Today we are joined by Nicole from Madlab Post. As you'll probably gather from the following, Nicole takes her blogging seriously. Today she offers some suggestions that are good for not only the Challenge, but for your blogging activity in general if you want to protect your blog content.
A Quick A to Z Challenge Survival Kit
Being as prepared as you can is one of the best ways to ensure that your experience Blogging from A to Z in April is less stressful and more fun. After participating in a few different monthly blogging challenges during 2011 including NaBloPoMo and The WordCount Blogathon, I learned the importance of having alternative plans in place for unexpected problems that arise with technology and online services. This is especially relevant for bloggers who utilize services that are available free of charge such as open source blogging software or free blog hosting platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress(.com). There is no one in tech support to call or email if something goes wrong. You usually end up having to just wait and see what happens.
Here is a quick little survival kit that bloggers who plan to participate in the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, or any future blog events for that matter, can implement to save time, energy and sanity….all of which you’ll quickly lose if you’re busy yelling expletives because you can’t seem to shake that hopeless and powerless feeling of being stuck at a computer that you can’t use the way you want.
Backup Your Blog
Save backup files of your blog posts. You should already be doing this anyway whether you’re participating in the A to Z Challenge or not, but it's all the more important when you have 26 days’ worth of brand new posts that you worked hard on writing. Most, if not all blogging platforms have a way to backup your blog within the settings. Some services allow you to automate the backup process while others don’t. If you have to backup your blog manually, do this often, like every day or twice a day if you publish multiple posts on a daily basis. A manual backup is as simple as exporting your blog to a hard drive or CD-R disc. The file will be in XML format, at least for Blogger users.
Have a Secondary/Plan B Blog on a Separate Blogging Platform, Ready to Go in Case your Host goes down for Maintenance, Unexplained events, Hacking, Spam or other Unforeseen Technical Difficulties
If you haven’t already, you should open an account with another blog hosting service. The second blog can serve as your Plan B or alternate place for A to Z posts if something happens to your main blog. I’m speaking to you from experience, so take heed.
On May 11, 2011, Google’s Blogger service was shut down for a so-called “maintenance” issue, causing posts and comments published that day to be removed from blogs on this platform. Blogger also appeared to be in read-only mode, so people could still visit blogs but bloggers were not able to publish new posts. The issue affected many bloggers, especially those of us who were participating in the WordCount Blogathon where we had to blog every day in May for a total of 31 straight days of blogging. This read-only mode continued through to May 13th.
While the posts and comments on many blogs (except for mine, which I’ll explain in the next “Survival Tip”) were restored within a few days, this maintenance issue with Blogger caused many blogathon participants to panic and I was one of them. Instead of skipping a day or waiting around for Blogger to get back up and running as usual, I started a new blog on Posterous titled it The Madlab Post-Lite and published myDay 12 post over there.
During that time while checking out various options for blogging, I also realized that I had an old Wordpress account that I opened but never did anything with. Now, I have two alternative blogs to use if necessary.
I’m sure many of you who are gearing up to tackle the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April would hate to experience missing posts, missing comments and the removal of your ability to publish new posts on your blog. This is why I urge you to open a new account now. Do not, however, start a second blog using the same service that your first blog is being hosted on, because that defeats the whole purpose of having an alternate option for new posts in the event that something unexpected happens to your main blog.
If you use Wordpress for example, then start a Blogger blog, or vice versa. If you use Tumblr, start a blog on Google+ or vice versa. Do you own any domain names that came with a free website or blog feature? Try playing around with it to see if it can be part of your Plan B if you ever need to use it at the last minute.
The possibilities are endless and the alternative blogging platform that you choose is up to you. It doesn’t really matter which one you use, so long as you have a means to blog on all of the 26 days in the A to Z challenge. Some blogging options include Wordpress.com; Tumblr; Typead; LiveJournal; BlackPlanet; Myspace (remember this Social Networking site? It does have a blogging feature!), Redgage, Gather; Google+ and Posterous. I’ve used nearly all of these services at one point or another so I can attest to the fact that they all pretty much have every basic feature needed to write and publish a blog post.
Consider Developing a Routine to Backup Your Comments
After the Google hiccup (as mentioned in the previous “Survivial Tip”) that caused posts and comments to get deleted, I started saving every single comment that I receive on my blog.
The one and only comment that was posted on my May 11th blog post was not restored by Blogger and remained missing, so I found the original notification for that particular comment, in my email (sidebar: Email or SMS notifications can come in handy in a variety of situations) and republished the comment as a reference in one of my blog posts, a few days later. I then decided to save or backup every comment on my blog posts.
Now, I do this manually and some of you who get more than a dozen or so comments on your blog may find this particular task to be time-consuming but it is worthwhile to at least try to figure out a comment backup plan that works for your lifestyle and your blog. If you use self-hosted Wordpress, maybe there is a plug-in that you can utilize to backup comments. If you use Intense Debate or Disqus, maybe you can find a backup solution within those services. Just try to find a way to keep track of all your comments, if possible. Funny enough, the missing comment that I am referring to is showing up on my restored post, at the time of this writing. So I guess it has been restored, miraculously. I say, whatever! Too little, too late. Backup your comments!
Our thanks to Nicole for this first installment of her guest post which will be continued tomorrow. She points out some issues that many of us don't usually think about and probably don't want to think about. Maybe we should.
Do you back up your blog as Nicole has described? What are some of your blog horror stories?
Here's one of Nicole's entries to the A to Z Video Contest. Are you still stumped for ideas for the April Challenge? Try this: