Blogger Comments Problems

I’ve occasionally heard of people not being able to comment on Philofaxy, but until tonight I was unable replicate the symptoms. By talking to one or two users about what exactly the blog was or wasn’t doing, I got a few ideas.

In the past I’ve suggested people trying different browsers this has been with mixed results. So tonight starting with Firefox I was able to go to another blogspot blog and get it to not allow me to comment repeatedly, and then after trying various things discover what it was that was stopping me commenting. I won’t go through the experiment in detail, just go through the cure…

The problem lies around allowing 3rd party cookies, if you don’t allow 3rd party cookies to be downloaded to your machine then blogger (blogspot.com) will not let you add a comment to a blog because it doesn’t let you log in to your Google (or other) accounts.  I found that allowing 3rd party cookies cured the problem.

In Firefox I was able to still disallow 3rd party cookies but I then added an exception to allow the cookie from blogger.com this then allowed me to post comments ok.

In Preferences, Privacy:

Click on Exceptions:

 

Next I tried Google Chrome, again allowing 3rd party cookies and it allowed me to comment, but for some reason I’ve not discovered yet even allowing the cookie from blogger.com still wouldn’t let me comment, so some more work is required on Chrome to fully understand why the fix doesn’t work.It appears that I’m being logged out each time which I think is the symptom of the problem, allowing 3rd party cookies though and the problem disappears!

To get to the settings you have to go in to the advance settings:

Click to enlarge

On Safari, you can’t add exceptions, but under certain circumstances that setting didn’t seem to make any difference as long as I allowed popups on websites. How bizarre is that! So again more work on Safari to fully understand how it works.

So my advice at the moment is if you want to block 3rd party cookies, then use Firefox

All tests carried out on a Mac, although I believe the results will be the same on all Operating Systems.

It is ok I know my way there I have been before

I have spent this weekend in London for a Philofaxy meet up, as usual we met at Tate Modern an area I have got to know quite well.

During my years of working for the Radiocommunications Agency (1985-2004) I visited London for meetings about once a week I suppose. So it was like going back in time this weekend when I found myself using the Jubilee line to travel to Canary Wharf to go out for a meal at a hotel near by.

I knew the hotel quite well from the days when RA was based at South Quay 3. But when I emerged from the station although some of the buildings looked familiar there new buildings now on the skyline. Where there once used to be a foot bridge there was now a new building! But I found my way there ok.

Sunday morning saw me going to Waterloo station to buy some stationery, but they are rebuilding the concourse the WH Smiths that used to be near to the clock has disappeared! So I crossed the river to The Strand and got what I needed there.

Walking back to my hotel this evening I passed New Kings Beam House (NKBH) which used to also be known as Sea Containers House. NKBH as we called it was home to RA after the 1996 IRA bombing of South Quay, it is being refurbished at the moment and no doubt will see another change of name and inhabitants

So just because you have been there before, it doesn’t mean that it will still be the same in 6, 12 or 18 months time.

London though never seems to stop it is busy everyday of the week. I am just glad I will be sleepy rural France during the London 2012 games this summer.

 

Filofax Blogging Tips

Most of the following tips also apply to blogging in general, but most Filofax bloggers come to blogging for the first time. I’ve learnt by trial and error and by reading other peoples blogs to get ideas and I have tried out some ideas of my own.

Name

What you call your blog is very much a personal decision. However, I would suggest that you don’t make the name too long or too similar to other similar blogs. Looking down my list of blogs on my ‘watch’ list there are a lot of ‘Filo’ blogs already.

Design

Keep the design of your blog simple, I see some horrible designs whilst I hunt around the inter-webs. Yes design and beauty are a very subjective thing, but don’t get carried away with the fonts I tend towards using a simple serif font for titles but a san-serif font for the text, that’s the bit your user will be reading most. Try to keep the number of fonts you use to no more than say three, any more and it just looks amateurish.

Sidebar

The sidebar on your blog is the place to put things to help the user find their way around your site and to help them to get back to your site. I try to put ‘subscribe/follow me’ type things towards the top of the side bar, with navigational things next and anything else towards the bottom. Don’t make it so long that it requires a 1500 word post before anyone ever scrolls that far down the page before they find your subscribe by email sign up box.

