Staying on the cutting edge: OpenID for bloggers

The following post on OpenID was submitted by Yung Chin from YC’s Ramblings.

openid_big_logo.pngUndoubtedly you’ve seen the icon shown here appear in the comments section of many Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and MovableType blogs recently. What it means: “this site is OpenID enabled”. In case you’ve missed all the news buzz on it, OpenID is the up-and-coming universal login technology, bound to become as ubiquitous as email.

While that sounds like future-talk, let me convince you that for blogging specifically, it makes a lot of sense to start using OpenID today. In short: your comments on others’ blogs will look more professional, having your verified signature, and you can offer that same convenience to your visitors, while also keeping commenting on your blog easy.

What it does

I’ll skip telling you what OpenID does in general – here’s a scenario specific to the context of blogging: visitors that want to comment on your blog can use the address of their own blog to verify their identity.

  • your visitors enter their comment and their blog address
  • your blog server connects to their blog server
  • their own blog server checks that it’s really them (by login)
  • their blog server confirms this to your blog server
  • their comment gets a confirmed link back to their own blog

See how convenient this is? You only ever have to login at your own blog, and you’re automatically allowed to comment on any other OpenID-enabled blog. For an illustrated introduction, there are walk-throughs at eg. Blogger and WordPress.

Just to be clear, you won’t replace your regular commenting system. OpenID login is merely an optional convenience you’re adding. Oh and, although I’m focusing on bloggers, commenting also gets more convenient for visitors who don’t blog but do have an OpenID.


By now you may be wondering how relevant the whole OpenID thing is. If its support in Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, and MovableType (in that interview by Darren, Anil Dash puts it among their top ten features!) isn’t convincing enough, recent coverage at eg., BBC News, and ITBusinessEdge will tell you that all the biggest players in the web services space are on top of it, including Yahoo, Google, and AOL. What’s best is that the OpenID foundation is a non-profit that ensures the technology is freely available to anyone – including you.

OpenID keeps you out of the spam filter

Spam blocking firm Defensio suggest that your use of OpenID may simplify comment spam filtering. Here’s the idea: if you consistently use your OpenID to comment on blogs, spam filters like Defensio’s will learn that you don’t spam people. Thus, your contributions will never be accidentally marked as spam. And as a blog host, you can be a bit less worried that valuable contributions from your readers got stuck in your backlog of spam awaiting moderation. Saves you work!

Signed communications: a professional touch

Put in other words, OpenID allows you to tell another blogger “it’s really me, the author of (insert your blog), commenting here”, because indeed you can prove to them that you are the owner of your blog. I think that’s the closest thing to an official signature that the blogging world has yet seen.

If blogging is your profession, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to be professional in your communications, to actually sign the messages you leave on other blogs, and to more officially say “I’m backing my statements”? So now you can.

Make leaving comments smoother than ever

Let’s recap all this. Why was requiring a login annoying for your readers? They’d have to create a new account, and then remember that later on. So now you don’t require logins, but use aggressive spam filtering instead. As a result, many comments go into a moderation queue.

When you give visitors the option to use their OpenID, they won’t need to create an account and logins are mostly automatic, while they’ll still get the benefit of being recognized by the spam filter. In addition, you’re giving them the opportunity to come across more professionally, in the same way other bloggers are offering that to you.

Getting set up

The little technicalities of setting your blog up for OpenID of course depend on your blogging platform. All I’ll say is that it is typically rather simple – see eg. this description of installing a WordPress plugin.

If your blog is hosted by one of the big blog providers, you’re probably only a click in the configuration panel away of getting it going. If you host your blog yourself, a query for OpenID on the help pages of your favourite blogging platform should get you a long way. Short of that, here are some links into the OpenID community. And do ask questions, too!

In closing

OpenID as a technology provides much more than I could show you here. In some other context, it might for example make sense to use not your blog but your Flickr account as your OpenID to say “I really own these photos”. So in case you thought you’d just learned everything: it was really only the start. Have lots of fun!

Wife Advice — Community Consulting Summary

Our fourth Community Consultation wraps up today with an overview of the ProBlogger community’s feedback for Wife Advice.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide feedback, even amongst the kind of chaos only the end of December can bring!

New to community consulting? You’ll want to read Darren’s launch post as well as Wife Advice’s introduction to the community.

Here are the elements which proved most important to ProBlogger readers.

