Ghost: Kickstarter-backed Blogging platform releases to public

WordPress, being the most popular CMS, needs no introduction for most people. It’s everywhere, literally (even on the blog you’re on, right now). While, WordPress is great, it is becoming increasingly bloated and complex for simple blogging.

Ghost is a popular Kickstarter project, backed by quite a lot of people in its early stages. The catch here is that, Ghost wants to do only one thing, and that is to be a blogging platform.

dashboard

Internally, there are huge differences between WordPress and Ghost. The former is apparently based on PHP and MySQL. The latter doesn’t use any of those. Ghost is written entirely in Javascript and basing on Node.js, which is like the coolest thing right now in web development.

Node.js is a platform for running Javascript on the server (JS was meant to be a client side language) and build highly scalable apps, using asynchronous aka non-blocking I/O. This means that, Ghost will be much faster, scalable and simpler to manage.

Like in WordPress, theming is a big deal in Ghost too. Because it’s based off JS, Ghost uses HandlebarsJS, a popular Javascript templating library. It’s much simpler than say, writing WP themes in PHP. Take a look at the image below for reference.

WordPress Vs. Ghost in Theming

With all the technology aside, Ghost is well designed and easy to use. The web app is responsive, so it works just fine on mobiles. The dashboard is informative and shows numbers on overall reach of your blog.

In short, Ghost seems to be perfect for small blogs. It lets you concentrate on content, rather than managing the blog.

Ghost is free, open source and public. You can download it today, throw it on localhost and give it a try.

Link: Ghost

What’s New in WordPress 3.6 “Oscar”

wordpress oscar

I am using WordPress for the last three years now and I am big fan of it’s features, ease of use and security. When I first moved from blogger to WordPress it was the version 2.3 since then I have used multiple versions of WordPress. A couple of days agothey have also released the new version 3.6 named “Oscar” named after a great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

WordPress 3.6 “Oscar” went live on 1st August 2013, it can be downloaded from the WordPress.org site or can be updated directly from the admin panel if you are already using WordPress.

But before you install or upgrade I think you might like to look up some new changes in this release, so here I’m listing all the important changes that will affect most common users.

This video gives a quick brief on what’s new in there.

New Theme: Twenty Thirteen

Twenty Thirteen theme

This version is being provided with a new theme called Twenty Thirteen, this theme is a simple theme that has been built specially to make visitors focus on the content without be distracted by anything else on site. It is a single column theme with sidebar and widgets in the footer.

Post Locking

Because of this feature you can always know who else is editing the current post on which you are also writing, with live updates that appear in the list of posts. And if someone leaves a post open for any reason, then you can easily take over where they left off.

Better Revision Browser

easy revision viewer

Every change you make to a post will be saved instantly on server and also locally so you won’t loose anything ever, and all revisions can be easily reviewed through the new side-by-side viewer with changed text highlighting.

Native Support For Audio/Video Embeds

With this feature now you can easily embed Audio and Video files in your article just with the direct file url, you just have to upload the audio or video file to your server or any other server which gives you a direct link to the file with valid extension, such as mp3,aac,mp4,mpg, avi etc.

And then just have to place the url in your post editor where you want the player to appear and the player will be automatically assigned to it through WordPress.

All the Audio and Video that you will be uploading to your server can previewed under Media > Edit page.

Integration with Spotify, Rdio, and SoundCloud

You can now embed your custom playlists, songs and albums just by pasting the URL from any of these services SpotifyRdio, and SoundCloud.

Menu Editor Enhanced

new menu manager

Although no new feature has been introduced, menu editor has been customized for easier management, now you can also select multiple locations where menu has to be shown.

Improved Autosaves

offline saving

They are now calling it Augmented Autosave, It will be very useful for sites where more than a single author is working on a post. Now every author of the article will have their standalone copy of Autosaves, It will store data locally as well as on server so there will be very less chance of loosing any data ever.

Other minor changes:

  • The ability to change post formats was removed from Quick Edit
  • The Media Library can now be sorted by Author name
  • Removed three default contact methods (AIM, YIM, Jabber) for new installs.
  • Allow any post format to be set as default in Settings

These are the changes which I thought are good, but there are lots more changes has been done you can check the complete list here.

