May 24, 2020

RSS / Email / More Sidebar Boxes

If you added a Label navigation box, you saw that there were lots of different sidebar gadget options to choose from. You can explore all those on your own; in this post, I'm going to zoom in on the types of sidebar content I find myself using in my blogs.

RSS / Recent Posts

One of the options you can choose is Feed which allows you to add RSS feeds to your blog sidebar. You can find lots of information about RSS feeds in the Inoreader section of this blog. Right now, suffice to say that RSS is a way you can get fresh content from blogs, news sites, podcasts, etc.

So, for example, if you want to add a "Recent Posts" box to your sidebar, you can do that by adding the RSS feed of your own blog. Here's how that works:

1. Add box. Go to the Dashboard Layout, and select a new gadget sidebar box. This time, choose Feed:

2. Add feed address. Then, paste in the address of your blog in the dialogue box:

3. Configure. You will then see a preview where you can select various options, including the title you want to display in the sidebar box. You can change it to "Recent Posts" if you are displaying the recent posts at your own blog.

You can add as many Feed boxes to your sidebar as you want. So, for example, you could snag an NPR feed that is relevant to your class, a feed from some other news source, etc. There is a lot of RSS out there, and that's a great way to bring fresh new content to your blog sidebar.

Email Subscription

Google acquired several years ago, which is the service it uses for email subscriptions to blogs; it's an excellent service (I was using Feedburner before Google acquired it). To get lots more information about email options, you can log on at Feedburner, but the basic service works just fine. All you have to do is install the email box in your sidebar, and users can subscribe.

To see how that works, go ahead and subscribe yourself. You'll see that there is a confirmation email you have to click (that's to prevent spam), and then you will receive an email daily if there is new blog post content. Each of those emails also contains an unsubscribe link.

I always encourage my students to subscribe to the class announcements by email, and many of them stay subscribed even after the class is over because most of the class announcements content is for fun and exploration, which includes exploration even after the class is over.

Blog Search

Another useful box to include is a search box, especially if you are using one of the dynamic themes that does not have a search box across the top of the blog:

One of my biggest complaints about Canvas LMS is that it does not have any search options for the course content in the LMS. Especially if you are using blogs to present course content to students, including a search box is a good idea.

Featured Post

The "Featured Post" option is something that is included by default in some of the newer Blogger themes, and it can even be used in the post column, not just as sidebar content.

When you install this option, you can configure it in various ways which makes it quite useful:

I just wish you could install more than one featured-post box (the way you can install multiple label boxes), but unfortunately you can only install one Feature Post box in your layout.

So, those are some of the preset Blogger sidebar boxes that I really like, and next up is the make-it-anything-you-want sidebar option: HTML Boxes.