Jan 17, 2009

Garden Blogs And Google Friend Connect

When Google Friend Connect launched my first reaction was one of excitement. I'm all for adding interactive content to my gardening blog. Then it dawned on me that the Blogger commenting system and followers gadget did basically the same thing and the excitement quickly dissipated. Today I took Google Friend Connect for a spin and realized it is a pretty neat addition for a blog (even blogger ones) but it is something that can add interactivity to just about any website and is installed in seconds. I'll show you how I set up and installed two of the gadget and give some ideas on how it can be beneficial to your website or blog. Your visitors just need a Google, Yahoo, AIM or OpenID account to use them.

setting up Google Friend Connect on my garden blogStep #1:
Sign into Google Friend Connect and set up a new site. You'll be asked for a name of a site and the url, if you have more than one website you want to use this on you can add more later. If you look at the image on the right I used my personal garden blog to test Friend Connect. The next screen will ask you to download two files to your website. If you're using blogger ignore this command and click continue. Blogger already has these two files but if you're running your own blog or website consult your web host or website admin on where to place these files.

Step #2:
Setting up Google Friend Connect WidgetThe next prompt will ask you to test your setup. What it is doing is checking that you placed the two files mentioned above. Again, if you're using blogger for your blog go ahead and click "test to finalize." If you're not using blogger make sure the two files have been added before you click "test to finalize." The next step prepares the "Member" gadget to be placed on your blog or website. Click Get the code for Members gadget and you'll be taken to the wizard for modifying the gadget to fit on your blog or website. If you're placing the members gadget on your blog sidebar make sure your sidebar is wide enough to accommodate it or make the gadget narrower by lowering the width number. You can customize the Member gadget to look just like the design of your blog or leave it as is. If you need help choosing the right colors you can get them from your Blogger template under Layout> Fonts & Colors. Click Generate the HTML code, highlight and copy it by right clicking on it. You paste this code into the HMTL/JavaScript box under Add a Gadget (for Blogger) and save. You're done.

Google Friend Connect member list preview my garden blogThis is what the gadget looks like after you've installed it onto your sidebar or website template. I used three of my Google accounts to test it and capture these images. It looks similar to the Followers gadget that is currently available on blogger blogs but it has some better features. I wouldn't necessarily replace the followers gadget with this-I'd use it to compliment it. The Followers gadget only displays other Blogger members who follow your blog through their Blogger dashboard. The Members gadget allows you to display something similar to our Followers gadget and show off the popularity of your blog or website. Members of your website or blog can request to be added as friends amongst themselves- a feature that the Followers gadget on Blogger lacks. For those of us who use Blogger the Members list will display your Google profile, not your Blogger profile. Sign into your Google, Yahoo, Aim or OpenID account to add a bio, links to your blog, website etc so you can get visitors to them.

Setting up the Wall gadget.

Step #1:
Under Social gadgets you'll find the wizard for adding the Wall gadget to your blog or website. With this people can leave comments on your website and you can interact with them even if you don't have a blog. You can customize the size and colors just like with the Members gadget. I've left mine the default colors for this example. When you set it up it will ask you for the "scope" choose either entire site or page. If you want the Wall gadget to display the same across your whole website or blog choose entire site. If you'd like for the Wall gadget to be unique for each page of your website or blog choose page. If you choose "page" and you're using it on Blogger make sure you have enabled post pages for your blog as each page allows for a unique conversation to take place in your Wall.
From www.gardenbloggers.com


Step #2:
Just like with adding the Members gadget copy and paste the HTML code into the HTML/JavaScript gadget click save and you're done. There is also a Review/Rate gadget that is similar to the Wall gadget that you can add.

 Google Friend Connect profile example on my garden blogHere is an example of what a member will see when they click on your picture. It shows my recent activity, which consisted of adding a friend, it has my Google profile (remember, it is different from a Blogger profile) and if you could scroll it you'd see it has a place for links and a list of my friends at the bottom.

As you can see adding Google Friend Connect can add some cool interactive features to your blog allowing you to connect with your visitors and they can connect and interact with each other. Even if you already have a commenting system the Wall and Review/Rate gadgets can be used to compliment them. I can see this being especially beneficial to those in the gardening world for who a simple HTML website or photo gallery is enough. In particular, I'm thinking about nurseries and garden designers I've come across on Twitter who have websites and portfolios but there is no way to provide them feedback or give testimonials aside from contacting them directly. The Wall or Review/Rate would be great on a nursery's website where the customers who have bought the plant can give their experience with it or help answer questions of other customers, it is like adding a mini forum without the cost associated with running one and the members gets the benefit of possibly creating a following for his or her garden blog with the friend feature-everyone benefits.

Related Post:
Threaded comments for Blogger with Google Friend Connect-Part2

Update: This feature how now been implemented as Blogger Followers on Blogger blogs. While moderating members recently on a blog I used GFC on I noticed that all the blogs I had created were already registered with GFC and you could skip the signup process.

7 comments:

  1. This is interesting, MBT. I might check it out. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for stopping by Kylee. Make sure to check out the second part to this post.

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  3. I'm still confused about this google connect thing. I'm still figuring it out. Thanks for the post..it's very helpful.

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  4. Thanks for the information.
    We've installed Google friend connect in two blogs, but still struggling with all the technicities.
    Have signed Google friend connect in your blog.

    Thank you very much.

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  5. All in All very good advice, if I could make it work... dam it wont work on my blog HTML box. When I copy paste the codes into there it goes in a error....

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  6. Jesper,

    Took a look at your blog and saw that GFC is working. It must've been a glitch Blogger was dealing with.

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  7. Where did you get your 'post a comment' widget?

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I hope you find this blog a useful garden blogging resource. Sometimes I may reply to comments with my MrBrownThumb account or I may reply with my Garden Bloggers account. Hope this isn't confusing. If you're looking for gardening information check out "Google For Gardeners"

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