Monday, September 24, 2012

St. Louis WordCamp

WordCamp St. Louis
Saturday was spent at the second annual WordCamp St. Louis, which was held on the really pretty campus of Maryville University. Designed for anyone who runs a blog/website on the WordPress platform, the day was broken down into four categories: Content, Design, Development and Campfire. (The theme of this WordCamp was "Get S'More Skills", thus the reference to campfires.) So essentially each hour there was a choice of four topics, which was hard because there were always two that I wanted to attend. I stayed in the Content section all day since I felt like it was geared more towards beginners.

Even though has been around since April of 2008, I really don't have a good grasp on what makes WordPress tick. Certainly I can do all the basic stuff like post, add photos and work with plugins, but whenever it comes to anything more complicated than that, I have to ask someone else for help. While it is true that I certainly am not interested in learning how to change the HTML coding, I would like to be a little more in control of my website.

The opening session by Ed Morrissey covered the evolution of WordPress. What struck home with me is that there are currently 56 million WordPress sites! That is amazing! Certainly there must be a whole lot of folks who can help me when I get stuck, right? There is even a St. Louis user group that meets monthly, so this is definitely something I need to look into.

At each of the sessions throughout the day I learned something new. It was fun to see a handful of St. Louis Publishers Association members at the meeting, and I saw some old faces from Show Me the Blog St. Louis and met some new bloggers as well. But the best part of the day was my stop at the Happiness Desk, where one of the friendly volunteers (Jonathan Goldford of assured me that the way was constructed was indeed favorable for the search engines to find new content. He also recommended a SEO plugin to help the spiders crawl over to my site. That information alone was well worth the price of admission. I will keep my eyes open for WordCamp 2013, and highly recommend the event to anyone using WordPress for their blogs/websites.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Backing Up Your Blogger Site

Having gone through (actually still going through!) this fiasco with Google and Blogger, I was thinking about how disastrous it would be if any of my blogs totally disappeared. It was my understanding that because Blogger is hosted on the website it was not possible to back it up. I did a little research and in fact, that is not true.  Here are the steps I followed to back up my blog to my computer:

1. Log in to your blogger account and go to your blog's dashboard.
2. On the left side of the screen you will see a list of options. Click on Settings.
3. Under Settings, click on Other.
4. Up at the top of the page you will see Blog tools with the option to Import blog, Export blog and Delete blog.
5. Click on Export blog. A dialog box will open; select Download blog.
6. A new dialog box will open; select Save File.
7. A Downloads box will open; right click the download and select Open Containing Folder.
8. You can then rename the downloaded file and save it to a location on your computer that you will remember.

This will back up all of your blog posts, but not the design of the blog. If you or someone else created a special theme for your blog, that will need to be backed up separately. I just used themes available from Blogger and customized with my own photos, so recreating them would not be a big deal. Having to recreate all the posts would be impossible. I feel a lot better knowing that they are all safely backed up on my computer. Don't let your blog be an accident waiting to happen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Frustrating Experience with Google & Blogger

If you have been trying to access this site and gotten the dreaded 404 error code, you were not alone and I apologize for that. Apparently Google/Blogger knew that they had a problem with bloggers trying to switch to custom domain names as early as September 7th, but they continued to let people purchase domain names through them for more than a week. By the time that they finally posted in their "Known Issues" forum that there was something terribly wrong, those of us who had bought the new names essentially had our blogs shut down.

This has been a long, extremely frustrating experience with little communication from Blogger, which is owned by Google. There was not much buzz about it on the Internet either, which kind of surprised me. But then I realized that the professional bloggers (those who earn a significant income from their blogs) are not on the Blogger platform. I am positive that had the professional bloggers been shut down, the issue would have been resolved in a day or two.

Two days ago Blogger stated the the problem was resolved, so I waited in vain for my blog to come back up. Back in the forum, which was the only place I could find any information at all, I could see that others were not back online either. The forum moderator kept telling us that we need to add two CNAMES. I don't even know what that means, let alone where I was supposed to add them. The reason I chose my domain name through Google, who then turfs the sale off to either Go Daddy or eNom, is because Google said they would do all the redirecting of the blog. I would not have to do anything. Ha, ha.

So you would think that the least Blogger would have done is issue a set of step by step instructions. Most of us are not techies - if we were, we would be over on WordPress and not on Blogger. Instead, we are all asking the same questions over and over in the forum trying to figure out what we are supposed to do. One gal finally posted what she had done to get the CNAMES and place them where they are supposed to go. God bless her! But when I tried to follow her steps, I could not find the CNAMES where she said she had found hers. I suspect that she was sent to Go Daddy for her domain name and not eNom where I was sent.

At that point I copied all the notes I had and sent them off to my daughter to see if she could see what I was missing. As you can tell by the fact that I am able to post, she got the blog live again. It works for the old domain of, but if you try you still get the 404 error. Half the issue is solved for now. The site will probably be down again at some point while she tries something new. Patience...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blogging for Authors

Blogging for Authors
Saturday Linda Austin, who blogs at, and I conducted a two hour workshop for St. Louis Publishers Association members who were interested in learning why it is important for authors to blog. Originally we intended to limit the group to fifteen, but we had eighteen people eagerly sign up and we even had to turn someone away. It is obvious that our members have an interest in social media but due to variations in the level of knowledge it is hard to talk about these subjects at our monthly meetings where the attendance is much larger. Having a smaller session geared towards beginning bloggers definitely helped us to define what should be covered.

The workshop began with me covering the reasons why having a blog instead of just a website makes more sense for authors, free versus paid blogging platforms along with the pros and cons of each, why and how to purchase a domain name, and considerations in deciding what to call your blog. Because I have two blogs on a free platform (Blogger) and one on a paid platform (Wordpress), I briefly pulled up my sites to give the attendees an idea of what they look like.

Linda Austin & Kim Wolterman at Blogging for Authors

Linda followed up by using the blog of her publishing company, Moonbridge Books, to illustrate the different segments that authors might want to have on their blogs such as blog posts, an About page, a listing of blog posts, pictures of book covers, and ways for followers to share posts on social media. She also discussed what to blog about, how often to post and the importance of interacting with readers. The audience was very engaged and asked a lot of good questions. We received seventeen completed evaluation forms, which is outstanding, and the feedback was very positive. So I do believe that Linda and I will be conducting future workshops together, with the next most likely being Twitter for Authors.

It was interesting to prepare for the workshop as I learned a few things myself. I will probably be re-working a bit, and I definitely want to purchase domain names for my two Blogger sites. In fact, I bought the domain name for this particular blog Saturday night. As of today, the new name is still getting the dreaded 404 code error - the requested URL was not found on this server. I will talk about this more in my next post.