Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to Change the Look of Your Blog

* I am going to use Blogger in this example, but if you use another blog platform and you need help, please let me know and I will do all I can! *

When you first set up your blog on Blogger, you are given a plain white template with two columns. If you want to adjust your colors and themes, you can go to your dashboard, click Layout > Pick New Template and then just choose one you like. It's very simple and straightforward, and you can change it any time you wish.

But what if you don't like the templates Blogger provides for you? Or what if you want more than the standard 2-column look?

Well, fortunately, there are tons of free templates out there you can use! You can find anything from a plain black, minimalist design (like I've chosen) to wild, funky patterns and crazy layouts. The look is totally up to you! To find one of these templates, go to Google and search for "free Blogger template". Additionally, if you know you want a certain number of columns, you may want to add that to your search criteria. Once you've found one you like, open a new window, log into your Blogger account, and follow these directions:

* For this example I will be using this template. Feel free to use this one if you would like! *

1. Go to the page where the template you like is located. Look around and see if you can find a link that says something like "Download" or "Get this Template". Once you find it, click that link (or right click) and save it to the desktop. (If you are using a mac, you may get a warning like this:

If you do, just tell it to continue downloading.)

2. THIS STEP IS SUPER IMPORTANT!!! You need to back up your template before you do anything else. To do that, Go to your dashboard and click "Layout", then click the "Edit HTML" tab. Look for this part of the screen:

and hit "Download Full Template". Then just follow the directions on the screen. (If you have ANY problems here, please do NOT proceed until you talk to me!) Once you are sure you've done this part, just save that backup, leave it where it is and go to step three. (You will only need that backup if something messes up... hopefully we won't have to use it! LOL)

* If you have widgets already installed on your blog, and you do NOT wish to lose them, please go here and follow these directions before you go any further. *

3. Just below where you backed up your template, you will see this:

Click on the tab that says "Choose File" and then pick the template file you downloaded earlier, like this:

4. Hit "Upload" once you have your file selected. (WARNING: you may see something that says you are about to delete certain widgets. As long as you have backed up these widgets, go ahead and proceed.)

5. You have now changed your template!

* If you backed up your widgets earlier, please go here and follow the steps to reinstall them. *

See how easy that was?

You can now change the look of your blog any time you wish! Just come back here, and follow the instructions for any template you choose!

p.s. I would LOVE to see your new blog designs! Please leave me a comment so I can check them out!


Monday, March 30, 2009

Social Proof and Why it Matters to You

What the heck is "social proof"?

According to wikipedia, social proof is "a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed."

Blah, blah, blah... was that what you heard, too? Cause it sure is what I heard!

Let me try to make this a whole lot easier. Essentially, social proof is a sort of "herd mentality". Social proof is what your momma was always worried about when you were growing up. Remember when she would say "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?"? Well, she was just asking you (in her own momma fashion) if you were planning on being a victim of social proof!

Social proof comes into play when someone can't decide how to act/react in a given social situation. Our natural inclination is to "follow the herd". We (often wrongly) assume that because a group is acting/reacting a certain way, that is must be the right way to behave. Our daily lives are filled with examples of social proof in action. For instance, sitcoms will often used a "laugh track" when they record which subconsciously makes the viewer think "everyone else is laughing, so that joke must have been funny." Or how about this one: Have you ever been around when a standing ovation occurred? Chances are, you weren't the one who started the ovation... but I'd be willing to bet you stood up. Buy why did you stand? Because everyone else was doing it, right?

Sometimes, we take even more subtle cues when we react to social proof. The next time you're near a restaurant, go into the bar area and look at the tip jar. I would be surprised if you didn't see money in the tip jar, even if nobody is in the bar. You know why that money is there? It's called "seeding the tip jar", and it's a trick all good bartenders use. When you "seed the jar" you add a few bills so that the real customers will see you've been tipped, and (hopefully) follow suit. As a former bartender, I can assure you that an "unseeded" jar is much harder to get a first tip in than a seeded one!

So why does social proof matter to us as artisans?

Because capitalizing on social proof can be the difference in "making ends meet" and "breaking the bank" in your studios!

Think about it like this: the last time you went to a craft fair or a market environment, I'm sure you saw a table with some poor vendor standing around twiddling his thumbs... and I'm sure there were also booths with tons of people crowded around. So what's the difference? Do you really think that the lonely vendor had that much of an inferior product to the crowded one? I doubt it. Most likely what happened was that the crowded vendor had a group walk up and start browsing, which made her look busy. Then, once she looked busy, everyone else saw it, and wondered "what's going on over there?" and headed to check it out. Don't believe me? Try this experiment: Get a group of ten people and go to the grocery store. Now, take all ten of those people and just stand by the broccoli. Pretend like you're all looking at the broccoli. I will bet you $10 that within just a matter of minutes someone (if not multiple someones) will wander over and try to see what you're all doing. That's social proof at its finest!

