How I use Feedburner to give people the option of different blog update frequencies

I’ve been thinking about how to make it easier for people who want to keep in touch but who don’t want to be overwhelmed by my daily posting schedule. Instead of trying to come up with the Best Way on my own, I asked what people wanted. Out of 26 votes (as of the time I wrote this), ten people wanted weekly newsletters and three people wanted monthly newsletters. That probably means that even more people would like those less frequent update options, so I decided to spend some time figuring out a good way to offer that.

Since I already do weekly and monthly reviews, the easiest way would be to make those reviews available in a separate feed that people can subscribe to over RSS or e-mail. I’ve been using Feedburner as a way of making my feeds more browser-friendly and as a way to handle e-mail subscriptions. Although I’d been concerned about the long-term longevity of my feeds in case Feedburner shuts down, it turns out that you can set up your own domain name by following the instructions under My Account > MyBrand.

image

I set up my feeds to use feeds.sachachua.com instead of feeds.feedburner.com. That means that if Feedburner goes away, I just need to change my DNS record to point to my own server and write my own redirect rules. I wish I’d done this earlier! Anyway, if you subscribed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/sachac , please switch to using http://feeds.sachachua.com/sachac instead.

With the new feed URLs in place, I created Feedburner feeds for my weekly and monthly reviews. Category feeds are built-in, so all I needed to do was tell Feedburner to handle http://sachachua.com/blog/category/weekly and http://sachachua.com/blog/category/monthly . I customized each feed to include a short message pointing to the other feeds (Optimize > BrowserFriendly), change the URL, and enable e-mail subscriptions (Publicize > Email Subscriptions).

image

Then I modified my WordPress theme to include links to the new feeds. To make the feeds available from the feed icon in many browsers’ address bars, I added the following code to my <head>…</head>:

<link rel="alternate" 
  type="application/rss+xml" 
  title="Feed (~daily)" 
  href="http://feeds.sachachua.com/sachac" />
<link rel="alternate" 
  type="application/rss+xml" 
  title="Weekly reviews" 
  href="http://feeds.sachachua.com/sachac-weekly" />
<link rel="alternate" 
  type="application/rss+xml" 
  title="Monthly reviews" 
  href="http://feeds.sachachua.com/sachac-monthly" />

Result:

image

I also added links to the feeds in my sidebar using the Appearance > Widgets > Text widget.

Now, people should be able to easily subscribe to whichever frequency they want. =)

On another note: I was surprised and delighted to find that many people wanted daily updates. Thank you! I’ll try to make my headlines useful so that you can guess right away if you would be interested in something, and we’ll see if I can write weekly review headlines with keywords as well.

If you blog a lot, I hope you find this tip handy!

From the feeds: Development, food, connecting with people, e-books, finance

Drupal / Rails development: John (from john & cailin) posted good interview tips for hiring Drupal developers. A comment in the blog post led to this funny learning curve graph, which reminds me of the Emacs learning curve. There are similar hiring tips for Rails developers.

I like the work I’m doing at IBM (mostly nonprofit projects funded by IBM grants, yay changing the world!), but it’s interesting to see lots of demand for Drupal and Rails skills. I want to get wizardly at Rails and/or Drupal, and I think this will be fun.

Winter vegetables: Thanks to the community-supported agriculture program, we have three butternut squashes, one pepper squash, lots of turnips, and lots of kale. We’ve just gotten through turning all those beets into borscht. I’m learning about all these winter vegetables. Fortunately, Cheap Vegetable Gardener has tips on what to do when you’re swimming in kale, beets, squash, mustard, or chives.

Connecting with people: A post from Linked Intelligence on social networks and relationships led me to the Mackay 66 Customer Profile – a 66-question template that you can use to gradually flesh out your knowledge of a person. I like questionnaires. I think this will help me get better at talking to people – I can pick one or two questions to focus on, then gradually fill in the blanks. Maybe I should build a CRM into Quantified Awesome

Publishing an e-book: Allison Abel shares tips on publishing your own e-book. I’m collecting data and ideas for a possible mini-book on quantifying life and changing behavior, so I’ll want to come back to this post and other tips on this topic.

Spending money well: Jason Chen points out that you may want to spend your money where you spend your time. Fortunately, I track both time and money, so I can tell if my priorities line up. =) (Good laptop? Yes, worth it!)

From the feeds: Friendship, planning ahead, and crossroads

ccattrib_sharealike_trees_2006_lincolnian

One of the great things about spending time with my family is seeing them with old friends, the kind of friendships developed over decades and despite distance.

Mel Chua shares this poem by James Hayford:

Time to plant trees is when you’re young So you will have them to walk among – So aging, you can walk in shade That you and time together made. – James Hayford, "Time To Plant Trees"

Greg Wilson writes about friendship and running partners in life:

In the end, the search for that feeling is the common thread through
almost everything I’ve done. … We are none of us long in this life,
and I think we all want to believe that when we have to run our last
lap, we won’t have to run it alone. I think we all want friends to
keep pace with, day after day, while we’re alive, so that we can be
sure that someone will be out there, still running, when we’re not.

