Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Queen of the Night - or prince of the night?






Check this video out from Youtube! (You can play the video below using the controls under it, but for a bigger version of the video click this. To get to the Youtube page, with reader comments etc, click on the pic itself.)



What an amazing rendition of the famous (and famously difficult) soprano coloratura aria from Mozart's opera The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) - the Queen of the Night aria (Der Holle Rache Kocht In Meinen Herzen).

According to a comment on that page, the lad was only 13 when he sang that in mid-2005, too.

By the way if you want to show the video on your own blog, the code given by Youtube doesn't work, at least on Blogger - you need to use this code instead, just copy and paste it where you want the video to appear (I used a div to center mine but I haven't included it below):
<object height="350" width="425"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/fBXf9rdyJKM"><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/fBXf9rdyJKM" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="350" width="425" autoplay="false" controller="true" ></embed></object>



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Technorati favorite blogs: benefits for readers of blogs






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post on Technorati favorites. This post has the form with closed input tags.)

For blog readers

Technorati favorites is of course designed primarily for the benefit of those who read blogs. I think it's a very neat idea (whereas, for instance, I don't quite follow what's behind Technorati's other newish feature, Technorati Explore - which will be the subject of a separate post).

Previously, people who mainly read blogs (rather than writing them) didn't have much incentive to join Technorati. Membership did have lots of pluses for bloggers, in terms of giving them several more ways to raise the profile of their own blogs (see my post on Technorati membership for more on that). But for the average blog reader, well you could search Technorati without a membership, and that's primarily what you'd want to do, so why bother to sign up?

Now, by introducing Technorati Favorites, Technorati have cleverly made their site a whole lot more attractive to those who follow blogs. Here are some advantages.

View latest posts from your favorite blogs

As a reader who is a Technorati member, you can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorite Blogs, and then you can see all the latest posts from your fave blogs, in order of newest posts first (from whichever blog), on one page - with the ability to see older posts too (though only up to 6 pages' worth in total, see later). That's pretty convenient.

(To see your fave blogs page, either login and go to your Faves page via the Favorites link in the grey bar at the top; or else, which is easier, go to the URL http://technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName - you can go to that URL and bookmark it in your browser or on Del.icio.us, etc. So mine is at http://technorati.com/faves/Improbulus.

Now the point could be made that you can do all that already, you can check out your fave blogs via a feed reader e.g. Bloglines. But I think that Technorati still are very smart to make available this new feature available in order to draw in more users and make their site more useful to their existing users. Remember that takeup of feeds is fairly limited so far, I haven't looked up the latest surveys but I recall it was something like less than 5% of Net users actually use feeds (or even know what they are), even with Web-based readers (though I predict that feeds are going to grow exponentially in popularity, it will take a while longer). Making it easy for users to acccess the latest posts from their favorite blogs from anywhere on the Net via a simple Web browser without having to sign in is a great idea.

Plus, you can also view your Favorite Blogs page (or anyone else's) in a feed reader too, if you prefer to do that - see Technorati's blue RSS icon RSS icon at the bottom left of the Favorites page. Or just add to your feed reader this URL (changing YourTechnoratiUserName to your own username or whosever you want):
http://feeds.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?format=rss.

(Yes, all this is not far off from bookmarking your favorite blogs on Delicious or some social bookmarking service, but this way you see the newest content from your favorite blogs too, all together on one Web page, which is an advance. There are other ways of doing that, e.g. pulling together feeds from different blogs into one place via various tools, but they don't always display very well, and this is an easy and quick way even for beginners to aggregate content from their favourite blogs.)

You'll also notice that your list of favorite blogs will be shown in a box to the right of the faves page, so you see both the latest posts from your fave blogs, and the list, all on the same page.

Sharing your favorite blogs

It's simple to share your favorite blogs list and latest posts from your favorite blogs too, just by sharing or publicising the URL of your faves blog page. For example, My Technorati Favorite Blogs (or a badge like - that was one I made earlier, feel free to use it if you wish! Here's a howto). Or of course you can display on your own blog (or indeed a webpage on your website) the latest posts from your favorite blogs or someone else's via the widget, as mentioned above.

Search just your favorite blogs

Another advantage of Technorati Favorites is that you can (again when logged in) confine your searches of Technorati to just searches of your favorite blogs (your search results page will have a Your Favorites tab to refine your original search just to show results from your fave blogs).

Again, in fact, you don't have to be logged in in order to search just your Technorati Favorite blogs at all. Just type into your browser address bar your search in the format:

http://technorati.com/search/YourSearchTerm?faves=YourTechnoratiUserName

or use this form to search just in your Technorati Favorite Blogs (opens in a new window):


Adding or importing your favorite blogs

Technorati have thought about most things here too, like providing a bookmarklet or favelet to add a blog you're viewing in your browser to your Technorati Favorites. (What's a bookmarklet or favorite?), and including a Favorites icon on their site at various places like search results pages, which you can click to add a blog to your favorites.