So how do you build social proof in your studio?

There are a few way to do this, and the first is one that Artfire has already given you! You know that little box that looks like this:

on each of your listing pages? That thing is a dream tool for building social proof! Every time you add something to your market hub, one of those icons goes from "grayed out" to bright and attention grabbing! Each of those icons means you belong somewhere, be it Facebook, indiepublic, Etsy, or what have you. And the more you belong, the more people will want you to belong to them!

Another good tip is to use testimonials from past customers, and, again, Artfire is helping you out here, too! Go look at your kudos/karma page. See how you can make your kudos public? Do it! Let all your potential buyers see those great things others have said about you! And, you can even take it a step farther by copying and pasting some of those awesome comments into your studio pages! So what if you don't have any karma or kudos yet? Call or write your former customers and see if they will send you a nice compliment! Check your past emails and see what kind words were sent to you! Put those words to work for you! If someone compliments you at a show, write it down and use it later on your studio pages! Use any and all positive feedback to build your social proof!

Okay, so what if you're already doing these things? Well, it's time to get brave! Think outside the box, and see how you can use your connections to your advantage. Do you know someone who has a popular blog? How about asking them if they would mind writing a feature on you? Or are you friends with someone who is considered an expert in their craft? Send them one of your pieces and ask them for a review! If you get a favorable review, ask if they'd mind if you used their name and words on your blog or in your studio! Have you won any awards or taught any classes related to your craft? Put that info where the world can see it! All of these things will make others look at your name and think "Wow! I should check that out!"

One last tip, look at your blog posts and see how many comments you have on each post. If you have lots of readers, but not so many comments, reread your posts and see what you can do to make people more involved. Comments on blogs are a great example of social proof. It's often like a snowball effect; a few people say something and then suddenly you're inundated with blog love! Try to make your posts engaging. Work on asking questions and be open to hearing the answers, and you will start to see your comment section grow! Additionally, reply to your comments! Not only does this show you care what your readers think, but it increases your comment number and drives up social proof!

I hope this hasn't been such a long post that I lost you guys... I apologize for being so long winded, but I really hope you can take something useful away from this. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I would LOVE to hear your ideas on how to build social proof!


Friday, March 27, 2009

How Do I Get People to Follow Me on Twitter?

Hopefully, you saw my earlier post about Twitter, and you already have your account all set up. And hopefully you are out there tweeting your heart out! But do you have followers? Or are you tweeting to an empty room?

If you're like most new Twitter users, you don't have a huge following yet. And trust me, I know how discouraging this can be. It's sort of like being at a party but being stuck in the bathroom, isn't it? You can hear everyone talking about how cool the party is, but you just don't seem to be in on the fun yet. Well, I am about to show you how to open that door and join the party!

Fortunately for us that are "stuck in the bathroom", there are some really cool Twitter tools available. Today, we're going to focus on one called TweetBeep. TweetBeep is a free service that allows you to essentially "stalk" other tweets. Now, as scary and crazy as it sounds, it's really not that bad! It's actually a great way to find other Twitter users who share your interests!

So, if you're ready to get the party started, click this link, sign up, and log in! Then come back here and follow these directions to get things going!

Setting up keyword alerts with TweetBeep:

1. Log in to your TweetBeep account and click the link that says "New Keyword Alert". You should see a page that looks like this:

2. In the first box ("Settings"), you want to name your alert. Choose a short name that will be easily understood later. For instance, if you want to search for users who like Artfire, just call this alert "Artfire". You must fill out this box. (All the other sections are optional, but you have to fill out at least one other thing in order to set up an alert.) You also need to tell TweetBeep how often you want it to search for you. While you can tell it to look every hour, it can be pretty tiring to deal with an hourly email, so i set mine to once a day. Choose whichever you prefer!

3. In the 2nd section ("Keywords"), you can tell TweetBeep to look for certain key phrases. Let's discuss these sections a little more in depth:

* For illustrative purposes, I'm going to use the phrase "artfire artisan studio" and show you what you will get if you put that in each box. *
All of these words: TweetBeep will tell you when a tweet includes all those words, but they may not be in that order. For instance, if someone tweets "I was on artfire talking to an artisan with a cool studio" that tweet will show in your results.
This Exact Phrase: TweetBeep will ONLY tell you when that EXACT phrase is found. Using this box will exclude the example tweet above.
Any of These Words: Your results will include any tweet where artfire, artisan, or studio is used.
None of These Words: Your results will exclude any tweet where artfire, artisan, or studio is used.

This Hashtag: a hashtag is essentially a word preceded with a number sign, like this: #artfire. Hashtags are used to identify certain common topics in tweets. If you wanted to look for tweets about artfire, you could type #artfire here and this would return all tweets with that hashtag.

You may also set up what language tweets you wish to see in the settings section.

