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April 30, 2009

3 Ts of blogging — tools, tips, and thanks!!

Party3 Thanks to Julia at Hooked on Houses for hosting the weekly Hooked on Fridays blog party :-)

We reached a bit of a milestone this week — our 100th post. That’s an average of about a post a day — I think it’s safe to say that Victoria and I are hooked on blogging!!

On January 16, 2009, Victoria and I launched DesignTies. Victoria came up with the name, because “we’re tied by design”. This was my first-ever post: Passion + Focus = Following your dreams

And here’s Victoria’s first post: A Smidge of Creativity, Collaboration… and Where It Takes You! Have you noticed that V is just a bit wordy?? ;-)

We’ve learned a lot about blogging since our first posts, and we’d like to share what we’ve learned with you :-)


Blogging tools

(Click the logos to go to the web sites)

WLW logo

If you have a Blogspot blog, you know how annoying composing your posts in Blogger can be. Why do images INSIST on going to the top of the post?! Argh!! Totally NOT user friendly. Luckily, there’s a better tool out there, and it’s free!! Windows Live Writer isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than Blogger. It lets you do cool things with pictures, and it’s totally WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). It’s easy to use and there really isn’t much of a learning curve. Unfortunately, WLW doesn’t work with MACs. But hey, you MAC users can brag about having the best commercials out there!! So it isn’t all bad :-)

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FEEDJIT is a cool little widget that shows you where your blog guests come from, how they arrive at your blog, how they leave your blog, and other neat stuff. It’s easy to add it to you sidebar.

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FreeOnlineUsers lets you check out the stats for your blog. It keeps track of the number of raw hits and unique visitors to your blog every day. It probably does other stuff too, but those are the only stats we check :-)

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Paul at Kitchen and Residential Design is a huge fan of SketchUp. I’ve downloaded it, but haven’t gotten too far with it because the learning curve is pretty steep and I’m technically inept :-) But if you can master SketchUp, you can create fabulous 3D models of rooms, furniture, home exteriors, or anything else that you care to turn into 3D :-)

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I love SnagIt. I’ve been using it at work for years. SnagIt lets you take screen captures of your entire screen, the active window, a specific region of the screen… anything you want. And it’ll automatically add cool effects for you, like a faded edge, drop shadow, torn edge… It comes in really handy when you want to save a picture that doesn’t allow you to select the Copy or Save As options. Just take a screen cap with SnagIt!! You can download a 30 day free trial.

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Every PC keyboard has the Prt Scr (Print Screen) key. It’s easy to use and is an alternative (albeit an inferior one!!) to SnagIt.

1. Open the screen you want to take a screen cap of.

2. Press Prt Scr.

3. Open Paint (or any other graphics program)

4. From the Edit menu, select Copy (or press Ctrl + V).

The screen cap appears!! If you just want a certain part of the screen cap, crop the image down to the section that you want to keep.

gimp_logo

How cute is that logo?! Another tool Paul recommended to me is Gimp. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it’s an open source image manipulation program that you can download for free. It’s similar to Corel Paint Shop Pro, which I wrote about here. Have a picture of a great view but there’s a crane in the way?? You can fix it!!


Blogging etiquette

There are some unwritten blogging “rules” that everybody should follow.

Comments

If you visit a blog and like what you see, leave a comment. It’s good manners, and your comment will not only be appreciated, but will probably result in you acquiring another visitor to your blog, because…

Returning the favour

When someone comments on your blog post, it’s good manners to go to the commenter’s blog and leave a comment there.

Make commenting easy

Here are a couple of ways you can make commenting easy for your visitors:

A. Turn off the word identification thing

It’s really not that useful, and it can be frustrating to type in those weird letters and numbers. Especially if you’re participating in a blog party and leaving lots of comments!! We don’t use the word verification thing on our blog, and we don’t get any spam. This is how you do it (all screen caps taken with SnagIt showing different effects):

1. In the upper right corner of your blog page, click Customize.

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2. Click the Settings tab.

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3. On the Settings tab, click Comments.

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4. Next to Show word verification for comments? select No.

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5. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.

B. Set up your comments so that the comment box and the post being commented on are both visible on the same page.

When I leave a comment, I like to be able to see the picture or text that I’m commenting on. I have a REALLY bad memory (or maybe it’s a short attention span!!), and I forget things fast!! If you use Blogger, you can change the comment format like this:

1. Follow steps 1 to 3 above.

2. Next to Comment Form Placement, select either Pop-up window OR Embedded below post. DON’T SELECT FULL PAGE!!

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3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.


Why we love blogging

The best thing about blogging is “meeting” so many interesting and creative people through our visits to their blogs and their visits to our blog :-) We’ve made blog friends in Australia, Jordan, USA, across Canada…

There are loads of wonderful inspirational pictures and ideas out there. In fact, this picture of a David Collins room from Studio Annetta may have finally answered the question — “what the heck am I going to do with my dining room?!”

