RockMelt isn’t all that hot

I somehow missed the hype machine for the new social browser, RockMelt.  So, when @LastPass tweeted that it worked with RockMelt, my ears perked up.  RockMelt? WTF is that?

RockMelt is a new kind of browser, or so the introductory video told me, one that combines your social web with your browsing experience.  We’ve met such browsers before; Flock was supposed to make your browsing experience easier and more social, too and everybody’s switched browsers to Flock now, right?  Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Still, I was interested in how the sidebars interacted dynamically with what you were looking at.  And I’m always fancy-new-gadgets-yay, so I signed up for the beta last night.  Aaaand I got my invite this morning.

Let me get one thing out there: I’m not attached at the hip to Facebook.  In fact, generally, I could care less.  The only reason I go there at all is because I have so many people I actually know there with whom I probably would never interact with otherwise.  People I went to college or high school or worked with who I actually like.  But I’ve got more important things to do with my time than wait for the latest update from someone’s FarmVille game, let alone play it myself.  On the other hand, I’m active on Twitter.  I manage 3 separate accounts (though one is mostly on autopilot) and I, at least occasionally, have the sorts of 140-character conversations that people have on Twitter.  A look at my about page will tell you I’m also connected to a lot of other sites, too, some of which I use daily (like Glue and Empire Avenue), some of which I check in maybe once a month or so (like Goodreads), and some of which I rarely, if ever, visit (like Foursquare).  At the same time, I’ve turned off all pop-up notifications from everything because I found, ultimately, that it’s incredibly distracting and I can get a lot more work done when I don’t have a little message popping up in the corner of my screen every 5 minutes.

From the video preview, I could tell that RockMelt was using WebKit.  Just glancing at the tabs told me that, which look exactly like Chrome‘s tabs (really? you couldn’t do something different?).  After downloading the beta and running the install, it told me that, in order to import my settings from Chrome, I needed to close it first.  So I did.  It asked me to log into Facebook.  So I did.  Then it gave me a window that looked exactly like Chrome, but with two sidebars.  The one on the left showing my Facebook contacts, and the one on the right showing my updates from Facebook and (after I logged in) Twitter.  Here’s the thing about Facebook: you know how I just said that I actually use it to keep in touch with people I like?  Well, with a few exceptions, I can generally count those people on one hand.  So, seeing a list of all my online Facebook contacts really doesn’t help me that much.  Now, you can “favorite” your contacts, and switch over to list your favorites rather than your online contacts, but when my favorites (at least in terms of chatting online) number exactly two, that’s not that helpful, really.  What would be better is if it integrated into more social networks.  Anyone hear of Google?  It wouldn’t be hard to integrate a Google Chat into the browser that also brought up the same sorts of information and sharing opportunities you get from the Facebook integration.  And since I (and the rest of the known universe) use Google on a daily basis, this would be much more helpful than my Facebook contacts.  And what about other, similar networks that use an open standard, like Identi.ca and Diaspora?  Having this sort of feature embedded in your browser really needs to have the ability to tune it to your own usage with your own networks, rather than just assuming everybody is using — and wants to integrate into their regular browsing experience — Facebook.

On the right side, as I said, there’s updates from Facebook and Twitter.  What’s actually interesting here, though, is that if you’re on a site that has an RSS feed, a little green button lights up that tells you that you can add that to your sidebar and get notifications from that site.  With all the hub-bub about how RSS is dead (hint: it’s not), this is a great way of integrating RSS into your daily browsing experience in a way that is easy for the non-geeks to pick up on intuitively.  This would be especially useful for adding news sites and getting a list of the latest headlines, or just adding your favorite blogs and using it like an RSS reader.

Beyond that, though, it’s really just Chrome that’s been taught a few cool tricks.  Tricks that, I’m sure, could easily have been developed as standalone extensions within Chrome rather than building an entirely new browser for them.  (Of course, when I re-opened Chrome after RockMelt’s “import”, I was appalled to see that all of my tabs were gone and it was displaying some web page on my hard drive that didn’t exist.  Luckily, although my history was funky and all my Bookmarks were showing up as recently opened pages, I was able to scroll through my history and find most of my previously-open tabs.)  If I had the choice, I’d take the RSS integration and ditch everything else.  That said, I’m not really the target market for this browser.  I’m a geek and I like doing things myself and in my own way.  The billions of users of Facebook that make up the majority would probably be excited to have a way to merge Facebook into the rest of the web.  I’m just not one of those people.  I can see how there could be quite a market for this browser, but only if said market is using the web in exactly the way they intended it to be used.  This has always been the downfall of applications that try to blend all your social networks into one app: it’s great in theory, but in practice, they’re always lacking at least one network (if not multiple) which makes it less appealing to use it as an all-in-one.  In my opinion, the current model of browser development is a good one: the browser is for browsing web sites, any other features can be added through plugins or extensions.  Coding extra features like social network integration into the browser core only makes it heavier, potentially slower, and ends up limiting the user’s browsing experience rather than adding to it.  On the other hand, browser developers should build easy ways to keep up on news feeds and blog updates in an intuitive and visual way, which is something that — I’m not the first to say — has been lacking in modern web browsers.

