Blog Tutorial: Using ‘tags’ to organize your posts and help your readers find info

 

 This is the third in a series of tutorials from The Forum’s Community Content Coordinator Shane Mercer.

 

Using tag words on your blog posts is a quick and easy way to “group” your posts and create links to those groups of posts.

“How?” you ask? I’ll use my own “Everything Else” blog as an example (that’s right … the one you’re looking at right now). Now, I love photography, and one of the things I do on my blog (besides create blog tutorials) is post photos that I’ve taken. Usually, when I post a photo/photos, I also like to include a link that says something like, “If you enjoyed these photos, feel free to check out more of my images here.” And if you click on the blue “check out more of my images here” part of that statement, it will take you to this URL:http://shane.areavoices.com/tag/shanepics/, which is a list or “stream” of photo posts that I’ve created.

Pretty cool, I think. And it’s super easy to do. Each time I write a post about my photography, I add the term “shanepics” to that post in the “tags” box. To do this, just enter the tag word you want to use and click the “Add” button. You can attach as may tag words as you want to a blog post. (see the image below)

Since my photo posts are all tagged with the “shanepics” tag, they’re all neatly organized into a “feed’ or “stream” or list at http://shane.areavoices.com/tag/shanepics. You can see that all my posts that are tagged “shanepics” are at this URL. All you need to do to make this link work for your own page is to replace “shane” with the name of your blog and replace “shanepics” with your own tag words.

Pretty cool, huh? That’s also the technique I used to create the “Shane’s pictures” link at the top of my blog (see the image below). If you want to know how to get a link like that in the menu at the top of your own blog, here’s a tutorial on “menus.”

And that’s not all you can do with the tag stream function. You can also create tag streams that use more than one tag word. For example, Let’s say I wanted a stream of all the blog posts I’ve created related to my photography or the music beat that I used to cover. The following address will link to posts that are tagged either shanepics” or“music”: http://shane.areavoices.com/tag/shanepics,music/ (Note the comma in between the tag words).

Or, suppose I want create a link that contains only blog posts that contain both black-and-white photos and landscape photos. I have a “bw” tag for my posts that contain the former and a “landscape” tag for my posts that contain the latter. I can include both of those words in the web address and insert a “+” sign between them (instead of a comma), and it will give me a “tag stream” that contains only posts that are tagged with both of those terms: http://shane.areavoices.com/tag/landscape+bw/.

Let me know if you have questions. And, if you’re interested in seeing more blog how-to’s,here they are (and, yes, I created that with a tag stream too :-) ).

Cool stuff you can do on your blog with menus

 

 

This is the second in a series of tutorials from The Forum’s Community Content Coordinator Shane Mercer.

 

Hot on the heels of my recent blog post about using the text widget, I bring you a little tutorial on how to add a little bling to your Areavoices blog with a “menu.”

Note: I’ll be using the default “Twenty Eleven” theme for this tutorial. Other themes will handle menus differently.

There are a couple of ways to create a menu across the top in “Twenty Eleven.” The simplest is to just create “Pages” in the pages menu. Under “Pages” select “Add New.” (See image below; click for a larger view.)

For each page you create, the system will place an item under the header. As you can see in the pic of our Extreme Weather Blog below, the system has added links to the “about” page and the “Submit your own photo or video” page (plus the standard “home” link).

But maybe you (like me) want to do more with your menu than just link to pages you’ve created. Maybe you want to link to The Forum’s updates page or something else. That’s pretty easy to do by creating a “menu.” Here’s how:

Start by selecting “Menus” under the “Appearance” heading. (See below).

Enter a name for the menu and click “Save Menu.” (see pic below)

Now you’re ready to start adding stuff to your menu. Enter links that you want to have appear in your menu in the “Custom Links” box and/or select pages you’ve created from the “Pages” box. (See below)

Once you’ve added some items, you can grab them and move them around to the order you want. (See below)

Click the “Save the Menu” button. Then go to the “Theme Locations” box and use the dropdown menu to select the menu you’ve created and click “Save.” (see below).

That’s about it. Let me know if you have questions. Find more blog tips here.

 

 

The “text” widget: Feel it’s power on your Areavoices blog!!!!