You can also "favorite" blogs from any lists you might currently have on Bloglines, BlogRolling, Google Reader, NetNewsWire or Typepad's TypeLists by importing a file from your computer. Technorati have produced for instructions on how to do that for each of those services - see the Technorati favorites importing help - and no doubt they'll be adding more.


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Technorati favorite blogs: benefits for blog readers






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post on Technorati favorites. This is a repost without the form.)

For blog readers

Technorati favorites is of course designed primarily for the benefit of those who read blogs. I think it's a very neat idea (whereas, for instance, I don't quite follow what's behind Technorati's other newish feature, Technorati Explore - which will be the subject of a separate post).

Previously, people who mainly read blogs (rather than writing them) didn't have much incentive to join Technorati. Membership did have lots of pluses for bloggers, in terms of giving them several more ways to raise the profile of their own blogs (see my post on Technorati membership for more on that). But for the average blog reader, well you could search Technorati without a membership, and that's primarily what you'd want to do, so why bother to sign up?

Now, by introducing Technorati Favorites, Technorati have cleverly made their site a whole lot more attractive to those who follow blogs. Here are some advantages.

View latest posts from your favorite blogs

As a reader who is a Technorati member, you can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorite Blogs, and then you can see all the latest posts from your fave blogs, in order of newest posts first (from whichever blog), on one page - with the ability to see older posts too (though only up to 6 pages' worth in total, see later). That's pretty convenient.

(To see your fave blogs page, either login and go to your Faves page via the Favorites link in the grey bar at the top; or else, which is easier, go to the URL http://technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName - you can go to that URL and bookmark it in your browser or on Del.icio.us, etc. So mine is at http://technorati.com/faves/Improbulus.

Now the point could be made that you can do all that already, you can check out your fave blogs via a feed reader e.g. Bloglines. But I think that Technorati still are very smart to make available this new feature available in order to draw in more users and make their site more useful to their existing users. Remember that takeup of feeds is fairly limited so far, I haven't looked up the latest surveys but I recall it was something like less than 5% of Net users actually use feeds (or even know what they are), even with Web-based readers (though I predict that feeds are going to grow exponentially in popularity, it will take a while longer). Making it easy for users to acccess the latest posts from their favorite blogs from anywhere on the Net via a simple Web browser without having to sign in is a great idea.

Plus, you can also view your Favorite Blogs page (or anyone else's) in a feed reader too, if you prefer to do that - see Technorati's blue RSS icon RSS icon at the bottom left of the Favorites page. Or just add to your feed reader this URL (changing YourTechnoratiUserName to your own username or whosever you want):
http://feeds.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?format=rss.

(Yes, all this is not far off from bookmarking your favorite blogs on Delicious or some social bookmarking service, but this way you see the newest content from your favorite blogs too, all together on one Web page, which is an advance. There are other ways of doing that, e.g. pulling together feeds from different blogs into one place via various tools, but they don't always display very well, and this is an easy and quick way even for beginners to aggregate content from their favourite blogs.)

You'll also notice that your list of favorite blogs will be shown in a box to the right of the faves page, so you see both the latest posts from your fave blogs, and the list, all on the same page.

Sharing your favorite blogs

It's simple to share your favorite blogs list and latest posts from your favorite blogs too, just by sharing or publicising the URL of your faves blog page. For example, My Technorati Favorite Blogs (or a badge like - that was one I made earlier, feel free to use it if you wish! Here's a howto). Or of course you can display on your own blog (or indeed a webpage on your website) the latest posts from your favorite blogs or someone else's via the widget, as mentioned above.

Search just your favorite blogs

Another advantage of Technorati Favorites is that you can (again when logged in) confine your searches of Technorati to just searches of your favorite blogs (your search results page will have a Your Favorites tab to refine your original search just to show results from your fave blogs).

Again, in fact, you don't have to be logged in in order to search just your Technorati Favorite blogs at all. Just type into your browser address bar your search in the format:

http://technorati.com/search/YourSearchTerm?faves=YourTechnoratiUserName

Adding or importing your favorite blogs

Technorati have thought about most things here too, like providing a bookmarklet or favelet to add a blog you're viewing in your browser to your Technorati Favorites. (What's a bookmarklet or favorite?), and including a Favorites icon on their site at various places like search results pages, which you can click to add a blog to your favorites.

You can also "favorite" blogs from any lists you might currently have on Bloglines, BlogRolling, Google Reader, NetNewsWire or Typepad's TypeLists by importing a file from your computer. Technorati have produced for instructions on how to do that for each of those services - see the Technorati favorites importing help - and no doubt they'll be adding more.


