29 March 2012

Useful Google Analytics Dashboard for Bloggers

Google Analytics Dashboard for Blogspot, Wordpress or any content website
I previously wrote a blog post about using Google Analytics with Blogger. So if you have become familiar with Google Analytics and you feel comfortable using it, you might want to add some better reporting tools that will help you view the stats of you blog in a more friendly way. So here is a nice dashboard that selects a few items to report on. Following this link will give you the option to add this new dashboard to your Google Analytics profile: Add Cool Blogger Dashboard

Assuming you are already logged into Google Analytics you will see a popup like the one shown below:
1. Select you blog profile (e.g. bloggerpost3.blogspot.com) then
2. Select "Create Dashboard"

You will be able to see a pretty neat dashboard that is already setup and ready to use as shown below (The screen shot below is from another blog) as I have only recently setup Google Analytics for my personal blog there wasn't enough data to make the dashboard look good:

One of the nice features of this dashboard view is that you can see the stats against the page titles as opposed to seeing the stats against an obscure URL address.

28 March 2012

Blogger Stats vs. Google Analytics - Report Very Different Values

This is follow up post on Using Google Analytics with Blogger Tutorial. I encourage everyone to use Google Analytics instead of Blogger Stats however when people make the switch the first question everyone asks is why is there such a big difference/drop in Google Analytics stats versus Blogger Stats. In particular the Blogger stats shows much larger number for page views than Google Analytics.

Before I go into details, I like to point out that Google Analytics is showing the "more" correct statistics of user activity on your blog.

The major difference in statistics between Google Analytics and Blogger Stats comes from the method they use to track page views and visitors. Google Analytics uses a more accurate method by setting a cookie on the user's browser which means the user is most likely to be a real user as opposed to an automate computer program.
There are many automated computer programs that visit your blogs on regular basis(known as bots) that fetch your content in order to create an index for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google Analytics will not recognize these as valid visits whereas Blogger Stats counts each one of these as a valid visit. Aside from search engines viewing your blog there are many other automated programs that are designed for spamming and email harvesting that visit your blog. These visits are added up to your Blogger Stats, therefore inflating your ego visitor numbers.

If you have previously used solutions other than Blogger Stats, other factors can contribute to a difference in numbers such as their use of third party images or third party cookies. Some statistic-collection websites place a small image on your blog such as a counter or their logo or even a transparent image. Every time that image is loaded a "hit" or "page view" is recorded on their servers. Whereas Google Analytics only counts a "visit" to the same page if it's not within the same 30 minutes.

It's also worth knowing that some security programs such as firewalls and anti-viruses change the settings of your browser to stop these third party images from loading which means even more incorrect statistics are recorded.

Also, it is worth pointing out that Blogger Stats will record your visits to your own blog. So disabling this feature is a great help toward getting more consistent statistics across Blogger Stats and Google Analytics, even though Google Analytics also records your visits to your own blog. You can find the procedure on how to disable tracking your own visits to your blog below however since the country code domain name changes have gone live, disabling tracking will not be as accurate as it was before the top level domain name changes.

You can find more information on this topic via the Google Help pages.

Stop Tracking your own views
For bloggers that have very popular blogs, it will not make a noticeable difference whether you track your own visits to your blog or not. However if your blog doesn't get that many views then your own visits could account for a large portion of page views on your blog. Hence it is important to stop tracking your own views in Blogger Stats. So:

1. Go to your Blog dashboard
2. Click on "Stats" (Overview)
3. Click on "Don't track your own pageviews" as shown in the screenshot below

4. You will be presented with a popup, select the "Don't track my pageviews" option.

5. Click "Save"

and you're done!

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27 March 2012

Blogger Service Unavailable Error 503 after top level domain name changes (country code extensions)

I previously wrote about how Google Blogger has changed top level domain names (country codes) for censorship purposes. After these recent changes to Bloggers' country code domains, I have experienced a lot of 503 Server Errors. The changes to the country domain name extension coincided with other changes rolled out by Blogger such as Search Preferences for SEO optimization. So it is not clear where the 503 errors stem from but it appears that other users/bloggers are experiencing the same problem.

