December 31, 2007

The best of Blogger Buster in 2007

There are dozens of "Best of 2007" posts floating around at this time of year, and in the spirit of things I would like to share with you all a list of the best posts from Blogger Buster in 2007. Although my site has only been online for six months, I thought it would be a good way to remind both faithful readers and newer visitors of this year's highlights.

Thank you to all my visitors for helping me develop Blogger Buster into the what it is today. I look forward to a new year of blogging, and have many new features in store which I hope you will all find useful.








I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and discovering (or perhaps 'rediscovering') the posts which have helped Blogger Buster develop a string readership and reputation through the later part of 2007.

If you've ever wanted to spread the word about Blogger Buster, this post would be a great way for others to discover the best parts of this blog!

Please feel free to leave your own comments below. As always, your contributions are warmly welcomed, and your links will be followed by Google!

A New Year Banner widget for your blogs!

As 2007 is fast drawing to a close, I have created a New Year banner which you can easily install as a widget in your blogs as a seasonal banner for your visitors. This banner will sit at the top right hand side of your blog, providing seasonal decoration to your theme in a way you can easily delete when no longer appropriate.

I have made this available in both PNG (see top right) and GIF format which you can install in your own blogs as a widget.

I have not linked the image to anything, though a link back to this page in your blog is welcomed, and could inform your readers where they can get their own festive banner.

Install the New Year Banner widget

This New Year banner is available in two formats for you to install as a widget in your blog:

  • PNG format: this is the style you can see in my own blog. PNG is a better format for images with transparency, but you will need to ensure you have also installed the PNG fix for IE6 and below, otherwise you will see a grey background to the image!
  • GIF format: this is suitable for all blogs and browsers, though the image quality isn't quite as good.

Use the appropriate button below to install your own New Year banner with just one click! You can easily remove the widget whenever you like by simply opening up the widget and clicking on the "remove page element" button in the pop-up window.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year!

December 30, 2007

Blogger in 2007: a year in review

It's been a good year for Bloggers: after "new Blogger" came out of beta, a great many new features have been added over the past twelve months. So as the year comes to a close, here is my own review of a year with Blogger, including some predictions for the year ahead.


Back in the later part of 2006, Blogger had released the new layouts templates out of beta, which meant many bloggers were enjoying the flexibility and ease of widgets, easy customization and better publishing. Though the changeover may have been somewhat difficult for some, many new blogs had sprung up offering their insights and experience of this new system, including Testing Blogger Beta and Blogger University, paving the way for many "new Blogger" hacks to be developed, and helping other Blogger users to realize the full potential of this excellent new feature.

Another great new feature released in January was that Blogger began to support the "Custom Domains" service which enabled users of the new Layouts templates to link top level domains to their blogs. This excellent feature bode great promise for search engine status with many Blogger hosted blogs; furthermore, it is a cheap and effective way of establishing integrity and brand recognition, since Blogger still hosts the blog for free (you only need to pay for the domain name itself)!


Blogger announce the release of the API which we bloggers can use to develop our own Blogger widgets. This meant that in addition to using generic widgets and pasting HTML/Javascript into the widget boxes, we could create our own and offer them for others to use in their blogs using a simple form. You may have noticed a few which I made available here at Blogger Buster. Also Beautiful Beta has quite a selection available which you may well want to take a look at. To create your own widgets for others to use, take a look at the instructions here.


In March, Blogger released two new widgets for use with layouts blogs: Newsreel and Video Bar. The Newsreel adds a stream of headlines from Google News to your widget based on keywords you choose when installing the widget in your blog. These headlines constantly update, so you can be sure relevant and up-to-date content is displayed in your blog. The Video Bar uses your chosen keywords to find suitable videos from YouTube and Google's Video Search which are displayed as small icons in the sidebar. When a visitor clicks on a thumbnail, the whole video expands into the main posts column. A pretty cool development for Bloggers who want to keep their blog fresh with dynamic content!

Also in March, Blogger and Picasa joined forces; all of the photos you upload to Blogger are now also contained in your own Picasa web albums, for easier access, sharing and viewing.


French Toast Girl became Blogger's 100th Blog of Note (for those of you unfamiliar with the blogs of note, these are part of an ongoing list of blogs which the Blogger team have found to be interesting and somehow notable).

April was also the month of languages for Blogger: Hindi transliteration was introduced, and also Blogger was translated into Nederlands, Türkçe, Dansk, Norsk, Svenska, suomi, Русский, and ภาษาไทย (bringing the total number of languages to 19), assisting even more international bloggers in the creation of new weblogs.


Now May was a rather significant month for Blogger: this was the month in which the "old" blogger interface was 'dismantled' to pave the way for New Blogger (layouts and all) to reign supreme. From May 4th onwards, all Blogger users were required to use the new system. Although bloggers are still allowed to maintain their classic templates, the login and dashboard are now of the new Blogger format, and new members are required to create a Google account in order to use Blogger's service.

Auto-saving of blog posts was another very useful feature which was made available in May. No more worries about power cuts deleting the post you've been working on four hours anymore!


June was an important month for Blogger Buster. In fact, this was the month in which this blog was first created, albeit in a far different form to what you see today...

For bloggers interested in testing out new features before they are publicly released, Blogger introduced "Blogger in Draft", where you can use and review features unavailable in the regular Blogger dashboard. In draft, many of the new features are still buggy and not quite so well-featured as we would expect of a public release, though I still consider it honorable of Blogger to allow us the use of beta functions in order to help develop an altogether better format for the community.

Seventeen new languages were added to Blogger's list of translated formats, bringing the grand total to a whopping thirty six!

All in all, the halfway mark of the year proved to be a rather productive month for the Blogger community as a whole!


