Advanced Blog Management with Apache Roller 4.0: Part 3

A comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to set up, customize, and market your blog using Apache Roller

Weblog clients

There are times when logging into your Roller weblog to post a new entry can be a tedious process, especially when you have two or more weblogs about different subjects. Let's say that you have to write stuff in your company's blog, and you also write in your personal Roller blog. You can open two web browser windows and log into each blog separately, but it would be better to use a weblog client, as I'll show you in the next exercise.

Time for action – using Google docs as your weblog client

In this exercise, you'll learn to use Google docs as your weblog client to post entries in your Roller weblogs without having to log in:

  1. Open your web browser, go to http://docs.google.com, log in with your username and password (if you don't have a Google account, this is your chance to get one!), then click on the New button, and select the Document option:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  2. Your browser will open a new tab for the new Google docs document. Type This is my first post to my Roller weblog from Google Docs! in the word processor writing area, as shown in the following screenshot:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  3. Now click on the File menu and select the Save option to save your draft in Google docs:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  4. Google docs assigns the title for your document automatically, based on its content. To change the title of your post, click on it:

    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

  5. Type Posting to Roller from Google Docs in the dialog that will show up next, and click on OK to continue:

    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

  6. Google docs will show the new title for your post:

    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

  7. Now click on the Share button and select the Publish as web page option:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  8. The Publish this document dialog will appear. Click on the change your blog site settings link to enter your Roller weblog information:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  9. The Blog Site Settings dialog will appear next. Choose the My own server / custom option and select MetaWeblog API in the API field. In the URL field you need to type the complete path to Roller's web services—http://alromero.noip.org/roller/roller-services/xmlrpc, in my case. You just need to replace the alromero.no-ip.org part with your dynamic hostname. Then type your Roller username, password, and weblog name, and select the Include the document title when posting option, as shown in the following screenshot:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  10. Click on the OK button to save your weblog settings, and then click on the Post to blog button in the Publish this document dialog:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  11. A confirmation dialog will pop-up, asking if you want to post the document to your blog now. Click on OK to continue:

    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

  12. Google docs will show the This document has been published to your blog success message:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  13. Click on the Save & Close button at the upper-right part of the screen to save your document and return to the Google docs main page, then click on Sign out to exit Google docs. Now go to your Roller weblog's main page, to see the post you published from Google docs:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

What just happened?

See how easy it is to use a weblog client, so that you don't need to log into your Roller weblog to post a new entry? And if you want to post to a different Roller weblog, you just need to change your username, blog ID, or URL. There are several other weblog clients available that you can use, depending on your operating system, but all weblog clients work in a similar way.

Have a go hero – try out other weblog clients

Go and try out some other weblog clients, to see which one is best for you. In Windows, you can use Windows Live Writer (http://download.live.com/writer) and w.bloggar (http://bloggar.com/). In Linux, you can try out BloGTK (https://launchpad.net/blogtk/).

Planet Roller

How about having your very own weblog community? Well, Roller is prepared to assist you in that matter. Planet Roller is an aggregator that takes care of all the stuff required to run your community blog server. You just have to invite other people to join in as Roller users, and you can even include external blogs related to your community's content! Stick with me and I'll show you how easy it is to create a Roller weblog community.

Time for action – using Planet Roller

In this exercise, you'll learn to enable and use the Planet Roller aggregator to run your own community of weblogs:

