Month: June 2016

Adding a “Subscribe” Bar to Your Blog

It makes me uneasy that such a huge number of people still visit blogs the old fashioned way: by checking them manually every now and then. This, of course, is in opposition to subscribing via RSS and then only clicking over when there is new content.

I am guilty of keeping an extremely unpredictable publishing schedule at Mike Industries, sometimes posting multiple times per week, and other times going almost a month without any new entries. For this reason, I wish all readers were subscribers. That way, no one would ever be greeting with old content.

In an effort to convert more casual readers to subscribers, and hopefully convert people onto RSS in general, I’ve developed a PHP-powered module which prompts users to subscribe to my feed if they aren’t already. Here’s how it works:

  1. If you come to Mike Industries and don’t have at least one of two cookies, you see a bar encouraging you to subscribe via RSS or e-mail. One cookie is the “subscriber” cookie while the other one is the “promptclosed” cookie.
  2. If a user clicks over to Mike Industries from my feed, I set the “subscriber” cookie. If a user manually clicks the “close this message” link in the module, I set the “promptclosed” cookie. Both cookies last for three months.

In order to accomplish this, you need to do a few things:

  1. Write some simple HTML to display your prompt message. Include it at the top of every page of your blog, hopefully using something like PHP so you only have to do it once. Using PHP, or your dynamic language of choice, set the message to only render if neither the “subscriber” nor the “promptclosed” cookies are set. Here’s what mine looks like:

  2. Modify the URLs in your feeds such that they pass a variable at the end like “how-to-make-a-margarita?subscribed=true”.
  3. Using PHP, or your dynamic language of choice, insert code right above the code in step 1 which checks for the presence of “subscribed=true” in the query string and sets the “subscribed” cookie accordingly.

* Note: If you are using Mint w/ BirdFeeder like I am, you can skip steps 2 and 3 and just add the following to Birdfeeder’s class.php right above the line that says header("Location:{$_GET['seed']}");:

Voila. That’s it. An unobtrusive message encouraging you to subscribe which goes away after you either subscribe or decide to close the message.

Interestingly, I got this idea while experimenting with Google AdSense several months ago. I only wanted to show the ads to casual passers-by (perhaps coming in through search engines) and not to Mike Industries subscribers. Now that we have the ability to set cookies and identify who is a subscriber, we can do all sorts of things. I can imagine a small subset of features on the site which are perhaps only made available to subscribers. Who knows. I like the possibilities though.

Fantasy Football Spot Up For Grabs

Once again, the blogosphere’s trashtalkingest and most reprehensible fantasy football league, the IKNFL, is increasing its roster. We’re expanding to two leagues of 14 teams each this year, and there is an extra spot up for grabs. Past champions include D. Keith Robinson (2004), Jeff Croft (2005), and Wilson Miner (2006).

Personal transformations have been known to occur in winners, as can be witnessed by Keith’s opening of the highly successful Blue Flavor design and development studio, Jeff’s relocation from a rural chicken farm in Kansas to the city of Seattle, and Wilson’s remarkable metamorphosis from early Swiffer mop prototype to ladykilling heartthrob (see below).

Before IKNFL Championship:

After IKNFL Championship:

The IKNFL is $80 to join but the payouts are equally rich. We include individual defensive players and use a normalized scoring system that ensures every position on the field can score big. There’s a lot of trash talk so make sure you can take the heat before applying.

SO… if you’d like to join, all you have to do is leave a comment below requesting membership. As a simple test of your football knowledge, name who should be the #2 pick of the draft and why.

Gnomedex: No Stinkin’ Badges

Chris Pirillo’s Gnomedex conference kicked off last night in Seattle and the turnout looked fantastic. Lots of people from out of town, and a great venue to boot. The thing that pleased me more than anything else at the pre-conference party though was the design of the conference badges. Gnomedex badges are big and bold, with visual real estate doled out in almost perfect proportions. I wrote about the issue of carelessly designed conference badges a few months ago, and upon congratulating Chris on his conference last night, he informed me that the Gnomedex badge design was inspired by that article. Hooray for design evangelism!

Below is a photo of the badges snapped by Laughing Squid:


  • Attendee name is huge and readable from far away — set in Univers Helvetica Neue Condensed Black, an extremely legibile, yet space-efficient typeface.
  • Attendee’s blog URL (instead of company) is listed below name. A nice touch considering the subject matter of Gnomedex.
  • Title of conference and all other non-essential information is minimized.
  • Sponsor (Polar Rose) is all over the lanyard instead of mucking up half the badge.
  • Badge is two-sided.

Potential Negatives (Not many!):

  • http:// could theoretically be lopped off the blog URL to increase the size and readability of the URL, but one could argue the prefix adds geek appeal.
  • A commenter on my previous entry suggested perhaps emphasizing the person’s *given* name so you know what to call them. This is more important in other countries though where names don’t always follow the “call me by the first name you see on my badge” rule. Not really fair to call this a negative, but it would be a nice potential issue to solve.

Oh, and there’s another big positive too. This has got to be the coolest badge ever. Party only! —

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