4. In the "people" section, you can track certain Twitter users, or certain people that others are tweeting about.

* For this example, I am going to use "JennNinja" (that's me!) *
From This Person: TweetBeep will alert you every time I tweet something.
To This Person: TweetBeep will alert you every time someone tweets something to me.
Referencing This Person: TweetBeep will alert you every time someone tweets about me.

5. In the "places" section, you can set up your alert to tell you when someone mentions a certain place. You can also tell it to alert you to references near that place by changing the "within x miles" option.

6. The "attitudes" section will allow you to look for tweets that are in a certain mood. For instance, if you wanted to see who likes me, you could use the people > referencing section by entering "JennNinja" and then check "positive attitude".

7. The last section ("links") will allow you to look for tweets containing links.

8. Once you've decided what you are looking for, hit save. You will be taken to a screen that shows all your alerts like this:

Now, all you have to do is wait and check your email! Pretty soon, you will get an email containing up to 50 tweets that meet your alert criteria!

Ok, now that you have TweetBeep all set up, what do you do with it?

Well, you can use those tweets it sends you to find people who are interested in what you're selling! For instance, I use my account to search for things like "handmade" and "scrabble", because I know that these are topics that I can talk about! When I get my search results each day, I can scan through them and choose to follow users I think may be interested in me and my studios! Additionally, you can look for fellow artisans by entering terms like "artfire", "etsy", or "1000markets". When you find someone whose tweets you like, just follow them! Twitter will send them a message that tells them you are following, and, ideally, they will check your page out and follow you in return!

* I realize this is a SUPER long post, but before we go I have just a few warnings for you*

1. Be sure you are specific in your alert terms. If you enter a term that is too broad, you may end up with a lot of useless tweets. It's ok if this happens, though, because you can always go back and edit the alerts you have set up. Just keep tweaking them until you find what works for you!

2. Don't follow people just for the sole purpose of promoting yourself. It's totally fine to talk about your listings or your blog or whatever, but people can tell if you're just stalking them to make a sale. And trust me, they will unfollow you! (And nobody wants to be kicked out of the party, right?)

NOW - go forth and set up your TweetBeep alerts! Good luck, happy stalking, and may the force be with you!


Call out the Ninjas!!!

Hey guys!

Just wanted to let you all know that I've added a contact box to this blog.

It's right smack in the middle of every page (just under my profile). Please use it if you have any feedback, suggestions, or even if you just want to say "Hello"!

Also, if you ever get stuck trying to follow along with a tutorial, you can use it to email me for more help!

Thanks so much! I can't wait to hear what you guys have to say!



Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Do I Make MY Blog Stand Out?

This is a common question new bloggers have. There seems to be this thinking that nobody wants to hear what you have to say, or that you won't be interesting enough to keep your readers coming back if you talk about yourself. There's also the school of thought that says "Since I write about crafting, every post should be craft-related."

Well, this isn't really the truth. If you don't add some of you into your blog, your readers will fade away and look for more engaging blogs to frequent.

So how do you do this? Easy. Write about yourself.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there thinking "But I'm a craft blogger! Not a story teller! Nobody wants to hear about my cat or my kids or my boring life!" (Admit it, you were thinking that weren't you?) Well you know what? You are wrong.

Think about it this way: Why do people shop for handmade items? Because they want a real person behind what they're buying, right? I firmly believe that one of the main reasons the handmade movement is so popular is that consumers are tired of fattening the wallets of faceless corporations. So, as an artisan, you need to make sure your readers (who are your potential buyers, btw) know you.

Here's something else to think about: If you wanted to buy a new scarf, and you knew you wanted a handmade scarf, you could go to a local craft fair to buy it. Now, if you are walking around that fair, and you see a face you recognize, a friend from work or school maybe, and she sells scarves, wouldn't your natural inclination be to buy from her? Of course it would be! Our natural inclination is to go with what is familiar to us. We instinctively trust deals made with friends more than deals made with strangers, so it stands to reason that if you become a recognizable face your sales will increase.

Get out there and make yourself known! I'm not saying stop promoting your fellow artisans, nor am I saying stop making spotlights or treasuries in your blogs. What I am saying is pepper your blog with snippets from your own life. If you have a really funny day, or a even a really weird one, tell your readers about it! If you teach in real life, teach online! Take the same skills you use in "real life" social settings and put them to use here. Treat your readers as though they were strangers at a party. Ask yourself "What would I say to someone to make them want to continue the conversation?" Ask questions in your post to encourage feedback. Make your blog inviting and entertaining, and you will stand out!

For instance, when you make a spotlight, don't just say "Here are the things I like today." Instead, how about saying "I chose these items today because...." and then tell us the truth! Take a good look at the items and see what they are saying to you. Did you just make a treasury of hearts and flowers? Maybe it means you're feeling loved... TELL US THAT! Or maybe you made a spotlight full of dark colors and hard edges. Could it be you're lonely or sad today? SAY SO! It's these small touches that will make your blog the one people come back to, and your shop the one they want to visit!