For me, the most important feature added to Blogger in July was the redirection of blog feeds to your specified URL. A great many bloggers used Feedburner to syndicate their feeds, but were unable to get any accurate details of their subscriber list which was generally torn between Feedburner and Blogger URLs. With this new feature included in the options page of our dashboards, we could all be certain that our Blogger feeds were being redirected to a central place, and that all of our subscribers could be accounted for.


Blogger celebrated it's eighth birthday on the 23rd of August. Just look how much the format has changed since the old days! It's quite an achievement to know that Blogger has been around so long, especially considering that with it's thousands of international users, Blogger is probably the biggest blogging community in the world!

Propelling the eight year old service into the future of blogging was the addition of video uploads, allowing vloggers (video bloggers) to upload their latest installments with ease, right into the body of their blog posts!


In the month leading up to my birthday (!), Blogger uploaded Blogger Play for public use. Using this nifty little feature, you can view an endless stream of the latest photos which Bloggers have uploaded, making interesting viewing for those times when you suffer a but of writer's block. While not one of the most useful features currently available to Blogger, it certainly makes a change from watching a blank space in the edit posts section of our dashboard!


From October onwards, we were able to subscribe to a Blogger post's comments by email, a feature welcomed by most as a much easier way of keeping track of the conversation which often follows a really great blog post. Currently this feature is only available to those who have a Google account, though it's certainly proved useful for the times I've needed to keep abreast of further comments after leaving a question on another blogger's blog.


It was no surprise that in November, Blogger won an award for being the best blogging host in the 2007 Blogger's Choice Awards: an admirable achievement which surprisingly didn't get a mention in the Blogger Buzz Blog!

November's latest Blogger widget was the Slideshow, which allows you to create a dynamic show of your favorite photos from Flickr, Picasa or any other service which supports media RSS.


2007 is now drawing to a close, and overall I can honestly say that it's been a greatly productive year for Blogger, albeit with a few hiccups regarding how comments can be posted in these past couple of weeks.

Blogger did publish their own round-up of the best developments for the year, though I do think they missed rather a lot of important and noticeable points! The Buzz post did however mention that the Blogger team do have lots of new and exciting features planned for 2008, which neatly brings me to my next point...

Blogger in 2008?

So what developments will happen with Blogger in 2008? Well, I think that the Blogger team will focus less on developing new widgets and more on the functionality of the blogs themselves. In recent months, many popular Blogger bloggers have moved their blogs over to Wordpress after feeling discontented with the features currently on offer. Jackbook (who is famed for generating Blogger templates from Wordpress themes) moved over in September, while Blog Bloke is about to move his blog from Blogger on New Year's day. If Blogger can ensure blog authors are more content with how they are able to publish their blogs, I'm sure there would be far fewer 'defectors' in the future!

New features?

Many bloggers would love the ability to summarize posts on the front page without having to extensively hack their templates to do so. Blog pages would also make a wonderful addition to the Blogger system; this popular feature of the Wordpress platform would make a welcome change to the current Blogger platform and enable us to do even more with out blogs.

Although many of you would like to see trackbacks enabled, I sincerely doubt that this feature will be added. And being completely honest, the "links to this post" feature seems to work just as well for Blogger powered blogs, especially as we have the ability to delete the links displayed if they come from a questionable source (something which is more difficult to achieve with Wordpress generated trackbacks).

Despite my doubts that Blogger will produce an ever increasing list of widgets, the one thing I sincerely hope Blogger will produce is a Popular Posts widget, so readers can easily see which blog articles attract the most attention at a glance. The one I use in my sidebar was developed by AffiliateBrand, though I really think Blogger should produce their own.

Perhaps Blogger will finally release some new generic templates, including different styles and perhaps three columns, in order to follow the recent trends contemporary web design. Of one thing I am certain though: Blogger will continue to develop new features and attract more users to this free and easy blogging platform throughout the year ahead. And somehow I suspect that Blogger has a surprise for us all: a major change in the system which is going to take us all by storm.

Happy New Year to all Bloggers

Wishing you all an excellent start to 2008 and the best of luck for your blogs.

Do you agree with my predictions for 2008, or do you think other changes may happen in the Blogger platform which I have not detailed here? Please do let me know your opinions on this post by leaving your comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing for updates, and be sure to keep updated on the developments here at Blogger Buster for the year ahead!

December 28, 2007

Google dictate "no-follow" for ALL links from compensated content?

If you're at all concerned about Google's "punishment" to bloggers who post sponsored content, you really need to read this post by Ted Murphy on the Izea blog (Izea owns Pay Per Post). In this post, Ted explains the discussion he had with Google's Matt Cutts earlier this month at PubCon, where they talked about using "no-follow" tags for links in sponsored content.

Although Izea how now decided to require "no-follow" for all links to an advertiser in posts made through SocialSpark. However:

Matt commended the decision, but then added ALL links inside of any sponsored post should carry the no-follow tag period, regardless of whether they are required, not required or even link to the advertiser paying for the post. (Ted Murphy)
Yikes, Google really are getting serious about this now!

Andy Beard has followed up on this post with a really great article about the ramifications of Google's decision, which I strongly suggest you read if you have any concern about paid content and the perils of followed links.

While I do no sponsored posts here at Blogger Buster (or indeed any of my blogs), I am now rather concerned that any advertising I choose to feature in my blog may eventually subject me to Google's wrath, as I'm sure many other bloggers are too. Does this mean that all bloggers who receive any sort of compensation from their blogs should insert "no-follow" on all outgoing links to be absolutely certain that we don't incur Google's wrath?

I certainly hope not! For me, this would undermine one of the core principles of blogging: the ability to link to between blogs, create dynamic content and a generate a sense of community which the search engines pick up on and deliver to the internet as a whole.

As Andy rightly puts forth:

This really is looking less and less about the quality of search results, and more about the failings of Google's algorithms.
I sincerely hope that Google's Webmaster guidelines are soon updated to include a clear and concise explanation of the way Google expects us to link to other content in our blogs without fear of losing PageRank and search results status!

