A Week of Blog Maintenance; a Weekend of FeedBlitz, MailChimp and Bloglovin'
I've been intending to switch from Feedburner to an alternative RSS distributor for years. I just never had the time until last week when work at work suddenly dried up due to software errors. I found myself with some time off until they get their act together. I was able to fix a bunch of little things on my site that I never got around to before, because any free time I had was spent on blog posts rather than maintenance.
Turns out all I needed was a single week of focus to fix these glaring annoyances:
- 1. There was the "masthead," which was 1660px instead of being responsive on an otherwise responsive site. Changing that also seemed to get rid of this weird occurrence where the header and dropdowns moved off screen to the right at one specific size.
- 2. Finally fixed the Excerpts that removed all formatting. When I looked at it, I realized it was also removing all HTML tags so that I couldn't hide divs or spans from the homepage with conditional formatting. Why would I want to hide something from the summary? Because of it, image copyright and any intro text were always the first things people would see. I had twelve posts in the last few weeks that started with these things and, as a result, they all looked the same! It was not very inviting and said really nothing about what was in the actual post, as the excerpts were also short.
- 3. Speaking of hiding things from the summary, I can now use Blogger's conditional tags to hide things from the excerpts or from the posts themselves. It was really bugging me why it wouldn't work. I started thinking conditional tags were broken. Then I dug deeper and found the striptags problem I mentioned above. The best example of how I've already used the conditional tags is my previous post, The Last Ship: John Pyper-Ferguson. (Don't click on the link unless you already watched the third season finale.) That post features an image that I added text to that made it a huge spoiler, so I didn't want it appearing on the index. A spoiler warning would have been useless at that point. But with the conditional tag, I was able to hide the image and use the non-spoiler version of it on the index. I also hid the regular image in the post, because I don't need two of the same pics there.
- 4. I've gone back to adding a jumpbreak manually for the excerpts instead of letting template's original code (related to the striptags) do it for me automatically. Unfortunately, it means I have to go back through all most posts (eventually) to add jumpbreaks so that my posts don't show in full on the index pages. That's a long project but not really a big deal. I've done the latest posts first, so things at least look neat for anyone who won't go back more than a few pages.
- 5. Changed my blockquotes...again. I think I have the look I want, at least for now, which I've actually had for a while. But I was adding styles to the blockquotes manually in every post for some time now. I got a chance to add the style to the template and change the blockquotes in a bunch of posts. Obviously, like the jumpbreaks, I have a lot more to go, but it's just something I can do whenever I feel like it rather than something that needs to get done now.
- 6. I think the last thing I did was the banner slidedown transitions. If you can see a 'More about this episode' button to the bottom left of then you can click on that and see how the transition is smooth on open and close. Before it would just open immediately and the transition was ignored. Not all banners have 'More' dropdowns yet - with links to my posts, episode transcripts, Amazon, etc - so just reload if you want to see this.
And now that I've used an ordered list, looks like I need to go change that, too. But I'm really out of time right now.
That brought me to Friday. I thought I would have a relaxing weekend. Do a bit of clean up and sit on my butt in front of the TV, hopefully finishing The Night Of and getting back to season 2 of Daredevil. But it was not to be. My mind started wandering to other things I'd wanted to change about my site for a long time. I came up with Feedburner and Google Friend Connect. GFC was abandoned years ago, yet I still have it in my footer. And Feedburner has been languishing without support or updates for years. I've known these things, but I never had the time to properly research anything or the will to do so. I am always behind, seeing as how I'm the sole writer here, so my priority was always with the blog posts.
So I spent the entire day yesterday figuring out what RSS distribution service I was going to be switching to, after an entire day the day before researching alternatives to Feedburner. I've gone with FeedBlitz; just $15 per year if I only want it for RSS. I'll probably be using MailChimp for email (specifically RSS-to-email) since it's free for up to 2,000 subscribers...or was that 2,000 emails per month? I'll find out more later.
Anyway, FeedBlitz was the best alternative for me after trying a couple free options that I was not impressed with. [Edit: Silly me, I should have taken notes, because now I don't remember why I didn't go with SpecificFeeds. It works just as well as FeedBlitz and it's free. At first I thought it was because MailChimp wouldn't recognize the RSS feed from SpecificFeeds. But why would it need to? Specific Feeds does RSS-to-email all on its own, while I would have to use MailChimp's RSS-to-email feature with FeedBlitz's RSS feed if I want more features but still keep costs lower than if I used FeedBlitz's email. I think I just went with the more feature-rich platforms because I can grow from there.] Apparently, FeedBlitz has a guide to migrating from Feedburner without losing subscribers. The guide makes it seem that they mean RSS subscribers and not only email subscribers. This didn't come up in any of my research...and I read dozens upon dozens of articles about moving to a new RSS service, articles about specific services, and articles about Service A vs Service B vs Service C. They all said there was no way to keep every RSS subscriber and to just write a post telling subscribers about the switch and then cross my fingers. So, that's what I did...and then couldn't wait because I've been wanting to do this for so long. How annoying to now find out that FeedBlitz is different. I can't go back now, because the Feeburner delete/redirect is permanent.
*sigh* *grumble* *grr*
Well, nothing I can do now. And I guess it doesn't matter anyway since, for some reason, I can't sign into Feedburner through FeedBlitz after following their steps and advice. I was just going to see if I could do it with feeds to my other sites. So, I would just be stuck trying to get support and probably have to just do what I'm doing now and start fresh. And, oops, the images I want to hide from my index show up in the RSS feeds. Maybe I'll disable images in feeds (if it's an option), or instead try to remember to do that when I have an image that's a major spoiler.
So, in just over a week I got 9 different blog maintenance things done. That has never happened before, and I'm glad I took the opportunity that the screw up at work afforded me. If you would like, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Then there's Bloglovin', where you can follow me and many other blogs. And finally, subscribe to the feed through email if you don't want to get an RSS reader or sign up for Bloglovin'. Whatever way you want. The email may in the future be used for more than just RSS delivery, but is very basic right now. So many options.