Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read: Managing Blogs from the Dashboard
Now that you're familiar with the global TypePad settings, I'll show you how you'll be getting around TypePad on a day-to-day basis, as well as how to create, delete, and manage blogs in your TypePad account.
Think of the TypePad Dashboard as being command central (or your captain's chair, if you're a "Star Trek" geek like me). From this vantage point, you can overlook your TypePad kingdom: see your blog stats at a glance, look at what the people you follow on TypePad are up to, and see whether anyone left a comment or trackback on your blog. You can even post right from the Dashboard.
Working with the Dashboard
How do you get to this wondrous place called the Dashboard? Simple:
- Log in to TypePad. After you log in, you're automatically whisked away to the Dashboard.
Click the Dashboard link. A green navigation bar runs across the top of every page in TypePad. If you look at the left end of that bar, you'll see a Dashboard link (Figure 4.1). You can get to the Dashboard from anywhere in TypePad by clicking this link.
Figure 4.1 Clicking Dashboard in TypePad's global navigation bar always returns you to your TypePad Dashboard.
Figure 4.2 shows the Dashboard, which is divided into five sections:
Figure 4.2 The TypePad Dashboard.
- Quick Compose
- Manage My Blogs
- Recent Activity
- Everything TypePad
In the following sections, I show you each part of the Dashboard in turn.
From time to time, a light blue box appears at the top of the Dashboard, as shown in Figure 4.3. This Update box, which is displayed only on the Dashboard, is how the folks behind TypePad alert you to new features and announcements that they want to share with you.
Figure 4.3 An alert from the TypePad team.
This box stays on the Dashboard until you banish it by clicking the little red X in the top-right corner. After you close the Update box, there's no way to bring it back, so make sure that you've read its contents before you close it.
It stands to reason that if you're looking at your Dashboard, you probably want to post something to your blog. The Quick Compose module (Figure 4.4, on the next page) is just what it sounds like: a quick way to dash off a blog post. This module doesn't offer all the features of the full-fledged entry page (which I talk about in Chapter 7), but it's great for posting a video from YouTube or a short text update.
Figure 4.4 The Quick Compose module, featuring my TypePad Profile picture. (Your picture will be displayed on your own Dashboard.)
Creating text posts
If you have multiple blogs, you can use Quick Compose to post to any of them. By default, your default blog is selected. (In "Linking to your other blogs" later in this chapter, I show you how to set your default blog.) If you want to post elsewhere, choose it from the Post To drop-down menu, which lists all the blogs you can post to (Figure 4.5). Then whatever you enter in the text box will end up in that blog.
Figure 4.5 You can post to any blog from the Quick Compose module by choosing it from this menu.
To the right of the Post To drop-down menu, you may see check boxes next to the icons of familiar social-networking sites (Figure 4.6). The options presented here depend on what you entered in the Your Other Accounts page of your TypePad account. (See Chapter 5 for more information on associating social-networking sites with TypePad.)
Figure 4.6 Sharing your posts is easy: Click the check box for each site you want to post to.
The meat of the Quick Compose module is the text box (Figure 4.7), where you type whatever you want to post on your blog.
Figure 4.7 The text box is where all the action happens in the Quick Compose module.
In addition to posting just plain old text (boring!), you can post pictures to your blog from the Quick Compose module. Just follow these steps:
Click the Photo icon below the text box (Figure 4.8).
Figure 4.8 You can add photos to a post by clicking the Photo icon.
Clicking this icon opens a set of controls that lets you upload a photo to display with your post (Figure 4.9). In keeping with the simplicity of the Quick Compose module, you can't fiddle with any of the image settings associated with the file you upload here, as you can do in the full-blown post editor (see Chapter 7).
Figure 4.9 Click Choose File to select a picture on your computer.
Click the Choose File button.
A file browser pops up.
- Locate and select the photo on your computer that you want to insert.
Click the appropriate command button: Choose (Mac) or Browse (Windows).
TypePad uploads the picture (Figure 4.10).
Figure 4.10 Your photo is uploading, as you can tell by the little swirling circle.
As the upload progresses, you'll see a little swirling circle, which will be replaced by a small thumbnail of the image when it's completely uploaded (Figure 4.11). (Don't worry because the thumbnail is a square; the image you uploaded still has the proper dimensions.)
Figure 4.11 The thumbnail lets you know that the picture was uploaded successfully.
If you decide against using the picture, click the little gray-and-white X next to the thumbnail.
Video has become a huge part of the Web, and the Quick Compose module has you covered. If you want to embed some video from a video Web site such as YouTube, Hulu, or Vimeo, all you need is the URL for that video. Click the Video icon below the text box (refer to Figure 4.8), and a text field appears, ready for you to paste that URL into it (Figure 4.12). When you click the Publish button, TypePad embeds the video in your post for you. How nice!
