Google maps gets even better with 'Hybrid' mode!

I've been using UK Google Maps as my mapping website of choice for a while now. The road layouts are so clear and it's great to be able to drag the map around.

Peter Cooper has pointed out this morning that it's just got even better, now overlaying the road names on top of the satellite view. Check out this map of Ormskirk (the town where I live) to see what I mean.

All I can say is "wow".

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Great project managment podcast by Scott Berkun

Finished listening to a great podcast this morning on my way to work. It's an audio recording of a presentation that Scott Berkun gave to BayCHI on "What To Do When Things Go Wrong: Saving Design Train Wrecks".

Scott is an excellent presenter and it is both entertaining and informative. He discussed a whole range of topics on program/project management and how to save death march projects.

I really enjoyed it.

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Firefox Greasemonkey security update

Just wanted to let anyone know that uses Greasemonkey that a security flaw has been found in version 0.3.3 and so it's been updated to version 0.3.5. Make sure you update your Greasemonkey as soon as possible to keep you safe.

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How to use HaloScan's TrackBacks

Last night I detailed how to add trackbacks to Blogger, a free service provided by HaloScan. In this post I want to cover how to actually use trackbacks to enable the conversation.

So you've read a blog post that you want to comment on. You want to say more than just 'great post!' but don't want your finely crafted response disappearing into someone else's comment bucket. Not only would this be never found by your blog subscribers, but it's also difficult for you to see if anyone is adding to the comment discussion.

Enter trackbacks - a way for you to inform the original blog post that you have made a comment on your own blog, and that they are regarding the same topic of conversation.

How do you actually use them then I hear you ask?

Trackback URL

First of all, make sure that the original blog actually has Trackback capability. If you can't see a 'Trackback' link mentioned at the bottom of the blog post, that author (or blogging system) doesn't support trackbacks, so you might as well stop now. If it does support them, click the link, you will be taken to a page that provides a trackback URL to 'ping'.

Permalink URL

Back on your own blog write your response as a regular blog post, and publish it as normal. You will need the 'permalink URL' to your entry, this is the URL that will take you straight to this particular post. On Blogger you can get to the permalink version of a post by clicking the 'post time' given at the bottom of each post listed after the author's name.

Trackback Pings

Login to HaloScan, click 'Manage Trackback' in the 'Members' menu on the left-hand side. Choose the middle tab 'Send a Trackback Ping' as you want to inform the original blog that you have posted a response on your blog. Now you need to do a bit of 'cut and paste' from both blogs, I'll list each field in the HaloScan 'Send Trackback Pings' form, and what to put in them:

* Your Blog Name - This should already be filled in as you provided this information when you signed up for the service.

* Your Permalink URL - This is the link that goes straight to your blog post, details of how to find this are given above.

* Your Post Title - I copy and paste the title of my blog post provided on the permalink page.

* Your Excerpt - A short paragraph from your blog post, I try to find the most relevant section of my blog post that covers the original topic.

* URLs to Ping - This is the 'magic' step, you put the Trackback URL that you found on the original blog here, this is the location that HaloScan will tell that you have responded to the conversation.

Once all that is filled out, click 'Ping Now' and let HaloScan do the rest.

That's it!

Your trackback is now in place and the relevant blog has been notified of your post. You can notify multiple blogs of your post by putting additional trackback URLs in the 'URLs to Ping' box.

If you revisit the original blog post you should see that the number of trackbacks to that post has gone up by one, if you view the list of trackbacks you should now see your excerpt with a link to your blog.

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Adding TrackBacks to Blogger using HaloScan's TrackBack service

After being an RSS consumer for a while I started to pay attention to 'TrackBacks'. They are a way to allow you to comment on your own blog regarding someone else's post, but inform their blog that you have done so. By using this feature you can continue the 'conversation' without having to leave comments on the original blog and remembering to check back every now and then to see if someone has replied to you.

Blogger doesn't including this feature but you can add it in easily by using a free service provided by HaloScan. I added the trackback feature quite a few weeks ago, I'm going to try and document the steps I went through as I know that Lee Hopkins has had some trouble recently, and my friend Robert Baillie is too lazy to figure it all out himself!

