David Klein

Tumblr – The iWeb MobileMe Blogging Alternative

11 July 2009

The seamless integration between iWeb and MobileMe is ideal for anyone who wants an effortless way to create and manage a blog. I used the combination for a couple years, but I always felt trapped by the simplicity. I found myself asking the question “Can I do this?” with the inevitable answer being “No.” For example, why can’t my blog automatically be updated when I upload photos to Flickr or update my Twitter? Yes, you can add HTML and Flash widgets for various sites like Flickr and Twitter, but they cannot be automatically imported as posts.

Another question I asked often was “Why can’t I update from a friend’s computer?” Unfortunately, you can only update your MobileMe blog from the one computer where you use iWeb. Perhaps Apple will eventually allow you to update from me.com, but for now you’re stuck.

Someone using iWeb for blogging and MobileMe for hosting never has to think about HTML, CSS, or Javascript coding. However, if you occasionally enjoy tinkering and experimenting like myself, there are alternatives to consider. That’s why I recently switched to Tumblr, and I’d like to share my experience with you. Tumblr is a free and easy platform for sharing pictures, videos, music, quotes, links, and, of course, text from your phone or computer. You can use an iPhone app (Tumblr, Tumble Pro, TheTumbler), email, or any web browser.

Changing your blogging routine can be stressful so I understand if you are hesitant. Fortunately, everything you do here is easily reversible. Your iWeb and MobileMe data will not be touched.


Create a Tumblr Account

This includes entering your email address, a password, and your desired URL (which can be changed later).

Create Tumblr Account
Customize Your Page

Click Customize to see this menu.

Customize Tumblr
Info Menu

The Info menu allows you to enter a title for your blog, provide a description, select an image for your blog’s favicon, change your blog’s URL, or, most importantly, set up a custom domain name. I used GoDaddy for mine, and to cut the cost I used one of Cali Lewis’ Geekbrief.tv coupons: GB1, GB2, or GB3. This is a great opportunity to learn about custom DNS settings since you need to point your domain’s A record to 72.32.231.8. After a few hours (up to 24) your Tumblr account will appear when you enter your domain name into a web browser.

The description field can also be used to enter your Google Analytics account information. If you don’t have an Analytics account I highly recommend creating one. It’s extremely cool to see how many people visit your site and where they are in the world.

Google Analytics screenshot
Theme Menu

There is a variety of themes provided by Tumblr to choose from. However, you can use the “Use custom HTML” button to import themes from sites like tumblrthemes.com and customthemes.tumblr.com. Once you find a theme you like, locate the HTML code, copy it, and paste it into Tumblr. Click “Update preview” and check out a preview of your blog. The custom HTML feature is where your tinkering habits can take control.

The description field can also be used to enter your Google Analytics account information. If you don’t have an Analytics account I highly recommend creating one. It’s extremely cool to see how many people visit your site and where they are in the world.

Tumblr Themes
Appearance Menu

Some themes provide the ability to change text color, link color, background color, etc. With this menu you can choose a popular theme, but still adjust it to your liking.

Feeds Menu

The Feeds menu allows you to import your current blog’s RSS feed, and your accounts from lots of websites. Tumblr will automatically update your account about every hour. Some accounts are updated within minutes; some are updated every hour. If you choose to link your Twitter account there’s a cool option on the Preferences page that makes Tumblr automatically tweet when you update your Tumblr account. This does not include items imported by the Feeds menu.

Note: If you choose to import your Flickr account, choose RSS feed as photos and enter your photostream RSS feed URL.

Tumblr Feeds
Advanced Menu

The Advanced menu includes a short list of options that are self-explanatory. For example, timezone, enable high-res photos, use descriptive url’s, allow search engines to index your tumbelog, promote me on tumblr, and location.

Create a New Post

Update iWeb. Update Twitter. Update Flickr. This will add some meat to your new Tumblr account so you can see how your theme looks with different kinds of posts.

Add Comments Using Disqus

If you choose to use a custom HTML theme on Tumblr, you can enter some clever code to allow visitors to your blog to comment on each post. Disqus provides the ability for visitors to leave comments as guests, Disqus users, Facebook users, or Twitter users. This makes it easy for visitors to keep track of their comments on the web, and automatically repost them to the listed services. If you’re nervous about code, don’t worry; Disqus shows you exactly where to paste their code in.

Disqus screenshot
Decide

These instructions are only the beginning. If you’re comfortable with CSS and HTML you can go way beyond. I consider the theme to be lifting off point. It’s up to you to make it unique. Tumblr has some great built-in tools for extending your basic blog into a powerful site. Visit tehdik.com to see how I personally extended a theme. I used a theme with a built-in sidebar so I could provide basic information about myself, some links, a search field, and my Twitter data. That leaves my main content area for Flickr pictures, videos, and text updates.

I am an extremely satisfied Tumblr user. iWeb + MobileMe was easy, but it just wasn’t enough. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Important note: Aaron convinced me to switch to Tumblr, and he answered my somewhat complicated CSS questions.

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