Tagged: blogs

Set Up A JapanBlogger Blogroll in WordPress

JapanBlogger is the perfect complement to JapanSoc. While the latter promotes individual articles and pages from the Japan-related web, JapanBlogger serves to promote entire sites. This is done by a blogger submitting his or her site, and watching people vote for it and leave feedback.

Harnessing the power of JapanBlogger

Since JapanBlogger sorts its database of blogs according to popularity (i.e. the number of votes each site receives), I thought it would be great to provide an rss feed which bloggers could import and use as a blogroll on their own sites.

This serves two purposes. First, it gives the blogger an instant, ready-made blogroll with the best Japan-related sites. Second, by clicking on each link in the blogroll, the visitor passes through JapanBlogger where he or she can vote the site in question up or down and leave a comment. That extra step is what encourages activity and keeps the blogroll fair.

JapanBlogger Feed One – the “best of the month” feed

Site owner, Billy West, had been thinking along the same lines and had already set up what I shall call JapanBlogger Feed One.

JapanBlogger Feed One can be found at http://japanblogger.net/feed/ and is a list of the highest ranked sites, followed by the most ranked sites. This list is maintained manually and updated each month, usually accompanied by an annoucenment to congratulate the “best blogs of the month”.

JapanBlogger Feed Two – the “current highest rated” feed

Unlike Feed One, this second feed is dynamic, meaning it updates automatically and multiple times a day, giving you the most up-to-date list of top ranked sites from JapanBlogger. You can find this feed at http://japanblogger.net/highest_rated.xml.

Both feeds can be subscribed to just like any feed, and can be read with most popular feed readers. However, this tutorial is about how to set up these rss feeds (or any feed for that matter) in a self-hosted WordPress installation, i.e. WordPress.org.

Note: If you have a Typepad, Movable Type, Blogger, Blogspot, WordPress.com, or any other site and are able to import these feeds, please share your knowledge!

Step One: Getting a JapanBlogger Feed

If you are running a browser without RSS support (such as IE6), please copy and paste the links above. Otherwise, you can get to the feeds from the RSS icon at the top of the browser when looking at JapanBlogger, as shown.

Step Two: Getting the url

Clicking on one of those choices brings up the feed in your broswer. From there, copy the url.

Step 3: Putting the feed into WordPress

From your WordPress Dashboard, navigate to “Design”->”Widgets”. If your version of WordPress is old, or your theme doesn’t support widgets, you’ll need to find an rss plugin instead.

Add an RSS widget to your sidebar and paste the url you copied into the first field, as shown in the picture below. Leave the other settings untouched (or change items from 10 to 20 as I did). Click “Change” then “Save Changes”.

Now visit your site and see your new blogroll!

Note: This doesn’t actually affect your current blogroll. This is just an addition to your existing sidebar.

These screenshots show the feed in action on this blog, LongCountdown.com…

… and also on the JapanSoc Community Blog:


If the feed shows in the sidebar, but the the links don’t go anywhere, try clicking one of the links (it worked for both me and Billy) or pressing CTRL + F5 to “hard refresh” the page.

If you are using the dynamic, “highest rated” feed but don’t see any changes to the rankings, click here. Congratulations, you’ve updated the feed! Just visiting any page on the JapanBlogger navigation bar forces the feed to update itself. Now refresh your page and you should see the latest changes.

Japan It Up Before You Leave

Before I talk about Japan It Up, a new blog that has already made its mark in the Japan bloggers’ community, I have to get something off my chest…

How anonymous should an anonymous blog be?

Recently, I’ve come across a number of bloggers who choose to use codenames to hide their identity. Two that come to mind are JDonuts blogger, Contamination, and the author of Japan It Up, Smoother. I would understand the need for anonymity if they were blogging about bizarre cults, sordid fantasies or something else they wouldn’t want a potential employer seeing, but these guys are respectable bloggers sharing stories and information related to Japan. Why not just go with a first name, or at least a fake name that people could take seriously, like… Humphrey? Hmm, maybe I’m just old fashioned. πŸ˜‰

If you’re coming to Japan, you have to Japan it Up!

JapanItUpBlogging out of Fukuoka in Southern Kyushu, Smoother hails from the American Midwest and is here with his fiancee, who tapped into his desire to see Japan, suggesting they visit after she graduated. Before his departure, he had all sorts of questions about Japan and thought it would be a good idea to blog about his experiences, answering his own questions so other Japan-bound visitors could know what to expect before boarding the plane.

