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Create Interactive Gadgets for Blogger with the improved API

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In recent times, Blogger has improved drastically in terms of interactivity, customization and new features. Most recently, we have been able to search for and add Google gadgets to our blogs directly through the Blogger dashboard, a feature which has now been rolled out to all Blogger blogs across the system.

On Thursday, Blogger announced several updated for the Gadget API which enables developers to create more interactive gadgets for use with the Blogger platform:

In addition to leveraging social data, gadgets can now access a blog’s post and comment feed via new JSON APIs. For example, with this data you could easily build a map gadget that maps the geo-location of posts, or a “Most Commented On” gadget that ranks posts by the number of comments they’ve received.

What’s more, we can also add our own Gadgets to the directory using an online submission form; this enables our gadgets to be visible in the Gadget directory within 30 minutes of submission, ready for Blogger users to add to their blogs with just a few clicks.

How are Gadgets Constructed?

Google (and Blogger) Gadgets are constructed in XML format, but don’t be put off developing gadgets if you have little knowledge of XML – it is easily possible to create a simple gadget if you have only a little knowledge of HTML!

A very simple gadget can be created using only a few lines of code. Let’s take a look at the “Hello World” example which is explained in the Google Gadget – Getting Started page:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<Module>
  <ModulePrefs title="hello world example" />
  <Content type="html">
     <![CDATA[
       Hello, world!
     ]]>
  </Content>
</Module>

This simple gadget will produce a message saying “Hello World” in the blog (or website) where it is installed.

This basic gadget includes the following components:

  • In line 1, we can see the XML specification for the gadget.
  • Line 2 includes the <Module> tag. This indicates that the XML file contains a gadget, and enables it to be processed as such.
  • Line 3 includes the <ModulePrefs> tag, which includes information about the gadget. In the above example, this tag cites only the title (“hello world example”). We can also include information about the Gadget’s author, a description and other optional information in this section.
  • Line 4 uses the <Content type> tag, which in this case defines the content of the gadget as HTML code.
  • The <![CDATA[ and ]]> tags are used to contain HTML and JavaScript code. Content between these tags typically defines the content and interactivity of the gadget, and for most developers will become the central focus of their gadgets interactivity.
  • The closing </Content> tag defines the end of the content section, while </Module> signifies the end of the Gadget’s code.

Constructing interactive gadgets for Blogger Blogs

When developing Gadgets for use in Blogger, we can use the API to access public post and comment data for the blog which is hosting the gadget. In the most basic forms, this enables us to retrieve and write a list of recent posts or comments for the blog in which the gadget is installed.

We can also access the Friend Connect API to provide social widgets which are interconnected with data produced by the blog on which the gadget is installed, for example, a widget which displays recent comments and highlights those which have been made by a friend of the viewer (see this example).

Some knowledge of JavaScript and JSON is crucial when developing interactive widgets which rely on the updated APIs.  You can find a complete guide to using JSON feeds with Google’s APIs here.

To utilize the APIs for the services on which your gadget will be based, you will need to include these APIs as “required features” in the code of your gadget, like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Module>
<ModulePrefs height="300" title="BlogSocial">
  <Require feature="opensocial-0.7"/>
  <Require feature="google.blog"/>
  <Require feature="skins"/>
  <Require feature="views"/>
 </ModulePrefs>

A full list of features which can be optionally required by Gadgets for Blogger can be found here.

Once you have specified the feature you require for your gadget, you will need to utilize JavaScript to parse and display the items within your gadget. This aspect of your gadget will depend highly on the features you wish to use.

Luckily, Blogger have provided a couple of examples using Blogger feeds, Friend Connect and Open Social features which you can browse through to see how these are constructed.

What new gadgets can we expect to see?

The Blogger Team recently asked Blogger users which gadgets they would most like to use for their blogs; this page details the most requested widgets, and now it is possible for developers to create many of these gadgets including:

  • A recent activity widget, based on Google Friend Connect
  • A popular posts widget based on the number of comments received for each post
  • Recent posts and/or comments in the sidebar (which could even be coded with tabbed navigation!).

Essentially, the list of possibilities are endless!

The updated API and knowledgebase for developers is still rather new, but with these new options available we can expect to see a whole host of new and interesting gadgets available especially for those using Google Blogger.

Want to learn more?

As an avid Blogger user and developer, I’m certainly interested in using the updated API to create some useful and interesting widgets for use in our blogs.

For my post next week, I will explain how to develop a simple Gadget for Blogger using the API for Blogger post and comment data which you can use as a base on which to develop your own interactive gadgets.

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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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Blogging

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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Blogging

Are You Chasing the Flavor of the Month?

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My first fundamental of successful blogging focuses you on being present.

All of our power resides in the moment.

None of our power resides in the future or past because neither exists.

Time is illusion.

Only Now is real.

Look at that brilliant featured image. I snapped it from the front porch during our trip to Fiji. Sweet things happen when you are in the moment, focusing all power on the present.

This marks my 796th blog post on Blogging Tips. I feel grateful to Zac for the opportunity to serve you. Plus I feel grateful for all success that flowed to me through these guest posts.

How in the heck did I write and publish nearly 800 guest posts on one blog?

I am in the moment, mostly. I am present. Plus I never, never, ever chase the flavor of the month.

