Monday, August 08, 2011

Blogger Monday: When should you back up your blog content?

Last week I wrote my "Blogger Monday" blog post Sunday night and used the option to schedule it to post on the Monday. I went to sleep, content in having a new blog post under my belt. I have been on Blogger, Google's blogging platform, before it was even owned by Google. Yes, more than seven years. I have always composed my messages directly into the blog, hit "publish" and never had a problem. Until last week.

The next day I went about my day, and it wasn't until late morning that I thought to check in to the blog. Much to my surprise, the new blog post was not there! I went into the dashboard on the back end. Perhaps I had done something wrong? With the WordPress blogging platform, for example, if you leave the category "uncategorized" checked off, the post does not appear publicly.  No, nothing there. I checked draft posts, I checked scheduled posts, and I checked all posts. Nothing. I tried searching the posts from the back end, again nothing. I spent a couple of stressed hours. I remembered largely what I had written, but who wants to spend another hour rewriting a blog post?

I checked Google's help forum and discovered a few others had experienced the same problem recently, but no one was offering answers as to why and how to recover. I vented a bit on Twitter, and got a bit of sympathy but again no real answers.

And then I got a message from educator extraordinaire, Diane Bédard:

Backup? Ummm...hrm. I had never thought to back up an individual blog post. I always thought once it was accepted as post I would be safe. Apparently not!  My first reaction was to say "I could never write off-line and then post to a blog! Blogging directly into the blog platform is part of my creative process!". I have to admit to being a bit huffy about it. And then I realized that (as is always the case) Di was right.

Backing up individual blog posts

So, my compromise is to write directly in the blog platform, but then to copy down the content at least until the post goes up publicly. That way I always have my last post at least in draft "just in case."  I am getting used to this new addition to the workflow, but here is what I do:

  • Go to the HTML editor for the blog post and copy all content (using "select all" in the browser).  This way I capture all the HTML coding. 
  • I then copy it into a text editor rather than Word so that extra Word code is not added to the document.  
  • If I need to reinstate the blog post later, I would copy from the text editor document, and paste into the HTML editor screen.

So how did I get the post back last Monday? After putting it aside for a couple of hours, I came up with an idea: what about my browser history, was there a link there? I went in, and was very fortunate to somehow (mysteriously) be able to pull open the blog post. It appeared to somehow still be in Blogger, albeit lost. I copied from the HTML editor and then went to the blog in a fresh screen, started a new blog post, and pasted the copied text back into the HTML editor.  I was extremely lucky all of this actually worked.

Backing up all archived blog content (i.e. exporting)

In addition to backing up individual posts, what else should you do to back up your blog content? It is a good idea to periodically back up your content in case the site goes down or disappears.

WordPress, for example, has an "Export" feature currently under "Tools":

Blogger has an "Export content" feature under "Settings" and "Basic":

Other considerations in backing up blog content

Other things to think about when determining how you are going to back up blog content:
  • Think about the format you are exporting the content into. 
  • What about the blog template, especially if you have customized it? On Blogger it doesn't hurt to grab the template HTML (copy from the Template > Edit Template page). In WordPress, keep track of the plugins you have added.
  • What about blogger profiles? And other pages added such as with WordPress?
  • Will the content you capture allow you to sufficiently replicate the blog later? Move to another platform?
  • Where will you store the backup versions of the site? Think about the measures you typically take to back up important content. You may wish to do the same with your blog content.
  • How often will you back up content?  It is a good idea to stick to a regular schedule. Will you back it up daily, weekly or monthly?
  • Who will be in charge of backing up the site? Who will fill in if that person is away?
I have to admit being a bit cavalier with my own blog, but after last week's incident am starting to realize how much personal equity I have built up in this blog and how I should be making a more concerted effort to back it up. And of course if you are administrating a blog for work or business purposes, you may have even more important reasons to back it up consistently.

