, you need to be invited to use it. :P )


Pictures in your blog?

In case you were wondering, and you should wonder once in awhile, blogs aren't all about text. Although the primary use of most blog pages is for the written word, and it is an excellent tool for that purpose, the mere fact that a blog is also a web page means it can support images as well.

I won't go into the details of picture blogs or audio blogs at this point, but keep them in mind for future topics I will post here, but the web is multimedia. Its orgins were in academic text, but as they say, "You've come a long way, baby."

But this site is called Blogging for Beginners, right? Right. And (owned now by Google, in case you didn't know that) has some new built in features that make it easy for even beginning bloggers to include pictures in their posts. They do so via a combonation of tools also provided by Google.

Picasa is a photo management program you can download, and let me tell you, even without its hooks into the Blogger system, its well worth the price. (Free!)

Picasa will find all your pictures on your computer for you, and does a pretty good job of organizing them. Some simple settings and you can tell it to only look in the My Pictures folder, or you can set it to catalog every picture that winds up on your hard drive. (Careful here, in most cases every picture you view on a website ends up stored on your hard drive as well, so I think you know where I am going here.)

Here is where Picasa, a service called "Hello" and Blogger work together, I won't re-write all the details here. Read about it on this page. To get straight to the point though, if you install Picasa and let it catalog your pictures, there is going to be a button in there that says post to Blogger. You select the pictures you want to post and hit go! Of course there are probably a couple settings in there, and I haven't tried it yet. (I am a geek, I know how to put images in my posts already. :)

I'll write more as I get a chance to try it out...


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hints from the field...

A reader of the article "Ministry in your Pajamas..." sent me the following query...
I tried to follow the procedures in your article and when
it came to giving name and password I was OK then having to name what title
I would use for my blogweb nothing I typed in was accepted. I tried short
and longer names. Could not find a way around this. Can you tell me what was
A smile crept across my face as I realized "I can help!" Below is my response, and hopefully this solved the problem, removing the roadblock from the information-superhighway for yet another molecule in the blogosphere, a new voice in the digital age...

Without actually seeing what you are doing, I have to guess. Here are my guesses -

1) you are using

2) you are letting them host it at (you don't have your own website)

3) you are entering a name with either spaces or funny characters in it

Even if I am wrong about 1 and 2, there are a limited number of reasons it won't accept a blog name - it should tell you what the reason is when it rejects you (don't take it personally) - here are some common ones...

Either someone already has that name. . .
Or you have a space in the name (http://My Cool won't work, but will)
Or, you have a reserved character in the name, like < > ? & % $ or basically anything you need the shift key and a number to create...those characters are used by webservers for special purposes and can't be part of a site's name

Try it again, persistance pays off. keep it simple. if you are still stuck, tell me what blog organization or site you are using, and what you are trying to name it, and I'll see if I can help you out without guessing.

Watch this spot for updates...

See below for follow-on articles by Alan and Paschal
explaining more about blogging: what is is and how to get started...

Blog Glossary

Here is the first draft of the Blogging Terms Glossary

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