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BBC Creative Archive's Open Earth Archive: science, nature clips - free downloads






If you live in the UK you can now download and even remix, for free, audio and video footage (over 400 clips, programme extracts, stills and audio files, including over 200 video clips) from BBC Science and Nature, via their new Open Earth Archive - the latest stage in the BBC's groundbreaking Creative Archive initiative (which I've blogged about before).

As the Creative Archive site puts it, this archive includes "Unbroadcast rushes from the highly anticipated new series, "Planet Earth", footage from ground breaking series such as "The Natural World" and segments from series narrated by David Attenborough sit alongside remarkable images and audio clips".

The BBC are even running a "Wild Card" video postcard competition in Feb/March 2006, "to make a short film advertising this planet. Novice editors can enter the competition through the Easy Edit Suite, this exclusive application is available to be used, free, on the site and allows users to create a short video with a sound track using some of the best bits of the archive. The winners of the competition will win time in an edit suite with BBC experts seeing how the professional edit for BBC television."

Cute baby polar bears, awwwww!


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Sunday, 26 February 2006

Technorati favorites: bugs, issues and thoughts






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post. This post mentions some bugs and issues with Technorati favorites.)

Bugs and Issues

Technorati obviously need to tidy things up a bit still - e.g. the navigation bar at the top to get to your Technorati Account page, Profile etc doesn't have the full complement of links in IE even though it's there in Firefox. Plus, the display of some search results (when searching just your fave blogs) needs to be tweaked in IE as it can be a bit odd with some overlapping (some other pages also don't quite look right in IE yet e.g. the Favorites help page. Shows that Technorati developers must use Firefox as their default browser, sensible chaps and chapesses!). See what I mean about the grey bar and the display -

Firefox:

IE:


Also, if you go to any favorites blog page (not just your own) you may find that the links at the bottom of the page to previous pages only work if you go back to no more than 6 pages only. Beyond that, if you try to see anything older than page 7, it takes you back to page 1. In other words if you try to view Fave pages beyond page 6, anything older than that just takes you back to the first (i.e. newest posts) page. It's not just my faves, I've tried it on other people's fave pages too, and it's the same thing, in both IE and Firefox. I guess Technorati should think about disabling display of links to anything beyond page 6 (or whatever's the current oldest possible page) at the bottom of the faves page as it's confusing just to find you're back on page 1.

Other thoughts on Technorati Favorites

It's interesting in the Web 2.0 world how so many things are converging in many ways, in this case web pages and feeds and social software - and not just social bookmarking of static web pages or sites, but the sharing of dynamic information; not just blog URLs but the actual content of posts from specific blogs. This is yet another illustration, an excellent one, of that increasing trend.


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Technorati favorite blogs: benefits for readers of blogs






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post on Technorati favorites. This post has the form.)

For blog readers

Technorati favorites is of course designed primarily for the benefit of those who read blogs. I think it's a very neat idea (whereas, for instance, I don't quite follow what's behind Technorati's other newish feature, Technorati Explore - which will be the subject of a separate post).

Previously, people who mainly read blogs (rather than writing them) didn't have much incentive to join Technorati. Membership did have lots of pluses for bloggers, in terms of giving them several more ways to raise the profile of their own blogs (see my post on Technorati membership for more on that). But for the average blog reader, well you could search Technorati without a membership, and that's primarily what you'd want to do, so why bother to sign up?

Now, by introducing Technorati Favorites, Technorati have cleverly made their site a whole lot more attractive to those who follow blogs. Here are some advantages.

View latest posts from your favorite blogs

As a reader who is a Technorati member, you can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorite Blogs, and then you can see all the latest posts from your fave blogs, in order of newest posts first (from whichever blog), on one page - with the ability to see older posts too (though only up to 6 pages' worth in total, see later). That's pretty convenient.

(To see your fave blogs page, either login and go to your Faves page via the Favorites link in the grey bar at the top; or else, which is easier, go to the URL http://technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName - you can go to that URL and bookmark it in your browser or on Del.icio.us, etc. So mine is at http://technorati.com/faves/Improbulus.

Now the point could be made that you can do all that already, you can check out your fave blogs via a feed reader e.g. Bloglines. But I think that Technorati still are very smart to make available this new feature available in order to draw in more users and make their site more useful to their existing users. Remember that takeup of feeds is fairly limited so far, I haven't looked up the latest surveys but I recall it was something like less than 5% of Net users actually use feeds (or even know what they are), even with Web-based readers (though I predict that feeds are going to grow exponentially in popularity, it will take a while longer). Making it easy for users to acccess the latest posts from their favorite blogs from anywhere on the Net via a simple Web browser without having to sign in is a great idea.