Figure 4.12 You can embed a video by pasting a URL from a video sharing service.
When you use this method, you can insert only one video per post.
Publishing your content
When you're ready to publish your post, just click the green Publish button. Just like that, you've created a blog entry.
When TypePad has posted your entry, the text box in the Quick Compose module is overlaid with a confirmation message (Figure 4.13), which includes a link to the entry you just posted.
Figure 4.13 After you publish your post, an alert congratulates you and allows you to view the post or compose another.
Manage My Blogs
The Manage My Blogs module (Figure 4.14) is a one-stop shop for all your blog-management needs. You can't do much management directly from the module itself, but it allows you to get to your management tools quickly. You can also create a new blog right from this module.
Figure 4.14 The Manage My Blogs module.
Viewing your default blog
At the moment, you probably have only one blog listed: the default blog in your TypePad account. As you can see in Figure 4.14, the Manage My Blogs module gives you an overview of your default blog, starting with a thumbnail image of it. This image gives you a good idea of what your blog looks like at the moment, and if you click it, your blog opens in a new browser window.
To the right of the thumbnail image are links to various administrative sections of your blog:
- Stats. This link takes you to the statistics-tracking page of your blog (see Chapter 6). Check it out to see your blog's traffic.
- Design. You can change your blog's design here. (For more on design, see Chapter 9.)
- Settings. Each blog has several blog-specific settings, which I go over in Chapter 5.
- Compose. The Quick Compose module is great for quickie posts, but this link takes you to the full-featured entry page (see Chapter 7).
- Posts. This link takes you to the post management page (again, covered in Chapter 7). The number in parentheses is the number of posts in your blog.
- Comments. Click this link to manage the comments on your blog (see Chapter 8). As with the Posts link, the number in parentheses is the number of comments your blog has received.
Below all those links is an odd little line that looks like some sort of graph. Information-graphic nerds know that this line is a sparkline, which is a fancy name for a small graphic that shows you a trend in a concise way. In TypePad, that trend is your blog's traffic for the past 30 days. The graphic doesn't include any numbers, but it gives you a sense of how much traffic your blog is getting.
Linking to your other blogs
If you have more than one blog, as I do, the Manage My Blogs module lists all your blogs at the bottom of the page in alphabetical order (Figure 4.15). Each blog name is actually a link that takes you to that blog's dashboard. Also, each blog in this list has a prominent Compose link, so you can jump into writing an entry for any of your blogs right from the Dashboard. Pretty nice, huh?
Figure 4.15 The rest of your blogs are listed below the default blog's thumbnail.
If you click the down arrow to the right of any Compose link, you get a menu of options (Figure 4.16).
Figure 4.16 Clicking the arrow to the right of each blog entry brings up a menu of management links.
These options pretty much mirror the links that are listed for the default blog, with a couple of notable differences:
- Overview/Stats. This link takes you to that blog's dashboard.
- Posts and Pages. Posts takes you to the post management screen, and Pages takes you to the page management screen.
- Make This the Default Blog? This link allows you to change the default blog in TypePad—the one that the Quick Compose module posts to and the one that gets the most information displayed in the TypePad Dashboard. Think of the default blog as being your main blog. You can change it as often as you like without suffering any consequences.
Creating a blog
The final item in the Manage My Blogs module is an unassuming link at the bottom of the page called Create a Blog (Figure 4.17).
Figure 4.17 Click this link to start creating a new blog.
When you click this link, you're taken to the Add a Blog page (Figure 4.18).
Figure 4.18 Adding a blog is as simple as filling out this form.
Give the new blog a name, decide what you want the TypePad URL to be (you can use domain mapping to map this URL to another, more professional URL, as I explain in Chapter 3), and tell TypePad whether you want to have this blog indexed by search engines. Then click Create Blog. You've just created your second blog. How does it feel?
Figure 4.19 Access and create blogs via the Blogs link in the TypePad navigation bar.
The Recent Activity module (Figure 4.20) displays the most recent activity on your blog. If someone leaves a comment, sends a trackback, starts to follow your TypePad Profile, or reblogs one of your posts (posting it on his own blog with a link back to your post; see Chapter 8), that activity shows up in this module. The activities of people you follow in TypePad are also displayed here.
Figure 4.20 The Recent Activity module shows your blog's (and your own) recent activities in the TypePad universe.
