Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Blogger: delinking backlinks from comments






Blogger Buzz have just announced a couple of changes to the Create Post page on Blogger:
  • There's now a little "Post and Comment Options" line just underneath the box for your post text, which you can toggle (click it to show the comment and posting options plus date/time setting (and, if you've got the "Keep current time on posts" Greasemonkey script, the box for that too); click it again to hide them).
  • Comments and backlinks can now be turned on and off separately - you can allow comments but not backlinks on a particular post, or backlinks but not comments, or allow or disallow both, independently.
(Previously I'd blogged about how to include on your blog not just Google Backlinks to display Google Blog Search results for your post, but also search results from Technorati Cosmos, Icerocket Link Tracker, plus links to your blog on Bloglines and Blogpulse - these new tweaks don't change that, you can still automatically display links to other posts commenting on your post found via all those different search engines).


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Can't view blog? Delicious Playtagger script problem






([Edited 2 December:] The whole Delicious site had been down, it's all working again so I've now reinstated the script.)

Have you just found that you can't open any of your blog pages? Last night and this morning my blog wouldn't load - neither the main page nor any other pages.

Through status bar watching and trial and error I found out that the culprit was the Delicous Playtagger script which I've blogged about before. I guess Del.icio.us must be having problems with their servers, maybe due to huge demand for that script, who knows.

So if you added the Delicious script previously and now your blog isn't loading (or your webpages aren't loading), try removing the script from your template and republishing, and see if it starts working again. I'll wait a while before trying to add the script back.


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Saturday, 26 November 2005

Playing MP3s on your blog: beginners' introduction






(Updated for Delicious's change of location for their Playtagger images.)

Here's a very basic step by step guide for beginners to blogging, in response to the questions by Athen and others on my post on Delicious's Playtagger:

How to set up your blog to use Delicious's Playtagger

1. In your blog template or web page, just before it says "</head>" (e.g. in the line before that bit), insert the following code, which you can copy and paste, then publish or republish your template:
If you use Blogger/Blogspot, from your dashboard after you login click the name of the blog then Template, and look for the "</head>" line in the big box, paste the code below just above that line, click Save Template Changes then Republish.
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://del.icio.us/js/playtagger"></script>
So your template would now read, in the relevant section:
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://del.icio.us/js/playtagger"></script>
</head>
1a. Icon alignment (Added 6 February 2006 and edited on 21 and 22 February 2006) Is the Playtagger icon not aligned properly? (It may appear to be a bit higher than the line the MP3 link is on, as in this example post). If so, it's probably to do with the CSS code for images in your blog template (padding, borders etc). To fix that, there are two options (the second of which I'll cover below). (Ideally if Delicious were to give their icon a class to reference it by, that would be the best solution as you wouldn't need the second step, but until they do so, this seems the best way.)

First way: insert this extra code into your template in the line just before the "</style>" line in your blog template:

.mp3 img {
margin:0;
padding:0;
vertical-align:baseline;
border:0;
}

1b. (Added 21 February 2006). Alternatively, or in addition to 1a if you've already implemented 1a, do these two things to line up the icon properly even for MP3 links in your old posts:

First, copy and paste the following into the head section of your template or web page, between the <head> and </head> lines e.g. just before the </head> bit:

<style>
img.mp3 {
margin:0;
padding:0;
vertical-align:baseline;
border:0;
}
</style>

Second, in your head section, just before the </head> line, copy and paste the following Magical Sheep modified Javascript code (yes, it's long, but it's just copy and paste) INSTEAD OF the one line of code in step 1 above (i.e. you should delete the code mentioned in step 1 if you'd previously inserted it)

either
this code (example post using this method) (updated 7 May 2006):
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://improbulus.googlepages.com/playtagger_magicalsheepmod.js"></script>
or
this code (here's an example post):
<script type="text/javascript">
if(typeof(Delicious) == 'undefined') Delicious = {}
Delicious.Mp3 = {
playimg: null,
player: null,
go: function() {
var all = document.getElementsByTagName('a')
for (var i = 0, o; o = all[i]; i++) {
if(o.href.match(/\.mp3$/i)) {
var img = document.createElement('img')
img.src = 'http://static.delicious.com/img/play.gif'; img.title = 'listen'
img.height = img.width = 12
img.style.marginRight = '0.5em'
img.className = 'mp3';
img.style.cursor = 'pointer'
img.onclick = Delicious.Mp3.makeToggle(img, o.href )
o.parentNode.insertBefore(img, o)
}}},
toggle: function(img, url) {
if (Delicious.Mp3.playimg == img) Delicious.Mp3.destroy()
else {
if (Delicious.Mp3.playimg ) Delicious.Mp3.destroy()
var a = img.nextSibling, c=''
if (document.defaultView && document.defaultView.getComputedStyle) c = document.defaultView.getComputedStyle(a,null).getPropertyValue('color')
else if (a.currentStyle) c = a.currentStyle['color']
c = c.replace(/^rgb|[ ()]/g, '')
var hex = c.match(/^#?([a-f0-9]{6})$/), hexSm = c.match(/^#?([a-f0-9]{3})$/), rgb = c.match (/^([0-9]+),([0-9]+),([0-9]+)$/)
if (rgb) { var c16 = "0123456789abcdef", c=''; for(var i=1,d;d=rgb[i];i++) { var j=d%16; c=c+c16.charAt((d-j)/16)+c16.charAt(j) } }
else if (hex) c = hex[1]
else if (hexSm) c = hexSm[1].charAt(0) + hexSm[1].charAt(0) + hexSm[1].charAt(1) + hexSm[1].charAt(1) + hexSm[1].charAt(2) + hexSm[1].charAt(2)
else c = "000000"
img.src = 'http://static.delicious.com/img/stop.gif'; Delicious.Mp3.playimg = img;
Delicious.Mp3.player = document.createElement('span')
Delicious.Mp3.player.innerHTML = '<object style="vertical-align:bottom;margin-right:0.2em" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000"' +
'codebase=" http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,0,0 <http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,0,0> "' +
'width="100" height="14" id="player" align="middle">' +
'<param name="wmode" value="transparent" />' +
'<param name="allowScriptAccess" value="sameDomain" />' +
'<param name="flashVars" value="theLink='+url+'&amp;fontColor='+c+'" />' +
'<param name="movie" value="http://del.icio.us/static/swf/playtagger.swf" /><param name="quality" value="high" />' +
'<embed style="vertical-align:bottom;margin-right:0.2em" src="http://del.icio.us/static/swf/playtagger.swf" flashVars="theLink='+url+'&amp;fontColor='+c+'"'+
'quality="high" wmode="transparent" width="100" height="14" name="player"' +
'align="middle" allowScriptAccess="sameDomain" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"' +
' pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" /></object>'
img.parentNode.insertBefore(Delicious.Mp3.player , img.nextSibling)
}},
destroy: function() {
Delicious.Mp3.playimg.src = 'http://static.delicious.com/img/play.gif'; Delicious.Mp3.playimg = null
Delicious.Mp3.player.removeChild(Delicious.Mp3.player.firstChild); Delicious.Mp3.player.parentNode.removeChild(Delicious.Mp3.player); Delicious.Mp3.player = null
},
makeToggle: function(img, url) { return function(){ Delicious.Mp3.toggle(img, url) }} }