Plus, you can also view your Favorite Blogs page (or anyone else's) in a feed reader too, if you prefer to do that - see Technorati's blue RSS icon RSS icon at the bottom left of the Favorites page. Or just add to your feed reader this URL (changing YourTechnoratiUserName to your own username or whosever you want):
http://feeds.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?format=rss.

(Yes, all this is not far off from bookmarking your favorite blogs on Delicious or some social bookmarking service, but this way you see the newest content from your favorite blogs too, all together on one Web page, which is an advance. There are other ways of doing that, e.g. pulling together feeds from different blogs into one place via various tools, but they don't always display very well, and this is an easy and quick way even for beginners to aggregate content from their favourite blogs.)

You'll also notice that your list of favorite blogs will be shown in a box to the right of the faves page, so you see both the latest posts from your fave blogs, and the list, all on the same page.

Sharing your favorite blogs

It's simple to share your favorite blogs list and latest posts from your favorite blogs too, just by sharing or publicising the URL of your faves blog page. For example, My Technorati Favorite Blogs (or a badge like - that was one I made earlier, feel free to use it if you wish! Here's a howto). Or of course you can display on your own blog (or indeed a webpage on your website) the latest posts from your favorite blogs or someone else's via the widget, as mentioned above.

Search just your favorite blogs

Another advantage of Technorati Favorites is that you can (again when logged in) confine your searches of Technorati to just searches of your favorite blogs (your search results page will have a Your Favorites tab to refine your original search just to show results from your fave blogs).

Again, in fact, you don't have to be logged in in order to search just your Technorati Favorite blogs at all. Just type into your browser address bar your search in the format:

http://technorati.com/search/YourSearchTerm?faves=YourTechnoratiUserName

or use this form to search just in your Technorati Favorite Blogs (opens in a new window):



Adding or importing your favorite blogs

Technorati have thought about most things here too, like providing a bookmarklet or favelet to add a blog you're viewing in your browser to your Technorati Favorites. (What's a bookmarklet or favorite?), and including a Favorites icon on their site at various places like search results pages, which you can click to add a blog to your favorites.

You can also "favorite" blogs from any lists you might currently have on Bloglines, BlogRolling, Google Reader, NetNewsWire or Typepad's TypeLists by importing a file from your computer. Technorati have produced for instructions on how to do that for each of those services - see the Technorati favorites importing help - and no doubt they'll be adding more.


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Technorati: favorite blogs; show your Technorati favorites on your blog






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post on Technorati favorites. This post has the iframe code.)

Show your Technorati favorites on your blog

For bloggers, Technorati will provide free code you can add to your sidebar to display on your blog the latest posts from your favorite blogs. Mine looks like this:



You can get the code for your own blog to copy/paste if you sign in to your Technorati account and go to their favorites widget page, but in fact the code is quite straightforward, it's just this (change YourTechnoratiUserName to your own Technorati user name, of course):
<iframe src="http://widgets.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?t=posts" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" style="border: 1px solid rgb(0, 0, 0); padding: 0pt;" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="auto" width="200"></iframe>
Display someone else's favorites! The eagle-eyed will already have spotted that this means you can in fact display posts from some other Technorati member's favorites on your own blog instead of (or as well as) your own favorites, if you know their Technorati username. Just use the same widgets code but change YourTechnoratiUserName to theirs. (If they've start their own Favorite Blogs list you can figure out their username easily - just click on their name on Technorati (e.g. from a Technorati search results page) to see their Technorati profile, and if they've got favorites there's a link to "Check out what's new in X's Favorite Blogs". The bit after "/faves/" at the end of that link will be their Technorati username.)


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Technorati: favorite blogs; help others add your blog






(If you've read my previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this extract from the previous post. This post has the code for the different buttons to add a blog to a reader's Technorati favorites.)

If you've not yet heard, the blogosphere search engine Technorati have recently introduced a "Favorite blogs" feature. Only Technorati members who are logged in can add favorite blogs (limit of 50), but anyone in the world can view others' favorites, e.g. see Technorati's selected bloggers' favorites, and my own favorites page (which I've just started compiling).

This post is an introduction or tutorial on Technorati's Favorite Blogs feature, for both bloggers and those who read blogs, with some howtos. In this guide I'll first give the code to insert in your blog template to help others easily add your blog to their Technorati Favorites while viewing your blog (see the new button at the top of my pages?), then (in a separate post now) mention the benefits of Favorites for those who read blogs, and give some general thoughts about Technorati favorites.

Help Technorati members favorite your blog

Yep, "favorite" is a new verb, at least according to Technorati's favorites help page!

