Blog News Reporter: The Tools

I’ve been working on some blog news sites for several months now and I’ve come up with an modus operandi, and some time saving tips. This is an approach that works for me, feel free to copy it, massage it and integrate it into your schedule as you see fit.

  • Blog Software: There’s a lot of software for blogging on the market, and reviewing all of them here is beyond the scope of this document. However I have used Google’s Blogger and WordPress. Blogger is good and I’ve gotten really good at ‘pimping my blogger sites‘ but recently I started to feel trapped by it’s limitations. I’ve been using WordPress for a little while now and it’s nice step up from Blogger. It’s by no means perfect and has some issues as well. If you have no technical skill, Blogger is the choice for you, otherwise look at software like WordPress, MoveableType, Blosxom, or even a CMS system like Drupal.
  • Firefox Web Browser: IMHO Firefox is one of the best things to happen to web browsing. Tabbed browsing is so much more productive than windows browsing. I know lots of people who swear by mouse gestures but they just don’t work for me. So my friends are [CTRL+click] open link in a new tab, [CTRL+T] open a new tab, [CTRL+W] close current tab, [CTRL+C] copy selected text to clipboard, [CTRL+V] paste text from clipboard.
  • Firefox Extensions: Extensions are part of what makes Firefox so gosh darn useful, think of them as little add on programs. Here are the ones I find most useful for blogging about the news. You’ll have to restart your browser after you have them all installed.
    • BlogThis: If you are using Blogger blog this gives you the ability to spawn a window directly into your blogger account. It doesn’t have the full functionality of the main blogger window but it is pretty helpful.
    • Context Search: Select a bit of text on the page right click, you’ll see a listing Search web for [selected text]. You can then search any of the search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Amazon, Wikipedia for the text you’ve selected.
    • Tab Browser Preferences: This opens you up to the control panel of tabbed browsing allowing you to make customizations
    • Mini T: This lets you move tabs around putting them in the order you want.
    • Copy URL Plus: This makes selecting and copying text from one page easier and more useful. I’m even sharing a custom script I use that saves me a tremendous amount of time.
    • Chrome Edit: This lets you customize the appearance of your browser.
  • Firefox Extras: Here’s a script my buddy Nick at threadwatch wrote to customize Copy URL Plus. It allows you to select some text and bring it in with some formatting already in place, a real time saver. Here’s where to put it
    [tools -– edit user files -– paste this in user.js]
    Restart your browser to see it in effect.
  • Browser Bookmarklets: If your blogging software supports ‘tagging’ good for you. If it doesn’t you’re going to want to tag it. I’ve written a bookmarklet to tag your blog posts, feel free to use it.
  • News and Feeds: Unless you are a true journalist pounding the pavement, picking up the phone, and emailing people, you need a way to find out about the news. Using the Google News, Yahoo News, And MSN News are great ways to start. However visiting these sites everyday and searching for your terms would be a job by itself. The best time saving way to do this is with RSS and XML feeds. A great tool for generating a list of feeds is Kebberfegg (goofy name great tool). Once you have these feeds you’re going to need a way to read them. Evaluating feed readers is beyond the scope of this article however some popular ones include Sage for Firefox , Bloglines, and Newsgator.
  • Posting Suggestions: Once you have set up your feeds, and are reading them you are looking for stories that are “newsworthy“. You are looking for important, front of mind, important stories. While there is some value in aggregating, remixing, and regurgitating news, you will get more mileage by adding some value, and adding content of your own. Add your own insight, opinion, satirical cynical views, or even overly dramaticic humorous commentary. The key is adding something unique.
  • Copying and Fair Use: If you are reading a news item and want to copy and make a citation the tools and scripts mentioned above make it really easy. Select the text, right click and select [Copy URL+] a fly out menu will appear with some options, try different ones and play around with what they do by pasting them into blog posts. I’m not a lawyer and not qualified to tell you what constituteses fair use, but the rule of thumb I operate under is copy no more than 4-5 sentences, copy only what you need, and provide a link back to the source material (don’t skip this step it’s important).
  • Blogging Frequency anrhythmym: Darren Rowse at ProBlogger talks about blogging frequency anrhythmym. Basically try to match your readers expectations. If your readers visit mostly in the morning, try to have new feeds waiting for them when they log in first thing. Blogger really falls apart here, WordPress does a much better job from my experience. Also think about what would happen if you went away on vacation, and the hotel didn’t have internet access (GASP). WordPress allows you to schedule blog postings to be posted in the future, and even takes care of pinging for you. If you post regularly and have to stop posting temporarily for some reason, a notice is a nice thing to do. Blogging that you are taking a plane/train/automobile this morning/afternoon/evening and won’t be available borders on blogging narcissism.

Continued in part II (Blog News Reporter: Approaches and the News)

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Blog News Reporter: The Tools
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