Since I call this “your blogging classroom on the web”, I decided it was time we talk about homework; or that behind the scenes stuff we often put off.

Today’s Lesson

As many of you have noticed, I decorated my blog for the holidays.

Since I use a theme which has the “custom header feature”, adding the photo was simple. For the RSS widgets I searched for “holiday icons” and then recoded my widgets.

Listed below are a few new (to me) plugins I am testing.

  1. First is Sexy Bookmarks by Josh Jones and Norman Yung which is visible at the bottom of each post.

    The Sexy Bookmarks plugin is easily customizable, looks good, doesn’t take up too much space and is positioned so readers will be reminded to Tweet, Digg, or use StumbleUpon, etc. to share a post.

  2. The “Follow Me” plugin by WP can be seen on the right of the page.

    This plugin is to remind our readers they can follow us on Twitter. The customization includes using different colors as well as different Twitter birds images.

  3. The Wibiya toolbar can be seen at the bottom of the page.

    What I like about this toolbar is if you don’t want to clutter up your sidebars with an RSS feed, recent posts, etc., you can include them in the toolbar.This isn’t a plugin, but more of an add-on which requires an invitation. Just go to the Wibiya site and follow the instructions. In a matter of days you should receive an email from them and at that time you can set up an account and customize your toolbar.

  4. Thanks to the suggestions from both Internet Strategist @ GrowMap and Betsy at Passing Thru I added Zemanta and Apture.

    In a nutshell, these two applications which work for all blogging platforms* make blogging easier and faster by suggesting photos, links, related articles, etc. for our posts. (Disclaimer: I’ve only tested them on WordPress.)

    Zemanta adds a interface to your dashboard from which you can drag and drop photos and/or links into your post as you’re writing it.

    Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
    Image via CrunchBase

    Apture adds icons which when clicked on, does the same.

    Zemanta also adds a “reblog” feature at the bottom of the post which makes cutting and pasting quotes much easier, plus and an option to add links to other posts which may be beneficial to our readers.

Thus far, the only downside I see to using some of the above applications is they do slow down the page load time.

Today’s Assignment

What are your favorite plugins or applications?

Care to share?

signature for blog post.

Footnote: When using Zemanta on a self hosted blog, the Zemanta plugin must be used. For WordPress, the plugin can be downloaded here.

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  1. Deb DorchakNo Gravatar says:

    You got me with “sexy bookmarks”. I was wondering where you got those nifty little icons from. Far too much fun to play with!
    .-= Check out Deb Dorchak´s awesome post: Sirius Graphix Launches =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Deb,

      That’s a catchy name for a plugin, isn’t it. I know when I first saw it I was curious, too, and because of how it works, decided it was a perfect fit for this blog. I also like how it’s easily customizable to a bloggers preferences.

  2. suzenNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara!

    I meant to compliment your pretty header – so festive! The only techy “trick” I know how to do is put video’s on my blog. Were I adventurous on the computer I might try to get a little more “with it” – haha! I’m not. I’m ok with that right now – as you know I’ve been trying to cut down on my online time to begin with!

    I’ll be only too happy to cheer everybody on!
    .-= Check out suzen´s awesome post: Consenting to Feel Icky =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you SuZen,

      That’s one thing good about blogging. We can go at our own pace and add things as we feel comfortable doing so. And, if we don’t want to add things, that’s okay, too. 🙂

  3. Barbara,

    This is a cool post, truly a festive lesson!
    .-= Check out Daphne @ Joyful Days´s awesome post: Can You Pack Your Life Into Two Suitcases? =-.

  4. George AngusNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I was going to comment on the holiday festive look, but now I don’t need to – great stuff!

    I go through plug in phases, some I’ll use for a while and then I’ll rotate through to something else. A while back I was using Share This but then it started taking my site FOREVER to load waiting for it so I kicked it to the curb.

    I have to admit I was a tad annoyed when the toolbar showed up at the bottom of the page when I came by last time, but it really is hardly noticeable this time out.

    Nice digs!

    .-= Check out George Angus´s awesome post: Flash – Orb Chapter Two =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you George,

      I had the same problem with “Share This”. For some reason it really slowed down the page loading time.

      The toolbar might have to go. When I first added it, I used red, but it stuck out like a sore thumb. I changed it to green which was better, and now it’s white which isn’t so bad, but it still takes up “space”.

