Enhancing a Weblog
In This Chapter
Adding Titles and Links to Entries
Categorizing a Weblog
Adding and Removing Links
One of the reasons for Radio UserLand's popularity is the simplicity it brings to weblog publishing. Within minutes of installation, the software can be used to start a new weblog and publish a first entry on the World Wide Web.
Weblogs are often works in progress, improved incrementally by their authors as they learn more about the format and see ideas they'd like to adopt on other Web sites.
This kind of tinkering is standard operating procedure for Radio users. As you move beyond the beginner-friendly publishing features and learn more about its capabilities, you can enhance your weblog with support for categories, descriptive titles on entries, link lists, and other improvements.
Radio's content-management system makes it easy to putter around with a site, because you can publish changes quickly, whether a weblog consists of 10 pages or 1,000.
Adding Titles and Links to Entries
A weblog is often compared to a diary because of its chronological order of publication and the informal style of writing that typifies the form.
Many weblogs are comparable to emails, presenting entries dashed off with little forethought by their authors. Others are more like professional publications, with titles and hyperlinks for each entry.
When Radio is first installed, weblog entries are published without titles, which lends itself to a more loose approach.
However, that's easily changed; a Radio-created weblog can be as informal as a teenager's daily journal or as formal as The New York Times.
Figure 3.1 shows Radio's weblog editor with two new fields: Title and Link.
Figure 3.1 Creating weblog entries with optional titles and links.
These fields, which are missing when Radio is installed, are turned on using the software's Prefs page, a long list of preferences that customize the appearance of a weblog and many other aspects of its performance.
To see the current preferences and make changes, click the Prefs link at the top of any desktop Web page.
In the Weblog section, the Item-Level Title & Link preference page determines whether each weblog entry has a title or hyperlink.
The title functions as a headline, describing or summarizing an entry.
The hyperlink, which is different than the links that are part of a weblog entry, can be used for several purposes. For example:
On a weblog that selects the best sports stories from daily newspapers, a story's headline could serve as the title and a story's URL as the link.
On a weblog that describes a cross-country bicycling trip, the headline could be each destination and the link could go to the entry describing that stop on the trip.
To turn on titles and links, open the Item-Level Title & Link page and select the option to add Title and Link text fields to the weblog editor.
While you're doing that, UserLand recommends that a related option be selected to generate links whenever the Link field is left blank. If you select it, Radio uses each weblog entry's link as its default value.
After titles are turned on, whenever you pen a weblog entry, Radio publishes the title and accompanying link as the first line of each entry and saves them in the WeblogData.root file with the rest of the entry's information. Titles and links are not added to older entries, although you can load each one in the editor and add them manually.
Figure 3.2 shows part of a weblog page with a baseball-related item that contains a title and link, and two other items that lack them.
Figure 3.2 Displaying weblog entries with and without titles.
If titles are turned off later, they won't be published on the weblog, even for older entries that included them.
The display of titles and links is dictated by the weblog's theme, a set of templates that establish the appearance of a Web site maintained with Radio. The default weblog theme displays titles and their links above the text of an entry, but this might not be true if you're using another theme. There's a lot more on this subject in Chapter 6, "Designing a Weblog Theme."
Titles and links make each entry more useful to anyone who reads your weblog with an RSS news aggregator, a program that periodically checks Web sites that share their headlines and other information using a standard XML format.
There's also a benefit if you want to encourage other Web sites to use this XML format to republish material from your weblog.
Radio's news aggregator is covered in the next chapter, "Reading RSS Newsfeeds with the News Aggregator."
On my Workbench weblog, I recently began using titles and links after months of doing without them. The title provides a headline for the entry and the link is left blank, causing Radio to link the title to that entry.
Writing headlines takes time, but I think it enhances the readability of the weblog. As someone who reads more than 150 weblogs and other sites with Radio's news aggregator, I've become a big fan of titlesthey stand out as I'm skimming through new entries from all of those different sources.