As you may have read in Kevin’s recent post, Blogger is in the process of adding some major new features to the system. Currently available to those logging in through Blogger in Draft, the most prolific features include:
- A comment form beneath blog posts
- An import/export feature (which can also be used as a backup system)
- Star ratings, which readers can use to rate your posts
- A brand new post editor, with much greater functionality
In this post, I’ll go over these major updates in more detail, to explain how they can be of benefit to Blogger users. And as some of these features depend on template code, I’ll also explain how you can add this functionality to your Blogger powered blog.
A comment form beneath blog posts
This is probably the most requested feature for Blogger, and beats the hell out of the previous hosted page Blogger used for readers to add comments to our posts!
To add a comment form beneath your posts, you will need to activate this through your Blogger comment settings.
Scroll down to the part which says “Comment form placement” and choose the option which says “Embedded below post”.
If you are using a default template (or switch over to a default template) this will automatically make the comment form appear below your posts (on post pages) like this:
However, if you are using a customized (or third party) template, your template’s HTML code will not yet include the code required to make the embedded comment form appear.
This is the easiest way to add comment form functionality to a non-standard template:
- Go to Layout>Edit HTML (while logged in through Blogger in Draft!).
- Check the “Expand widget templates” box
- Search for this line of code:
<b:include data='post' name='comments'/>
- Right after this line, paste the following line of code:
<b:include data='post' name='comment-form'/>
- Then save your template.
Now when you view the comments section on a post page, you should see the new comment form appear in place (thanks to Is for the quick tip!)
At present, it is not possible to subscribe to follow-up comments by email when using this feature on your blog. However, Blogger is in the process of adding this function to the comment form, and I would expect this to be added before this new comment form is rolled out of beta mode.
The Import/Export feature
While other blogging systems have included this feature for some time, Blogger have only just enabled us to import posts from another blog, or backup our entire posts and comments to export to another blog.
This feature (again only available through Blogger in Draft) can be accessed through the Settings>Basic page of your blog’s dashboard:
Choosing the “Export” option allows you to make a complete backup of all your Blogger posts and comments, which you can save to your computer as an XML file.
This is a highly useful method of backing up all your posts as a safety precaution (just in case your blog becomes inaccessible for some reason).
To import posts from another blog, you can use the Import function. This requires you to upload an XML file of your posts and comments from another Blogger blog or blogging system (eg: WordPress).
You can also use this to restore a back-up version of your existing blog posts and comments, or to merge two blogs into one.
Blogger in Draft released a full explanation of this new feature which covers some caveats you should be aware of.
Star ratings for posts
This feature adds a star ratings widget beneath your posts, enabling readers to rate the quality of your articles.
While not a feature which will be useful for all Blogger users, this may be handy for general feedback about the quality of your writing.
To add this feature to your Blogger blog, go to Layout>Gadgets in your Blogger in Draft dashboard, and click on the “Edit” link for your blog posts widget.
You will then see the “Star ratings” option available to add to your blog:
If you use a standard template, you can simply tick this box to allow the star ratings beneath your posts. However, if you use a non-standard template (or have customized your template) your blog’s template code will not already include the code required.
To add star rating functionality to a non-standard blog template, you will need to add the following code to your template:
<div expr:g:background-color='data:backgroundColor' expr:g:text-color='data:textColor' expr:g:url='data:post.absoluteUrl' g:height='42' g:type='RatingPanel' g:width='180'/>
The best place to add this code is just below this line (if present in your template):
<div class=’post-footer-line post-footer-line-2′>
Or anywhere in the “post-footer” section of your blog.
Although the Blogger team have not yet hinted about this, I suspect the star-ratings feature could easily become the basis for a popular posts widget integrated into the Blogger system.
A brand new post editor
For me, the new post editor came as quite a shock! Being used to editing all my posts in HTML mode (I use a great deal of code in my posts), I was surprised to see there were no longer any buttons visible in this mode. Not even to add a hyperlink or image!
However, the “compose” mode for editing blog posts has lots of great new features, and after using this for a while, I found it more natural and easy to use than manually typing the code for my posts.
Here is a preview of the new, improved post editor for Blogger:
When you choose to upload an image or create a hyperlink, you will see a “lightbox” style pop-up which includes far more functionality than the previous post editor.
Furthermore, when you toggle the “Post options” near the bottom of the post editor, you have access to more functions for the particular post you are working on:
For those who prefer to type the HTML code for their posts, I would advise you to choose the option for “Show HTML literally”.
If instead, you prefer to use a regular composer for your posts, choose to “Interpret typed HTML” instead.