  5. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. thanks so much .. really useful ideas and tips – I’m going to start a WP in the NY ..and so will be able to start tolearn the behind the scene stuff as you say .. practise makes it easier, if not perfect!

    The festive top is a lovely welcome .. have a great weekend ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Check out Hilary´s awesome post: Cricket Ball Squash, Santa Claus, Italy and us … =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Hilary,

      I’m so excited for you. Soon you’ll be on WordPress, too. Unfortunately I don’t know how the other blogging platforms work, but if you have any questions on WordPress, I will hopefully be able to help.

      Have a great weekend, too.

  6. I love the Sexy Bookmarks, but I’ve downloaded it and have no idea how to install it. I guess I’m not as tech-savvy as I thought! Haha.
    .-= Check out Positively Present´s awesome post: are your goals fun? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dani,

      I noticed you use Typepad, so I can’t help you with how to set up Sexy Bookmarks, but hopefully you’ll get it figured out. It’s a fun plugin.

  7. Lori HoeckNo Gravatar says:

    The bottom tool bar has yet to grow on me — seems more intrusive than functional for my current blog reading habits. I’ve been thinking there must be faster way to insert and give attribution to photos I pull from Flickr’s Creative Commons, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with my blog toys … then again, a new year is coming, and I might want to make some changes to make it a better readers experience.

    Thank you for the reminder not to put exploring these things off!
    .-= Check out Lori Hoeck´s awesome post: Positions of authority make narcissist’s life easy =-.

  8. Ooops, is it too silly of me to admit that I’ve never really understood what a plug-in is or how they work?
    .-= Check out Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s awesome post: A Cat’s Wisdom =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Patty,

      Don’t feel bad. Trying to understand what plugins and or addons do can be confusing. In a nutshell they help to make blogging easier by doing “work” behind the scenes so we don’t have to do it manually.

      If you have any questions, please ask. I’ll do what I can to help you out.

  9. I’m not currently using any of these – thanks!

  10. LanceNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,
    It’s very festive here!! I love it!

    I have been using Sexy Bookmarks, although was having a wordpress problem and have temporarily removed it right now (although I’ve since determined that this plugin was not the problem, it was another one).

    My other favorites:
    Photodropper – which finds publicly usable photos from Flickr.
    Tweetmeme Retweet Button – makes it easy for people to RT a post.
    .-= Check out Lance´s awesome post: Frank and Me: A Legacy of Mentoring (Giveaway Post) =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Lance,

      You brought up a good point. Some plugins can create problems for us.

      I saw you recommended Photodropper to Lori, too. I’ve heard of it, but never tried it. Now I’m curious and will have to check it out.

      The Tweetmeme retweet button is another good one to use. It certainly makes it easy for our blogging buddies to get the word out about our posts. I had it on here, but it was positioned such that I think my readers were missing it, hence I removed it.

  11. I’m a big fan of Disqus comments (threaded comments, respond via email and some other stuff). I also really dig the Tweetmeme plug-in because it makes it incredibly easy for folks to share your content via twitter. Beyond that, I just don’t use much else but I do like the one’s that you’re using here… 🙂
    .-= Check out Ricardo Bueno´s awesome post: How To Create A Unique Password for Each Site That You’ll Never Forget (in 10 minutes) =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ricardo,

      I’ve read about Disqus, but haven’t experimented with it yet. Thank you for the reminder. I may have to revisit that again.

  12. LindaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi I use the retweet button. Seems to be ok. I used to use zemanta but it took a while for loading and it had a bug back then. I do not know if it has been updated lately. But I will test and see if it is workable for the blog. If not, it hits the road.

    I am not a real fan of the toolbar at the bottom of the page. However, it could be very useful to others. Hmmmm…

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Linda,

      When I was reading about Zemanta I noticed they have corrected a lot of the bugs. So far, so good.

      I hear you about the toolbar. I’m thinking it’s not the best fit for this blog.

  13. Barbara, I was gonna tell you how much i love the new add ons in the last posts comments..but i got so caught up in the actual issue of that post..that it slipped my mind completely.
    I love the header and the rss icons..very festive 🙂 And that toolbar is just so good…i’m getting all tempted to buy my own domain..loking at all the additions i can make to it.
    Lots of love
    .-= Check out Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s awesome post: Human Experience {Inspiration from Helen Keller} =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Zeenat,

      That’s too funny. I was just telling Linda (previous comment) the toolbar might have to go, and you’re saying it’s great. What to do?

      How exciting you may have your domain. I sense that’s just the start of more great changes on your site.