Delicious.addLoadEvent = function(f) { var old = window.onload
if (typeof old != 'function') window.onload = f
else { window.onload = function() { old(); f() }} }

Delicious.addLoadEvent(Delicious.Mp3.go)
</script>
The first 1b method just involves adding one line rather than a whole bunch of code - it's the same code as the full code above, but instead of your having to paste the whole thing into your template, you can effectively just link to the script which is located externally using just one line of code (I uploaded the script to a free file hosting provider). But note that if the external host goes down or is slow, that will affect your page and MP3s and it might not work at all. The second 1b method above (putting the whole long code into your template) eliminates dependence on the file host, but your template is a bit longer.... it's your choice.

1b at first sight seems a bit more cumbersome than 1a, but in fact it saves manually adding those spans to new MP3 links (see 4a below) and also fixes the alignment of old links, so it's a better solution than 1a and 4a, I think - unless of course Delicious go and change their original Javascript or the way Playtagger works! In which case, just to warn you, 1b may stop working, so in some ways 1a and 4a may be safer.

1c. Changing the Playtagger icons. If you don't like the look of the Play and Stop icons provided by Delicious, you can use your own icons. First, make your icons - one for Play and one for Stop - and upload them somewhere, e.g. your Blogger photo/pics space. Make sure you note down the URL of each one. Then insert in your template the long version of the code given at 1b above, but now you need to edit the two bits I've put in red. In that code, delete http://static.delicious.com/img/play.gif and insert in its place the URL of the icon for the Play control that you uploaded earlier. But make sure you do NOT delete the quote marks ', leave them well alone. Then, delete http://static.delicious.com/img/stop.gif and insert instead the URL of the icon you want to use for the Stop control. Save your template and republish, and that's it.

How to play MP3 files on your blog post or webpage

2. Is the MP3 file already on the Web? If yes, note down or copy its URL i.e. Web address - e.g. for Cory Doctorow's Copyfighters London August 2005 speeches the URL for the first speech is
http://www.archive.org/download/Copyfighters_London_23_August_2005_Speakers_Corner__Cory_Doctorow/cory.mp3
- and go to step 4. If no, go to step 3.

3. The MP3 you want to play must already be on the Web and the Delicious script needs to know the permanent URL of the MP3. If your ISP lets you use your free webspace to store MP3s, you can upload your file there. If not, find a hosting provider which allows it. I personally use Ourmedia.org (which promises "free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches." ). For those who want to use Ourmedia (and it's not the easiest in the world due to a trap I'll tell you about), I have written a separate post on how to store the MP3s and other media files you've created on Ourmedia. So, note down the URL of the MP3 from wherever you've uploaded it.
Keep it legal, folks! Hosting providers almost always (if they don't ban MP3 hosting outright) only allow LEGAL MP3s - e.g. of your own music that you've written/recorded, speeches that you've made/recorded, and the like. Not only that, but if you upload illegal MP3s you may get into trouble. Heck, even if you just link to illegal content, you may get done. Yes, I know the law hasn't kept up with progress in technology and changes in society, but it's still the law, so best not risk it in my view. If you include a playable link on your blog or webpage to an MP3 that you know is illegal, that's pretty blatant (and not the smartest thing to do on a blog that's clearly yours), and it would be easy for the powers that be to track you down and fine you or worse. Also, if you've recorded someone else speaking or singing etc, it's best get their permission before you make the recording available to the world and her husband on the Net.

4. To add an MP3 file to make it playable on your blog or web page, once you've added the Delicious Playtagger script to your template or webpage as per step 1 and noted the URL of the MP3 as per step 2, all you have to do in your blog post or webpage is to put in a link to the MP3 file, just like you insert a link to a webpage. For example Cory Doctorow's London Copyfighters kickoff speech on 21 August 2005 is at
http://www.archive.org/download/Copyfighters_London_23_August_2005_Speakers_Corner__Cory_Doctorow/cory.mp3
(if you want to see some pics and hear the other speeches from that day they're here). So all I do is insert this on my blog post:
<a href="http://www.archive.org/download/Copyfighters_London_23_August_2005_Speakers_Corner__Cory_Doctorow/cory.mp3">Cory's speech</a>
and I will get this playable link displayed:
Cory's speech
In Blogger you can get the same result by typing the link text (e.g. "Cory's speech"), highlighting it, pressing Ctrl-shift-a or clicking the link button, and entering or pasting the URL into the box popup box)

To download the MP3 file or play it in your regular MP3 player rather than via Playtagger, just rightclick the link text ("Cory's speech", in the above example) and Save or leftclick it rather than use the right arrow icon. That's it!