This is also useful for those who use code examples in their posts, as you will no longer need to escape the HTML code in order to make it display.
What do you think of Blogger’s new features?
Personally, I’m very happy with the improvements Blogger has added to this free blogging platform. The embedded comment form in particular is a much-requested addition to the service, and while the new post editor may take some getting used to, I’m sure it will serve as a much better means of creating our blog posts.
Have you tested out these new features for yourself yet? If so, what do you think about the improvements so far?
7 Habits That Can Make You a More Efficient Blogger
Starting a blog is exciting, whether you’re using it as an extension to promote your current business or you’re just trying to maintain the blog as a personal endeavor. In any case, part of your success will depend on your ability to write new blog posts at an efficient rate; if you aren’t producing new blog posts fast enough, your audience could lose interest in your content. Similarly, if it takes you too long to write a new blog post, your profitability is going to decrease.
The solution is to focus on improving your efficiency as a blogger, so you can accomplish more in less time and end up with more raw content as a result.
The Best Habits to Improve Your Efficiency
These are some of the best habits to improve your efficiency as a blogger:
- Dress professionally. If you’re working from home or blogging in your free time, you’ll be tempted to wear the most comfortable clothes and lounge in the living room while writing. But if you want to be successful and work efficiently, it’s much better to dress professionally and establish a professional work area. The idea is to treat your blog work like it’s your job. You’ll take your work more seriously, and you’ll be less inclined to follow distractions. It may also change how you think about your work and how you approach problem-solving.
- Practice good hygiene. While you’re at it, make sure to practice good hygiene—especially if blogging is your full-time job. The most obvious habit here is to shower regularly, but you’ll also want to keep your clothes clean, take good care of your environment, or as 14K Gold Teeth suggests, clean accessories like custom gold grillz. You’ll feel more professional in your environment and will have less clutter to distract you.
- Stick to a routine. Routines are vital for improving your efficiency. They help you establish consistent processes, which you can follow to save time and refine your habits. They give you something predictable to work with, so you aren’t scrambling to figure out what to work on next. They also reinforce your most productive habits, so you can continue working without thinking too much about it—in other words, they’re procrastination-busters.
- Set a strict schedule. While you’re developing your routine, try to create and stick to a strict schedule. For example, you might set a timer for one hour to read the latest news, a half hour designated to preparing an outline, and another hour to finish your full first draft. These temporal limitations help you avoid Parkinson’s law, which states that the amount of time it takes to do a task will swell to fill whatever amount of time is allotted to it; in other words, the tighter you set your timetables, the more efficiently you’ll be motivated to work.
- Keep an editorial calendar. Create a high-level editorial calendar as early as possible, and stick to it the best you can. This will help you ensure your high-level goals and priorities never fall out of your sight, and make sure you never run out of work. Set target dates for drafting and publication, so you’re always working toward something, and jot down your new topic ideas whenever you get them.
- Stay organized. This should go without saying, but the vast majority of new bloggers suffer from not being organized. They read new material that could serve as inspiration for a new post, but lose the original article. They set goals for themselves, but forget them or change them too frequently for them to take effect. Create a system for taking notes and keeping track of your high-level priorities, and stick to it.
- Keep reading on a regular basis. Reading is one of the best ways to consistently and reliably improve your writing, so make time for it in your schedule. Reading work like yours can help you generate new ideas, improve your vocabulary, and increase your fluency, so you can write faster.
Learning and Improving
It’s a good idea to track your time while working on blog-related tasks. It will allow you to gather data on your productivity habits, and ideally, see how they improve over time. If there’s a particular task that takes up a disproportionate amount of your time, you can drop it or focus specifically on improving it. If you notice a strategy is making you more efficient in one or more areas, you can use it more frequently or apply it to different areas.
In any case, the real secret to becoming a more efficient blogger is committing to improve over time. Pay attention to how your habits develop, and continually refine your approach.
Oh, Now I Get It! How to Explain Complex Topics to Your Audience
Technical writers have a great number of skills, but perhaps the most important is the ability to adapt your language to the level of comprehension your audience has. A highly technical and complex article can overwhelm readers or even bore them.
“But it’s impossible to delight my readers and keep them engaged when I’m talking about the
IEEE 802.11ac principle of broadband technology,” We hear you cry. And, we get it. Turning a technical article into a sexy piece of content can feel like a daunting task, but it’s not mission impossible.
Here are a few content creation tips that will help you explain complex topics to your audience in a delightful manner.