One last thing, if you sit down to blog and you've been too busy to shop for things to spotlight or artisans to feature, don't be discouraged. Think of this as an opportunity to let us see the "real you". Tell your readers why you've been so busy. Take a day off from being an artisan and just be you. You will be amazed at the outcome!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twitter and How to Use it Effectively

Ok, let's start with the basics. Twitter is a micro-blogging service that you can use free of charge. Essentially it's a quick easy way to tell the world (in 140 characters or less) a little about yourself. Think of it as a "What am I doing right now?" tool. It's super easy to sign up for, and once you sign up all you have to do it send out the occasional update, or "tweet". You can follow others, and they can follow you. You can also "retweet" others' posts, and you can reply to your twitter friends or send them direct messages (DM's).

So what should you tweet about? Anything really! Use your Twitter account to tell us about your day. Tweet about what you just listed in your studio. Show off those awesome earrings you just hotlisted. Whatever!

Just be sure you are sending quality tweets on a regular basis. Also, be sure you aren't just tweeting your self-promotion. It's fine to promote yourself, but you won't get many followers if that's all you're doing. Just like your "real" blog, you need to make your Twitter page personal. If someone addresses you on Twitter, be sure you acknowledge them, just like you would in real life. Use your Twitter as a tool and you will surprised at the results!

Btw, this is just a quick intro to Twitter, but if you check back soon, I'm going to be showing you how to use all the nifty tools available for Twitter. So go ahead and set your account up now! (Please be sure to follow me once you do!)


Are You Using Your Email to Its Fullest Potential?

Here's a super easy, super quick tip that a lot of us often forget to use:

Promote yourself with every email you send out.

Put a link to each of your shops in your signature. If you set this up in your email settings (as opposed to manually typing it every time), you will be certain that each and every email you send out will have a link in it.

I know this is just a simple little change, but you will be amazed at the difference it makes. And think of it like this: every email has the potential to be forwarded all around the world. And where else can you get FREE international marketing?

So go set up those signatures people!

(If you need help, let me know, I will be happy to show you how!)

p.s. Check back later today for another post! I decided to give two short tips today instead of just the one!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Adding a "Search This Blog" Widget

I started thinking the other day about this blog, and it occurred to me that having a search function would be awfully handy. Now, I had no idea how to do this, but, after much digging and trial and error I have found a way that works. I also thought, that since I found it useful, you guys may, too. So, if you'd like to add this to your own blog, just follow these easy steps:

1. Log in to blogger and go to your dashboard.

2. Click the "Layout" link.

3. Decide where you want to put your "Search This Blog" box, and then click "Add a Gadget". (Don't worry, if you want to move it later you can simply drag and drop it to a new position!)

4. When you click "Add a Gadget", you will see this:

Choose the 2nd option, the one that says "HTML/Javascript" by clicking the plus mark on the right.

5. In the title area, type what you want your search function to say. For instance, mine says "Search This Blog!". You can type anything you'd like there, but be sure to keep it short and simple and to the point.

6. Copy and paste this code into the box:
<p align="center"><form id="searchthis" action="/search" style="display:inline;" method="get"> <input id="search-box" name="q" size="25" type="text"/> <input id="search-btn" value="Search" type="submit"/> </form></p>

7. Hit "Save".

Congratulations! Your blog now has its very own search feature! Your readers can now search just within your blog for whatever they'd like! How awesomely easy was that? ;0)


Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Make a Spotlight on ByHand.me

A lot of you have seen those awesome spotlights that people are making on ByHand.me, but maybe you aren't sure how to make one of your own. If you'd like to learn, just have your ByHand.me login information ready and follow these steps:

* I'm going to use my studio, but you can feel free to use yours or any one you'd like! *

1. Login to your ByHand.me account.

2. In the upper left hand corner you will see a tab that says "My Stuff". If you hover your cursor over this tab, you will see this:

3. Click the link that says "New Spotlight". You will be taken to a screen that looks like this:

4. Open a new window and go to your studio. Click on any item you'd like to put in your spotlight. Look in the address bar, and you will see some numbers at the end of your address, like this:

Copy those numbers and click back to the ByHand.me window.

5. Hit "Edit" on one of the blocks on your spotlight. Paste the number into the box you see, and change the drop down box to the right studio type. It will look like this:

6. Hit ok, and your box will change, like this:

7. Repeat these steps until you have all the boxes full. (You can use items from all the studios at once, meaning you can mix and match your markets. To find the correct numbers to use in each studio, there is a list on the right of the page (beside the spotlight) that tells you where to look.) At this point, you can also drag and drop the boxes to change the layout if you'd like.