In conclusion, RockMelt is great if you’re already glued to Facebook, and less so if you’re not.  If that does describe you and you want to check it out, let me know — I have some invites available I can send your way.

twitter schoolbus: some tricks i’ve found

since i first started the twitter schoolbus experiment, the goal was to create a system that compared with twitter rocket for getting followers.  eventually, i discovered that my method was slow and took a lot of time to build a steady following. at least in theory, twitter rocket could build that following in about half the time.  in particular, it took me about 2 weeks to gain 500 followers on twitter — which was no small feat for me — but it was a time-consuming process.  there had to be a better way.  there is, twitter rocket is a better way.

without revealing all the methodology, i will say that it’s a multi-pronged system that builds your followers using a unique approach each day, to gain followers both in your niche, as well as slightly out of it, to create a well-rounded following.  if you want to use twitter to read people’s updates, and tweet off your own musings, twitter rocket is not for you.  if you want to use it to grow and promote your business, it is.

for myself, twitter rocket has made the process i go through each day much shorter, and automated (yes, i realize that that’s a bad word, but i’ll get to that later) a lot of the stuff i was doing manually.  and the result?  exponentially more followers.  just check out this graph pulled from a screencap from TweetCounter:

twitter-schoolbus1you can see, that, especially in the last few days after building up momentum, my following has increased by multitudes.  i’ve been seriously impressed — the only remaining question is how many of these people really care about what i have to say and how many are just following back.  i don’t know.   but i do know that page hits to this site have gotten a major bump, too, and so have my recent posts, so, that says something.

but this isn’t an advertisement for twitter rocket (it isn’t?).  it’s an addendum, and some tricks for those peeps that haven’t bought it.  see, i haven’t entirely abandoned the twitter schoolbus experiment, and there are some things i’ve found that i like a lot better than some of the things prescribed in twitter rocket.  so here are some of my tweaks and tricks:

finding people to follow

the key to getting followers is to follow people.  a lot of them will follow back.  as long as you find people who may be interested in stuff you are actually interested in, they will actually benefit from what you have to offer and share your tweets and links.

twitterholic sucks for finding people.  unless you’re looking for the top-ranked twitter users, which are essentially useless to follow.  as are their followers.  saying you follow @theellenshow is like saying you breathe.  i’ve been using wefollow.  you have to list yourself in wefollow (you have to list yourself in just about any other directory), but it’s fairly commonly accepted by most tweeps, and does let you search by tag.

then there’s geofollow.  that’s a great tool for finding people in your geographic location.  the interface is slow, however.  you can pull up people in your geographic location in twitterholic because it pulls the top ranking accounts (in which you’ll find me!), so it can be good for that.

another tool i just discovered is klout.  it’s slow to update their stats (about once a week), and it doesn’t index everyone automatically, but when it does, there’s a multitude of information available to you, including you it thinks you’re influenced by (fairly accurate), and, if you’re a major player, who you influence.  there’s also a stats page that ranks how you’re doing, in what areas you’ve been improving, and what you can do to be more of a twitter “persona”.  you can also compare twitter accounts.  check out my profile on klout for an example.  i really like it.  by going into the profiles of people that influence you, and the people who influence them, you can build your following list outward by checking out who follows them and who they follow.  it’s a great way to find new people and see where they are in relation to you and your favorite twitter moguls.

then there’s what started the twitter schoolbus experiment — twitter search.  i still maintain that using twitter search to find tweets in your area of interest is a great way to find people interested in the same things you are.  just be careful if your area of interest is “wordpress” — because of wordpress.com, and some people don’t know about url shorteners, you get a lot of results to people’s wordpress.com blogs.  that may be fine if you’re just looking for people who like and/or use wordpress, but less so if you’re looking for wordpress developers or designers (in which case, possibly following @hashwp or @hashwordpress may be better, or checking those results on hashtags.org.

