Friday, October 9, 2009

Creating a Blog Index

I spent several hours over the last weekend and have started creating an index for my blog. Until now I have used labels and that does help in finding things, to a point. Currently I am just shy of 700 posts and over 200 of them are labeled Camfield family letters. Of those I'm guessing that half or more were written by Sarah Ann. I could go back through and add a specific label for her letters but with over 300 labels now I'm not certain that is the best way to go either. There are other reasons that labels alone are no longer efficient for me.

First, I am at the point where there are so many letters that I am having trouble going back and locating a specific letter. For example, I know that Sarah Ann mentioned her wedding anniversary but I can't remember when she mentioned it. Anna's cousin's kept her posted on many family events but was a particular event mentioned by Ella or Elizabeth?

Second, I have been adding links to letters and articles I've written on individual pages on Footnote and on my Ancestry trees. [Links are found way down on the left on Footenote and on the right on Ancestry.] That works fine if there are only a few letters for an individual but for Sarah Ann or even Ella that would be a very long list of links to add! Add the fact that I have broken down my trees into family groups and that those groups overlap and I would have to add in Sarah Ann's links twice as she appears in two trees. It is much simpler to add a link to an individual index page.

Third, I have written a post or two over the years that have nothing to do with the letters and they seem to get lost in the mix. For example I've written about Ruby Camfield but if you click on the Camfield label you'll have to scroll through 270 other items before you find it.

For now my method of indexing is simple. I have begun with an Index to Individuals. I simply created a new post and changed the date on it to the date I began this blog. [The date you pick is unimportant. Going back to the beginning just made it easier to find later. By picking a past date for your index page it will not show up in your feed as a new post.] I then entered a few surnames and then individual's names. If there is only one post about an individual I link directly to it from the index page. If there are more than one post about an individual I start another new post and list all of their posts there and then link to that page on the index page. The individual index pages may vary slightly depending on the type of information I have. My page for Harvey Berry has only a few links so far and I have arranged them in chronological order rather than by the date they were written. I have also added just a few words of description to each link. On the page for Ella Hall McKinnon I decided to create separate categories for Articles and Letters. I skimmed each letter as I created a link to it and added a brief description to each link so if she mentioned a family event I can now find it fairly quickly. Eventually I hope to go back and create links on individual index pages to letters where a person was mentioned.

I have also created an index to all of my Carnival of Genealogy articles and will create other indexes as well for various topics or family groups. I have added a link to the main indexes on my right hand side-bar (go ahead, break out of your reader and take a peek.) I am hoping that having an index will not only help me find what I am looking for but that it will also help cousins who are only interested in a specific family group zero in on their lines.

So do you need a blog index? I never imagined when I started Apple's Tree, less than three years ago, that there would be so much here that I would need one but in hindsight I wish I'd had one from the beginning. It would have only taken a few minutes each week to update it rather than the hours days weeks that I think it will take me now!

Update

John Newmark has responded to this with a post of his own at TransylvanianDutch. He has some great tips on new features in blogger that may help you with how you use labels and also some thoughts on the new search widget that is available. As Jasia mentioned in her comment the old search feature wasn't worth using. I have implemented both of his suggestions.

Thanks John!

With all of the new widgets available for blogger I would have thought that they would have added one that creates a drop down option for labels as they have for archive. Cheryl mentioned in a comment and John in his post that your label list can become much too long to be functional on your side bar. I have added a drop down menu for my labels so that they are all still there but take up very little space. I'd be happy to help anyone with this but I probably can't explain it as well as Amanda has at Blogger Buster. Her code is slightly different than mine but accomplishes the same thing. (Whenever you mess with your template create a backup copy first! I also have a hidden test blog where I try out new things to see how they'll look.)

7 comments:

Janet Iles said...

Thanks for explaining how you have set up your indexing for your blog. I can see how it will be helpful on your site.

footnoteMaven said...

Apple:

This is my biggest blog regret. I should have had an index since day one.

This is a genuine short coming of the blog format.

I've started, but I tend to nod off.

Congratulations on your FTM 40 nomination. I am a great admirer of your blog and the tremendous amount of work you accomplish for your family. Go Apple!

-fM

Jasia said...

Well aren't you the ambitious one?!!! Good for you Apple. I can certainly understand how you would feel the need for an index. I feel the need too! I really should get busy and create one too. I can't tell you how many times I've done searches on my blog to find a topic I know I've written on only to come up empty. Very frustrating!

Given how many other badges, widgets, and gizmos have been created for blogs I'm surprised that someone hasn't designed and implemented an index strategy and format for blogs. I think the option to create individual pages in WordPress could be used for this purpose. You could have one page as just your index. But in Blogger, there isn't that option. :-(

I like your idea of creating an early post and putting all the information there. You've inspired me! Thanks Apple! I think I'll work on creating one too, right after I finish identifying the 15,000 "un-named" faces that Picasa has found on my hard drive. It sounds daunting doesn't it? But actually, I can get through about a thousand a day so it's not too bad. Like with the blog index, it will help me find all the pictures I have of a given person when I'm done. And that will be a huge help!

Good luck with your index! Keep us posted!

Cheryl Fleming Palmer said...

I Love, Love, Love what you are doing and have done with the indexing! Lately I have found I am not happy with labels. There are times I go to check if I have posted a certain picture or article and can't find them (just like Jasia!)which is very frustrating. I also haven't been happy with how long the list has gotten on the side and all of the scrolling that needs to be done. I don't have as many posts as you do Apple at this point, but I am thinking I need to do something too, before I have 700 posts! Thanks for sharing with us!

Apple said...

John Newmark has posted his thoughts on this with some great tips. I've updated my post with a link to his. Thanks John!

Janet - Thanks!

fM - The trick for me will be keeping it updated also.

Thanks! I'm happy to be nominated but OH! The pressure. LOL I'm trying not to let my head swell too big.

Jasia - I haven't tried the new Picasa yet. Once winter sets in (and I'm in no hurry for it!) I will have more time. The face recognition sounds neat. Good luck on your tagging - 1,000 a day - Wow!

Finding things has become very frustrating. I've added a search widget but because my ancestors couldn't spell and I can't remember how they phrased things it hasn't helped that much. For others this might be a much easier option.

Cheryl - Thanks! Labels do help me find things to a degree so I'm not abandoning them but they have their limits and in many cases I haven't used them effectively. When I updated this post I also added a link to instructions for a drop-down box for labels that helps clear up your sidebar that you may want to check out.

Becky said...

Apple,

I too found locating specific posts to be frustrating. A while back I created a series of posts for the surnames with the most posts in my blog. I've linked to them in the sidebar on my blog. But I like your idea of creating index posts for the COG and other topics as well. The problem then becomes keeping the index posts updated as new posts are created! LOL. Nothing is ever easy or not as easy as you think it should be!

Apple said...

Becky - Now that I'm seeing how long it is taking to index I'm wondering if I shouldn't just index the letters and use something similar to your method for the rest. Of course if I ever finish indexing the letters the rest won't seem like so mauch! Winter will be here all to soon and it will be something to keep me busy. Keeping it updated will be the trick, especially since I do so many scheduled posts.