Want to see BlurbBits in action? Click , visit our Sailing Blog or more examples.
And use the BlurbsViewr to navigate our blogs via an interactive lifestream map.

2009-01-12

Getting Started - BlurbBits Utilities Overview


We've been adding a lot of new functionality and documentation so it's time to try to answer the question: What is the best way to get started with BlurbBits?

First make sure you've read our introduction or the BlurbBits Basics to get a high level understanding of our basic capabilities and concepts. It also helps to understand how to create a BlurbBit (url parameters, our interactive examples and publishing options). Remember our goal is to reuse as much information as possible, so check out our data extraction parameters before you start. We even document a complete geoblogging process but it helps if you understand the high level summary first..

BlurbBits - summary

BlurbBits are performance optimized map and photo sharing solutions for your blog or website. Standalone BlurbBits define a map and/or set of photos for a specific location or topic (the bits). Instead of adding photos one by one (a major hassle) and/or linking to a separate map or photo album, BlurbBits can be used to quickly add all the photos/map into a blog or website. Photos and maps are viewed directly within the BlurbBit on your page without forcing users to other sites or pages. Extract BlurbBits summarize data from various sources into overview maps and/or albums depending on the parameters.
  • Quick customized maps (standalone)
    You can adjust markers, zoom levels, location, travel path, map type and initial view. These parameters are also used to customize extracted maps. Location maps (&llz) also define a blog post's location when added to an individual blog post.
  • Online photos (picasa or flickr)
    Manages multiple photos from Albums or sets, with or without geotagged data from a user, group or other public data (does NOT define a blog post location). Changes made to the online photos will be seen when the BlurbBit is reloaded, automatically keeping your blog photos up to date.
  • Combined Maps and Photos
    The parameters from the sections above can be combined into a single BlurbBit which shows photos and defines a blog post's location. This can be used to manage all the photos and map for your blog post in a single utility (ie. widget/gadget) while allowing us to map your blog posts.
  • Summarize Data
    Create summary maps/photos from existing data using extraction options. Note: extracted data cannot be used to define a blog post's location, it must be defined using the LLZ map parameter (or via the mapr).
  • Publishing Options
    BlurbBits can be added to your blog (post or sidebar), website or emailed and linked using our publishing options. Use the Embedded Options (and Blogger BlogThis) to add a BlurbBit into a blog or website. Links can also be used in sites/blogs that don't support javascript. Our Gadget overload post might help you understand our thoughts on post vs sidebar publishing.

Utilities & Tools


BlurbBit Interactive Examples (in this Blog)

The interactive examples of the various sections can be used to learn about a specific set of BlurbBit features. Click on the icon to see the BlurbBit. Text entered in the textbox will be passed as the BlubBits URL parameters. Most parameters can be combined with other section parameters.

Design Mode (within a BlurbBit)


A BlurbBit in design mode displays the publishing options for the i (info) menu button instead of the standard info/sharing options. The interactive examples and the BlurbBits Mapr automatically enable design mode. Url parameters can be manually appended to the BlurbBit Url and published using this mode.

Dynamic GeoBlog Maps

Blog Before Dynamic Maps

Blog After - with Popup Map Displayed

Dynamic Geoblog Maps are created on the fly based on a specific pages content. A popup map (within the page) is created for each geo-located post along with a dynamic GeoBlog summary map for the pages content. Update: we've added some new functionality which will enhance your blog's performance even further.

BlurbBits Mapr


The BlurbBits Mapr has two purposes; to create & position multiple standalone BlurbBits and extract & position existing data via RSS feeds or the scratchpad. Existing online content can be extracted using Url parameters and the interactive examples can be easily added to a location to map it (using the extras dialog box). Scratchpad data can be published to the web via Google Spreadsheets and extracted into BlurbBits (a quick summary) and the BlurbsViewr (interactive navigation map).

BlurbsViewr


The BlurbsViewr uses the Url parameters (photos and extracted) to display objects on an interactive map. The map stays persistant while pages are opened below, making it a perfect tool to navigate your geo-referenced data. Use the Scratchpad/Google Spreadsheet to define your own data or combine multiple sources.

GeoBlogging Process

All of the above functionality can be used as a complete geoblogging process that supports remote posting, post centered photos/maps, and interactive Blog map, Dynamics maps and mapping of historical data combined with other websites (for a Travel blog, geotagged photo blog, any geospacial data-- geoblog). With Blogger you have a lot of mapping options that are great for combining with existing sites. Best of all it's free.. try it today!!

