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How to blog on a (very small) budget (Part 2-Images and Scripts)

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no-moneyIn the first part of this mini-series, I introduced the concept of saving money while blogging. As many of you will understand, there are running costs associated with running a blog: domain names and hosting costs are among the primary expenses we need to account for as bloggers. Furthermore, marketing and effective advertising can cost a small fortune if not performed effectively.

Following on from last week’s article, this week I will offer suggestions on reducing the costs of hosting and bandwidth by finding free (or very low cost) hosting for images and scripts you may need to use for your blog.

Overview

Optimization Week reported in 2006 that the average file size of a web page is 130kb. Of this average, only 25kb consisted of HTML code the remaining 105kb was generated by images, flash, video and scripts (and this does not include CSS background images!).

If you blog using WordPress or another self-hosted blogging service, most of your image, script, flash and video files will be hosted on your hosting account, using hosting space and bandwidth which could be costing disproportionate amounts of your income every month.

Even if you host your blog on Blogger, you may still need access to images (for your template) or scripts which require external hosting since Blogger does not support file upload (except for images and video uploaded to your posts).

In this article, I’ll explain how to reduce the file size of your images and scripts to help save on your bandwidth and hosting costs, and also how to source reliable free hosting for these files (which is particularly useful for those using Blogger).

Reducing the file size of your images

Wherever possible, try to use images in the JPEG format at the lowest quality, and only upload the image size required.

For example, if you have a 1200px by 900px image which will display in your post at 400px wide by 300px tall, edit this image in your favorite image editor and choose the option to “Save for the web” (if this is featured in your software) to save this at the correct size as a low quality JPG.

This will save a great deal of file size, resulting in reduced impact of your hosting space and also lessening the impact of bandwidth on your server each time your page is loaded.

GIF and PNG image file types are of significantly higher file size though the quality may be much better. It’s best to only use these file types where you really need a quality image. When designing your blog template (or using one provided by a thirs party), do experiment with the quality of image types before uploading. Where a PNG file is provided, you may well discover a low quality JPEG will suffice, saving you a lot of bandwidth as CSS background images will be present in every page of your template.

Here are some useful sites you can refer to for assistance and further information:

Finding free, reliable hosting for your images

If you use many images in your posts, or are seeking a reliable host with whom to store your CSS background images, there is a wide variety of sites you could use.

image-gallery

Many have limitations on how much you can store and (more importantly) how much bandwidth you are allocated. Photobucket, for example, is a favorite site for hosting images, but when the bandwidth is exceeded, you will notice an ugly sign explaining this in place of any images you need to use.

Here are a few of the sites I have used to supply reliable free hosting for images used for my own blogs:

Flickr

Hotlinking to images on Flickr is indeed a grey area. While there is nothing in the Terms of Service to suggest it is disallowed, and no prevention of hotlinking, many assume you are not allowed or at least frown upon this practice.

If you would like to use Flickr as an “image host” for your blog, I would suggest you adhere to the following conditions:

  • Only use your own images: in doing this, you are not affecting anyone else’s account and using your own account for your own requirements.
  • Do not EVER upload copyright protected content: this goes without saying! Besides illegal infringement of copyright, this practise could also cause your account to be disabled and is downright rude!
  • Always provide a link back to Flickr, preferably by linking your image back to it’s page on Flickr. This is suggested as good practise where this issue is discussed in the Flickr forums, and also offers your visitors a guide to where they can see other images hosted on your account.

Picasa

If you use Blogger to publish your blog, you may be aware that any images you upload to your posts are hosted on Picasa. Indeed, anyone with a free Google account can also make use of a free Picasa account, of which Picasa Web Albums is particularly useful.

Picasa Web Albums offers 3GB of free image hosting with (seemingly) no limitations on bandwidth. Uploading new images to your Picasa Web Albums is easy: simply log in using your Google Account details and follow the on screen prompts to upload up to 5 images at a time using the web upload service. Alternatively you can upload using free Picasa software and organize your photos online.

To “hotlink” to images held in your Picasa account, you will need to ensure the album in which they are hosted is made “Public” (otherwise you will receive error notices that the images cannot be accessed). While this ensures that others can access these images, the same can also be said of almost every other image hosting service, so be sure that no private images are hosted in the same account.

ImageShack

Using ImageShack allows you to upload any number of images and media files (including PDFs) so long as the file size is under 3mb per file. Bandwidth is only limited to 300mb of trandfer per hour which is usually sufficient for most blogs, particularly if you use linked thumbnails rather than extensive series’ of large files.

Saving money with scripts and applications

javascriptHosting JavaScripts (and other applications) has always been an issue for me. Those familiar with my main blog will understand that I offer Blogger widgets for other Blogger users at the expense of my own hosting. I quickly discovered that most reliable hosting services can become overwhelmed or can cost far more than expected, and have been sourcing out alternative hosting solutions ever since!