If you have seen this error please leave a comment so that I know, I am not the only one!
Blogger Error 503 Service Unavailable
HTTP 503 Service Unavailable Error means the server is currently unavailable (because it is overloaded or down for maintenance). Generally, this is a temporary state.

Here is the HTML code returned by the Blogger servers:
<HTML><HEAD><TITLE>Service Unavailable</TITLE></HEAD><BODY BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF" TEXT="#000000"><H1>Service Unavailable</H1><H2>Error 503</H2></BODY></HTML> 

It's interesting to see the error pages served by Blogger servers do not comply to HTML 4 standards.

24 March 2012

Guide to YouTube Captions (Subtitles) and Transcripts Tutorial

If you have viewed videos on YouTube you have probably noticed a small icon marked as "cc" in the bottom bar of the video player(See the image below)

If video owners upload captions(subtitles) for their videos, you will be able to select from a range subtitles based on language or whatever variation of subtitles(captions) the video owner provided. However for most videos on YouTube, nobody uploads the subtitles so YouTube has a voice recognition software that attempts to provide subtitles for English spoken videos. I must point out that although the automatic speech to text feature is technologically impressive, it is not adequate from a user's perspective.

Creating subtitle files is a fairly time consuming process, however creating a transcript is much less work. Because you don't need to set start/stop times for each piece of text which you would need to do for subtitles. So if you have a transcript of your video you can upload it for your video and not only will YouTube provide an interactive transcript of your video(accessible via an icon below your video) but the automatic speech recognition software by YouTube will use this same transcript for the subtitle captions. So the subtitle captions will be 100% accurate. YouTube does a very good job at matching the transcript to the audio so the timing of subtitles appearing on your video will be in sync with the audio itself.

Transcript Toggle: shows the transcript as video is playing.
There might be very rare occasions where the timing of the audio and a subtitle caption is not perfect, however this can easily be fixed. All you need to do is follow the steps below (This guide assumes you have uploaded your transcript file otherwise there will be an auto-generated one which will be fine as well):

1. Go to your video.
2. Click the "Edit captions/subtitles" link above your video (this will take you to another page)

3. Click on your caption link which will be something like "English - your transcript name" (this will take you to another page)

4. In the bottom right corner of this page you will see a button which says "Download" click this button to download the "caption/subtitle" file. (Note: you never uploaded a subtitle/caption file, YouTube create this file from your transcript file) save this file on your computer.

5. Open the download file using Notepad or your favorite text editor.

6. You will see that each line of text has two sets of times above it, these times indicate at what point in your video the subtitle will appear and at what point it will disappear. Change the times to match your video.

Here is an example:
0:00:01.000,0:00:05.200Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
7. Bring back your browser now and click on the link "Return to All Tracks

8. Click the "Add new captions or transcripts" button

9. Choose the subtitle file.

10. Make sure the option selected is "Caption file(includes time codes)" this is the default option so you shouldn't need to change anything here.

11. Select a name for the captions. I usually call it "subtitles (captions)" because when your video starts it will show the language name of your subtitles with this text appended to it for about 2 seconds.

12. Click "Upload file"

and you're done.

Assuming you have a transcript for your video, this is by far the easiest method for providing subtitles/captions for your videos. If you don't have a transcript for your video you can download the auto generated captions then edit them and upload the new file to fix any errors that YouTube had produced.

