The Great Personal Blogger Search

I noticed a great post by Seth Godin in my feedreader this morning entitled “Death of the personal blog?“. There are times when he nails it right.

The origin of what we call blogs started as personal diaries, but like everything they have changed, grown and been adapted by media, become larger and the personal part of blogs has been lost in the large blogs. The problem is that the big box blogs that we see on the top lists on sites like Technorati are no longer blogs. They might be run by blogging software but the personality and personal expression of blogs has been wrung out of them to the point where only the numbers of readers, dollars and page views matter.

We need a revolution in blogging; we need to be radical! Blogs need to return to their personal nature. Whether your blog is a personal blog, or a business blog can people see you in the blog or have you been wrung out and hung out to dry?

Seth Godin is right, we need a new list that is not just about the big box blogs. Time to create a list of the best blogs that have a personal touch. Let’s start it here. Leave a comment with your favourite blog that has a personality, where you can see the author, and why you think their blog should be on the list. I want to read your favourite blogs, share them with me and let’s revolutionize blogging again together.

Photo by stuttermonkey

List Building vs. Valuing Readers

Something is rotten in the state of the blogosphere. Perhaps you have noticed that there has been a trend with some popular bloggers lately, you visit their blog and instead of being greeted by their well written, compelling content you are greeted by a pop-over pushing the bloggers newsletter list. Every blogger is different. Some offer you a free reward for joining, some promise unique content that can only be found in the their newsletter or a free podcast. While I have no problem with newsletter lists or people subscribing to an RSS feed by email the latest trend to push newsletter lists has two major problems.

First is a usability issue. They use an annoying pop-over that blocks your access to the website. They are hard to block and are the most annoying form of advertising since popups. Why have these bloggers decided to put a good user experience behind building their newsletter list? Simple, they have discovered that the annoying pop-overs work and signup rates go up. Daily Blog Tips recently did a poll asking if people would stop visiting a website that has a pop-over. The results showed that 36% of people will stop visiting blogs that have a pop-over. These once interesting blogs have been turned into nothing more than a cheesy sales page. You know the ones where they promise you XYZ in return for entering your name and email address. If you want a cheesy sales page make a cheesy sales page, don’t call it a blog.

Second, lets be honest about why they want you to subscribe to their newsletter list. It has nothing to do with community or building trust, it has to do with one thing, MONEY! I have no problem with making money, but don’t bull*&%$ me and tell me it is about building community or building trust. Permission marketing is all about getting people’s permission to sell them something. Building a newsletter list is all about making money either by selling directly or through affiliate links, driving traffic back to the blog or advertising.

One of the unique things about pop-overs is that they are hard to block. Unlike traditional popups, pop-overs are part of the webpage itself and the only way to stop them from appearing on the page is to disable Javascript. This will disable the pop-over from appearing on the website in the middle of the screen, but it will usually still appear as part of the page. By disabling Javascript globally you also disable other features that you might want to function on a website. If you are using Firefox an option you can try is to install the NoScript addon to have more control over what Javascripts are allowed to run on what websites. I have it running and have successfully blocked the annoying pop-overs from, Digital Photography School,, Remarkablogger, Caroline Middlebrook and John Chow dot Com while still being able to use other Javascript features on the sites.

It is unfortunate that readers need to take such drastic actions to be able to enjoy reading blogs without being annoyed by these pop-overs. We will probably have to continue to take such actions until the bloggers either realize that they are annoying more people than they are gaining, start actually getting hurt in their pocketbooks or until big brother Google comes out with a statement saying that websites should not have pop-overs that deter from user interaction similar to statements that they make on popups.

Photo by oddsock

Use WordPress to Welcome Visitors Revisited

One of the things I like about working on the Internet is that things never stay the same. Things are always evolving and changing. Most bloggers will tell you that it is a good idea to welcome people that come to your blog. The plugin “What Would Seth Godin Do?” is one that is mentioned fairly often and of course you want to encourage people that come from social networking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon to Digg and Thumbs Up your post. Not long ago I came across a WordPress plugin that can help bloggers offer custom messages to users based on the website that referred them as well as offering a default message. The WP Greet Box WordPress Plugin does all of this and offers easy customization.