4a. [Added 6 February 2006:] If the Playtagger icon isn't aligned properly, as mentioned in 1a above, to fix it one method is as per 1b above. Then, whenever you include an MP3 link in your blog posts, you need to insert <span class="mp3"> just before the link (NB it's case-sensitive so it has to be lowercase "mp3" if you've inserted the code in 1a), and </span> just after it. So the code for your link would look something like this (though the span bit won't display):
<span class="mp3"><a href="http://www.example.com/yourmp3.mp3">Name of MP3</a></span>

You have to remember to do that for every MP3 link, including in your old posts, or the alignment of the Playtagger icon for that link won't be changed - it's not enough just to insert the code in 1a, you have to wrap your MP3 links in those span tags too.

[Added 21 February 2006:] Alternatively, if you prefer, try first adding the extra code to your template as set out in 1a. Then you don't have to add the span tags to anything and the icons will be neatly aligned even for old posts. But just to repeat, 1b may seem a bit more cumbersome, having to add longer code, but it saves having to manually add those spans to new MP3 links and also fixes the alignment of old links, so it's the better solution I think - unless of course Delicious go and change their original Javascript or the way Playtagger works! In which case, just to warn you, 1b may stop working, so 1a and 4a may be safer in some ways.

Thanks to CSS Caesar Kirk (yet again) for both solutions.

5. Want to attach the MP3 link to an image? This will make the Del.icio.us play icon show just before or just above the picture. To do this, you can just "bookend" the usual image link <img src="imageurl" /> between the MP3 link tags in the usual way, like this (I've put in bold the bits you'd add in, and "linktoMP3file.mp3" is obviously the URL of your MP3 file):
<a href="linktoMP3file.mp3"><img src="imageurl" /></a>
If you use Blogger and have uploaded your pics to Blogspot via Blogger, it looks trickier, but it's not. The code for the photo or pic is going to look something like this:
<a  onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/2472/807/1600/Image%2833%29.0.jpg"><img style="display:block; margin:0px auto 10px; text-align:center;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" src="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/2472/807/320/Image%2833%29.0.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></a>
Just stick the <a href="linktoMP3file.mp3"> before that code (or before the image, in Compose view), and the </a> bit just after that code (or just after the pic, in Compose view), and it'll work just the same.
You don't even need to have text or an image between the "<a href=etc>" links to the MP3 file, the Del.icio.us Playtagger icon will still appear where you've inserted the link - if you really want to make people guess what on earth the audio file is! A title or description etc. of the file is kinder...

Podcasts

If you use Playtagger and have a Feedburner feed where you've turned on Smartcast, to answer Anon's question, it still works for podcasting, the script won't break it. Try my feed http://feeds.feedburner.com/ConsumingExperience and you'll see.

What next?

I am rather hoping that the nice folk at Delicious will twiddle with Playtagger so that it can play Ogg as well as MP3 files, and maybe even video files too. Wouldn't that be great? Give us an inch and...


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Molly Holzschlag: London Geek Dinner 24 November 2005 - report and podcast








The London geek dinner for web design icon Molly Holzschlag, which I'd posted about before, was very well attended. Molly's blogged about it, and so has Ian Forrester, engineer not just of software but also of these events (yeah yeah, feeble I know).

I don't know if anyone else managed to get a better quality recording of her speech, but with the high ambient noise level and the fact that my recorder (my trusty Nokia 7710 smartphone/PDA) was about 5 feet away from Molly, it was a miracle that it ended up halfway intelligible.

So here's the (only just about comprehensible, sorry) Creative Commons-licensed MP3 of the speech by Molly and her partner Andy Clarke (I edited out a preamble plus the Q&A both for inaudibility, length plus there some bits which I felt they wouldn't want public):
(playable and taggable right from this blog courtesy of the cool Delicious Playtagger script)
Geekery: my 7710 records in the .AMR format commonly used for mobile phones, which I converted to WAV using Miksoft's free mobile AMR converter and then edited down. I did try to enhance the quality using Audacity before exporting it to MP3, but couldn't get it any better than the original - I'm no audio tweaking expert, any offers to do better or suggestions as to how to clean it up properly would be gratefully received). The pics posted here were also taken with my 7710 - no conversion needed.


The noise wasn't all from the other parts of the pub. I do wish people who go to dinners like these would just shut up for a few minutes while the guest gives the talk - if they want to chat over the speech then why bother attending, they could do that in some other pub and let the rest of us hear what the speaker has to say in peace (yes yes I plead guilty to having talked during other speeches before, myself. But quiet comments are not the same as loud chatter that threatens to drown out the speech or forces the speaker to raise the voice in order to be heard at all). </grump>

As Ian noted in his blog post, I've offered to bring in paraphernalia next time to help with audibility (translation: if you can't beat em, deafen em back) - though mini PA system is too grand a name for it. I've just got a cheapo Shure mike and tiny mains-powered Tascam guitar amp which can take a mic line in (and no I don't really play anymore and I was never much good anyway, though I still won't part with my Strat!).

And this is the inimitable Ian:


As Ian mentioned in his blog, we had a good chat about privacy and anonymity. While I don't think I say anything too controversial, and I never blog about my job, I just feel more able to speak freely if what I say clearly can't be blamed on anyone else but me! Plus, I don't really blog about myself, no personally identifiable information as they say - it's safer to be anonymous, on the stalker front (and I'm ugly as sin and ancient to boot, so really boys I'm not worth your time anyway).


