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OpenSourceCMS - Take A CMS Platform For A Spin!

Are you in the market for a CMS (Content Management System) for your next big idea? Or are you just looking for some easy to use software for a personal blog? Well, look no further! OpenSourceCMS most likely has what you are looking for. This site is created for the purpose of hosting many if not all of the free and open source CMS software systems on the internet. The kicker… they allow YOU to administer them and basically kick the tires for a bit. That’s right!

Every wanted to see what it’s like to run Drupal or Joomla? How about WordPress or Textpattern? They have a ton of different platforms that you can try out in categories such as Portals, Blogs, e-Commerce, Groupware, Forums, Image Galleries, Wikis and more. All you have to do is find one that you’d like to try out and click on it. There will be some general information about the platform as well as links to both the front page and the administration page. And of course the login details for the administration page are listed right there for you to use. This is a very cool site for trying out different systems and not having to spend your own time performing multiple installations.

Creating Featured Posts With SmartLink Widgets

Many blogs in the wild these days have Featured Posts listed somewhere on their site, usually along the top of the blog or in one of the sidebars. This is a great way for bloggers to showcase some of their best work, some of their most popular posts or posts that have been rated by readers. I myself have such a list based on visitor traffic. I’d like to show an interesting way to create a Featured Posts widget using SmartLink Widgets from the good folks at AdaptiveBlue. It’s really easy.

Step 1 – Bookmark Your Featured Posts

Adding SmartLinks With BlueOrganizerThe first thing you need to do is bookmark the posts on your site that you would like to be featured using the BlueOrganizer browser addon. What? You don’t have BlueOrganizer installed yet? What are you waiting for?

OK, you do have it installed. Good. Now just browse to the individual posts you want to feature and bookmark them. Before saving though, add a tag that you will use to mark your Featured Posts. I’ve used “franzone featured” for my tag, but that probably wouldn’t make much sense for your site so you pick it. See the screenshot to the left.

Step 2 – Create Your Widget

Creating A SmartLinks WidgetNext choose the Make a Widget option from your BlueOrganizer addon. You’ll be magically transported to a web page where you can create your widget. OK, maybe not magically, but it is still cool. Enter a title for your widget such as Featured Posts (makes sense). Select Bookmarks for the Collection Type. Then just enter the custom tag you used in Step 1 in the tag/filter field. I entered “franzone featured”. Click Next: Configured this widget and you are presented with some cosmetic options to doctor your widget up to make it’s grand appearance.

Step 3 – Install Your Widget

Finally, click Next: Install this widget to get the code for your new widget. You are presented with several options for blog publishing platforms. Alternately you can just use the default code that is on the page. After copying your widget code just install into your blog by whatever means are available to you. It can be directly in a page or in WordPress I use text widgets for this type of thing. The final result for my Featured Posts looks like this!

Subscriber Count Madness

Up ArrowWow, I loaded up my page this morning and noticed that I had a slight increase in my FeedBurner subscriber stats. By slight increase of course I mean it jumped from around 70 – 80 to 2,887. Wow, talk about a jump in numbers! I checked my web statistics and there isn’t a huge jump in visitor traffic, which I really didn’t expect to see. Inspection of my FeedBurner account shed a little light though. Apparently the FeedBlitz service is the culprit that has caused my numbers to exponentially multiply. FeedBlitz is the RSS feed to Email Subscription that is offered by FeedBurner. So I guess they made a change or are having some issues with that service. Hopefully it will iron itself out soon. While having that many subscribers would be nice… I’d also like them to be real people, not just a computer mistake.

Agile Blogger Forums… Where Bloggers Meet

If you are into blogging then you know that it can sometimes be a lonely world. Boy, that sounded like an E-Harmony advertisement. Anyway, it’s cool to have some place that you can go and ask questions from other people that are into blogging. Agile Blogger Forums is just such a place. They boards for newbie blogging questions, blog design, blog reviews, blog monetization, social networking, search engine optimization and quite a few more. Basically, if you are blogging then there are topics there that should interest you.

Need more convincing? Well, they are running a $50 giveaway contest just for signing up on the forums and writing a short review… like this one!

franzone.com Has A New Theme!

I hope I haven’t shocked anyone, but this is still the home of Jonathan Franzone and my various technical ramblings. I have been working on a new theme for the site… from scratch. I have tweaked WordPress themes before and thought that there was really nothing to it. This was my first full-on theme though and it proved to be more challenging that I anticipated. Mostly because I wanted to put in some really cool features and administrative functionality. Well, it has taken me long enough!

I am still working out some of the kinks in the theme and the layout may change slightly over the next several days. Thank you for your patience with me through this transition!

Google Context Ads Is Off Its Rocker

I just posted an article (actually a link to another article) about Microsoft, Yahoo and Google in the online advertising arena. No surprises there; you can see it directly below. After publishing though I looked down at the AdSense block that follows each of my postings and… what!?

Seriously, “Anti Monkey Butt Powder“? What the heck does that have to do with ANYTHING on my blog. Secondly, I don’t even want to know what that actually means, let alone where you’d end up if you click on it. Geez.

