Sunday, March 30, 2008

Learning to Blog 3: Linking to Other Sites

My education in blogging continues with putting lists of links on my blog sites. One reason this is important is that I need to link all my sites together as I create them. Why should I isolate any of my websites from each other? Also, someone as opinionated as I am, or who wants to insert himself in the online world of their choice, should provide a list of suggested links, like a microportal in the sidebar.

I thought I would have to go through another big hassle to put my links in my blogs' sidebar, just like I did when I made my posts expandable. But, as it turns out, Blogger had already taken care of that. In the layout manager, just click "Add To Layout" on the sidebar and click "List of Links". Then name your link list and add your links, then save. Even better -- I was hoping I could do this -- you can add more than one link list, so that you can have multiple categories of links. That's all. No hassle, just a little investment in time. I don't know about other blogging platforms, but if they intend to be competitive in any way, they already have something similar.

Two more things I'll add to at least one of my blog sidebars is a slideshow and a list of things I like, books I'm reading, albums I'm listening to, things I recommend, and that kind of thing. But the next big challenge will be one of the obligatory blog elements: a blogroll.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Learning to Blog 2: Expandable Posts

[Note: Blogger now has its own native expandable post system. I talk about it in this post. The method I wrote about here is now obsolete.]

Many, if not most, blog readers don't like having to scroll down a long long post just to see the next entry. Some are even outraged. So I followed the directions in section 21 of Blogging in a Snap (here's author Julie C. Meloni's related blog) and learned how to make my posts expandable.

Now, this took quite a long time because I had to find exactly where I had to put the snippets of XML code in my blogs' templates. Blogger, unfortunately, doesn't let you post expandable entries by default. You have to find the code online (the link on the word "expandable" above gives the best directions), find exactly where to put them (the search feature in Firefox and Flock is invaluable here), and then type or paste in the code. It's almost as hard as getting certain things in Linux working right. But it'll save my readers a world of aggravation.

This is my lesson for today. But there's still so much more I have to learn...

[EDIT 12/28/2008: The link above to the web tutorial on creating expandable posts in Blogger points to a new site, since the URL has changed. I have changed the link accordingly.]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Learning to Blog

I've been on the Internet for over 10 years now, since I first went online back in 1994 on my local library's text-based terminals running the Lynx browser and the Pine email client. I printed up lots of websites, sent some email to friends, and subscribed to a few mailing lists. When I started connecting to the library's free ISP (defunct since 2001), I got into the habit of surfing a fairly narrow range of websites.

In other words, for most of my online life I was a lurker. I was always on the outside looking in.

I wanted to blog and do other such stuff. I wanted to be on the cutting edge of net culture. However, I've been poor most of my life, and poverty instilled in me a sense of resignation and hopelessness that worsened my tendency to procrastinate.

Well, now I have two blogs, and I'm going to add at least one more. However, there's a learning curve. No one can learn everything in the time it took for, say, Neo to learn kung fu in The Matrix. Even though I'm smart, I still have to learn something a piece at a time.

So don't be surprised to find that this site is fairly minimal to start with. It's incomplete and still under construction. For one thing, I haven't yet added the all-important blogroll, at the top of which will be my other blogs, followed by my favorite and suggested blogs and sites.

I'll get the hang of this thing yet...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Introduction

I should have started blogging years ago.

Sometime around 2000 or so, I found out about something called a "blog" which was the hot new thing on the Web. I'd been writing journals since 1985 and writing a series of "Project Notebooks" since 1992. Surely I should take to the blogosphere like the proverbial fish to water. But no. I was still strictly a lurker. Until this year, that is.

I realized that I'm past forty and not getting any younger. My life was already approximately half over, and I hadn't yet done anything in my life. I was still very much the professional slacker. This couldn't go on. I had been working on a comics series very halfheartedly since '92, the year I joined a Japanese animation club, but nothing came of it but a lot of procrastination and self-kicking.

In the spring of 2006, I discovered the perfect excuse to get off my passive butt and start writing some of the stories in my head. The book was called No Plot? No Problem!, and it introduced me to something called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The first time I tried writing a novel, I couldn't finish it. But I'm still working on last year's novel. NaNoWriMo has a sister contest called Script Frenzy; this year comics scripts are allowed, and that gave me e perfect excuse to start work on the comics project I've been working on since 1992. And so I'm getting ready to retire from the slacking business and become the writer/artist I've long wanted to be.

For the last couple years I've been writing notes in my Project Notebooks, and this quiet little voice (the voice of reason?) keeps telling me that I should have written it in a blog. It was only now, when my novel Bad Company and manga Spanner are on their way to being published, that I actually built up the nerve to create a blog of my own. A few, actually. I'm dedicating one strictly to my writing and art projects, and another will be more personal.

This blog, however, will be my soapbox, my venue for all the politically incorrect opinions that I've developed over the years. That's why I'm calling it (for now) "The Outside View" -- apparently a fairly common name for blogs, since I couldn't use any variation as my blog site name. I've always been an outsider, having grown up as a misfit (I was the weird kid in school). I'm usually on the outside looking in, so I'm likely to have a more objective view than someone who's inside whatever. I don't expect everybody to agree with me; nobody ever agrees with everybody. This is my view.

I should start off by stating my position. I'm mainly a left-wing libertarian, though I have some respect for certain socialist views. So I like freedom, and I don't like government. By the classic libertarian principle of "war is the health of the state", that means that of course I'm against the ever escalating series of wars that are bankrupting the US and dragging the world down with it. I've learned to think dialectically, so my conclusions may be strange even to some people who share my basic political outlook(s). I'm an odd combination of idealist and cynic, and one of those rare people who actually grow more radical as they get older. There's more to it, but that's the basics of it, whether people like it or not.

It's been a long time. But now I've stopped just lurking, and started putting my views out for the world to see. I'm now a blogger. I should have been one eight years ago.

When I put my other blogs up, I'll post the links here. [Update: My other blogs are now in the "Links to My Sites" on this blog's sidebar.]