I know that many of you believe that links in paid posts should not be followed by search engines, but I honestly believe that such drastic restrictions on links which can or can't be followed will eventually affect any blogger who has ads or is somehow compensated to blog. Please do let me know your opinions on this matter by leaving your comments below.

Where will your blog take you in 2008?

For me, the week between Christmas and the New Year is a time for reflection, and to begin making plans for the year ahead. In fact, many bloggers seem to be doing the same thing, offering reviews and statistics for 2007 and unveiling their plans for 2008.

Have you begun to consider your blogging plans and aspirations for 2008? If so, what will you be doing in the new year to achieve this?

Blogger Buster in review

As many of you will realize, Blogger Buster is relatively young in the field of blogs about blogging. Being only six months old, I have very little statistics to offer you yet regarding subscribers, page views and revenue, which are factors most of the popular blogs are concerned about in their annual reviews.

So far such statustics have been of little importance to me. Of course I would love for Blogger Buster to become as popular as Problogger or John Chow's blogs, though such popularity takes time and a heck of a lot of effort to achieve!

No, the thing which I have enjoyed the most about this year of blogging has been this:

I have loved every minute of it!

In my opinion, blogging is pointless unless you enjoy what you do and the subject you write about. So in 2008, I plan to continue blogging about this subject I love, helping others along the way and creating some great Blogger templates which I hope you will all love too.

My plans for 2008

Like many other bloggers, I am now creating a "blogging plan" for the year ahead and will start the new year as I mean to go on.

After reviewing my most popular posts, it seems to me that the longer tutorials and Blogger templates seem to attract the most attention, so these are features which I will develop more fully in the months ahead. You can expect to see some series' of tutorials, plus some new and interesting templates unveiled soon, with a spattering of blogger news in between. I'm also considering weekly (or monthly) reviews of useful resources and interesting posts from around the bloggosphere to help you all discover other interesting sites you may have missed.

I've also been working on some other projects recently, one of which I will unveil to you on New Year's day that I think you may all find rather interesting...

Your plans for 2008?

Have you posted a review of the year, or your blogging plans for the year ahead? If so, please leave me a comment below to tell me about this. I would love to read how others will use their blogs in the year ahead, or even if you plan to leave things exactly the way they are!

I hope you have all really enjoyed the Christmas festivities and look forward to a new year of blogging with Blogger. Best wishes to you all, and a Happy New Year!

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

Get a Christmas banner for your blog

Christmas is just around the corner now, and many Bloggers are decorating their templates with festive themes. Unfortunately my time has been so limited lately and I simply couldn't get a festive Blogger theme ready for download in time for Christmas. So instead I created this festive banner as a decorative bauble for my theme.

I have made this available in both PNG (see top right) and GIF format which you can install in your own blogs as a widget.

This Christmas banner will float in the top right corner of your blog, and is great to decorate your blog for the festive season. I have not linked the image to anything, though a link back to this page in your blog is welcomed, and could inform your readers where they can get their own festive banner.

Install the Christmas Banner widget

The Christmas banner is available in two formats for you to install as a widget in your blog:

  • PNG format: this is the style you can see in my own blog. PNG is a better format for images with transparency, but you will need to ensure you have also installed the PNG fix for IE6 and below, otherwise you will see a grey background to the image!
  • GIF format: this is suitable for all blogs and browsers, though the image quality isn't quite as good.

Use the appropriate button below to install your own Christmas banner with just one click! After Christmas, you can easily delete your widget, or replace it with a New Year banner instead (which I will be uploading shortly).

Merry Christmas to you all!

December 23, 2007

Christmas fun: top bloggers in fun video smackdown!

Here's a fun festive video for you blogging enthusiasts: see top bloggers in a snowball smackdown in this video created by Randy Brown.

Best wishes to you all for the Christmas season!

December 21, 2007

Does Blogger leave us vulnerable to impersonation?

I write this post in response to Peter's comments on other posts (see here and here) in which he is concerned that Blogger's policies may leave people vulnerable to impersonation. Rather than write a long comment, I think this subject deserves a post of its own, especially as I would like to know your opinions on this matter.

In his comments, Peter outlines his concerns that impersonators are so easily able to maliciously slander another person online by creating fictitious comments which link to an innocent blogger's profile, or indeed create an impostor blog pertaining to be written by someone else. Just a little research online uncovers the frightening truth behind this concern. But do Blogger's policies leave us open to the dangers of impersonation, or is this the nature of the Internet?

Online impersonation can come in many forms. Blogs such as Poorblogger and John Cow impersonate blogging celebrities in humorous parody, but on the other end of the scale impostor-driven blogs can be harmful, hurtful and may even result in criminal proceedings against an innocent person.

As Peter explains in his comments, bloggers in certain parts of the world can be easily detained, and possibly prosecuted for unsavory and salacious content discovered in their sites, whether this be in the form of a blog post or a comment left on their blog (as in the case of Natanial Tan). Impersonation could result in innocent bloggers and webmasters being unfairly detained for content they have not authored themselves.

Another case is that of the "Megan Had It Coming" blog, which impersonates Lori Drew, the woman involved in creating a fake MySpace profile of a 16-year-old boy created to start an Internet relationship with Megan Meier, the Missouri teen who hanged herself. Amidst the high profile court case regarding responsibility for Megan Meier's death, this impostor blog profiles the extent of cyber-bullying which can easily be generated online.

Are Blogger's policies flawed?

The "Megan Had It Coming" blog is hosted by Blogger, and while Blogger claim to take a strong stance against impersonation through users of their service, at the time of writing this post, that blog is still available to view.

