From the category archives:

Blogging Tools

Get your ESPN Widgets

by Bill Ferris on January 25, 2008 · 0 comments

in Blogging Tools

ESPN.com has recently entered into the widget business. It appears they have them for every sport, although it’s kind of hard to tell because the widget page is acting flaky. But if you want to have say a box that displays all the scores and maybe some stats in your sidebar, but this might be one way to go.

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Table of contents for What works for me

  1. What works for me – Part 1: the basic tools
  2. What works for me: WordPress Plugins

This is the first post in a series that will look at various elements of blogging, and what I’ve found to work for me. This is hardly a comprehensive list about blogging, or a best of the best list. It’s simply stuff that I’ve tried, that I’ve had success with. It may not work for everyone, and there may (and in many cases are) probably better options or solutions. But hopefully this will prime some discussion and I look forward to feedback and letting others know what works for you.

The Blogging Platform

WordPress is my tool of choice. I started on Blogger and it served me well for a very long time. But 2 years ago I got to the point where I needed functionality that just wasn’t available in Blogger. Blogger has since added quite a bit of that functionality, like categories for example. But because of the hundreds of plug-ins available with WordPress, I don’t think Blogger can ever really catch-up at this point.

Now with WordPress there are two options, a hosted version called WordPress.com and a version you host yourself. There are advantages to the hosted version. The big 2 as I see it are:

  1. It’s free. It costs nothing. No hosting costs are required. No domain needs to be registered. It’s completely free and not a bad route to go if you’re unsure of how committed you are to this blogging thing.
  2. You don’t have to know anything about programming, or maintaining a web site. It’s all taken care of for you. The software is updated automatically as new versions come out. It’s all handled for you which definitely has an appeal in terms of time, and expertise.

Still, I use the .org version. I want control over everything, including access to all the great plug-ins that exist. I also want control over back-ups and control over my content into perpetuity.

Now mind you, I’m not a web expert. I have some programming experience, but none of it is with PHP – the language that WordPress is coded in. And even with that limited knowledge I’m able to get by.

As for the cost, that is really pretty minimal because there is lots of cheap hosting out there.

[click to continue…]

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Hacking Away

by Bill Ferris on March 10, 2007 · 1 comment

in Blogging Tools

I love working with databases, and data, and especially baseball data. I thought I was pretty good at it, which is why when a book called Baseball Hacks by Joseph Adler came out a year ago I figured that I didn’t need it. On a whim I decided to get it a couple weeks ago and now I’m kicking myself for not getting it sooner.

Already it has helped me to get all of the retrosheet event files into a database for manipulation and inspired me to take on a new project for this season. The book contains information on spidering websites for data, working with the resulting files, and getting those into a database format.

This book isn’t for everyone. If you’re a blogger that doesn’t really do the stats thing, then you won’t see a lot of value. Also, if you don’t have any programming or database experience it will probably prove overwhelming. All of the code used in the book is made available, and the programs I haven’t altered have worked fine. However after reading this book you won’t be a programmer – although it may inspire you to learn more.

The bulk of the book talks about PERL and MySQL. Neither are areas I have much experience with, but there was enough there that I could make sense of the scripts, or take them and adapt them to Visual Basic where I have more familiarity.

I haven’t even reached the 2nd half of the book where the author talks about using R to perform a host of interesting analyses.

If plowing through retrosheet files is fun for you, I think this book can be a great addition to your library. The value as a blogger is that you could come up with something unique that could attract attention to your site.

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Six Ways Google Spreadsheets Make Tables Easy

by Bill Ferris on February 11, 2007 · 1 comment

in Blogging Tools

When I’m working on my Tigers site, I often present data in table format, and I always hate it. That is until I started leveraging Google Spreadsheets.

In the past I went one of 3 routes. The cleanest was probably to mark up a table using HTML. However I always find this to be time consuming and just a pain. But the display of the data was always crisp when I was done.

Another alternative was to dump the data into notebook, line up the columns, and then paste it in between some PRE tags. This was easy, but it didn’t always render so nice. The tabs would display differently between Firefox and IE and if the table was too wide it could kill your layout.