Here is an example video that I created:

Applications for Subtitling / Captioning your YouTube Videos
Alternatives to the above method exist in the form of software that look like video editing applications. Using this software you will need to play the video then pause it, type in a sentence for the caption and set when it should disappear. I have tried a few of such applications and I can tell you they are all really time consuming. But if you would like to try one these application, here are a few:

Online Captioning Websites:
Desktop Applications

Tools and approaches aside, here are some usability guidelines for creating subtitles: http://www.dcmp.org/ciy/

You might also find these YouTube help files useful:

Uploading YouTube Transcript File Tutorial

Just in case anyone has problems with this, I made this small addition to the how-to guide for uploading a transcript file. Here are the steps:
  1. Go to your video
  2. Click the "Edit captions/subtitles" link above your video (this will take you to another page)
  3. Click the "Add new captions or transcripts" button
  4. Choose your transcript file
  5. Select the option "Transcript file"
  6. Select a name for the Transcript
  7. Click "Upload file"

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Integrate Facebook Comments for Blogger Tutorial

Display Facebook comments on your blog and let Facebook users comment on your blog without signing up for Blogger or other services.

This tutorial assumes that you have a Facebook account and a Blogger account with a blog.

1. First you need to create a Facebook App for your blog. In order to do this go to https://developers.facebook.com/apps 

2. In the top right of your screen click on the "+ Create New App" button as shown in the screen shot below:
3. You will be presented with the screen below in which you need to choose:
  • A name for your app which can be anything you like; I have chosen "JT Blog Comments"
  • A namespace for your app this can be anything you like as well but it must be in all lower case letters without any spaces. Don't worry about what these attributes do, but just know that they are necessary for any Facebook App.
  • Do NOT tick the web hosting option. This is not necessary for our comment application.
Once you have entered all the details click "Continue"

4. You will then be asked to pass the "captcha" test. i.e. type in the letters in the image in order for Facebook to verify that you are a human and not a spamming computer program. Enter the correct letters or numbers the click "Submit".

4.a) If you have not setup your Facebook account with a mobile phone number you will see the message below. If you don't see the message below skip to step 5 (that means you have already setup your account with a mobile telephone). For those of you - such as myself - who come across this message, click on the link in the red box which says "mobile phone".

4.b) You will then see the screen below;

  • Select your country
  • Enter your mobile phone number
  • Then click the "Confirm" button

4.c) You will be taken to the page below and at the same time receive a text message(SMS) on your mobile phone. Enter the code from the SMS you received on your mobile phone in the box and click "Confirm"

4.d) You will then see a success message as shown below stating that your account has been verified. Close this page and go back to where you left off when you came across the popup at step (4.a).

4.e) Follow instructions in step 3 again.

4.f) Follow only the first part of step 4 which is only entering the skewed text displayed in the image. Then jump to step 5.

5. You will see the page displayed below;

  • Make a note of your App ID or copy it
  • Where is says "App Domain" enter "blogspot.com". (If you host your blog on your own domain name then enter your domain name here)
  • In the "Website" section where it says "Site URL" enter the address of your blog e.g. "http://bloggerpost3.blogspot.com"
  • Click "Save Changes"

6. After saving the changes to your Facebook app, you will see a confirmation message in a yellow box at the top of the webpage.

Now your Facebook App is ready. Just make a copy of the App ID as you will need this number when integrating the Facebook comment application into your blog.

7. Change the code below by replacing FACEBOOK-APP-ID with your Facebook App ID number which  you copied at step 5.
<meta content="FACEBOOK-APP-ID" property="fb:app_id" />
So my modified code looks like this: 
<meta content="336995009681830" property="fb:app_id" />
8. Go to your blog dashboard on Blogger.com; Select "Template" then click on "Edit HTML" as highlighted in the screenshot below:

9. You will receive a popup with a few options. Click on the "Proceed" button as shown below:

10. You will then see the code in your template. Try to locate the <head> tag as shown in the screen below:

11. Just below the <head> tag paste your modified code from step 7. Here is how my code looked like after this change:

12. Click "Save Template"

13. Now you need to add some more code to your template (this is the actual code for the Facebook comment section below your blog posts). Go to you blogger dashboard for your blog then select "Template" > "Edit HTML" > "Proceed" to view your HTML code (i.e. follow steps 8 and 9)