Blogger says this about it's stance on impersonation for users of its services:

We do not allow impersonation of others through our services in a manner that is intended to or does mislead or confuse others.
However, when we look at the content policy for defamation, which is intrinsically linked to the malicious impersonation of another person, we read this:
The language of Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act fundamentally states that Internet services like, Blogger and many of Google’s other services are republishers and not the publisher of that content. Therefore, these sites are not held liable for any allegedly defamatory, offensive or harassing content published on the site.
So it seems that while Blogger claims not to tolerate impersonation, Blogger will only remove content hosted on its service "if the material has been found to be defamatory by a court, as evidenced by a court order". By then the damage would already have been done.

Furthermore, it is very easy to create a blog. Yes, I know we need to have or create a Google account in order to host a Blogger blog, but we do not need to verify our email address, nor do we receive conformation that a blog has been created. So it would be very easy for a malicious poster to set up a Google account and a Blogger blog using someone else's email address, username and identity!

Blogger's comment policy

One of the issues which concerns Peter is that Blogger allows visitors to leave their comment and URL without having to log in as proof of their identity. Of course, it is the publisher of a blog who decides whether or not to allow anonymous comments, though many do choose to do so in order to generate link love for their blog readers, but is the blog author also responsible for the comments left by their readers?

As you may have read in my previous post, I feel that my blog's visitors should be able to leave their URL along with their name when leaving a comment. However, I do understand Peter's concerns, and also that of others who believe such an open commenting system leaves a blog open to abuse from malicious internet surfers. Spam and abusive comments on my blog are rare, though if ever I suspect that my blogs comments are being abused, I reserve the right to delete the questionable comment.

Although I am glad that Blogger have decided to revive the system where commenters can leave their URL, I do still believe that Blogger's commenting system leaves much room for improvement. Other blog commenting systems, message boards and forums provide methods for visitors to "sign" their comments and leave their URLs, whilst still offering some degree of protection and affirmation against malicious impersonation, such as:

  • Logging of IP addresses for every comment made, which is usually made available to the administrator/author of the site, and could be used to look up the details of malicious authors
  • Author controlled exclusions for IP addresses or questionable content left in comments. This way, blog authors could exclude the comments of visitors who are known to be malicious, and control any content which could be published without having to manually approve each and every comment made.
Other blogging platforms allow the blog author such control over their sites by default, while Blogger seems to allow us very little control over the comments left on out sites, unless we choose to manually approve each comment (which for blogs with high traffic could be a long and tedious task).

Blogger may well implement the above policies in comments, but even if this is the case, the author of a blog does not have access to these details, nor are we able to have a greater degree of control over how such policies are implemented.

We need to protect our identity online!

The Internet is a very difficult place to police effectively. Different countries adopt different policies on cyber-crime and proving who is responsible can be a difficult task in itself.

Blogger's does allow more room for abuse than other blogging platforms due to the flaws in its policies regarding accounts and comment policies., for example, requires its bloggers to have a unique API key, and logs the IP address of any visitor who makes a comment, while self-hosted Wordpress blogs generally require the author to purchase a hosting package and domain name where the owner's personal details are held by ICANN: the domain name registration authority.

However, in my opinion no blogging platform, social community hub or forum is without its flaws. Even if Blogger were to create a closed and carefully monitored system for its members, online impersonation would still be possible on thousands of other sites.

In fact, I believe that there is no fail-safe way to protect our identities online. But we can take steps to help us protect ourselves against impersonation online.

Here are a few simple tips you could try to help guard yourself against abuse of your online identity:

  • Google your name and website regularly to find out what others are saying about you. Many people already do this for somewhat narcissistic reasons, but this also serves the pirpose of ensuring your name and blog's identity are not being used for malicious purposes.
  • Set up a newsfeed to receive updates when a new site or page referencing you is indexed by Google. This ensures you are always kept up to date about any issues which may concern you. You can easily set up such a newsfeed here and ensure updates are emailed to you daily.
  • Keep track of sites which link back to your blog. You can do such a search using Google, like this, which will give you a list of all websites that provide a link back to your blog. Also you may want to consider using Technorati and view your blog's profile regularly to see all links from blogs to your own site.
  • Consider creating a membership with QDOS. This is a new service, currently in Beta, which helps members to take control of their digital identity by logging all of their profiles, websites and online activity (eg: blogging, social networking) in one easily accessible place. Furthermore a QDOS score is calculated to determine how active and individual you are online. This service was originally created to help members protect their digital identity, thus ensuring duplicate profiles cannot be created. Membership is currently by invitation, though when you register your interest you will be among the first considered to use this new service. I have just begun to use this myself, and so cannot comment much about how useful a tool this may be, though so far I am hopeful for QDOS' success!
  • Report any malicious abuse of your identity. The first point of reference should be to the administrator/author if the site in question (if this is possible). Alternatively you could perform a WHOIS search to discover the details of the website owner or supplier, then use this information to present your complaint. You can report violations of the terms of service for a Blogger blog directly to Blogger using this form.
The Internet is a vast and somewhat uncontrollable place, though thankfully instances of impersonation are infrequent. I hope that this information has answered Peter's comments to the best of my knowledge, and will help others overcome any concerns regarding how their online identity can be used.

More comment changes - have Blogger relented?

Thankfully I noticed today that Blogger have now added the facility for visitors to leave their URL along with their nickname when commenting. So now we don't have to use OpenId and perform endless tasks to be able to create backlinks to our blogs when leaving a comment on a familiar blog.

Thank you Blogger!

This time, Blogger have also decided to inform us about this change with a post on the Blogger Buzz blog, for which I am also grateful. I was quite upset when the Blogger team made the previous changes to the commenting system without informing us of what was happening, or indeed how to use the new OpenId system (though it seems that this issue has also now been rectified).

