Monday, November 29, 2004

Blogger v. WordPress...

Blogging tools are evolving at a phenomenal pace as more and more bloggers go online. Now that I have had a chance to look under the hood of two popular blogging tools -- Blogger and WordPress I thought I would offer my comparisons.

Let me say right off that I like both platforms. Not only that, I will continue to use both platforms. I began using Blogger in June of this year for my business blog (this blog) and WordPress earlier this month for my personal blog.

I have done a great deal of experimentation with templates and design issues on both platforms so I'll start my comparisons with how each platform handles these areas.

Blogger has a choice of several templates that are available within the program setup. These templates are ready to go and selection is part of the startup procedure. Selecting a new template after the initial setup -- is also a breeze. The down side -- because blogger has so many users, it is easy to find your template on at least twenty other blogs the first time you start looking through their promotional lists.

WordPress on the other hand -- only offers one template. It is not a bad template... if you like olive green.

A search of Google for "skins" or "templates" for either platform will produce a myriad of results for each platform -- which users can incorporate into their own blogs. Each program has a "Template" tab which allows easy access to either edit or replace template definitions.

The cascading style sheets (CSS) definitions used by Blogger templates are defined within the template while the CSS definitions for WordPress are contained in a separate file. WordPress has a special feature which allows users to edit any file directly from the program interface. You will of course need to know the name of the file you wish to edit.

Blogger has a user friendly -- searchable help facility. It is written for new bloggers by software developers. Overall this documentation is very good though a bit confusing at times. WordPress Wiki -- is searchable help documentation for WordPress. This help facility tends to talk more to the developer community. Click Wiki to learn more. Documentation is also maintained on the WordPress main domain however it is not searchable.

WordPress is driven by PHP and a MySQL database. The current version of Blogger is written in Java, at least in part. I am not sure how data is stored in Blogger. The data I am referring to -- the user profile and blog post entry information used in the build process to generate the blog html files. It is probably a SQL compliant database a bit more robust than MySQL or perhaps some other method.

There is only one option in WordPress 1.2 [version I use] -- that I feel is not in keeping with other option settings maintained by the program. This is the option that defines ordering of Link Categories. Link Category ordering is set via a PHP program call in the main template with an input variable parameter. The options for this input parameter require that users look them up and I feel this is a very user unfriendly requirement. The program by default orders the Link Categories by name.

Other features such as listing recent posts are a little more difficult in WordPress than in Blogger which automatically generates this list for users. WordPress incorporates a "Hack" to achieve this.

Webopedia defines a hack (noun) as:
(n) 1. Code that is written to provide extra functionality to an existing program.
2. An inelegant and usually temporary solution to a problem.

The WordPress "Hack" is a PHP program that adds functionality to your WordPress blog.

Blog Hosting... Blogger gives you the option of maintaining the html blog files generated by the build process on either their servers [blogspot.com] or your own server. The data that drives the blogger build process is maintained on Blogger servers. WordPress requires your own server.

Comments... Blogger is a bit slow in posting and a bit overbearing in general -- however it works as a spam deterrent. Once you get the hang of the WordPress commenting system you will find that you can control the spam. It also posts comments in real time. I like this system very much.

Incorporation of the Blogger Calendar is easier and much more efficient with WordPress than Blogger. This is because on the WordPress platform, the application is able to retrieve select information directly from the database. WordPress also has a built in Calendar. It is currently being used on my personal blog but will be replaced as soon as I get a chance with a "Blogger Calendar". The navigation features on the Blogger Calendar are a bit more robust than those found on the WordPress calendar.

Pro and Con features of each platform are given in summary below:

Blogger pros include <>
  • It is easy to use and one does not have to be a PHP expert to add additional features
  • You can have your new blog up and running without a server in minutes
  • Hassle free cost free method of blogging
  • You can host your blog on their servers or your own
  • It is easy to tweak an existing template on this platform to include custom functionality or design features
  • There are a lot of templates available for this platform
  • There is a system status link
  • It's free

Blogger cons include <>
  • Does not have a built in calendar [I can remedy that]
  • Does not have categories
  • A lot of blogs look the same
  • Experiencing phenomenal growth -- signs include: slow system responses, system down more often...

WordPress pros include <>
  • It does not have a build process
  • No need to FTP files to private servers
  • Database access is achieved easily and efficiently with any program interface
  • Category designation(s) for each of your posts
  • There are also a lot of skins or templates available for this platform
  • WordPress software is free

WordPress 1.2 cons include <>
  • You need your own server and an installation of PHP and MySQL
  • PHP is a bit tricky, especially if you are not a programmer
  • Template and CSS tweaking is a little bit difficult in this environment
  • The Recent Posts feature is not a standard feature with the default installation -- a "Hack" is required.
  • The ordering of the Link Categories is not a setting within the program but rather an option call to a PHP program call located in the template, ugh..