Update 21/04/2013: Since 11th of April 2013 step 14 is no longer necessary. This check-box has been removed and instead each widget can be expanded using an arrow to the left of it. Also there is a drop down menu at the top of the editor which allows you to select the widget that you want to scroll to in one click.
14. Tick the "Expand Widget Templates" checkbox as shown below:

15. Find the code below in your template code using Ctrl-F shortcut and paste the code into the search box.  Warning: Do NOT try to type the text below as your web browser could freeze.
<div class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-3'>
The screenshot below shows how it would look:

If you were able to find the tag that you searched for jump to step 16.

15.a) Depending on the blogger template that you are using it is possible that the above search fails. In that case search for this tag:
<p class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-3'> 
15.b) if the search at step 15.a failed then search for the following tag:
16. Paste the code below immediately after the tag you found at step 15(or 15.a xor 15.b)
<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == "item"'> <div id="fb-root"></div> <script>(function(d){ var js, id = 'facebook-jssdk'; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement('script'); js.id = id; js.async = true; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; d.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(js); }(document));</script> <fb:comments width='450' colorscheme='light' expr:title='data:post.title' expr:href='data:post.canonicalUrl' expr:xid='data:post.id'/> </b:if>
So the resulting code would look like this:
Optional: To change the width of your comment box in the code above change width="450" to whatever you see suitable for your blog.

Optional: To change the color scheme of your comment box you can change the word "light" to "dark" for the attribute colorscheme='light' which gives you the two coloring schemes available for Facebook comment boxes.

17. You now need to add the Facebook Namespace declaration in your code. If you go the top of your code you will see a tag as <html as shown below:

You need to add the code below right after the <html tag
So it would look like this instead: 
<html xmlns:fb="https://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml"
Here is a screen shot of the code after the change:
Note: The namespace added in the code above is used for all Facebook widgets and apps. So you only need to add this into your code once, regardless of how many different FBML widgets you use.

18. Click "Save Template"

19. Click "Close"

20. Enjoy!

Moderating comments, Administration options and housekeeping
Visit this URL http://developers.facebook.com/tools/comments in order to view all the posted comments on your blog. This is the screen you will see:

If you click the "Settings" link on the above page you will be presented with a few options that are self explanatory such as adding Moderators for your blog or allowing users with different logins to leave comments(e.g. Yahoo or Hotmail logins). Here is a screenshot of the settings page:

Removing Blogger Comments
Although I would not recommend to anyone that they remove blogger's default commenting feature, if you choose to do so you can easily hide or show it from your blogs dashboard by going to

  1. Settings 
  2. Posts and comments 
  3. Comment Location then select "Hide"
  4. Make sure to click "Save Settings"

If the screenshots are too small to read, you can click on them to enlarge them.

If you run into any problems, let me know in the comments' sectio.

UPDATE (17/01/2013)

Adding a Facebook Comment Section For Stand Alone Pages on Blogger

If you have a stand alone page then the above procedure for adding Facebook comments will not work as the above approach only applies for blog posts and not "pages". So in order to obtain the Facebook comment section on stand alone pages you need to follow the steps below in addition to the above steps. (Note that the steps below need to be repeated for every single page whereas the above guide which only includes blog posts will cover all your blog posts. Note 2; blog posts and blog pages are two different things)

1. Go to your page then select "Edit" as shown in the screen shot below:

2. Once you go through to the edit page, look at the URL in the address bar at the top of your browser. You will see an address similar to this:


3. Make a note of the last number from the URL address. (This will be unique to your own page so don't copy the number I have shown here.) In my example the number is 1979633926023450196.