"You blog, we listen" was the headline for the post about the new comment changes. I am glad to see that Blogger do pay attention to what it's users have to say about their service, either through their blog posts or in the Blogger help group. Perhaps it was the frustration and en-masse Wordpress defectors which finally swayed the pendulum... Either way, I'm sure many existing Blogger users will feel happier about the change. I know I certainly am!

December 18, 2007

Why traffic, your subscriber count and money doesn't matter

Skellie who writes has produced a truly great article about presenting an authoritative blog which I simply had to share with you all. In her article, Skellie explains that the way a blog is presented has a far greater impact than a huge subscriber count, hundreds of comments on each post or boastful articles about making money could ever hope to achieve!

"Why traffic, your subscriber count and money doesn't matter" demonstrates than even a novice blogger can develop the web presence of an authority in their subject field by applying simple (yet effective) tactics to their presentation. Skellie calls this "The Matrix Effect", and makes us understand that what is perceived by a reader may not necessarily be the truth!

I really enjoyed reading this post, and hope you also find some useful tips to apply to your own blogs. Please take a quick look and leave me your opinions below.

December 11, 2007

Using OpenId to leave comments on Blogger blogs

As you may have read in my previous post, Blogger's new commenting system makes it very difficult for readers to leave a link to their blog's URL in their comments. But thanks to Blog Bloke, I have been discovered how to use OpenId to leave comments with a link to my blog URL on Blogger Blogs. This also means that the MyBlogLog comment avatars will still work if you leave a comment in a blog which has enabled these avatars to display (here at Blogger Buster for example). The process is relatively simple, though I admit we do have to take more steps to achieve something which previously took only seconds! Read on for instructions to install and use this new system on your own Blogger blogs.

The new commenting system (or should I say, "systems"..?)

Most Blogger blogs now will only allow you to leave a comment using three persona's:

  • Using your Google/Blogger account (thus creating a link to your Blogger profile page)
  • Anonymously (therefore your comment will be posted by "Anonymous")
  • Using a nickname (no link here either!)
Yesterday I mentioned that some Blogger blogs allow you to sign in using an Open ID/Wordpress/Typepad account. This is only enabled when you publish using Blogger in draft. So, if you would like your readers to be able to leave a backlink on your blog, you must publish your blog using Blogger in Draft, by visiting in your browser instead of the regular page. The you will need to change the comment settings in your dashboard, allowing "anyone" to make a comment (go to Settings>Comments in your Blogger in Draft dashboard to do this).

This will allow anyone to leave a comment in your blog so that their name will become a hyperlink to their OpenId/profile page, wether or not they have a Google/Blogger account. So long as they choose the correct option to log in.

How to use the OpenID system

If you would prefer to login with an OpenId instead of your Google/Blogger account, you will need to create an OpenID account. There are a few different methods you could choose for this, including ClaimID which Angel kindly pointed out in her comment. I have chosen to use MyOpenID as (at present) this is the only system I know of which will allow you to create a link back to your own blog when leaving a comment using Blogger's awful new system. You can create your free MyOpenId account here. This is the first step to enable backlinks in your comments...

Make your Blogger comments link back to your blog

Assuming you have set-up and verified your MyOpenId account, you may now prefer to leave comments where your name will link back to your blog instead of your MyOpenId profile page. For this you will need to verify that you are the owner of your blog by adding some code to the head section of your blog's template.

To do this, go to Template>Edit HTML in your blogger dashboard (this doesn't need to be the Blogger in Draft version though), and locate the closing </head> tag in your template code. Just before this line, add the following section of code, ensuring that you substitute all instances of "" with the correct URL for your own MyOpenId account (eg:

<link rel="openid.server" href="" />
<link rel="openid.delegate" href="" />
<link rel="openid2.local_id" href="" />
<link rel="openid2.provider" href="" />
<meta http-equiv="X-XRDS-Location" content="" />
(This method was taken from the help section of the MyOpenId site)

Then whenever you have the option to use your OpenID to leave comments, you should enter the URL of your blog instead of your OpenID URL. This will then substitute your OpenId profile link with that of your blog's URL instead. Also, if you are a MyBlogLog member, your avatar will display in commenting systems where MyBlogLog comment avatars have been enabled. Take a look at my test comments below to see how this works.

So many steps for such a simple task...

Although I am glad that I can still create a link back to my blog when leaving comments, and also make use of the MyBlogLog commenting system, I am still rather frustrated that Blogger have made it so difficult for readers to allow links back to their blogs. In order to make this happen, we have to go through far too many steps, whereas the previous commenting system was simpler, easier and far more user friendly. At this rate, Blogger will become a closed system, in which users of other blogging platforms will feel unwilling to comment, perhaps even to visit Blogger blogs. I can understand concerns over comment spam and such, but for me, the cons far outweigh the pros of this new system. Please bring it back Blogger!!

I hope this tutorial has been useful in helping you to understand how the new commenting systems work, and also how it is still possible to create links back to your blogs, while allowing others to do the same. Comments are always welcome here, and backlinks should still be followed, so please feel free to leave your opinions below.

December 10, 2007

Blogger's big comment boo-boo!

Blogger have recently introduced a terrible new commenting system which has made it very difficult for any commenter to feature a link to their blog in their comments. We used to be able to log in as "other" in order to create a backlink to our blogs, and also use comment avatars in our comments. Bloggers could also remove the "no-follow" tags to enable link love to those who take the time and effort to leave comments on their posts.

Not any more.

Google/Blogger have now decided to revoke our rights as moderators and masters of our own blogs...

Now Blogger blogs have a new commenting system which means we either have to sign in using our Google/Blogger accounts (which only creates a link to our profile pages), comment anonymously or use a nickname. Some Bloggers also have the feature to log in using OpenID/Wordpress/Typepad accounts which does offer a little hope. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case here at Blogger Buster yet. I'm sorry that for the time being you'll need to leave your comments using your Google accounts or sign them with your nickname instead. Heck, I can't even show my face beside my comments anymore!

