How to Use OlyBlog

This book offers technical advice about how to do things on OlyBlog. It's a collaborative project; if you've got questions you'd like answered (or if you need help using the blog), please email Thad Curtz. If you know how to do something that you think other people might like to do, feel free to add a page about that to this book. (Unfortunately, comments on a book page like this or new child pages added to this book with the link below do not seem to show up in the Recent Posts list; you need to do a separate post announcing them if you want people to know about them ...

If you think you can improve an advice page that's already been written, please feel free to add your comments and advice. Please don't just change what somebody else has said, at least not for now; let's see how just adding comments, suggestions and corrections works for a while.

1. How to post on OlyBlog

You have to be registered as a user - there's a link for doing that in the second paragraph of the blurb about that's in the gray right sidebar on the right of each page. Since the moderators eventually got worn out by the rising tide of ever more sophisticated spam software, you now need to email Thad at the address there to get your account activated.

Then you can log in with your new user id and password. You click on the link labeled "create content" in the left menu, and get a page that offers you several choices about which kind of post you want to create. If you want it to be on the home page, it should be a story or an event. (The titles of event posts appear on the calendar and have to have a date and time.) Your blog posts will appear one after another in your section of the blog, and they will show up in the list of recent posts, but a blog post won't be displayed on the front page (unless you use the pull-down "Publishing options" menu at the very end of the edit page and check the "Promoted to front page" box). Please don't post new stuff by adding comments to this page about how to use the website - unless you want to comment about what this page says.

When you click on the post you want to create, you should get a page where you can type your post - you put the title in the Title field, and what you want to say in the Body field, and then click the Submit button at the bottom of the page. If you need to change something, you can click the Edit button, make your changes, and then click Submit again - as many times as you like, provided no one has commented on your post yet. Once that happens, it's permanent, and if you want to revise it further, you just have to make another comment on your post yourself...


1.1 Deleting one of your posts

You should be able to delete one of your own posts. You should also be able to delete one of your comments - unless somebody has replied to it. After that, you can't delete it (though I think you can still edit it, erase the message, and put something like "Message deleted" into it). As far as I know, this is how the software is written, not something that can be adjusted in the settings somewhere.

If you created your post as a story, it should have an Edit tab at the top when you are looking at it (assuming that you are still logged in...) If you click on that Edit tab and then scroll all the way down the new edit screen you'll get, past the window that shows your post and lets you edit it, there should be a Delete button at the bottom.

If you created your post as a blog entry, and put it on the front page by checking the "Promote to Front Page" option in the "Publishing Options" menu, there will not be an Edit button if you are looking at it on the front page. (In that case, the front page just shows a view of your real post, which is actually in your blog area. To edit it, you need to click on the title front page copy to switch to the original in your blog area. That should have an Edit button.)

If you want it to be easy to look at all your posts together on one page, you should do them as blog posts, and promote them to the front page when you create them. If you don't care about that, just do them as stories or events (if you want them in the calendar). The "Promote to Front Page" check box is in the "Publishing Options" menu, which is the last item in the list under the box where you type in your post, just above the Submit button.

1.2 Why one of your posts didn't appear for hours...

Or - some notes on how to stay out of the spam queue.

Sometimes, when a comment is posted, it doesn't appear - or not for hours, anyway. It's a puzzling and frustrating experience. If you have been posting successfully already, this is usually because of OlyBlog's spam filter - a web service called Akismet, engaged in an endless co-evolutionary struggle between its mechanisms for sorting spam out of the millions of messages it filters every day and the invention of new clever ways to evade those mechanisms by spammers.

Several times a day, when Akismet can't confidently categorize an OlyBlog message as spam or ham, bogus or real, it puts it in the site's spam queue until one of the people who has volunteered to look at them logs on, checks them out, and decides whether to post it or delete it. It can be a while until that happens, so a post can mysteriously fail to appear and then show up hours later.

For example:

As you can see, if you don't like waiting in the spanm queue, some small changes in how you post can help you avoid this trouble, and reduce the workload of the volunteers who look at what Akismet can't decide about. (I'm adding this post to the collection of tips in the "How To Use OlyBlog" section.)