I want to enjoy and be inspired by great friendships through the decades. It’s easy to be insular, but if no man can really be an island (or at least be healthy doing so), I might at least be a peninsula. =)

Speaking of planning ahead, Trent (The Simple Dollar) has great advice on what to do at life’s crossroads. Living a frugal life and keeping expenses down means that we can take more risks, yay.

Photo © 2006 lincolnian, Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License

From the feeds: Selling benefits, not features; caramel apples; graphic novels for kids

ccattrib_sharealike_2009_llstalteri

Elizabeth Sandberg’s story about a savvy pie pumpkin seller reminds me of the advice to sell benefits, not features.

She wasn’t actually selling pumpkins. She was selling the only remaining ingredient I needed for an easy, award winning recipe — two pie pumpkins. She was selling me what I came to the farmers market for — not individual produce items, but a delicious meal.

Speaking of food, Laura Grace Weldon shares an intriguing inside-out caramel apple recipe on GeekMom. I like the occasional caramel apple, but the store-bought ones are enormous, and we’re slowly phasing out sweets and desserts. This might still sneak into one of our experimental kitchen days, though.

Another GeekMom find: Amy Craft recommends graphic novels geared towards kids. J- likes graphic novels, and has been working her way through the Toronto Public Library’s manga collection.

Enjoy!

Photo of pumpkins © 2010 llstalteri, Creative Commons Attribution License

From the feeds: Writing, more writing, journalism, and automation

Seth Godin shares how to get past writer’s block by pointing out people don’t get talker’s block. Write every day, even if it’s not brilliant. Low standards are useful. I’m working on writing even more – some posts for my blog, some notes for myself.

Chris Guillebeau writes about writing 300,000 words a year – a book, lots of blog posts, and assorted articles. Writing 1,000 words a day is a great way to use time. I’d like to get better at organizing this stream of ideas, too.

Jonathan Stray shares a computational journalism reading list. I’m interested in analytics, visualization, and using data to help tell stories. The new breeds of journalists are too. Yay!

Lifehacker features the AutoKey text expansion tool for Linux. AutoHotKey for Windows (a different tool) has become one of my favourite ways to automate everything from text shortcuts to transferring information to slides using a template. It boggles me that a similarly geeky tool has not yet become popular on Linux. AutoKey looks interesting. Does anyone know of anything better?

Lots of interesting posts turn up in my feedreader. I’m thinking of sharing highlights weekly so that I nudge myself to go back and review them, see what I’ve done with the information, and share the ideas with you.

From the feeds: Ramen, personal assistants, productivity, co-schooling, and being yourself

  • Ever since we realized that instant noodles are a great way to get through lots of vegetables from our community-supported agriculture box, I haven’t made a regular salad. It’s all about the Nongshim udon piled high with shredded rapini and other leafy greens, sliced onions and radishes, and (if we haven’t used up our egg quota yet) one or two soft-boiled eggs. Ramen love is rampant on the net. Patricia of Baon Ko Bento writes about stir-fried instant ramen. Gizmodo(!) shares suggestions on things you can add to ramen, Serious Eats shares ramen hacks, and Seattle Weekly gives you ideas for every meal of the day. I haven’t tried the other recipes yet, but I’m tempted to. (Hat-tip to Lifehacker for the other links.)
  • Fluent in 3 Months shares how a personal assistant can make travelling much easier. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone sort out local arrangements for you? For our trip to the Philippines, everything was sorted out by my family (my sister’s awesome at planning trips), but I might take advantage of this idea if we travel anywhere else.
  • Matthew Cornell shares 24 productivity experiments he tried. I’m fascinated by the way people measure and improve their lives. Thoughts on his experiments:
    • Two-by-two charting: I should try this. Tasks? Interests?
    • Daily planning: Might be good for getting back into the hang of using Org as a planner, not just as a notebook.
    • Estimated versus actual completion times: I’m getting pretty good at this when it comes to work. Maybe I’ll extend it to personal tasks, too.
    • Task input/output: That’s a nifty idea. Work is fine (burndown charts, etc). I wonder how I can track that in my personal life, too.
    • E-mail: I’ve gotten much more responsive when it comes to social e-mail. I think it was a matter of setting aside 15 minutes each day to manage my personal mailbox.

    If you like these kinds of experiments, check out Quantified Self. There are meetup groups around the world – great for show and tell, and great for inspiration.

  • Tracy Kenny (Talecatcher) shares stories about home-schooling and co-schooling. J- goes to school, but that doesn’t mean learning stops there. We help her with homework, we sneak learning into everyday conversations, and we host study groups so she and her friends can get extra practice with math or other subjects.
  • Cate Huston shares her talk on being yourself on the Internet. From time to time, people ask me about personal brands and blogging. I tell people to focus on being themselves and becoming better. Cate does too, but she illustrates her talk with XKCD comics, so I think the end result is funnier.

Lots of interesting posts turn up in my feedreader. I’m thinking of sharing highlights weekly so that I nudge myself to go back and review them, see what I’ve done with the information, and share the ideas with you. Working through my backlog!