Monday, November 21, 2005

Saving correspondence so you can actually find it again

We write letters, memos, and e-mails to others. Others write the same to us. Putting our hands on those pieces of correspondence later can be tough.

This week, we will look at correspondence you write. With a good filing system on your computer, there is little need for you to make a hard copy for yourself of correspondence you send to someone else. You will find exceptions where you need a hard copy when it is part of a file you are required to submit to someone else, but as a general rule, keep your copy in digital form. I say this for several reasons:

1. When you print a hard copy for yourself, you have yet another piece of paper to handle.

2. Files automatically sort themselves alphabetically on your computer.

3. Should you need to see files sorted by date created or modified, you can do so with the click of a mouse.

4. Retrieval is quicker. A click of the mouse is quicker than thumbing through the file drawer.

5. Should you forget exactly where you filed something, you can use the “find” command. Should you forget where you filed something in your metal filing cabinet is somewhat more cumbersome.

The first secret of being able to find correspondence you have written quickly is a combination of having a consistent method of naming documents and having a consistent way to file them. When I write a letter to someone, I name the file with the last name of the person, a hyphen, and several words descriptive of the subject. For example, the letter to Joe Smith regarding a donation he made to the playground fund is going to be titled “Smith—Playground Donation.” When I want to see that file, I don’t have to wonder whether I named it “Donation for Playground,” “Playground Donation,” “Letter to Joe Smith,” etc. The question I ask myself is, “To whom did I write the letter?” Answering that question tells me how I named the file.

The second secret to being able to find my correspondence is being consistent about where I file it. Inside My Documents is a folder entitled “Memos & Letters.” If I write correspondence, it’s going to go there. One thing to notice is that the letter I wrote to Joe Smith is automatically going to appear together with all of the other “Smith” letters.

What about correspondence others send to you? Next week, we will look at how to handle this task with paper correspondence. In a future week, we will look at correspondence that comes to you via e-mail.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

To allow comments or not to allow comments…That’s the question

With apologies to Shakespeare, the decision about comment is one you will need to make as you establish your blog. In this pair of posts, we will examine the upside and downside of comments and then show you the mechanics of how to control comments in your blog.

Here are my thoughts on the upside and the downside of comments:
1. Readers can give you feedback as to what they think about your post.
2. By adding their own ideas, the depth of meaning in your posts is enhanced.
3. Spirited debate can result.
4. Return visits may be encouraged because of the interest of the comments.

1. One person with strong opinions may become a “thorn in your side.” You may take on the cyberspace version of a “heckler.”
2. If you feel the need to respond to those who leave comments, you are accepting a time commitment you could later regret.
3. You run the risk that someone may leave vulgar comments.
4. You run the risk that spammers can leave comments.

Controlling comments

When you log in to your blog, you will see a “Settings” tab. After clicking on it, you will see a “Comments” link. This link gives you access to the controls you can exert over comments.

Comments—Show or hide. If you readers to be able to leave to comments, choose “Show.” If not, click “Hide.”

Who can comment?—I would recommend that you select “Anyone.” You have other controls that will prohibit inappropriate comments. To limit comments only to those have their own Blogger blog would be a severe limitation on readers.

Enable comment moderation—I would recommend selecting “Yes” on this feature. A box will appear for you to put your e-mail address. When a reader submits a comment, that comment will be e-mailed to you for approval. If the comment is vulgar or consists of spam, you simply do not approve it. The disadvantage would be if you were going to be away from your computer for several days and comments would sit in your e-mail for some time waiting on approval.

Show word verification for comments—This tool is designed to keep spammers from posting to your blog. Readers will see a group of letters. In order to post, they would have to type the series of letters accurately. Word verification ensures that a real person is composing the comment. If you are using the “Comment Moderation” as discussed above, you would not need “Word Verification.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Keeping Little Eyes Away from Inappropriate Material

People can take just about any good thing and find a bad way to use it—the telephone, the automobile, prescription medicines. The list could go on and on, and the Internet is a candidate for that list. This post and the next address the potential for someone reaching inappropriate material through a blog.

Sure, I realize that anyone sitting unsupervised at a computer and looking for inappropriate material will find it quickly without ever visiting my blog. I do, however, want to remove the possibility that by visiting my blog and clicking on link, a youngster could be seeing something he or she has no business seeing.

There are two points which have concerned me:

  1. By far my biggest concern is the link at the top of Blogger blogs that says “Next Blog.” At first glance, it looks like a good feature. You can visit blog after blog you never knew existed, and you can find some real treasures. You can also find some real trash. You could be one click away from a blog featuring pornography, profanity, or hate speech.
  1. A second concern is the graphic that says “I Power Blogger.” Clicking on this icon takes the reader to the Blogger site. While there, a person can create a blog or visit any number of random blogs. Again, the potential exists for the reader to click on a blog and reach inappropriate material.

You will notice neither of these objectionable items on this blog, the blog I use to communicate with parents ( or the blog I use to communicate with staff ( Two simple measures prevent someone reading your blog and being a couple of mouse clicks away from trouble. The next post gives step-by-step instructions on what I did to address these two concerns.

Removing the Navigation Bar and Blogger Icon

First, make a copy of the html code and save it:

  1. Go to the Blogger homepage, log in, and click on your blog.
  2. Click on the tab that says “Template.”
  3. You are going to copy all of the html code and paste it in a Word document. To do this, click in the large box where the html code appears. Hold down the Ctrl code and hit the letter “A”. This will select all of the html code. Copy the text. Open a new Word document and paste. Save the document and minimize Word on the screen

Why do this? First of all, if you somehow mess up and want to start all over, you could go to this document and copy/paste it over the html code on your blog. Secondly, you can search for a piece of code easily in Word using the “find” command. You can get a good idea of how far down the page that piece of code, see what lines of code are close to it, etc.

Removing the Navigation Bar

  1. Find the line of code that consists of the word "body" surrounded by the < > in the Word document you saved. Use the find command to search for. Be sure to surround the word “body” with the <> signs. See about how far down it falls in the code? See what other lines of code are near it.
  2. Now, minimize Word again, so that you can see your blog again.
  3. If your entire set of code of highlighted, click somewhere in the box to un-highlight it. (You would hate to hit one letter and delete every bit of the code.)
  4. Scroll down until you find in your html code.
  5. Just above the line that says , "body," you are going to type the word "noembed" Leave off the quotation marks. You will, however, enclose it with < > Just below that "body" line you are going to type "/noembed" Again, leave off the quotation marks but enclose it with < >
  6. Would you like to see the results? Click the “Preview” button at the bottom of the page. The navigation bar should be gone.
  7. Close the window so that you are again looking at your html code.
  8. Click “Save Template Changes.”

Removing the Blogger icon

  1. Basically, what you are going to do is highlight a delete one line of code. Just as before, pull up the Word document you created and use the “Find” command to locate "" It appears one time. You will also see in that line of code the words "Powered by Blogger" and "bloggerbutton." You will highlight and delete the entire line.
  2. Click “Preview” to see your results. Did it work?
  3. Click “Save Template Changes.”
  4. You will probably now see a message that says, “You must now republish your blog to see changes.” Click on the “Republish” button.

That’s it! I doubt the folks at Blogger would be happy about my doing this and even less happy about telling you about it. I am more concerned about being an accomplice to youngsters seeing stuff they shouldn’t than I am keeping folks happy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Article in Principal Magazine

I invite you to read my article on blogging in the Nov/Dec 2005 issue of Principal magazine. The article is designed to introduce principals to the concept of blogging and show them how they can use a blog as a communications tool.