If you're a Technorati member, once you're logged in you can access a page with code for buttons (that link just takes you to a sign in page if you're not signed in or not a member). The page is customised for your blog URL so you can just click in the box with the code for the button you want, then copy and paste into your template - but remember to choose the right blog from the dropdown list first, if you have more than one blog. It looks like this, and as you can see they've offered quite a few choices of buttons or just text (see mine at the top of my blog):


However, even if you're not a Technorati member you can still hack your template to add the code/buttons or a text link, see below. The buttons all relate to my own blog for illustration, but the code below can be copied/pasted exactly as is if you're on Blogger and it will work for your own blog URL - if you're not on Blogger, just change <$BlogURL$> in the code to the URL of your blog (you can leave out the "http://" if you wish, it seems to make no difference with or without, it's easier without):

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-0.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-1.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-2.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-3.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-4.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>">Add to Technorati Favorites!</a>

Of course with the last one you can just change the link text to anything you like, e.g. "Add this blog to Technorati favorites".


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Technorati: favorite blogs; help others add your blog, and thoughts on Technorati Favorites - part 2






This post is a pointer to my post on Technorati's new Favorite Blogs feature, including:
  • how to help others "favorite" your blog, i.e. code to add to your template to produce a button or link people can click to add your blog to their Technorati favorites
  • how to share your Technorati favorites on your own blog - both by displaying the latest posts from your favorite blogs (or someone else's favorite blogs) in an iframe or "mini-window" on your own blog, and by adding a link in your sidebar to your favorite blogs page
  • the benefits of this new feature for those who read blogs, including the overlap with feeds/RSS, how to search your favorite blogs only (with a search form to do just that), adding/importing your favorite blogs from other services
  • bugs and issues, and
  • some other thoughts.
If you've read the previous post you can ignore this post - here's why I'm posting this, so that even if that post won't appear on Technorati's tag pages, hopefully this one will - and those interested in the subjects concerned can then click through to that post.

I'll do the split posts later.


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Technorati tag pages problems, revisited






It's well known that the blogosphere search engine Technorati sometimes doesn't show tagged posts on their tag pages even when they've been correctly tagged - I've blogged about these Technorati problems before (and that post has been mentioned e.g. on Om Malik's blog).

I still encounter that problem myself. For instance my recent post on Technorati favorites isn't on Technorati's Improbulus tag page, whereas it's on Icerocket's Improbulus tag page. So it's clearly something to do with how Technorati are picking up (or rather not picking up) my posts or tags from my posts, or how they're not displaying tagged posts properly.

Consistently with my previous experience, it's not that Technorati aren't indexing the posts at all - e.g. my Technorati favorites page clearly includes that post, so the post has in fact been indexed by Technorati. So it has to be that they're not picking up the tags from that post, or that their tags database doesn't return the correct info for certain tags (or tags from certain types of posts). I've gone into this in more detail before.

Now Niall Kennedy (then, though not now, of Technorati) commented that one thing Technorati consider important is how valid the behind the scenes HTML or XHTML of your posts - the less "valid", the less likely that Technorati will index them properly. But I'm sure that validation isn't it, in my case at least - I know my template throws up some warnings or errors as far as validation goes (though I've tried to make it as valid as I can within reaons), but that applies to all my posts; yet some are on Technorati's tag pages, and some aren't.

I've pretty much given up asking Technorati for help on this point as, despite their recently recruiting a new full time customer support specialist Janice Myint, my latest emails on this subject still go unanswered.

Now I'd rather not further hassle their no doubt extremely busy CEO David Sifry, who's been kind enough to help sort out a problem in the past when none of my posts were getting indexed on Technorati at all (they then tweaked something at their end and it was fine), though I do think this issue is something Technorati need to sort out if they want to maintain user confidence and trust in their service in the longer-term.

But I suspect there are a few limitations to Technorati's system which for whatever reason their competitor Icerocket doesn't share, though Icerocket certainly has issues of their own ("system" is vague, I know, but I don't know whcther it's their spider or their database or indeed tag searcher that's choking, so I'll just say "system").

Leaving aside the "validity" question (which I believe may be a red herring in my case), my guess is Technorati's system particularly doesn't like:
  • long posts (this post never got picked up properly for example, whereas Google's spider loves lots of text)
  • posts with lots of code examples (so, this post isn't on their tag pages - and it's long)
  • posts with forms or lots of other HTML that's not just text and links/pics (e.g. my original post on the problems!)
Now, it could be that the way Blogger handles posts with lots of more complex HTML, it translates the code into non-valid XHTML on publishing, and that could be why Technorati doesn't like them (though I think their spider is way too sensitive in that case).

But, I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to split my previous post, which happens to be long, has lots of code examples and a form, into different individual posts, and republish them - then see which posts' tags get picked up, and which don't.

If you too have some posts not displaying on Technorati's tag pages, I'd be interested to know which posts, and are there any common factors, and do they fit any of the suspected criteria I've listed above?

