You know… that Blog?

Blog Tools – for writers and readers

Written By: Jenn - Aug• 08•09

Now that I’ve been blogging for a while, I’ve discovered some pretty marvelous tools that I use on a regular basis. I find they help me out in a big way, or I just really enjoy using them. Let’s talk about them, shall we? I know you have some that I don’t use, and maybe haven’t heard of yet, and you can tell me why you like those.

First, for the readers out there. Most of the people who swing by my place are other bloggers, but then there are friends of mine who I haven’t yet converted, like ShaMoo and Doodle Cakes (although they are both working on websites, which I’ll showcase when they’re ready!). For these folks, the only thing really necessary is a good reader. I use, and really like, the “Google Reader” app you can get when you have a Google account. I love Google, although there are a good many reasons why that we will have to talk about another time, because they’re not related to blogging. Getting yourself a Google Account just makes sense. Trust me. It’s part of my daily life, and if it were to disappear tomorrow, I would not be alone in my despair.

Once you get your Google account, you can “Get Stuff” to customize your Google home page. This isn’t like a blog or website “home page”. It’s a TOOL, and you can create your one-stop do-everything page in only a few moments, by adding a calendar, your local weather, local movies, news, (whatever), and of course, your Google Reader.

Boy it took me a lot of words to get to the point, didn’t it? Sorry, sorry… I’ll try to be a little less verbose from here on. (yeah, right)

For bloggers who visit other bloggers, there is something that irks me to no end where (the service) Blogger is concerned; Having comment settings where you can only comment if you have a blogger profile (egads people, don’t just use this one), or an “Open ID” profile (again, no!). What about us poor saps who have an actual domain, and don’t want or need a Blogger or other blog-service profile? We want to leave you a comment – we know how wonderful and crack-like-addictive comments are! We want you to feel the love!

I think it’s the fear of being spammed, ya? Possibly also not fully understanding who it prevents from commenting on your posts. Blogger has some fairly dandy tools though, that will let you allow “anyone” to post, and still not get spammed into oblivion. They are in your “Settings/Comments” area. Look for “Show word verification for comments?” and set it to YES. If you’re still worried some spam might show up, set your “Comment moderation” to ALWAYS if you like. That means you have to approve/delete as comments come in, but as visitors, it’s A-OK with us if you want to be careful. Anyway, using those settings will allow you to set this very important one close to the top of that page: “Who Can Comment?” … ANYONE. Yay!

A fun tool that I use, and you can see it over there on the left panel, is “Feedjit Live”. If you click on the link that says “Watch in real time”, chances are good you’re the visitor sitting at the top of the list! See what it tells me about you? I can see where you are in the world, what Operating system you’re using, and what browser you use (yay to Firefox users!!). PLUS I can usually see where you were coming from. I usually have the live feed open in a tab behind what I’m working on, with the sound turned “on”, and gleefully check in when I hear that delightful “ding”. Reminds me a bit of Pavlov’s dogs, actually. A few minutes later, you know I’m checking to see if you left me a comment. I love your comments… it makes my day to get comments (remember what I said about “crack-like-addiction”???). So many people drop in and leave without saying a word. Don’t be that visitor.

Of course, I don’t need Feedjit, because I have my very detailed stats that come with having a professionally hosted website (yay Crosswinds!!), but I do love to see what is happening, as it happens. It’s just fun!

For the actual “blogging” part of it, even though there have been “issues” with it in the past with security (from what I see these have been fixed), I just love WordPress. It’s a smart, totally customizable blogging platform that has everything you might need for your blog. It was straightforward to install, and is easy to keep updated. There are countless themes available for it, or you can build your own if you know what you’re doing. Then there are widgets and plugins galore – it’s fun to experiment, to find the look that is truly your own.

Other tools that I sometimes use are:

  • Mr. Linky – I paid for a “Silver” membership because I wanted a customizable form, but there are some free ones you can use as well.
  • Wordle – just plain fun. Create art with your own words. Beautiful!
  • BigHugeLabs – again, fun. I use Photoshop for my Mosaics and other photography related work, but this place has some really cool applications you should check out.
  • I forgot – I use Wordle for something else:

    It helps me see what words I’m using too often. I get stuck in a rut sometimes, or glom onto a word that I love. Until recently, the word I used a LOT was “Awesome”, and wow, could you tell. I made a conscious effort, just by “doing a Wordle” now and then, to change it up, and not get too hung up on any one word. So I’d say it’s as useful as it is entertaining.

    So obviously this isn’t a huge list, (although my word count is closing on is over 1000 now – yikes! Talk much?!) and I put it out there for discussion. What do YOU like to use in your blogging life? Do you have something that you use that you can’t do without? It’s good to share!


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  1. Chris says:

    Hey, Jenn,

    Thanks for the comments and advice. Revealing my utter ignorance, I didn’t even know that there was the option of one version over another! So, I have changed that now.

    Thank you again!
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Pastrami! (Not quite a recipe, but interesting recreation possibilities.) =-.

  2. I agree with you that having a Google account just makes sense. I used to be all about Yahoo, until they disabled the Reader in the Inbox. Then I switched over to Google. And I am so glad I did. It has never disappointed me.

    I also use Feedjit just because I enjoy seeing where the people who visit my blog are from and how they discovered it.

    I think Wordle is neat, but I totally can not come up with a reason to post it in my blog.

