Blogging 352: Adding an Email Subscription Form to Your Blog

Here’s an RAQ from Katie M:

I am currently using for a few blogs. I am setting up for some doctors and another blog for another pilot program … so doctors can learn from each other…I am wanting to have the similar option that you have for subscribing, that is via e-mail. How do I go about doing this?

The answer is pretty straightforward.

I recommend that you use Feedburner to replace your blog’s RSS feed with one that gives you more features, particularly better tracking. Feedburner is free, and among its built-in benefits is the ability to let your readers subscribe by email.

Here’s how you can add a subscription form to a sidebar widget on your blog, assuming you have set up a Feedburner account and “burned” your feed.

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RAQ: Can I keep my username from showing on a blog post?

SMUGgle Pam Larson, who is starting a new blog as one of her projects for 2009 (and who also lives across the street from Old Main), sent me a text message this morning with the following question:

If I don’t want my user name to show up under each post, can I delete that line? I can’t find that option.

As I see it, there are three potential ways to accomplish this. The first is easy. The other two aren’t. And this points to a new phase of learning I’m beginning as your Chancellor.

Solution #1: Pick a different theme

I was surprised when I helped my parents start a blog with some of their locally politically active friends, that when they wrote some posts the usernames weren’t published. They had picked the “Cutline” theme by Chris Pearson from among the free choices on

So switching themes would be the quickest and easiest way to accomplish this goal. But Pam likes her current theme, so it doesn’t solve her problem.

Solution #2: Edit CSS

This is a paid upgrade option on that lets you tailor the look of your blog. It costs $15 a year. The best part is you can experiment with CSS and learn how to use it, and preview the changes, before you have to pay. Then, when you pay for the upgrade, your changes become visible to the world.

You need to know about CSS to use this productively, but the good news is that has a CSS customization forum where you can learn. I think I’ll spend some time playing with this.

But because editing CSS doesn’t allow you to edit the underlying theme, I have a feeling this still won’t solve Pam’s problem, unless she were to switch to the Sandbox theme and try to rebuild her blog’s look from scratch. I won’t really know that until after I’ve played with CSS for a while.

Solution #3: Self-Hosted Blog

This is the most complicated option, but it gives you the most control over the final look and feel of your blog. It also requires that you rent server space and install the free WordPress software on it (from As the next step in my social media learning (and to help me write some 300-level courses), I’m planning to move SMUG a self-hosted platform in 2009. More on that in a future post.


It doesn’t appear that there is an easy answer for Pam’s question, that would let her keep the look she likes. Option 1 gets rid of the username but by changing the theme, Option 2 probably doesn’t solve the problem (and requires substantial work) and Option 3 could definitely work, but would cost more and take more work.

If any other SMUGgles have a better solution, please chime in and let us all learn from you!

Twitter 111: Twitter Badge on – Showing Tweets

In response to this post about how you can put a “Follow Me” Twitter badge on your blog, budgallant says:

that’s interesting, but definitely not at alternative to actually displaying the twitter updates…. what is up with wordpress? do they have a bias against twitter?

It’s not an anti-Twitter thing; it’s about stripping any javascript that you attempt to paste into one of its widgets. They say it’s a security measure, and I’ll take them at their word. I suppose if you have several million blogs on one server domain, you don’t want one with malicious code to bring the whole platform down. So the easy way out is to not allow anything but straight HTML in sidebar widgets.

Thankfully, there is a way around the problem, that lets you both have a badge people can click to follow you, and also display your latest Tweets.


You do the first part by following the instructions I had in the previous post.

Putting the latest Tweets in is actually easier, because Twitter provides an RSS feed that you can pull into an RSS widget in

Continue reading “Twitter 111: Twitter Badge on – Showing Tweets”

Changing RSS Feed Address in iTunes Podcast Directory?

I ordinarily would have just tweeted about this, but it’s a little longer than what I can explain in 140 characters. I hope the SMUG community (and the broader world of what Shel Israel calls Twitterville) can provide the answer.

We have some podcasts listed in iTunes, and would like to be able to change the feed address in the directory. We’ve switched to a better way of publishing the podcasts, and also are using Feedburner to enable us to get better statistics.

So in essence we want to be able to update our iTunes listing for these podcasts to have the new RSS feed addresses instead of the old ones. We would prefer to not have to create duplicate entries for the podcasts in iTunes, and we want to completely switch over to the new RSS feeds without losing our existing base.

We don’t see any way to do this in the iTunes directory. Is it even possible?

I had done a quick Google search with the question and got this result; no answer here, either. So I’m turning it into a SMUG research project.

Here’s my hypothesis: I’m thinking it may not be possible to update the feed in the iTunes directory because when you subscribe to a podcast feed using iTunes, what really happens is your iTunes goes to the podcast directory and grabs the feed URL. Then when you launch iTunes again, it goes directly from your computer to that feed address to look for any new episodes (without checking back to the iTunes store/directory). So even if you could update the feed in the iTunes directory, your subscribers’ desktop clients wouldn’t be notified.

Does that seem like a reasonable explanation? Does anyone really know whether that’s the answer?

Has anyone successfully migrated from an older RSS feed to a new one, in iTunes and in other directories? Do you have recommendations on how to do this?

This is a new kind of Chancellor RAQ: instead of questions for the Chancellor, these are questions from the Chancellor.

I would appreciate any answers the community can provide. And once we get the answer, hopefully we will have definitive guidance that future Googlers will find high in the rankings.

RAQ: What is the # in Twitter?

Ryan Link, a SMUGgle from Virginia, asks…

What does it mean/do when a word on Twitter is preceded by a #?

Answer: The # is called a hashtag, and is described in detail on the Twitter fan wiki.

Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service. The hash symbol is a convention borrowed primarily from IRC channels, and later from Jaiku’s channels. provides real-time tracking of Twitter hashtags. Opt-in by following @hashtags (on Twitter) to have your hashtags tracked. Similarly, Twemes offers real-time tracking without the necessity of following a specific Twitter account. Also, with their purchase of Summize, Twitter itself now offers some support of hashtags at their search engine:

See the Twitter fan wiki for more details on how to use hashtags, as well as some examples.

Hashtags are especially useful for conferences, meetings or events, to enable you (and others) to follow specific topics. During the recent election in the U.S., a special site was established that filtered all Tweets with the tags #obama, #mccain, #palin or #biden. This enabled a conversation among people who weren’t following each other. The same thing happened with the #mumbai terrorist attacks.

On a less global scale, if you have a conference or seminar and want to engage the participants (instead of having them be “the audience”) you could create a hashtag and encourage everyone to use it. It’s a great way to gather feedback from everyone in the room. Instead of standalone audience response devices, you could just ask people to tweet from their cell phones, wifi-enabled laptops, Blackberrys or iPhones.

And instead of just gathering feedback, you’re actually enabling your participants to interact with and build upon each other’s ideas. It could have an undesirable snowball effect if a tough crowd gangs up on a speaker (see this example involving Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg being interviewed at a conference), but the the positive potential also is great.

So you can be proactive and enable this kind of discussion at your meetings, and hopefully steer it in a positive direction, or you can be oblivious. I recommend the non-oblivious strategy.

Thanks for your question, Ryan.

To submit an RAQ (that’s a Recently Asked Question), just comment on any post or send me an email (see the Contact the Chancellor box at right.)

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