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18 Adding Social Features to Your Blog

As blogging evolves one natural track is making your blog more social, more of a community destination.

Two big players, Facebook and Google, want to help you do just that.

Facebook recently announced a new offsite tool called Facebook Connect that allows publishers to give visitors to a blog the ability to sign in using Facebook and then automatically publish their comments on the blog back to Facebook and display Facebook content from their profile to other blog users. The idea is that some of the Facebook features come to life on your blog and stimulate more community and more content.

The process for adding this feature is still a bit techie and involves stepping through the Facebook application developer process, but it’s not that tough.

Here are some resources
Create a Facebook Connect application
Video from Facebook on how to install (pretty technical)
Facebook Connect Plug-in directory

Google’s entry into this space is called Google Friend Connect. In addition to the ability to create a community and add widgets for various types of social interaction, this service allows visitors to use their MySpace, Yahoo, Google or OpenID profiles to sign-in to your blog.

The installation process is very simple. Sign-up, download and install two files that Google gives you and grab the HTML code to install the widget.

Some resources
Google Friend Connect
Video shows you how to install on WordPress blog

There are some good things and some bad things about these initiatives. On one hand they allow more social features and more connection on your site. On the other hand, they can distract and even lead people away from your site.

And, there is a bit of an annoying battle going on here for competing sign-in platforms. OpenID was supposed to be the non-denominational, secure single sign-in platform and while it has picked up steam, features like Facebook Connect that still rely on proprietary, closed-door sign-in only tends to undercut the OpenId promise. (FYI: Google Friend Connect initially included Facebook log in as part of the tool, but Facebook demanded that it be removed.)

12 Your Backpack just got a lot bigger

BackpackI’m a big fan of most of what comes out of 37signals. (I’ve posted about many of their offerings over the years.)

One of their tools, Backpack, just got a whole lot more useful for the small business.

Backpack is a tool that allows you to keep track of what you’re doing online, calendars, to-do lists, reminders, files, even pages organized around something you are working on. The problem was that until recently this was a single user tool. Great for keeping your stuff together, but not so easy to share.

Backpack now comes in a multi-user version that really makes this tool more like an on-demand Intranet for small business. You can create as many users as you like and each user can have their own calendars, effectively creating an online shareable calendaring system. The newsroom feature is a like an activity dashboard that also keeps group messaging tidy.

There is a lot of crossover from Basecamp in terms of functionality, writeboards, lists and the such, but while Basecamp is more about project management and shared collaboration from outside, permission based, resources, I think Backpack is really more company focused. I can see small companies organizing it much like a knowledge base to house company documents, processes and manuals.

I really think it’s killer when combined with Basecamp. If you use multiple offerings from 37signals, one tip I would suggest is to get an OpenID and use it to log in to your accounts and then you will have the ability to jump back and forth to all of your accounts from a simple dashboard interface.

Here’s a nice side by side comparison of the 37signals offerings.

8 Multiple passwords driving you mad?

OpenIDThe more we are online to do everyday things like manage CRM, create email marketing campaigns, send invoices and even manage project work with customers and partners, the more usernames and passwords we need to create and then recall.

There are many solutions to this problem, you can do a great job of creating and recording passwords – of course some are just assigned to you – or you use the same for all – but, that could cause some serious security issues too.

One solution that is slowly gaining some steam is something called OpenID. An OpenID allows you to choose a URL that becomes your unique and universal login for sites that accept OpenID.

From the OpenID site:

OpenID eliminates the need for multiple usernames across different websites, simplifying your online experience.

You get to choose the OpenID Provider that best meets your needs and most importantly that you trust. At the same time, your OpenID can stay with you, no matter which Provider you move to. And best of all, the OpenID technology is not proprietary and is completely free.

There is no complete source of who accepts OpenID, but the list is growing and you need to look for the OpenID logo. Here are two sites OpenID Directory and MyOpenId that list sites that currently utilize OpenID for login. Google has taken a step towards getting behind this standard by allowing Blogger users OpenID login and Microsoft earlier this year announced a development partnership to support OpenID.

First you have to pick your OpenID provider. Best to choose someone you already trust. I chose Verisign, AOL and Technorati offer them. Here’s a list of places to get your OpenID.

For now, I can login to Plaxo, my WordPress blog, Basecamp, AOL, Blogger, Blinksale and Technorati using my OpenID. This is reason enough to get behind this, but I also have about 5 accounts for a tool I use daily called Basecamp for project work with various strategic partners. Each has a different login URL, username and password. With OpenID I can tie them all together, use one URL (the one I created), one login and I’m logged into all 5 at the same time with dashboard access to all. Now that’s reason to get excited.