  14. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for the information and I love the festive look for the season. As for favorite plug-ins, I like the one that allows readers to translate the post to their native language. That way people who are not that fluent in English can still read a post. Actually, thanks to that plug-in, my father in law who lives in Poland is able to read my blog. So I think that is cool.

    Hope all is awesome.
    .-= Check out Nadia – Happy Lotus´s awesome post: Never Make A Mother Angry…Especially Mother Earth =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Nadia,

      Having a translate plugin on our blogs is a great idea. Like you said, you have family members who can now read your work whereas previously it was more difficult. That’s awesome.

  15. Thank you for all you share, Barbara,

    Perhaps after you check out PhotoDropper you could write a post comparing it to Zemanta or any other plugins that basically do the same thing. Knowing the pros and cons of each is the best way to choose one – and few have the knowledge to write about comparisons because most don’t test more than one.

    Whenever I am researching plugins I search for the names of each in one search like this: +zemanta +photodropper and sometimes add +compare or +comparison or +review using the Zuula search engine blog search function to see what other bloggers think about them.
    .-= Check out Dana @ExecGifts´s awesome post: How to Select the PERFECT Gift for Any Person =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dana,

      That’s a fabulous idea since I’m always open to testing more than one plugin. I’ll have to look into Photodropper and see what they have to offer and then post the results. Thank you for the tip.

      I like the hints you provided on searching, as well. That would help to get more accurate results than just randomly searching for reviews.

  16. Hi Barbara,

    You have the best timing. Just today I did a search for +”sexy bookmarks” +zemanta and up pops this post where you linked to me. Thank you so much for that. I was searching because Murray Newlands uses the “sexy bookmarks” plugin and someone in our Blog Club asked him what he was using.

    I wrote a post that will really benefit you and your readers and I’m featuring it in the CommentLuv field for this comment. It may be the most important strategy I have ever shared and is so powerful for dramatically increasing your traffic and sending more visitors to everyone you link to in your blog.

    You may want to share it with your readers somewhere more prominently or I could write another version for you to use as a guest post. The more bloggers who learn this the better for us all!
    .-= Check out GrowMap @Internet Strategist´s awesome post: Are You Playing Hide and Seek With Your Market? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome GrowMap,

      Thank you for providing the link to your post. The tips you share are fabulous.

      As mentioned in the email I sent you, I’d love to have you be a guest here and share your ideas in greater detail. Just let me know.

  17. Hi Barbara – Thank you for the link! Apture has been a terrific asset – much more than a mere plug-in, I’ve decided. I was lucky enough to become a Beta tester for Apture, and the new features are fabulous (can’t talk about them yet, but they’re fairly noticeable on our site).

    The main thing for both Apture and Zemanta is that they are an incredible time-saver. Apture’s search feature in particular is a powerhouse, saving many steps for bloggers. Not only can you embed snippets of sites and videos with Apture, but you can also overlay embeds – meaning if it finds more than one relevant link for you, you do not have to choose. Plus, the image embed with Apture always wraps the text – something that is hit or miss for me on regular uploads – in a great way. Also, the Apture video embed code is written so that Google reader picks it up – not so with regular YouTube code.

    Zemanta is a great way to get link juice, too. Once you’ve used it for a while, their database indexes your own posts so that other users can pick them up if they have relevancy to a topic, in effect, circumventing a Google search if you’re not coming up very high on regular searches. Nice for everyone, not just those who are starting out.

    I appreciate hearing that ShareThis is slowing people down. Time to replace that one. My favorite plug-in for the longest time has been CommentLuv. Andy is such a great guy; getting to know him on Twitter has been fun.

    I’ve found that the plug-in developers are wired into social media for feedback. Apture is active on Facebook; in my email today I just got an invite to a Zemanta meet-up (sadly, in San Francisco so I cannot attend). It makes you feel connected to interact and when your feedback is appreciated and incorporated, how cool is that? Thanks again, Barbara, great topic as usual!
    .-= Check out Betsy Wuebker´s awesome post: Soothing Scrubs – A Great Gift to Make or Keep for Yourself =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Betsy,

      And thank you so much for elaborating on Apture and Zemanta. As you know I just started using them and am still learning all of their neat features.

      You know, just the short time I used them, I found I was saving huge amount of time. Another thing I tried was to go back to older posts (both on this blog and one of my other ones) and by using the Apture/Zemanta features, I was able to add links, tags and even more photos – all in the matter of a few minutes. WOW! I can’t imagine Apture is going to be even better. I’m looking forward to see what they have up their sleeve.