so you want to automate your tweets

besides the obvious, why would you want to automate your tweets? it takes a lot of the work (searching for relevant articles or tweets) out of sharing links that are relevant to your topic.  and there are tools (like twitterfeed) that will take an rss feed and pump it into your twitter stream.  a common method for creating a good feed for twitterfeed is google alerts.  but i’ve found that, for me, google alerts sucks.  it pulls random crap from all over the internet that i find uninteresting and…random.  probably with the perfect combination of search terms i could make things more relevant, but i really don’t care.  i would rather use specific sources i trust anyway.

so, my method is to build a single rss feed for a collection of similar types of sites, and the way i do this is through feedweaver.  feedweaver takes disparate rss feeds that you define and mashes them up into a single rss feed.  you can even filter each feed individually by tag or topic.  this way, i know that not only are my automated tweets coming from sources i trust, but also, they are things that i’m genuinely interested in.  and because twitterfeed is sending out new tweets as the articles appear, the content is always fresh — you won’t get old links that everyone’s seen already.

obviously (unless you want to look like a news-streaming robot), you still want to tweet your own stuff as well, and it always looks better to continue to RT other people’s tweets and links.  also, i don’t like to post a whole bunch of stuff at the same time, so i stagger my links in twitterfeed so that they don’t tweet on the same schedule.  another way to build in some automation (to a point) is using socialoomph (formerly tweetlater).  at first, i felt like tweetlater had a bad rep for being solely responsible for the auto-dm spam i get, and other junk, spam twitter accounts.  the truth is, after using it, that there’s a lot of useful features in there if there’s a human behind the wheel.  and i don’t use the auto-dm feature.  mostly i use it to tweet things…later.  you can schedule tweets for an hour, a week, a month, or any day you want.  this way you can still post something that you want to tweet, but don’t want to tweet right after you just tweeted something else.

that’s what i’ve got so far.  hopefully these tricks help you, too.  and remember to follow me on twitter!

add social links to your site

class=”aligncenter” i spent this morning building and adding some social linking to our site.  with all the digging and twittering and facebooking going on, if you have content worth sharing and you aren’t providing ways for people to share it, it’s fairly likely that people won’t.  now, i have digg, facebook, and delicious bookmarklets in my google chrome bookmark bar, but i realize that i’m a geek and probably most people don’t do this.  and anyway, it’s always nicer when those things are built directly into the page.

so i thought that i would share with you how to add social linking to your website or blog.  please note that some of the code here will be wordpress-specific — which is great for wordpress users, but won’t be so helpful for those of you who don’t use wordpress.  i will point out the areas where the code is wordpress only — there are plenty of resources out there for alternatives for your platform of choice.

the icons

first thing’s first — let’s get some icons.  obviously the ones we are using have been customized.  i actually sort of cheated a bit and modified the grunged-up icons i used for the social sidebar i have on jazzsequence.com, because i thought the style would fit.  and also, i’m doing the same thing over there, so i figured i’d just use the same icons to make my life a bit easier.  so you can’t use mine, but there’s some really nice stuff out there — i used a pack i found on iconspedia, but there’s always some good stuff on smashing magaine among other sources.  do some creative googling and you can find some awesome packs with the sites you want to share.

the template files

next, is tweaking the template files.  if you’ve never even looked at your theme’s php files, this can be daunting at first.  and if you don’t have at least some brief experience in html, this may not be for you (but it might, you never know until you give it a try and break something horribly! keep backups of everything!).  in that case, i’d recommend the sociable plugin, which actually allows you to take the icons you just downloaded and put them somewhere on your server and then just enter the path to the folder that you uploaded them to.  you get less customizability in how and where your social linking bookmarks go on the page, but you make up for that in choice and convenience (there’s something like 99 different sharing methods to choose from that sociable offers).

if you’re still with me, decide what pages you want your links to show up on.  for the arcane palette site, i chose to just put them on the single post page, but you can put them on all your pages, blog, and single posts, as well as any custom templates you may be using.  there are two ways of editing the code.  in either case, it’s best to save a backup copy of all the files you’re going to be changing in case something breaks or you want to put it back.  the first method is to do it directly from the wordpress backend.  this is a little bit more sketchy for newbies just because you are making changes live on the site.  however, if you saved a copy of the file before making any changes to it, then you should be fine.