The right side of the module displays the TypePad Profile picture (also known as an avatar) of whoever was responsible for the activity being displayed. As you can see in Figure 4.20, I posted an entry on my blog, so my picture shows up along with some information about the blog post. If you click the title of the post, you're taken to the post itself. Clicking the Edit button takes you to the post composition page (available only for posts that you created). Finally, you can see how many favorites, comments, and reblogs a post has received. (Clearly, no one cares about my new haircut.) The buttons are also links, so you can easily favorite, reblog, or comment on a post that intrigues you.
The Recent Activity module is great for keeping track of who is commenting on your blog. Every time a comment is left—including a comment that you leave yourself—it shows up in the module (Figure 4.21), which displays the name of the commenter, a picture, and the title of the post in question.
Figure 4.21 Comments displayed in the Recent Activity module.
A green check mark below a comment indicates that it has been approved and is being displayed in your blog. If you want to remove or edit the comment, just click the Manage button, and you'll be taken to the Comments page (see Chapter 8).
You can also reply to a comment by clicking the Reply button, which opens a new browser window and loads the appropriate page of your blog. Then you can leave your reply via your blog's comment form.
Following and unfollowing people
At the moment, you're probably seeing updates only from yourself and the TypePad team in the Recent Activity module, because you aren't following anyone at the moment. You may be asking, "How do I find people to follow on TypePad, Scott?" I'm so glad you asked, reader!
Figure 4.22 You have to find people before you can follow them in TypePad. This link will help.
Figure 4.23 Bloggers are categorized for ease of following.
The menu on the left side of the people finder lists different categories of TypePad users or communities that may be of interest to you. Click a category to see a list of users you can follow, click the Follow button next to each user you want to follow, and that's it.
If you want to follow everyone in a certain category, click the Follow All button at the bottom of the people finder. If someone you're already following is listed, TypePad lets you know by displaying a green Following link next to that user's name. To stop following him, click the gray Unfollow link.
When you're done with the people finder, click the X in the top-right corner, and you're back in the TypePad Dashboard.
Now that you're following people, you'll get information about them automatically. When someone you follow posts an entry to his blog, for example, you'll see an alert similar to the one shown in Figure 4.24. This alert includes the title of the post, an excerpt, and a Continue link. Clicking Continue opens the post in a new browser window where you can read it, comment on it, reblog it, or favorite it. The alert has no Edit button; because you didn't create this post, you can't change it unless you have administrative rights to that person's blog.
Figure 4.24 A post by someone you follow in TypePad.
Also, if you place your mouse over an avatar in the Recent Activity module, some information about that person pops up (Figure 4.25). You see his name, where he is (if he's filled in that information), how many people he's following in TypePad, and how many people are following him in return. Because this person shows up in your Recent Activity module, it makes sense that you're following him, which is confirmed by the Following link below his name. Right below that is a Unfollow link, which you can click if you've had enough of this person's updates.
Figure 4.25 When you mouse over an avatar, you see more information about the TypePad user you're following.
The Recent Activity module can become a busy place after you start following a few people and building your own blog audience. Posts and comments will start coming in, and because you want to stay on top of things, you get a little alert whenever new content is available (Figure 4.26). This alert tells you the quantity and type of new content that's ready to be displayed and includes a link that refreshes the module without refreshing the entire browser window. This feature is handy if you're working on a post in the Quick Compose module and someone leaves a comment, because clicking the Refresh link in the alert will keep you from losing the post you're working on.
Figure 4.26 The Recent Activity module doesn't autorefresh, but you'll see this yellow notice whenever new content is available.
Viewing less-recent activity
Given the nature of the Recent Activity module, you may see a lot of new entries when you log into TypePad after a little while. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the TypePad Dashboard, you'll see the navigation options for the Recent Activity module (Figure 4.27). If you want to see older activity, click the Older link. When you want to see the newer stuff, click the Newer link.
Figure 4.27 The Recent Activity module's navigation links.
The final section of your TypePad Dashboard is also the simplest, but I want to highlight it because it offers a wealth of information. I'm talking, of course, about the Everything TypePad module (Figure 4.28).
Figure 4.28 You can subscribe to Everything TypePad right from your Dashboard, as well as read an excerpt of the most recent post.
This module displays the most recent entry from the Everything TypePad blog (http://everything.typepad.com/blog). It's a great way to keep up with the latest TypePad news, straight from the horse's mouth.
You can go to the blog directly to read the entire post by clicking the post's title. (In Figure 4.28, that would be "Developer update: Use the Twitter and Twitpic APIs on TypePad!") The red Everything TypePad text is a link to the blog too, as is the blue Everything TypePad text.
If you use a newsreader, you can subscribe to the Everything TypePad blog by clicking the orange Subscribe icon or the Subscribe link. That way, the news comes to you, not the other way around.
Be sure to visit and subscribe to the blog. It's a great resource.