JavaScripts and other web applications can be among the most expensive (and bandwidth consuming) file types to consider, particularly if you offer use of your scripts to your readers (as I’m sure Dan Zarella, author of the Tweetbacks script, has come to understand!).

If you are using Blogger, or are simply trying to reduce the impact of acripts sun from your server, there are several resources you should check out for free and reliable hosting of scripts and web applications:

JavaScript Libraries

Many popular scripts are available from JavaScript libraries who permit “hotlinking” to the core files. Linking to scripts hosted on Yahoo! or Google Code can save bandwidth and the costs of hosting these libraries on your own servers:

  • Yahoo! User Interface Library: here you can find a whole host of scripts and applications to use for your blog. To get the appropriate code for linking to the scripts you require, visit this page. Alternatively you may like to see examples of scripts in action and build your own applications around them using scripts hosted on Yahoo! servers.
  • Google Code: Google hosts over a hundred projects and thousands of open source projects which you can link to. Simply visit the site and search for keywords of the application you are interested in using. In particular, the Google Ajax API and Web Toolkit are particularly useful.

Free hosting for your own scripts and applications

If you have developed your own scripts for use in your blog (or for others to download/use), I strongly recommend making your project open source and uploading this to Google Code’s Project Hosting. As a developer, you can upload up to 10 projects for free (and each project may have multiple files). You can create your developer account after signing in using your Google Account details and (at the time of writing) there are no costs involved.

When you use Google Code’s hosting for developing your project, you can specify the type of “copyleft” license you want to use, such as Creative Commons or GNU. However, you should be aware that anyone can view, download and access your project files.

Google Apps Engine

I’ve only recently taken interest in the Google App Engine which promises to be a useful and reliable way for web developers to test and run their own web applications.

Currently the App Engine allows you to write your applications in Python 2.5 and is limited to the free account status. You can choose to link your applications to your own domain name or use the free URLs provided by Google for your project.

As yet I have no experience to offer advice or comment on this beta release of the App Engine, though I suspect this will prove wholly useful to experienced web developers looking for a budget (it’s currently free to use!) scalable solution for their applications.

Combine and compress your JavaScript files

If you use more than one JavaScript for your blog or project and need to host your scripts on your own servers, you should consider combining these in a single file. This can result in a smaller combined file size than the two separate scripts.

Also, you should compress the size of your script files as much as possible, eliminating unnecessary line breaks and spaces wherever possible to minimize the size. Milonic and ShrinkSafe offer online tools to achieve this for you quickly and simply.

Not only do these methods result in less demand on your hosting and bandwidth, they can also result in faster loading pages – a bonus for you and readers of your blog!

Prevent unwanted hotlinking to your images and scripts

A simple and rather unpleasant fact about publishing online is that others will steal your bandwidth by linking to your images and scripts in their own web pages. Even if you specifically state on your blog that hotlinking is not permitted by means of a blazing great notice in your header, your files will still be hotlinked by unscrupulous bandwidth theives.

Most frequently this happens because of scrapers: those who steal your blog content to republish in their own sites. But it can also happen when people attempt to copy your site’s design (linking to your CSS and image files) or use your scripts to accomplish similar functions to those you are using.

Yes, it is theft and often invasion of copyright, and you could spend inordinate amounts of time trying to track down the culprits. However, a far better method is to limit the sites which can access your files.

The most common form of preventing hotlinking is by using .htaccess. This method can block requests for content from different sites (ie: sites which are not owned or operated by yourself) or can be used to serve other content (such as a message about stealing bandwidth!).

I’m certainly no expert on using .htaccess to block external access to files as I’ve only had to do this once. Instead, I’ll direct you to this excellent  guide to .htaccess by JavaScript Kit which explains the basics and a sample application to prevent hotlinking to image files. You may also be interested to read this article by Jotsheet which explains how to prevent hotlinking to selected files, in case there are particular files you would like to serve to the public rather than prevent external access to all.

It’s also good practice to inform your readers that hotlinking is not permitted by adding a notice or link to terms of use on your site. This will inform legitimate users of your concerns to prevent embarrassing incidents.

Conclusions and “coming soon…”

In this article, we’ve seen how images and scripts constitute over 80% of the average file size of your web pages, and how your bandwidth and hosting costs can be drastically reduced by compressing file sizes or hosting them elsewhere.

Using these methods, those you using Blogger can create professional blogs at virtually no cost whatsoever (with the only outlay being for the charge of domain names) while those using self-hosted blog services can drastically reduce their costs.

In next week’s article, I’ll explain how you can market your blog effectively with little or no costs at all. There are many free marketing techniques and strategies for blogs which cost nothing at all, and some highly effective ones which can be purchased at very little expense.

