Category Archives: Blog Bytes

Web Fonts

Badge-BlogBytesIf you’ve been blogging for more than a couple of days, you’ve noticed the limited number of fonts available for use on your site. These are known as web-safe fonts because they are the few fonts found on almost every computer (Windows, Mac or Linux). Until recently web browsers only used the fonts installed on the local computer. If you wanted to use a fancy font, you created a graphic and inserted that graphic into your post or theme. Yes, it’s clunky and because that text is a graphic, it’s not searchable either. Bummer!

Now for the good news. These font limitations are a thing of the past. BUT! [There's always a but in there somewhere, isn't there?] It’s going to be a little messy for a while until things settle down.

The new HTML5 standard, which is quickly being implemented in most web browsers, supports the ability to include font files on the web site which are then available so the web browser can display them on the page. Does that mean you can now include any font on your site? Unfortunately, no. Not all fonts are licensed for use on the web. Fortunately, there are a growing number of services offering web font collections along with simple ways to implement them within your blog or site.

Google Fonts sample

A sample from the more than 600 font families available from Google Fonts.

Google offers the open source Google Font Directory with a beautiful collection of fonts and easy instructions to include them on your blog.

Typekit font sample

Typekit offers a subscription service for using fonts from their collection

If you still need more fonts, you might want to look at Typekit. This subscription service has a huge font library and already is incorporated into several blogging platforms including WordPress.com. Typekit offers plans ranging from $25/year (2 sites with 5 fonts per site) to $50/year (unlimited sites and fonts). Each plan also has limits on page views per month so if you’re a high traffic site, you’ll need to chose your plan accordingly.

One of many commercial fonts offering web font options.

One of many commercial fonts offering web font options.

Font designers are beginning to realize the opportunities web fonts offer them and the selection continues to grow.

While not yet perfect, these options offer us more flexibility in our blog design. It will be a while before all browsers support all the new capabilities of HTML5 and until then we will all experience some design hiccups. Don’t let that stop you from experimenting – especially with fonts.

You’ll be amazed how something as simple as a change of font can significantly improve the look of your blog.

Is your blog accessible?

Technology has given us all some great tools to both publish and consume information. Our blogs allow us to connect with distant cousins and others researching the same people and places we are. Technology has also given people with disabilities access to most of the same information. But, with just a bit of effort on our part, we can help improve that – especially when they are visiting our blog sites.

There are special devices and software that help make life easier for the disabled. We’re already familiar with closed-captioning for television programs which provide people with hearing issues the ability to keep up with what’s happening on-screen. Did you know that you can add captioning when you build your own movies?

Blind people use a special program called a screen reader to browse the web. It reads the content to them and offers special commands for navigating a page or site. People with physical disabilities – especially our wounded service men and women – use voice recognition software like Dragon Dictate to dictate content and perform commands.

All of these tools are amazing, but they work even better when we do our part. Here are a few suggestions. . .
WordPress attachment details panel
Provide a text description for every image you include in your blog post. Screen reader software will read the information found in the “alt” attribute included with the image code, giving your blind visitor an idea of what is displayed here. Here you see the Attachment Details panel from the Add Media screen in WordPress. Notice the simple description included in the Alt Text field. It doesn’t appear anywhere in your post, but is part of the HTML code that is read to blind visitors using their screen reader. It doesn’t have to be a long description – just enough to let the reader know what’s there. Alt text has another use too. It describes the content of the image to search engines – just in case you’re trying to attract anyone’s attention . . .

If you’re using CAPTCHA features on your comments to prevent spammers, make sure your CAPTCHA capability offers an alternative for people with visual impairments.

Do you ever tell your readers to click the red box or the green text? How will your blind readers find it? It’s good practice to define your links with a description of what they will find at the other end. (Example: Download the family tree file.)

Notice there’s also an entry in the Title field. You’ll find title fields for media (images, photos, attached documents) and for links. Ever wondered what it does? It is used by various assistive apps and devices to allow disabled people to move from one hyperlink to another within your text. A voice command like “click family tree file” is a lot easier than having to verbally “tab” through every previous link on the page to get to this one.

These are just a couple of suggestions that take very little effort on your part but they make your blog site and posts much more accessible to people with disabilities. There’s a whole section on accessibility in the Yahoo! Style Guide. You can visit the online edition or you can keep a print or Kindle copy nearby at all times.

