The Road Warrior Blogging Survival Kit

Nov 14 2007

From time to time, there’s a lot of traveling happening here at RD2. For me, this is my favorite time to re-activate my blogging activity.  Something about sitting on a plane or some random Starbucks in an unfamiliar city where my attention turns to a few things “social.”

Recently, my travels took me to the BlogWorld Expo, where we had fun in the Southwest Airlines booth and took in a few of the activities in Vegas.  I hardly noticed, but if you were to look into my bag, there was a hearty stash of gadgets and gizmos that make blogging interesting, easy and fun. Of course, you have to have an appetite to actually use some of the fancy electronics and do a little problem solving along to way, in order to make it worthwhile.

Blogging can be as simple as you want it to be, and can require nothing more than a computer with an internet connection or a phone with a medium level of sophistication to get your content online.

Blogging can also be as complicated as you want it to be, requiring you to pack a treasure chest of gadgets and install some sophisticated software that enables you to properly use all of these fancy gizmo’s. If you learn from my mistakes, and countless hours of relentless experimentation, you can save some time, money and use your energy to create better content.

So, here’s a few tips from the archives on how you can look like and feel like a professional blogger. I’ll break this down into a couple of simple categories:

The Basics / Style:

  1. Design Snob: It’s OK if you are, we certainly are here. There are a lot of out of the box blog themes out there and if you use one of those, there’s a really good chance that you will find yourself breaking the mold fairly frequently when you choose to push the envelope.
  2. What is pushing the envelope? Posting with lots of bullet points, indentations, pull-quotes, pictures, video, audio or any of the millions of badges or third party applications that are used to “extend” your community or blogging experience. There’s so much you can do, but if you care very much about having a tight and right look and feel and want to stay far away from that “MySpace” look, then this is something you may wrestle with forever. This is one of the major reasons that people tend to pay us for developing their own custom blogs rather than using the ones that come in the can.
  3. Get a Grip On Style: If you have tight control over your style, then great, you are probably pretty far ahead of most of the other blogs out there. You probably have a grasp of how your style sheet will translate even the minor nuances of your blog. Having a well planned and thorough approach to style will go a long way, and ensure you spend more time blogging and coming up with cool content approaches rather than tweaking…
  4. The Bottom Line: Spend some time planning your blog. Don’t “cheap out” on design and formatting if that is even remotely important to you. You have to create a blog that will work with the way you will work and the way you anticipate your content requirements.

Hardware Gizmos:

  1. Apple MacBook Pro: Any computer will work, for that matter. However, the software that is used on an Apple seems to fit well with some of the blogging approaches that will be discussed. Also, let’s face it, Macs look cool. They have that crisp cocoa interface on many of their apps that give you a little extra pleasure along the way. And, if you are focused on the design aspects of your blog, or if you are the type to spend extra time photoshopping your photos, then Macs are a very good choice.
  2. Canon Digital Elf (any model): Some models may have higher resolution, but I have experimented with so many of the smaller form factor digital cameras and have found that nothing is better than the Elf cameras. They turn on fast, focus fast, have traditional view finders, and don’t give you that silly delay from the time you push the button to the time the camera takes the picture. Not to mention, these cameras generally take great pictures. Also, the Elf line of camera is recommended since it is very compact and easy to carry.
  3. Sanyo Xacti: Mine is a C6 which gives impressive sound and audio quality. It’s super tiny and uses an SD card. You can get these cards pretty economically now and my recommendation is to get a minimum of a 2 gigabyte card to start. The batter life is excellent and you will not believe how portable these cameras are. In fact, this little camera is the only video camera that I have ever used that takes outstanding still photos.
  4. Sierra Wireless Aircard 875U: My card is used with my AT&T provider and is roughly 59 bucks a month for unlimited internet service. This card plugs into my USB port on my Apple and works the first time, every time. Also, this card supports the 3G network and is impressively fast…even when uploading photos to my flickr account.

Software Imperatives:

This is where it all comes together. Hardware gadgets are fun and nifty, but none of it matters if it does not work elegantly with your choice of software. My recommendations here come from many different trials of my own and lots of reading on blogs and forums. Until the latest of Leopard and the iLife suite, I had been working with extremely expensive solutions such as Final Cut Studio to make simple video edits. This post is really about coming home to the simpler and more basic tools…because they just work:

  1. WordPress: It’s a solid blog platform, It’s free, widely used, easy to get someone to help you with it, and has the best feature/functionality for novice or even advanced users. And, I highly recommend not falling into the trap of using the third party publishing applications if you can help it. The browser works just fine, and it’s good discipline to get comfortable with it.
  2. Firefox Web Browser: Sure, there are plenty of options here, but my recommendation is to stay with “old steady” Firefox. I will also note that other browsers which work fine (and could be a post on their own) are Camino and Flock. You might be careful of Safari.  Safari is getting much better but still does not handle the web interface of WordPress as well yet as the other browsers mentioned.
  3. Flickr: Owned by Yahoo!, this is a widely used and highly supported community photo sharing (web based) tool. They have a myriad of tools to help you push your pictures online and also have lots of API’s to help you publish your photos to your blog….so easy.
  4. YouTube: Online service for your video sharing. Any other description needed? Doubtful.
  5. iMovie 08: The new iMovie 08 is excellent and super easy for quickly taking movies from your camera and editing the clips. What’s amazing is that when you are finished adding text, adjusting and trimming your audio/video, there’s a “share” option. All you have to do is select “share/YouTube” and you will not believe how easy it is from there. You will be prompted to provide your YouTube username and password. Once your iMovie has established a connection to your personal YouTube space, you will then be able to use the iMovie interface to write your description and tag your work. Selecting the publish button, and you can watch the magic happen and iMovie publishes your content through your computer and out your wireless card and into the web. It’s dirt simple.
  6. flickrUploader: flickr has an uploading tool that allows you to simply upload your photos to your flickr account. You can eliminate the need for this software if you opt for the Flock browser, which has an excellent flickr uploader built in.

These are just a few pointers, and again they are based on a lot of trial and error. You don’t need the extremely high end devices to do the job. You can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars and get the job done with even greater ease. This is coming from someone who has spent the money on the software and hardware and only found that simple is better.

Oh yeah, don’t forget a cool bag to carry all this gear!

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