      I agree. CommentLuv is an awesome plugin. It’s been my favorite since I started using it, too. And you’re right, Andy is incredible. He keeps up on updates and is so helpful on Twitter. I don’t know how he does it all, but am so happy he does.

  18. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Teach. 🙂 I love how you’re always trying new things and then sharing what you’ve found with us. I’m not using any of these plug-ins at the moment. I’d have to visit my own dashboard to even remind myself what plug-ins I do use. Seem to be taking them for granted aren’t I? Now you’ve got me wondering just how much goes into creating each of these plug-ins.
    .-= Check out Davina´s awesome post: Night Before Christmas — Rewritten =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Davina,

      You’re right. It is easy to forget which plugins we’re using.

      And yes, the work the developers put into them is incredible. On top of that, they also make sure they work with the updated versions of WordPress (and other blogging platforms), so their work never ends. To me it really shows the huge amounts of generosity we find in blogosphere.

  19. I love SEO platinum, its easy to use 301 redirection help me lot when I changed my permalink. I personally missing green retweet button in your page. Very nice fun play though.
    .-= Check out Arafat Hossain Piyada´s awesome post: Know the most subscribed social peoples with Subscriber Wars =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Arafat,

      I’ve heard the SEO Platinum plugin is a good one, however I’m still using the All in One SEO which I’ve gotten used to.

      I thought of adding the green retweet button to my site, but don’t know if it would be redundant as I have the Twitter button in the Sexy Bookmarks plugin. Hmmmmm.

  20. TNo Gravatar says:

    I’m so thrilled to have found your “classroom”! I have 2 blogs, but it’s my photography site I want to jazz up (but I’m a totally dork at the blog designing and to broke to pay the $50+). SO, I’m hoping to learn how to thru your blog.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi T,

      I’m happy you found me, too. Not only will you find helpful hints here, but a community of awesome bloggers. Just click on their names and check them out.

  21. Barbara, every time I visit, I find something of value here, your informative advice sharing with a way of making me feel welcome, and a wonderful group of other bloggers to visit, read, and meet. I’m hoping I will soon have a little more time to visit more frequently but I have been subscribed to your blog for over a year because of the value I saw.

    On the topic, I use share on my blog, Kim Woodridge put it there and Tweetmeme. I am still a little confused about the configuration of tweetmeme because I had changed it to my name and it still is, I think, and then Jim Connolly said it is better to leave it Tweetmeme because otherwise it looks like you are doing the tweeting. I have to look at what it really says in the code and figure out if I need help to change it.

    I’d like others thoughts about that Tweetmeme button.

    I like the toolbar on the bottom and with as many comments as you get on a post, it might be good to have it positioned there. I’ve been hearing feedback from IT professionals on how finicky we are, that we want it now, no scrolling, multiple clicks or we leave a site. I think personally, I am more persistent than that but it does give food for thought.

    Your blog looks merry today! So Merry Christmas!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for your kind words Julie,

      Unfortunately I don’t know much about the Tweetmeme button. You might check with Kim and see if there’s a preferred way to have it coded.

      Re: The toolbar at the bottom. I changed the color to white to match the blog and make it somewhat less intrusive, and did notice a reader can close it by clicking on the little arrows on the right. I like the “translate” feature plus the “share”, RSS feed and twitter feature, but if it bothers too many of my readers, it’s gone.

  22. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    I like the fact that you’re testing and experimenting. I think it’s the key to staying in the game and dealing with a changing landscape.
    .-= Check out J.D. Meier´s awesome post: What 25 Holiday Classics Teach Us About Life and Fun =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi J.D.,

      Yes. That’s how we learn and find out how a new feature will work for us. Some make it, some don’t.

  23. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    While my IT is writing papers and doing projects I have learned I can not ask for any changes or ever again learn to write an e-book during midterm exams….never.

    I am going to forward over this post to her, but she will not check this out until after the 17th and maybe when she is here for her vacation week we can talk in person about these ideas…

    There are somethings I have no control over on my blog….but that has to change if I am going to get a paid advertiser up and running besides Amazon, who I already worked with….hmmm
    I am a bit embarrassed to confess this, but if I had to learn everything you know to blog, I would not be writing a blog….or a post….so I have to be very patient…very patient….

