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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to Improve Blogger

As a good CATpitalist, I have selected Blogger as a free hosting platform, but I haven't taken what it's given me. It's an extremely limited system, with only a few basically identical templates (ugly) and just as few widgets. Wordpress seems much better, BUT their hosting service won't allow ads. So it was Blogger. But--

You have to stand out from the herd (of cats).

So I've started some improvements, having poked around the internet. First, I got a new template from Pam Blackstone's site "Random Bytes." It supports three-column layouts, which makes much better use of the screen space. Thanks, Pam!

Second, I simply and easily built a new logo in Photoshop Elements. That program came free with my digital camera-- that's Zooey in the header, on the hunt for money-- but you could just as easily use freeware or shareware editing programs like GIMPShop, Paint.NET (Windows), or ImageWell (Mac).

Installing the HTML for the new template-- I'm not a code head-- deleted all my custom widgets like text, Blogflux button, and GPS. So I've got a little work to do to put that stuff together, and you should be forewarned if you go to make similar changes.

This layout should allow for better integration of ads-- I didn't like the between-post style, and Blogger will make sidebar ads disappear in favor of the tweeners. Also, I can now put more stuff-- tag clouds, links, etc etc-- on the same screen. So, good stuff.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to do some restoration to my sidebars...

REVIEW: eMarketing eXcellence

I picked up eMarketing eXcellence, an "e-marketing essentials" book, at the library when all the For Dummies books had been checked out. It's thick and dense and seems a lot more impressive to carry around than a For Dummies book. Do the Singles Bar test: read a For Dummies book at the bar with a Bud Lite and see how much "play" you get. Then go to a different bar and whip out eMarketing eXcellence while drinking a cola. Not a Cuervo Black and cola, just a cola. You may find its sleek, impressive, six-figure-looking cover makes your "pLay" go up "eXponentially."

Just don't actually read it. It is written, not for human beings, but middle managers, who speak in the arcane language of Six Sigma and Dilbertese. A sample from the section on web site design:

Web site design presents a challenge few have mastered. We all have used web sites that provide us with what we are looking for, and many more that don't, but what makes some sites more appealing than others? This section looks at the purpose or objectives of web sites and then the key variables required to achieve web objectives. Clarifying the key objectives and purpose of the site helps to determine the functions and content of the site. [emphasis mine]
Satan writes like this in the Netherworld. Aren't "objectives" and "purpose" the same thing? Why write it twice? To bludgeon? Does word design too present a challenge few have mastered? Seriously, you could cut this paragraph down to about five words and still get the job done.

The authors try to jazz it up with lots of section headers and graphs and charts, but this cements its fall into the land of sad textbooks who spend Prom on the shelf, neither bought nor even checked out.

Who writes books like this? Who reads them? Actually, the question is, who buys them. The book's primary audience is not human beings who read something to learn. It's managers and workshop leaders who put the thing on a syllabus and force large groups of people to buy it, or even whole company departments. It's one of those awful college-level textbooks that not only feels like nobody's ever read it, but nobody actually wrote it either.

So if you are a middle manager or have to teach a workshop, I recommend it highly. You can skim the bullet lists and section headers and pretty quickly get the lingo down. Think of it as a phrasebook for marketing-speak.

IN SUM:

What did I learn from this book? How not to write a book. To learn about e-marketing ideas I can use, I guess I'll have to wait for those For Dummies books. Sorry, ladies.