When updating blog templates or layouts

Finally, it is a very good idea to have a separate development or test site for making changes to the blog template or plug-ins. Set up a copy of your blog at a separate URL to test out changes. That way if you mess something up, you haven't destroyed your good work on the main site. This is something I see others doing. In the past I would have just tweaked the template of this blog on the fly; however, especially with something like WordPress, code and plug-ins can interact in unexpected ways. As I start to think about changing the template to this blog, I am giving thought to setting up a separate test site so I can play around with options and not risk losing my hard work. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Innovative Ideas: Virtual Stores and the Possibility for Public Libraries

This video depicts how Tesco have adapted their services for the South Korea market. One of their goals was to increase market share while not increasing number of stores. The solution? "Virtual" stores in subway stations. Have a look, this is pretty cool--

Shoppers add items to their shopping carts by scanning QR codes with their smart phones, and then the items purchased are delivered to their homes. This makes me wonder how public libraries might take advantage of something like this? Imagine browsing books while waiting for a train or bus and having them delivered to your ebook reader or home. Libraries have been exploring the various uses of QR codes. This use would certainly attract some attention to libraries, don't you think?

Can you think of other uses of a virtual store like this?

Hat tip to Martin Cleaver for sharing this video.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Blogger Monday: Kickstarting an Old Blog

I know I keep harping on about the things I learned at AALL 2011, but there is indeed more. Last week I attended the blogger meetup hosted by the CS-SIS (Computing Services Special Interest Section). We were fortunate to have Meredith Lindemon, owner and operator of Meredith Group, join us. Lindemon is a consultant who specializes in launching the web presence for organizations as well as business development.

She sat with each of our tables and gave us individual advice about our blogs. I have to admit, I didn't expect to learn much since I have been blogging so long and even written a successful book about blogging. But I was pleasantly surprised!  I explained to her that I have been blogging for over seven years, help other people to blog, and even consult in this area. But, I was struggling to keep content going on my own blog. I have been a stuck thinking about how I would like to change the look of this blog, and feel this has kept me a bit hung up on posting.

She gave me three pieces of advice to get started again, some of which I apparently have been taking:
  1. Give up on the old blog and start fresh with a new one on a different topic.
  2. Get into the habit of writing each day for just 20 minutes.
  3. Pick a theme for each day of the week and write to that theme. For example, Mondays could be about law librarianship, Tuesdays could be interviews with mentors.
While I felt that the first suggestion to be sage advice, it is not good for me. My blog has been wide-ranging and has developed over time as I have developed my own interests. I want to keep blogging about what I am learning professionally, so don't see a need to start on a new topic or a new blog. That being said, at some point the look will get revamped.
But the other two pieces of advice hit the nail on the head, I think. Writing each day for 20 minutes is a low time commitment, and yet should get me back in the groove of blogging each day. I do a lot of writing throughout the day (Twitter, Facebook, email, blog comments, and of course client reports) so this should not be a stretch.  

I am mulling over the idea of a theme for each day. Behind the scenes I have in the past put together series of blog topics only to feel less than inspired when it came time to write the full blog posts once I had completed the outlines. No doubt there are skeletal blog post remains littered all over the place. So, it will be important to pick themes I can sustain. No doubt the best plan of action will be to start with themes I am already addressing, and allow those to flourish. I am still giving some thought to this. 

I do like the idea of making one day dedicated to the topic of blogging since I have written substantially in this area. Therefore, I am kicking off the themes with "Blogger Monday". What do you think? What sorts of topics would you like to see covered with respect to blogging?

And what about the other days of the week? What should I cover then? I have some ideas but haven't set fingers to keyboard yet, so there is still time to get your suggestions in. 

Thank you so much for joining me in this journey to get this blog rolling again. I think it is about time! I really do hope you will consider participating and adding a comment or two to the blog. That would be some real encouragement!


Photo credit:  based on "Kick Start" by BotheredByBees made available for use and adaptation under Creative Commons.