October 02, 2010

Multi-blog blog

Recently I added a new section to the site - reviews. Turns out, we do a lot of watching movies, TV and other media. And I wanted to have a standalone place to document all of it, separate from my blog which has become a sort of a melting pot without too many filters.

This is a quick tutorial on the process I used to add a second blog to my site, and then make sure that the look and feel remained consistent across the two blogs and my original website. If this goes well, maybe I will move my writings over to a blog as well.

Create a new blog

The first step, of course, was to create a new blog. Since my last one was on blogger.com, I created the new one using the same service. There are a number of tutorials on creating a new blog - but it is as simple as clicking "create a blog" on the blogger dashboard and supplying a name and description. Turns out, blogger does not allow you to start a blog hosted on a custom domain, and instead you need to host it initially on *.blogspot.com. This added a later step for me to enable the custom domains.

Synchronize look and feel

Turns out there are three distinct steps to make two blogs look alike in blogger.

First Copy the template over from the old blog to the new blog. To get the full template, go to your blogger dashboard and click Design > Edit HTML and check the box that says Expand Widget Templates. Wait a little while to make sure that all the data has been loaded. Copy and paste into the new blog, making sure that Expand Widget Templates check box is checked in the new blog as well. If you do this right, you are 90% there already.

The second step is to ensure that the settings of both blogs are the same. The best way to do this is to open both blogs in two tabs and going back and forth between the two, sync the settings across the Settings tab. Do this for every page other than the Publishing section under Settings.

The third and final step to making two blogs look the same is make sure that code and settings of the various page elements are in sync. Every element in a blogger page has two components - the element itself (which is captured in the template) and the settings of the element (that are stored separately). Again, opening two tabs with the blogs open to the Design > Page Elements page and going element by element to synchronize components is the best way to do this.

Publish to custom domain

As I discovered, blogger does not allow you to create a new blog hosted on a custom domain. Since I already have a domain, I wanted to ensure that the new blog appeared as a sub-domain of anarchius.org instead of blogspot.com. This can get complicated pretty quickly, but the key steps are as below:

  • To enable the custom domain, head over to Settings > Publishing. Choose Custom Domain, and then click on Advanced Settings. In the box that says Your Domain, add your full subdomain - which for me was reviews.anarchius.org. Ensure that the checkbox below is NOT checked.
  • Next step is to add a CNAME to the recently created subdomain that points to ghs.google.com. Google has helpful hints on how to do this for a number of hosting providers.
  • Wait a bit to ensure the DNS servers communicate the changes, and check the publishing page at Settings > Publishing for the message "Congratulations, your blog is ready!". If you see it, that means everything is good and the redirect is working well. You may still not be able to browse for a short while, while your ISP DNS servers wait for the new records to flow in. But, otherwise, you are up and running.

I had a couple more housekeeping activities to do before I was all done. I had to add the menu item to the menu bar of the site so that I can actually get to the newly created blog. Also, I had to update the RSS feeds to my Yahoo pipe to make sure that the updates from the new blog were also being consolidated. That's it! About two hours in, the new section of the site was up and running.

No comments: