Drupal and the Blogging Starter Checklist, Part 6

28 Aug 2007

Continued from the previous quintet of installments: a look at Rajesh Setty's Blogging Starter Checklist, with a particular eye toward applying its advice to blogging on a Drupal site. (I'm only copying the item headers from that list; head over there to follow along, and to see Rajesh's comments that you'd otherwise miss.)

http://www.squidoo.com/blogstarter

It's time for Part 6, and that means more self-surgery on this site as I try out the ideas in the Checklist. In this episode: the last five items from the Registries and Directories sub-list. Here goes:

Registries and Directories

21. Provide target website previews via Snap Preview

You've probably seen this: you hover over a link, and the linked web page pops up in a little graphic window. The idea is that you get a tiny peek at the linked site before you click.

http://www.snap.com/

It's a small kindness for visitors: theoretically, they can look at that tiny preview and decide, "no, I don't want to go to that site", thus saving a trip.

I was pretty skeptical of the point of this. Say I see a link – but it's not just a link, it shows me a page preview the size of a large postage stamp. So... well, so what? What am I going to say – "Eww, look at the orange gradiant in that header; no thanks!" The previews are much too small for the viewer to actually read text.

However, I see from Snap's web site that there's a bit more to the service. First there are the above web page previews; not terribly useful in my mind, but I suppose that the iconic representation of a web site might jog your memory in a useful way, such as "oh yeah, that site; I remember it now. I definitely want to visit it again." But there are also "snap shots" showing photos, videos, stock charts, and more. And these really could be useful: they're a way to quickly show these items to your visitors without a) sending them away from your site to some other site; or b) actually embedding the linked items into your site, taking up your real estate.

What's wrong with embedding the goods into your own site? Nothing, often. But imagine situations where you might not want to do so. Say you link to some YouTube videos in a sidebar block. It's probably not useful to directly embed those videos in the block; they'll take up a ton of vertical space, and will almost certainly be too wide for your block as well. But if you let Snap toss up a little pop-up YouTube video when your visitor hovers over the link – ah, YouTubey goodness without the real estate demands. Also, if I correctly understand how Snap works, you're going to find it easier to paste in a simple YouTube link and let Snap do the rest, than to actually embed YouTube code in your block or node.

And the Drupal connection? Lo, we have a Snap Preview Anywhere module!

http://drupal.org/project/snap_preview

Let's see what we've got. No explicit instructions with the module, but you'll find minimal notes on the configuration form. (After installation, I found it in an unalphabetical location, at the bottom of Administer > Site configuration.)

There's a note that you need to get a key from Snap.com. So sign up with Snap, and get the code they supply for insertion into your site. You won't need all that code – the module does the lifting for you – but you need to extract the key from the code. Look for the part of the code that says key=; your code is the string after that, up to (but not including) the semi-colon that ends it.

For example, my code includes

key=09e5c5af31e93426e43bbea45eb98376& (with a few characters changed for security).

I insert the key 09e5c5af31e93426e43bbea45eb98376&amp in my Snap settings configuration form.

I clicked "Save configuration", and – wow, instant action. You should now see the previews on this site if you hover over any outgoing link.

(Tangent: With the exception of links created by widgets like MyBlogLog, you'll see my outgoing links marked with a little arrow icon, courtesy of the External Links module, http://drupal.org/project/extlink . I like that little visual notifier. Snap allows the option of placing another little icon denoting a Snap preview, and I see that this appears even on links within third-party widgets. Snap Preview Anywhere supports this option too. I don't know whether I'll keep using this, though; my links are getting pretty icon-heavy!)

There are some options within the full Snap code that the module doesn't support, like the little Drupal Ace icon I created expressly for the purpose; if I were embedding full Snap code in my pages, that icon would appear in the Snap preview windows. But that's okay. The Snap Preview Anywhere module, while not covering every Snap feature, makes it easy to embed Snap previews in your Drupal site, and looking at the results, I kind of like the convenience of peeking ahead at links.

I haven't yet tried this with links to videos, photos, audio files, etc.; I don't know yet whether the module and Snap will automatically grant me those media types' unique previews.

Anyway, fun stuff! What do you think? Are these Snap previews on my site (on my site as of this writing, anyway) a convenience or an annoyance?

22. Get cool widgets from MajikWidget

MajikWidget offers site widgets for polls, voting, rating, and more.

http://www.majikwidget.com/mw/index.php

But I'm not going to say any more here, simply because Drupal already offers, via countless modules, more widgets than any of us can even keep track of. And MajikWidget's offerings are for-fee; as Drupaltines, we're spoiled by a bounty of free goodies. (Take this opportunity to again thank the core Drupal team and the army of third-party developers. It's incredible what's being handed to us, for nothing more than the wish that we'll somehow give back to the community in whatever way we can.)

Still, the next time you're looking for some widget that the Drupal community hasn't yet provided, check for it on MajikWidget.

23. Register in BlogTopSites

This service, which appears to be calling itself simply Blog Flux now, is another blog directory.

http://topsites.blogflux.com/

Okay, I've registered Drupal Ace there. Easy enough. My submission will be reviewed by humans before it appears; I don't know how long that'll take.

There's more than just a directory, I see. Blog Flux says it aims "to be the single source of services for bloggers". How far along it is toward that goal, I don't know. I've never heard of it, but I'm hardly the expert to ask; Rajesh, a pro blogger, recommends it, so that means something. In any case, offerings include things that Drupal modules may already perform satisfactorily for you: a pinger, polls, anti-spambot email cloak, etc.; and things that you may find novel: a blog button maker, forums on blogging, a comment watcher for web pages you frequent, a web hosting service directory, etc.

There's a blog theme directory too, though with only one theme for Drupal.

http://themes.blogflux.com/drupal

Looking at the number of forum posts, theme downloads, and other clues, I believe Blog Flux is very far from being a heavily-used resource for bloggers. But poke around; you may find something useful. And I'll let you know whether my site submission leads to anything interesting.

24. More widgets from WidgetBox

Tons more widgets.

http://www.widgetbox.com/

This time, they're free! But otherwise, my comments for MajikWidget apply here too: you're on your own in searching the vast trove here, and finding whatever it is that you need and Drupal doesn't already offer. (Like, okay, Drupal doesn't offer a ready-made cat-shaped clock widget with a swinging pendulum tail. Our favorite CMS isn't perfect, all right?)

25. Post your LinkedIn Profile via LinkedInABox

If you do the LinkedIn thing (i.e., receive frequent "requested to add you as a connection" requests from people you don't vaguely remember : ), and you'd like to enable more direct personal connections with your blog readers via LinkedIn, this could be a very nice widget.

http://www.linkedinabox.com/

I don't see any Drupal module providing similar LinkedIn support.

Next time

That finished off this segment of the checklist. But wait, there's more to write about – about the rest of the Checklist, and blogging on Drupal in general. (Or just blogging in general.) Stay tuned!

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