so to get to the internal text editor, (assuming you have wordpress 2.7 or higher) you go to Appearance and then Editor (for older versions it’s in Design and then Editor, or possibly Theme Editor — it’s been a while since I’ve dug around in the older back end).  on the right side, you will see a long list of files.  these are all the various page templates on your site.  the ones you want to concern yourself with are index.php (Main Index Template), page.php (Page Template), and single.php (Single Post).  if you’re using a Revolution/StudioPress theme, or one that is built similar, you may have a home.php which is your Home Page Template.

some of this, if you aren’t familiar with how your theme is structured, is going to be a bit of trial and error, but pretty much I look for one of two things in the template: either the Edit This Post link (which will look something like this:

<?php edit_post_link('Edit this entry.', '<p>', '</p>'); ?>

or the metatag portion of the post, generally classed as postmeta or something similar, which would be something like this:

<p>
<small><?php the_category(', ') ?> | <?php the_tags() ?></small>
</p>

you may also see something like this if your theme is either the default (kubrick) theme, or based somewhat on it:

This entry was posted
<?php /* This is commented, because it requires a little adjusting sometimes.
You’ll need to download this plugin, and follow the instructions:
http://binarybonsai.com/archives/2004/08/17/time-since-plugin/ */
/* $entry_datetime = abs(strtotime($post->post_date) – (60*120)); echo time_since($entry_datetime); echo ‘ ago’; */ ?>
on <?php the_time(‘l, F jS, Y’) ?> at <?php the_time() ?>
and is filed under <?php the_category(‘, ‘) ?>.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the <?php post_comments_feed_link(‘RSS 2.0’); ?> feed.
This entry was posted
<?php /* This is commented, because it requires a little adjusting sometimes.
You'll need to download this plugin, and follow the instructions:
http://binarybonsai.com/archives/2004/08/17/time-since-plugin/ */
/* $entry_datetime = abs(strtotime($post->post_date) - (60*120)); echo time_since($entry_datetime);
echo ' ago'; */ ?>
on <?php the_time('l, F jS, Y') ?> at <?php the_time() ?>
and is filed under <?php the_category(', ') ?>.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the <?php post_comments_feed_link('RSS 2.0'); ?>
feed.

for our site, i put it under the post meta (categories/tags) but above the related posts.  interesting side note: if you’re using this method of displaying related posts without a plugin, i was having issues with the tweet this link posting the url of the last related post in the tweet, rather than the post you are looking at if you put this sharing block underneath the related posts.  seemed to be a bug with the related posts not closing off, but i’m not a programmer, i’m just a hacker, so i just threw this block above those links and solved the problem.

the code

here’s the block of code i used:

<span class="linktous">
<a href="javascript:var notes='';if(window.getSelection)notes=window.getSelection();else
if(document.getSelection)notes=document.getSelection();else if(document.selection)notes=
document.selection.createRange().text;if(notes.length>350)notes=notes.substring(0,349);
location.href='http://digg.com/submit?phase=3&url='+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+
'&title='+encodeURIComponent(document.title)+'&bodytext='+encodeURIComponent(notes)"
target="_blank"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/digg.png" alt="Digg
This" />&nbsp;Digg This Post</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;<a href="javascript:(function(){location.
href='http://delicious.com/save?url='+encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)+'&title=
'+encodeURIComponent(document.title)+'&v=5&jump=yes'})()" target="_blank"><img src="<?php
bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/delicious.png" alt="Save to del.icio.us" />&nbsp;Save
to del.icio.us</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;<a href="javascript:var d=document,f='http://www.facebook.
com/share',l=d.location,e=encodeURIComponent,p='.php?src=bm&v=4&i=1239647138&u='+e(l.href)+
'&t='+e(d.title);1;try{if (!/^(.*.)?facebook.[^.]*$/.test(l.host))throw(0);
share_internal_bookmarklet(p)}catch(z) {a=function() {if (!window.open(f+'r'+p,'sharer',
'toolbar=0,status=0,resizable=1,width=626,height=436'))l.href=f+p};if (/Firefox/.test
(navigator.userAgent))setTimeout(a,0);else{a()}}void(0)" target="_blank"><img src="<?php
bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/facebook.png" alt="Share on Facebook" />&nbsp;Share
on Facebook</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/home?status=Check this out: <?php
the_title(); ?> <?php bloginfo('url'); ?>/?p=<?php the_ID(); ?>" target="_blank"><img
src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/twitter.png" alt="Send this page to Twitter"
/>&nbsp;Tweet This</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;<a href="<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>" target="_blank">
<img src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/rss.png" alt="Subscribe by RSS" />&nbsp;
Subscribe by RSS</a>
</span>

that’s a big mess of code in several different languages, so i’ll break it down so you can see what each thing is doing.  also, this assumes that you’ve uploaded your images to the /images folder in your theme and that you are using the same links i am, namely: digg, delicious, facebook, twitter, and for kicks, rss.  i’ll post the code for stumbleupon as well at the end.