    Another service I use for Blogging is FeedBurner. [Another Google product!] Since the follow widget on my blogger account is perpetually broken with no hope of ever being fixed, I like to offer alternatives. I use both FeedBurner and Networked Blogs on Facebook to help market my blog.

    And yeah I think that is about it!

    Awesome post! Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Jessica @ Mental Vomit´s last blog ..Project 365 [Day 16] =-.

    • Jenn says:

      Jess – I bet blogging every day for a year will give you LOTS of reason to use Wordle ;)

      I just think it’s a totally cool app, and have thought about printing one out on some gorgeous paper and framing it. (not one of my blog posts of course)

  3. Fabulous stuff! You are a delight, and not at all verbose. (Because that would be me) :D
    .-= stephanie (bad mom)´s last blog ..leader of the pack =-.

    • Jenn says:

      Fabulously verbose, Steph. Hope everyone goes and enjoys your latest post on John Hughes. It’s a masterpiece!

  4. Doodle Cakes says:

    I wish I actually understood everything that you just said..LOL

  5. Susan says:

    OMG, Jenn! You are a blessing for newbies like me. It took me forever to figure out how to add a link. I will slowly but surely explore the areas you have touched on and hope my illiterate computer mind absorbs your wisdom.

    Thanks for the tips and explanations – You have no idea how you’ve helped me and probably a lot of other people too.

    Thanks for peeking into my blog and leaving a comment.
    Now I’m off to try and find the ‘Silly Haiku Wednesday’ post.

    Have a great weekend!

    Hugssss, Susan

    • Jenn says:

      I’m so happy that I was able to help you out, Susan!

      I haven’t been blogging all that long, but I have been “in computers” for decades, and online since the internet was a big question mark to most people. Any time you have a question, just ask! Everyone was a newbie once.

  6. Annie says:

    Hi Jenn! Missy, you are just too smart for me! :) I seriously wish I knew more about the computer. I get so frustrated at times. I need to take a class or something. Although that might be unnecessary if you keep sharing all your wealth of knowledge. Have a fun Sunday. Is your oldest home yet? Annie
    .-= Annie´s last blog ..Please pass the estrogen. =-.

    • Jenn says:

      Awww, you’re always selling yourself short, Annie! ANY time you want help with anything, you can call on me. ;) What are friends for?

      No, she’s not home yet, and she hasn’t called in a WEEK. I’m getting a bit frazzled about that I have to admit. She comes home on the 22nd, which still seems like forever away. :(

  7. carma says:

    Great stuff. I don’t know how I survived before discovering Google Reader. I would bookmark sites under my favorites or try to recall site names and waste even more time than I do now :D
    .-= carma´s last blog ..Six Word Saturday =-.

  8. ShaMoo says:

    Yay!! I appeared in a Wordle!! Now I just have to go and figure out how to do one (and where the heck to post it, LOL)…. Thanks for all of these tips….cool stuff out there to be discovered!

  9. Great post – I am already using a lot of those features. I love my Google Reader, if it’s not working right I am just NOT happy! ;-)
    .-= Mighty M Family´s last blog ..wordless wednesday: the rest of us… =-.

  10. Jenn, this is so informative and helpful! I love Wordle — thanks for pointing me toward it! I spent a fun hour playing with it yesterday with me son (he’s home from his month-long sojourn — yay!).

    Have a great rest of the day!
    .-= Liz in Virginia´s last blog ..Is anything in the British Museum actually British? =-.

  11. Hi Jenn, read this ages ago and then meant to comment but got distracted by someone else’s comment which took me to their blog etc etc so easy to get side tracked! Anyway…

    I love google reader and seeing all that stuff there is to read there, I also know what you mean about comments – love them! I started a blogger blog because I found another one that was interesting and thought hey I want a blog so that’s how I ended up there without even considering wordpress etc. So far it’s been fine but one day maybe I will have my own site.

    I also love the Wordle stuff – for my boyfriends birthday I typed up a load of words relating to us, like where we met, our families, where we have lived, our holidays etc and put the most important words in more time so I got a cool personal wordle – I chose a black and white all directions one, I printed it on good paper and framed it in a black frame. Looks great in our wee house.

    There are a few other things I’ve enjoyed playing with blog-wise, I’m not afraid of a bit of HTML which helps but I added Related Posts thumbnails from LinkWithin which was pretty much a button press (although I found a DIY HTML code for this today which I really like) and my new favourite thing is the label cloud widget which is a fun way to show what you’re writting about. You can see that on my blog now.

    Oh and one more thing, I love Feedjit too, but another cool free thing is The Blog Tracker Ice Rocket thing which records your hits and visits and where people are from. If you don’t have a proper site and get stats this will give you loads of info and pie charts if you like that kind of stuff!

    I’m still pretty new at this and it’s great to see what other people have discovered, I’m always stealing ideas about layout and widets from other people’s blogs – whatever you want to do on your blog, you can bet someone else already did it and there’s a code out there somewhere to ‘borrow’!

    Happy blogging,
    .-= Jade @ No Longer 25´s last blog ..We’re Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo… =-.

  12. PS Do I win a prize for the biggest comment ;)
    Sorry got a bit carried away but this stuff is so cool!
    .-= Jade @ No Longer 25´s last blog ..We’re Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo… =-.

  13. Hi Jenn, I think I fixed this. Thanks for your help!
    .-= Jenny Matlock´s last blog ..Lewis Carroll said… =-.