Monthly Archives: November 2012

Work smarter – mobilise your domain email with Gmail.

First of all, what do I mean by domain email? I’m talking about email addresses associated with your domain. So maybe spammersgoaway at technology-solved dot co dot uk, as an example. When you’re in business, or even if you’re wanting to look like a slightly more organised blogger, your own domain is a great way to go, and email addresses associated with it look more professional.

However, managing email addresses in lots of different places can be a bit of a headache. If you’re wanting to manage things on the go, you’ll probably want to be doing things on your phone. My Android can manage a pop email account (which is what you often have with a domain – it simply means that the email collects on the server where your hosting is, and then is collected from there by an email program) but then there’s the question of whether I also collect it on my netbook and so on.

Life can start to look a little complicated right then, and that’s what we are all about avoiding.

Why not let gmail take the strain? You can manage up to five pop email accounts via your gmail account, without wandering off into the realms of google apps for business. This also means you get the fantastic spam filtering of gmail, and you can access it from whatever desktop/netbook/phone/tablet takes your fancy.

So, how to do it.

First of all, you will need a gmail account. I’m guessing most of you already have one. At least.

Then you set up your domain email, or get your friendly hosting company to do it for you.

Next, you connect the two. In gmail, go into settings (circle icon thing in top right corner) and then Accounts and Import.

Scroll down to Check mail from other accounts (using POP3) and select add a POP3 email account you own. Put the account into the pop up box, and continue.

You get to a settings screen that looks like this.

managing pop email through gmail

You will need to put in the username of the account – this is usually the email address. Then the password, and the details of the server. If you’ve any confusion here, you need to check with your hosting provider.

If you’re planning on using gmail as your email handler, DON’T tick leave a copy of retrieved messages on the server. If you tick it, you need to make other arrangements to clear down the server, or eventually your mailbox will fill up and you will stop receiving mail.

The google tutorial for this set up is here and if you want to explore the wider world of google apps for managing email, there’s a tutorial over here for that.

The second part of the setup is to organise to send mail from your google interface. This is the Send Mail As setting. Don’t set it as an alias – you don’t need that. (Or read through the help and decide for yourself :) ) And here:

When replying to a message:
Reply from the same address the message was sent to

tick this one as it means the person you’re emailing with won’t ever see your gmail address.

And there you go. You’ve got your domain email all set up and handled through Gmail with no one the wiser, they’re handling your spam and you’re good to go mobile.

Ten minute tip – Jetpack extra sidebar widgets.

Yesterday I posted about adding sharing and following options to this blog, and the solution I settled on was Jetpack.

I’m not 100% happy with the sharing buttons. It appears that you can’t customise the tweet that goes out without hacking adjusting the code yourself, and while I’m perfectly capable of getting down and dirty with php, I really don’t want to have to. Also I’m not about to be going round recommending to my lovely readers that they do that – there are all sorts of problems inherent in wading into core files, not least that whatever you have working now, might not next time you upgrade. And that’s if you don’t do anything horrid to your install in the first place ;)

So, jury is out on the sharing options. But what I did need was a box in the sidebar that allowed people to subscribe, and in the mahoosive page of options within the jetpack configuration, there was one labelled extra sidebar widgets that promised just that.

So I clicked on that option,

Jetpack options - extra sidebar widgets

went into the page and added the widget.

Blog subscription options

I also discovered while wandering around the options, that I sent out an email yesterday with the greeting howdy at the top of it. I do apologise for that, Nickie. So, further hints and tips when you are using Jetpack to offer email subscription, go into Settings>Reading and customise the email that is sent out. Unless you’re happy saying Howdy to people. Maybe you are.

And as all of that still only took about 5 minutes, rather than the 10 I’m limiting these posts too, I went for broke and added a facebook page widget. As I’m currently the only person liking the page, it’s a bit embarrassing and I may take it off. Can’t quite decide whether I want the twitter feed there. Hm.

Thoughts?

I’d be really grateful if anyone who finds these posts useful would let me know with a quick tweet or a comment. And if you don’t find them useful but there’s something else I could be helping you with, let me know about that too.

Ten minute tip – sharing and following.

As has been pointed out to me by a few people already, this blog didn’t have a follow by email option. RSS exists for wordpress, though I haven’t done anything to highlight how to subscribe, but the drawback of using plain RSS is that you don’t get any stats on who is following you.