The WP Greet Box WordPress Plugin gives bloggers the ability to show custom messages to readers based upon the referrer that sent them to the blog, as well as showing a default message to users that come from a referrer that is not defined. The plugin combines many of the popular plugins so you only need to run the WP Greet Box WordPress Plugin instead of a plugin for Digg users, StumbleUpon users, Delicious users, etc etc. The plugin also works well with sites that use cache plugins by using JavaScript to output the messages. This prevents the welcome to a Stumbler of Digg user being output into the cache version of the page and being shown to the wrong person, a common problem with some of the other plugins to welcome visitors.

The WP Greet Box WordPress Plugin has also made it easy to add additional messages for other referrers by simply adding a new URL and message. This can great if your blog starts to get referral traffic from a specific URL such as another blog or forum, allowing you to offer those readers a custom message.

You can download WP Greet Box from the WordPress plugin repository. It might be the plugin you were needing to be able to disable several other plugins and have a solution to welcome visitors that is compatible with cache plugins.

Digg – A Bloggers One Night Stand

DiggI like social media and I have accounts at most of the social media sites including Digg but I have been wondering lately what it is about Digg that causes me to not be an active participant in the site. Being a bit of a stats junkie I have read many posts talking about what the traffic from Digg is like. Recently I was Stumbling and came across another post talking about a blogs recent Digg when it hit me, Digg is like a one night stand for a blogger.

Digg can send an enormous amount of traffic to a blog, there is no doubt about it, but the rush is short lived and and then you need to pick up the pieces of your smoking server and carry on. Face it Digg is like a one night stand. Like meeting someone at a night club and being taken up in the moment. Sure it might be fun for the night but the next day after you sober up and you just end up having a headache and hoping you have not caught anything. The biggest long term benefit you can gain from Digg is a chance that others will blog about you and give you some backlinks. Of course that can backfire on you as well depending on who it is that links to you. Face it, Digg is a one night stand, and nothing good ever comes from a one night stand. Look at the types of posts that people write for Digg, nothing but top 25 this and top 50 of that. Drivel! I guess that is what appeals to Digg users.

There are many bloggers that say you should write for social media, and it is tempting to come up with those kinds of list posts. I do write the occasional list post, because they are easy. They take very little thought just some time to compile the list. Great content to enhance your blog and offer something more substantial to your readers does not fit will in a huge list. Relationships take time to nurture and grow. Building relationships with people and offering them content that allows them to grow and think will provide your blog with more long term growth than the flash in the pan Digg can provide. As you write your next post think about how you can offer your readers content that will grow relationships with them and not feed them junk food.

Photo by Night Star Romanus

Great Content Needs Readers

You pour your heart and soul into your blog. You work hard to come up with new and creative ideas to write about and keep looking for your purple cow to make your blog stand out. Then you go and look at your statistics, and discover that no one is reading and appreciating your hard work. It happens to all bloggers at one time or another. It can be frustrating and might make you want to just throw in the towel on your blog.

If your blog has been feeling under appreciated lately then you might be interested in joining an idea to help under appreciated blogs become more appreciated. Chuck Westbrook has an idea that might help. The idea is simple in some ways join together and appreciate other blogs and your blog will be appreciated by others. This might be just the thing to give you some new blogs to read and gain some more appreciation for some new blogs as well.

Easy Top Post Widget

One of the things that has always bothered me about using as a blogging platform is how limited it is for adding extras to your blog such as a top posts widget. Sure it has gotten better, but if you use their FTP publishing service you are still limited to either some kind of server side scripting hack, doing it manually by editing the template HTML or some kind of Javascript widget. I have not found a decent top posts widget for up until now. I came across AideRSS a little while ago and quickly realized I could use it to add a dynamic top posts widget to my FTP published blog.

AideRSS is more than just a top posts widget. AideRSS is actually a way to sort through a lot of the noise by filtering out posts by different levels based on your interests. For example you might not want to read every single post Boing Boing posts. Using AideRSS you can subscribe in your RSS reader to the best posts that they create, thus eliminating some of the noise that can clog up your RSS reader.

The side benefit of AideRSS is that they create top posts widgets. You can submit your own blogs RSS feed, such as your blog and AideRSS will create a top posts list sorted by what they call postrank. You can choose the time period that you want the top posts to be created from. Either year, month, week or day, and the number of top posts you would like to show. Here is a sample of Epibloggers top posts widget showing the top five posts for the year.