Start by playing with the interactive examples to see what standalone BlurbBits you can add (they are the fastest way to improve your site and see what data you already have). Get a basic understanding of the Mapr and the geoblogging process before you go too crazy.

What data do you have?

Photos in Flickr or Picasa work best with albums/sets and can be filtered further using tags to match content or location. Captions will automatically be added if available and remember you don't have to add/edit EVERY photo, they can become just like gadget overload if you are not careful. The mapr is the easiest way to combine photos with a map (to define a post location). If you use Picasa Web Albums, map them in Picasa first and use the Mapr to build a BlurbBit map Album.

If you just want to build an interactive map of your website/blog use the Mapr ScratchPad, at some point you'll need to define each location. If you have existing data you can reuse it by supplying the correct extraction parameters to the Mapr. The scratchpad is just that, so make sure you save the data so you can reuse it later. Try mapping a couple of locations and working through the process before you do them all.

Create a Travel Log

You can easily map your travels by building an electronic travel log in a Notepad text file (like this). Use the BlurbBits Mapr to Load the Scratchpad data (cut & paste your text), If you don't know your location, leave it blank, you can find it using the Mapr Find a Location features. Adjust the positions and set your zoom levels to highlight the correct area (zoom=8 middle of the ocean zoom=12 or 15 for anchorages with good maps). You'll need to upload the file into a Google Spreadsheet in order to map it in the BlurbsViewr.

Later, if you want, you can add photos and links to other pages, like your online photos, your website, wikipedia, or combine it with your Blogs (like this). Creating a BlurbBits enabled blog is the most automatic way of tracking your travels but using the travel log is a great start and it sure beats entering position after position into dialog boxes.

2009-01-10

Blogger GeoBlogging Process


Blogs, photos and maps are a great way to share your experiences and map your geoblogs to track your travels. With Blogger and BlurbBits you have access to one of the most flexible and powerful geo-blogging environments available. You can easily add photos and/or maps while sitting at home, an internet cafe, the middle of the ocean (via Email) or directly from your Mobile phone.

The flexibility of BlurbBits combined with Blogger's various posting options and the information that is available through existing blogs and photos sometimes makes it difficult to understand exactly how use BlurbBits with your blog.

The obvious thing that is missing is the location for each blog post. The easiest way to add it is within the blog post text (36 17.63 N 30 08.98 E or llz=36.2938,30.1497,14 see Blogger extract) which gives us some viewing options for the resulting data.
If you do nothing else, we highly recommend that you add one of the above location types into your blog text (you'll thank us later).



Note: The Dynamic GeoBlog maps are necessary to view these maps within your blog post. Nothing is added directly to your blog post and readers following your blog (RSS Feeds) will only see the lat/lng string. BlurbBits can be used to visualize these location maps within your blog post and easily add/manage online photos for all your readers and followers. Update: we've enhanced the functionality and can convert BlurbBit links into dynamic popups (maps and photos). Add the gadget via the link above and start adding the lat/lng text format to the posts you want mapped, it's the easiest way to get started. We've also added support for post summaries which can be used to optimize your blogs performance and improves traceability.


Stand Alone BlurbBit Examples

It is important to understand that there are two parts; the standalone BlurbBit which allows a map or online photos (and both) to be added to a specific blog post/entry (or sidebar) and the extracted data which can then displayed in various utilities. Note: The goal of this post is to define a process and NOT the details/options of each utility which is used, detailed documentation is available though the additional links provided.


Extracted BlurbBit Examples

We will document a complete process that supports an interactive blog navigation map AND uses BlurbBits for photos and maps within the blog. We also provide options for mapping existing posts. Note: This process can be used for any geo-referenced data (news, travel blogs, photo blogs) where maps and/or photos help clarify a specific post topic or location.

Define a Post/Entry Location

First lets start by adding a location to an existing Blog post. A Blog location can be defined by a BlurbBits Map or by lat/lng text for Blogger's mobile options.

Basics: BlurbBits are created/customized via Url Parameters.

Map BlurbBit:
&llz=36.2938,30.1497,14&mi=in
A map BlurbBit with initial view zoomed in.
Adjust the lat,lng,zoom parameter above if you feel comfortable
(Map options)

Click theicon above to see the resulting BlurbBit. Click i (info) in the top BlurbBit menu to see the publishing options (see example results/options in a single blog post). You can also try adding the lat/lng string (make sure it is a different location so you'll it).