1.3 Spell Checking

In case you ever wished for one - there is a spell checker for your posts on OlyBlog, although it isn't as convenient as it might be. If you click the little link that says "Disable rich-text" below the editing window, it switches to a different view of your post. That view shows all the HTML tags in between brackets like <....>, which can be rather messy, but it also underlines any words that fail the spell checker in red. It seems to work quite well, and it updates dynamically, so if you change the word to the correct spelling the red underlining vanishes. (Sometimes this takes me a little trial and error with words I'm weak on...)

You just click the link again to get back to the regular rich text editor.

2. Should I "Enable Rich Text"?

I try to remember to type anything that might be long or complicated into a simple word processor and then paste it into the Body window when I want to post, just so I don't have to start over if I go to some other page and lose what I was typing by accident. By simple, I mean something like WordPad or Text-Edit; if the word processor's set to use curvy quotation marks and asterisks instead of simple straight ones, for example, they'll show up as weird symbols on some people's machines.

Every Body window, where you can type what you actually want to say, has a link underneath labeled "enable rich text". If you click on that, you get a little menu with buttons above the window; they let you format what you're writing by adding italics, creating links, inserting pictures, and so on. If you pause the cursor above each button, a little label that tells you what it does shows up. Usually, you use the button by selecting some piece of text and then clicking the button to format it in one way or another. If this sounds good to you, I'd suggest enabling rich text, typing in a few lines of "The quick fox jumped over the lazy dog," and just fooling around trying out buttons and getting a sense of what they do. It will be more fun than trying to learn it while you're actually trying to say things too.

Enabling rich text lets you do a number of things just by clicking buttons, which is nice, but it doesn't always do what you want it to, which is not nice. (As far as I know, for example, you can only get single spacing in your rich text posts by holding down another key - Shift on my Mac - while you hit the return key.) And the rich text editor adds a lot of hypertext markup language (HTML) tags to your text which look like gobbledygook to you if you're just getting started blogging and you try to edit the text afterwards.

Tastes vary, but you might find it easier to just type and add your own tags. You put <p> at the beginning of each paragraph, and </p> at the end of each paragraph. You put <br /> wherever you'd like a carriage return. You put <em> at the beginning of what you'd like italicized and </em> at the end of it. That may well be enough to let you say what you'd like to say for quite a while, and it will mean that when you try editing something, it will look like what you were just typing, instead of having a lot of other mysterious tags in it.

3. Adding a link to your posts

You might want to put a link in an entry you're writing, so people can click on the link and go look at something else on the web. First, you need its address on the Internet, its URL or Uniform Resource Locator. Go to the page that you'd like to send people to, select all the text in the little window at the top of your web browser that shows the URL of the page you're looking at, and then copy it so you can paste it where you want it (in a minute)... (You copy it by dragging the mouse over it or triple clicking in the window to select the address, and then using Copy on the Edit menu, or Command-C on a Mac, or Control-C on a PC to save it temporarily.)

If you're tagging yourself:

You type <a href="[And then you paste the address that you want the link to send people to in here]">[And then you type the text that you want to actually have highlighted in your text for people to click on in here]</a>

So what I actually typed to produce this sample link set up to send you to OlyBlog's home page looks like this:

<a href="">samplelink</a>

If you care, href stands for hypertext reference, and the <a .....> at the beginning and the </a> at the end mark the beginning and end of the anchor tag that you're putting around the text in the middle, the text that actually shows in your post. (I think it's called that because it anchors or links one place on the web to another place.)

If you've enabled rich text:

You type the text that you want to have underlined and working as a link when people click on it, and then select that text. The little chain icon for creating a link will stop being greyed out, and then you can click on it and get a little window labeled "Insert/edit link." Put the cursor in the field labeled "Link URL" and paste in the address that you copied a minute ago, the one from the page that you want to send people to. (The little Target menu lets you have the link open that page in a new window, which people have to close if they want to get back to your post, or in the same window, in which case they have to use the Back button to return to your post.) You don't have to put anything in the Title field; if you put something there it will show up in a little tooltip label if a user hovers the cursor over that link in your post. Click Insert, and the editor should add the anchor tags around the text that you had selected.


If you're using the rich text editor, you can change the link by selecting it in you post and clicking the link icon again. You get the same window, but you can paste in the address again if you didn't get it copied right the first time, or change the title or how the window behaves, and then click Update to revise the tagging in your post.