Day One Publish

Day One, the amazing journaling app for Mac and iOS, has just released an update for its iPhone app which includes the ability to publish entries to your personal web site located at http://dayone.me. In addition, you can also have your entry posted to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. You choose which entries you want to publish and the social networks, if any, where you also want them to appear.

Your DayOne.me web site is private by default. Only people who know the URL for a post can view it. If you choose to also announce your post to the public via one of the social networks, it includes the link to that post.

DayOne PublishHere you see a journal entry in my DayOne iPhone app. To publish it, I just tap the Publish icon (shown in blue on the left of the bottom toolbar). The first time you do this, it walks you through the sign up process to create a free account at DayOne.me, then publishes this article at your new site. If you also want to announce posts at Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, you’ll first need to connect the app to your accounts – also done on the Publish screen – and from then on you just tap the network(s) you wish to include.

DayOne Site

Here’s what the published journal entry looks like at my “site”.

From within the app you can also create a bit of a profile for your site that includes a short bio, link to a web address of your choice and even the ability to take and include a selfie. Your DayOne.me site also serves as a central collection point for stats from each of the social networks included in your published items. It collects all the likes, retweets and comments for display on that entry’s web post.

Right now this feature only works on the iPhone app but updates are coming for both the iPad and Mac versions so soon you’ll be able to publish from those apps too.  Future plans include adding additional social networks and publishing features.

Day One with Publish for iPhone is now available in the app store.

Tumblr for News

My Moultrie Journal blog is full of stories about my family and my home town along with photos, news and other goodies I find interesting. Since my home town just happens to be gearing up to celebrate its 450th anniversary next year, there’s lots of interesting stories popping up all over the place – from the local paper to other bloggers and more. I’ve found a way to collect those things and share them from the Journal site. I’m using Tumblr and it’s amazingly quick and easy.

I’ve added the Tumblr widget [from the Tumblr Widget plugin] to the Journal’s sidebar and connected it to my Tumblr blog. If you scroll down a bit you’ll see excerpts from the five most recent posts on my Tumblr – all with links to that site.

First, I built a simple Tumblr blog and installed the bookmarklet on my browser’s bookmarks bar. I set up Tumblr’s queue feature to automatically post two queued posts a day – sometime between 8:00am and 8:00pm. I spend about two hours a week visiting Flickr, the state archives and other interesting Florida history/photo sites to add items to the queue using the bookmarklet. That insures there is enough content to keep the Tumblr fresh. Once the queue’s set for the week, anytime I stumble onto an interesting article, blog post or news item, it gets published immediately.

If you’re wondering what the “queue” is, it’s a great Tumblr feature. Yes, you can schedule posts to go live on a particular day and time, but the queue lets you set up a line – or queue – of posts and stretch out how often you want a new item to appear on your blog. That way you can create a number of posts in one sitting then let Tumblr publish them one at a time using your queue settings.

Tumblr Queue

In this example, you’re looking at the Queue screen for my Tumblr. (Click for larger view.) You’ll only see the Queue item in the sidebar menu when there are posts in the queue – right now there are 10 items. At the top of the list of queued posts you’ll find the queue settings. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to set. Now look at the Publish icons at the bottom of the post. These are used to rearrange posts in the queue. Clicking the up arrow icon on the right will move this post to the top of the queue. Click and drag the crossed arrows icon to move the post to a new place in the queue. The gear icon lets you edit or delete this post.

Here’s my collection workflow. I visit my favorite sites looking for interesting photos, videos, articles or whatever. When I find something interesting, I hit the Tumblr bookmarklet on my bookmark bar.

TumblrScreen1

 

A pane similar to this one appears over my web page. I can choose the type of post I want, change the title and add a description. Then I’ll click the Advanced tab at the bottom of the pane.

Tumblr Advanced Pane

 

Here I change the Publishing options item to “add to queue”, add tags and make sure I’m posting to the correct Tumblr (only necessary if you have more than one Tumblr) before clicking the Create post button.

Once I’ve collected a number of items, I’ll go to my dashboard to rearrange things and do a bit of editing. Seldom does it take more than a couple of hours to collect enough items to fill the queue up for a week.

