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How can blog readers subscribe to email alerts or RSS notifications from my blog?

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Yes, there are a couple ways to do this: (1) RSS / Atom Feeds and (2) Email alerts.

(1) RSS / Atom Feeds

Blog templates come with an Atom feed by default. You might not have noticed, however, since there is no indication of it on your public blog page. Well, that's not exactly true: if you open your blog in Mozilla Firefox, you'll see in the address bar an orange RSS icon. It doesn't show up on every page; just those pages that include a line of code that indicates that the page has an alternative format as an RSS or Atom feed.

To put a link on your blog page to your Atom feed, follow these steps:

  1. Log into UThink and select your blog from the dashboard
  2. Go to Design > Widgets
  3. Click on one of your sidebar widget sets. It might be called "3-column layout - Secondary Sidebar".
  4. On the right column, "Available Widgets", find the "Syndication" widget and drag it over to the left column, "Installed Widgets". Save and re-build your site.

Atom feeds have their advantages, but some people prefer RSS feeds. There's an easy way to create an RSS feed for your blog:

  1. Log into UThink and select your blog from the dashboard
  2. Go to Design > Templates
  3. On the right-hand side, look for an "Install Templates" link
  4. After clicking on the link, you'll have an option to choose a template set. Choose "Podcasting Templates", then Continue.
  5. You should now have a new index template listed called RSS. Every time you re-publish your blog (manually, or automatically every time you save a new entry), your new RSS feed will be updated.

Now you should put a link to your RSS feed on your sidebar. This should probably be in lieu of the Atom feed that you might have installed in previous instructions. To replace the Atom feed link with an RSS feed link, follow these steps:

  1. Log into UThink and select your blog if you haven't already
  2. Go to Design > Templates
  3. Click on your Atom template. If you're not sure which one that is, take a look at the "Output File" column and look for "atom.xml".
  4. With the Atom feed template open, click on Template Options.
  5. Change the Template Type from "Feed - Recent Entries [feed_recent]" to "Custom Index Template."
  6. Save
  7. Go back to Design > Templates and choose your new RSS feed template
  8. Click on Template Options
  9. Change the Template Type to "Feed - Recent Entries [feed_recent]"
  10. Save and re-publish your entire blog

You should find that the "Subscribe to this blog's feed" link has now switched from atom.xml to rss.xml.

(2) Email alerts

An alternative to RSS or Atom syndication, your blog readers can sign up to receive email alerts anytime your blog is updated. There's a UThink / Movable Type plugin called MT-Notifier that works pretty well. You can install MT-Notifier for blog updates, entry updates (i.e. following the comments of one entry), and category-based updates (i.e. follow the new entries of a particular category.) Below are instructions for installing the MT-Notifier widget for blog-wide updates.

  1. Log into UThink and select your blog from the dashboard, if you haven't already.
  2. Go to Tools > Plugins
  3. On the list of Plugins, click on MT-Notifier 4.31
  4. Choose "Settings" for MT-Notifier 4.31
  5. Scroll down to the "Widgets" section of Settings.
  6. Click on "Click here to install the MT-Notifier Blog Subscription Widget"
  7. The next page will be a new widget form that's already been filled out. Click Save.
  8. Now go to Design > Widgets
  9. Select the sidebar that you'd like to add the signup box to, such as "3-column layout - Primary Sidebar"
  10. Drag the "MT-Notifier Blog Widget" from the right-hand column (Available Widgets) to the left-hand column (Installed Widgets).
  11. Save and re-build your site

Now you should have a signup box on your blog's sidebar. Email addresses can be added one at a time, and a confirmation message is sent to each email address. If you go to Manage > Subscriptions, you can see the pending (unconfirmed) and accepted registrations.

One drawback of the MT-Notifier widget is that it sends a new email every time an update occurs, rather than sending out one a day or one summary a month. If that's a concern for you as well, you might look into third party solutions such as Google FeedBurner. FeedBurner can be configured to ingest an RSS or Atom feed and output daily email notifications. I won't go into detail on how to do this, since FeedBurner is third party and not part of the U of M Google Apps suite. But take it from me that it's pretty easy and works well.