4. Click on the "HTML" tab as shown on the screen shot below:

5. Now you will see the HTML code behind your page. Go to the bottom of this code and "Cope & Paste" the following text:

<div id="fb-root">
<script>(function(d){ var js, id = 'facebook-jssdk'; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement('script'); js.id = id; js.async = true; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; d.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(js); }(document));</script> <fb:comments colorscheme="light" href="http://bloggerpost3.blogspot.com/p/jenson.html" title="Blog" width="450" xid="1979633926023450196"></fb:comments>

6. The above code is an example used for one my blog pages so you have to change 3 parts that are highlighted (in red) in the above code to suit your own blog page.
6.a. The URL of your blog page. (In my example it's http://bloggerpost3.blogspot.com/p/jenson.html)
6.b. The title of your page. (In my example it's Blog)
6.c. The page id of your page. This is the number that you made note of in step 3. (In my example it's 1979633926023450196)

7. After you have entered the code in your page it should look like the below screen shot so just press update and your page should be ready for facebook comments.

If the screenshots are too small to read, you can click on them to enlarge them.

If you run into any problems, let me know in the Facebook comments' section ;)

23 March 2012

Blogger Changes Top Level Domain Names for Censorship Purposes - .com to .co.uk

If you're a regular blogger you have probably noticed that Blogger has changed its top level domain name based on the country in which a blog is viewed from. It appears that this feature is based on the location of the visitor and not the Blog authors themselves.

Before these changes my blog url was: jensontaylor.blogspot.com
After the recent Blogger changes, my blog address is: jensontaylor.blogspot.co.uk

My blog always ended in .com however it has now changed to .co.uk. I have noticed the same issue for other blogspots as well. The reason my blog url is ending in .co.uk is because I access my blog from UK. If you access my blog from another country you should see the extension of that country, appended to my blog. So if you access my blog from Australia you should see my blog address as jensontaylor.blogspot.com.au

Solution - NCR "No Country Redirect"
To access the .com version of your blog you must follow your blog URL with /ncr (blogname.blogspot.com/ncr). As an example my blog would be http://jensontaylor.blogspot.com/ncr

This stops my blog from redirecting to a .co.uk top level domain address.

Google Blogger Top Level Domain Name Changes and Censorship
The reason behind the change in the top level domain names is to accommodate Google with the facility to censor blogs based on country of access. Although you might think "censorship" sounds evil, this is actually a good compromise on Google's part. Because laws are local to each country so Google only needs to block/censor a blog in one country but still allow the rest of the world to see that content. So the restrictions are not world wide.
Perhaps the ethically correct thing to do would be to boycott countries such as Iran or China but Google's number one priority is financial income and the two countries I mentioned have huge blogosphere communities as well as many users on all the other services that Google offers such as search and GMail.

USA sanctions on Iran and its effect on Google
While on the topic of censorship I like to point that I am very surprised that Google does not have to conform to the business sanctions laid out by the American government against Iran. Seems like there are some double standards. After all Google bribed contributed a lot of money to the Obama's presidential election campaign.

More Info / Resources
Google posted some question and answers on this topic
Google Blogger content policy
Google's 2007 statement on the topic of freedom of expression and its content

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How to link Blogger Profile to your Google+ Account Profile Tutorial

Linking your Blogger blog to your Google Plus Account
Simply login to your Blogger account then click on the setting's icon in the top right and choose "Connect to Google+"
Connect Blogger to Google+ profile

Blogger will then prompt you to confirm that have read and understood  the changes that will take place. So tick the checkbox after reading and agreeing with everything and click the "Switch Now" button to complete the switch. (See the screen-shot below for the sections circled in red)

Switch Blogger Profile to use Google Plus
For more information you can see Google's frequently asked question help page on switching your Blogger profile to Google Plus.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

22 March 2012

Using Google Analytics with Blogger Tutorial Part 1

Technology Tuesday
Michael Moral

Tracking visits and activity on your blog is very important. The better the tool the better you can make your blog and when it comes to Tracking web-user statistics "Google Analytics" is the best tool out there, which is why I would recommend every blogger to start using it instead of(or in conjunction with) the Blogger Stats feature.