The average blogger vs. graphic design: how to win the battle

The header proved to be the most commented-on aspect of the site, one which many readers felt needed to be changed or improved. One group of readers felt the header looked unprofessional or unappealing and another group was offended by the husband as Donkey and Wife as ball-and-chain representation.

As bloggers we’re often given the advice to create a unique header image to brand our site. This can be difficult, though — particularly if you don’t have the money to hire a graphic designer, or black-belt Photoshop skills.

My suggestion would be to find a cheap logo-design service or hire a freelance graphic designer. If this isn’t something you have the money to do, see if there is anything else you could offer them in exchange. For example: add a permanent link to the designer’s portfolio to your sidebar, write a post advertising their services or write a guest post for their blog (if they have one).

Blogger bias

After the logo, the second most frequently mentioned aspect of the site was the Blogger navbar and the use of the Blogger platform.

I do see the merit in removing the Blogger navbar as it reminds visitors that you’re not self-hosted and can be quite distracting. Here’s a short tutorial on removing the blogger navbar.

Once the navbar is removed, I suspect most visitors to Wife Advice wouldn’t know it wasn’t self-hosted. It’s worth remembering that the target audience is not bloggers, so it’s unlikely they’ll have all the Blogger templates memorized as well as we do ;-).

That being said, I would strongly recommend the blog’s owners do some research on WordPress and whether that would be a better solution for them. A lot of ProBlogger readers recommended it in the feedback (and I second that recommendation.)

Controversial content

The blog’s concept received mixed reactions. While some readers really liked the idea of the Donkey and Wife, others felt that generalizations and stereotypes were being made — particularly male commenters!

On one hand, the unique premise of the blog might be helping to bring some readers in. On the other hand, it could be turning just as many away. It’s quite difficult to tell. It’s the kind of factor you can’t measure with statistics.

One solution might be to keep providing the same content and advice for wives and husbands, but to use a pseudonym other than ‘Donkey’ for the husband.

Ultimately, it’s up to the blog’s authors to decide whether to keep it controversial or to broaden the target audience by making the content and concept a little more benign.

It’s not just black and white

The design of the blog is very simple (mainly text). For that reason, many readers felt the blog didn’t have enough visually interesting elements to pull off a mainly black and white design. The blog’s owners can kill two birds with one stone by getting a new logo that’s full of color.

Does the tag-line sell the blog?

A group of readers felt that the blog’s tag-line wasn’t descriptive enough. At the moment it is: “A donkey. A wife. Advice.” Though we know there will be some kind of advice given, we don’t know who it’s directed at or what it’s about.

I’d suggest going with a tag-line like the one in the title bar, which is a bit more descriptive of what Wife Advice offers.

Getting more subscribers

We all want more subscribers but a number of readers pointed out that Wife Advice wasn’t doing this as well as it could.

It’s good that there’s a page explaining what RSS is, but I’d suggest offering a ‘Subscribe via email’ option from the main page. The blog isn’t tech/internet related and we can expect most of the target audience to be using email rather than a feed reader.

How to make more money with it

One common suggestion from readers was to monetize with Amazon, particularly through affiliate links to gifts recommended by both the Donkey and Wife.

Another suggestion was to sell an eBook of advice, though long eBooks are generally only worth the effort once you have a large and loyal readership.

A shorter report might be a better solution in the mean-time, if the blog’s owners do decide to try this option.

The good — everyone’s talking!

The thing that most impressed me about the blog is the skill shown in getting readers to participate in comments. By asking questions and holding debates the blog’s owners have made sure that the average number of comments on each post is very respectable.

It was also great to see a gripping About page and a Contact page in an easy to find location. Many bloggers seem to forget these crucial elements, so it was great to see them at Wife Advice.

The prize

This week’s iPod Shuffle winner is Lid from BlogWell. Her feedback ventured beyond the obvious and highlighted some important things I would not have thought of otherwise. Congrats :-).

Thanks again to everyone who took part — I look forward to hearing more from you next week!

What Blogging Platform Do You Use? [POLL RESULTS]

Last week I asked readers to submit to our poll the blog platform that they use.

The results were similar to last time we ran it with (36%) a clear winner, (25%) coming in second and (15%) coming in third.

That these three platforms take up 76% of responses says something in and of itself with the two varieties of WordPress being used by 51% of ProBlogger readers.

By no means are the results scientific – I originally had the poll set so that readers could add their own options but due to one person abusing it had to go with just 13 platforms. I did invite people to suggest others in comments if they didn’t use one of the 13 and have included them as ‘Other’ in the graph (and I’ve listed them below) – they made up 1%.