The first thing to do is go to HaloScan and register to become a member. Once you are signed up and logged in, click 'Instructions/Code' in the 'Members' menu on the left-hand side.

Select 'Blogger' from the options list, make sure 'Display trackback code' is ticked, then click 'Next', DO NOT click 'automatic install' as it may alter your Blogger template without letting you know what it has changed (I seem to remember that this didn't work for me anyway).

You now need to edit your blogger template in a separate tab (or window) so that you can add the code that will enable trackbacks for each of your blog posts. Open your blogger dashboard, click the name of your blog, then click the 'Template' tab.

Back on the HaloScan site, follow the instructions for 'Step 1', I have placed mine after the last '<link rel=...' statement, before the '<style type="text/css">'.

Next you need to add the 'Trackback' label to each post. This is achieved by looking through your template until you find the section '<p class="post-footer">', within this is the commenting template code which we will add to. Find the line ending 'Comments (<$BlogItemCommentCount$>)</a>', you will be adding the trackback code here.

Back on the HaloScan site, examine the code in the textbox in 'Step 2: Automated for Blogger (or BlogSpot) Users' and you will see that it contains a '|' roughly in the middle of the text. Copy all the text after the '|' and paste it in your blogger template at the end of the comments section as described previously.

Follow 'Step 3' on the HaloScan site if you wish, it's just a little advert graphic telling your readers that you are using the HaloScan service, I've added mine at the bottom of my right-hand menu.

Now made sure you 'Save Template Changes' and then 'Republish' your blog otherwise your new TrackBack service will not be available.

That's it, you are now using Blogger's commenting system & HaloScan's Trackback system so you really can now 'join the conversation'.

If you have any problems with any of these instructions, please leave me a comment as I performed this operation some time ago, and I'm writing this mostly from memory (and revisiting the HaloScan site).

Happy Trackbacking...

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del.icio.us adds tagging bookmarks for other users

This post on the del.icio.us blog caught my eye recently, a new
feature has been added that allows tagging a bookmark for someone that you think might be interested in that webpage.

You tag the bookmark 'for' someone else by using the 'tag:<username>' syntax, for example to tag a bookmark that you think I might be interested in use 'tag:abeacock'. To see the bookmarks that other people have tagged for your interest, go to http://del.icio.us/for/.

An RSS feed is provided on that page so that if you subscribe to it, it will keep you informed if anyone is tagging bookmarks 'for' you.

By using this feature you can pass around bookmarks that you think your friends and colleagues would find interesting and/or useful.

Now I just need to wait for my mate Robert Baillie to become a del.icio.us user (if he's not one already!) so that I can pass relevant bookmarks his way...

UPDATE: Just visited Rob's blog and found that he is already a del.icio.us member!
He'd better get ready, the bookmarks are going to start flooding in...

UPDATE: 'for:<username>' is only valid in the 'tags' field.

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Nice podcast mention from Lee Hopkins' Better Communication Results

I have just listened to Lee Hopkins' latest podcast tonight and was delighted to hear not only that he was mentioned me, but that he gave my blog a favourable review!

I've been enjoying Lee's 'Better Communication Results' podcast for quite a number of weeks now, having been referred there from the rather good 'For Immediate Release' podcast produced by Neville Hobson & Shel Holtz.

Thanks again for the mention Lee, just hope I can keep up the quality of posts that gave you such a good impression!

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Even more blog usage statistics via StatCounter

Lee Hopkins (who hosts an excellent podcast on business communications) posted a comment to my last post about MyBlogLog with a suggestion to also try out StatCounter for some excellent website (and therefore blog) statistics.

It's a cookie-based system, with a small amount of JavaScript that is inserted into each and every page on my blog (easy with the use of the Blogger template). It can then report all sorts of interesting information regarding number of visitors, returning visitors, browsers & OSs used, resolutions, etc.

I really need to start posting to my blog a bit more frequently, I've got a bit stuck in a rut lately, not really trying out new stuff and so my blogging has suffered.

Maybe these stats will show that people do read this blog, and that might give me the kick I need, who knows... :)

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