Add the BlurbBit to a Blog Post

Open a new Browser window, login to Blogger and create/edit a new post. Make sure the post editor is in Edit Html mode.

Go back to the BlurbBit info window and double click in the textbox under Embed in Website/Blog Entry (with feed) to highlight all the HTML code. Use a right mouse click (RMC)-Copy to copy the code, then switch to the Blogger editor window and RMC-Paste to paste it. Update: If you are using Dynamic GeoBlogs you can use the Add Text Link in Website/Blog option and we'll take care of the rest for you.


Notice that all the HTML code is contained within <!--BEGIN-BLURBBIT and END-BLURBBIT-->. Blog post text can be added before or after these BEGIN/END statements. If you want to change/delete the BlurbBit select all this HTML code and paste over it with the new HTML code or simply delete it.

Now publish your post and view your blog. The map you created should appear within your new post, if you have issues make sure you added the code in the Edit Html mode editor.

Extract a Map of Blog Entries:

That puts an quick map in your post but it also defines its location for other utilities. Before we go to far lets make sure we can extract the post location data. First find your BlogName or BlogId if you ftp publish your blog (parameters &blogger=BlogName:Number:Options)
  • BlogName is configurable portion of your Blogspot address
    ex: use blurbbits for http://blurbbits.blogspot.com
  • BlogId is used to access the data for ftp published blogs
    Create a new Post or Edit an existing post
    you should see post-create.g?blogID=XXX or post-edit.g?blogID=xxx
    ex: use the blogID value (XXX)

    Note: by default we only extract the last 10 entries, use the :Number parameter to extract more.
Blog Map:
&blogger=svbillabong&width=220&height=200
A Blogger map for svbillabong.blogspot.com
&bloggerid=13526182&width=220&height=200
The same map accessed via BlogId

Adjust the example above to your BlogName (or BlogId) and click theicon to see the resulting BlurbBit map which is extracted from your blog. If a map does not appear check the Blogger extraction options and make sure your RSS feed and Blogger parameters are setup correctly.

A single blog post on a map is a little boring so lets find some more locations to add to another posts. Note: At this point you've done the basics, which allows you to map your blog posts and re-extract them into the other utilties (the blogger=xxx parameters can also be added to the BlurbsViewr and BlurbBits Mapr). The following are options which help you find your location, easily add photos and explain other utilties and viewing ideas. We'll also give you some options for your historical blogs and new post published via Mobile Options.

Finding a Location

Open the BlurbBits Mapr (new window). The map should center near your current location (it may use your internet service providers location or start at 0,0).

Basics: The BlurbBits setup map is designed around a right mouse click (RMC) context menu.

You can either:
  • Drag the map around to find an exact location
  • Enter your location in the Find a Location text box and click Go.
  • Enter your Lat/Lng in the Center Lat,Lng,Z: text box and click Move.
Adjust the zoom level with the slider on the left hand side of the map. The Center Lat,Lng,Z: textbox value is the &llz parameter we use to map a location.


For now highlight the Center value and use the RMC-Copy to copy it. Select 36.2938,30.1497,14 (or your value) in the Map BlurbBit example above and use RMC-Paste to replace the value.
Click theicon to see the new map. Repeat the Add to an existing post steps above with another blog post.

Reload the Map of Blog Entries and notice the new location on the Blog map. All utilities which use extracted data will be automatically updated with the latest available data when they are used or reloaded.

There are various ways to find the lat/lng of a location/address, but only you know the details and zoom level you want to highlight with your map. The easiest way to find a location and adjust/prototype a BlurbBits location is through the BlurbBits Mapr. You can even save all the results to the scratchpad so you can easily modify or combine the data later.

Adding Online Photos


After Selection
Blogs and maps are great but a picture is worth a 1000 words. Adding photos can be a real pain especially if you add more than one or you try to add them into previous posts (like those published remotely).


w/Photos Before
BlurbBits are designed to quickly add multiple photos to a blog post from online photo sharing sites and has advantages over traditional methods (including embedded slideshows). Online photos can be selected by a user, albums/sets, and/or a filtered by tags to match your blog post/entry content.


&picasa=SailBillabong:Sailing2007
A Picasa Album
&flickr=25998359@N07:set=72157607010384141
A Flickr Set (use &flickrgeo for geotagged photos)

If you want to add your own photos, read the documentation for picasa or flickr photos and choose your filtering parameters (or use ours for now). Enter them in textbox above.