Are you using WordPress 3.6? Tell us what you think about it in your comments.

Basic Sitemap – Generate sitemap of WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr Blogs

Sitemaps are considered as the simplest and easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages or content on their sites. Making sitemaps can be complex but most times bloggers usually need only a basic sitemap generator. Basic Sitemap web app can be used to generate sitemap of blogs that are created on WordPress, Tumblr and Blogspot.

These sitemaps can then be submitted to Google and Bing webmaster tools for indexing.

Basic Sitemap Features

  • First of all go to Basic Sitemap. Then you can see page as shown in the figure.
  • In the left site you can see a text box. Enter the complete URL of your blog. For example http://example.blogspot.com. Avoid using country domains such as “.co.in” or “.co.uk”.

text box to enter blog address

  • Once the user entered the address of blog and press ‘generate sitemap’ button. Then it will automatically generate the link to sitemap.

automatically generate sitemap

  • Now copy the address generated by basic sitemap.
  • Open Google or Bing webmaster tools. For demonstration purpose I am using Google webmaster. You need to enter username and password of your Google or Bing account for opening webmaster tool.
  • Once the Webmaster site opens you can see your blog address as in the figure below. If it is not there press ‘Add URL’ or ‘Add Site’ button and add address of your blog. Now click on your blog address.

webmaster tool window

  • Now you are directed to new page. To the right hand side of the page you can see a Sitemap bar. Click on it.

Sitemap option

  • Then you are directed to new page. In this page you can see ‘Add/Test Sitemap’. Press it. In the popup window paste the URL that you copied. Then press ‘Submit sitemap’.

Submitting sitemap

That’s it, your blog’s sitemap is now submitted on Google. For more advanced web tools you can look up the official Google’s recommended list of 3rd party tools for creating sitemaps here.

Link: Basic Sitemap

Lesson from Google Reader: Don’t get attached to free products

As Google decided to say goodbye to Reader, a lot of my friends who are bloggers ended up being angry and sad. I am no exception, I am totally disappointed with Google for being so soulless but I think with time the anger will be gone.

There is already a mad scramble for finding Google Reader alternatives and we will surely find one or two companies come up with a worthy replacement over time.

But there is big lesson to be learnt from Google Reader’s impending demise. That lesson is do not fall in love with free products or services.

Free services are never truly ours!

Free apps dead
Image: Credit

I spent a lot of time on Google Reader. I created folders and shared bundles. This was time that I gave to Google Reader and it enriched my experience and possibly others too. All that is gone and its mainly because I do not own my data. I might be able to download it but I won’t be able to use it the same with with another service.

Lets take a look at all the free services we use. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Search and so many more services. I love these services but with the end of Google Reader, I realise that all our data on these services is not really ours. We spend hours on Facebook and Twitter but really do we get out of it as much as we give it. We give our time, upload our photos, get social interactions.

Yes, we can back-up our data from Facebook but can we take the social interaction to another service? No, we cannot. If I am unhappy with Facebook and move to Google+, I have to start from scratch. The same goes vice-versa.

To be honest I am glad that Google Reader was built on RSS feeds. I could take my RSS feeds to another reader or app and continue without too many issues.

Sure I will miss Google Reader but I won’t exactly feel I have to start from scratch. Now what if Facebook closed down? I might be able to move my photos and download my updates. Even backup my contact lists but what about the countless social interactions which make our social networking experience truly rich.

Lesson for Bloggers!

This is a big lesson for bloggers. If you are using a free service like Blogger.com or WordPress.com you might want to rethink your strategy. These blogging platforms are free and host your content free. They are likely to remain free for a long time to come. But what if one of them closes down? What happens to your years of writing and building a community? Maybe if you blog very actively, it might be a good idea to buy yourself a domain and some hosting.

Atleast data from blog (including comments) can be migrated but I know many who create great content only for their social networking pages and profiles. That is a very risky thing to do and it is better to truly own your content.

Let us be fair to Google

I started this post saying I was angry with Google but to be fair to them, I can see that Google Reader was a product that was not exactly going to grown. This is where smaller companies like Flipboard and Feedly might thrive as their core business will be dealing with managing feeds.

It is interesting to note that no other big web company like Facebook, Yahoo or Microsoft has a half decent competitor to Google Reader. Google has just gone back to its core competency, which is big data and the data from Google Reader I suspect was not large enough.