This tutorial aims to help you through setting up "Google Analytics" for your Blogger blog.

Open a Google Analytics Account and Use it with Blogger
Assuming you already have a Google account for GMail or Google+ visit: http://www.google.com/analytics. You will come across this screen:
Sign Up for Google Analytics

Whether you choose "Access Analytics" or "Sign Up Now", you will end up at the same place, which is shows in the screen shot below:

In the above page will click the "Sign Up" button. You will come across the page below. In this page you need to enter the following information:

  • A name/label for your Google Analytics account. This can be anything you want. I have chosen to call mine "Jenson Taylor Analytics"
  • The website address(URL) of your blog. Mine is "JensonTaylor.blogspot.co.uk"
  • You can choose how you want to share your data. This doesn't make a difference at this point. I have chosen the options which will integrate my Google Analytics account better with other Google services such as Ad Words. I would recommend that you choose the same options as I have in the screen below. (If you would like more explanation on these options please leave a comment and I will get back to you)
  • Choose the country you live in
  • After reading the terms and conditions, assuming that you agree with all of them. Tick the check box which says "Yes, I agree to the above terms and conditions."
Google Analytics First Create New Account Page

Click on "Create Account".

You will then see the page below which contains a unique identified called the "Tracking ID" and looks like UA-22222222-1. Make a note of this identifier (you will need to enter this identifier in your Blogger settings).

Generating Tracking code in Google Analytics
In the screen shot above you will see that I have highlighted the options for the section under "What are you tracking?". You can choose either one of those options that I have highlighted using the red arrows. The first option is what I would have recommended previously. However Blogger has started to roll out some changes recently that would affect this. Your blog address is going to change based on the country you are in, so previously the address of my blog was jensontaylor.blogspot.com however it has now changed to jensontaylor.blogspot.co.uk; It is because of this change that I would now recommend you to choose the last option on the screen above.

Now click "Save" and you're done with Google Analytics.

Note: Ignore the number 2 option in the screenshot above. (You do NOT need to copy/paste code anywhere)

Go to you blogger dashboard then browse to "Settings" > "Other" and enter the "Tracking ID"  for your blog in the field which is labelled "Analytics Web Property ID" (You can see the Tracking ID in your Google Analytics - see screen shot above for details)
Blogger Web Property Tracking ID for Google Analytics
Click "Save" and you're done.

Older Templates (To be ignored for most bloggers)
Most bloggers do not need to worry about this issue but if you are using a really old template then adding your blog's Analytics Tracking ID here might not work correctly. So you will need to go back to Google Analytics and copy the code given to you in Google Analytics into your template. For this go to your blogger's dashboard then browse to "Template" > "Edit HTML" > "Proceed"
You should now see all the code, search for "</head>" without the quotes. Once you find it, insert the code just before it. So before changes your code will be:
After adding your Google Analytics code, it will look like this:
<script type='text/javascript'>
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push([&#39;_setAccount&#39;, &#39;UA-222222-1&#39;]);
  _gaq.push([&#39;_setDomainName&#39;, &#39;blogspot.co.uk&#39;]);
  _gaq.push([&#39;_setAllowLinker&#39;, true]);
  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement(&#39;script&#39;); ga.type = &#39;text/javascript&#39;; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = (&#39;https:&#39; == document.location.protocol ? &#39;https://ssl&#39; : &#39;http://www&#39;) + &#39;.google-analytics.com/ga.js&#39;;
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName(&#39;script&#39;)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
Click "Save Template" and you're done.

Why use Google Analytics with Blogger?
You might ask yourself why should I use Google Analytics with Blogger when the Blogger stats already provides all the details I need but the more people follow your blogs the more important it becomes to adapt your blog to your readers advantage. Google Analytics not only gives you details about how many people visit your blog but also where they come from e.g. search engines, feed, email, Facebook, etc. 
If that wasn't enough Google Analytics also lets you know whether your blog followers read your blog from the mobile phone or on a computer, it lets you know what operating system and browser they use.
My favorite feature is information about the screen size. By looking at the screen sizes that followers of my blog use, I make sure I change the width of my page to suit the majority of people that have a certain screen size which will enhance their experience.