Click theicon to view your BlurbBit with the extracted photos. If the photos contain geotags, a Geo-Photos summary map will also appear. This map is dynamically extracted from data on the photo sharing site and therefore cannot be used to define the Blog post location within Blogger (without making the process unusably slow). Note: you can use the mapr to extract the position of your geotagged photos to use as LLZ parameter for a post. Mapped Picasa Albums build complete map/photo BlurbBits.

Add a Post Location Map to the Photos

Define the post location by appending &llz=36.2939,30.1496,14&mi=in (or another location) to the photo parameter textbox above. Click the icon to view the BlurbBit and notice the map which now appears along with the photo viewing options. When a BlurbBit is embedded on another website, we show a single highlight photo and wait to load the photos and map until the user selects a viewing option.

Select the Photo Strip menu button and then select a highlight photo (using the thumbnails) which best summarizes the collection of photos or the blog post topic you'll be writing about or adding the photos to.

Click i (info) in the top BlurbBit menu and add the BlurbBit to a post (refer to the section above if needed).

Note: The location definition MUST be added to photos in order to map the blog post in extracted utilities. The easiest way to accomplish both is to use the BlurbBits Mapr (with markers) to define the location and copy/paste the photo parameters into the extras textbox. If you use Picasa albums you can easily generate Mapped Picasa Albums.

BlurbBit Add Gadget



If the location you added is new, you'll also see it on the Extract a Map of Blog Posts BlurbBit above. You can use the Blogger Add Gadget publishing option to add this map to your sidebar. Make sure you read Gadget Overload post to understand the tradeoffs/options.

BlurbBit BlogThis

Now if you are deathly afraid of the HTML post editor or just want a quick way to create a new post for your BlurbBit, click the Blogger BlogThis button under the publishing options.



A Blog Your Bit popup will appear. If you are NOT already logged into Blogger, click the Login to access your Blogger account (you only need to do this once). Choose your Blog (if you have more than one) and then change the title, write the post text and add labels etc by following the notes above each section. The BlurbBit will replace the [BLURBBIT] tag, so feel free to add text before and/or after. Click Publish Post, the un-formatted blog will appear below as a preview. Select the link to navigate to the actual blog post (or view Our Sample result .. cheater).

If you only create new posts and are always connected to the internet when you blog, the BlogThis option is simplest solution for creating new blog posts with any BlurbBit (including photos, maps etc). We didn't start by showing you this option because we want you to be able to add BlurbBits to your posts using the post editor for existing posts and those posted remotely via email.

Remote Blogging

Did you know you can post blogs via email (moblogging)? It's great for keeping people updated, even from the middle of the ocean, and you don't get more remote than that!!

Most remote emailing systems (uuplus, winlink, skyfile) only support plain text emails, so HTML formatting is not supported. After you set up your Blogger account for posting via email, you should test that it is working by sending a simple test text (and optional attached photo) to your Mail-To-Blogger address (add 42 15.0N 70 52.9W to the email text to map it). Some remote email systems add end of line characters to outgoing mail so make sure you test it from your actual remote system before heading out (or your formatting will be terrible). You can also remove the additional text which gets appended to the end by some email systems, put #end at the end of your post. With skyfile, adjusting the email editting window size changes the location of the end of line characters.

Overview

So now you know how to define a posts location, add photos, a map or both to an existing or new Blog post, extract a Blog map (into a BlurbBit), find a location to map, blog remotely AND add BlurbBits to the sidebar. We have two mapping options that highlight blog post location data which could effect how you choose to map your existing blog posts.

BlurbsViewr Interactive Maps



If you only want to create an interactive Blog map, append the Map of Blog Posts Blogger specific parameters to the BlurbsViewr (new window) (ie. ?blogger=svbillabong). You can change the number of posts shown and even filter post for a specific trip or area by adjusting the Blogger extraction parameters. A map icon will appear for each blog post with a defined location.

This is a great way to navigate your blog but some people don't like to use interactive maps (can you believe that?). Plus people who follow your blog through a RSS feed can't choose the sidebar Show Interactive Blog Map because the sidebar doesn't exist in the feed view.

Dynamic GeoBlog Maps



Dynamic GeoBlog maps are the most flexible way to show your post locations within Blogger. These maps are created on the fly based on the content of each page: A popup map is added to each post which contains a location, (including those posted via remote blogging emails) and a summary GeoBlogs on this Page map if GeoBlogs are found. These dynamic maps only work within Blogger, not the Blogger feeds.