 

This is the first in a series of tutorials posted by The Forum’s  Community Content Coordinator Shane Mercer.

 

The text widget is a really great tool for customizing your Areavoices blog because it can take HTML code. “Oh, goodie,” you say sarcastically, “I do love HTML.”

But HTML isn’t as complicated as it might initially seem. And, with just a few simple codes, you can get some nifty-looking stuff. For example, here’s a screenshot of an item on my own blog. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

The highlighted section was created with the “text” widget. Here’s how I did it. (Oh, quick note, different themes may allow different widgets so I don’t know that this is possible in all themes, but it works in the default “Twenty Eleven” theme).

First, you click on “Widget” in the “Appearance” menu. Then, drag the box labeled “text” over to the box labeled “main sidebar.” (See below – Click image for a larger view.)

The “About Shane” part is just the text I typed into the text box label. All the rest of it is created by entering text and HTML into the “text” area. Here’s the code for what you’re seeing:

  • The picture of me and my family - “<img src=”http://shane.areavoices.com/files/2013/04/fam-little.jpg” alt=”Me and my crew”>”
  • The intro paragraph is like this. No coding necessary - “Hi, I’m Shane Mercer. I’m the community content coordinator at The Forum, the daily newspaper in Fargo-Moorhead. Being the CCC sorta makes me the blog guy around here. Here are some facts about me:”
  • This is the bullet list: ”<ul>” start the list. “<li>” marks each bullet point; “</ul>” closes the list. So here’s how it looks:

<ul>
<li>I grew up in Tennessee
<li>I’m married to Amy; we have three kids
<li>I love BBQ (And I don’t mean mean Sloppy Joes)
<li>I play a Taylor guitar
<li>I shoot a Nikon camera
<li>My dad is a missionary to Peru…
</ul>

  • This is the link at the bottom - ”<a href=” means you’re inserting a link. Here’s the syntax for the link”Wanna <a href=”http://shane.areavoices.com/about-shane/”>know more</a>?”

And there’s tons more you can do with it. Links to favorite sites, photos of your cat, clickable thingies that can make that email box pop up!

Okay, so was that helpful or just really, really confusing? Maybe it sounds cool, but you don’t think you could ever pull it off. Don’t worry; we can do it! I’m here to help. Call me!

You can get more blog help here.

Addressing a couple of technical issues

Throughout the last couple of years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in both the number of people writing blogs and the traffic these blogs are attracting. People are loving what they’re reading in our blogging community and Forum Communications is happy to be the vehicle to bring this blog content to you.

But with the tremendous growth, sometimes we’re stretched pretty thin trying to keep up. More spammers are trying to gain access to our readers and our spam filters are having to work overtime. The result is sometimes legitimate blogs get marked as spam. If that’s happened to you, just let me know as soon as possible and we’ll get you unmarked.It’s a quick fix.

Also, on occasion some of our bloggers are getting an error message when they try to log in. Again, the result of high traffic. Here’s what Product Development Manager Chris Welle says,

Right now the issue is that during the morning – due to high traffic – the site will become very slow to respond. This will make it incredibly difficult to post new content in the morning. My short term recommendation would be to try and post your stories in the afternoon while we continue to isolate and implement other solutions.


One longer term solutions that we will be reviewing is to see if we can’t put parts of Areavoices behind a CDN to help relive the amount of bandwidth it takes to host the site. The hope is that by moving parts of the site to a CDN we can save on bandwidth to make the site more responsive during peak traffic. We know by following WordPress.org’s example that their fix for running their own software is to continuously throw more hardware at it when issues arise — that isn’t a luxury we can always afford so we will need to get creative.

Other potential fixes will be to run some updates to Areavoices WordPress software – we are a few revisions behind at the moment.

There is one issue that we can’t ‘fix’ per-say and that is the issue of spam, though we have taken steps to relieve the amount of spam posts, comments and blogs that are created (which can chew up it’s much needed resources) we can only do so much. Spammers are sophisticated creatures and it’s a continuous cat and mouse game between the anti-spam programs we use and the spammers, as a result there will be times when the spam will get through. It’s annoying but it is something we will need to live with when running an open platform like Areavoices (our third largest site in the FCC Network).