Molly was delightful and great fun, though I didn't get to talk with her much as there was understandably quite a queue of people wanting to meet her. It was nice to see again some people from the last geek girl dinner, namely THE people who were going to these dinner seven before they were trendy (yep apparently they're trendy now), Deidre (who does EVERYthing, OK OK!) and Rachel. And I managed to meet a few other people too so, nicking the photo links from Flickr:
  • Dave "Fat Businessman" Thompson the Cambridge coder and his sister Elly, mild mannered architect by day, and yep you guessed it, web designer by night
  • Chris, yep another web designer
  • Laurent, still getting over not being Canadian
  • Barry, Microsoft technologies bloke and Thigh High Boots fan (though not the wearing of by himself personally, you understand, at least I don't think so...), I won't speculate as to whether the two might by any chance be related!
  • Dave ("NOT David!") the cucumber (or is that an aubergine?) Knell, and Java developer and shopaholic Marina (never did ask, but it's Italy I presume?), both of telecomms/premium rate outfit Coulomb
  • Sheila the librarian, who's got exactly the right idea about tags and taxonomies as far as I'm concerned, look at Delicious introducing tag bundles eh (sorry Ian.. maybe I'm a bit of a librarian at heart. Which is, of course, being geeky, not nerdy)
  • very briefly, Brightonians Jessica and Jeremy, and a few others whose names I didn't manage to get, sorry!
I gather Molly is back in London in February 2006 so hopefully there'll be another geek dinner then. It should be well worth going to. And if you think you're geeky, then you're geeky enough to attend!


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Ourmedia: free hosting for your MP3s and other audio, video and images






As promised in response to comments on my Delicious Playtagger post, this is a "howto" introductory guide to Ourmedia.org (which promises "free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches." ). Note though that's it's still in alpha, i.e. not quite ready for prime time yet, so it can be a bit slow - and that there are in fact some "catches", which I'll cover below. (I should also say that it's not the only option if you want to upload video files - for example there's Google Video, of course; and see the list on the Creative Commons site of places to publish your music. But I like Ourmedia for audio like speeches.)

How to sign up to for file storage on Ourmedia

The sign up process is unfortunately much trickier than it should be. There is a big fat trap which the Ourmedia "How to register page" doesn't explain (though it should - if anyone knows the webmaster there please ask 'em to!).

1. You must register for an account at the Internet Archive (that's right, the Internet Archive, NOT Ourmedia) by entering your desired screen name, email and password - but my top tip is that you DON'T do it until you've read the rest of this paragraph, or you may be sorry. Now here's the trap: you MUST enter a SHORT email address to register, or you won't be able to upload files to Ourmedia (so a Spamgourmet address won't do, and probably neither will a Gmail alias).

I don't know how long is too long, I had to use my regular Gmail address in the end; I wish Internet Archive/Ourmedia would tell us, ideally on the Ourmedia registration page, that you have to register at the Internet Archive first with a short email (and how long is too long) if you want to be able to upload files - else people could waste time registering at Ourmedia first. It may seem to work if you use too long an email, but then you'll fall flat on your face at the next stage, as I did.

2. Next, go to Ourmedia and at the top right, login using as your username the email address you registered with the Internet Archive (NOT your screen name there), and with the same password as you registered with the Internet Archive. You can then click the Edit tab to change your Ourmedia username from your Internet Archive-registered email address to something easier, if you wish, though it doesn't have to be the same as your Internet Archive screen name (and when saved that will then enable you to login under the new username in future). The username when logging in doesn't seem to be case sensitive on Ourmedia but best play it safe. But do NOT under any circumstances try to change your email address in the Edit tab to anything other than the short email address you registered with the Internet Archive, or you won't be able to upload any files.

The catches

Not so much catches as conditions, perhaps. Ourmedia is meant to help creative people store and let others see or play their work, as their FAQ says: "People who create video, music, photos, audio clips and other personal media can store their stuff for free on Ourmedia's servers forever, as long as they're willing to share their works with a global audience."

So, you can only use Ourmedia to store files to which you own the rights, e.g. photos or videos you've taken, music you've written/recorded, or which others have released under a Creative Commons licence. They only allow you to store legal MP3s/videos etc, not copyright or commercial material. Yes, some well known commercial artists have made their music/songs available free on Ourmedia, like David Byrne and the Beastie Boys, but that's only because they're cool and trendy and up with the times (hint hint to other commercial artists!) and have voluntarily decided to release some of their works in such a way that others can legally distribute and even remix them, etc, for free.

Oh, and no porn as well as no material which infringes others' rights; but otherwise they're quite laissez faire about it.

Also, obviously given the purpose of Ourmedia you can only store files that you're willing for others to access for personal use only, for free. (If someone else then tried to exploit it commercially e.g. by selling CDs of your music, that would not be allowed unless you gave permission - the Creative Commons licence tries to protect you from that sort of thing.) If you don't want people to be able to play your music etc. free even for personal use, then you can't use Ourmedia. The CC aim is more fame and sharing than gain, though that of course may come with the fame - the CC blog often includes some good stories of how some people have had commercial offers after they publicised their work and gained a fan base via Creative Commons licensing of their work (e.g. allowing others to remix).

Uploading your MP3s or video

Now you're all signed up and know what you can or can't upload, you can proceed to store your legal audio, video or images etc on Ourmedia.

Sign in to Ourmedia as mentioned above. Click the "publish my media" link under "MY CONTROLS" on the left, then click the media type like Audio (or Video, or whatever).

It's mostly pretty self-explanatory. Give it a title (which will be the title of the page the media file e.g. sound clip will appear on). Click Browse to find the file on your hard drive, and pick the type of file (e.g. speech). Keywords are tags, you can add your own for searching, one per line (multiple words are fine).