Mapping Existing Blog Posts



The easiest way to map a Blog post is to extract the Blogger data into the BlurbBits Mapr by appending the Map of Blog Posts Blogger specific parameters to the Url BlurbBits Mapr (new window). If a post location is defined, a icon will appear next to the blog post title. Clicking on the list (or map marker) will center the map at the stored lat/lng location AND zoom of the post (if available). Posts with the icon have no defined location.

Use the mouse to highlight (don't click yet) an undefined blog post entry. If needed, use the preview window (to the right) to refresh your memory of the posts content.

Use the Finding a Location methods above and choose a zoom level you want to map. Make sure the LLZ (Lat,Long,Zoom) Locator is centered by clicking Move next to the Center Lat,Lng,Z: text box.

Now select the post in the sidebar list and then click on the LLZ icon to set the posts location/zoom. While you are dragging the unplaced post marker, you can place it anywhere by clicking on the map (the BlurbBit will always center at the post location/zoom).

Once you have defined a blog post, you can preview it's BlurbBit Map by clicking the Preview BlurbBit button (for blog posts we suggest you disable the Use Label: toggle). You can add photos or customize the map (markers, paths etc) by adding parameters to the Extras textbox. Note: The first preview of a Object defines (and stores) the BlurbBit definition (within the Mapr), so make sure you set the Update toggle to make subsequent changes and unset it again before changing to a new post!!

NOTE: The BlurbBits Mapr does not modify your existing blog data so you need to add a BlurbBit to each blog post. The easiest way to edit a specific post is to click on the link in the preview and then click the Edit Post icon at the bottom.

If you plan on using Dynamic GeoBlog Maps and you don't like using a full map for each post, you can use the BlurbBit Add text link in Website/Blog publishing option (for maps only) and you'll get a popup map.

Now What?

Decision time: What do you want to do about all your old blog posts?

Obviously you could continue to map posts, generate BlurbBits and add them to each post you want to map (you don't HAVE to map them all). In fact, that's the only way you'll get a map within a Blogger post and provide support for feeds. If you have a small number of existing posts this might be the easiest cleanest way. Everyone will have access to a post map (including new or catchup readers)!! While you are adding the BlurbBits to define the location, you can also add new photos you feel would enhance your existing posts. Mapped Picasa Albums can also be created quickly with the Mapr.

Just the interactive map please

If you have 100's of posts but no one is reading the older ones and you aren't changing/editing them any more, we have a solution. We'll use the Mapr ScratchPad to save your data and then load it into the web based Google Spreadsheets to re-extract it. We'll also combine the older data with the latest additions from your Blogger feed. Note: Saving the data takes a snapshot of the blog posts in its current state, so subsequent changes to those posts will NOT be seen.

You don't need to map every post just to see a trail of where you've been. You can also draw lines in the BlurbBits mapr and combine it with blog posts using Google Spreadsheets command options or scratchpad data (try drawing a quick line)!! You can also combine your blog with another website using the Scratchpad/spreadsheet method.

Saving the Scratchpad

Switch to your blogs Mapr window (from above) and select Text Tab Delimited in the ScratchPad Format pulldown. Then click the Save To Scratchpad button. Use the RMC-Select All in the scratchpad window to select and then RMC-Copy to copy all the text. Open a new text document with Notepad (or a simple text editor) and paste the text. Save the document.

Using Published Google SpreadSheet (GSS)

Now you have a snapshot of your newly mapped posts, but we know you don't want to have to edit this file every time you add a new blog post. We'll use Extract Commands and our Blogger parameters to combine the two.

Follow these instructions to import your saved scratchpad file and publish it. Here's the example file.

Combine with latest Blogger data

The second row contains the extbb+ and our Blogger parameters (&blogger=BlogName:Number:Options) blogger=svbillabong:50:published-min=2008-10-30T10:18:00Z. The :50 specifies Number, a maximum of 50 posts. The :published.. field sets the minimum date Option so only posts dated after the specific date/time will be included. In order to succeed, the published-min must be set to return at least one post entry, otherwise a Nothing Found error will be returned.

Select the first row by clicking the 1 in the furthest left hand column. Use the RMC-Insert 1 Below button to add a new row. Add extbb+ to the first column and the correct Blogger extraction parameters, maximum post and published-min parameters to the second column (as above). If you publish frequently use 100 instead of 50. Make sure the date/time is between the first two posts (I add an hour to the second posts time).

