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August 08, 2005

Self Guided Tour of Blogs

This post is meant for relatively new readers of blogs.  It describes how to use the sidebars of the blogsite Fractals of Change.  Fractals of Change looks like many other blogs, particularly those hosted by a service called TypePad so you should find this tour useful on other blog sites as well.

(note to nerd bloggers: although you may well want to skip the rest of this post, you will be interested to know that I added addressable labels to items in the sidebars in order to implement the guided tour.  Will blog on that technique anon.)

Directions for Use of the Tour

A blog (short for weblog) is a special purpose website which contains a series of posts, usually with the newest one on top and other information often including advertising in sidebars and banners.  Think of each post as an individual article and the blog as a whole magazine.  This blog is named Fractals of Change and it can be found at blog.tomevslin.com (its URL).  You can get to Fractals of Change by typing or pasting “blog.tomevslin.com” into the address bar of your browser.  If you come here often you may want to add the URL to the favorites list in your browser.

Some people read the individual posts from blogs in feedreaders like Bloglines or NewsGator.  Below I’ll describe why feedreaders are convenient and how you can subscribe to the posts from Fractals of Change with a feedreader if you want to.  But this guided tour is of the actual blogsite so, if you are in a feedreader and not at the blogsite, please go the blog by clicking here.  When you are on the blog site, my picture is at the upper left corner of the page.

OK, now that we’ve all gathered at the blogsite, just one more instruction.  As I conduct the tour, I will give you links to click to get to various locations in the sidebars.  Once you have seen what you want to see in the sidebar, click the Back button on your browser to get back to the point you left in the tour.

Finding Posts

Most blogs contain aids to help you to find old posts (articles) you may be interested in much like the table of contents and index in a magazine but better.  These aids include archives, categories, a list of recent posts, and key word search.

My archives are arranged by month so, for example, if you click on the July, 2005 article, you now see all the posts I made in July in the center pane of the blogsite, newest first.  You will find my archives at the bottom of the left sidebar here.

If you want to see only posts which I identified as belonging to a certain category such as “weblogs” or “humor”, then you go to the middle of the right sidebar here and choose a category.  When you do that, you will see all posts in that category in the middle pane.

Clickable titles of my most recent posts are listed in the right sidebar here just above the categories.

Maybe you have no idea when or whether I wrote a post on a particular subject or what category I might have put it in.  You will find a way to use Google’s familiar search just for the posts on my blog near the top of the right sidebar here.

Recommended Lists

Like many bloggers, I recommend books and other blogs which I like to my readers.

The booklist includes cover pictures, my capsule reviews, and direct links for ordering from Amazon (I get paid if you do).  This list is in the left sidebar here.

“blogroll” is what bloggers call their list of recommended other bloggers.  My blogroll is at the bottom of the right sidebar here.

I sometimes record podcasts of my posts and sometimes can be heard in other people’s podcasts.  My most recent podcasts are listed at the top of the right sidebar here.

Subscribing to Blogs

I usually post three times a week.  Other bloggers have something to say every hour or so, particularly those who are in the news business.  Some bloggers post rarely but well.  Subscribing to a blog means that you don’t have to keep navigating your browser to the blogsite in order to find out whether your favorite blogger has written anything new.

One way that you can subscribe is by using an email service called Bloglet.  If you give your email address to Bloglet, they will send you an email early each morning giving you the first few lines of any new posts on the blogs you are interested in and an opportunity to click to the full post on the blogsite if it looks interesting to you.

You can also subscribe to RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds of the posts by your favorite bloggers.  You can use a feedreader like Bloglines or NewsGator or the capabilities of MyYahoo to aggregate all your feeds.  Once you subscribe to feeds, you have only one place to look for updated posts.  The down side of feedreaders is that they can take up to a day to pick up the latest posts and they don’t give you access to either the sidebars of a blog – the capabilities we’ve just been touring – or comments readers make on posts.  They present content out of context.  But you can always click from the feedreader to the blog itself if you want to.

You can subscribe to either the email or feed version of Fractals of Change from the subscription section of the left sidebar here as well as from Bloglet and the various feedreaders.

Next post for newbies will be on the funny words like trackback and permalink at the bottom of each post as well as a quick primer on adding your own comments and tags to blogs.

I previously posted more on feeds and blogs here.

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