Footer

I prefer not to put important things in the footer of the site people often never see it.

Posts

When you are writing those first few posts you will be trying to do something new or different, don’t get carried away, short brief and to the point posts get the message across and often I find the ones I rush off in a few minutes flat get more comments and visits than the ones I spend days researching and run to 1000 words or more. Free For All Tuesdays are a case in point, I often struggle to think what to say to introduce these with… one recently nearly went out on line with only the word ‘Blah’ in it!  Yet these posts get dozens of comments and thousands of page views…

With a Filofax post the more photos you include the less you will have to write. So make those pictures nice and clear, well lit, preferably take them on a decent digital camera in natural light. May be on a table outside on your patio, or on your desk below a well sun lit window. Make sure the photos are in focus. Don’t be tempted to get close to the subject, stand back, and make sure you don’t shadow the picture. You can crop the photo afterwards to ‘zoom in’ on your Filofax. If photography isn’t your art then ask a friend who is to do some photos for you. This Philofaxy post might also give you a few more tips:

Check your writing for typos, grammar, spelling before you publish it. Again your style is important and the style you write in whilst it is subjective can be the thing that makes your blog appealing to others. I for instance always try to have a light-hearted approach to the topics, slipping in the odd bit of humour here and there. Mainly poking fun at myself, if you can make people smile it always helps.

Make sure your work is your own, please don’t go on a Copy and Paste extravaganza or pinch photos from other sites… you will be found out!

Frequency of posts

This is a difficult one to tackle, people often start with a great deal of enthusiasm and post a dozen posts one after another and then their work rate slows down. Try to do it the other way around, build up the frequency of posting. May be one every month, one every two weeks, one a week, two a week etc. But if you plateau at say one every two weeks, don’t panic continue at that rate it is fine. People will expect to see a post at that sort of frequency and will return or expect a post every couple of weeks. Doing a post every day is quite intensive… believe me!

Use the scheduling facility on your blog to be able to write ahead of publishing time, so if you get 5 different blog post ideas you can write them whilst they are fresh in your head and then meter them out one at a time at your normal blog post frequency.

Comments

Respond to comments on your blog it encourages people to return if they think you are taking notice of what they say.

Getting noticed

Make sure Google can find your site, which means you can’t keep it private. In Blogger you will find the privacy setting in Settings, Basic, Visibility to Search Engines.  In WordPress, Settings, Privacy, and you want the radio button next to Allow search engines to index this site. ‘ticked’

If you are a Filofax Blogger then you need to contact Philofaxy and get them to include your posts on their ‘watch list’, this will ensure you suddenly have a few hundred people trampling around your site, poking around it and hopefully reading and coming back to your site…

Philofaxy likes to discover new Filofax blogs and stealthily add you to their ‘web finds’ posts without you knowing about it and it is only when you look at your stats and you suddenly see this massive spike and you think WTF did that….

Get your blog on Twitter even if you aren’t on there yourself. Use a site like Twitter Feed to automate the posting of ‘Tweets’ that link back to your new blog posts from the RSS feed.  Twitter Feed can also post to your Facebook time line as well.

Stats

When you want to build an audience, there’s nothing worse than ‘talking’ to yourself. If you want to know how big your audience is, you need something to measure how many people visit your site and also how many return to your site at a later date and whilst they are on your site find out what they are reading.

Blogger (blogspot) includes some simple stats on their blogs, but you can do better. Likewise so does WordPress. But if you want to get serious about measuring the impact any change to your blog has or to see what sort of rate your audience is growing at, they get yourself a Google Analytics Account

Once you have set up the account with your blog URL etc. It’s a simple case in the case of Blogspot blogs of adding the Analytics ID: UA-13088822-1 to the Google Analytics setting in ‘Settings’ ‘Other’ in the new layout on Blogspot.   In WordPress get the Google Analytics Plug-in and authorise the plug-in to use your analytics account.

Then you have to be patient and wait whilst the stats start to build up and you can then have a benchmark to work from.

