If you want to customize your tweets from your WP posts, do not ignore the developer’s Support page

Seeing that WordPress.com has added a much welcome Twitter feature for WP-hosted blogs, I thought putting the plugin to a test for our friends would be great if titled “How to tweet with your WP blog.”

Why the title has changed to this very long title, “If you want to customize your tweets from your WP posts, do not ignore the developer’s Support page“, is what this post is about. I hope that our friends will avoid the same oversight as I have in activating the plugin.

Starting with information from WP post, Publicize: Twitter, our test, meant to be a quick and easy one, took us more time than expected. And all because I did not give particular attention to one important information, the Support page.

Here is a blow-by-blow account:

1. Enabled Twitter by click selecting Twitter in Dashboard -> My Blogs admin page

2. Once enabled, an “Authorize Twitter” message appeared.

WP-twitter-wp

3.Clicked on the authorization link to open a Twitter authorization window where I entered one of my company’s Twitter username (or email address) and password.

WP-twiiter-auth

4. Once validated, the window jumped back to my WP Dashboard.

Okay, that was expected.

5. Wrote a test post titled Installing WP for Blackberry, a re-post of an earlier entry with similar title. Clicked “Publish.”

6. Opened a new window with my WP-associated Twitter account. Below is what was displayed.

ontheroad-twitter-wp

Did I miss a step?

I wanted to customize my Twitter update, but Twitter immediately grabbed and displayed it. I wanted to add a teaser to the post title. With other WP Twitter-related plugins, I would do that right inside Twitter.

Hmm, how do I customize my tweet?, I asked. Haven’t I read in the WP post “You can stick with the default, automatically generated tweet, or customize it to your heart’s content”?

Because I have not done any customization, obviously what I am seeing is the default.

7. Went back to the Add New / Edit Posts window, and going over the items on the right panel, it’s then I realized that a small “Publicize” text link has been added.

8. Here is a screenshot of the “Publicize” option on the right panel, so inconspicuous that I failed to notice it the first time.

WP-twitter-publicize

9. And here is a screenshot of the “Publicize” mini-window when clicked:

WP-twitter-publicize-2


So, this is where customization takes place. Interesting!

Has this been mentioned in the WP Publicize: Twitter post? No, not in this post. Heading over to the linked WP support page, similar screenshots are clearly displayed.

How did I miss that? I did not bother to check the Support page linked on the announcement post.

Oh well, next time I’ll remember to check support pages too.

Note:

If you have reached this point reading this post, I don’t think you need to go to the support page any longer.

My experience (a bit embarassing, I know) is now shared.



How to customize your blog with widgets

Screenshot of some WP widgets

Screenshot of some WP widgets

I am surprised to see a number of my friends’ blogs using the ready-to-use sectional links on the sidebar of their blogs like calendar, archives, etc. when they have so much to display.

Either they don’t have time to explore the functionalities offered by WordPress.com to change the looks of their theme (at least on the sidebars) or they are not into experimenting.

As we wrote in an earlier post, unless you want to pay a few dollars to have access to a CSS editor, there is not much you could do with the appearance of a selected theme other than to customize the custom header, that is, if that is an option in your selected theme.

But the widgets feature can change the appearance of your theme in terms of content and layout. The widgets can make your blog a little different from blogs using the same theme. This blog is using the Mistylook theme, but with the use of widgets, it now looks different from others blogs using the same theme. (Not the best-looking blog, I admit, but it demonstrates what widgets can do.)

In terms of content, there are so many things one can do with sidebar widgets. Here are some of them and what you can do with them:

  • Image: This is one of the latest features of WordPress.com which easily displays an image in your sidebar
  • RSS: Fetches the latest entries of your favorite site with RSS feeder
  • Top Posts: Excellent for showcasing to your visitors which of your posts receive the most number of views
  • Twitter: To display your latest tweets if you have a Twitter account or the latest tweets of your favorite Twitter-er
  • Text: This allows you to enter any message like announcements, greetings, etc. on your sidebar

Screenshot of the widget page used on this site

Screenshot of the widget page used on this site

To activate a widget in your sidebar, all you need to do is “drag and drop” it on where you want it to appear. For most linking widgets, for example, RSS or Twitter, like the Recent Posts or Recent Comments widget, you can specify the number of entries you want to display.

Layouting or re-ordering the sequence of your widgets is very easy as well. Simply “drag and drop” your active widgets to where you want them to appear.

Want to remove the widgets? Easy. Open the widget by clicking on its down-arrow button, and press the Remove text link.

Why not try the widgets and give your blog a lift?

How to upgrade your WordPress theme

After selecting your WordPress theme and you are still not happy with some of its elements like theme’s font sizes, column sizes and other similar styles, you can customize the theme’s CSS through custom CSS.

Unlike with self-hosted blogs however, in WordPress.com blogs, you need to buy credits from WordPress.com via PayPal. (I have not tried buying credits for this purpose, but I imagine that with the purchased credits, you will be given an extra command in your dashboard control panel which would allow you to “edit” the stylesheet.) Based on the WPMU version I am using, to upgrade a WordPress theme, you need to pay something like $14.97 which is good for one year.

Did I hear you asking “What is a custom CSS?” If you did, then the Upgrade is not for you. The upgrade is for advanced users only. As the “Upgrades” page on my WordPress.com dashboard page states:

“This upgrade allows you to add custom CSS to customize any theme on this current blog. This is recommended mostly for advanced users who understand CSS.”

With that upgrade requirement, how then do you customize your site?

Yes, the operative word is “site” and not “theme” since customizing a theme would mean adding custom CSS which may be outside the current knowledge of a beginner or outside his/her budget.

But don’t fret. Even if you cannot add custom CSS to a theme under the current WordPress.com free blogs environment, still you can change the looks of your site and make it a little bit different from other sites using the same theme.

We will tackle that in our next posts.