FeedBurner or other third party services might give you some HTML embed code. You can add it to your sidebar easily if you create it as a new widget.

  1. Log into UThink and select your blog from your dashboard
  2. Go to Design > Widgets
  3. Click on "Create new widget"
  4. Give the new widget a title, like "FeedBurner registrations"
  5. Use this code along with the HTML embed code that FeedBurner or another service gave you.
    <div class="widget-subscribe widget"> <h3 class="widget-header">Subscribe to Blog</h3> <div class="widget-content"> <form method="get" action="<mt:cgipath><mt:commentscript>"> <input type="hidden" name="__mode" value="verify_subs" /> <input type="hidden" name="blog_id" value="<$MTBlogID$>" /> <input id="email" name="email" size="16" /> <input type="submit" class="button" value="Go" /> </form> </div>
    </div>
  6. Save the widget.
  7. Go back to Design > Widgets and select the sidebar that you want to add it to, like "3-column layout - Primary Sidebar"
  8. Drag your new widget from the right column to the left column.
  9. Save and re-build your site

3 Replies

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  • RSS Feed by Category:

    It is possible to have feeds automatically created for each of your categories.

    Create a new category archive template
    1. Log into UThink and select your blog from the dashboard
    2. Go to Design > Templates
    3. Open up the Atom or RSS index template that you already have. Copy all of the code.
    4. Go back to Design > Templates
    5. In the Archive Templates section, check the box next to "Category Entry Listing".
    6. Under the "More Actions..." menu, choose Clone Template(s) and click "Go."
    7. Open "Copy of Category Entry Listing"
    8. Change the name to something like "Category Feed"
    9. Delete all of the code in this template, and paste the code you copied in an earlier step.
    10. Click on Template Options to open that menu.
    11. Click "Create Archive Mapping."
    12. Change the Type to Category
    13. Change the Path to: rss/%-c/index.xml (or atom/%-c/atom.xml, depending on what type of feed you copied in an earlier step.)
    14. Save & Publish
    Put links to your category feeds on your blog There are a few ways to publicize your new feeds. One way would be to generate a list of them on your blog's sidebar by creating a widget. But that nearly duplicates the category widget that is probably already on your sidebar. What I like to do is create an RSS icon/link on the top of every category archive page.
    1. Go to Design > Templates
    2. Under Archive Templates, click on Category Entry Listing.
    3. There should already be heading text for your category page around line 103. I replaced mine with this code:

      <a href="<MTBlogArchiveURL>rss/<mt:ParentCategory><$mt:CategoryBasename separator="-"$>/</mt:ParentCategory><MTCategoryLabel dirify="-">/index.xml">
      <img height="14pt" src=<mt:StaticWebPath />/images/status_icons/feed.gif alt="<MTCategoryLabel> Category RSS feed" />
      </a>


    4. Save & Publish

    Now try one of your category pages (refresh the page in case you are looking at a cached version.) You should see an orange RSS icon next to your heading text.

  • In step 5 of the last set of instructions in my original entry, I included sample code. I'm not sure what I was going for there. I would just use:

    <div class="widget-subscribe widget"> <h3 class="widget-header">Subscribe to Blog</h3> <div class="widget-content">

    <!--some code that you got from Feedburner-->

    </div>

    </div>

  • Steps for Feedburner:


    1. Log into FeedBurner: http://feedburner.google.com

    2. The home page is asking you to select one of your existing feeds or to add a new one. Add a new one if you haven't already. They call this "burning" a feed. Here's the URL you'd use: [your blog's URL]/atom.xml

    3. After following all the steps they lay out, you should now see tabs on the top. Click the "Publicize" tab.
      On the left side, click the Email Subscriptions link

    4. Click "Activate"

    5. Copy/paste the embed code that they give you. See the steps in this blog entry for where this embed goes. It would go into a new widget on your sidebar, or really anywhere you would like it to appear in your templates.

    6. Re-publish your entire blog


    If you need more detailed instructions on any part of these steps, or if you have any other questions please let me know.

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