How do I create a Blogroll?

To: <support@areavoices.com>
Re: Question: Enabling blog roll

How does one enable a blog roll via Areavoices.com?

A Blogroll can be a neat way to share the other blogs or web sites that interest you and may interest your readers. You can create one using the Links widget in your blog’s dashboard.

1. Log into your blog’s dashboard.

2. In the menu along the left side of the page click Links > Link Categories.

3. Create a link category called  ”Blogroll.”

4. Back over in the menu along the left of the page click Links > Add New.

5. Enter the name of the link, the full URL, a description (if you’d like) and select the Blogroll category. Then click the blue Add Link button in the upper right corner.

6. In the menu again click Appearance > Widgets.

7. Grab the Links widget and move it to the sidebar location of your choosing (depending on your theme).

8. Choose your preferred settings and click Save.

Â’¦ has nothing to do with my post!

Weird characters in your blog? Send an email to support@areavoices.com with the URL of your blog so we can put you on our list of sites that need to be fixed. Thanks!

Formatting posts beyond the Visual editor

Let’s say you’d like to put some really fancy layouts and styles in your posts. The Visual tab is kind of limiting and you don’t know a thing about composing in HTML. That’s precisely what the Paste from Word tool was made for.

Programs like Microsoft Word or other desktop publishing tools have a lot of formatting and design options in them. You can paste those designs to your blog by opening the kitchen sink option and clicking the Paste from Word button.

A window will pop up instructing you to paste your text into it. The easiest way to do this is to go to your completed Word document, hit CTRL + A to select all of your text and then CTRL + C to copy it. Then return to your post in the dasboard and click on the pop up window. Hit CTRL + V and your text will be pasted into the window.

Click the Insert button and your formatting will appear in your post! All you need to do is enter your tags and categories if you use them, then click Publish.

An added bonus of this method of posting is if you save the Word document to your computer you will always have a back-up of your posts if your blog is ever lost or corrupted.

Looking for blog stats?

If you would like to see what articles and pages visitors are viewing on your blog you can request the WordPress Stats module be added to your dashboard.

Send an email to support@areavoices.com to request the stats module. Be sure to include the name and URL of your blog!

After the module is added you may see a login screen in your dashboard. You can ignore this. It will go away after twenty minutes or so. Then you will start seeing graphs and numbers!

Click the View All button in the lower right corner to see all kinds of detailed information about your blog’s traffic.

 

You can change what information displays on your dashboard by clicking the Configure link. To get the link to pop up hover your cursor over the area in the upper right corner of the module.

Choose your settings, then click Submit to save.

When you know what your visitors are reading you can start molding your blog in to a site people return to.

How do I add images to my post? Part 2, adding images while composing

If you’re working on a post and you have images to add that aren’t in your media library yet you can upload them right from the Add New/Edit Post page.

Before you add image files to your media library take note of their file size. Due to server constraints and because we want to continue to provide this service for free there is a 500MB limit to your library. For the same reasons we also have a limit of 2MB per file upload. It may be necessary for you to resize your images. There are many ways to do this – Photoshop, GIMP and IrfanView are probably the most popular image editing tools available. Familiarizing yourself with one of these pieces of software will help you conserve storage space.

Once your images have been edited so they are an appropriate size for the web you can add them to your media library.

Step 1. Click the Add an Image icon.

Step 2. Click the button to Select Files.

Step 3. Locate the image or images on your machine and select them to upload.

Step 4. Add or edit the relevant information for your image.

Step 5. Choose the alignment and size that best suits your image and post, then click the button to Insert into Post.

And that’ll do it!

The common wombat

Once the image is posted into your blog you can edit it if something looks amiss.

Step 1. Click the image to get the Edit and Delete buttons.

Step 2. Click the icon on the left to bring up the Edit window. Make any changes you need and click Update.

And that’s how you upload images to your blog while composing posts!

Missing/broken stats

If your stats module was missing or broken at any point in the last month it should be fixed now. We’ve been in contact with the team at WordPress and have repaired any broken connections and granted all the right permissions.

If you are still missing your stats module please let us know so we can get it back up!