In conclusion... I thought the WordPress platform was going to be easier for users to "tweak". I believe this program is either used by software types, those with time to tweak or design firms or office staff that do the tweaking for the average blogger. What is an average blogger? Someone who wants to blog and not "tweak" but still have their personality integrated into the design of their blog. Blogger is a lot easier to use and I feel the average Blogger will love it. And yes I believe Blogger is feeling that love...

I will continue to use and support both platforms because it provides me with hands on experience from a software development perspective and because I like these tools...

<> Revised 11.30.04

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Forum Participation Costs...?

Does anyone envision the day when registering with a forum will have an associated cost? Today forums provide feedback, information, and promotion for many users and most are absolutely free to join and participate in.

The many benefits available with forum participation would suggest that free membership will someday be a thing of the past. I hope not. I think forums provide a great service to the Internet community in that the proliferation of information is boundless in this environment.

From the very beginning, the Internet has been trying to earn its keep -- so to speak. It had to first convince users that it was worth a look and then have them return for more. The numbers suggest that users are returning as long as the price is right. Free... Will this change someday?

My overall question only looks at one area of Internet usage -- forums.

I have introduced a poll question in my forum -- News, Software, & Java (NS&J), concerning the use of forums for business, promotion, information and feedback. Click on this link --> Forum Poll if you would like to participate. If you are not already a member of this forum you will have to join... and yes membership is free.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

WordPress Guru?

I stayed up late last night incorporating enhancements to my WordPress blog, Garden Pleasures.... Yes, I think I am an expert now. Expert on what you might ask? Integrating blog designs using CSS, HTML, and XHTML. Now if only I were a graphic artist -- see earlier post --> Creative License?.

The enhancements I integrated will be barely noticeable by most. Because of the way I initially implemented my WordPress template -- my 3 column design needed more maintenance with each new post than I wanted to provide. The trick -- clever use of tables.

The default template provided with each new installation of WordPress is a bit complicated. I queried several blogging communities wondering if users who use this platform -- have found difficulties in manipulating the template.

Some WordPress bloggers use pre-existing templates from other sources. I searched Google for "WordPress Templates" and found about 121,000 references. This link --> WordPress Styles has some pretty nice designs and all of the templates are released under the GPL License.

The WordPress Styles link given above, is also listed here --> Blogging Tools & Add-ons. Let me know if you have a blogging tool or add-on you would like to have listed.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Cutting the Spam?

I recently joined the Yahoo SmallBizIT group thinking that I could share my business information and tools with like minded individuals and businesses. On Saturday, I sent out an email to this group's members which resulted in the following thread [my message is the first at the bottom] :

To: smallbizIT@yahoogroups.com
From: "Susan Bradley, [wacko SBSer]"
Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2004 15:05:35 -0800
Subject: Re: [smallbizIT] Research, Surveys, and Demographic Studies...And he's no longer a member of the list.

Quark IT - Hilton Travis wrote:

Hi,

Dare I say spam isn't generally accepted on this list?  And now is one
of these "general" situations.  Oh, crossposting is also considered bad
form.  100% so far!  :(

--

Regards,

Hilton Travis                          Phone: +61 (0)7 3344 3889
(Brisbane, Australia)                  Phone: +61 (0)419 792 394
Manager, Quark IT                      http://www.quarkit.com.au
         Quark AudioVisual             http://www.quarkav.net

http://www.threatcode.com/ <-- its now time to shame poor coders
into writing code that is acceptable for use on today's networks

War doesn't determine who is right.  War determines who is left.

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Q :.QiSoftware [mailto:qisoftware_com@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, 21 November 2004 00:22
To: Group, Small Biz IT; [abbr]
Subject: [smallbizIT] Research, Surveys, and Demographic Studies...


Hi--

I maintain a list of useful surveys, demographic
studies and reports that may be useful in business and
marketing. Follow this link --
http://forums.qisoftware.com/viewtopic.php?t=44 for
the current list of available reports.

Q...

This message was considered spam and I was bounced from the group. I was surprised by this. If you follow the link -- Research and Media Surveys you will find that indeed the information is a very useful list of research, surveys, and other demographic information which can help in small business and marketing.

I get a lot of spam from some of the groups I belong to. I wonder if the moderator of this group even bothered to follow the link. No I won't bother rejoining this group. I thought this course of action noteworthy because of the huge amount of spam I do receive and the attempt by actual spammers to get investors or buyers for their services and products.