Select the third row and use RMC-Delete Row to delete the first blog posts data. You may want to add a new test post to make sure it gets added correctly. Note: The bottom of this file also contains Lines for each years sailing track (L) and all our Picasa Albums (A) for our starting location.

The Full Monty

What's the best way to manage a travel blogs new posts? Our process varies slightly depending on how/where we publish our posts.

Via Email: We add our lat/lng location to the top of the Mail-to-Blogger email and sometimes attach a small photo (250 px max). We organize and edit our photos in Picasa (remotely) and then upload them when we get internet access. Then we use the Mapr to extract our recent Blog posts (and their text lat/lng data) to create a BlurbBit with a map (the minimum) or a map and photos that we've filtered to match the post (we also check and tweak the map zoom level). We add these new BlurbBits back into each post we published remotely (since the last time we had internet). Sometimes we create a new trip summary post and add an entire album to it (with our current location), you could even add your travel path (we update our KML file from our GPS)!!

Connected to Internet: We use the Mapr (with no Url parameters) to find our location. If we have more than a couple of photos, we combine them with the location Map and add our BlurbBit to the post or use BlogThis for a new one. For posts with single photos we use the standard post editors add image button. If we know our location, I just tweak the BlurbBit Url parameters using the interactive examples as a guide (yes I still need a manual).

Note: since we use the Dynamic GeoBlog maps we use the Add text link in Website/Blog Publishing Option to add a map only BlurbBit (you'll get a popup). However, since we've started using BlurbBits we always add photos to our map (it's almost too easy).

Migrating Existing Gadgets

You don't need to adjust your existing post photos (unless you want to). Check out our post on Gadget Overload for some hints, along with ways you can keep people up to date with your changes as you integrate BlurbBits into your blog.

Combining with other sites

We started out our travels with only a website. Then we started blogging so we could email from remote locations, but still kept our website going. Now we do much more in Blogger because it's so easy. We still update our site and manually map new page links (via the mapr scratchpad). The minimum data required is the TYPE,LLZ,LABEL,URL. DATE is necessary if you'll be sorting the results and DESC provides the preview text. Check out the scratchpad and the column details for more information. Make sure the columns match your Blogger ScratchPad data and copy/paste the new rows and add them to the top of your published Google Spreadsheet. Here's our combined file.

If you are using Blogger to track your travels (and why wouldn't you?), don't forget to add a "where" or tracking (or both) BlurbBit to your non-blog site. Use Map of Blog Posts parameters and/or add extracted map views (&mv=where&mi=in) to create a BlurbBit which shows your latest location and blog post (example).

Adjusting/Copying an Existing Blogger BlurbBit

Note: we highly recommend using the scratchpad to save complicated BlurbBits data.

Blogger currently changes the HTML code it publishes (ie. & becomes & amp;) which makes it hard to get back to the original BlurbBit URL. If the BlurbBit is simple just replace it with a new one, but if it is complex or you simply want to add or adjust parameters (and don't feel comfortable editing the raw HTML), use this Design Mode technique.

Edit the post/gadget HTML code and find the first blurbbits.html? within the begin-end of the BlurbBit. Add design=true& after the ?, this enables design mode. Publish the post (or save the gadget) and click the info button. Use the Paste link for email or IM path to get the original URL, adjust as needed.

Note: This Design mode adjustment can also be used if you want to allow users to be able to add your BlurbBit to their site.

If you use the Mapr, you can also save BlurbBit source data to the scratch pad which makes it easy to adjust travel paths etc later. You could also copy the iframe src= string (for embeded) or anchor href= string (for links) to a text editor, replace & amp; with &.

2009-01-09

Blogger Mapping Options

1/17/2010 Update: Blogger's Geotagging method is still only available in draft mode after over a year. It has been broken a couple of times and there is still no Blogger supported method for geotagging posts via email.

Note: This post was originally posted on BlogsMapr (our BlurbBits Blogger playground). We wanted to test/support the new Blogger-in-Draft geotagging editor and answer some questions about why you'd want to geotagged posts (can you believe they asked?). We continue to use BlurbBits in our Sailing Blog (via standard Blogger) because it supports remote blogging, has more configurability AND you can specify a locations zoom level on a post by post basis. We have a documented migration path for when the editor becomes more mainstream (and by then we'll be sure to have a utility).