Blogathon March 2013: Two Day Blogging Workshop in Mumbai

Are you a blogger who has recently started out? Are you looking to get introduced to basics of WordPress, including buying your own domain and hosting your own blog? Then you might like to check out Blogathon 2013. It will take place in Mumbai on 2-3 March, 2013.

Blogging Workshop Mumbai - Blogathon

What is Blogathon all about?

Blogathon describes itself as a workshop for structured WordPress blogging and starting-up. I spoke with the organizer Niranjan, who explained to me about the concept behind Blogathon and what it is offering.

  • The two-day workshop will have speaker sessions on the first day. It will cover basics like how to go about blogging, starting a blog, introduction to self-hosted WordPress basics and CSS and design basics.
  • It will also showcase speakers who will explain concepts like SEO, content curation, publishing insights and more.
  • On the second day will entail practical sessions where attendees will be building their websites.

India needs more Blogging + WordPress workshops

I strongly feel India needs more such workshops that are not just for developers or experts. Usually at conferences or talks I have attended, I found that newbies are often ignored and they are more or less lost.

It is good to see an initiative like Blogathon which is going to have practical sessions for bloggers who are new and need a bit of hand-holding.

Link: Register for Blogathon

Related: My Experiences with WordCamps in India

Quora Launches Blogging Platform

Quora is a very interesting website. It is basically a social network that is alive with content. No silly cats or funny videos but really well researched posts and discussions by people from various backgrounds. In other words to an extent Quora has done something Facebook and Twitter have not managed.

Quora has now launched a blogging platform  It was already being used like a blogging platform by some by re-sharing their blog posts on their boards. Quora has now converted all boards into blogs.

Quora Blogging Platform

Quora’s Blog Features

  • Once you sign-in to your account, you will get a message at the top to create your blog.
  • Select the relevant topics you want your blog to be associated with. And start creating posts.
  • The layout of the blogs are simple and are focused on reading more than style. The best part is I can add multiple ready-made tags or categories in the form of “Post Topic”.
  • Basically if you are an expert at something, having content on your own Quora blog is a great idea.
  • Quora claims the blogging platform can be used on mobile phones but I see that at the moment it supported only on iPhones.

What could be Quora’s plan?

Quora is not exactly a social network. It is a lot closer to something like Wikipedia but not social. It is also very similar to websites like About.com. But its unique and rich feature is people asking questions and experts replying on them.

Also blogposts on Quora at the moment are all public. So are other posts and answers to questions but usually only the top answer can be viewed and to see the rest you either have to sign-in to your account or register with Quora.

One thing a lot of people are watching is how Quora will finally monetize. The problem is Quora cannot make money by selling content that is crowd sourced without upsetting the users who created it.

So letting users in on some of the revenues could be a possible future strategy and what better way than a blogging platform. Ofcourse I could be way off the mark here about Quora’s monetization plans.

Do your use Quora? Will you use it as a blogging platform? Do drop in your views in comments.

(via Quora Blog)

Write more with less effort using Mou for Mac

I was a Windows user since the day I started using computers, but over a six months back, I switched to OS X. I loved it and prefer it to Windows, but there’s one thing which bugged me, and that’s there is no good free blogging client for Mac. Sure, there’s MarsEdit but it costs over 40$, which I think is really costly.

Windows on the other hand has Live Writer – Microsoft’s own blogging client which is pretty good. This is where Markdown comes in, making blogging on Mac awesome.

mou-markdown-mac

So what’s Markdown?

It’s a light weight markup language which converts plain text into HTML.

It started as a project by John Gruber – famous for his blog, Daring Fireball.

The syntax is pretty easy to learn, for example, if you put a # before a sentence, Markdown turns it into a h1. Put ##, it’ll be turned into a h2.

To make a word bold, wrap it in two asterisks – **like this**.
These are just a few examples, the full syntax is available on Daring Fireball.

Blogging should be solely about writing stuff and not code, that’s why Markdown is ideal for it.

Mou for Mac

Markdown clients are in plenty for OS X (and iOS) and that’s apparent as Markdown is made by Gruber himself. I’ve tried many of them, but Mou impressed me with its minimal interface and features while still being free.