My information was free and simply <> this could be useful to business and marketing efforts... hmmm. I am also not sure if the "he" -- in the above thread is a reference to me -- I am female...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Blogger Calendar Price --

I have received several inquiries about the cost of the Blogger Calendar. The current cost of the standard Blogger Calendar is $9.95. The calendar requires a server that supports Java Servlets. If your server does not support Servlets -- I provide the calendar package hosting for $12.00 a year. Right now I am offering the hosting and the standard calendar for $19.95. The availability of this hosting is also dependant on the number of hits your blog gets per month. This price is subject to change without prior notice. Custom features are more and determined on a case by case basis. I accept payment through PayPal. Email --> blog@qisoftware.com or qisoftware@aol.com. [I have had problems receiving emails via my business domain.]

I have tested the calendar with my new WordPress blog --> Garden Pleasures.... I have not integrated the Blogger Calendar on this blog because I have been busy with other things. It works very well and I am excited about introducing the calendar on a WordPress blog. I have some custom features I wish to incorporate and it will take a bit more time than I have right now.

The standard calendar for Blogger.com is discussed in this post --> Blogger Calendar Enhancements. The Standard Blogger Calendars for WordPress and Movable type are similar to the one discussed in the above post, however there is only one extra button which enables users to load the current month's archived posts. WordPress and Movable Type are database driven applications and I can take advantage of this by accessing the data more selectively.

Currently I support Blogger, WordPress, & Movable Type blogging platforms. I have not tried Type Pad and I don't have the database schema for this platform. However, I am sure I won't have any problems implementing the calendar on this platform or any of the other the blogging platforms.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Creative License?

I recently installed WordPress. For those of you who don't know -- WordPress is another blogging platform that many web hosting companies offer as a blogging tool for their users. It requires a database. I installed it primarily to have the advantage of seeing first hand problems with this platform -- from a software development perspective.

Using this platform I will keep sort of a personal blog <> Garden Pleasures.... I am still working on the template and I may change the name. My question requires that you preview what I have done thus far, so please take a look--> preview.

Now here is my question. I found this blog --> chicken recipes... some time ago and fell in love with the design. You will note the similar look to my new blog. If you look at the underlying html and cascading style sheet [CSS] definitions, you will find there is absolutely nothing the same between my definition and the original. I basically copied the design from a creative viewpoint... and not the code.

In this case, the original was a free template so even if I had copied the CSS layout I would not have infringed upon the copyright. But what about Creative License? I copied the look... I am not a graphic artist so I don't think I would have put the colors together myself. Has any work been done on the Creative License angle with regard to the Internet and copyright infringement? I would love to know your thoughts or if you have links that provide a clearer picture -- that would be great too.

My next question :: Where do Intellectual Property rights end and Creative Property rights begin? The "Blogger Calendar" is not free... can someone copy the look and feel without stealing my code?

<> Revised 11.30.04

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Bots & Page Counters...

A further comment to my previous post, The Alexa Crawl... -- bots show up in website statistical reports but do not increment page counters.

I could find no formal definition of a bot so here is my definition:
Bots <> programs specifically designed to advertise, spam, crawl, or search Internet venues, including chat rooms, IM interfaces, websites and email lists.
I tried to make the above statement a comment to the last post and was unable to [finally showed up hours later]. If you have had a problem adding your comments to this blog -- let me know <> email --> blog@qisoftware.com.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Alexa Crawl...

In an earlier post ...Internet Advertising I indicated that I submitted to the Alexa Crawl program. I have never submitted to this program for any of my sites but I have noticed the iachiever bot in my log files. I recently found out this bot is from Alexa.

I do not like bots crawling my sites because it inaccurately boosts the number of hits. Be very careful when using this submit function. Because I have dynamic features [forums and this blog] on my domain, bots have to crawl to ensure proper indexing for search engines. My main domain and the other sub-domains are not dynamic so I do not allow bots to crawl more than once every four weeks.

I found this out back in June 2004 when I couldn't figure out why hits were no longer being recorded from people while bot hits were being recorded. In my case there was a direct correlation with the affiliate hits, which is what raised the red flag.

I requested that at least one company remove a particularly busy bot and then put features in to stop others from returning as often. This may have been why Alexa, shortly thereafter -- dropped my rank from 1.6 million to over 5 million [summer 2004 time frame]. This would suggest that you may want to have as many bots crawling as possible. I repeat this is not a good idea. It may mask other things.


Alexa -- Now That's Amazing...

The Alexa ranking for qisoftware.com as of November 7, 2004 is shown in the image to the right. You will remember it was hovering at just over 1 million the other day. If not see this post --> Internet Advertising. I also explained that as of June 2004 my Alexa ranking was around 2 million.

The charts below show the total amount of bandwidth for the month of June 2004 v. the current totals for November 2004 [through 11.06.04]. The combined total bandwidth for the first 6 days of November is more than the entire month of June yet my Alexa ranking has suddenly fallen (in a two day period) to about the same as then.


