Drupal and the Blogging Starter Checklist, Part 1
Rajesh Setty is a blogger whose name you'll run into without much effort. He's the man behind the Life Beyond Code blog, a site commanding one of the coveted feed slots on Drual Ace's Google Reader.
He's created a Blogging Starter Checklist, which is great for people like me who have enough knowledge of this "blogging" thing to get up and get started, but whose knowledge gaps leave a palpable sense of flailing about and missing important steps. Running through the checklist, every item spurs me to one of three responses:
a) "Got it! I did something right, which makes me more confident about the whole deal."
b) "Whoops, haven't done that yet. Thanks for the reminder."
c) "What's that mean? Time to hit Wikipedia!"
Below are some notes as I go through the list and check how well I'm doing. In particular, I want to take note of which items Drupal helps take care of for us.
I'm copying headings from the Checklist, followed by my notes. (Head to the Checklist yourself to see Rajesh's more detailed explanation of each point.) It's all jejune to the blogging pros, but the rundown is a good review for the newbies (including me).
Things to do on your blog
1. Enable search on your blog
Drupal's got that covered! You should have an option within your Theme settings to enable a search field, which will then appear wherever the theme has specified. Or, you can enable the Search block that should be part of your setup.
Or you could enable both, though that seems a bit much.
Me, I've tried to take the third route: a Google search function, which allows the user to search either within my site or on the whole web. Alas, Google and Drupal butt up against each other in the use of search parameters, and by default, nothing works. There's a simple fix that allows the on-site search to work – try my search and see! : ) – but leaves web search broken – try my search and see! : (
I detail the issue on the Drupal forums here: Cure for broken Google web search? But I'm not getting any response love yet. Does anybody reading this have a suggestion to get Google web search and Drupal playing nicely together?
2. Link to your profile
The blogger, not the Drupal system, will have to take care of creating some "who I am" info. I think there are a couple of Drupal modules to assist in displaying author info, such as Contact Link and Nodeauthor information, though I haven't tried them yet. Anyone have a comment on what they do?
3. Provide a way to contact you
Again, Drupal's got our backs: the spiffy Contact page, ready to go via simple enabling of a menu item. I like how it even allows you to set multiple contact email addresses ("website feedback", "sales", whatever you like).
Of course, you can add additional contact info (address, phone, etc.) in your profile page, or in a contact info block, etc. For clients, I always create a contact info block that they can choose to display on any page.
4. Create meaningful categories and chunk content
Ah, the power of a CMS. Needless to say, one of the reasons you and I are using Drupal is because of this great ability to tag our content with terms of our own devising, and chunk content using those terms.
5. Put your photo on the home page
Why, yes, that's my real photo at top left.
Seriously, if you're blogging as a real person, I agree that this is a good idea, and creates a stronger link with readers. (Rajesh, how about smiling a bit in that big Life Beyond Code photo!)
Things to do off your blog
1. Register a domain name and redirect it to your blog
Identity, identity, identity! I'm not aware of any special Drupal-related considerations related to domain names, but any blogger should definitely get his own name.
FWIW, I've been happier since I've stopped using a dedicated registrar, and started letting my hosting company (Dreamhost) hold my registrations. It's just easier to keep everything in one place. Though I'm still struggling to transfer my last domains from the registrar to Dreamhost; the current holder of the domains never makes it easy for you to transfer them away. : /
2. Include your blog link in your email signature
Definitely. A big pet peeve of mine: people who communicate by email on business matters, and include no contact info in their signatures. The downside for me: when I need to call such a person or send snail mail, I need to hunt for the info. The downside for the other guy: with every email he sends, he's missing a chance to direct people to his site. (And if he doesn't have a site – hey, buddy, get one! Anything!)
3. Build your personal brand
Well, can't argue with that. "Drupal Ace, friend and helper of the fellow Drupal newbie." Now to build that brand, all I have to do is actually be helpful...
There's lots more on the Blogging Starter Checklist – under Registries and Directories, the list starts getting into the more complex blogging-related services, many of which leave me scratching my pointy spade of a head. Stay tuned for Drupal and the Blogging Starter Checklist, Part II!