If you are looking for a top posts widget for your blog the AideRSS widget might be just the one you are looking for. Because it is Javascript it will create no extra load on your web hosting if you use a self hosted blogging platform and if you are on a hosted blogging platform, such as, most allow some Javascript widgets to be added. You could even use it to show off your friends blogs top posts if you want. With a little CSS styling you could probably make it blend in perfectly with your blog.

A Beginners Guide to Blogging – Blogging Platform

I wanted to get back to writing the beginners guide to blogging. It has been a little while since I wrote on this guide and it can be difficult if not impossible to write a definitive guide for beginners to start blogging. While reading and choosing a topic are part of starting your blog, choosing a blogging platform moves the process of starting a blog into a more technical area. If you do not have a technical background then this step can be one of the more challenging.

Now that you have been reading and you have chosen your blogging topic you can look at what blogging platform you will use to power your blog. There are a number of blogging platforms available and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The first decision you need to make is whether you want to have a hosted blog or a self hosted blog. What is the difference? A hosted blog is one where the content of your blog is hosted on the blogging services servers. Examples of a hosted blogging service include, and TypePad. There are many other hosted blogging services and Wikipedia has a good list of available hosted blogging services.

While some people will tell you that you should never use a hosted blogging solution for your blog there are some very good reasons to use a hosted blogging service. If you do not have a very technical background a hosted blogging service can get you up and blogging faster with less headaches. You don’t have to worry about software upgrades, security is less of a concern just make sure you have a good username and password to keep your account secure. Each service has its differences and I would encourage a beginning blogger to test and experiment with each service to decide if they want to use that service. Personally, I find the service very easy for beginning bloggers to use. The number of settings do not seem to be as over whelming to the beginner and they have made a number of enhancements over the last few years including allowing you to have your own domain name and scheduled posts that make the service more attractive.

The biggest disadvantage to using a hosted blogging service is you do not own your content. There are many stories of blogs being closed down for any number of reasons and your content can simply vanish overnight. It is for this reason alone I like to host my own blogs on my own web hosting. Wikipedia again has a nice list of many of the open source self hosted blogging platforms that are available. If you dislike free and open source software you can also look at the proprietary weblog software that you can install and use.

If you have never blogged before and you are just starting installing blogging software on your own web hosting space I would recommend looking at WordPress as your blogging platform (no surprise there eh). There are many good reasons to use WordPress as your self hosted blogging platform. For beginners there will be a learning curve to using any blogging platform, but the self hosted WordPress is perhaps the easiest to learn from the many options that are available. Many web hosts also offer an easy to use install service called Fantastico or another similar system that will install WordPress for you quickly and easily. Dreamhost, the web host Epiblogger is now hosted with, offers a one-click installer. This takes some of the harder work out of installing WordPress. Once you have WordPress installed you can also use the easy installers to upgrade the software when new upgrades are released. While some blogging consultants recommend you don’t use the easy installers for your initial install or upgrading and there are reasons to not use it, for beginners they are useful tools. You should at some point learn how to upgrade your WordPress installation without the easy installers.

The best reason to use WordPress as your self hosted blogging platform is because of the great community of WordPress users. They are a great resource for helping bloggers of all levels from beginners to expert. Many solutions can be found for any problems you might encounter in the WordPress support forums. If there is a problem you can’t find a solution for in the WordPress support forum the widespread use of WordPress makes it easy to find a WordPress guru to pay to help solve your problem.

Your choice of blogging platform can make a large difference in your blogging. You want to make the most of your time and when you are just starting out the learning curve can be kind of steep no matter what blogging platform you chose. In my experience of working on the web and working with many different blogging platforms over the years I do find and WordPress, either hosted or self hosted, to be the platforms that are the easiest to use. It is also possible to move your blog at a later time to another platform if you feel you want to change. Some platforms don’t give you any options to move afterward and you will then either have to abandon your blog and start over, or find another way of moving your data, such as copying and pasting.

Your turn, every blogger has an opinion about what platform people should use. What blogging platform would you recommend to a beginner blogger?

Photo by whiteafrican

Comment Spam Be Gone

Horse dung - how often can you use a photo of shit on a blog. Found at: have talked about how to keep the comment bots from leaving a ton of spam comments on your WordPress blog before. That method works but it is a little clumsy because you need to edit core WordPress files and if you forget to do it again when you upgrade your blog your comments can break or you will be flooded once again with comment spam. I always wanted to take that method and create a plugin out of it, but it looks like I have been beaten to it with the creation of WP-SpamFree.

