I’ve updated the Blog Year Planner mentioned previously in my June post Planning a blog in advance saves time blogging! , to provide as a free download a whole year planner or calendar  for 2011 (.xls format). I expect it has many other uses than just blog planning as it’s in a typical wall planner type format though not intended for printing.

Download Blog Year Planner 2011

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It isn’t easy, as @mhawksey found out, to delete saved searches on twitter that don’t come up with any results.

I had a few myself, such as for conferences.

First of all we tried creating a tweet that creates a result to the saved search, which then makes the delete avaialble

Then @phoenix_wright told us about a tool http://www.deletesavedsearches.com/. One must never forget there’s always a Twitter tool for everything if only you know where it is!

I’ve been reading a couple of blog posts recently that urge teachers and other bloggers and link collectors not to just cut and paste substantial parts of the text of someone else’s blog post without proper attribution and an understanding of copyright. Richard Byrne’s blog post on So You Want to Reuse a Blog Post? and Sue Water’s post on How Do You Feel When Someone Copies and Pastes Your Post? are good reminders that there are better ways to acknowledge and link to great resources without coming over as a plagiarist.

So here are three ways to not simply copy and paste while still re-using great blog posts.

  1. Don’t blog it at all: social bookmark it. Keep a separate tag or username for your students if you want it to be easily accessible, and use any one of a number of social bookmarking services, such as Delicious. Encourage the reader to go to the original blog to read it. Some social bookmarking sites enable you to write additional information – and some are basically blogging sites (posterous, tumblr – see below). Alternatively – or as well as – post the link on Twitter with a short statement of explanation.
  2. Write a good link post: quote from the blog and link to it, and explain why it is that you recommend the post. Don’t just repeat all the text from the original. Aim for a 60%/40% you/them at least, even for a minimal link post. Such a post can be blogged anywhere but is easy to do with a bookmarklet such as for Tumblr, Twitter, Posterous or WordPress.
  3. Use the blog post as an inspiration – exactly as I’ve done here. Then add some of your own opinions, links or further information. Particularly useful if you want to link to a selection of other posts. Readers like to find collections of links on a subject – it’s one of the strengths of the blogosphere.

In the same vein as my post Seven top tips for uncrackable but memorable passwords comes the latest Commoncraft video, Secure Passwords Explained by Common Craft about understanding the risks, creating a password that can’t be guessed and protecting it from criminals and wandering eyes. Commoncraft’s videos are always good value, and easy to use when explaining simple concepts. Every institution and organisation should buy a subscription for the training department!

Whenever people have asked me about blogging, one of their main concerns is “how long will it take?” Strategies for saving blogging time are therefore very important. Knowing the different types of blog post and being able to quickly and easily generate ideas are key, as well as knowing the structure of a blog post. Good preparation saves time in almost every activity, so here is a key tool for saving time blogging by planning a few months or a year’s worth of blog posts in advance.

To help, you can download a free template year planner for the second half of 2010.

To create your blog content plan, first decide how often you are going to blog – which depends on:

  • the purpose of your blog
  • the time you have available
  • the availability of content

Start by looking at the shape of your year. If you’re in education the academic year will be important, if you’re in business there may be busy months or seasonal differences or major conferences or trade shows that you attend. Fill in important dates and they will help guide the themes and topics that you choose for your blog posts.

To help, look at statistics of your blog in the past – when were the heights and troughs? When did you get most visitors? Are your target audience reading at weekends?

Are there any seasonal or monthly aspect to your blog topic? For example if you’re writing about family days out, the summer will be really important, February might be snowdrop trips,October Halloween themed trips.

Then, suitable spread out, add regular items like theme days, “Previously on…” (roundup of the previous year’s posts in this month or revisit an old post and update), regular features or series. Go through the kinds of post types (from link posts to interviews) and categorise by how easy they are for you to write: easy, medium and hard.

Spread the easy ones around the period you’re planning (usually 3, 6 or 12 months), then the medium ones, then another round of easy ones, then the difficult ones, scheduled at times when you are likely to have a little more time beforehand, to write them.

