The first time I looked at a web log ("blog") I was totally confused. Even after some time of reading blogs, I did not know all the ins and outs. I still may not know all the tricks, but I hope the following will be of help to many of you.
(1) When you go to the address, indianalawblog.com, The Indiana Law Blog, you see the Main Page. The wide left column contains my entries, with the most recent first. All the entries I've posted in any one day will appear under a heading for that day, such as "January 02, 2004."
If you scroll down the page you will see earlier entries, in reverse chronological order. The entries for the past 30 days will always appear here.
(2) Four things to know about the links that appear within an entry:
First, say an entry begins: "This story in today's NY Times...". The link for "this story" will lead directly to the story on the NY Times site. The link for "NY Times" will lead to the main page ("portal") of the NY Times site. Why both? This practice is a generally accepted courtesy, which I think derives from the objections some portal owners have had to what is called "deep linking" -- links that bypass the web portal. Nowadays it would seem to be less necessary, as all pages in major sites will generally identify that it is a page from, say, the NY Times and will provide links to get to other places on the Times site. Therefore, often now you will see New York Times in bold, but without the link - which may less confusing.(3) What if you want to bookmark a specific entry, or send a link to it to someone? Go to the end of the entry. You will see, for instance, "Posted by Marcia Oddi at 03:37 PM" Click on the time link. That entry, and no more, will appear, filling the entire page (or you can right click, as above, to open it in a new window). You can bookmark this page (via "favorites"), or you can pull down "File" and select "Send" the page, or the link to the page, via email. Or you can highlight all or part of the entry, select "copy" from the Edit menu, then "paste" it into an email message box.
Second, particularly with newspaper stories, be aware that a link may not last forever. At some point, you may click on a link in any entry and get nothing, or a notice that the page is not available, or a link to "pay for view" archives. There is no general rule, some pages disappear the next day (eg the Gary Post Tribune's stories); some are good for a week (the NYT sometimes)or for months (the Washington Post); some may be good forever.
Third, some links will lead to sites that require to you to register the first time you visit (on each different specific computer you use). The NY Times and Chicago Tribune are examples. Registration is free (I generally do not link to stories on pay sites, such as the Wall Street Journal), but some free sites may request what you (or I) may consider to be overly intrusive information and you may decide to forgo reading the story. Often I will not link at all to stories in such publications.
Fourth, how to open a link in a new window? If you want to click on a link and have it open a in new window, rather than replacing the screen you are viewing, do this if you are using MS Windows: right click the link; a box will appear; the second option down in the box will be "open in new window"; click it.
Once you are done with the entry, look at the top of the page, right below the blue title box, and select "Main" to return to the main page. Or use your browser's "back" arrow or command. Or, if you opened a new page, simply close it.
(4) What if you want to go back and read more than the past 30 days' worth of entries? (I'm flattered.) Look at the narrow grey right-hand column, and scroll down until you see a list of the months, under the heading "Archives." If you click on "September 2003," for instance, all the entries for September 2003, beginning with the last one made on September 30, 2003, will appear. (This, incidentally, is the way to go if for some reason you should want to print out or save all the entries in this or a similar blog.)
(5) What is the Calendar for? The calendar highlights the days during the current month when at least one new entry has been posted. In this blog the color blue is the highlighter. Clicking on a highlighted date will take you to that day's entries. The calendar is probably most useful for blogs where entires are sporatic. You can tell at a glance whether the owner generally posts new material daily or weekly, or only once in a while.
(6) The two features I feel make this site more valuable to the user are the "Categories" links and the "Search this Site" box.
Categories. Each time I post an entry, I categorize it. Generally I also identify the category at the beginning of the heading -- such as "Environment - Land Use and Water Quality in Floyd and Hendricks Counties." All my category headings are listed under the heading "Categories" in the right column. (I add new category headings occasionally.)
If you click on one of the category headings in the right column, such as "Indiana Decisions," you will get a list of every "Indiana Decisions" entry since this blog started, in reverse chronological order, along with the first few lines of the entry. A click will take you to the full entry.
Search! I use the search box all the time. If I'm posting an entry about X and I know (or don't recall whether) I've written about X before, I use the search box. The result I receive is a page listing every entry containing X, in reverse chronological order, with a few lines from the beginning of each such entry. If you wanted to see all the entries that included the term "eminent domain," regardless of category, you could use the search box.
(7) A few other features are in the right column: "Some Good Law-Related Blogs" and "Indiana Legal Resources" are lists of links to sites I like or use frequently. Occasionally I go through these links and may toss out some or add others.
"Recent Entries" lists the headings of my last thirty entries. If you see something interesting, you can clik on the heading and go directly to the entry. However, this feature is, I feel, of questionable usefulness on my blog and I may discard it.
(8) Other information for you. Except for correcting grammar or spelling errors I may notice later, I generally do not change an entry once I have publicly posted it. However, I may add to it within the next day or two, generally via an addition at the end labeled "[Update]" if I obtain more information. Thus it may be useful to you to check back on an entry from yesterday that you found useful or interesting to see if I've added anything.
Most days I post a number of entries during the course of the day. If you want to check in several times during the day, remember that you may need to refresh your browser. In addition, some services, such as AOL, cache pages during the day on their own servers. So even if my page has been updated, the page AOL has cached and you access (if you are, for instance, an AOL user) may still be an earlier version. So you may be seeing one thing, while your friend on the phone who is looking at her computer may be seeing something else on the same main page. Yes, I've had this happen.
Finally, although I have over a thousand visitors a day, I'm nowhere in the league of Howard Bashman (How Appealing). So tell your friends about this site. And let me know what you think -- my email address is right there, in the grey column, below the search box.
If you would like to help support the Indiana Law Blog, click for details near the top of the grey column.
And thanks for visiting the Indiana Law Blog!
A reader wrote to tell me that he enjoyed my "How to Read a Blog" entry, but added:
I use Netscape, not Explorer, and your blog is very strangely formatted when viewed in Netscape (I have to scroll to the bottom for the ad and related admin stuff), and I switch to Explorer to view it only when I need to access a link (which I can't do from your blog in Netscape, for some reason, though I can from Hasen, Still, Bashman, and SCOTUS blogs). That's why I had to smile -- and wince -- when reviewing your great user's guide this weekend . . .Well, I hated to read that! I sent him a picture of what the Indiana Law Blog should look like (although the green column in the picture is somewhat truncated) and later received this response:
that was helpful. After viewing the .pdf, I was able to get your site to look like that in Explorer -- after I changed the size of the text to "smallest."I mention this in case you too do not see the green column [that was the old blog, the couln is now grey] running down the right side of this blog, etc. If you think you may be missing something, check this picture. And please let me know (and tell me what browser you are using) so that I can attempt to make adjustments on my end.
Looks great -- far better than the white on blue title box and white box with black text on ugly brown bkgd and bizarre formatting that I get in Netscape!