The concept is simple, you write marked text on the left column of app and it shows the live preview on right. After you’re done, you can post to Tumblr or Scriptogr.am if your blog is hosted there, otherwise you can just copy the HTML (that’s what I do).

In the preferences, you can change fonts, default CSS applied and theme used.

Mou can also be great for web developers who want to quickly write HTML without any fuss.

Link: Mou

5 Rules to Follow Before You Monetize a Blog

There are many professional bloggers in the world. By professional, I mean someone who blogs for a living. Bloggers and their blogs might have their individual stories, but the common thread among most of them is that most bloggers start causally.

I have often interacted with new bloggers who write to me, asking me for advice on how to start monetizing their blog. I decided to write down 5 rules bloggers could follow before they start monetizing their blog.

Just a disclaimer before I start, these are not tips or tricks on SEO or making money from AdSense. They are just certain things common with almost all professional bloggers.

  1. Email addresses like hackerz4eva@example.com sound very cool. Most people (yours truly included) have tried to have such an cool sounding handle for email. But if you want to come across as a professional then such email addresses will not do. Make sure you have your name included in the email address.
  2. Always use your own name while publishing a post. Never publish posts under ‘Admin”. An Admin usually means someone who takes care of backend part of a website not the content part.
  3. Do not praise yourself unrealistically. Never call yourself a hacker, a millionaire, or even a success. The real ones never do. ;-)
  4. Make sure you have an “About Us” page and pay very close attention to what your write on it. An “About Us” post with incorrect English or even worse false content can have a very bad impact on your reputation.
  5. Are you blogging for a career or for pocket money. There is nothing wrong with making a quick buck from your blog even at the cost of quality. But if you have chosen to make blogging into a career, the you will have to give it adequate respect.

These tips are not about making money but getting ready to make money. If you follow these tips, you will come across as someone who is serious about blogging.

Do you have more to add to this list? Do drop in your comments.

IndiBlogger – Monsoon Session Meet @ Pune on 7th July

IndiBlogger Pune MeetIndiBlogger the community website for bloggers in India has arranged for a Blogger meet. It will be held in the city of Pune, India on 7th July.

You can register for the meet here. It is free to register though participants might have to shell out INR 200/- for food.

Details of Blogger Meet in Pune

Venue Address:

RajLaxmi Sabhagruha
Vijay Commercial Complex, Kumbare Heights, Near Guru Ganesh Nagar
Survey No. 82/9/10, New D.P. road, Kothrud
Pune – 411038

Landmark: Opposite Spencer’s. 1.5 KM from Karve Putla towards Yashwantrao Chavan Natyagrah

Timings:11.00 am to 5.00.

Do check out the Event Link for complete information and contact numbers.

Even though I have been blogging for over 3 years, a lot of my interaction with bloggers has been online. I have hardly meet many bloggers face to face. So I am really looking forward to catching up with some interesting bloggers and discovering their interesting blogs.

If you are around Pune and like blogging, you might want take part in the the blogger meet.

Links: IndiBlogger | Pune Blogger Meet

India Site Clinic 2012 – Register Your Site and Get Free Advice From Google!

Whenever someone starts blogging there comes a time when they come across the term ‘SEO’. Search engine optimization best practices actually end up changing with every site.

It all really boils down to the nature of the website and also the type of content on it. If you are a blogger, I am sure you must have secretly wished for a Google employee to actually take a look and give you some advise on what are the best ways to get your site crawled and results show up higher on Google.

With India Site Clinic that is exactly what Google will be doing for website owners.

What is India Site Clinic?

Website owners can registered for India Site Clinic, which will pick up a limited number and give advise on how to improve search rankings for all the websites.

Webmasters have to register at this link and fill out the form. They will also need to make sure their website is registered with Google Webmaster tools.

The submission are open only upto 14th May 2012. It might be a good idea to take a chance at getting free valuable advice from Google about your website.

Do note that if Google thinks your website has a unique issue, it might use it as a test case on it Site Clinic blog. You can read more about it at the Google India blog post.

Other than registering it might be a good idea to follow India Site Clinic just to learn what exactly Google expects from website owners.

Do drop in your comments.

Related: Get Suggestions from Google to Improve Page Load Speed