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Another fab thing about blogging is that we have complete creative control!! It’s awesome to be able to write about whatever you want, whenever you want :-) Blogging allows me to combine two of my greatest passions — writing and interior decorating/design (for Victoria, add home remodelling to that list). We both love doing anything that’s creative, and blogging is a great way for us to let that creativity flow!! :-)


We want more!!

More evidence that we’re hooked — we’re always looking for ways to improve our blog so that you’ll want to come back every day to see what we’re up to :-) For example, we have a new colour scheme in mind for DesignTies. If you love home décor, you can probably relate — sometimes, you just can’t resist the urge to roll a new colour on the walls and freshen things up!! :-)

We’ve hit our 100 post milestone, and now we’re aiming for 200… 300… world blog dominance…

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See, that’s how hooked on blogging we are!

And finally, a big thank you to everyone who visits DesignTies, whether it’s every day, a couple of times a week, or just now and then. We hope that the topics we cover are interesting and informative, and that you like what you see. We hope you have as much fun visiting our blog as we have writing it :-)

You know what to do now… leave a comment!! :-) And then head on back to Julia’s blog party, go visit more blogs, and leave comments for them too!! :-)

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If you have a blogging tool or technique that you use and love, please let us know about it!!

Check out Maria’s post at Colour Me Happy about the 10 things she’s learned about blogging in 4 months.

38 comments:

susan said...

Well this is about the best post ever for this low-tech new blogger! I have considered Windows Live Writer but am afraid I won't be able to figure it out and then will be SUNK!! Thanks for sharing your valuable info!!

~CC Catherine said...

Kelly and Victoria, Hey, I always LOVE reading both your posts! This one was EXTREMELY informative and very enlightening! I am taking many nuggets with me and will implement them to improve my own blogging experience! VERY COOL! Congratulations on your 100th Post this week! WOOHOO!!! ;) I want to invite you both to drop by and post a comment on my blog between now and Mother's Day...I'm offering an awesome Blog GiveAway that you won't want to miss! IT's a LIFE giveaway, that's a HINT! ;) Ciao for now friends! ~CC Catherine from "Catherine de th`e Cup"

Lindsay @ Peacock Blue said...

This is very informative! Thanks! I already changed my comment settings to make sure it is easier for people, b/c you're right, it is not fun to type all the word verifications, etc. I'm new to this, so you were very helpful!

Terry said...

Thanks so much We can get so involved in getting words, pictures, and spelling the best we can, that we miss out on the fundamentals that help our guests.

Linda at Lime in the Coconut! said...

Yep...Important stuff. Thanks!!

But...explain to me HOW to use Live writer with blogspot/ Nobody does this. They all say just get Live writer. Can you explain how you load a post on it....like how you beautifully explained how to disable the word thingy.

xinex said...

Wow! So much to learn here. Great tips and tools! Thanks...Christine

PamperingBeki said...

What a great post!

I'm a complete blog addict.

Donna Hargrove said...

Thanks ladies -- great post! As a new blogger these have already come in handy. And CONGRATS on your 100th post. I hope to get there one day!

Maria Killam said...

Hey Design Ties! Great post, and congrats on your 100th post! Thanks for posting a link to my tips and I've learned a few more from yours! Excellent!

Paul Anater said...

Thanks for the shout out(s) ladies. You two have been a real treat to get to know. I cannot believe that you've only been at this since January. That's a compliment, you seem like old pros already. Congratulations on your milestone and here's to many more!

Tom Erdman said...

I always leave your site just a little bit smarter. Please don't start charging tuition.

mrsben said...

Kelly and Victoria, CONGRATS on your 100th post!
Though not a blogger myself, I appreciate the opportunity to pop in and enjoy. Thank you!!!!!

TRICIA boutellefamilyzoo@yahoo.com said...

Hello ladies,
I just stopped over from Hooked on Fridays and wanted to say hi.
Thank you also for the tips.
I actually put some into practice while I was here.
So here's to bigger and better blogging!
{Wow! Say that 5 x's fast!}
*Tricia

qerat said...

congratulations on your 100th post.
I love this blog, you defenitely have your own style that is different fun and REAL
I hope you keep it like that.
Great post and valuable tips
Thanks Kelly and Victoria

Maya@Completely Coastal said...

First..., congratulations! I'm truly enjoying your blog..., and thanks a zillion for all the great tips..., some I knew, but some I didn't, so THANKS.

Maya@Completely Coastal said...

...oh, I'm going to try the "non word verification" and see how it goes!

Jadehollow said...

Kelly & Victoria.. Congrats on your 100th post milestone! Thanks so much for sharing your tips. I esp love that you posted the rules for Blogging Etiquette. Comments are so encouraging to a blogger.. so I always try to leave something when I visit no matter if it's to praise their current post or just to wish them a nice day. Thanks again for sharing your helpful tips on becoming a more skillful less frustrated blogger.
Have a Great Weekend.
Hugs,
Debbie

TRICIA boutellefamilyzoo@yahoo.com said...