The 3rd option was make my table in Excel, and then screenshot it and turn it into an image. This is too bad but it requires a whole additional step of trying to get a nice compact image file. It also is a pain for those time you realize that you made a mistake. Editing it means doing the entire process again. Plus your readers can’t really manipulate your data on their own (this could be a good or a bad thing).

But with Google Spreadsheets everything is much easier now. [click to continue…]

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Strike Two and Low Post

by Bill Ferris on March 21, 2006 · 4 comments

in Blog News,Blogging Tools

I just came across two very intriguing sites striketwo.net and lowpost.net. The sites are the equivalent of memeorandum but for baseball and basketball respectively. I’m very excited for these sites, as they appear to fill a definite void in the sports blog world.
[click to continue…]

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Stat tracking for bloggers

by Bill Ferris on March 14, 2006 · 0 comments

in Blogging Tools

Performancing today launched a beta product called Performancing Metrics . it is a stat package designed specifically for bloggers. It differentiates by tracking visits and hits, as well as comments, at a post level. In addition, if you’re using Google Adsense it tracks those clicks as well. I’ve installed it on two of my blogs, and so far I’m impressed with the array of statistics, and usability of the site.

Stats are updated in a not-quite real time fashion. The stats are updated once an hour. This is to help improve performance, and prevent it from being bogged down. While it isn’t the very real time of Sitemeter or Statcounter, it is much improved over Google Analytics.

Another nice feature is that Metrics also tracks outbound links (Sitemeter also just started doing this) so you can see how visitors are leaving your blog.

It is definitely worth checking out, and the sign-up process is a breeze. You enter a little bit of information, and install a code snippet in your footer, and you’re ready to go. One thing I’d caution is that if you require email addresses for commenting, don’t make your stats publicly viewable. On my sites, I require email for comments, but don’t display the emails. In Metrics, the commentors email is displayed and I can’t imagine you’d want to open your commentors to potential spam.
performancing,sitemeter

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Player Linking

by Bill Ferris on March 13, 2006 · 1 comment

in Blogging Tools

Have you ever wished there was an easy way to link to player stat pages within a post? Baseball Reference has developed a tool to facilitate this. All you have to do is type up your post, copy and paste the text into the tool, and it will add in links for each player it identifies. You then take the newly linked text and paste it back into your blog editor.

This tool isn’t new by any means, but I’m not sure how many are using it.

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Fun with the Acronym Tag

by Bill Ferris on March 10, 2006 · 0 comments

in Blogging Tools

I know in sports blogs, it is common to throw quite a few stats around.  What seperates blogs from traditional media is that sports bloggers aren’t afraid to routinely use stats that aren’t exactly commonplace.  Overtime, the blogger may become tired of writing out the entire stat name because he figures that his regular readers have already become accustomed to the stat.  But what happens when a casual fan discovers the site for the first time.  Are they likely to know what VORP is?  Or what PMR is?  Enter the Acronym tag.

When using the acronym in new browsers, like Firefox, the tagged item is displayed with a dashed underline.  When the reader hovers over the underlined text, a full description appears.  Here is how the VORP example from above would be implemented:

<acronym title=”Value Over Replacement Player”>VORP</acronym>

To see other examples, or to practice it yourself, try the Tryit Editor.

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With the passing of Kirby Puckett and the Barry Bonds story, the value of ArmchairGM has quickly become evident, there is now one place to track the bulk of the commentary on a given topic. There is a page dedicated to the blogosphere’s tributes to Puckett. I envision a similar page dedicated to the Bonds steroid story as well. While the Bonds story is already listed on the site, I’d imagine the next step would be to gather all the commentary being posted on the web into an easily findable location.

On a related note, I think it would be great if ArmchairGM created a Firefox extension allowing people to easily to post stories (like a BlogThis or Add to Del.icio.us).

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Feedburner’s New Stats

by Bill Ferris on February 28, 2006 · 0 comments

in Blogging Tools

If you’re a Feedburner user, they’ve included additional stats. One of the enhancements was tracking Uncommon Uses, which may be situations where people are stealing your content. This is a more common problem if you are using full feeds.

For podcasters you can now find out how many times people are downloading your podcasts.
rss, feedburner

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