June 30, 2004

Blog Style Manual

This is a set of suggested best practices for bloggers in a "multiblog" environment, to encourage uniformity among the blogs. Uniformity improves usability.

This was written for the bloggers at Georgia State University Library, but you're free to usurp these recommendations for your own organization. If you would like to make additional suggestions, please post comments or drop me an e-mail (we may incorporate your recommendations into our library document).

Date of last update: 9/14/04

These guidelines are recommended "best practices" for blogging.

The Big Picture:
If you're contributing to a multi-subject blog, consider your audience. Make an effort to provide news of interest to all potential users served by the blog.

Creating an Entry:
Headings should be in initial caps (Library Hours Update vs. Library hours update).

Avoid excess space between blog entries by deleting hard returns under your text. The cursor should not be able to go beyond your last line of text.

If you're hand-coding any HTML, do not forget closing tags. Otherwise, the entire entry as well as your earlier ones may be reformatted. This may only be an issue if you're coding the title, which is not covered in the WYSIWYG editor.

Do not copy-and-paste from Microsoft Word into blog postings. MS Word adds unnecessary code that can make the blogs non-compliant with XML/RSS standards, which affects end-users who are viewing your entries through readers and aggregators.
  • Copy and paste the Word document into Notepad, and then copy and paste the document from Notepad into the WYSIWYG editor.
  • If you have a Word document on your computer, save it as a Web Page and use Textism's Word Cleaner.
  • Go into the 'HTML' view of your entry and the excess code manually.

Be careful when copying and pasting from other web sites (including blogs) directly into your entry. When you do this, you also copy the formatting tags so your text could be in a different font and size from our blog standard. The excess code also affects how the entries are viewed in readers. These excess tags should be deleted while you're in the 'HTML' view.

Only write out hyperlinks short enough for someone to type themselves, if you write any out at all.

  • If the URL is long and cumbersome, like a URL to a Science Direct article or GIL record, embed it in the text of the article like this instead of typing it out like https://gil.gsu.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&v1=1&ti=1,1&Search etc.
  • It's preferable to embed all hyperlinks like this, but if the URL is short enough that someone who prints off the blog entry can retype the hyperlink to get to the site, then writing out the URL is acceptable though not necessary. If you do this, try not to add too many additional lines to your entry.

When linking to licensed resources, make sure the URLs are proxy- or SFX-enabled so GSU patrons can access these resources.

  • Add http://ezproxy.gsu.edu:2048/login?url= to the beginning of your hyperlink to route the patron through the proxy server.
  • Use the Open URL Generator to create an SFX-enabled URL. The Open URL Generator is located on the Intranet under "SFX Info." You can enter parts of the citation and generate a link that you can copy/paste and embed into your entry, but the easiest and most effective way to use this tool is to use the article's DOI (digital object identifier).

If you quote material from other sources:

  • Don't quote everything when a relevant sentence or paragraph may be enough, especially since you will include a hyperlink back to the original source in the entry.
  • Cite the source, and clearly distinguish the quoted material from your words. The easiest way to do this is to italicize the quoted text and indent it with the blockquote tags.

If you a find a link to a resource on another blog (ResourceShelf, for example) that you want to post on yours, even if you're not directly quoting from that site you should consider giving them credit. A simple "Link via ResourceShelf" will suffice. Remember, you would want the same credit from someone else. However, it's not necessary to give this credit if the link is from one of the other GSU Library blogs.

If you're using images, please follow the same copyright guidelines that apply to the library Web site.

Before You Post:
Proofread your entries in the 'View' option in your blog manager (ideally, while the entry is surpressed and before it goes live). Check spelling and grammar, and test any links to make sure they work. Creating bad links from the beginning is probably a bigger problem than links that break in the future.

Refrain from deleting or suppressing your posted entries.

  • If the links have expiration dates, indicate that in your post, and offer alternate access points if available: Lexis Nexis for NYT articles, for example.
  • Recycle the entry. You may have an entry that you want to post for a brief period of time and then delete once the information's no longer relevant, like an announcement about a database outage. Instead of deleting/suppressing it, update it accordingly ("there was an outage...") but don't delete or suppress it. The next time you have to post such an announcement, just reuse this entry and reset the date.