8. Once you have all the boxes full, you've titled your spotlight (above the boxes), and you've filled out the information below the spotlight, just hit "Save". (You do not have to fill out anything below the spotlight unless you wish to, but I recommend that you do change the "Post to Twitter" option so it says "yes")

9. Once you've saved your spotlight, you will be taken to a page that has a link to "Go to your spotlights list". Click this. You should see this now:

10. Hover your cursor over the little globe on the right and a gray box will pop up, like this:

If you hover over each of the links, you will notice that the code below them will change.

11. If you are using blogger, the best choice for a full spotlight is "Mini". Click that link, and then copy the code in the top box. Now, all you have to do is paste that code into your blog post and hit publish!

(You can experiment with the other sizes anywhere you'd like. If you try the code from the top box and nothing happens, just replace it with the code from the bottom box and you should be fine!)

Happy spotlighting!!!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Using the "Read More" Function

Ok guys, here's a cool tip that will help you make your blog look a lot cleaner and more inviting.

See how you had to click that link that said "Read More" so you could see what the tip is? Well... using that link is the tip!

I agree that I may have used it a little too soon, but, in this case, I was using it to illustrate a point. A good rule-of-thumb is to use it at the end of your second paragraph (or maybe even at the end of the first, if you tend to write longer paragraphs).

As to why you should use it at all, it's been proven that most readers won't stay on a page too long if they feel that the page is too "wordy". Let's face it, we're a society that's in a rush, and readers are no exception. By using this function, you will allow your readers to skim your page and choose just the topics they want to read, as opposed to forcing them to scroll past what they don't want to see. If you create a place that feels inviting, you will create a place readers wish to return to... and that's the whole goal, right?

So how do you do it?

*This is going to seem daunting, but I promise you it isn't that hard... just do it step by step and you should be fine*

First, you have to make sure your blog template is ready to use "expandable posts". If you have never uploaded a template, and you're using one of the templates provided by Blogger, then you will have to do these steps. If you have uploaded a template, you may or may not need to do this part. If you don't know what sort of template you uploaded, I would recommend not doing this until you check with someone, as you run the risk of losing your widgets. (You can also send me the code (if you still have it) and I will check it for you!) For those of you who are sure you are safe, follow these steps:

* If you are using an uploaded template, and you are sure you can use expandable posts, please skip ahead to step #8 *

1. Go to your dashboard and click "Layout", then click the "Edit HTML" tab.

2.THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT!!! You need to back up your template before you do anything else. To do that, look for this part of the screen:

and hit "Download Full Template". Then just follow the directions on the screen. (If you have ANY problems here, please do NOT proceed until you talk to me!) Once you are sure you've done this part, go to step three.

3. In the section that says "Edit Template" you will see a box that you can click to "Expand Widget Templates". Make sure there is a check mark in that box.

4. Scroll through all that crazy looking code till you find this:


(This is the hardest part. It should be almost midway down the page of code, and I promise it's in there! LOL)

5. Copy and paste the code below directly above the part you just found:

<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'>

6. Copy and paste the code below directly below the part you found:

<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType != "item"'><br />
<a expr:href='data:post.url'>Read more...</a>

If you've done it right, it should look like this:

7. Hit "Save Template".

8. Go to your blogger dashboard and click "Settings". Next, click the third tab from the left, the one that says "Formatting". Scroll down to the bottom of the page till you see this:

9. Now just copy and paste this code in the box:

<span id="fullpost"></span>

It should look like this:

10. Hit save!

What will happen now is that whenever you hit "New Post" you will see those tags you just typed already waiting on you. Start your post before the tags, and when you get to the place you want to "break" your page, skip over the first tag and continue typing. For example, if you type this:

"The quick brown fox <span id="fullpost"> jumps over the lazy dog. </span>"

you will see "The quick brown fox" on the main page (with a "Read More" link) and then you will see the entire sentence on the second page. You can feel free to try this sentence in a test post to get a feel for what I mean, but just be warned that you won't be able to see the link in preview mode. You will actually have to publish the post in order for it to show up.

I really hope all that made sense. Let me know if you have any questions!

p.s. If you don't want to add a page break to one of your posts, just delete those tags. ;0)


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getting a Leg Up on Writer's Block

Ever have one of those days where you sit down to blog and have nothing to say? Or how about a day where you can think of a hundred things to blog about, but you just do not have the time to do it?

Well, here's a little tip you can use to make turn that problem into a tool!

As you're surfing around the internet, keep a window open that is logged into your blogger dashboard. Then, any time you see something that makes you think "Oh! How wonderful!" or "Wow! I should write about that!", just click over to that open blogger window and hit "New Post".

Type something in the title line that will remind you of the idea you just had. Then, if it's another artisan, web page, or blog that sparked the idea, go ahead and copy & paste a link to that page in the body of the new post. Finally, simply hit "Save Now" at the bottom of the post window.

By doing this, you're creating a list of topics without actually publishing anything. So, when you sit down on your scheduled blogging day, you already have a ton of topics to talk about. Voila! No more writer's block!


Friday, March 20, 2009


Hi everyone!