Imagine That You Are Explaining the Subject to a Non-Tech-Savvy Friend
One of the most important things when creating technical content for a more broad audience is consistency. So, as much as possible try to use the same tone, level of knowledge, complexity of vocabulary, and so on. The easiest way to calibrate your writing style is to imagine that you are writing for a friend or a relative that has nothing to do with your area of expertise.
Imagine you are trying to explain a particularly complex topic to them, in a friendly and light discussion. How would you approach the subject? What elements you think would bore or frustrate them?
What helps you in the real world is adapting your style and vocabulary to the other person’s knowledge. You know that you don’t have to explain what an Internet browser does, but you might have to tell them more about the coding behind it when discussing responsive web design, for instance. Use common words and keep them engaged with a lighter, friendly style.
Adapt Your Vocabulary and Structure
Let’s take a look at how you can flip your technical writing to be more approachable. First of all: use concepts that your audience is familiar with or at least has a general idea about them.
A good start is to check what search words visitors use when browsing your website. You will identify commonly used terms that are related to the technology that interests them. Use those keywords yourself to keep visitors on your page.
Also, be careful about the structure of the text when writing online, especially when you are trying to explain something complex. Make sure to split your text into readable chunks. You can also help the reader understand the subject better by using titles and subtitles to separate the main ideas of your article.
Build up the Knowledge of Your Audience, from General to Detailed
Once you have established a common language and vocabulary between you and your target audience, start methodically presenting your topic, from general level information to more detailed aspects. Applying this rule will help you readers understand the topic better without wasting too much time. Online readers tend to ignore content that is, irrelevant or hard to understand.
While it is important to get the basics straight before getting deeper into your subject, make sure to summarize the purpose of your article at the very beginning, as it will let your audience know what they will learn about after going through it.
Use Style Tools That Help Your Audience Relate to the Topic
The fun part of writing about technical topics for a general audience is getting creative with it. Because you can’t use the “boring,” “stiff” technical jargon, you must come up with expressive comparisons, examples, and analogies. You can even evoke anecdotal evidence to support the facts since they are highly relevant for many of the users.
Helping them relate to the topic you are writing about is the key to grabbing their attention. Use day to day examples for the systems and processes you are describing, or mention the best-known similar thing. Give them examples of possible situations when they can come across the topic you are writing about and enable them to talk about it themselves.
Ultimately, is all about correctly identifying the level of knowledge your audience has. Encourage them to comment and ask any questions and keep the conversations alive.
IT Management Solutions: What is the Key to Improving Employee Efficiency?
There are many ways you can improve your employees’ efficiency. From decluttering the workspace to encouraging a stress-free environment, there is a whole range of things you can do to make your work life run smoother. One such technique you need to adopt for your company is an IT management solution.
What Does It Do?
An IT management solution such as SysAid takes all of the day-to-day programs that a business will use and consolidates them into one easy-to-use package. Every employee should be able to log on and complete all their work without having to leave the initial program.
It can contain such subsections as project management, customer relationship management, billing and invoicing, and a whole host of other features.
Why Should Employers Implement Such a Solution?
A system such as this allows managers to have better visibility over the company as a whole. They will be able to tell if an employee is completing their daily tasks to the best of their ability and will also allow them to see where they are lacking.
The data from the completion of these daily tasks can easily be tracked and analyzed to see where employees are struggling with efficiency. With some adjustments, efficiency can then be improved in these areas.
One of the key reasons to install an IT management solution is for the project management aspects. A good project management program lets all employees know where they are with their projects at all times. Whether you are just working on the project or a project manager, you will be able to see the stage that the project is at and all the steps and processes that still need to be completed.
This collaborative nature helps improve speed and efficiency and stops the project becoming grounded in a lack of communication. If you are not yet using a project management system, you will notice that many small but important problems like misuse of resources will be greatly reduced.
Customer Relationship Management
By having your customer service staff use one portal for all their needs, you will see a great improvement in efficiency when it comes to handling customer enquiries. An IT management solution can contain a database with all your customer’s information. This means that if a case needs to be passed from one team member to another, there is little to no chance of any relevant information being lost in the transfer. Everything should be in place in the one database.
Invoicing and Billing
Keeping your various accounts and invoices in different places can lead to items being forgotten or double-charged. By using an IT management software, your managers and accountants will be able to successfully keep track of all costs and reduce unnecessary spending. This will improve efficiency as multiple enquires are not being made to complete invoices and other reports.
There are just some of the ways an IT management solution can improve your business. If you feel you need to improve your company’s efficiency, consider implementing one today.
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