span

<span class="linktous">

first, i put everything in a span which i named “linktous”.  this is to make it identifiable later, but also because i add a few css tweaks later, which i’ll get to.  the span isn’t absolutely important, but you’ll find you need it (or something similar) if you want to move stuff around at all.

digg

<a href="javascript:var notes='';if(window.getSelection)notes=window.getSelection();else
if(document.getSelection)notes=document.getSelection();else if(document.selection)notes=
document.selection.createRange().text;if(notes.length>350)notes=notes.substring(0,349);
location.href='http://digg.com/submit?phase=3&url='+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+
'&title='+encodeURIComponent(document.title)+'&bodytext='+encodeURIComponent(notes)"
target="_blank"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/digg.png" alt="Digg
This" />&nbsp;Digg This Post</a>&nbsp;

here’s the digg code.  this particular javascript link allows you to select a portion of the text which will be auto-filled in your digg submission when it sends you there.  not that you need to tell your users that or anything, but you can if you want and it’s pretty neat.  otherwise you can find another digg link that doesn’t do that if you really want, but if nothing is selected, then obviously nothing will be copied, and i’m willing to be that most people will have already selected text anyway because they will be copying and pasting text from the page into digg.  when they get there, they’ll get a little happy surprise.

there isn’t anything major to this link, since the javascript code inside the href does all the heavy lifting.  if you take a look at the end in the img tag, you’ll see that rather than typing in a long path to the image, i used wordpress shortcode.  there’s lots of stuff you can do with <?php bloginfo() ?> which you can read about in the wordpress codex.  a lot of themes will use bloginfo(‘url’) for everything, but that just gives you the main url to the site.  bloginfo(‘template_url’) or bloginfo(‘stylesheet_directory’) send you to the folder of the theme you’re using.  i uploaded all my icons to my theme’s /images folder, so this makes it easy for me, but if you made a folder called “images” just in the root directory, you could do <?php bloginfo(‘url’); ?>/images/youricon.png and be able to easily use the same code if you changed themes.  also, if you haven’t seen or used it before, &nbsp; is the ascii code for a space.  since the code is a big messy beast, i want to make sure there’s the right spacing between my images and the link text.  i could do this with css, but i wanted to keep the css to a minimum so i could easily reuse the code.

del.icio.us and facebook

|&nbsp;<a href="javascript:(function(){location.
href='http://delicious.com/save?url='+encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)+'&title=
'+encodeURIComponent(document.title)+'&v=5&jump=yes'})()" target="_blank"><img src="<?php
bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/delicious.png" alt="Save to del.icio.us" />&nbsp;Save
to del.icio.us</a>&nbsp;

another javascript link that sends you to a delicious submit page.  the links, you’ll notice, are separated by a pipe or |.  it’s a key on your keyboard that you probably don’t even know is there if you’re not a programmer or a hacker.  other than that, and the stuff from above which i’m continuing to use, there’s nothing to see here, or here, when we get to facebook:

|&nbsp;<a href="javascript:var d=document,f='http://www.facebook.
com/share',l=d.location,e=encodeURIComponent,p='.php?src=bm&v=4&i=1239647138&u='+e(l.href)+
'&t='+e(d.title);1;try{if (!/^(.*.)?facebook.[^.]*$/.test(l.host))throw(0);
share_internal_bookmarklet(p)}catch(z) {a=function() {if (!window.open(f+'r'+p,'sharer',
'toolbar=0,status=0,resizable=1,width=626,height=436'))l.href=f+p};if (/Firefox/.test
(navigator.userAgent))setTimeout(a,0);else{a()}}void(0)" target="_blank"><img src="<?php
bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/facebook.png" alt="Share on Facebook" />&nbsp;Share
on Facebook</a>&nbsp;

the facebook share opens a new window, so the javascript link is a bit bigger, but otherwise it’s the same stuff we’ve been doing above.