Since the support site worked so well for my personal blog, I’m working on a support Tumblr for the Gazette with the focus on personal publishing. It’s taking a bit more effort – mostly as I research the best sites for source material. As my source collection develops, maintaining the blog will become much easier.

By the way, all Tumblr blogs also support RSS feeds to if a reader wants to have my support blog delivered to his news reader, it only takes a couple of seconds to subscribe.

Tumblr is a great way to aggregate news and thanks to the queue feature, I can do it as my schedule allows. I continue to be amazed at the things Tumblr can do.

A Posthaven Primer

A Posthaven Primer by Moultrie Creek

Social Tumblr

While Tumblr is a blog platform, it is much more “conversational” than other blogs. It’s more like Twitter in many ways – following blogs, re-blogging, searching hashtags to follow topics and favoriting posts to name a few. Now they’ve added a mention feature that will notify a user when you include them by using @username in your post.

Tumblr offers some additional features – like the ability to schedule when a post is published or to create a queue which spaces out your publishing at intervals you designate. And there’s no 140 character limit either. With the Tumblr app on your phone, it’s easy to post photo updates any time too.

Need some inspiration? Take a look at Genealogy 101 or Fiesta 500 or stop by my personal Tumblr at Moultrie Telegraph.

Build a Family Blog Network

One of the most enjoyable elements of blogging is that it’s a very social platform, but in a much more controlled manner than Facebook or Twitter. The blog owner controls the level of “socializing” allowed on the blog. The most common form of socializing on a blog is with comments, but how about kicking things up a notch and building a blog with multiple contributors? Think of the possibilities . . .

  • A family blog where everyone in the family has contributor rights creates a family news center where not only are you sharing news, pictures and other goodies, but you’re building a family journal one blog post at a time.
  • A project blog to organize and manage a project. Could be a family event like a reunion or wedding or a family history project like documenting the family treasures.
  • Get your research cousins together on one blog to share your research.

While just about every blog platform supports multiple contributors, some are more family-friendly than others. Posthaven is a new blog platform that is both easy and affordable. A Posthaven account costs $5.00 a month for up to 10 blogs. Each blog supports multiple contributors and posting via email. It also provides email subscriptions to deliver each new post to the subscriber’s inbox. Commenting is as easy as replying to that message. Even the most technically-challenged member of the family can participate in this network. Posthaven does not yet have any theme capabilities – just a simple, plain vanilla style. If most of your blog operations (posting, delivery and commenting) are happening via email, this won’t be a problem.

Tumblr’s another easy to use platform that’s useful for a blog network. The platform and its mobile apps include a reader as well as a posting environment. Family members can have their own blogs or you can set up a single blog with multiple members. It also supports email posting and the mobile apps make posting photos and quick updates a simple process. There’s no cost to use Tumblr, but you may want to spend a few bucks on one of the premium themes. Mobile apps are also free and are available for iOS, Android and Windows. One caution . . . there are a number of NSFW blogs on the Tumblr platform. Some of them may show up in the reader when searching.

WordPress – both hosted and self-hosted – supports email subscriptions, multiple contributors and email posting. The problem is all the steps necessary to get a user set up as a contributor is often more than many family members will tolerate. For tech-savy families, WordPress offers a tremendous number of themes, plugins and other features to meet just about any need.

Blogs are very versatile platforms and, with a bit of creative spark, can become just about anything you want. All it takes is a little experimenting to discover what works best for you.

The WordPress Media Library

We all quickly learn how to upload and display images on our posts. WordPress’s Media Library offers even more functionality that can be quite useful. Here’s an introduction to the Media Library giving you a look at some of those features.

I haven’t paid much attention to the attachment page except to notice that it’s an option for linking to your image as you place it into a blog post. For family history sites, this page could be used to describe a photo – and its provenance – in greater depth. By taking advantage of these features, our WordPress blog can become more than just a storytelling platform. It could also be a digital museum and archive for our family treasures.

How to install Jetpack Site Stats on a self-hosted WordPress site

The Jetpack plugin gives self-hosted WordPress sites many of the features available to blogs hosted at WordPress.com. Site Stats is an impressive analytics package. This video shows you how to install Jetpack and set up the Site Stats component on your blog.