As you can well imagine by the tone of this post, I am becoming increasingly unhappy with Blogger! I really don't understand why Blogger suddenly chose to use the Open ID system and remove the ability for commenters to leave their URL in comments along with their name. Now I fear that fewer people will feel invited to leave their comments on Blogger powered blogs. Worse still, I wonder how many users Blogger will use as so many people these days feel the urge to migrate to Wordpress.

There is some hope...

Thankfully I did find one solution which may enable you to leave your blog's url on Blogger powered blogs, though you will need to create an OpenID account and add code to your blog's header in order to do so. Once I have been able to make this work for myself I will post a full tutorial for you all, though as Blog Bloke has said, these days we have to jump through too many hoops just to leave our URL on a Blogger powered blog comment!

Hello I'm back... sort of!

Well I'm back from my week's holiday now with a heck of a lot to catch up on. It seems in my absence that Blogger has changed the commenting system (making it so awkward to use comment avatars or create backlinks to your blogs...), and of course the blogging world has continued without me. After reading some of my RSS feeds I realize that I have a lot of catching up to do!

Unfortunately I've also come home to a "mad house": we're having some extensive renovations done to the house which have been delayed by quite some time. We'd hoped for the worst of the work to be complete by the time we arrived home, but things don't always happen as planned and at present we're living in one single, and very crowded room. Thankfully I managed to set up the laptop for a little while (though I do have to climb in and out of the desk area!), but I have to admit that blogging cannot be my top priority for the next fortnight and so my posts will be somewhat erratic until the bulk of the renovations are complete and I can eventually have my proper desk space/electrical supply/heating system back!

Thank you to everyone who has left comments and emailed me in my blogging absence. I will get back to everyone as soon as I can, though this will be a little later than usual. Luckily by Christmas we'll have a brand new kitchen (and blogging space), so it's guaranteed that posting here will be back to normal by then. Best wishes and thank you to you all!

December 01, 2007

I'm off for a week!

For various reasons, the family and I have decided to jet off for a (much needed!) week's holiday. I am trying my best to get a couple of posts scheduled for posting during the week, and while I may be able to answer a couple of emails, I can't guarantee an internet connection whilst away from home. But be assured I'll be blogging with a vengeance when I arrive home again!

Wishing you all a happy start to the holiday season!

Amanda :)

November 29, 2007

Blogging exhaustion!

Blogging exhaustion can happen to any blogger, whether you are relatively new to the scene and working hard to get your blog noticed, or are a blogging pro who's struggling to juggle blogging with work and family life.

If you've suffered from this yourself, you probably know what it's like: tiredness, headaches, a lack of enthusiasm for posting or replying to comments and emails... This often happens when bloggers work too hard and don't give themselves a break, particularly when they are so passionate about their blog that it takes over every spare minute of the day!

I'm writing this post as it seems many others in the blogosphere are feeling the same way. There is no magic pill to overcome this, though I do have some tips which may well help!

In my opinion, blogging should be fun! When we begin blogging, most of us look forward to writing our posts, reading comments others have left for us, checking our RSS readers to see what our favorite bloggers have written about recently, and generally enjoying the experience.

However, at some point in out blogging lives, many of us will experience blogging exhaustion in one form or another: perhaps a sudden spike in readers overwhelms you with comments, emails and projects which need attention? It could be that despite all your efforts, your blog still doesn't seem to attract as many visitors as you'd like? Whatever the reason, the first thing you should do is take a step back, shut down the computer for a while and have a real good think about why you started blogging in the first place!

Take some time off

When you have many commitments aside from your blog, it can seem that there just aren't enough hours in the day. So take some time off from blogging! Spend time with your family or friends, go out for a walk or read a book. It will help, believe me! If you need to spend a few days or more away from your blog, write a quick post to let your readers know. From experience, I can say that readers will understand if you need to take a break, especially if you offer the courtesy of explaining why.

Focus on what you love most about blogging

Write a list of the things you like most about blogging, and try to focus on these. For example, if you love to write, plan a long and thoughtful post on a subject you enjoy. If you enjoy interacting with your readers, you could ask for their opinions, or simply visit your favorite blogs and leave your own comments on the posts you enjoyed reading the most.

Change your writing style

If most of your posts are lone tutorials, for example, try creating some short pithy posts instead. On the other hand, if you tend to write shorter posts, try your hand at a long tutorial or review, do some research and see what inspires you to write. This method works well for both you and your blog: as the old adage says, "A change is better than a rest"!

Find some inspiration

Read other's blogs and see what they are blogging about, try a newspaper or magazine in your subject or simply talk to friends. Every blogger needs some inspiration to write, and it often arrives in the most unexpected forms. Once inspired, you can then blog your own perspective on a particular subject, or simply write a post linking to a page which may be useful to your readers instead!

In conclusion...

We can become exhausted in any aspect of our lives, but many bloggers seem to overlook the pitfalls of blogging exhaustion. I've seen a great many blogs which have been abandoned by their authors, either because the author was too exhausted to continue blogging or because the inspiration to post has simply disappeared.

Taking steps to ensure you don't become exhausted or uninspired can help you maintain your interest in your blog, and in the long run will help you produce a better blog which readers can only be attracted to.

November 26, 2007

A tabbed navigation widget for your blog (version 1)

To help you streamline the content of your blogs sidebar, I have developed a "tabbed navigation widget" which can include any content you would like to appear in your blog, such as recent posts, recent comments and much more besides.

This is based on Hoctro's original Tab View widget, though this version is much easier to install and allows you to completely customize the widget with your own content. This works by displaying different content within the widget depending on which tab is highlighted, so rather than have a long sidebar full of widgets, you can have them all in one smaller widget so readers will be able to find the information they need more easily.