There is a problem with my cPanel homepage bandwidth report which should reflect the entire bandwidth expended for the account including sub-domains. It is only reporting a total of 38.999 MB of bandwidth expended as of 11.06.04. This total appears to be the amount for only the Forums sub-domain -- yes it says 45.48 on the report above but on the sub-domain report [which I did not provide here], the numbers agree. The 38.89 shown for the qisoftware.com in the above diagram - actually shows 27.298 MB in main domain report.

I recently had some sort of upgrade to my account and it appears something was incorrectly set. I have asked my web hosting company to correct the problem. The problem began October 18, 2004 -- see this forum post --> LunarForums Post - Bandwidth Problem. This was a immediate red flag for me.

Could Alexa have misinterrupted the data? WOW... I am sure the programs used by Alexa to gather bandwidth information are smart enough to catch something like this.

The cumulative unique site visitors for November [1-6] 2004 are:
qisoftware.com <> 640
forums.qisoftware.com <> 167
blog.qisoftware.com <> 434

Last month I averaged about 120 unique site visitors daily on the main domain alone.

The only real domains maintained on qisoftware.com are the main domain and the blog and forums sub-domains. The other sub-domains shown in the June and November reports are re-directs and I expect those bandwidth numbers to be low. See earlier post --> Webalizer on bandwidth and stats. Also note that the blog sub-domain was implemented the beginning of September 2004 and the Forums are new. I installed them on September 28, 2004 but did not implement the sub-domain until late October.

Well that is the lesson for today... What are we going to learn tomorrow? Never write a report on Internet Advertising? The Alexa numbers I can live with... I have seen Alexa do strange things without explanation. I would like my reports corrected.

<>Updated 11.08.04 -- late night

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Blogger Calendar Enhancements --

I am planning on enhancing the Blogger Calendar to incorporate automatic loading of monthly archived pages. The diagram below illustrates the new features the calendar will provide.

The automatic load buttons will only be enabled if archived post(s) exist for the previous or next month. To ensure an ascetically pleasing look, that is symmetrical -- both buttons will always be displayed.

Currently Blogger Calendar users have the option of specifying colors for the following:
  • Date
  • Post Date
  • Background
  • Weekday
The foreground for the new buttons on the default Blogger Calendar, will be the same color as specified by the "Post Date" color [in the illustrated case - an off red]. Custom calendars are available for those that want more color options. The html code for the default calendar looks similar to the following:

<APPLET CODE="demoCalendar.class" ARCHIVE="demo2.jar"
CODEBASE="http://www.qisoftware.com/data/" WIDTH=210 HEIGHT=170>
<PARAM name=datecolor Value=000000>
<PARAM name=postdatecolor Value=B03000>
<PARAM name=backgroundcolor Value=FFFFFF>
<PARAM name=weekdaycolor Value=000000>
</APPLET>


I would be interested in your feedback on these proposed enhancements. Because the Blogger Calendar is offered as a custom tool -- specific user requirements are provided on a case by case basis. See this post --> QiSoftware Solutions for more on the Blogger Calendar.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Small Business and Internet Advertising --

According to this article -->"Kelsey Group: Small Businesses Not Yet Advertising Online" small businesses are not advertising online though the potential for huge returns is evident.

My budget for advertising and promotion was not large, therefore I looked for creative ways to boost my online presence. Here are a few tools I use to promote my small business:I use Alexa to track how well my online promotion tools work. When I first started tracking -- my Alexa rank [March 2004] was over 3 million. Over the summer [2004], I went down to just under 2 million and then back up to 5 million. Today I am hovering at just over a million. Alexa ranks are based on 1 [one] being the best, so the further I descend the better.

I am providing the screenshot I took today for later reference as a bench mark guide.
Screenshot taken today [11.04.04]
clicking on the image will take you to my Alexa profile page.

Take note of the Links in: value of 1 in the above image. I am not sure why this number reflects only 1, since my site is listed with various online sites and search engines, but I am investigating.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Google This Blog!

A new search feature has been added to this blog. Now you can Google This Blog! The option is available in the "Search Pull" located on the sidebar. See diagram below.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Holiday Season Promotion -- Special Olympics...

In an earlier post --> Charitable Promotions I indicated I would be hosting a special ad for the holidays. Special Olympics was the charity selected and I have placed ads on both the Wired Pages [WP] Charities page and this blog.

The ad will run through the next 6 months** on the WP Charities page, and throughout the holidays on the sidebar of this blog.

I hope that you will visit the Special Olympics site by clicking on either of the ads, or visit any of the charities listed within the Charities pull located on the WP Charities page.

**Too much on my mind -- updated 11.03.04

Outbound Links...?

I don't use link exchange on my blog [see this link], so when I found a link for my blog on someone else's I was a bit surprised. The site no longer exists so I am providing the BlogShares profile. I found the site via a Technorati search of "QiSoftware". Last week when I found the reference the site was available. Now all that's left is the BlogShares profile. Here is part of the profile sheet:



Wonder why I am referenced on this site? hmmm...