Now What?

You've defined post locations via Blogger-in-Draft, our position text input (for Mail-to-blogger) or by adding stand alone BlurbBits to your posts (to add routes and photos etc).. So now what?

Well we've been GeoBlogging for 3.5 years, using Blogger to track our 5 year 30,000 mile sailing trip, so we've got some ideas and some tools. Here are some cool things you can do with BlurbBits and related utilities.
  • Blogger Popup maps and a Dynamic GeoBlog Summary map
    Each post with a defined location will have a popup map within your Blog. In addition, a GeoBlogs on this Page summary map is dynamically created based on the posts on each page. If posts are filtered by searching, labels or selecting an archive month or year, the map will automatically change to show only the relevant geoblog posts. It's a great way to visualize blogs locations for a year or specific area (via label).



    Open our Sailing Blog (standard Blogger) or BlurbBits Playground (Blogger-in-draft) and notice the View map links. They were automatically added via our gadget.

    Click on the link to display a quick Google Static Map of the location directly within Blogger (no new page to open). An additional click, in the map, will display the zoomed out view. Try selecting a Blog Archive month and watch the Geo-Blogs map change.
  • Navigate your blog via an interactive map



    Not only do you get to see your blog locations on an interactive map, we also extract a summary of each post and the first photo for a preview. We maintain the map and open your blog pages directly in the window below (select from the list on the top right or click the [more] link in the preview). The map stays persistent allowing the user to smoothly navigate your geoblog posts.



    On the Add Page Element page click Edit Content and adjust YOURBLOG to the correct location (ie. YOURBLOG.blogspot.com .. blogsmapr for this Blog). If you use FTP posted blogs change blogger=YOURBLOG to bloggerid=BLOGID (blogID=XXX in the post editor URL). Click here for more BlurbsViewr details and options.
  • Extract a map for selected Blog posts to embed or email. Maps can be customized based on the desired number of posts and/or filtered by categories/labels. Click the i Info button to select various publishing options. The BlurbBits in the sidebar were extracted from other blogs. Learn how to adjust the widget size for sidebar vs post installs.
  • Create a "Where Blog map" to embed or email showing the latest geoblog location with a link to the latest post. Same as above using &mv=where and &mi=in.
  • Create a GeoBlog photo album. This method extracts the first photo (so make it good) and the post location to create a photo album for the blog. Posts which are geotagged will appear with a Location map button. A short blog summary can be previewed by selecting the notes button. Add &bp=1 to the extract a map example.

    Photos stored online with Picasa or Flickr can be displayed in the same album BlurbBit format, examples are scattered throughout all our blogs.
Check out our BlurbBits basics section for more details. Most of our sailing blogs were created using Mail-to-Blogger and updated once we got to port and an internet connection.

To see all of our online Sailing content including our Webpage journals and photos, Youtube videos, Blogger posts and KML GPS tracks click here. This data was entered in the BlurbsBits Mapr scratchpad which can be uploaded to the web via Google Spreadsheets.

Blogger Gadget Overload


You may have seen this banner after you've published a Blogger blog. When you click on the link you literally get thousands of gadgets that are available to add to your Blog sidebar. I've seen plenty of blogs slowed down with too many sidebar gadgets; remember it says choose from thousands, not add them all.

What's the Problem?

The sidebar gets loaded for each and every blog post/page that is viewed. This is fine for some gadgets that change dynamically or load quickly, but for others it just slows down your page load times. Maps and Photos are the perfect example. Once a user has seen the map or looked at the photos they are done. They don't need to see them over and over again, yet they will continue to pay the performance hit EVERY time they visit ANY post/page on your site. Also, the sidebar gadgets are only available within the Blogger environment and are not viewable to followers and those who use your Blogger RSS feed (blog posts are). You wouldn't put a blog post in the sidebar, so why do people put too many gadgets in the sidebar? .. because gadgets make it easy!!

BlurbBits can easily be added to either the side bar or the blog post, just think of them as gadgets that can be published in posts!!

Performance Matters

Even if you are "just" a simple blogger, you have entered the world of website design and the constant balance between performance and visual content. Surveys suggest that if your page doesn't load in 8 seconds, you'll lose up to a 1/3 of your visitors.. but photos, maps and gadgets all enhance the attractiveness of the site, so it's a fine balance. Some bloggers add as many gadgets, photos, and wizbang features they can think of, hoping to increase the chance that something will catch someones eye, but instead end up losing viewers who aren't willing to wait.