I personally was using the method I described in my previous post on my webmaster blog, and it worked great. The biggest problem was the need to redo it after every upgade. Granted the time spent redoing it is nothing compared to dealing with the hundreds of robots leaving comment spam. After the last upgrade I did not have time to complete my spam fix due to other time pressures and commitments. It did not take long for the comment bots to start taking advantage of the opening. In a few short days I had hundreds of automated comment spam piling and stinking up my blog like the giant a pile of horse shit that it is. Thank goodness for Akismet that kept it off my blog so I did not have to sort through the comments and delete them.

That is when I found WP-SpamFree. WP-SpamFree uses a combination of Javascript and Cookies to prevent automated comment spam from being left. While it works on a different principle than the method I described in my method, it relies on the fact that many automated comment bots cannot handle Javascript and cookies. It is an effective combination. I have been running it on my webmaster blog for just over two weeks and the number of comment spam that I have received has dropped to nearly zero. Looking at the web server log files I can tell that the comment spam I have received has been from actual people visiting the site and leaving it, not from automated comment bots.

Installation is as easy as any other WordPress plugin. Simply download the plugin and unzip it. You will need to upload it to your WordPress blog into the plugins folder. Once it has been uploaded simply activate it in your WordPress administration section by clicking Activate on the plugins page. Once it is activated you will see a WP-SpamFree menu available on the Plugins section. Here you can configure the plugin and set some additional settings to deal with trackback and pingback spam as well as some contact form settings.

If your WordPress blog is swimming in automated comment spam give the WP-SpamFree plugin a try. It might make a world of difference in the amount of comment spam you have to sort through.

Make Your Blog a Home

House to a homeThere have been a number of transitions in my life lately. Most notably we packed up our house in Rosthern, Saskatchewan and moved to Regina, Saskatchewan so my wife could take a new position in the city. It has meant a great deal of change for all of us in the house. Rhett has also moved to his new house and you have probably noticed our posts here at Epiblogger have been some what sporadic.

As I was watching the movers pack up our house into the truck in Rosthern and then later that day spending the night at our new house in Regina it struck me how both these places were just houses. They had no personality, they were just empty shells waiting to be filled with our lives, our memories and our stories.

Since then my children have made new friends who are routinely coming and playing in our house and backyard. The neighbours have welcomed us to the block with some baking, and certificates to eat out while we were getting settled and this new house in Regina has slowly started to feel like our home as more and more of us comes out in how we care for the place, how we decorate the rooms and as our stories start to be told here.

Blogs are likes houses, they are nothing but empty shells waiting to be filled with our stories that will make the blog our online home of our lives. It is not easy to risk and expose ourselves on our blogs. It is like welcoming strangers into your home, but for those that we connect with our lives will become richer with the new relationships we have created on our digital home. Do we welcome people to our blogs like they are coming to our home or are they merely strangers that we want to make leave as quickly as possible?

Blogging in Reruns

When I was a kid I used to hate watching television in the summer. Looking back that was probably not a bad thing since it got me outside and playing, but the reason I hated watching television during the summer was because all of the shows were reruns. I never understood then that they don’t sit and make televisons shows all year long and that it takes time to create shows. Fast forward to today where I realize it takes time and energy to create content for television, media, and of course blogs. Time is something that has been very precious to me so far this summer. My family and I made it a priority to spend time together during July before making a move to Regina SK. Rhett has recently become a home owner and has been swamped with holidays and work himself.

Recently there have been some highlights for Epiblogger. We made Liz Strauss’ 260 Blogs: 260,000 Thank Yous! Rhett and I would both like to thank Liz for including Epiblogger on her list. There are some great blogs that she showcased. If you want to subscribe to all of the blogs that Liz showcased in a feed reader you can use an OPML file that Barbera Ling put together.

Epiblogger has been open now since January 1st of this year and I thought you might be interested in visiting or revisiting some of the more popular posts that we had over the last 7 months. Of course you are also welcome to browse the archives for some of our other great posts. I am sure this will probably make Rhett grimace, but here are the top ten posts on Epiblogger since we opened our doors to the world:

We will continue our regularly scheduled blogging soon!

Photo by dawnzy58