twitter

|&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/home?status=Check this out: <?php
the_title(); ?> <?php bloginfo('url'); ?>/?p=<?php the_ID(); ?>" target="_blank"><img
src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/twitter.png" alt="Send this page to Twitter"
/>&nbsp;Tweet This</a>&nbsp;

twitter was a bit trickier because of the character limit.  if you’re using pretty permalinks, and you have a url that’s something like http://mydomain.com/wordpress-tricks/how-to-add-an-awesome-social-link-block-to-your-blog/, that’s going to take up most of your character limit with the url alone.  so i started looking for url shortening in a tweet this type code and, while i didn’t find it, this guy had an idea that reminded me that wordpress has a form of url shortening built in.  sort of.  as he explains in his method of creating a tweet this link from your wordpress blog with shortened urls, when you first setup wordpress, all your blog post urls look like this:


http://yourblog.com/?p=123


the part after the ?p= is the ID number of the blog post.  his method describes how to add a url rewriting rule to your .htaccess file so you could do really short urls like this:

http://iboughtamac.com/s/1352

i didn’t want to bother with editing the .htaccess file, especially since the original url is both still entirely functional even with pretty permalinks turned on, and just as short, really.  so here’s the link that i am sending to twitter:

<?php bloginfo('url'); ?>/?p=<?php the_ID(); ?>

first, i get the base url of the site.  it helps (for shortening purposes) if you’ve set the url of your blog in the general settings in your wordpress admin to be http://yourdomain.com rather than http://www.yourdomain.com, but it’s no big — it’s just 3 characters.  so then i added the /?p= to make the url mimic the old-style, ugly permalink.  i follow this by adding the wordpress shortcode to get the ID of the post.  so the url of this post would be:

http://arcanepalette.com/?p=455

not too shabby, eh?  it’s got nothing on http://is.gd/14wmq in terms of brevity, but it’s still pretty good.  twitter is pretty easy because you can send posts to twitter via just about anything.  you can type out your post in your address bar if you were really so inclined.

finishing touches

|&nbsp;<a href="<?php bloginfo('rss_url'); ?>" target="_blank">
<img src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/rss.png" alt="Subscribe by RSS" />&nbsp;
Subscribe by RSS</a>
</span>

i chose to add an rss subscription link to each single post as well, as a way to remind people that they can always subscribe by rss.  getting rss subscribers is a good thing because it brings your site’s visitors back, even if they aren’t actually hitting the site.  once again, i’m using wordpress shortcode to handle the rss url (bloginfo(‘rss_url’)).  if you’re using feedburner and have the feedsmith plugin installed, this will work for you, however, if you don’t have the feedsmith plugin, substitute the <?php bloginfo(‘rss_url’); ?> with your feedburner url.  also, i closed off the span i started at the beginning.

i mentioned earlier that i added some css tweaking.  i wanted my icons to be a bit bigger to make them more visible.  usually when you see buttons like this, they are the standard favicon size of 16×16, but that’s really small.  i made mine 20×20 which isn’t that much bigger but it does make it a bit easier to see what they are and notice that there’s some texture to them.  because of this, i needed to add some css to make the icons vertically centered with the text.  so i added this to my style.css:

.linktous img{margin-bottom: -3px;}

this pulls the icons a few pixels down and levels it out a bit.  i also added a .linktous {text-transform: lowercase;} to make all the text, well, lowercase.  this is purely for aesthetic reasons.

stumbleupon

if you wanted to include a stumbleupon button as well, here’s the url, pulled directly from their button generator thingie:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=<?php the_permalink(); ?>&title=<?php the_title(); ?>

so to put it in the same style as everything else, you’d do something like this

|&nbsp;<a href="http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=<?php the_permalink(); ?>&title=<?php the_title(); ?>"
target="_blank"><img src="<?php bloginfo('template_url'); ?>/images/stumbleupon.png" alt="Stumble This" />
&nbsp;Stumble This</a>

conclusion

why go through all the effort if, as previously mentioned, sociable does something really similar?

one reason is aesthetics and control.  this way i can style the links the way i want and put them where i want and not have resign myself to doing it however the plugin-du-jour happens to do things.

another reason is experience and because i like to get my hands dirty.  if you’ve gotten this far, i imagine you like to get your hands dirty as well, or at least are interested in learning more about how to build and/or customize wordpress themes.

the last reason is stability.  i learned (the hard way!) from using tons of firefox extensions that doing so doesn’t exactly result in the most stable (or fast) environment.  taking care of the code myself and embedding it into the theme rather than tacking on yet another plugin is one less complication, one less thing to upgrade, and one less thing that can break.

so that about wraps up this lesson.  i hope you found this useful and feel free to use the fabulous links below to share this post if you did!