Keeping up with your friends blog posts.

We all like to keep tabs on all of our friends blogs and to be able to read their latest posts as soon as they are published. However, this can often mean trawling around blogging sites, or in the case of WordPress, subscribing to them and then keeping up with reading all of our subscriptions.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time a friend published a new post to their blog we could not only be informed but read it straight away on our computers?  Well you can do exactly that! Without leaving your desktop, you can see all of your friends blog updates and read their posts just as if you were online! Here’s how.

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Spaces to WordPress step by step. Using Live Writer with WordPress.

11. Setting up Live Writer with your new WordPress blog.

Quite a few Spacers like to use Live Writer for editing and publishing their blog posts. Up until now, Live Spaces was of course the default blogging platform in use in Live Writer, but now that we are all being transferred to WordPress.com, the new version of Live Writer will in future make use of WordPress as its default blogging platform instead. It works in exactly the same way with WordPress blogs as it has always done with Live Spaces, and in fact the new version of Live Writer also includes some new features for your WordPress blog which weren’t available in the older version and with Spaces as those features simply weren’t present on that platform.  So let’s begin using Live Writer with WordPress.

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From Spaces to WordPress step by step. Let’s make our move!

Step 2. Making the Move!

 

Choices on Spaces

1. In this post we are going to take the plunge and move our Spaces blog over to WordPress.com. So from the page shown on the left of this text that you can access from your Spaces page where you are offered all those different choices, click on Get started, upgrade my blog to WordPress.com which is the topmost choice offered to you on that page.

 

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Beginning Blogging 12. Social Blogging.

I think that one of the most enjoyable sides to Blogging, unless you happen to keep your blog private of course, is the socialising side of it. I have found that when compared to forming online friendships via other social network methods such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, blogging is the only way that you can feel confident that you know the person concerned and can decide whether you feel comfortable in forming an online friendship with them. Because of the more detailed information contained inside their blog posts, its easier to feel as if you actually know that person even if they live at the other side of the world from you and you will probably never meet each other in person. It would be very difficult to do this from the limited insight you can gain from a short sentence or a 140 letter comment!  So how do you find other peoples blog posts to read them and then form any online friendships on Blogger or WordPress?

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Windows Live, its not the same……..

For the last five  years Windows Live has been my home on the Internet. Its where up until recently I tended to spend most of my time when online.  I made loads of ‘friends’ on there.  Spaces friends. It was so easy to make friends  because it was one of the few sites where you had your own ‘webpage’ easily constructed just the way that you wanted it.   Then you could, via your Home page, find other users Spaces and  go and read what they had to say,  then decide if you wished to be friends with them or not. Your home page contained an absolute brilliant search feature where you could search by Gender and age for example, thereby searching for like minded folks by using lots of useful criteria.

y1pL5FiVW-WIorH_sVKz3K9XgMntmdTpNCaRtm_o3TFib9hO7sM3bi6Ctb_dqf-JfrS6YLTg_-mjOS5Qjr2o4MKJQ  You could share your photos via your Spaces page, show your favourite books, music, films and for any visitor to your Space,  it was fairly straight forward to arrive at a decision as to whether they liked what they saw and then become your friend. Not only that but your home page also showed you a ‘running’ update of NEW users Spaces as well, so you could mosey over there and make friends with them if you liked what you saw. For me and countless others,  there was no other blogging site quite like it for forming friendships and becoming a  community.

Then Wave 3 arrived. None of the changes made to the Windows Live site in Wave 3 had been asked for by the ‘bread and butter’ ordinary user. Not only that, but the whole site became a nightmare to navigate around. Users couldn’t  find their friends. Why? Because now they were referred to as your Network and  not Spaces friends as before.   Users panicked. At  that time I became very busy trying to help those on my Network who couldn’t find their way around because of the new changes. Many of my friends ended up leaving the site  because they just couldn’t get used to any of the new changes, nor did they feel the changes enhanced  the site or improved it.  

 What's new with your network feed

One of the biggest changes was the introduction of a feed on your home page called ‘What’s new with your Network’ and the  inclusion  into that feed of ‘Web Activities.’  The idea behind this was that when anyone in your Network did anything on another site such as Twitter, Digg or flickr for example, it would show in your ‘What’s new with your Network’ feed.  Since the inception of this idea, many more sites have been added including Facebook.  The big problem  with this idea is that you can’t actually react to any of these updates apart from clicking on the update which just serves to take you from the Windows Live site to the external site.  Over a period of time, this has had the increasing effect that Windows Live users have slowly drifted away to using these other sites instead of staying on Windows Live as they were doing before Wave 3.

On your home page, you could be forgiven if you didn’t realise that on Windows Live you can create a webpage of your own called a Space. Despite the fact that previously this was the ‘hub’ of most peoples usage pre Wave 3, in Wave 3  it was ‘shunted’ to the depths  of the More tab with the result that anyone new joining Windows Live will not even be aware of its existence.   To add to this, where previously you could skip from blog to blog easily and also find new people with just one click, now its an absolute nightmare to go to another users Space never mind finding any new ones.