I've set up this blog to try to help everyone out in whatever way I can. I don't know it all, but I figured I would share what I do know. I can usually help in any area computer related, blog related, or social networking related. If you can't find a post relating to your issue, please let me know either by commenting or sending me an email! I will be happy to try to help you, and if I don't know something I will do all I can to find out and pass that information along!

I welcome any and all feedback here. We can all learn if we all just pull together! If you have something you'd like to contribute, or a tutorial you'd like to share, please contact me and I will be more than happy to make you an author on this blog!

If you ever feel like you just aren't getting something when you try to follow along with one of the posts, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will always be happy to give personalized help if you need it!

My genuine hope in writing this blog is that each and every one of us will learn, grow, and thrive in the handmade community. I truly believe that each of us is talented and unique, and, given the right tools, we can all stand out in our respective fields.

Thanks for being here, and thanks for your feedback! I look forward to the day we can all sit back and just enjoy the fruits of all this hard work!


p.s. If you haven't done so already, i recommend subscribing to this feed or signing up to get this emailed to you. By doing so, you will be sure not to miss any of the updates, and you will, once again, automate a little of your life! (You can find the links to doing this in the upper right corner of this page.)


Is Your Blog Stealing Your Life?

Hello everyone!

A few days ago I was on Plurk talking to some off my fellow artisans, and the topic of blogging came up. It seems that a common concern is having enough time to do quality blogging every day. Well, let me let you in on a little secret: you do not have to blog every day! You can blog just one day a week and still have a new post show up every day! "But Jenn, HOW???" you ask? Easy! Both of the "major" blogging sites (Blogger and WordPress) have this nifty little function that will allow you to schedule your posts for later publishing. Hopefully, by the end of this post you will understand how to use that function, and you will have freed up tons of time in your schedule!

Just keep reading to find out how!

Ok, I'm going to use blogger to show you how to do this (since I think most of you are using blogger anyway), but the steps are very similar on WordPress. Just be sure you are logged into your blog, open your dashboard, and follow along!

1. On your dashboard, click the "new post" link and it will take you to a window that looks like this:

2. Type anything you want in the title area and the message area. For mine I just typed "TEST" in both.

3. Find the link that says post options at the bottom of the screen and click it. The bottom of your post area should expand and look like this:

4. Now, all you have to do is change the date and time to some time in the future. I'm going to make mine post on March 21st at 9:00 AM. Once you've changed both those values, go ahead and hit "Publish Post"

5. Once you hit "Publish" you should get sent to a screen that has a list of your posts. You want to make sure you see two things at this point. Look for this:

and this:

As long as you see both those things, you did it right! (At this point, you may want to click that little delete link on the right, just so you don't end up with a strange test post on your blog.)

Now, all you have to do is set aside one time a week to blog for the week. For me, that day is Tuesday. On my scheduled day I sit down and write enough posts to get me through the week. I scheduled them all to post on different days, but I try to keep all posts set to publish between 9:00 and 10:00 AM. That way, everyone who reads my blog can check each day around those times and see what has been added. This also serves the function of giving each post about the same amount of exposure at the top of the main page.

I hope this has helped! Please keep checking back as I will be posting about other help topics frequently!



Sunday, March 15, 2009

Twitterfeed and Your Artfire Studio - A Tutorial

Hi everyone! I was planning on waiting a bit to go all "computer nerd" on you again, but it seems that a lot of people are eager to learn to use Twitterfeed, so I thought I'd go ahead and post this now.

In order to use Twitterfeed, you need a basic understanding of RSS Feeds first. If you haven't already done so, it may help to read my post about RSS feeds before you try to tackle Twitterfeed. (Go ahead... I'll wait... :wink:)

OK. You guys ready? (This is so easy it's gonna blow your minds!)

*** I'm going to use my studio again, but you can feel free to use yours so you don't have to do this twice! LOL ***

First, you're going to need a Twitter account. (If you haven't set that up, please go here and do so before you go any further.)
Once you have your Twitter username and password set up, follow these steps:

1. Open one window and go to Twitterfeed. Click the blue link that says "Login to twitterfeed" and you should see this:

Also, you need to open another window and go to your Artfire studio feed. (Just use the directions you learned in my earlier post to get there!) Once you have this window open to your studio feed (and it looks like this:)

go back to the Twitterfeed window.

2. Go to the little box that says "OpenID Login". See that little "Blogger B" to the right of the box? If you click it, a pop up will show up that looks like this:

The easiest thing to do is to use your Blogger ID (assuming you have one). As you can see, mine is already showing in my example. (If you don't have one, you can use your google login, your yahoo login, your LJ login, and so on. Hopefully you will have at least one of the logins listed. Just use whichever you prefer! Be sure you remember which login you use, though, as you will need it to edit your feed or add new feeds later!) Anyway, to use your Blogger ID, just click on the Blogger icon in the popup box. You will see that the box now looks like this:

Just highlight the part that says "username" and change it to your own username, then hit "login".

