Thursday, September 15, 2011

Technical Terms Defined

Today's post is a guest blog from the Murder Must Advertise loop which is dedicated to helping mystery authors get the word out on their books. As a little background, I am taking a book blog tour class and get lost in all the technology terms. I thought Paul's comment on the litserv was very informative and others might benefit from it. Thank you PolyWogg. To see more about Poly, check out his website at

The mechanics differ from site to site, but the "theory" behind them is
relatively straightforward.

Note though that one should distinguish between a blog (regularly updated
content on a website) and a newsletter (regularly updated content sent out
by e-mail). If you get Hitch's business updates by e-mail. they are truly a
newsletter -- all the content is there to read, for the most part,
relatively self-contained. At the other end of the spectrum is a
auto-generated newsletter that basically does nothing more than tell you
there's a new blog entry on the website (this is what my e-mail followers
get, designed to drive people to the site). In the middle is something CJ
Lyons does -- she sends out what looks like a newsletter in that it is a
nicely drafted/crafted e-mail, but also contains announcement info on links
to more info on her website. So, if someone wants your newsletter, there's
really only one way to get it -- sign in and give you their email address.

However, if you want to "follow" a blog (or any website generally), there
are generally five ways to do it, only one of which requires an e-mail or
login. First, you can do it manually -- some people have a few bookmarks
that they just click on once a week or once a day and go to the site to see
what's new. Upside is it is totally within your control, no distractions, no
inbox filling up, etc.; downside is you forget to click and miss something

Second, you can use a tool like iGoogle or MyYahoo etc to create a special
page that does nothing more than give you little windows of other pages --
so you "add" someone else's URL to this page and next time you go to
MyYahoo, it will show you if there is anything updated on that page (usually
the home page of the blogsite). This is basically how most news sites work
that aggregate other news sites.

Third, you can subscribe "manually" to their updates (if the site allows
it). My site gives this option -- if you subscribe, enter your e-mail
address, etc, then every time there's a new blog entry, you get an e-mail.
Most sites don't have it, at least not by default, but it is usually easy to
add. I have mine set to send out the "notifications" daily only cuz I don't
generate a lot of content, it's a personal site. And I use a plugin called
FeedBurner which includes an e-mail option. They manage all the e-mail
addresses, not me, and it is a lot more sophisticated then me having them
register on MY site (which btw also creates essentially a type of account on
my site, which is also an opening for future vulnerabilities) .

Fourth, you can click on the RSS feed and add it to your browser (some
browsers have built in plugins that will allow feeds to appear just in their
toolbar as pulldown menus). RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and was designed for "following" someone without necessarily telling them and having to provide your info. If you are on a site that is even the least bit social media friendly, you usually see a little icon for Facebook, another for Twitter, several others for other social media sites, and then one that is orange and looks like a dot in the bottom left hand corner with two semi-circles radiating out to the right -- the image is supposed to be like a speaker giving off "waves". Clicking on this activates the RSS feed, and your browser set up decides if it knows what to do with it (i.e. add it to your pulldown menu) or not (gives you a really ugly page of computer code that is almost unreadable).

Fifth, and I find this the easiest, is to run an RSS reader program. Some
are standalone and run on your desktop, others are web-based. I use Google's web-based RSS reader, called, dum dum de da: Google Reader. In the reader, you basically give it the URL for the site you want to follow and it will try to figure out the feed address for you -- usually something like feed or something similar. Most of the time though I just click on the RSS icon and up pops a bunch of options like "How do you want to follow this?" with a list of various readers to choose from, and Google is almost always an option. I click on google reader, it adds it for me to the google reader, and voila, my google reader has another bookmark in it that is now following George's Guide to Navel Lint. If It doesn't give me the popup, I can add it manually by opening google reader and entering the URL myself, and that will find it most of the time. If not, last resort is to "right click" on the RSS icon on the blog, say "COPY LINK LOCATION" and
paste *that* into your Reader program. This isn't a great explanation, there
are pages and pages of examples on the Google Reader Help site, if you can't get it to work, but it's not as bad as I describe. Like I said, most of the time, I just click on the RSS icon and say "add to google reader". I have even added a Google Reader widget to my iGoogle home page that tells me when google Reader has something new in it. Of course, Google Reader also "pulls" the content from the original site and gives you a viewer reader to see the entry -- which means if you're following your favorite author, and they add a special banner to their site advertising a new book or a sale, you don't see it in the reader ... you read the text, not the original website. You can click through to it easy enough to see more, but it does mean you're not visiting the site.

As for MM's comment about, ahem, commenting and wanting a universal commenting system, I hope no one holds their breath. It won't come anytime soon, I don't think -- two of the main drivers for running different commenting systems is (a) how it integrates with the underlying software which varies from other sites for specific offerings (FB and Google+ do similar things, but not identical, and comment systems will differ in their ability to integrate with them too); and (b) combating spamsters. If anyone follows The Passive Guy's blog, he even gives good examples of Spam 2.0 attempts on his site -- spamsters who post what look like perfectly
legitimate but somewhat generic comments, no spam involved, and wait until you approve it. Which seems like a waste of spam time, except most sites have similar policies -- all first time comments get moderated, *but* if you are posting from an e-mail address that has already had at least one comment approved, the site allows direct posting without moderation. So the first comment goes in as "innocuous" and then they can spam your site at will, because the address is already "validated" as okay. So expect the commenting systems to respond in different ways, and to continue their parallel but incompatible development.

RSS is a great way to market your site, build followers, etc., but the downside is it is also anonymous -- you don't know who is following you, unlike Twitter or newsletters. It's one of the reasons too why it is so popular -- I don't necessarily want to share my address with you for all eternity opening myself up to the potential of eternal spam from you. I just want to read your blog :) But while it builds support for your CONTENT, RSS readers also encourage people to view your content in THEIR windows, not the original site.


  1. Hi,
    Susan from the blogging class here. I'm impressed at your technical savvy. Thanks for sharing all that information. I'm going to sign with my url, as instructed, but I've noticed that on many blogs the commenters don't do that, so I don't either.
    What do you think? Would that be shameless promotion on a blog where people just leave first names?

  2. Oh, when you asked for the url, I thought it would post.

  3. Hi! I’m here to complete my Friday Schmoozing Assignment – See you in class :)

    Florence Price
    Romance Me

  4. Thanks for stopping by. I do like using in the code for the website. I usually justed typed it in! I'm schmoozing a bit late tonight.Long day selling books and then the highlight of every small town's fall -- high school football!