    I love your Christmas ornaments…and all your changes….actually I envy them….
    hmmm…I need to go stir the soup…I am getting teary ….
    .-= Check out Patricia´s awesome post: Donuts, Coffee and the Wisdom of Daughters =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Patricia,

      For someone who claims they don’t know a lot about blogging you do a fabulous job. Not only did you get your ecookbook published, but your posts are filled with value.

      Although it is beneficial to know some of what goes on behind the scenes, I don’t think a blogger has to know it all in order to have a successful – after all, look at yours. 🙂

  24. you should be a teacher barbara…wait a minute…i guess you are lol anyway now that you ask i really had no idea of my favorite plug in or add on but now that you’ve explained it…it’s zemanta now. it will allow me to stop having to interrupt my mental flow by quickly grabbing images and tables into my posts

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Your Blog Mojo,

      Zemanta is a great tool, isn’t it? I’ve been using both that and Apture and now wonder how I did without them.

      P.S. I don’t consider myself a teacher, but a student in life. And it’s from all of you whom I meet in blogosphere, I learn and grow. 🙂

  25. Hi Barbara and Merry Christmas!

    I noticed that toolbar down at the bottom a while back but haven’t asked about it yet. That’s pretty cool. Plugins are like toys for us bloggers, aren’t they?

    Plugins on my side…..

    Security: I always rather see people purchase a $30 SSL Certificate and login and run their admin area through SSL encryption, but if that’s not an option (which it should be), I like the Chaps Secure plugin. It sends your password to your host encrypted each time you log into WordPress. Without it, your password is sent visible to anyone “sniffing” the lines.

    Money: I’ve been using the Widget Logic plugin. It allows me to run ads in my sidebar for different posts (only ones I specify). One of my most popular posts is my How To Protect Your Assets Using Business Structures post. It has nothing to do with WordPress, so I use the Widget Logic plugin to show those readers different ads.

    My new favorite plugins: WordPress File Monitor. It will email you whenever someone tries to upload, delete, or change any files on your web hosting server. This way, if you get hacked, you know where to look.
    .-= Check out John Hoff – WP Blog Host´s awesome post: Gift Ideas For Bloggers =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi John,

      Yes, plugins can be like toys. But, can we have too many? Maybe?

      Thank you for sharing your favorites. I haven’t heard of any of them so will definitely check them out. Such fun…. 8)

  26. Nice post. I use a few those tools and especially luv Zemanta.
    .-= Check out John Paul Aguiar´s awesome post: Happy Holidays and My Personal Thank You =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you John,

      Zemanta is pretty cool, isn’t it? I’m new to it, but so far, have no complaints.

  27. Keith DavisNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara
    Sexy bookmarks looks… sexy! Not sure if it’s for me yet. I’m not very well up with the social scene.

    The “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” is a great plugin, can’t remember what it’s actually called but it’s a must to get people involved in follow up comments.

    All the initial work on my blog has involved security plugins. Great help there from John Hoff.
    Then I added SEO plugin… I’m sure you can guess which one and I’m just about to add the WP database – backup plugin. Save me having to backup database manually.

    WP super-cache plugin is next on my list – to try and speed things up a bit.
    Wordpress can be a bit slow!
    .-= Check out Keith Davis´s awesome post: The eyes have it! =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Keith,

      One thing about the Sexy Bookmarks plugin is even if we’re not up on the social scene, our readers may be. I feel it makes it easy for them to share our posts as all of the social networking sites can be included, if we’d like. I also like the fact it has an option for printing a post (it sends it to “Print Friendly”).

      Yes. John Hoff is a great resource for plugin information, especially those we should be using for security.

      Have fun working behind the scenes. I just looked at your blog on the front side and it looks fabulous.

  28. JanNo Gravatar says:

    SexyBookmarks looks sexy but if you care about page loading times, you won’t use it on your WordPress site.

  29. […] Sexy Bookmarks, Toolbars & Time Savers ( […]

  30. Damon DayNo Gravatar says:

    I have used the sexy bookmarks plugin on my main blog for almost a year now. I don’t see any of my visitors paying much attention to it. It may have a lot to do with the nature of the information on my blog, and my demographic of readers, is not likely to retweet or post anything to facebook. Usually people don’t want others to know they have been reading about options for dealing with debt. So I am considering just taking the sexy bookmarks down, even though I think it looks cool.
    Check out Damon Day’s awesome post.Damon Day and Associates Responds to Anonymous AttackMy Profile