Please feel free to leave your own suggestions or siply post your opinions on this article (and indeed, this “saving money” series) by leaving your comments below.

Image credits: Money Hand by Neubie, Gallery by Lamerie, JavaScript Code for Type Treatment by deletem3. All via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Amanda is a freelance blogger and web/blog designer. She writes about Blogger at www.BloggerBuster.com and maintains several other blogs on various subjects.

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Beware Who You Trust for Advice

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Sometimes I ask questions on Quora.

I asked a question recently about shadow boxing while walking and if this practice burns calories.

Peep 2 answers.

 

I was a personal trainer and fitness nut for 20 years. I know shadow boxing does in fact burn calories and help you get more ripped because since doing it every single day during my walks, my arms are becoming as defined as ropes. True; shadow-boxing does not increase muscle mass. But the individual gave me a false, untrue answer because he fears what he looks like and cares about the opinions of others. He is not shadow boxing while walking or jogging because it is not effective; he fears people will look at him and believe he is a fruit loop, whatever that means.

Yikes.

Exhibit B.

 

This individual actually offers honest, truthful advice; shadow-boxing while walking burns more calories. If he ended it there, the advice would have been helpful. But he also fears criticism, aka, what people think about him, so his fears advise me not to do the extra calorie burning thing, because I would look like a Rocky wannabe jerk.

Yikes.

Two well-meaning guys who offer poor fitness advice because each guy deeply fears what people think about them. If I was not a fitness pro I’d have believed their inaccurate advice and would have cheated myself out of calorie burning. All because of the illusion of fear and its hold over most of humanity.

Blogging Advice

Before you trust blogging advice, check the source. Does the blogger:

  • radiate happiness?
  • radiate compassion?
  • exude success?
  • inspire you to succeed?
  • uplift bloggers?

If so, awesome. Trust the advice because you know the person offers advice from love, harmony and truth.

But if someone adds a fear-based element to the advice – like the fitness guys above who fear what people think about them and allowed their fears to become a projection on me – you know it’s bad advice because fear is not real, an illusion, and stepping into illusion moves you away from truth.

The Truth

If you burn more calories, you burn more fat and get ripped. This is truth. Shadow boxing while walking made me super ripped so the truth shines through. But if I stopped shadow-boxing while walking because I feared what people thought about me or what they’d say about me, I would step into the illusion of fear, away from truth, and would not be as ripped and cut as I am now.

Imagine if I listened to those 2 fear-fitness guys last month when I returned home? I’d look a lot more like Olive Oil and less like Bruce Lee.

Be careful about who you trust for blogging advice guys. Most people mean well – like the fitness dudes – but project their deep fears onto you and offer poor, or downright terrible, blogging advice. I have compassion for afraid bloggers but I won’t listen to their illusory advice.

One Such Example

Many top bloggers feel terror at losing email subscribers so offer advice based on the fear. Meanwhile, guys like me who have no such fear offer advice to help you bond deeply with your most rabid fans through email, exponentially increasing your success. Loss is impossible in a Universe of abundance.

Who do you think inspires you to live your dreams?

The blogger offering advice from the illusion of fear, pulling you away from truth, into smoke, mirrors, and appearances, not really there?

Or the blogger offering advice from truth and abundance.

Follow heart-centered bloggers.

Live your dreams.

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Do You Establish Work at Home Boundaries?

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Some people love attention.

I know a few who do their best to grab my attention. Phone calls, emails, cryptic Facebook Messages.

I ignore everything and every one outside of what I do in the moment since I set up work at home boundaries. I close the door and go into my office. No way I stop working for anything or anyone who starves for my attention. The house could burn down and I would scoot out at the last minute because work time is work time and I do nothing else save work during work time.

If you do not respect your time, people will not respect your time. If you give people your time whenever they want your time, for:

  • favors
  • gossip
  • small talk
  • chats
  • general BS

people will gladly ask for favors, engage in gossip, engage in small talk, chat you up and BS for hours, because you chose not to establish work at home boundaries.

100% of the time, if people appear to be using you or eating up your precious time, it is your fault. People treat you how you choose to treat yourself.

How a Happy and Successful Blogger Sets Up Work at Home Boundaries

Easy; I close the door, walk into the office and get to work. I do not leave the office until I complete my work. My phone? I turn it off. I check email rarely. I only check Messenger 2-3 times daily for 5 minutes at a clip.

I set up definite, clear, work at home boundaries to respect my time. People reflect my time-respecting back to me. Easy peasy.

If someone tries to grab my attention through Messenger, or the land line, or through email, or at the door, I completely ignore attempts made to grab my attention and time. Boundaries folks; you need to be clear and firm on your work at home boundaries to ensure everybody else respects your boundaries.

