Enhancing blog comments with avatars

I’ve just re-enabled Gravatar support for this blog. Gravatar, for globally-recognized avatar, is a service that publishes avatars or graphic representations of people who comment in your blog. Check out my previous posts to see gravatar in action.

I used the service some time last year but stopped it after a few months when I encountered problems.

To get your own Gravatar, just sign up for an account at the Gravatar website. Prepare a square image and then upload it to the site. Associate the image with your e-mail address and you’re done.

gravatars1
SIGN-UP for a gravatar account to have images show up next to your comments.

With the service, the image you picked will show up whenever you leave comments in blogs and websites that support Gravatar. Make sure you use the e-mail address associated with your account when you post comments.

If you are a website or blog owner, check these guidelines at the Gravatar website on how to implement the service. The service has its own WordPress plugin but I’m using the plugin written by Skippy and now maintained by ZenPax. The plugin allows local caching to deal with problems on server congestion in the main gravatar site.

Denial of service attack delays Zooomr 2.0 launch

Flickr competitor Zooomr was set to launch version 2.0 of its service last week and it created such a loud buzz with its free pro account offer for bloggers. That launch has been delayed by a denial of service attack.

Zooomr said in its blog that the attack has been dealt with and they’re just fine-tuning the system to make sure such an attack will not happen again. Zooomr also says that when the new version finally launches, users will “see a huge speed increase along with the new design and new features.”

You might say it is still premature to describe Zooomr as a Flickr “competitor” because of the disparity in their user base but I really like what Zooomr is offering, especially with its free accounts. Both sites offer unlimited storage but Flickr restricts the display of your photos to the last 200 images. Zooomr also offers a bigger upload quota for free accounts at 50MB monthly, more than double Flickr’s 20MB quota for free accounts.

Zooomr offers free pro accounts for bloggers

Flickr competitor Zooomr is offering a free professional account for bloggers. All you have to do is open an account with their site, upload a photo to your account, use it in your blog post and then notify them.

Zooomr is an interesting Flickr alternative. I’ve just registered for it and after going through its features, it looks to me to be a better photo host for bloggers. Its free beta account gives you unlimited storage and a 50MB monthly uploading limit. Flickr, on the other hand, limits its free accounts to 20MB of monthly uploads and its photo streams to 200 images. ubuntu

Zooomr also resizes photos and gives you the links to the different image sizes. Zooomr’s pro account, which gives you a 2GB monthly upload limit, is $5 cheaper than Flickr’s at $20. TechCrunch describes Zooomr as “Flickr on steroids” in a blog article last March.

If you want to get a free pro account, here’s the instruction from the Zooomr blog:

“All we ask is that you host at least one of your images from Zooomr at your blog. This is easy. Sign up for an account. Upload an image. And then simply cut and paste the html code with the magnifying glass above your image and you’re all set. Once you’ve blogged one of your images paste the url into the comment section of this post and we’ll upgrade you to Pro.”

Personalize your free blog, website URL

If you’re using a free web or blog service like MySpace or Friendster, you’d have a long domain name like username. blogs. friendster.com /your blog name or www. MySpace.com/your username and some number.

This is fine when you’re just interacting in the Web, when all users have to do is click on a link to get to your blog. But when someone asks you for your blog address, can you just say it to him or her or do you have to write it down? Chances are, you’d need to write it down because of the length of the URL.

You can shorten your free blog or website URL by using redirection services. I’ve tried several redirection services in the past, when I was still using free website hosting. The problem with these services was that they’d put pop-up or pop-under ads or even a landing page. Enter URLdoctor.

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Mon.itor.us: an even more fantastic free web server monitor

A comment on my previous post on using Montastic and Site Uptime to monitor your web servers led me to mon.itor.us: a free web server monitor that I signed up to a few months back but quickly forgot because I encountered problems when I first used it.

I revisted my mon.itor.us account and boy is it turning out to be a great service. If you’re a website owner or a blogger running your blog in a web hosting account, you should use mon.itor.us to keep tabs of downtimes of your web servers. (click on photo to view larger image) mon.itor.us interface

In the few days since I re-activated my account, I found mon.itor.us better than Montastic and Site Uptimes free service combined. When I first used mon.itor.us, it was really slow and I wasnt getting any idea thats why I completely forgot about my beta account with the site. The site now loads faster and gives you a lot of data on the accessibility of the web servers you monitor.

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Site overlay available in Google Analytics

I did not spot this feature in Google Analytics before but you can check which areas of your site or blog are being clicked by readers by using the service’s Site Overlay feature. I never dug deeper into the statistics of Google Analytics before and most of the time I just view the executive summary (click here to view screenshot).

I don’t know when Google Analytics started offering this feature since its announcement does not have a date of publication but the screenshot linked above, which I took on March 19, already displays a link to Site Overlay.

Google Analytics Site OverlayAs I was viewing my stats the other day while adding a new site profile, I got curious on what Site Overlay was and clicked on it. The feature, it turned out, tracks which parts of your site your readers are clicking on (click on photo to view larger image).

I had been solely using Crazy Egg to monitor my blog’s interface elements and the data it gathered were the bases for my decision to use this theme and take out the clutter from my blog design. Knowing where your readers click is very helpful in making design decisions. It tells you which elements or menu items aren’t working.

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FEAC2006: technical notes

Since last year, I have been actively moving files that I need to access anywhere online, in an experiment to “make the network my computer.” This served me well during the recent Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference in Manila.

The greatest benefit is that the files I needed for things I was working on was accessible whichever computer I was using. I host all my files with Box.net, the best online drive I’ve tried so far. Streamload is a close second and I use it for backup.

I used one of the newsroom’s laptops in the conference and it was a plain vanilla installation. In a few steps, however, I turned it’s Firefox into the browser that I use at home and at the office. When I used one of the laptops set up by the organizers at the conference hall, I was also able to turn it into my familiar Firefox installation (after they installed Firefox): with the same bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar. I did this using Foxmarks, a Firefox bookmarks synchronizer. Foxmarks synchronizes all your bookmarks into a central server, so you essentially have the same set of bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar for each browser that uses your account.

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CEGP seminar: putting campus newspapers online

Among the things that I’m really passionate about is encouraging student publications to go online. Not only is online publication cheaper than dead-tree publishing, it’s also very easy to pull off right now because of the existence of easy-to-use content management systems.

Online campus journalism also allows student publications to go beyond the one-issue-every-few-months-or-so publication cycle typical of campus papers.

I discussed online journalism with members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines yesterday and I was a bit surprised that in a group of 20 plus participants, only two have blogs. I had expected more bloggers in the group, in fact I assumed more than half would have blogs.


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WordPress.com opens signups to everyone

Anyone can now sign up for a free WordPress.com hosted blog. Previously, you either had to have an invitation or download and use the Flock browser.

WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg said they opened the invitations because “the service has been scaling very well.”

If you’re still looking for a free hosted service for your blog, WordPress.com would be a good choice. It may not offer much design customization yet but it makes up for this with its great blog administration capabilities and interface.