3. Your page should now look like this:

Click the blue link that says "go to my twitter feeds (or create a new one)". This will take you to a page that looks similar to this (Yours will be different, because I already have 4 feeds set up... don't panic if yours doesn't look exactly like this yet! LOL):

4. Near the bottom of the page, you will see a link to "Create a New Feed". Click that, please. You should now see this:

5. In the "username" box, type your Twitter username, and in the "password" box type your Twitter password. Just to make sure you did it right, click the link that says "test twitter authentication ". If you did, you will see a green check mark. If not, retype it until that green check shows up. (If you can't get it to show up, you may need to go to Twitter and make sure you can login using the info you are typing.)

6. Go to the 2nd window you opened (the one with your studio RSS feed showing) and copy the address from the address bar. Come back to the Twitterfeed window and paste that address into the box that says "RSS Feed URL". Be sure you click "test rss feed" after you paste the address, and make certain you get another green check mark! If you don't get that check, you won't be able to create your feed later!

7. At this point, you can change how often Twitterfeed checks new feeds, but it's already set to check once every hour. This is usually sufficient (unless you're one of those "power listers" out there LOL), so I'd just leave it as it is. Also, you can type up to 20 characters in the box labeled "Prefix each tweet with:" if you'd like. For my Artfire feed, I typed "New on Artfire". You do not have to do this, but if you do, each time Twitterfeed tweets for you, it will place whatever you type at the beginning of the tweet.

8. The last thing you need to do is to click "Create". Once you click "create" it should take you back to this page:

As long as you make it back to that page you are done! You have now created your very first Twitterfeed! Now, all you have to do is wait an hour or two and check your Twitter page. You should see tweets showing from Twitterfeed! (Just FYI, the very first time Twitterfeed checks your newly created feed, it will only show the last thing you added to your studio. After that, it will show up to 5 new listings. This means that if you add more than 5 listings between checks, only the last 5 will be "auto tweeted" for you. Likewise, if you only add one listing, just that one new item will show on Twitter.)

I hope this has been helpful. If something isn't clear, please let me know, and I will do all I can to make it better. Also, if there are any other things you'd like me to try to help with in the future, please leave me a comment and I will do all I can to help!

p.s. You can also use this with your etsy shop! Just follow the steps but substitute your Etsy feed for your Artfire feed! ;0)

p.p.s Please add me to your Twitter friends if I'm not already on your list! I would LOVE to see all of your Twitterfeeds in action!

* Originally posted on Ninja Jenn's Blog *


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Mysterious RSS Feed Button

Recently Artfire added an RSS feed button to each artisan's studio. While this made me super excited, it has come to my attention that this little button is a source of confusion for quite a few people out there. So, in light of this new revelation, I thought I'd try to do a little "de-mystification" post and hopefully help some of you guys use and understand this valuable little tool.

First of all, let's start with what an RSS Feed actually is. If you try googling "RSS Feed Definition" you will come up with all sorts of computer mumbo jumbo. You'll see all sorts of "geek speak" relating to "XML documents", "aggregators", and "metadata". But just ignore all that for now! What you really need to know is that an RSS Feed is essentially a nifty little way to get the newly-added contents of a web page delivered directly to your virtual doorstep. Instead of waking up and having to go to each page you frequent to see what happened, you can use an RSS Feed to make the information come to you. RSS Feeds are a great way to keep up with your favorite studios, as a properly set up feed will deliver all the newly added listings right to you every single day! To do this, you'll need a few basic tools.

First of all, you will need a feed reader. There are primarily two types of readers available: a standalone reader or a "plug in" reader. A standalone reader is an application you download and install to your computer that compiles the information for you and works as its own, self-functioning program. You can often find these for free at sites like Download.com. Standalone readers are great because you can pull and read the information as you need it, but on the other hand, you have to actually tell the application to open and run every time you want to see your new feeds. I prefer to use a plug in reader, because it eliminates that need! The difference in a plug in reader is that is functions as part of another application you are already using. For instance, your plug in reader will work in conjunction with your web browser or Outlook. By using a plug in, when you open Outlook, IE, or Safari (just to name a few possibilities), the content you are being fed is right there waiting on you! One caveat though: if you already have a lot of information running (like bookmarked items or tons of email folders) you may end up slowing down your browser too much to make this a viable option. I would recommend trying a plug in reader first (and most of the standard browsers already have these built in!). If you find it slows you down too much, or you feel like your pages are "bogging down", you may want to look into a standalone reader.

The next tool you will need is the feed itself. I'm not going to go into making a feed at this point (if you need to know that, please email me or leave a comment and I'll make a seperate post on that later!). For now, we're going to stick to pages that already have that wonderful little RSS Feed button showing. That button makes this whole thing so easy, and after you figure it out you will be eager to have that button on all your personal pages, blogs, and studios I'm sure! Anytime you see this button () it means that the page you are viewing has an RSS feed available and waiting for you. The words attached to the button may change, but that is the universally accepted symbol for RSS Feed, so keep an eye out for it!