And if your long post or post with forms etc doesn't show up properly on Technorati's tag pages, why not try doing a short post with no forms or any code other than links, but with exactly the same Technorati tags, which links to your "missing" post? That way the new post (assuming it doesn't get missed too) could at least be a way to lead people to the original post.

I'm about to follow my own suggestion too, as well as doing the split posts I mentioned. I'll of course report on the results of my experiment.

Update 13 March 2006: My test results are here, interesting but puzzling, and after I posted them Dave Sifry the Technorati CEO emailed me to say they're on it - see this post; if people regularly report this problem to Technorati when they encounter it, it might help them fix it faster.


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Technorati favorite blogs: add a badge to share your favorites






In my previous post I suggested that, following the introduction of Technorati's new favorites feature, you could share your favorite blogs on Technorati by adding a button or badge (or just text if you prefer) to your blog template or website, which people can click to go to your Technorati faves page.

Here's how to add a button or badge, in more detail for the benefit of beginners to blogging. You can see the badge that I created at the very bottom of my sidebar (you have to scroll down a bit to get there), it looks like this -

Just copy and paste the following code into your blog or sidebar wherever you want the badge to appear, changing
YourTechnoratiUserName to your Technorati username (and if you want the link to open in the same browser window just delete target="_blank" and the space just before it):
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName" target="_blank"><img src="http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/2472/807/1600/mytechnorati.png" title="My Technorati Favorite Blogs page" /></a>
It's just a link attached to an image file, which is the button. The image file is one I made earlier - feel free to download it and upload it to any host you like if you don't want to link to where it is (though as it's on Blogspot it should hopefully be reliable).


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Friday, 24 February 2006

Technorati: favorite blogs; help others add your blog, and thoughts on Technorati Favorites






If you've not yet heard, the blogosphere search engine Technorati have recently introduced a "Favorite blogs" feature. Only Technorati members who are logged in can add favorite blogs (limit of 50), but anyone in the world can view others' favorites, e.g. see Technorati's selected bloggers' favorites, and my own favorites page (which I've just started compiling).

This post is an introduction or tutorial on Technorati's Favorite Blogs feature, for both bloggers and those who read blogs, with some howtos. In this guide I'll first give the code to insert in your blog template to help others easily add your blog to their Technorati Favorites while viewing your blog (see the new button at the top of my pages?), then mention the benefits of Favorites for those who read blogs, and give some general thoughts about Technorati favorites.

Help Technorati members favorite your blog

Yep, "favorite" is a new verb, at least according to Technorati's favorites help page!

If you're a Technorati member, once you're logged in you can access a page with code for buttons (that link just takes you to a sign in page if you're not signed in or not a member). The page is customised for your blog URL so you can just click in the box with the code for the button you want, then copy and paste into your template - but remember to choose the right blog from the dropdown list first, if you have more than one blog. It looks like this, and as you can see they've offered quite a few choices of buttons or just text (see mine at the top of my blog):


However, even if you're not a Technorati member you can still hack your template to add the code/buttons or a text link, see below. The buttons all relate to my own blog for illustration, but the code below can be copied/pasted exactly as is if you're on Blogger and it will work for your own blog URL - if you're not on Blogger, just change <$BlogURL$> in the code to the URL of your blog (you can leave out the "http://" if you wish, it seems to make no difference with or without, it's easier without):

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-0.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-1.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-2.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-3.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>"><img src="http://static.technorati.com/pix/fave/tech-fav-4.gif" alt="Add to Technorati Favorites!" /></a>

Add to Technorati Favorites!
Code:
<a href="http://technorati.com/faves?add=<$BlogURL$>">Add to Technorati Favorites!</a>

Of course with the last one you can just change the link text to anything you like, e.g. "Add this blog to Technorati favorites".

Show your Technorati favorites on your blog

For bloggers, Technorati will also provide free code you can add to your sidebar to display on your blog the latest posts from your favorite blogs. Mine looks like this:



You can get the code for your own blog to copy/paste if you sign in to your Technorati account and go to their favorites widget page, but in fact the code is quite straightforward, it's just this (change YourTechnoratiUserName to your own Technorati user name, of course):
<iframe src="http://widgets.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?t=posts" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" style="border: 1px solid rgb(0, 0, 0); padding: 0pt;" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="auto" width="200"></iframe>
Display someone else's favorites! The eagle-eyed will already have spotted that this means you can in fact display posts from some other Technorati member's favorites on your own blog instead of (or as well as) your own favorites, if you know their Technorati username. Just use the same widgets code but change YourTechnoratiUserName to theirs. (If they've start their own Favorite Blogs list you can figure out their username easily - just click on their name on Technorati (e.g. from a Technorati search results page) to see their Technorati profile, and if they've got favorites there's a link to "Check out what's new in X's Favorite Blogs". The bit after "/faves/" at the end of that link will be their Technorati username.)