The Basic Details bit at the bottom of the page has to be filled in. This is the bit where you set the permissions to your uploaded work. I am only going to mention the Creative Commons licence, as it may not be familiar to all (I don't use the others listed in the dropdown, myself). There are helpful explanations of the CC licence on the CC site, just click the "more info" button against each option.

Most of us probably don't want to allow commercial uses of our work (unless we get paid for it or at least a cut!) but some might be OK to let other people modify, remix or change their work (but still crediting the original creator). Choosing the jurisdiction isn't necessarily straightforward, I don't think, given the international nature of the Web, so I just go for generic myself, but that doesn't mean generic is right for you - you may need to take legal advice if you don't know or aren't sure. Copyright holder is generally you if you wrote the music or took the video. I've never got the Accompanying photo to show up on the page, so don't bother trying to upload one anymore (if anyone has, let me know how!). And date/year created is obvious.

Now once you've filled all that in you can hit Submit to upload the file. (You can preview it but it takes forever even with my 2MB broadband connection so I don't). After a while the page for your file will come up, with a player and controls to play it (if it's MP3 - sadly they haven't introduced a player for Ogg files yet). Right underneath the play controls box is a bit that says "This media's URL: Link". Obviously you can right click on the word "Link" and copy the link, as that will be the URL of your uploaded MP3 (or whatever).

You can then insert that link into your blog post or webpage to make it playable via Playtagger (step by step instructions are in my separate beginners' guide to Playtagger).

Feeds

One neat thing is that people can subscribe to a feed of your media file uploads on Ourmedia. My feed URL there for instance is http://www.ourmedia.org/mediarss/user/36276 (so anyone who wishes is welcome to subscribe - I post my pics on Blogger, but all my audio and (in future video) files there.


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Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Technorati Mini: automatic searches every minute






Technorati blog have announced a new Technorati search feature, the Technorati Mini.

Do a search on Mini and you get a new little (mini, geddit?) popup window with the search results, which refreshes every 60 seconds. (Bloggers who like ego tools could search for their blog URL, for instance.) You can search again and get another popup showing the results of the new search, and get yerself a real blizzard of popups if you really want to. But if you have a popup blocker you may need to tweak it, obviously, or Mini might not work.

Technorati must have really beefed up their servers, to be able to cope with being zapped every minute by who knows how many zillions of searches there will be. This is a good way for them to show off!

I notice that Steve Rubel has quick off the markedly whipped up a trick to move that popup to your Firefox sidebar so the real diehards can have that persistent blog search permanently there. No doubt Technorati will have anticipated something like this, which will certainly increase the load on their servers even more, as people aren't going to have to do much then to keep those persistent blog searches going.

It will be interesting to see how they cope. Show offs, I say again! :D

[Edited 17 December:] Now you can have tag searches in Mini - see this post.


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Make MP3s playable from your blog or web page






Those lovely people from Del.icio.us have made available a single line of script for their Play Tagger, which you can add to your template between your head tags, and which makes all MP3 links easily playable direct from your page without more. They had previously enabled this just on Delicious's site, but now we can all use it on our blogs or sites.

Links to MP3 files on your blog page will now look like this:


and obviously once you've clicked the right arrow to play, you can stop it by clicking the red stop square:


The code to add to your template between the <head> and </head>tags is just this:
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://del.icio.us/js/playtagger"></script>

[Added 26 November:] If you're a relative beginner and haven't a clue what that meant, I've now done a basic step by step howto which hopefully will help - if you have any other questions after that, just let me know!

What's more, as you can see, once you've started playing an MP3 the script automatically adds a "tag this" link so people can easily post and tag the MP3 to Delicious if they like what they hear. Clicking this link takes your vistor to their delicious login page, and once they login it's pre-filled in with the URL of the MP3 and - very clever this - the Description is also filled in with info from the MP3 metadata like singer, album and trackname!


Try it out on my Copyfighters London August 2005 speeches page (which I've now edited to remove the embedded player - much faster loading, and I don't need it now I've got Playtagger). The alignment of the play arrow seems a bit odd as you can see from my screenshots and page, but who cares, this is great!

Via Delicious blog. (But what's wrong with ClickNipples for a name, I ask?! TagNipples even??)


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Monday, 21 November 2005

Free download of TV programmes - c'mon BBC!






UPDATE: free download of BBC TV programmes, for a limited period after initial broadcast, should be with us in May or June 2007 via the new BBC iPlayer - with UK-based computers, anyway. See this post (UPDATE: on how to sign up for the open public trials, which launched on 27 July 2007, and to see screenshots etc and a video, now go to this post).

AOL and Warner are going to launch In2TV in January 2006, through which classic TV programs (TV shows like Welcome Back Kotter) will be available for free download, whichever episode you like, with ads to generate revenue - so let's hope the BBC will give us access to their classic TV series archive too. Without a 7 day cut-off! (as to which see my post on the BBC's iMP (or MyBBCPlayer) trial of software allowing free downloading of TV programmes).

Washington Post story, via IPPR IP blog.


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Link popularity checks for your blog






Bloggers are always interested in "Who links to me". Link popularity checkers show how many other sites the main search engines say link to your blog, with links to view the search results listing those sites. Some tools even show how popular your blog is (judged by links to you) compared with major Websites, and with some you can, if you really want to, compare your blog's link popularity with your friends' blogs', or indeed any other particular sites you choose.

This post reviews a few free link popularity check tools, and also there are forms to try checking your own blog's link popularity (which you can include on your own blog by adding the code to your template). Just scroll to the end if you're impatient to try the tools out! And feel free to bookmark this post if you want to get to those tools in one place quickly in the future.
(I've previously blogged about a few other tools to find out who links to you, e.g. backlinks via Blog Search, Technorati cosmos, Icerocket, etc, or who's bookmarked your posts on Delicious - and I'll be blogging about more.)