Any updates made on the site itself such as someone posting to their blog or making a comment on someone else’s blog which used to take centre stage on your home page, now tends to get  lost in a barrage of ‘Fred Bloggs said this on twitter’ or ‘ Sid Blank stated this on Facebook’  and as your home page only displays up to 20 updates by default, you miss most updates anyway, unless you were to sit there for hours glued to your home page!  You can extend this to 50 updates from your Home page, but cannot make that the default number.

Unlike on Facebook or twitter etc, the feed updates do not let you interact with them in any way. You can’t even ‘like’ or ‘unlike’ them and you certainly can’t comment on them. They are just feed updates and the only thing you can do is click on the URL if present or the update itself, and therefore whizz off somewhere else.  Is this really the outcome that the Windows Live teams wanted to occur?  I know that I wouldn’t want to encourage my users to go elsewhere if I had a site, I would want them to stay right there.

Some more spam Then there’s the constant spam to contend with in the  comments on your blogs.  Windows Live doesn’t employ Captcha. Well, not for comments at any rate.  It employs Captcha  if you try to complain about said spam where you the innocent party in the whole affair,  have to fill one in alongside a copy of the spam message you received and  the URL of the perpetrator.  Then repeat the whole thing again in a follow up email.  If the Live teams want to see proof of the Spam perpetrators, they just have to go and look at the comments on their own Space! 

Its all very off-putting for users including me, and if I am getting fed up when I have been an avid Windows Live user and stalwart fan then it  really isn’t looking terribly positive in my book.

I know its not easy to get feedback from all of your users, especially when you are such a large corporation such as Microsoft.  Its easier to ask those users who can make their voices heard such as the MVP’s, the Information Technology people and the professionals, but obviously there is a mismatch between what they think is an essential feature for the site and what the ‘ordinary everyday’ user actually needs.  Meanwhile Windows Live is slowly bleeding its users elsewhere.

TG

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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa.round 4 continued.

Live Photo Gallery  Extras.

In this post i will  take a look at the extras that are included in Windows Live Photo Gallery. There are others available such as Auto Collage and Photosynth but at this time they are not available in Live Gallery  by default and need to be downloaded from the extras website, so in the interests of fairness I will not include them.

My favourite extra that comes as default in Photo Gallery is the Panoramic feature.  It is available to the user by clicking on the EXTRAS tab at the top of the viewing window once you have highlighted your chosen photos to make into a panoramic photo.  Of course in order to make use of this feature, you have to first of all take some suitable photographs of your subject or the inbuilt stitching process will not work.

To do this, you simply take a series of shots panning sideways as you take them. So for example, if you want to take a photograph of a particular location but it is too wide to fit into one  shot, all you need to do is take your first shot at the left or right  hand side of the vista, then move the camera across to the left or right, making sure that the second shot slightly overlaps the first one, then move across again and take another shot which overlaps the second one until you have completely included the whole of the subject.  (see the three photos below.)

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You can also take a photo of a tall building for example and in that instance move the camera from the bottom to the top of the subject (or vice versa)  in order to include it all.  Once you have loaded your photos into Live Photo Gallery, then all you do is select them, followed by clicking on the make tab in the task bar and then selecting Create a panoramic photo from the drop down list. Live photo gallery will then attempt to stitch your photos together into a panoramic shot and once it has achieved this, you can give the completed picture a name.  It can then be cropped (to exclude any rough edges) and fixed in the usual way, before being saved to your picture files. (see below the completed panoramic photo.)

Xmas shopping in York stitch

As with Picasa, you can also create a movie with your photographs, and as a fair comparison, I chose to make a movie using exactly the same photographs and music as I used in Picasa.  After selecting the particular photos, all you do is click on the Make tab and then select Make a Movie. As long as you have Live Movie Maker installed, you are then taken to the Movie Maker screen where you can then easily create your movie.  Again in the interests of fairness I have used the Auto Movie feature and not altered anything apart from the title screen  (font,background colour) and the ending screen. (font,background colour.)

You can choose to make a blog post about your chosen photos if you have Live Writer installed, or you can burn your photos to a DVD to send or give to someone else.  Live photo gallery does allow you to tag people in your photographs if it recognises that a person is included in a shot as it recognises faces , but as yet it does not ‘recognise’ a particular face once you have already tagged that person  in the same way that  Picasa does, so for example, if you have named someone in a few of your photos, it won’t then know who they are, or suggest that it is the same person.   Nor is there any way to Geotag your photos into Bing maps either. 

You can make a collage of your photos in Live photo Gallery by downloading Auto Collage, but at the moment this is not included in Photo Gallery by default. You can of course easily add more photo tools to Live Photo Gallery by downloading either Auto Collage or Photosynth directly from the Extras tab and  I hope that they will be included into Windows Live Photo Gallery in the next Wave 4 update alongside an easy to use Geotagging feature utilising the excellent Bing maps.

TG

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