For blog readers

Technorati favorites is of course designed primarily for the benefit of those who read blogs. I think it's a very neat idea (whereas, for instance, I don't quite follow what's behind Technorati's other newish feature, Technorati Explore - which will be the subject of a separate post).

Previously, people who mainly read blogs (rather than writing them) didn't have much incentive to join Technorati. Membership did have lots of pluses for bloggers, in terms of giving them several more ways to raise the profile of their own blogs (see my post on Technorati membership for more on that). But for the average blog reader, well you could search Technorati without a membership, and that's primarily what you'd want to do, so why bother to sign up?

Now, by introducing Technorati Favorites, Technorati have cleverly made their site a whole lot more attractive to those who follow blogs. Here are some advantages.

View latest posts from your favorite blogs

As a reader who is a Technorati member, you can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorite Blogs, and then you can see all the latest posts from your fave blogs, in order of newest posts first (from whichever blog), on one page - with the ability to see older posts too (though only up to 6 pages' worth in total, see later). That's pretty convenient.

(To see your fave blogs page, either login and go to your Faves page via the Favorites link in the grey bar at the top; or else, which is easier, go to the URL http://technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName - you can go to that URL and bookmark it in your browser or on Del.icio.us, etc. So mine is at http://technorati.com/faves/Improbulus.

Now the point could be made that you can do all that already, you can check out your fave blogs via a feed reader e.g. Bloglines. But I think that Technorati still are very smart to make available this new feature available in order to draw in more users and make their site more useful to their existing users. Remember that takeup of feeds is fairly limited so far, I haven't looked up the latest surveys but I recall it was something like less than 5% of Net users actually use feeds (or even know what they are), even with Web-based readers (though I predict that feeds are going to grow exponentially in popularity, it will take a while longer). Making it easy for users to acccess the latest posts from their favorite blogs from anywhere on the Net via a simple Web browser without having to sign in is a great idea.

Plus, you can also view your Favorite Blogs page (or anyone else's) in a feed reader too, if you prefer to do that - see Technorati's blue RSS icon RSS icon at the bottom left of the Favorites page. Or just add to your feed reader this URL (changing YourTechnoratiUserName to your own username or whosever you want):
http://feeds.technorati.com/faves/YourTechnoratiUserName?format=rss.

(Yes, all this is not far off from bookmarking your favorite blogs on Delicious or some social bookmarking service, but this way you see the newest content from your favorite blogs too, all together on one Web page, which is an advance. There are other ways of doing that, e.g. pulling together feeds from different blogs into one place via various tools, but they don't always display very well, and this is an easy and quick way even for beginners to aggregate content from their favourite blogs.)

You'll also notice that your list of favorite blogs will be shown in a box to the right of the faves page, so you see both the latest posts from your fave blogs, and the list, all on the same page.

Sharing your favorite blogs

It's simple to share your favorite blogs list and latest posts from your favorite blogs too, just by sharing or publicising the URL of your faves blog page. For example, My Technorati Favorite Blogs (or a badge like - that was one I made earlier, feel free to use it if you wish! Here's a howto). Or of course you can display on your own blog (or indeed a webpage on your website) the latest posts from your favorite blogs or someone else's via the widget, as mentioned above.

Search just your favorite blogs

Another advantage of Technorati Favorites is that you can (again when logged in) confine your searches of Technorati to just searches of your favorite blogs (your search results page will have a Your Favorites tab to refine your original search just to show results from your fave blogs).

Again, in fact, you don't have to be logged in in order to search just your Technorati Favorite blogs at all. Just type into your browser address bar your search in the format:

http://technorati.com/search/YourSearchTerm?faves=YourTechnoratiUserName

or use this form to search just in your Technorati Favorite Blogs (opens in a new window):



Adding or importing your favorite blogs

Technorati have thought about most things here too, like providing a bookmarklet or favelet to add a blog you're viewing in your browser to your Technorati Favorites. (What's a bookmarklet or favorite?), and including a Favorites icon on their site at various places like search results pages, which you can click to add a blog to your favorites.

You can also "favorite" blogs from any lists you might currently have on Bloglines, BlogRolling, Google Reader, NetNewsWire or Typepad's TypeLists by importing a file from your computer. Technorati have produced for instructions on how to do that for each of those services - see the Technorati favorites importing help - and no doubt they'll be adding more.