If you're tagging yourself and the link doesn't appear at all or garbage bits of your tag appear too it's because you've got a typo in your entry somewhere. You left out one of the quotation marks, or one of the brackets, etc. Don't despair - sometimes you have to stare at it several times and curse a little before you figure out what you left out or put in that's not kosher. If it takes you to the wrong page, your URL address is wrong, usually because you didn't have the whole address selected when you copied it.

4. Adding an image to a post

To get a picture into your post, you can click the little tree picture icon in the toolbar of the rich text editor. That gets you a little dialog window that says "Insert/edit image" at the top, and in the top right corner of that there's an icon that looks very vaguely like a little computer window with six tiny blobs of color that are supposed to be images. Click on that icon, and it gives you a second window that says "File Browser" at the top. That window has a button at the top left labeled Upload. Click that to open yet another window where  you click the "Browse" button to use the regular file dialog system on your computer to select the image file you want by clicking on it and clicking Open to choose it. Then you click the Upload button at the bottom of that window (right next to the Browse button) to actually ship the image to the blog. (There's a size limit, but it's large enough so I don't normally think about it. It's nice if your image is 600 pixels wide or less so it fits in the column, but the software will now resize big images automatically.)

The image you uploaded should appear in a list showing the files in your personal upload directory, and then you just click on the filename that you want and click "Insert" at the top of the "Insert/edit" window.

Fortunately, it's easier to do than to describe...

You can also do this with a picture that's on-line somewhere. (If the image is more than 600 pixels wide, it disturbs the formatting of the sidebars, so it's nice to keep them that size or smaller if you can.) You can put the picture on your own webspace, if you have any. (You may well have some free web space if you have high speed Internet.) Or you can open an account on some free on-line photo sharing service like Flickr or Photobucket or Picasa, upload your photo there, and then include it. (I don't use a service like this, but other users may have advice about the pros and cons of different sites?)

To display the picture that's on-line somewhere as part of your post, you need the actual address of the photo itself - not just the page it's on. If you have rich text turned off, you just put <img src="http://yourphotoaddress..."> in where you'd like it displayed. (If it's a small photo, you can add align="left" or align="right" to get it to stay on one side or the other of your post.)

If you have rich-text enabled, you type or paste your photo's web address into the "Image URL" field in that window. (The editor will also give you a lot of options about adding a border, moving the image around on the page, changing the amount of white space between the image and the text, etc.) Here again, playing around when you aren't trying to actually get something posted and looking at the results of various choices using Preview may be the most enjoyable way to learn about the many options the editor offers.

If the actual web address of the image itself isn't obvious, you can use the View menu on your web browser and choose Page Source. This will give you a window, and it will probably look like a mess - pages of codes and tagging. But don't despair. Use Find and search for ".jpg", then go through the window with Find Next, looking for the photo you want. If you don't have any luck, try ".gif" and ".png".

If things are simple, you'll find the <img src="....> tag that's displaying the photo you want,and the address in that will have a complete URL, starting with http://...., that you can just copy and use as is. But maybe it will only have the last bit of the address. In that case, the full address is the address of the page you started with, except that what's after the last slash needs to be replaced by the bit of address you have for your photo. Unfortunately, exactly how much of it you need to replace with your partial address can get pretty complicated... more complicated than I think I understand completely myself, actually...

Let's try a simple example, though. Use the View menu and look at Page Source for this post. If I search for .png, the first bit I get is:

<img alt="Creative Commons License" border="0" src=""/>

As the name suggests, that's the tag for the little Creative Commons icon that's displayed at the bottom left of the page. If you copy that address, open a new browser window, paste that address into the field at the top and hit Return or Enter, you should just see that image; if you do, that's the address you need to put into a <img src="....."> tag to display the image in your own post.

One more complicated example... If I search for ".jpg" the first line I get looks like:

<img width="150" align="center" src="/sites/default/files/ofs_0.jpg" alt="OFS" border=4 vspace=4 hspace=4">


Most of this is details for the browser about exactly how to display the image, but in the middle, the src="....." gives its address. You'll notice that there's no http:// at the beginning. So, we need to look at the address for the page that the image is part of. We see it's Unfortunately, if I try adding my partial address in place of the last bit of this and try going to nothing happens. One way to proceed is to keep dropping one bit from in front of your partial address and trying again, patiently. So, I try Nothing. Nothing. However, when I get to - Bingo! There's my picture, all by itself, and that's the address that I can use to put it into my post.