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June 24, 2004

RSS: Minneapolis Public Library

MPL has 3 feeds. Two of the feeds are typical "what's new" services (new on the Web site, daily calendar of library events). The third feed is a daily update of new resources added to the LIST, their annotated guide to good and interesting Web sites. As we've seen with other organizations like RDN and LII, this is a great application of RSS in libraries. And Steven has already pointed out that the New Additions page should also have an RSS link as well, but at least the feeds are accessible from the library's main page.

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RSS: ED.gov

The Department of Education now has a feed (ED RSS) to deliver "ED press releases, funding opportunities, No Child Left Behind, and federal learning resources."

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RSS News Feeds for Law

The Virtual Chase is an excellent place to begin if you're looking for feeds on legal news and issues. They have also included several resources for finding feeds, including the Daily Whirl, a customizable aggregator that you can customized to select the feeds you want to read.

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Blog/RSS: GigaLaw.com

GigaLaw ("legal information for Internet and technology professionals, Internet entrepreneurs and the lawyers who serve them") now has a blog. [RSS feed]

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June 18, 2004

BaRF: Bioinformatics aggregated RSS Feeds

While reviewing Gerry's RSS page to see what's new, I came across this distinctly-named collection of bioinformatics feeds. It looks like they have created "search result" feeds based on PubMed searches for bioinformatics, one for each journal title.

Using the OPML file which they have provided, I have loaded the entire list of feeds into NewzCrawler to see how this is going to work. The BaRF managers will also accept requests for additional journal titles to be included.

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RSS Bibliography

Gerry McKiernan has added a "General Bibliography" section to RSS(sm): Rich Site Services. This will include links (15, last time I checked) to articles and presentations on RSS and its applications.

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June 17, 2004

RSS: Less hype, more action

Roddy MacLeod's article on RSS, in the current issue of FreePint, is worth reading. He gives a good overview on RSS, while downplaying the "next big thing" hype surrounding it. His primary focus is on practical applications of RSS, including some of the examples we discussed in the presentation like new book lists and article alerts. He also mentions the RDN hubs in the larger context of subject-customized feeds.

I don't think the problem is that RSS has been over-hyped, but that it has been badly hyped. This is what happens when you have too many "Wow/Gee-Whiz" articles and not enough discussion about the practical applications beyond the reading news sites and blogs. Are people writing about RSS because it's the NBT, or has it become the NBT because everyone is writing about it?

RSS is a critical development in the evolution of user-controlled content and interfaces. We are seeing some exciting applications right now; we will certainly see more in the future; and librarians will be at the forefront of delivering these services to users. Or RSS will be replaced by something else and become obsolete within a few years (I'm hedging my bets).

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June 16, 2004

RSS Feeds: Digital Media Europe

This is another collection mentioned by Steven. Dmeurope.com ("Your daily dosage of European digital media news") offers an impressive number of feeds, feeds by country and topic as well as the standard "latest 10 articles" feed.

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RSS Feeds: Government Technology

They have 16 feeds based on their existing channels like GIS, Mobile Government and Privacy. The RSS buttons are at the end of each page.

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RSS Feeds Can Build Web Traffic, but Fence Sitters Note Problems

A new article from Online Journalism Review.

My thoughts:

  • If news sites continue to delay offering RSS feeds to readers, more users will follow Miller's example and use the available tools to create their own.
  • As we move beyond this "early adaptor" phase, if news sites continue to delay offering feeds to readers, readers will be less inclined to visit those sites.
  • There needs to be greater consistency (or a standard) in how and where sites publicize their feeds on their pages. We find it at the end of the page, in the margin, or buried within the site so the only way we do find the feeds is by "word-of-blog." Some sites use some variation of text (RSS, XML, feeds, etc.), while still others use graphics. The lack of consistency creates a hurdle for users.
  • This confirms what Doug and I suggested would be among the trends in technology over the next ten years: that users would demand and expect greater control of content and how they receive it.

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RSS and Library Applications: E-Journal Alerts

Gerry McKiernan has wisely created a separate registry for e-journals using Web feeds to publicize new articles:

eFeeds(sm): Web Feeds from Electronic Journals is a categorized registry of electronic journals that offer RSS/XML, Atom, or other Web feeds. Publisher-specific and vendor Web feeds are categorized in a separate category.