Strange AdSense Block

Who Upgrades Their WordPress Blog On Monday Morning?

I do! I do! This is a testament to a) my stupidity and b) the simplicity of the WordPress installation/upgrade process. I would never, ever condone performing an upgrade on your website in the middle of Monday morning. Why? Well, that is usually one of the peak times of usage for most websites (unless they are inherently weekend oriented). I would normally have done this task over the weekend, but I had some family in from out of town and just could not get to it. So I thought I would tempt fate this morning.

Luckily (or with God’s grace) everything went very smooth and I am now running the latest version (WordPress 2.3.1). I was planning on installing a new theme along with this upgrade. It’s a theme I’ve been working on myself. You can look forward to that sometime later this week. Maybe today if I’m feeling extremely lucky. 🙂

AdaptiveBlue’s SmartLinks Are Live!

AdaptiveBlue has been leading the way with cutting edge technologies that help you browse the web better and smarter. Not only that but they also provide tools for web content providers (ie bloggers) enabling them to give a more usable and informative experience to their audience. I was lucky enough to be included in the beta test group for SmartLinks and have been absolutely thrilled with the outcome. Not only are SmartLinks awesome for giving quick and easy value add to your readers. But now with the new SmartLinks, installation is so easy a monkey could do it. For us WordPress users they provide a plugin, which when activated automatically converts links to certain domains into SmartLinks. That’s right! I don’t have to muck around with my links anymore… SmartLinks does it for me on the fly.

Here is an example for The Lord Of The Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy

You can read more about how this works on the AdaptiveBlue blog. They also have some initial results on the first 24 hours of the new SmartLinks release.

BlogRush Gives 10,000+ Blogs The Boot

I just received an email this morning letting me know that I made the first round of cuts! What cuts? Well, I’m sure a lot of you fellow bloggers have heard of BlogRush by now. After the initial opening there were problems with people gaming or cheating their system. Of course they do not want this type of behavior because it’ll just drive away any reputable bloggers from using their network. With this news it seems that they are indeed taking extensive action. They have removed over 10,000 blogs from their network that did not meet the new Quality Quidelines. It appears that they are using a manual process to determine whether or not blogs meet these criteria.

Phase 2 of the BlogRush Changes

In the email I received it stated that they are rolling out some new changes in the next few days. These will include an all new Dashboard, advanced statistics reporting, some new sub-categories and new thinner widget. All in all this network still seems like a viable means of getting good quality traffic to your blog. We’ll see how things shape up in the days and weeks to come with all of these changes.

5 Tips For Finding New Things To Blog About

Light BulbHave writer’s block? Need some fresh ideas for content? These are just a few sources of blog material that you can utilize to get the creative juices flowing.

Solving A Problem

A lot of what I do as a software engineer includes solving problems. Many of them are small like: Problem) I need to display X, Y and Z on the screen. Solution) Use whatever programming language and/or framework that is applicable to accomplish that task. However sometimes I run across a problem that is a bit more difficult. In situations like these I usually end up scouring the internet to see if someone else has run across this problem and whether or not there are any solutions. There have been many times when I found tons of questions about the same problem I am researching yet no answers. This is frustrating. So after putting my best resources to the problem and coming up with a solution I usually try to blog on both the problem and the resolution that I found. After all other people out there may be desperately searching for the solution that I just found.

Day To Day Know-How

Just because you do something everyday and it is as easy as breathing to you does not mean that everyone knows this. This is why there are XYZ For Dummies books being sold by the thousands. A good place to find quality blogging content is in your day to day know-how. Just pick a topic that you think is mildly interesting and create a well written tutorial on the needed steps and any pitfalls to be wary of. You’d be surprised at the number of people that will thank you for the simplest of information.

A Question You Cannot Answer

Have you ever been asked a question and did not know the answer? Have you ever had a question that you could not find the answer for? This is another good source of blogging content. Simply pose the question to your readers. You may want to give some background and/or scope to the problem. You may also want to throw out some possible answers that you have thought of. Chances are you will get feedback with many opinions, one of which just may be the answer you are searching for.

Seeing Things Done Wrong

Many times in my software engineering life I come across code that is so wrong that it makes me want to change my profession. In these cases I must assume that if one person came up with such a wrong way of doing something then there may be others that are being tempted over to the dark side of ill conceived solutions. This is a good opportunity to perhaps educate your readers on the proper way of accomplishing something. Or at least your best opinion on the best way.

Supernatural Inspiration

Sometimes I’m just walking down the street and it strikes me… inspiration! “Ah ha” that’s a great blog idea. Do not let these moments pass to long before you find something to write with. Get as much information into a concrete form either on paper or in a text file on your computer before the idea has diluted. These don’t come that often so when they do you should seize the opportunity because it could be some of your best blog material.

Of course if none of these help you with ideas for blogging content then you could always write something for a blog competition or group writing project as I am doing for the ProBlogger Birthday Bash Giveaway! Happy blogging.