What’s in my sidebar?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

I’ve had a couple of questions about how I create the sidebar to this blog, so thought that I’d document it here for posterity.

First of all, I use the sidebar widgets WordPress plugin from Automattic, and a widget-friendly theme. After doing this for one blog, I would never again use a theme that didn’t support sidebar widgets: this makes is unbelievably easy to create a sidebar without coding, or to use code for selected sections if you prefer. Basically, when activated, it replaces any sidebar code that’s already in the theme with what you specify in the Sidebar Widgets submenu (under the Presentation menu) in WordPress.

I added on a few third-party widgets that are available as plugins — a Google AdSense widget and a Bloglines widget — then either used the standard widgets or text widgets with my own code for things that there aren’t widgets for. It’s pretty easy to create your own widgets, which I might do for some of these to make it easier to use across the multiple blogs that I have.

I use a total of 13 widgets in the sidebar of this blog:

  1. Search, which is the standard search widget. No parameters.
  2. Text, title “My Photos”, containing a Flickr badge that shows one random photo from my photo collection. I started with the standard Flickr badge code then tweaked it until I liked how it looked. I didn’t like any of the Flickr widgets that I saw at the time.
  3. Text, title “What I’m Reading”, containing a code snippet from LibraryThing to display the most recent book added to my collection, which is typically what I’m reading right now.
  4. Categories, with the title left blank for the default, and “show post counts” checked.
  5. Google AdSense, with the parameters copied from the code generated by Google for an ad of the same dimensions. This is really not any easier than using a text widget with a direct paste of the Google code.
  6. My Bloglines Sub, with my Bloglines ID plus the name of the folder that I want displayed; this displays my blogroll for this blog, which is just a folder in my feed reader, hence does reflect what I’m actually reading. I use different Bloglines folders for the blogrolls on different blogs, and I have some feeds that are not displayed in any blogroll. This capability is one of the primary reasons that I love Bloglines as my feed reader.
  7. Text, with the link to the Breast of Canada site. I met Sue Richards at BlogHer last year, and she gave me one of her fabulous calendars in exchange for a bit of publicity.
  8. Recent Posts, standard widget with no parameters.
  9. Archives, standard widget with the parameters left blank to default.
  10. Links, standard widget with no parameters that picks up any Links that you have specified in WordPress (now called Blogroll from a top level menu since WP 2.1).
  11. Text, containing links to my posts and comments feeds. I was going to include these in my Links but I don’t like the lack of control in links so just hacked the HTML directly in a text widget.
  12. Text, containing my Upcoming.org events badge.
  13. Text, containing my StatCounter and Google Analytics code to track visitors (I haven’t decided which I like best, so leave both in there). This is not visible on the page itself.

I haven’t taken a look at other available widgets lately, but it might be time to check them out and see if there’s anything new that I want to include here, or something that will take the place of one of my text/code widgets.

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