If you have a "global" blog you also need to think about users who use older/slower computers with slow internet connections. We frequently get bogged down and frustrated with slow pages during our round the world sailing trip.

Add a Post

Our solution for complex/slow loading or one time use features is to add them to a separate blog post. The slow loading code gets loaded once, and only after the user has chosen to view it. We've also tried to make it just as easy to add a BlurbBit to a blog post as it is to add a sidebar gadget (via publishing options). Update with the new additions to our Dynamic GeoBlog maps you can increase your performance even more by adding slower loading items in the expanded post section and/or adding BlurbBits as links (to posts or the sidebar).

Another reason people add a sidebar gadget is to highlight/feature specific content. You can still highlight posts using a link or HTML/JavaScript gadget which points to your post URLs. Make sure you get the correct URL by clicking on the Title of the post you want to link to (the format should be BLOGURL/YEAR/MONTH/title.html). We use the HTML/Javascript gadget because it is the most flexible. You can have simple links (like the getting started links on the top right) or image links (like svbillabong). See Blogger's guide to basic HTML or this page for more details.

BlurbBits-Sidebar vs Post

We've optimized the performance of BlurbBits for both sidebar and in post use. When BlurbBits are used with online photos the photos are not loaded until the user selects a photo viewing option (improving load times). Most embedded slideshows load the photos and degrade performance during the critical initial page display (including those with autoplay disabled) even if they are way down on the page or sidebar and are not even viewable to the reader.

We use Google static maps in our BlurbBit maps to enhance performance for both in post and sidebar maps. We don't force our slower loading interactive map on everyone, but instead allow users to chose it through our sidebar link gadget. And once we open our interactive map we keep it open (and persistent), changing your blog posts instead of rebuilding the map on every page (as a standard sidebar map does).

We also offer Dynamic GeoBlog maps which are perfect for the sidebar. The map changes automatically based on your blog pages content. Your latest location will appear highlighted on your blogs home page, while an archive or label selection will show your mapped locations for the selected period or label. We even add a popup map within Blogger to highlight a post location for those that were emailed remotely or end up hidden by partial post methods.

We are not suggesting you get rid of all your sidebar gadgets, just suggesting that you think about the usage model and decide whether or not to add a BlurbBit as a sidebar gadget or in a post (see publishing options). Here are a some good sidebar uses:
  • Picasa Albums SideBar
    Since this BlurbBit opens each album (via Open Link) in a medium BlurbBit popup, the user can see photos for all your albums quickly. New albums or changes to existing albums will automatically be updated. An individual album can also be published to a sidebar BlurbBit but it is much nicer in a post size BlurbBit. See Online Photos for more details. Note: you can hide the top BlurbBit menu with the far right arrow button.
  • Travel Blog Tracking
    The Blogger extract parameters can be used to a quick blog history map or another blogs Where map. The BlurbBits will be automatically updated when changes to the blogs are made.
  • Travel Route
    Use the BlurbBits Mapr utility to quickly draw you travel route (planned or actual). Then load it into a route map sidebar gadget.
  • Extracted data
    We can also extract data from various sources including winlink, Google Spreadsheets, GeoRSS feeds and moblog photo maps.
Keeping up with the changes

As you start adding BlurbBits to posts it can be hard to keep your readers informed of the changes. The good news is all of your new BlurbBit post will appear at the top of your page (and in your feed) so those are covered. If you add BlurbBits to older posts or change a post date (to make the travel track work) the blog order can get jumbled and it's hard for existing readers to keep track of your updates (but better than miss-dating a post).

When we add major new features to our blog sidebar (like interactive maps) we usually write a "news release" post just to keep people in the loop (and focus them). You can also use a Blogger feed to get a list of changes. Just like BlurbBits, your Blogger feed can be configured via Url Parameters (see Blogger example and Full parameter descriptions).

You can use the orderby=updated parameter to see the recent changes you've made to your blogs (by date is the default) but this will show ANY updates you've made including small typo fixes etc. You can also search for blogs with a certain labels using the category=label parameter. If you label blogs with featupd (or anything else) you can combine the two parameters to get a feed for your featured updates. Then you can label/unlabel posts based on those changes you wish to highlight. See our example for BlurbBits latest Blogger updates. You can add this as a feed as a link in your sidebar. We are already prototyping some enhanced functionality for BlurbBit links!!