Bugs and Issues

Technorati obviously need to tidy things up a bit still - e.g. the navigation bar at the top to get to your Technorati Account page, Profile etc doesn't have the full complement of links in IE even though it's there in Firefox. Plus, the display of some search results (when searching just your fave blogs) needs to be tweaked in IE as it can be a bit odd with some overlapping (some other pages also don't quite look right in IE yet e.g. the Favorites help page. Shows that Technorati developers must use Firefox as their default browser, sensible chaps and chapesses!). See what I mean about the grey bar and the display -

Firefox:

IE:


Also, if you go to any favorites blog page (not just your own) you may find that the links at the bottom of the page to previous pages only work if you go back to no more than 6 pages only. Beyond that, if you try to see anything older than page 7, it takes you back to page 1. In other words if you try to view Fave pages beyond page 6, anything older than that just takes you back to the first (i.e. newest posts) page. It's not just my faves, I've tried it on other people's fave pages too, and it's the same thing, in both IE and Firefox. I guess Technorati should think about disabling display of links to anything beyond page 6 (or whatever's the current oldest possible page) at the bottom of the faves page as it's confusing just to find you're back on page 1.

Other thoughts on Technorati Favorites

It's interesting in the Web 2.0 world how so many things are converging in many ways, in this case web pages and feeds and social software - and not just social bookmarking of static web pages or sites, but the sharing of dynamic information; not just blog URLs but the actual content of posts from specific blogs. This is yet another illustration, an excellent one, of that increasing trend.


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Thursday, 23 February 2006

Grape Scott!








Now that's one weird grape (the photo shows other grapes from the same bunch for comparison). I bought the bunch from Sainsbury's.

Sadly for me, I don't think I could get very much on Ebay just for an oddly segmented grape. Ah, if only it looked like a famous person... (remember the bun that kinda resembled Mother Teresa?)

Oh well. I need to have my 5 portions of fruit & veg a day, anyway. Down the hatch!


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Google Sitemaps: verification without uploading file - YES!






[Update: now you can verify just using a meta tag, without uploading any files - see this post]

If like me you use Blogger or another blogging platform which doesn't let you upload any files you like to your blog server (or indeed website), which means you can't get the most out of Google Sitemaps, well Google are at last giving us the chance to have our say.

Google Sitemaps, currently in beta, is a great way to ping Google, i.e. get Google to come and re-index your blog or website whenever you update it, and also to obtain info on related stats. But one problem, which I've sounded off on many a time before, is that if you can't upload files (other than your blog posts) to your blog server, as is the case if you use Google's own Blogspot to host your blog, then you can't access the more detailed and no doubt useful stats that are available to those lucky people who can upload a "verification file". (Here's an intro to Google Sitemaps for those not familiar with it).

It seemed quite incongruous to many of us that Google hadn't built something into Sitemaps to allow people using their own blogging service to access the detailed stats. It's not just Blogger users who are deprived of this info, of course - it's everyone who can't upload files to the root of their blog or website server or who is restricted in what they can names uploaded files.

I guess enough of us have moaned about it loudly enough for long enough that Google are finally taking notice. They've offered via the Google Sitemaps blog to introduce an extra verification option for those of us in this boat, so that you can verify your blog or web site just by inserting some unique code into the head section of your main page (i.e. your blog template, in the case of a blog) - namely a meta tag with a unique string - basically, just a copy/paste job from whatever they'll provide when you're logged in to your Sitemaps account.

But they are asking for feedback on this suggestion - so if you like their solution, or have any issues or problems relating to it, then do post your thoughts on the Sitemaps Google Group thread they've set up for this purpose (you need to register for a Google Account first if you've not already got one, in order to be able to post in that group).

I've just posted there myself, saying I think it's brilliant that they're considering alternative means of verification, but with one necessary precaution they need to build in - as anyone will be able to view source and see what a particular blog or site's verification meta tag is, Google will need to introduce some kind of validation process (which one hopes Google must have thought of already) so that the verification string has to be tied in (pun intended!) to the URL of the webpage containing it, before it is treated as verified. In other words, if someone else copies my verification tag from my blog's main page and sticks it into their own webpage or blog template, that shouldn't give them any control in relation to my sitemap or any access to my sitemap info, because their blog URL wouldn't match up with the encoded string.

So do please go ahead and give Google your comments too by posting in that thread, and if you want to be able to verify your blog for Sitemaps even if you can't upload any files to your blog server, then tell 'em so - and spread the word to encourage others to put in their vote for it too; the more people who say they support this, the more likely it is that Google will implement it.

[Update: now you can verify just using a meta tag, without uploading any files - see this post]


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Wednesday, 22 February 2006

MP3s: align Delicious Playtagger icon in old posts 2






Right, I've managed to upload the script mentioned in my previous post to a free external file hosting provider, so if you want to get all your Del.icio.us Playtagger icons to line up nicely, even in your old posts, now all you have to do is add one line of code to bring in the external Javascript script, instead of the whole long list, and add the bit of CSS to your template. Just be warned that with this method you're dependent on the file host being up and not too slow, whereas with the long code in your template you're only dependent (as you would be anyway) on Delicious.

So I've updated both the previous post and the original post too.

Whew!


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