Kelly,
Thanks for stopping by "The Zoo".
I think you're right.
More scrabble tiles and all three projects is definetly the way to go. ;)
*Tricia

Dumbwit Tellher ♥ said...

You guys are the bomb! As a newby, I am always hungry for ideas, tools & just ole plain support. You deliver it all. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for all these helpful tips. I made the changes you suggested on comments. How good to know!
I have fear of breaking all types of blogging etiquette. Happy, happy 100th post and have a fabulous weekend.
xxxxx deb

amariaf2000 said...

Happy 100th post!! That's awesome! It took me somewhere around 6 or 7 months to hit it..haha. LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I'm so glad we found one another!! :-)
~angela @ peonypatch

Ladybug said...

Thank you so much for this post! I learned so much already!!

Janis@An Inspired Life said...

So glad I found your blog..........I'm fairly new to the blogging world and your tips were fantastic!!
I'll be back soon.
Cheers

Janis@An Inspired Life said...

Thanks so much for telling me about purestylehome......major inspiration!!

PS: Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Rachele said...

The word verification thing is not as superfluous as it might seem. I got a lot of spam comments after a few months (despite not listing my blog in search engines), so I had to turn on word verification. This has also happened to numerous friends of mine.

Don't hate! :)

mbkatc230 said...

Congratulations! You really do have a great blog. I'm so impressed that you've hit 100 post already. Great tips, I've heard alot about live writer, but this may be enough to make me take the plunge. The fact that you can place pictures anywhere you want - woo hoo! But will I need to recreate my entire blog, or just post to the existing one with live writer? Thanks for all the tips. Kathy

DesignTies said...

Wow!! Thanks for all the great feedback!!! :-)

We're having so much fun with our blog, and it's so satisfying to know that you like what we're doing :-) Because really, pretty much everything we do here is for YOU!!

Rachele, we don't hate!! But typing in the word verification thing can be a bit of a pain. If you have problems with spam, then definitely use it. But otherwise, it's an extra step for guests to have to go through to leave a comment, and it can be frustrating at times.

If you'd like to know more about using Windows Live Writer, feel free to send us an e-mail and we'll do our best to help you out :-)

Thanks again!!
Kelly

Robin said...

Congrats on your blogging success! I agree...it's totally addicting! Good luck!

susan said...

Hope you don't mind--I left you an award(oops you have one) and a link to you on my Pink Saturday post.

Heather said...

What a great post, and congratulations on reaching your 100th post! I just reached mine this week as well! Keep up up the great work!

Pam Kersting said...

Great post! I can't wait to snag Snagit! Congratulations on your 100th post! I'm hooked on Design Ties too.

modernemama said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves sketch-up but finds it hard to get the results they want - my imagination is so much bigger than my practical skills. As for verification, I hate it too but I hate spam a whole lot more

Mary Beth said...

All of your tips are great. There were so many I didn't know so I really appreciate this post.

sassymo said...

Wow!! Thank you sooo much for sharing all this great info...loved the blogging etiquette. Great post :)

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Congrats on 100 posts!! Woo-hoo! That's great. I always enjoy your blog and am so glad you started it so I could "meet" you guys!

I learned so much from this post. My new blog is on Blogger and I was used to blogging with Wordpress, so I'm still trying to figure it out. I thought I was doing something wrong because the darned photos always load at the top of the page and I have to cut and paste them lower. Glad to know it's the program, not me. Ha. I'll have to check Live Writer out!

I just discovered SnagIt and it has changed my life. There are so many things I can do now that I couldn't before. Highly recommend it!

Oh, and I agree SO much with what you said about taking the word ID thing. Those drive me CRAZY. I can never get them right the first time and it's so time consuming. Hate 'em.

Also--you're so right about having the comments on the same page. Hate when they take me to a new one and I can't scroll up to remind myself what I wanted to comment about. Also, Blogger doesn't make it easy to go back to the main page from the comments page. You have to hit the Back key a couple of times. Annoying.

Anyway, great post, and here's to 100 more! :-)

Michelle said...

Uh oh, I fear I have broken a few of those blogger manners :(

I love S.Up and Snagit...I recently learned about the program that allows you to track visitors to your site, but it seems a bit beyond someone like me, who doesn't even have a subscible list :)

This is a great post!! Congrats on your 100th!! I'm loving what I have seen so far!!

Best to you both,
Michelle

Gayle said...

Great post with lots of good tips and information!

Sarah @ Designing Woman said...

Hi Girls!

Congrats on your 100th post! It seems you're well on your way to World Blog Domination!

Great post on blogging tips - Kelly, as you know I'm totally technologically challenged, so it's a big help! You just wait until I get that laptop - you'll be sorry you ever offered me help! LOL :)

Keep up the good work, I love reading your blog!

Sarah

Paula@paulaowens.com said...

Thanks for all the blogging tips!

How did you get your blog page to take up the width of the screen?

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