The free link popularity check tools I thought I'd look at are:
(yes, they've all got highly original names, eh?).

They all do the same thing - run searches against your blog URL on major search engines (though they don't all use the same search engines). But then they display the results in different ways. You could do those searches manually yourself, but these tools automate the process, running several searches at once and bringing the results back to you in one place, and, as I mentioned, even providing comparisons against other blogs or sites.

Link Popularity Check download

Link Popularity Check is the simplest and most basic, but pretty fast, and great for what it is. Once you download it you can just run it (make sure you're connected to the Net first and let LPC.exe through your firewall), you don't even have to install it. You get a popup window offering downloading of a trial of a more advanced version but if you're happy with this one just click Close Window.

Obviously you have to be connected to the Net before you run the searches. Click Add, enter your blog URL, make sure the line with that URL is highlighted and click Update Selected to run the searches. Then you'll get a list of the number of links to your site found via AllTheWeb, Altavista, Google & Hotbot combined, MSN, Teoma and Yahoo. It also automatically lists other websites and if you highlight them before you click Update Selected (or if you click Update All) it will search against those sites too, should you really feel the masochistic urge to compare your blog's link popularity with that of Amazon or the US Treasury, and then position your site in the results list according to your ranking.

There's info on what sort of link searches are run in their online instructions/help page and you can even export the results as a text file. Here's what my results look like - you'll see from the colour-coded key that, compared with Slashdot etc, my blog is not a major player, but at least I'm on my way…!

Uptimebot

Uptimebot's Link Popularity Check (which is an online service rather than a downloadable program) gives you more detailed results. For each major search engine (Google, Yahoo, MSN, AllTheWeb, Altavista, Hotbot, Teoma, Lycos, AOL, Alexa), it tries to show you the number of other webpages pointing (1) to your homepage and (2) (except in the case of Google) to any page on your site; the number of pages on your site/blog indexed by that search engine; and the number of mentions of your URL found by that search engine (slightly different things are shown for Alexa, such as your blog's Alexa Rating and average page loading time).

There is a helpful table below the results, explaining what each of those numbers means. You can click on a particular number (or even a red X - there are sometimes rather too many of those) to run a particular search engine search in a new window and see the exact list of search results. Here's a screenshot:


However I've noticed some peculiarities with this service, so I would take their results with a pinch of salt.

Often it won't return results from a particular search engine (the dreaded red X, see below), and from one minute to the next if you try the service again you may get a red X in different places - if you click a red X though, it will do the search successfully direct on the appropriate search engine, in a new window, so I suspect Uptimebot are just having problems with displaying the results properly, rather than that there was a "search engine error"!

Plus there are oddities in the results. For instance, when I clicked the link for the Yahoo "link:" search, I got a certain number of search results. If I clicked Search again in the new Yahoo window the number of results reduced and the results shown changed, at least for my blog URL. I never got this when I searched direct in Yahoo, the number of results stayed exactly the same each time (as you'd expect if you do the same search again immediately).

Finally, I've had occasions where the number of links to my main page, as shown by Uptimebot, is supposedly MORE than the number of links to ALL parts of my blog put together (on Yahoo and Altavista, the last time this happened). That surely can't be right…

Marketleap's Link Popularity Check

Marketleap's Link Popularity Check is the most sophisticated, in many ways. It uses a different and, admittedly, narrower selection of search engines: Google and AOL grouped together (who knows why), Hotbot, MSN and Yahoo/FAST/Altavista lumped together. But when you first use this tool, you can optionally enter the URLs of up to three other blogs or sites to compare your results against (you don't have to - if you don't, it'll just run the search against well known sites in the relevant industry, on which more later). And you can also optionally choose a sector to see how your blog ranks in that sector, again more on that below. Here's a screenshot:


As you can see, as well as returning results from the search engines mentioned (with clickable links to run those searches direct in a new window), this service automatically compares your results with those relating to other sites.

The clever thing is this. See the "Current Benchmark" dropdown near the top on the left? That lets you choose an industry or sector, like Books, Computers, Consulting, Entertainment, Government and Politics, Internet, Law etc. (If you don't choose one then it will be General). Depending on which sector you pick, Marketleap will show you how your blog compares with well known sites in that sector, as you can see from the screenshot (General in that case). And from the results page, if you choose another sector from the dropdown, it will redo the search to show your position in the new sector without your having to enter anything else.

There's colour coding to show your relative position again, e.g. my blog has an above average presence in sectors like General, Computers and Internet, but sadly I'm not a Contender yet (although Coke are…)! You'll see too that it not only shows you generally how you stand, but your exact position relative to quite a few other named sites. As I mentioned before, if you put in the URLS of up to 3 other named sites when you first ran the search, it will show their results in the list too.

Another cool feature is the Trend/History Report tab: "Marketleap's Trend/History report gives you a view of how your website's link popularity has performed over time. If you've run your link popularity reports here in the past, sample data from every day you have run a report is already available." It can only compare the data from when you first used their service, so if this is of interest to you, the sooner you do your first search, the better. An excellent way to get people to keep going to their site. Here's mine:


And here in more detail is my trend chart over the hugely long period of two days since I've been trying this service out:


There's also a tool to view your Search Engine Saturation - the number of pages a given search engine has in its index for your website domain. Here's a screenshot (MSN must like me, it reports more pages than I have on my blog!!):


Also Marketleap have a Keyword Verification tool which checks to see if your site is in the top three pages of a search engine result for a specific keyword searched for. Here's mine for the keyword "Technorati":


So all in all, this one is the most fun of all the link popularity checking tools I've reviewed. I should add though that the results differed from tool to tool as you may have noticed, so you shouldn't take them exactly as they are - they are interesting for a broad overview, but it might not be a good idea to treat them as definitively authoritative (especially the Uptimebot service with its occasionally odd and erratic results).