Here is follow up blog for more adventurous users who like to experiment with a customized dashboard on Google Analytics.

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20 March 2012

How to make a fan an Admin on a Facebook Fan Page that is not on your friend list and you don't have their email adress

This is a question I had but couldn't find an answer on Google so I decided to find the solution and post a blog about it:

How can I make a fan(member) of a Facebook fan page, an administrator on Facebook without having them on my friend list and without knowing their email address? 
The URL below can be used to view all members of a fan page. This URL is not presented anywhere obvious on fan pages any longer but it's one that becomes visible when notifications of new "likes" are presented on your fan page.


The number you see in the above address is a unique ID for each fan page, so you need to find this unique number for your own fan page. So to find out what the ID of your fan page is, go to your Facebook fan page then click the "Edit Page" button(this button will only be visible if you are an administrator of that page). Now look in the URL and you will see something like:


The number in the above URL (use your fan page's number number) is what you need to copy and paste into the URL below to view all members of a fan page:

So all you have to do is replace the number which is presented in front of "page_id=" with that of your own fan page. Now press "Enter" and you will see a list of all members with a "Make Admin" button next to each name. Pressing this button will take you to a new page and ask for your password. Once you enter your password and press "ok", the new admin will be visible.

Make someone a Facebook Fan Page Admin with Email Address
To make someone an admin on a facebook fan page, if you have their email address you can enter their email address after browsing to "Edit Page" > "Manage Admins" and pressing save to make the changes permanent. (You will be asked for your password for security reasons)

Make someone a Facebook Fan Page Admin if they are your friend
The third approach is if the person is on your friend list, in which case you browse to "Edit Page" > "Manage Admins" and type in their name. You will see their profile name and photo popup. So you can select the user then press "Save" to make the changes permanent. (You will be asked for your password for security reasons)

08 March 2012

Xtranormal (Beta) Animation Software Review, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I have been looking to find a nice and easy animation software to use for a while and the best one I have found so was was Xtranormal.

Xtranormal is an animation software that is available in two versions; a web version and a desktop application. Both versions need internet access and you must login to your account in order to use the application as well as for downloading components such as animation characters, background images, etc which you have to pay for.

The Xtranormal application is easy to use and their trademark slogan "If you can type, you can make movies™" is certainly true although creating a "movie" is rather a stretch on the capabilities of the software and its current features.

To make an animation all you have to do is:
  1. select a background to be used 
  2. select one or more characters(actors/actresses)
  3. Type the dialog for your character
and that's all there is to it. If you want to create something more than a simple animation, you can use the "market place" button to view more characters, backgrounds, voices or even use your own sound files. You can also select or set your own camera angles. Also there is a lot of flexibility in where your characters are standing, where they would be facing, so the characters could be moved anywhere in the 3D set.

There are additional features for characters to take on a more realistic personality, for example you can dictate that a character should perform a "gesture", hold a certain "posture" or look at the camera or another place.