You can see an example of this widget in action on the Red Web 2.0 demonstration blog. Read on for full instructions and an explanation of how this widget can be customized to suit your needs.

The tabbed navigation widget features tabs and a content window; when clicking on the tabs, different content is visible in the window beneath. My version is a much simplified version of Hoctro's original Tab View widget, and requires that you manually insert the content relative for each tab. This will then allow you to feature any content you wish to appear inside the content window, such as popular posts, an "about this blog" text or a feed of your recent posts/comments.

The basic installation of this widget is quite simple, so you can get this up and running within minutes. However, you must add your own content to this widget, as this version does not support recent posts, recent comments and labels by default. I will explain how to add this content later.

Basic instructions for installing the Tabbed Navigation widget

Here are the basic installation instructions for installing a tabbed navigation widget in your blog. This will get the widget up and running, so you will be able to customize the content afterwards:

  1. First you should make a full backup of your blog template, just in case something goes wrong during the installation and you need to revert back to your original template. To make your template backup, go to Template>Edit HTML in your Blogger dashboard and click on the "Download full template" link near the top of the page.
  2. Next, go to the Edit HTML section of your template and find the closing </head> tag. Just before this tag, paste the following lines of code:
    <link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>

    <link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>

    <script src='' type='text/javascript'/>
    <script src='' type='text/javascript'/>

    <script src='' type='text/javascript'/>

    <style type='text/css'>
    .yui-content { padding:1em; /* pad content container */
    .yui-navset .yui-content {
    border:1px solid #ccc;
    .yui-navset .yui-nav .selected a, .yui-navset .yui-nav a:hover {
    .yui-navset .yui-nav li a {
    background:#e5e5e5 url( no-repeat;
    .yui-navset .yui-nav li a em {
    background:transparent url( no-repeat top right;
    /* top oriented */
    .yui-navset-top .yui-nav { margin-bottom:-21px; } /* for overlap, based on content border-width */
    .yui-navset-top .yui-nav li a {
    border-bottom:1px solid #ccc;
    .yui-navset-top .yui-nav .selected a { border-bottom:0; }
    .yui-navset-top .yui-nav .selected a em { padding-bottom:0.6em; } /* adjust height */
    This code features the CSS styling and javascript calls required to operate this widget correctly in your template. Once you have added this code, simply save your template.
  3. Next, go to the Page Elements section of your dashboard (Template>Page Elements). Choose to add a new HTML/Javascript widget in your blog sidebar, and in this widget, paste the following section of code:
    <div id="demo" class="yui-navset">
    <ul class="yui-nav">
    <li><a href="#tab1"><em>Tab1</em></a></li>
    <li class="selected"><a href="#tab2"><em>Tab2</em></a></li>
    <li><a href="#tab3"><em>Tab3</em></a></li>
    <div class="yui-content">

    <div id="tab1"><p>Tab One Content</p></div>
    <div id="tab2"><p>Tab Two Content</p></div>
    <div id="tab3"><p>Tab Three Content</p></div>
    (function() {
    var tabView = new YAHOO.widget.TabView('demo');

    YAHOO.log("The example has finished loading; as you interact with it, you'll see log messages appearing here.", "info", "example");
    Save your widget and take a look at your blog. The resulting widget should something like this: Now you will be able to customize the widget to suit your needs.

Adding content to the Tabbed Navigation widget

If you take a look at the code for the widget content above, you will notice that I have highlighted the text of the tabs in blue and the content which appears in the box below the tabs in red. This is help you understand how to customize this widget with your own titles and content.

Notice the relationship between the tab titles and their content, so when you click on "tab 1" for example, the related content for this tab will appear in the window below the tabs.

You can change the titles of the tabs and add whatever content you like to the widget, including Javascript code. Here are a few examples of content you could use in the widget, with examples for implementation:

  • An About This Blog text:
    This is the easiest type of content to add. Simply replace the blue title (eg: Tab1) with an appropriate title, like this:
    <li><a href="#tab1"><em>Tab1</em></a></li> becomes <li><a href="#tab1"><em>About this blog</em></a></li>

    Then add your content in place of the "tab content" text, for example:
    <div id="tab1"><p>Tab One Content</p></div>


    <div id="tab1"><p>This is a piece of text about your blog. You can write whatever you want here</p></div>
  • Add a feed of your recent posts or comments
    This is a little more complicated as you cannot simply add a feed widget into the existing Tabbed navigation widget. Instead you could use the Blog Headlines widget from the tools section to create an independent blog feed widget which uses only javascript code to display recent posts or comments. In this case you would paste the javascript code in place of the content as demonstrated below:
    <div id="tab1"><p>Tab Two Content</p></div>

    becomes <div id="tab1"><p><script language="JavaScript" src="" type="text/javascript"></script> <noscript> <a href="">View RSS feed</a> </noscript> </p></div>
    If you like, you can even use the code above as long as you change the url to match that of your blog.
  • Add a list of your labels/blogroll/favorite posts:
    You can manually add a list or links to your labels/blogroll/favorite posts by pasting the HTML code into the content section too. Simply paste the HTML code to display these links in the following format:
    <ul><li><a href="">Your Label/Link text</a></li></ul>
    Here is an example of what this code would look like when pasted into the content section for your tabbed navigation widget:
    <div id="tab3"><p> <ul> <li><a href="">link one</a></li> <li><a href="">link two</a></li> <li><a href="">link three</a></li> </ul> </p></div>

Limitations of the Tabbed Navigation widget

It is very difficult to automatically display links to the archives or labels of your blog within this Tabbed Navigation widget. This is because the code used to display these items in regular Blogger widgets will only work if the widget type matches the content to be displayed (for example, Archives can only be displayed when the widget type is "archives"). So when using this widget, you would need to create manual links to your archives or labels in order to make them display inside your widget's content section.