Check your own blog's link popularity and add the code to your template

As promised, you can check your blog's link popularity on Uptimebot here:

LINK POPULARITY CHECK
Using the Link Popularity Check script you can revise detailed
statistics of backward links for one domain in the most popular directories and search engines.











And Marketleap:



Enter your URL here:

(www.yourdomain.com)
Optional comparison URL:

Your ACCESS CODE:

Please enter the ACCESS CODE here:

(Results collected LIVE from the Internet)



If you want to include the above forms on your own blog or site, note that they say you aren't allowed to change the code so unfortunately you wouldn't strictly be able to tweak them to fit in your sidebar, though obviously you can include them in the main body of a post like I have.

You may notice from the Marketleap results that if you put their code on your blog, the one area where you are allowed to tweak their code is to add a link to your logo or pic and site. Cool. So for example if you run their search using the form above, the results page shows my logo. (Their page with their code, linked to below, has instructions on how to change the code to add your info, so I won't go into that further).

[Added 22 November:] A gotcha for Blogger users - Blogger doesn't seem to like <script language="JavaScript" src="linktoascript"> tags and you may get an error saying "Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not allowed" if you try the Marketleap code. If it won't publish, just tick the box "Stop showing errors for this post" and it should then work.

Also note that there is an error in the Uptimebot code, you have to add an extra </table> just before (or just after) the existing occurrence of </table> in their code, or else your background colour will go weird (so I had to do that despite what they said about their code - hopefully they'll fix it soon).

[Added 22 November:] Finally, for Blogger users, if you have Convert line breaks on Yes (in your Dashboard Settings, Formatting tab), forms can sometimes look weird in your posts, with boxes in the wrong place etc, if you have tags starting on new lines, as is usually the case with the code given by Uptimebot, Marketleap and many other sites - you need to run the code all together in a row with nothing (or just spaces) between tags. If it's a pain to edit the code they've given, feel free to view source on my post and copy/paste my code.

Here are the links to the code:
Enjoy!

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Saturday, 19 November 2005

Google Sitemaps: how to verify Blogspot or other blogs?






How can you verify a Blogspot (Blogger) blog, or some other blog, on Google Sitemaps, if you can't upload files to the blog server? You can't, yet. There's the rub. So, I think we should all hassle Google until we can. Read on...

I've provided a howto before (with a shorter step by step summary on Google Sitemaps) on getting some of the benefits of Google Sitemaps (like being able to ping Google to reindex your blog when you update it), even if you find it hard to create a sitemap or can't upload anything to your blog's server. You just submit the URL of your site feed to Sitemaps (and all blog platforms worth their salt should provide a newsfeed for your blog).

But there are two main gotchas to that, which I've explained in my previous posts:
  • Your feed - ideally your feed should be as full as possible, with all the links in your post visible in your feed, especially links to other parts of your blog - and not be just a summary feed or extracts (so you would be well advised to tweak your Blogger feed settings to make sure the Blogger Atom feed is a full feed (a step by step is in my previous post under "Checking your feed"); give the URL of that Atom feed to Sitemaps; but use Feedburner to provide a summary feed to your subscribers (login to Feedburner, click the Optimize tab, then Summary Burner, fill in what you want and Activate it)). Reason: as Google say, "Generally, a syndication feed does not include all URLs, so if you want to use the feed to let Google know about all URLs in your site, you may need to adjust your feed settings. If your feed includes only recent URLs, Google can still use that information to find out about other pages on your site during its normal crawling process by following links inside pages in the feed." (yes, Google can still find other pages, but it's quicker and more efficient if their links are in your feed).
  • Verification - to verify your blog on Sitemaps, you have to upload to your blog server a special file created by Sitemaps. But with Blogspot and many other blogging platforms, you're not allowed to upload files to your blog server. So you can't upload a verification file to verify your blog with Sitemaps.

Verification

What's the point of "verifying" your blog anyway? Well, verification is not essential if you just want to ping Google to get them to crawl your new posts, but it's A Good Thing if you can have it because it lets you see more detailed Google stats and other info about your site. As Google say:

If your site is not verified...

You can view:

  • Sitemap details and errors
  • Indexing information about your site

If your site is verified...

You can view:

  • Sitemap details and errors
  • Indexing information about your site
  • Query stats about your site
  • Crawl stats about your site
  • Page analysis of your site
  • URLs from your site we were unable to crawl, and why we couldn't crawl them
Now here's the daft thing. Blogger is owned by Google, yes? Everyone knows that. And the Google Sitemaps blog even has a plug for Blogger (right hand side of the page, scroll down), with a "Start your own weblog" link and that familiar orangey Blogger button. However, with Blogger, if you use their own Blogspot servers to host your blog, instead of your own (which I think the majority of us do), you're not allowed to upload anything to their servers (except images, and even then they're not uploaded to any URL that bears any resemblance to your blog URL, not even a sub-directory). But - BUT - do Google tweak Sitemaps so that Blogspot users can upload some special image (say), or tweak Blogger so that Blogspot users are allowed to upload a verification html file or some other special file (text?) to a particular location on Blogspot, that enables Blogspot users to verify their blogs and get access to all those tasty stats? You know the answer to that question, don't you… joined up thinking on Google's part, NOT!
Yes, you can still get limited stats for an unverified blog (but you could get that without submitting a sitemap, anyway - I may as well post about that, watch out for one shortly). Yes, you can get far more detailed stats now via the free Google Analytics, which I'm currently testing and will review (with translations into non-marketing jargon!) when I have enough reports for a proper look and comparison with Statcounter. But that's not the point.