  1. If you're using Linux, create a directory named roller_data inside your home directory, and then create a directory named planetcache inside roller_data (for example, I'm using /home/ibacsoft/roller_data/planetcache). You also need to give permission to the Tomcat user to write in this directory (use sudo chown –R tomcat:tomcat /home/ibacsoft/roller_data). In Windows, you can use C:roller_dataplanetcache, and you don't need to assign special permissions to the directory.
  2. Open the roller-custom.properties file located inside Roller's WEB-INF/classes directory, and add the following lines at the end (the following code is for a Linux installation; if you're using Windows, make sure to change the correct path to the planetcache directory):
    planet.aggregator.cache.dir=/home/ibacsoft/roller_data/planetcache
    planet.aggregator.enabled=true
    # Tasks which are enabled. Only tasks listed here will be run.
    tasks.enabled=ScheduledEntriesTask,ResetHitCountsTask,
    TurnoverReferersTask,PingQueueTask,
    RefreshRollerPlanetTask,SyncWebsitesTask
    # Set of page models specifically for site-wide rendering
    rendering.siteModels=
    org.apache.roller.weblogger.ui.rendering.model.SiteModel,
    org.apache.roller.weblogger.ui.rendering.model.PlanetModel
  3. Now create a new file named planet-custom.properties in the same directory as roller-custom.properties, and type the following lines inside this file (remember to change the path in cache.dir when using Windows):
    installation.type=auto
    database.configurationType=jndi
    database.jndi.name=jdbc/rollerdb
    mail.configurationType=jndi
    mail.jndi.name=mail/Session
    cache.dir=/home/ibacsoft/roller_data/planetcache
  4. Save the file and restart Tomcat to apply the changes. Then open your web browser and log into your Roller weblog using the following URL: http://alromero.no-ip.org/roller/roller-ui/admin/globalConfig.rol. Once you type your username and password, Roller will take you directly to the Roller Configuration page:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  5. Click on the Planet Admin tab and use the following screenshot as a guide to fill in the required fields:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  6. Click on Save when finished. Roller will show the Saved Planet configuration message inside a green box. Now click on the Main Menu link from Roller's menu bar and then on the Settings link in your frontpage blog:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  7. The Weblog Settings page will appear next. Click on the Design tab to go to the Weblog Theme page, and select the Custom Theme option:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  8. Scroll down the page and click on the Update Theme button to continue. Now click on the Templates link and then select the Weblog template:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  9. Scroll down the page until you locate the ## 1) SITE-WIDE entries (the default) line, then change the #set($pager = $site.getWeblogEntriesPager($since, $maxResults)) line to ## set($pager = $site.getWeblogEntriesPager($since, $maxResults)), and the ## set($pager = $planet.getAggregationPager($since, $maxResults)) line to #set($pager = $planet.getAggregationPager($since, $maxResults)), as shown in the following screenshot:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  10. Click on the Save button when finished. Now click on the Main Menu link from Roller's menu bar and then click on the Planet administration link under the Actions panel:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  11. The Planet Configuration page will appear next. Click on the Subscriptions link and then type http://rollerweblogger.org/project/feed/entries/rss in the Newsfeed URL field:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  12. Click on the Save button to add the Roller Weblogger RSS feed to your Planet aggregator. Now type http://www.packtpub.com/rss.xml in the Newsfeed URL field and click on Save again to add the Packt Publishing newsfeed:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide
  13. Now you just have to wait until Roller starts to aggregate content from the Packt Publishing and Roller Weblogger newsfeeds. The following screenshot shows my Roller Planet aggregator in action, listing content from Roller and from the Packt Book Feed:
    Apache Roller 4.0 – Beginner's Guide

What just happened?

Your very own Planet Roller aggregator! Congratulations! You can also add some more external newsfeeds to keep your community engaged in their topics of interest. This is a great way to collaborate with bloggers from other communities, and you can also use trackbacks and comments to interact!

Have a go hero – spice up your Planet Roller

Edit the Frontpage template to your liking: change the logo, add some Flash animation, change the background/foreground color, and so on. Check out some other aggregators to get fresh ideas about how to display your aggregator's information in a cool way for your visitors!

Summary

I hope this article was as entertaining for you to read as it was for me to write. There are a lot of subjects I didn't cover because of space restrictions.

Specifically, we covered:

  • How to manage group blogs, create new users, and enable a front page weblog to show all the recent entries from all the users' weblogs
  • How to use aggregators and blog search engines such as Technorati to promote your Roller weblog via automatic pings
  • How to configure Google webmaster tools to find out about visitors to your blog, popular keywords used, and potential errors
  • How to use podcasts in your weblog entries to attract visitors that use podcatcher software such as iTunes
  • How to use Google docs as a weblog client to publish entries in your Roller weblog, without having to log in
  • How to use the Planet Roller aggregator to show external feeds from other blogs, along with all the weblogs in your Roller server
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