All in all I would say it's a great piece of software, however it doesn't feel like a finished product or something one could use for an important or serious animation for the reasons I have listed below:
  • The text to speech conversion is quite bad and primitive. When I think of other software and technologies that I have used for text to speech conversion I can clearly see there is a lack of expertise in this area at Xtranormal. Since this type of technology has been around for a long time, I had much higher expectation for this core functionality. This is the single biggest problem with this animation application. If the speech isn't good enough, there isn't much use for any created animation that makes use of these voice libraries. This also contradicts Xtranormal's mission statement/slogan: "If you can type, you can make movies™". One of the problems with the speech is that it is too fast and un-natural. I try to compensate for this problem by inserting commas into my text however there is no control over the length of pause a comma makes.
  • The application consumes a lot of resources and is very slow. There seems to be a lot of memory leak by this application and no word of fixing this issue yet from the team. Obviously these issues only become prominent once you decide to create an animation that is more than a few minutes long and make use of a larger scope of features.
  • Although you can manually set the camera angles, this is a time consuming process so if you decided to let the application run on auto-pilot setting beware that it will make very poor camera selections. For example one character could be talking and the auto-pilot camera would show the other character.
  • There is an option to add a pause anywhere in a dialog and the length of a pause can be manually controlled(the default is set at 2 seconds) however the shortest pause currently available is one second which is too long in some cases. A more fine-grain control over the pause would be very useful because a one second pause in a conversation seems like a lifetime.
  • There is no synchronization between the desktop application and the web version. So if you started your work on the desktop version, you would not be able to continue your work from a browser or vice versa.
  • Some characters are not capable of performing all gestures that are listed to be available for them. For example the Albert Einstein character on the desktop version of the application can not perform "dance wave", "dance twist" or the "dance turn" gestures.
  • The application provides some nice gestures such as "folding arms" however the same concept does not exist as a stance, so a character can not remain in a stance with folded arms.
  • Bug: If you create an animation with enough dialog boxes to cause the scrollbar to appear, you will come across an annoying bug. Every time you add a new dialog, the page will automatically scroll to the top. So now you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to type something in the new dialog box.
  • Bug: If you click the preview(play) button the tool you had selected last will be unselected and once the preview stops the "orbit" tool is selected which happens to be the first tool in the right hand side tool set.
  • Bug: If you have imported your own sound files for a dialog box and try to play a preview it appears to be working fine but if you move click on a random location in the playing timeline progress bar the audio and video play out of sync.
  • Bug: There are inconsistencies between the different voice libraries for example some voices read "IV" as four while other voices read it out as the letters "I" followed by "V"
Although I like this application, at its current state I would not recommend it. I will be exploring some alternatives animation application in the future and post reviews of them here, but for now, here is a video I created using Xtranormal.

01 March 2012

Feedburner removes Socialize feature and ability to post to Twitter

Update - 02 March 2012
It is still possible to access "Socialize".

When you are in Feedburner, go to the Publicize tab, and the address looks like this: "http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/publicize?id=[a bunch of numbers i.e. the tab session key]"

Replace "publicize" with "socialize" in the url, and boom, you are in there. For example:


Thanks to Chris Pine for the above work around.

Original Post
It appears that Google Feedburner has removed its support for posting to Twitter. If you have read my previous blog posts you'll know that I made use of this feature extensively.

It's not clear why this feature has been removed or whether it's a permanent change. But it's definitely a feature that will be missed. I am hoping Google has temporarily hidden this feature away while they are working on fixing all the current problems with it.

If you know anything more about this, please let me know.

One reasons I used Feedburner for, was that it lets you choose how you want your YouTube videos to be posted to Twitter. If you enable the YouTube to Twitter feature on YouTube itself, the resulting tweets will look very spam like. In the sense that YouTube tries to insert a reference to its own twitter account for promotions as well as making a decision on what text your tweet will contains. By filling your 140 character limit with useless text. The automatic tweets from YouTube look something like this:

"I uploaded a @YouTube video http://youtu.be/OgQlY-MdTH8 [Funny] Atheist vs. Christian - Why don't people believe in God?"

This means YouTube is taking up 28 characters unnecessarily as well as placing the content link before the content title. Aside from this annoyance, there is no option to include hashtags in your Tweet via the default YouTube application.

Google Feedburner's "Socialize" feature on the other hand would let me post something like the text below:

"[Funny] Atheist vs. Christian - Why don't people believe in God? http://youtu.be/OgQlY-MdTH8 #atheist #atheism #religion"

As you can see in the above text I would be able convey the content from the beginning of the tweet instead of the end of a tweet. Also the hash-tags would give my tweet more publicity.