Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Creating Topic-Based Widgets Using Google Reader's Clip Function

Over at the new Geneabloggers site, I've added a widget that displays all current and past Tombstone Tuesday posts at blogs that are listed in the Geneabloggers blog list. Since I anticipate a few, "how did he do that?" inquiries, here's how you too can set up a similar widget.

The requirements are that you use Google Reader to follow the blogs you normally visit, and that you utilize the Tag function to mark posts as they appear in your reader.

1. In Google Reader, locate a post that fits your criteria for being displayed in the widget. In this case, we want posts that have Tombstone Tuesday in the post title.

2. Click the post and it displays inside Google Reader. 

3.  Scroll down to the end of the post and locate the Edit Tags link.

4.  Enter the title of the tag, in this case it is Tombstone Tuesday.  Click Save.

5.  In the sidebar, you will now see a listing of all posts with the tag.

6.  To get the code for the widget, click Settings.

7.  Click the Folders and Tags tab.  Make sure that the tag is marked as Public and not Private - otherwise you will be unable to create the widget.

8.  The Put a clip on your site dialog appears.  Customize the look of the clip using the various fields.  Recommendation: select None for the color scheme if you want the widget to use your template's background.  Also it is a good idea to mark the checkbox next to Show item sources especially, as in this example, all the posts have the same title and it would be difficult to distinguish one post from another.

9.  For Blogger blogs, follow the steps with the Blogger button.  For Wordpress users, highlight the code, right-click over it and select Copy.  Then create a Text widget in the Administrative panel of your Wordpress blog and paste in the code by right-clicking and selecting Paste.

A nice feature of setting up tags in Google Reader, is the page that is automatically created listing all the posts with that tag.  To view the page, in the widget, click Read More.  Anyone can visit the page, you can send the link to friends, and users of Google Reader and also subscribe to the page as a feed.

So how will use this function at your blog?  Will you perhaps tag your own posts in Google Reader by surname, and perhaps organize your posts and display a certain surname in the widget? Are there other uses you can think of?  Any way you use it, you have to admit it is a great way to bring more visibility to a specific topic on your blog.


John said...

In this instance, I might use the RSS Feed feature of Google's BlogSearch so that I got every occurrence of "Tombstone Tuesday" and not just those that I am currently subscribing to in Google Reader. It's a unique enough phrase I wouldn't be getting anything I didn't want.

However, if I am coming up with tags that aren't based on text that appears in the post, that won't work, and this clip function would.

Thomas MacEntee said...

Good idea John but if you use "tombstone tuesday" as a search term you will pick up other posts - including this one - that mention the concept and not necessarily display the photo of a headstone.

I with there were a more intense search algorithm where I could specify something like: "must have image and must have Tombstone Tuesday in title."

For Wordless Wednesday, which is a much broader concept in the blogosphere, I think the only way to narrow it to entries by geneabloggers is to do what I've done with tagging.