Bruce Lee and Blogging

Alonzo Pichardo and I often chatted about being patient, persistent and present during the Online Success Chats Podcast.

Being patient, persistent and present helps you tap into immense powers, including the power of being creative *and* prolific. See my 800 blog posts on Blogging Tips as evidence of such power. Toss in my 2,008 articles (between posts and pages) on Blogging From Paradise and you understand: focusing on one core task, or core purpose, in the present, leads to amazing things.

Bruce Lee spoke of fearing not the man who practiced 10,000 kicks once, but he did fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times. He embodied this mindset in his genius, Renaissance Man type ways.

Lee’s wisdom and physical prowess are both timeless because he understood and lived this great truth: do 1 thing so frequently, with a focused energy, being in the moment, that you do it incredibly well. He understood the truth of how I live my life: where your attention and energy goes, grows.

The Flavor of the Month

Most bloggers struggle because they practice 10,000 kicks once, chasing hot niches, running after trends, and choosing to blog today, and podcast tomorrow, because everybody runs a podcast these days. Wait a second; live video reigns supreme? Time to become a live video expert. Meanwhile, as you jump from niche to niche, and from blogging to podcasting to live videos, I just wrote and published 800 posts on Blogging Tips alone. Plus I wrote and published 1,000 more guest posts on other blogs.

While most bloggers chase hot trends, profitable niches and the latest game changing opportunity, guys like Alonzo and I thrive by doing one thing alone so we do it incredibly well.

Success is yours, but success is not an overnight or week-long endeavor.

Stop chasing hot niches. Visualize your dreams in detail. Focus on your blogging wins. Invest in coaching and courses from top bloggers. Surround yourself with positive vibes and positive people.

Write, publish and connect with top bloggers by helping top bloggers.

Success Finds Specialists

I took a nap this afternoon. A calm, peaceful breeze kisses my face right now as I write and enjoy the day.

Imagine if you could work from home every day? Visualize that fun and freedom.

Sweet, right?

Specialists are the only folks who work from home full time. People who do 1 thing persistently, practicing this skill, so they become super skilled in a single, specialized niche.

I gave all of my professional energy to being a blogger for the past 10 years. I became really skilled at blogging because I never chased the flavor of the month.

Avoid program hopping, niche hopping and all forms of flavor-chasing.

Do one thing. Do it well.

Succeed.

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What Is the Incredibly Easiest Way to Drive Blog Traffic?

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Drive traffic to other blogs.

Give what you want.

Help people get what they want and people help you get what you want.

I have found this to be the easiest way to drive traffic to my blog because friends I made through cross-promotion promote me around the clock, 24-7, 365. Easy peasy.

I checked my Twitter a few moments ago. During the past 3 hours I noticed 11 mentions, engagements and retweets collectively. 3 hours, 11 engagements, more blog traffic.

I drive a heavy amount of traffic to my blog by driving a heavy amount of traffic to fellow bloggers who drive a heavy amount of traffic to Blogging From Paradise every day, all day long.

The more you give, the more you get.

The hardest way to drive blog traffic is to try to do it solo. Imagine publishing one post and hitting social share buttons. Even if I do a fine job writing the post, gaining traction solo is tough because successful bloggers know: 1000 is better than 1. 1000 blogging buddies promoting you 24-7, 365 beats you promoting yourself or you trying to write and publish 5 to 10 or more posts daily.

I used to publish 60 posts daily between 2 blogs. Short videos and short posts created the bulk of the content. I had a difficult time succeeding because you can only do so much solo. I published 60 posts in a cyber cave. Nobody listened to me because I did not listen to anybody. But making friends by driving traffic to other blogs made blogging easier and easier for me.

My blogging buddies – who appreciate me promoting them – freely:

  • link to me on their blogs
  • retweet my posts
  • share my posts on Facebook
  • share my posts on LinkedIn
  • send my blog posts to their email list

That my friends is a lot of traffic flowing to my blog easily, freely and exponentially.

Every time a blogging buddy promotes you to their tribe you gain exposure to one more large, targeted audience. Imagine when you gain exposure in front of 10, 50, 100 and 1,000 or more audiences daily? This is serious traffic! Plus it is easy traffic because your prime duties of reading posts and tapping social share buttons, or, linking to fellow bloggers on your blog, are quite easy.

How to Drive Traffic to other Blogs

I spent a fair chunk of today driving traffic to other blogs.

I promoted some of my blog posts linking to my blogging buddies. I also retweeted and Facebook shared posts from other bloggers.

Each share lays the foundation for new blogging friendships and fortifies old blogging friendships. Every time I promote Donna Merrill or Alonzo Pichardo, we bond more deeply. Easy way to keep friendships strong and to grow your blog traffic exponentially.

You Will Run out of Time Solo But You Never Run out of Friends

Eventually, I ran out of time each day trying to do it all by myself. No human is super human. No human can be in a billion places at once, by their own steam.

But you never run out of friends if you are generous. During a reasonable lifetime, no blogger will befriend all 7 billion humans. You will however keep meeting friends every day if you drive traffic to other blogs every day.

As more folks befriend you, more folks promote you. What an easy way to increase traffic to your blog. Your ever expanding friend network does much of the legwork for you and also drives traffic to your blog:

  • when you sleep
  • when you travel
  • when you spend time offline with family and friends

Sounds sweet, right?

Give freely.

Drive traffic to your blog easily.

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