5. Adding a YouTube video to your posts

Many YouTube videos have a little box on the right that says "URL" and "Embed". If you select all the text in the Embed box, turn off rich-text editing, and paste that text into your post, it should display and play the video.

On Google video, there's a link with "+Video" in the box on the top right of the page - if you click that a window opens up with similar code you can copy and paste to embed the video.

If you want to do this with some other video you found on the web, you need to understand more about what's going on. You might start by going to YouTube, copying both the "URL" information and the "Embed" information and pasting them into a word processor. If you look at them for a minute, you'll see that the "URL" information is the same as what's in the address window of your browser when you are playing the video. If you look carefully at the Embed information, you'll find that URL information twice in it, but slightly altered. (The ?v= in the address window has been changed to /v/ and &hl=en&fs=1 has been added to the very end.) If you get to where you can play the other video, copy the URL information from the address window in your browser, replace the URL info in your sample of the embed tags from YouTube with the new URL info, check for those two alterations, and then paste the revised code into your post, it might work...

If you want or need to know more, I think you'll probably need to Google something like "embed video html" without the quotes. You'll get lots of tutorials about these tags and what each piece of them does. There are a lot of ways to do this, and some complications about what works or doesn't work with different browsers, though...


6. What's a "book"?

A pretty confusing label. A "book" is just a section of OlyBlog like this one you're looking at; on OlyBlog, "Books" are collections of posts set up so other people can add entries to the collection, edit what's there, move things around, etc.

OlyBlog inherited this confusing term from Drupal, the open source content management software that keeps track of and displays all the content for the blog.


7. Big pink warning

Everybody gets a big pink warning box every so often when they try to post. It comes from the database that the blog uses to store amd keep track of all the content, including your new post. It looks grisly.

For starters, try just ignoring it. If it showed up when you clicked the Preview button, but your post looks OK to you as it's displayed in the preview page, just go ahead and click Submit. If you click the Submit button and the pink warning box shows up, do something else for a couple of minutes and then go see if your post actually ended up where it was supposed to. In my experience, things seem to actually work, even when some version of this warning appears.



So you're composing an event notice on OlyBlog ...

... and you notice that although you have chosen pm for the time, when you preview your post the time has reset itself as am. What should you do?

Go ahead and post. If you've chosen pm as the time, it will publish as pm.

I came across the preview am/pm glitch and decided to post my event instead as a blog post. I also msged Thad and he explained, thanks Thad!

Got questions? If you don't see answers in How to Use OlyBlog - please do ask. Got some technical advice yourself? Please add to the collaborative project.


Posting Recurring Events

I've done some more work on how OlyBlog handles events, in order to let people enter repeating events and get them to display properly on the calendar. (If you don't care about posting recurring events, stop right here and go back to surfing the web. You don't need to know anything more about this, and you don't want to. Believe me...)

Repeating events will now display properly in the calendar. There are a fair number of options about how much of the information about repeating dates OlyBlog's software will automatically display at the beginning of your Event post. Right now, I've set it up to only display the date and time for the first event in a repeating series. (There is also a tab labeled "Repeats" that readers can use to show them all.) Given this setup, your own text should probably include something about how the event repeats, like "This workshop will meet Monday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 for six weeks in a row, starting April 17th." If this setup doesn't seem good, you can comment with suggestions or send me a message.

When you create an Event post, you'll now see an item called "Repeat" right under the fields for the "From date" and the "To date." You put the date and the starting and ending time for the first event in your sequence into those two fields - say from March 17, at 8:00 pm to March 17th at 9:15 pm. If you click on "Repeat" you'll now get a menu of options.

You have to select something in the "Frequency" and "Period" menus, or you won't get a repeat at all. This is pretty straightforward if your event repeats every week, or every two weeks, or every month. You just choose the obvious options on these menus and put the date to stop repeating in the next box. (Note that it won't include the stop date in the repetitions, so if your last event is September 14th, you want September 15th in that box.)

Suppose your show runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for six weeks, though... You still need to have "Every" and "Week" chosen in the "Frequency" and "Period" menus. However, then you use the "Advanced" menu to choose the days of the week that you want included from the "Every Week" set you're beginning with. (To get multiple days selected on that menu with my Mac using Firefox I hold down the Command key while I click the days I want. Your mileage may vary...) Beyond that, you can use "Except" to exclude particular dates from the results of your rules, or use "Additional" to add particular dates that your rule doesn't cover.