There are, obviously, ways around this. The biggest and best known way is probably feedburner, which is now owned by google. The drawback to that is that google has deprecated the api, which is a technical way of saying that they aren’t developing it any more, may well cease to support it and eventually it just won’t work. Given that moving subscribers between services can be rather a pain, and the feedburner stats have been flakey to say the best, that means it’s no longer top of my recommendations list.

If you discuss this on twitter at any point, you will very quickly hear from one @phollows. He is the founder of FeedBlitz, a feedburner alternative. He has a tutorial on how you migrate from Feedburner to Feedblitz, and I suspect it’s a good alternative for businesses, but it may be just too pricey for bloggers as you are charged by email subscriber.

Another option is Mailchimp, which until you’ve got 2000 subscribers, is free. Free is a word I’m fond of. This isn’t a system I’ve tried though, so I’ve now run out of things to tell you about it ;)

When I asked on twitter for other suggestions, there was only one person who spoke up, Mummy Barrow. She uses subscribe2 from within wordpress – it’s a plugin. I took a look at it, and it’s what I would call option lite until you start paying, and as I’m trying to avoid paying, I’m moving on again.

Plugins within wordpress did look like a good option though, and so I started to investigate Jetpack. As I mentioned previously, it’s now possible to migrate at least some of your followers from wordpress.com to a self hosted wordpress blog if you’re using Jetpack, so that looks like a good starting position. It does far more than manage email subscription, but as this is a ten minute post, I won’t explore more than following and sharing at this point. Configuring the following options for email was as simple as ticking a couple of tickboxes in a settings page, and I now offer email subscriptions.

I had installed Addthis to manage my sharing buttons, but somewhere between me using them on my personal blog and setting them up on here, the layout appears to have gone seriously askew. So I am uninstalling them, and will explore the Jetpack features for sharing as well.

Configuring the Jetpack sharing buttons is just a case of dragging the buttons you want to display into a box. It doesn’t look like I can configure the tweet that will be sent out, but I may be missing something – I’m running out of my ten minutes though, so I’ll come back to that later.

The blog is now set up to be followed and shared – I hope that you’ll do both :)

Newsflash – take your wordpress.com followers when you go self-hosted.

One of the things that puts people off moving their wordpress.com blog to self hosting is the idea of losing their followers in the move. For people who’ve put a lot of effort into building follower numbers, that is a real issue.

It seems today that there’s a way round it. The jetpack plugin has functionality that allows you to take your followers with you, although you’ll still need help from a happiness engineer (wordpress staff member) as seen here on the forums.

I’m going to be exploring this further, and I’ll hope to bring you more on it very soon, but I couldn’t wait to share! This newsflash is brought to you courtesy of the very lovely Pressies by Pebbles who is currently moving to self hosted, following MumsnetBlogfest.

Ten minute tip – Back up your blog.

You know it makes sense. You’ve put your heart and soul into that writing, you do not want to lose it.

So the first in my ten minute tip series is Back up your Blog.

As WordPress is my platform of choice, we’ll go through that first. If you’re self hosted, there are actually a variety of back up techniques, but the first one I’m going to cover is the simplest, and applies to wordpress.com as well. Go into your dashboard, scroll down to tools, find export. This will download a file containing all your posts, comments, categories and so on, and if necessary you can import it into a whole new wordpress blog.

It looks something like this. (Click to see larger.)

There are other back up techniques, particularly if you’re self hosted, but this one is quick and easy to get your content out and you’ll have everything you need *except* your template/widgets and any CSS customisations. But as you can install themes separately, the widgets are the only thing that you might have to redo manually in the event of an unscheduled move.

Get into a habit of doing a backup regularly – make an appointment with yourself weekly in your google calendar and set a reminder.

If you’re on blogger, basically you’ve got the same ability , you’re looking again under tools for an export blog section. You can find a detailed tutorial over at Geekalicious – Back up your blogger blog.

If you are self hosted you can use ftp to copy all the files that make up your blog, though you will still have to export the data separately. I’ll be doing a separate post on that very soon.

Another way of making sure you have your content regularly is to set up an email subscription and subscribe to it. Similarly you can get your comments emailed to you from most systems.

If I’ve missed anything out or you have questions, feel free to ping me on twitter @liveotherwise, or leave me a comment here.