At SLA last week, I spoke to IOP and Nature about their feeds (complimentary to IOP, and not so complimentary to Nature). I also talked to other vendor reps to find out if they were going to follow suit, only to find out that other librarians had the same idea. From my own discussions, I got a "What's RSS?" from the RSC rep and a "Maybe" from the ACS rep, and another ACS rep has e-mailed me asking for more information about how I'm using RSS.

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June 14, 2004

RSS and Library Applications

Gerry McKiernan at Iowa State has begun compiling a bibliography of RSS-based library applications:

RSS(sm): Rich Site Services is a registry is a categorized registry of library services that are delivered or provided through RSS/XML feeds. RSS is an initialism for RDF Site Summary / Rich Site Summary / Really Simple Syndication. For each entry, a hotlink is provided, when available, to a RSS (and/or XML) link for the item, or to an information page that provides a subsequent link.

The collection will include library news sites, bibliographic databases, Internet resource guides, and new acquisitions lists. Please contact Gerry if you come across resources that haven't been added to the registry, or if your library has created new RSS applications.

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RSS for Search Alerts: my.OAI

Currently, there are only a few bibliographic databases that let you create RSS feeds, including the alternate PubMed platforms HubMed and my.PubMed.

Another one is my.OAI, also from FS Consulting. If you have ever used OAIster, this one works the same way, searching 17 major Open Archive collections (vs. OAIster's 301 collections of varying sizes). And like my.PubMed, each search in my.OAI generates an RSS feed that you can copy and paste into your reader.

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RSS. Marketwire.com

Market Wire currently offers 37 feeds, including 24 feeds for industries like financial services, real estate/construction, chemicals and media/entertainment.

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June 04, 2004

Nashville (6/5-6/9)

I'll be in Nashville for the SLA Conference (involved in most of the Chemistry Division activities) until Wednesday, so I may or may not have an opportunity to post until I return.

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June 03, 2004

Another Example of Academic Library Blogs

Ohio University Libraries now have 4 blogs. One is accessible from their homepage, while two are more for internal users (Systems Status and Reference). The one that caught my attention was the blog they have created for business resources. This is the first business-specific library blog that I have seen.

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RSS and Web Site Traffic

Dave Winer's reply to the question, "Would a big media company lose traffic if they supported RSS?". I agree with his assessment that it does increase traffic. I read far more science news articles through the RSS feeds than I did by periodically browsing their Web sites.

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"R.S.S." in the New York Times

An article in today's NYT on RSS (which they incorrectly identify as R.S.S.), Fine-Tuning Your Filter for Online Information. [Article is free for 7 days; registration required, or use science-news as ID/password.]

Other than the RSS misspelling, the article is pretty standard. However, it's interesting to note that the writer mentions the New York Times feeds but doesn't not tell the reader how to find them.

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RSS: Scotsman.com

Steven Cohen has already mentioned the astonishing list of RSS feeds available from the Scotsman. This is easily the largest collection of feeds I have seen yet from a single news entity. There are nearly 900 feeds from their news, sport and business sections, from the general (International News) to the specific (European Union).

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Adding a Search Engine

Micah Alpern offers an easy way for you to create the custom code needed for a search engine on your blog. You simply enter your blog URL and Google license key (which you can get by setting up an account with Google). You also need to have a subscription or Blogroll file set up. Then, you paste the custom code into your template.

I have added this to the right column of this page.

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June 02, 2004

RSS Tutorial for Content Publishers and Webmasters

This RSS guide is more technical: the different versions of RSS, what to know when you're generating your feed, resources for generating and validating the feeds.

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If you're using a blog service that doesn't have a link-managing feature (like Typepad), then blogrolling is an easy way to manage your links without spending lots of time hand-coding HTML in the template. It's a free service with registration, with an upgrade available for additional features.

From the BlogRolling.com site, you can manage (add, edit, delete) your hyperlinks. A line of Javascript code is provided for you to paste into your template, so the changes you make to your blogroll will automatically show up on your site. I have created such a list in the right margin.

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Blogging @ SLA in Nashville

Beginning Saturday, InfoToday writers will be blogging live from the SLA Conference.

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Trends in Blog Searching

From Christina Pikas, librarian at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2004 issue of b/ITe, then subsequently republished in llrx.com.

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