Lobby Google, bend their ear!

John of Freshblog posted specifically about this problem recently. All Blogspot bloggers, and bloggers on other platforms which don't allow access to their servers other than to post text and images, will I am sure share this view. So, let's do something about it. Let's bend Google's ear until it - well, not breaks, we should after all be peaceful and non-violent, but at least until they listen! The more bloggers who hassle Google about it, the more likely they are to fix this so they can shut us up. If you think that might work, here's what you could do:
If you use a blogging platform other than Blogger where you can't upload files to your server either, then start a campaign to lobby Google about your particular platform!

And hopefully if enough of us do this, they'll be more likely to do something about the verification problem for bloggers.


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Blogging by students: legal rights






The EFF have published a student bloggers' legal FAQ on the legal issues arising from student blogging (high school and middle school students mainly, but also with info for college students).

Interesting, but very much specific to US law and students at schools or colleges in the USA.

(Via Blogger Buzz)


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Creative Commons Song






Here is the Creative Commons Song, or purists might say Creative Commons Aria, which made its debut at Speakers' Corner (and even managed to shut up the hecklers, who were probably too busy holding their hands over their ears to say anything) - as mentioned in my Copyfighters London November 2005 post (strictly I guess it should be the "Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Song" but that doesn't have quite the same ring, somehow). This recording was made with a backing, unlike in the park - it's way too slow for my tastes or indeed my vocal cords (so you'll have to bear with that!), but it's the only backing I've got... And if you don't want to risk your eardrums then don't listen to it - you have been warned. So, in the tradition of Richard Stallman's Free Software Song:
Creative Commons Song MP3 - 2.4 MB
Creative Commons Song Ogg - 1.3 MB (there has to be an Ogg version, of course!).

And the lyrics -

Creative Commons Song
This is Creative Commons:
Something that you've created
Somebody else can copy
Spreading the word about you
You see, they're free to copy
But they must give you credit
And others then can copy
Giving you credit anew
And if they make some money so must you - you profit too! [Added 27 Nov: alternative line - "And they can make some money only if - you profit too" - see the comments!]
Isn't that fair, and how?
So get Creative now...

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.


(Both the recording and lyrics (or "libretto" if I want to be highbrow, heh heh) are, like everything else on my blog, copyright Improbulus but, of course, licensed under a Creative Commons licence, some rights reserved. Which, yes, means effectively that anyone can copy them for non-commercial purposes, and even remix it, as long as they credit me and link back to me, etc - see the licence for full details.)

[Added 27 November:] And thank you to "slightly paranoid Debian developer" Uwe Hermann, who kindly emailed me to say he'd posted about the song and even podcast it. Cheers Uwe! :)


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Gmail on Nokia 7710 or other mobile: GPRS money saving tip






If you access Gmail on your Nokia 7710 or other mobile phone using GPRS, as you know you get charged for the amount of data downloaded.

Now on the 7710, and I suspect other phones too, it checks for everything - including previously sent mail as well as inbox mail you've already read on your computer.

I use mobiles only to check my Gmail when out and about, mostly I check my Gmail on my computer at home or at work. So I only need my mobile to check for new mail that's come in since I last logged in to Gmail on my computer. No point paying to download mail I've already read.

A little tip or trick I use, which many others probably already do, is this. Before I log out of Gmail on my computer, especially if I know I'm going to be out, and might be getting Gmail while I'm on the move, I go to:
  • Settings
  • Forwarding and POP
  • Choose "Enable POP only for mail that arrives from now on"
  • Save Changes.
This will then restrict the email you download on your phone to only the email arriving (or sent) after you last chose that setting (as "from now on" obviously will be reset to the last time you do it). And I do this regularly, as often as I can remember to, before I go out.

I set my 7710 to download headers only anyway, so it's probably just pennies saved, but over time, with the amount of mail I get, it does add up, so it can't hurt.


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Free IP and other advice for writers, artists, designers etc






If you want free advice on intellectual property law, including contracts (and indeed even copies of sample contracts), try the Ownit Creative London Intellectual Property Advice Service, set up by various London colleges. (I don't know of any outside London except a free IP advice clinic in York.)

They have:
  • FAQs on IP generally (trade marks, patents, confidentiality, copyright, moral rights, designs) as well as on art, graphic design, fashion design, product design, film and television (nothing on music or for musicians, booo)
  • factsheets on copyright, patent, confidentiality, registered designs, Creative Commons and film and TV clearances
  • a glossary of IP terms.

Free IP law advice

If you register, which is free, you can ask for advice on any IP issue. Of course the advice will only relate to the position in the UK. If your query is one which needs legal advice you can have one free meeting (max 45 minutes) with a lawyer from Own It’s associated intellectual property law firms. (This service is only available if your operating profit is less than £75,000).

Free events

Also, registered members can go to their very useful sounding free events with advice and networking opportunities.

Free legal documents

Registered members who login have access to a huge range of free template legal documents for use in the creative industries and arts (though they make the point that you should consult a lawyer before using them as everyone's situation is different and the standard stuff in the documents may not suit your particular position).

There are contracts, licences, releases and waivers etc. for film and TV, artists, merchandising, multimedia (technology and software), music (yay), publishing, and a huge range of general and miscellaneous areas like trademarks, design rights, moral rights, confidentiality, patents, consultancy, even a stage designers agreement adaptable for lighting and costume designers! Also don't forget, this is for the UK only, the documents probably won't work in say the US except with a lot of tweaking.

Free business advice

For non-IP advice, e.g. on setting up business in the creative industries, finance, marketing etc, The Enterprise Centre for The Creative Arts will provide a one to one session with one of a range of specialist creative industry business advisors.

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