The ‘other’ category was made up of the following platforms – each of which had 1 vote.

Nucleus, Pivot, Blogsmith, BlogCFC, Subtext, Typo, Mephisto, phpnuke, Vox and Pmachine.

Thanks to everyone who has voted. Dont’ forget to vote in this week’s poll – ‘How Many RSS Readers Does Your Blog Have?’. You can vote in it in the sidebar of ProBlogger.

Which WordPress Plugins Do You Use?

Wordpress-Plugins-1A quick question for WordPress users:

WordPress Plugins – which ones do you use?

18 months ago in a post titled (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours) I shared the WP Plugins I used and asked readers to tell us which WordPress plugins they used. The response was great and I then compiled a list of WordPress Plugins for ProBloggers which summarized everyone’s favorite WP Plugins.

That was a year and a half ago so today I thought it might be time to do the exercise again.

I’ll kick us off with a few of my personal favorite WordPress Plugins and then will open it up for you to submit yours:

  • Ad Rotator – this is what rotates the 468 x 60 ads that you see at the top of ProBlogger.
  • AdSense Deluxe – for inserting AdSense (and other types of ads) into posts
  • Akismet – comment spam filtering (which has stopped just under 2 million comment spams on ProBlogger since I installed it).
  • Democracy – Poll plugin (the one I currently use here at ProBlogger in the sidebar)
  • Landing Sites – I have used this off and on with my blogs – it greats readers arriving from search engines with suggestions for further reading
  • Popularity Contest – a modified version of this runs the ‘Best of ProBlogger’ section on the front page of ProBlogger
  • Random Redirect – a cool little plugin that I use on DPS offer readers a random post from my archives (people do actually use it)
  • Related Posts – not the sexiest plugin but pure gold at driving people deeper into your blog (also good for SEO)
  • Share This – a plugin that lets your readers share your post via email or social bookmarking
  • Subscribe to Comments – used by quite a few ProBlogger readers to track comments left on posts

One WordPress Plugin that I’m keen to experiment with in the coming months:

So now it is over to you. Which WordPress Plugins do you classify as your favorites?

Please limit your answer to 10 if you can (if you have more – get it down to your 10 ‘must have plugins’). I’ll compile a summary of all the plugins submitted in a week or two. Stay tuned to ProBlogger’s RSS feed to be notified of that post.

Speedlinking – 22 July 2007

Blog Hosting, Domains and Blogging Platforms – What We Wish We Knew

This post is part of the ‘What we wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of Blog Hosting, Domains and Platforms and will share some of my own experiences and advice.

There is always a diversity of opinion over which blogging platform and hosting method is best – but there were some recurring themes in the reader discussion on this particular topic. Let me attempt to summarize the main theme:

The most common regrets seem to have been starting out with some of the free blogging platforms (particularly and using the free subdomain URL that they provide instead of starting out with one’s own domain and hosting.

While there is some real wisdom in getting a taste for blogging using some of the free platforms my advice to anyone who suspects that they might end up blogging on a serious level it is worth securing a good domain name and getting set up on a platform that you think you’ll stick with for the long term.

In terms of blog platforms – there is no right or wrong answer and while my personal preference is for WordPress the blog platform that one chooses needs to match with the blogger’s own preferences. Try a few out and see which you’re most comfortable with – but be aware that the choices you make early can impact your future blogging. There are import features to migrate from many platforms to others – but it’s easier to choose the right one up front.

My Own Experience with Domains, Platforms and Hosting

[Read more…]

Speedlinking – 17 May 2007

WordPress Releases Stats Plugin

Yesterday WordPress released a plugin to allow hosted bloggers to use their Stats system on their blogs.

I’ve not tested it but Muhammad Saleem’s reviewed it for you here.

Hosted or Standalone Blogging Platforms – Which is Best?

One of the most common questions that I get asked around blogging platforms is whether people should go for a hosted blog platform like Blogger, TypePad or or whether they should go for a stand alone platform that you host on your own domain and server like, Drupal or Movable Type.

I’ve talked previously about some of the Pros and Cons of Hosted and Standalone blog platforms – but thought it might make an interesting open mic discussion (or debate).

So what do you think?

  • Do you use a hosted or stand alone blog platform? Why?
  • Do you wish you’d made a different choice when you started?
  • What are the Pros and Cons of the two options?
  • What would you recommend to a new blogger?