Ok, we know what a feeder is, and we know what button we're looking for, so how do we put it all together? Easy! Follow these steps and you can't go wrong:

(I am going to use my Artfire studio and Safari in this example, but the steps are essentially the same across the board)

1. Go to a web page. (Let's use this one: Ninja Jenn's Artfire Studio)
2. Locate the RSS Feed button. If you clicked the link above, you will see this:

Now scroll down and look to the left of the page till you see this:

3. Click the middle button (the one that says "RSS Feed for this Studio"). Your page should now look like this:

4. Look at the address bar of the page, and you should see "feed://www.artfire.com/rss/studio.php?id=20464". As long as the address you see is prefaced with "feed", you've done it right! (And we're almost done! LOL)
5. Bookmark the page once you are sure you're on the feed page. I keep my feeds in a folder called "RSS Feeds", but you can place them in any folder you like. (If you're using a stand alone reader, copy that address and drag it to your feed reader.)
6. (Final step!!!! And this is a "one time only step, too!!!) If you're using safari (like I am), you need to tell Safari to check your feeds for new information. To do this, go to Safari ---> Preferences and click the tab that says "RSS". Make sure you see this:

Now, just tell Safari what to check and when. For me, my feeds are in my Bookmarks Menu, so I will check that box. Also, I need to make the drop down menu "Check for Updates" say "Every Hour". (This is a good default checking time, just FYI)
*You can also choose to change new article colors and discard posts after a certain time, but you don't HAVE to ever throw them out.*

To read your newly fed articles and updates, just go to the folder where you save your RSS feeds and they will be there and waiting on you!

P.S. I know this seems like a lot, but I promise, once you do it once, it will be super easy sailing from then on! ;0)

Let me know if you have any questions, and check back soon because I will be posting about how to use your new RSS Feeds with Twitter!


*Originally posted on Ninja Jenn's Blog*


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ninja's "Cheater Method" for Widget Re-Installation

Once you've changed your template, you will want to reinstall your widgets. Just follow these steps and you will be up and running in no time!

* This tutorial functions under the assumption that you backed up your widgets using the Ninja "Cheater Method". If you didn't, you can still reinstall your widgets, but these instructions may be a little confusing. (Don't say I didn't warn you! LOL) *

1. Go to your Blogger dashboard and click "Layout".

2. Click "Page Elements".

3. Open the document where you saved your widget back ups.

4. Go to the first title and copy all the code beneath it for that widget.

5. Go back to your "Page Elements" window and decide where you want to put that particular widget.

6. Look for a link that says "Add a Gadget", like this:

Click that link.

7. You should now see this:

Find the wiget called "HTML/JavaScript" and click the blue plus sign on the right.

8. You will see a box like this:

Type a title in it (and be aware that your title WILL be visible on your blog!), and then paste the code you copied into the bottom portion.

9. Hit save.

10. Repeat this until you have replaced all the widgets you backed up earlier.

You can also drag and drop your widgets to rearrange them until you get them just the way you want them. Just be sure that you hit "save" in the upper right corner before previewing your changes, or else they won't "stick".


Ninja's "Cheater Method" for Widget Back-ups

Any time you are messing around with the HTML side of your blog layout, you run the risk of losing your widgets. Scary, isn't it?

So what do you do if you want to make sure that doesn't happen?

Follow these steps and you will be safe:

(If you are very familiar with code, you can go here and follow these instructions, but if code looks like Greek to you, stick with me and I will show you a more "friendly" way to do this!)

1. Go to your Blogger dashboard and click "Layout".

2. Click "Page Elements". You should see something similar to this:

(See all those little links that say "Edit"? Each of those is something you may need to back up.)

3. Go to your first widget and click "Edit". (Just so we're all on the same page, let's start with the widget containing your Artfire Studio.) You should see this:

4. Copy all the code in the box, and paste it to a new file in Word, Notepad, or whatever word processing program you use. It will be super helpful later if you add a title before what you paste, like this:

5. Repeat this process for every widget you have containing code. Be sure to save your pasted document every few minutes so you don't end up losing all that work you're doing!

* Some of your widgets won't have code in them, like "About Me", for instance. Don't let these worry you too much. These widgets are easy to reinstall, so backing them up isn't such a huge issue. Just be sure you make a note of them somewhere so you can be sure to check for them later. *

Be certain you save your pasted document once you are done, and make sure you name it something you can easily find later. I just call mine "Widget Backup" and it's saved on my desktop!

To learn to change your template, go here: How to Change the Look of Your Blog

To learn to reinstall your backed up widgets, go here: Ninja's "Cheater Method" for Widget Re-Installation

If you have any questions, let me know!


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