Guest posts

If you don’t want to venture in to having your own blog then why not offer to post as a Guest Blogger on one of the established Filofax blogs, there are plenty to choose from these days.

If you are running your own blog, also invite existing bloggers to guest post on your blog in return for a guest post on their blog, this will also work as a link exchange for both of you and should bring you more visitors.

Disclosure

If you are reviewing items or recommending items on your blog then you should give a disclosure some where in the post and may be on the site as well, to indicate that you have been sent the item by the company to review and you haven’t spent your own money to purchase the item. This I believe is law in the USA and possibly other countries.  If you bought it yourself then again it is advisable to include this fact. It just keeps things neat and tidy. Nickie over at Typecast has a ‘Disclosure’ page that is worth reading

Linking back

Once your blog gets established it’s worth encouraging people to link back to you. Philofaxy have a ‘Grab the code’ box at the foot of the side bar, this was quite easy to design, and it allows people to put some HTML code in to a widget in their own side bar to say ‘We like Philofaxy’ people clicking on the badge then come through to the blog. Interestingly sites that have this badge on them feed in readers that read more pages than people that arrive at the site either from Google or as a direct link.

Finally

This is just a start, but hopefully a good start to your blogging experience. The essential thing is though to enjoy your new challenge, listen to what people say and learn from experience.

Enjoy.

Driving in France

Driving in France is slightly different to UK, here are some notes to read even if you are only coming here on holiday. But some of them apply to UK driving too!

First of all you drive on the Right in France, in a Left Hand Drive car, the opposite to UK, yes I know this is obvious, but one of my old work colleagues are stumped when he discovered this… his face was a picture when I told him you go around roundabouts the opposite way to UK as well!

  • Roundabouts – A good place to start.. don’t be surprised if no one indicates their intentions on roundabouts… that is just the norm over here. Also people tend to treat roundabouts as only having a single lane not multiple lanes. You get used to it! Oh and yes you go anti-clockwise on roundabouts.
  • Speed limits – On entering a village designated by the sign with a red border normally the speed limit is 50 kph unless there are signs to say other wise. National roads the limit is 90 kph unless signed otherwise. Dual carriageways tend to be 110 kph, but will be signed accordingly. Autoroutes (Motorways) are 130 kph, but during rain or adverse weather conditions the speed is reduced to 110 kph. There are sometimes lower limits for bigger vehicles and for cars with caravans or trailers.
  • Things you must carry:
    • Bulbs – A spare set of bulbs for your car, make sure they are the right type.
    • Hi Vis vest – Preferably one per person, but the drivers one must be available without getting out of the car, so under the seat or in the door pocket is a good place
    • breathalyser – A new addition this summer, carry two so you have one even if you have used one.
    • warning triangle – In case you break down, must be placed in the road to warn other road users.
  • Joining motorways – give way to traffic already on the motorway, don’t barge in, making people slow down to let you in.
  • Overtaking on motorways (indicators) – when people overtake on motorways in France they tend to leave their left hand indicator on all the time they are staying in the outside lane.  It stops people ‘tail-gating’ you. And they will return to the inside lane almost straight away.
  • Hazard lights when slowing because of an obstruction and you suddenly have to brake in France you must put on your four way hazard lights until the vehicle behind does the same and then you can cancel yours.
  • Speed cameras – unlike in UK speed cameras are not easy to spot, and there are plenty of them, with more being installed. Mobile cameras are common too and you can be given an on the spot fine. Vehicles can be impounded too in certain cases. Average speed cameras are starting to be introduced in France as well.
  • Road markings – A single solid white line in the middle of the road is the equivalent of a double white line in UK…. saves on paint I suppose.
  • Stop Signs – Stop and pause, imagine there is someone hiding in the bushes watching you to make sure you have stopped. It’s an on the spot fine if they think you haven’t stopped long enough. I make sure the car has come to a rest and settled on it’s suspension before then moving off if it’s clear or course.
  • Drink Driving – don’t drink and drive, simple. The limit in France is lower than UK so don’t be tempted.
  • Sat Nav and speed cameras – it is now illegal in France to have any device that warns you in advance of speed cameras, this includes Sat Navs, there is a hefty €1500 fine if you are caught too.
  • Lorries and how they overtake – you don’t get lorries having 5 mile drag races blocking the motorways here in France. Why they do it in UK beats me they will drive for mile upon mile with less than a half a mile per hour between them.
  • Head lights – If you are coming from UK don’t forget to put on beam converters on your headlights so you don’t dazzle on coming drivers. Also remember to only use your front and rear fog lights when there is poor visibility. Don’t leave them on because you think it makes the car look good!
  • Mobile phones: it is an offence to hold and use a mobile phone while driving in France. Hands-free use of mobile phones is not illegal. Though many drivers ignore this rule, traffic police are clamping down on drivers holding phones to their ears while driving, and drivers are liable to an on-the-spot fine.
  • Minimum age: The minimum age for driving a car in France is 18; thus no-one under the age of 18 can drive a car in France, even if he or she holds a valid licence in another country.