However, I have been experimenting with this widget, and have discovered a way of displaying either the archives or labels within the widget. Unfortunately though, this means that the widget becomes more complicated to install, and is not so easily adjusted after the initial installation. If anyone does know of a method for displaying archives and labels which does not rely on the widget type, I would love to hear how this could be achieved!

In the next few days, I will post version two of the Tabbed Navigation widget which by default will feature a tab for the archives of your blog. As I mentioned, this will be a little more complicated to install, and any post-installation customizations would need to be made from within the Edit HTML section of your blog rather than within the layouts section.

I hope you have found this (rather long) tutorial useful and easy to understand. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave these below.

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November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

A drop down menu for your labels

If you have a long list of labels in your sidebar, you could be losing valuable space to display other information. A different method of displaying your labels is to use a drop-down menu: this takes up very little space at all, and is useful for helping your readers find the information they need. This post explains how a drop-down menu for your blog labels can be achieved in just a few easy steps.

This hack was originally developed by Ramani of Hackosphere, though for this tutorial I have further simplified the process so there are only two steps required:

  1. First you should make a back-up of your existing template by going to Template>Edit HTML in your Blogger dashboard and clicking the "download full template" link which is near the top of the page. It is always good practise to back-up your template before making any modifications at all, just in case you make a mistake and later need to use your old template again.
  2. Next you will need to find the following line of code in your blog's template:
    <b:widget id='Label1' locked='false' title='Labels' type='Label'/>
    To find this line, you do not need to tick the expand widget templates box. This is the un-expanded tag used to display the label widget in your blog template. Highlight all of this line, and replace this with the following section of code:
    Then save your template and take a look at your new drop-down menu!

Once installed, you can then move the label widget to other areas of your blog in the layouts section of your dashboard, just like any other widget.

I hope this tutorial has been useful to you. Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.

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November 20, 2007

Blogger wins best blogging host in the Blogger's Choice Awards

Once again, Blogger has been voted the best free blogging host in the Blogger's Choice Awards for 2007! came a close second with LiveJournal grabbing third place.

It seemed inevitable to me that Blogger would be voted best in this category, though I was surprised to see such a small margin (898 to 849 votes) between Blogger and hosting...

The "Best blog about Blogging" was of course dominated by Problogger (no surprises there then!), though second prize was awarded to Blogging Basics 101, a newcomer in this field and a very informative blog indeed! Lorelle on Wordpress came third in this category; she's been blogging about Wordpress forever, so if you're interested in Wordpress you'll probably want to check her out.

You can read the full list of winners over on the Blogger's Choice Awards Winners List which includes a wide range of categories from "Best Animal Blog" through to "Worst Blog of All Time" and everything between. Check it out, there are some real gems to discover!

Voting is already open for the Blogger's Choice Awards of 2008, so why not sign up and vote for your favorite blogs for next year's awards?

November 19, 2007

Are your ads acting strangely?

Over the past couple of weeks, a few people have emailed me about problems displaying ads in their Blogger blogs, most particularly with regard to AdSense ads. For many Bloggers, there are blank spaces where ads are expected to be displayed, even if there are already fewer than the three ads displayed which we are supposed to be able to show on each page.

Unfortunately I don't have any answers: I don't know why the ads won't display (particularly on the front pages of blogs), and despite my best efforts at fixing this, I cannot offer you a solution to this problem.

Due to recent events concerning Google and other methods of advertising/blog monetization, I do now have several concerns which I would like to share with you, and would like to know about your own opinions and experiences regarding advertisements in your Blogger blogs.

Problems displaying Google AdSense ads

The terms of Google's AdSense states that:

  • Up to three ad units may be displayed on each page.
  • A maximum of two Google AdSense for search boxes may be placed on a page.
  • Up to three link units may also be placed on each page.
  • Up to three referral units may be displayed on a page, in addition to the ad units, search boxes and link units specified above.
(Source: AdSense Program Policies)
However, many Bloggers have noticed that two or fewer ads will actually display on their pages, most especially on the home page of their blogs. On my own home page, I only feature code to display one Google ad (in the sidebar). However, this single ad will not display on the home page, only on my post pages.

From what I've seen in the Blogger help forums and the emails sent by several readers now, it seems that many of us are experiencing this same problem.

Problems displaying codes for TLA

Other Bloggers have experienced difficulties displaying Text-Link-Ads in their blogs, especially when trying to use TLA affiliate banners. I was forwarded this email from a friend who had consulted tech-support at TLA in an attempt to discover the source of the problem:

There are currently some issues with our affiliate code and some sites, such as Blogger or Wordpress sites. We are definitely aware and we are trying to work on a fix for them. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, we will have the affiliate ad codes fixed as soon as possible.
Recently bloggers who use TLA have been penalized for their use of this service. Could this be linked to the problems in displaying such affiliate codes?

A coincidence, or something more..?

Strangely enough, there seem to be few (if any) similar problems displaying AdSense or Text-Link-Ads in Wordpress and other blogging platforms. In recent weeks, Google has "slapped" bloggers who use TLA, Pay-Per-Post and other methods of blog monetization by lowering the PageRank of such sites (for PPP blogs, many have found their PageRank reduced to nil!).

It seems that it was about this time that blank spaces began to appear in my own blog where AdSense ads should appear. From what I've been told by blogging friends, the problems in using TLA codes began around the same time too.

We all know that Blogger is owned by Google. So is Google trying to tell us something? Are we being warned against using too many methods of advertising in our blogs? Perhaps Blogger is trying to protect us from future loss of authority in the PageRank system by reducing the number of paid links which are displayed throughout our pages. As yet, I can only speculate, though I would like to know if many other Blogger bloggers are experiencing similar problems with their blog's ads.

Please feel free to leave your comments, opinions and experiences below. If you have any further information or could provide some clarity about this issue, I would love to hear from you!

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