You Are Walking into a Word Office

Would a friend, family member or casual neighbor barge into your 9-5 job office asking for a favor? Would said folks barge into your 9-5 job office to spread the latest gossip? Nope. Then why allow said folks to barge into your work at home office to do similar things? Nope. Put up boundaries. Door closes. Enter office. You are busy. You are working. Even my 3 year old niece understands when Uncle Ryan goes to work in the home office. Everybody else can easily grasp this concept.

What About Impatient or Desperate Online Folks?

I completely ignore impatient, fear-filled, desperate folks who demand I answer Messenger or email requests in 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or in 24 hours. I respect my time and completely ignore people who do not respect my time.

I built my blogging business almost completely on a passive income model so nothing I do online is time sensitive. I have answered most questions 1,000 to 10,000 times through my courses, eBooks, blog posts and videos. It is up to these awesome but unclear folks to find and use the answers I created, to improve their lives.

I am generous daily, publishing a blog post and/or video. Plus I published about 800 posts on Blogging Tips, and over 2,000 posts on Blogging From Paradise. It is on the impatient folks screaming for my attention to follow my blog posts, guest posts, videos, eBooks and courses because I answered their questions many times.

People treat you exactly how you teach them to treat you. I have posture so I set up work at home boundaries for offline and online folks.

Respect your time and work schedule and other folks will do the same.

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Who Do You Surround Yourself with in Your Blogger Network?

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Some bloggers cannot see the forest for the trees, like the beautiful, lush, thriving national park I visited in New Jersey recently.

The masses tend to be caught up in fear, pain and struggle because they cannot see the big picture.

Birds of a feather flock together.

You have heard that one, right?

I circle the globe and change time zones like most folks breathe. Would I be wise to surround myself with people who tremble at leaving their home town or home neighborhood? Nope. Such people would teach me the world makes for a scary, dangerous place. I would get advice like play it safe, be comfortable, get a job, buy a home and take it easy, from such folks. Such folks also live a bland life because if you rarely or never leave your comfort zone, you cannot:

  • grow
  • thrive
  • face your fears
  • serve humanity
  • be a bright light for people to follow
  • live your deepest, wildest dreams

Obviously, I chose to surround myself with bloggers who happily circled the globe as successful bloggers. I also surrounded myself with happy, successful, home body bloggers too; to learn the basics of building a rocking blog effectively. I learned how to succeed from my blogger friend network, sponging up their knowledge, inspiration and insight.

Meanwhile, if you surround yourself with new, struggling or failing bloggers you will get advice on how to struggle, fail, or flounder through your blogging day.

Do bloggers around you complain about losing $50 on blogging? Lose these zero’s immediately and surround yourself with bloggers who invest thousands of dollars on their blogs. High rollers teach you to succeed. Broke jokes teach you how to fail.

Do bloggers around you see making $25 as being a huge amount of money? You better lose the low-aiming crowd to surround yourself with bloggers who see $1000 and $10,000 and more as making coin.

Do bloggers around you circle the globe as swash buckling travelers? Check out this photo from my trip to Vietnam. Kong: Skull Island was filmed here.

Time to ditch the comfort zone crowd to hang with adventurous types.

Don’t get me wrong; I celebrate every cent I make online. But if you think I’m placing a sponsored post for less than $1000, you are insane. Like a famous super model who said she didn’t get out of bed for anything less than $10,000 a day, you need to develop a prosperity consciousness that demands big money and ignores appearance of poverty, lack, limitation and fear.

Who Do You Hang With?

Who do you count as blogging buddies? Happy, highly successful, prospering bloggers? You better, to increase your success.

For example, observe my blogging paperback on profiting. The aftermarket price is $45 USD. If most or all bloggers in your network would feel uncomfortable receiving $45 in royalties for a paperback, you better lose that network and surround yourself with bloggers who believe in abundance. I know John Chow feels comfortable receiving $45 for anything he offers online. Who cares? It is just money. It is only money.

Surround yourself only with bloggers who:

  • have posture
  • have authority
  • charge top dollar
  • profit freely
  • prosper freely
  • exude confidence
  • have a highly developed prosperity consciousness

You learn from the best, gain inspiration from the best and become the best by surrounding yourself with the best bloggers on earth.

But you need to be honest in who you choose to hang with in your blogging circles. Be clear. Be truthful with yourself. Maybe you feel comfortable trading comments with struggling bloggers you befriended 10 years ago but nothing spectacular happens for you if you surround yourself with struggling bloggers, being firmly fixed in your comfort zone.

Release all bloggers who are not happy and prospering.

Fill your blogger friend network with empowered, inspired, happy, successful, prospering bloggers.

Nothing personal.

Just your blogging success at stake.

 

 

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