Overall driving in France is quite an enjoyable experience, the roads are not as crowded and people tend not to drive like there is no tomorrow, so slow down, take your time and enjoy the scenery.

iPad my first thoughts and impressions

I have had an iPod Touch for over a year now and it is a great device, but there are times when I wished the screen was bigger or the camera was better.

When they announced the new iPad (3rd generation) last week it didn’t take me very long to decide to order one. I had to order it via the French Apple site which wasn’t too much off a problem, we got there eventually!  And on Friday the UPS man arrived after calling us earlier to confirm his ETA with us, what great service!

So a few pictures…

I bought the 32Gb WiFi only model in black, running a 4G model here in France like running an iPhone here would be expensive, and I don’t ‘need’ the connectivity everywhere I go. I have discovered several free Wifi hotspots in places we regularly visit. For UK visits I have a T Mobile Wireless Pointer 3G/WiFi modem which works just fine. Your ‘needs’ might be different to my own…

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Word Press Plugins

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of WordPress plug-ins that you can install to add extra features and tools to your Word Press blog, but which ones should you use… there is so many and a lot of the duplicate the functions of each other.

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iPod Touch Apps

I did a couple of articles earlier in the year about which apps I was using on my iPod. I thought I would update those posts with a single post with a list of all the additional apps I have loaded.

My choice of apps as you will see is influenced by the fact that I live in France but I frequently travel to UK, so I have a number of apps in a ‘Travel’ folder specifically for UK travel these then don’t take up too much space on the screen.

One of my jobs over Christmas will be to regroup my various apps in to more sensible grouping, writing this post made me realise that I need to do that task sooner rather than later or not at all!

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Senna

I’ve never written about a film before or my former interest in Formula 1 motorsport. So I’m breaking the silence with this post I suppose.

I sat and watched Senna the film last night, it focused on his time in Formula 1 or should I say his short time in F1 when he was tragically killed on 1 May 1994. That day is etched in my memory more so than any other race I suppose.

I thought the film was very good, and it’s a must watch for any F1 fan, past and present. It sets the scene as to how F1 got to where it is today in a lot of ways: safety, politics, money and the sport in general.

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Google Analytics

Anybody who has a blog or a website loves to know how many people visit their site. In early days of the web these took the form of simple counters, but they don’t really tell you a lot of information about your visitors.

I’ve been using Google Analytics for about 5 years or so now, and it’s very easy to implement on your site or blog and once set up you just look at the reports and data that Google collects on your behalf from your visitors from a cookie. It is a free to use service, I have it set up on a lot of sites, so I can look at them all at the same time.

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Steve Jobs 1955-2011

It was with some sadness that I checked my iPod Touch early this morning to see the breaking news about the death of Steve Jobs. I had never met the man himself, but his attention to detail that people have been talking about today in various tributes certainly came across.

If you have any iOS device, just take a look at the screen detail under a magnifier and you will see what I mean, the detail and the colour gradients are very delicately done, yet most people will not notice them at normal viewing distances.

The design of the packaging of Apple products goes well beyond other items I’ve ever bought in the last 10 years, they are an art form in themselves, you don’t want to dispose of the cardboard box because it’s so nicely designed.

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