Now flesh out the blog content plan with ideas and topics. A mindmap can be an excellent idea at this point.

When you have a blog content plan ready, you don’t have to stick to it! If a news item comes up that’s topical and relevant to your blog then respond to that instead. The main benefit of having created the plan is that you can write most of the post in advance. If it’s written more than a week in advance, look over it shortly before posting it as things may have changed in the meantime or you ,may have something topical to add. If you’re writing in a fast-moving area – and social media is one of them, with Twitter or Facebook or other networks changing every week – then you can’t write much in advance, but you can write the posts in a batch.

You can link your Twitter account to your WordPress.com blog. There’s now a  handy setting on the Post edit page so that when you publish or update a blog post you can click Publicize and send it out to Twitter with a custom message.  Much more useful than the previous feature which just auto-tweeted. (You can publicize to Facebook too.)

Something to remember is that if you have more than one blog, or have more than one author on your blog, each connection between a blog-author and a Twitter account can be and has to be set separately.

For example, if you have several contributors to your blog (YourBlog), to be sure that every post is tweeted, each of your contributors should individually link their WordPress.com account to the YourBlog Twitter account for their YourBlog posts.  They can use other Twitter accounts for other blogs on the same account.

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Login to wordpress.com
  2. Go to Dashboard > My blogs
  3. Click in the Twitter box under Publicize on the right line for the relevant blog (there will be a separate line for each blog they have access to)
  4. A message appears with “To enable Publicize: Twitter, you will need to authorize your WordPress.com account on YourBlog to connect with your Twitter account.”
  5. Click “Authorize connection with Twitter”
  6. This takes you to Twitter where you can click Allow (You can sign out if you’re in the wrong account)
  7. Click “Allow”
    You are redirected back to WordPress.com
  8. Now, whenever you publish a post you get the chance to Publicize it
  9. When creating/editing a post, in the top right, just above Update/Publish click Publicize: edit
  10. Click the box next to Twitter, edit the custome message if you wish and when you Publish or Update, the message is sent to Twitter (A shortened URL is added automatically)

There’s more information on this at http://en.support.wordpress.com/publicize/

The Imperva Application Defense Center (ADC) in the US analysed 32 million passwords that a hacker stole from the RockYou.com website to find out the password habits of users. They found that far too many people were using easily guessable passwords, and the same password for most or all the sites they log into.  The top password was 123456! Read their report: Consumer Password Worst Practices

Best practice in creating passwords includes the following:

  1. Choose at least 8 characters (30% of users chose passwords of length six characters or below)
  2. The password should contain a mixture of numbers and both lower and upper case letters as well as special characters such as ;!@^#%$&*,;” If there is only one letter or special character, it shouldn’t be the first or last in the password.
  3. Your password shouldn’t be a name, a slang word, or any word in the dictionary. It shouldn’t include any part of your own name, family names, address or email address.
  4. Bruce Schneier in The Guardian suggests that to create a memorable password you can take a sentence and turn it into a password. Something like “Fish is a nutritious meal for any night” which gives you FISH=nm4an
  5. Use a different password for all sites – even for the ones where privacy isn’t an issue.
  6. Never trust a third party with your important passwords (webmail, bank, tax, etc.)
  7. If you can’t remember lots of passwords without writing them down, use a free program like KeePass or  Password Safe, which is designed to help people securely store all their passwords

I’ve been looking for some modern and contemporary looks for a WordPress blog, and came across these that I really liked.

http://ma.tt/ Matt Mullenweg

Initially looks like a splash page. Very modern and funky. Graphic Design by Julien Morel

http://www.style4you.it/blog/ and http://www.colazionedamichy.it/

A bit of a vintage theme for an Italian fashion magazine style blog by Michela Chiucini, whose own WordPress site is also ratehr retro. Feminine, too, despite the transport images!

http://www.blup.fr/

A collage type look for a French photo blog. Busy, but lively. Dew has an interesting Twitter background too.