A collection of useful Japan info in one place

Smoother only started Japan It Up last October, but has come up with some top-notch stuff. Some of the most useful articles are Flying to Japan, which details the trip over, an Airline Review, which gives his ratings for the airlines he’s traveled with, Breakfast in Japan, ATM Currency Conversion, Going to the Doctor, Apartments in Japan, and much more which I’ll let you discover for yourself.

It’s not all for Japan newbies

There are also articles that would interest Japan veterans such as myself (if 10 years qualifies me for “veteran” status) such as Ice Cream Ramen, and tech talk like WordPress in Japanese and English, which I must implement on this blog. You can also follow the adventures of Smoother’s pet chihuahua, Lulu.

Japan It Up has gotten off to a great start and is worth subscribing to. I can only imagine it will get even better the longer Smoother stays in Japan, which could be a long time yet.

I don’t know where I placed my return ticket which has already expired and that’s okay with me. I have a feeling that this short stay will turn into forever.

A Typical Life… In Japan

A Typical LifeShane was one of the first people to register at JapanSoc, and has been active in the community ever since. Some of the many articles she’s submitted come from her own blog, A Typical Life. This is a site she started in November of last year, but Shane has been working hard to fill it with meaningful content, mostly related to Japan, as that is where she will be spending the better part of the next two years.

Bringing memories of Japan to her blog

It won’t be Shane’s first trip to Japan as she was here in 1994. You can read her Memories of Japan, including articles on the language barrier, eating out, and taking the train.

Getting ready for a return to Japan

Now, she’s gearing up for Japan again, and has written a Top Ten list of things she’s most excited about including sumo, 100 Yen shops, art and culture, crafts such as ikebana (flower arrangement), and baseball (as a Brit, I will never understand this!).

Comparing Japan 2008 to Japan 1994

I am looking forward to reading A Typical Life once Shane gets herself set up here. She’s already packing so it won’t be long now, and it will be very interesting to hear if Japan of 2008 lives up to her memories from the early ’90s. Shane has promised some exciting things for her blog, and I will be following along, anxious to hear her stories of fingerprinting at immigration and the demise of 100 yen shops in the wake of China’s bustling economy. πŸ˜‰

The Life and Times of Michael McKinlay

Mike McKinlay is a name my longterm readers will know very well. For a full year, Mike was this blog’s top commentator and most avid reader. For a little while there, he lost his blogging mojo when Google robbed him of his PageRank, and thus the income he was earning from paid reviews dried up.

His name is Michael McKinlay and he’s going to the moon!

MichaelMcKinlay.comNow, my “Net Buddy 4 Life” has picked himself up, dusted himself off, and is back in the game. He has abided by Google’s new play book, and got his PageRank back. He’s also on a roll, writing up a review of his recent drive from Calgary to Arizona, spilling the beans on what really happened in Las Vegas.

The Japan connection

Mike makes nearly annual visits to Japan, and was previously an ESL teacher here. He also worked for a Japanese company in Canada (details undisclosed!) and still maintains an interest in all things Japanese. Some of his Japan related articles are Tarako, You Japanese Girls Have Me Hypnotized, his thoughts on Japanese Cosplay, and his reaction to the Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear.

It’s not just good, it’s Michael McKinlay!

Mike shares a lot of personal experiences with us, and that’s what I like most about his blog. I do have one suggestion for him that would shoot his blog to stardom, and that would be to reveal a little more than what we get to see. Mike and I are regularly talking over the net, and I know he leads a bachelor’s life that most men would envy! I’m sure that he’d be a celebrity in the blogosphere, and reach “A-list blogger” status if he just shared some of his secrets! πŸ˜€

Get ESL Tips from Chris’ English School

Chris' English SchoolOne of the more recent blogs I’ve subscribed to is that of ESL teacher, Chris Ballard. Born in Hawaii, but now residing in Yanai city in Yamaguchi, Chris runs his own English school out of his own home.

Another disgruntled English teacher? NO!

What makes this blog so unique is that instead of criticising the ESL industry, or even writing articles on “how to teach English”, Chris shows us exactly what he is doing with his students through a diary-type blog that includes photos of their work, and reasons for the activities he chooses.

Examples from Chris’ English School

Recent posts on Chris’ English School include Girls Up which has some great photos of his students studying hard, a look at using a Nintendo DS as a study tool, a selection of photos of his students’ diaries, showing just how much English they are getting through, and motivating posts such as January 2008’s Top 10 students.

A must-read for wannabe school owners

As an ESL teacher myself, what I find most compelling about Chris’ blog is the passion he has for his chosen profession. Very few people care enough about their work to want to blog about it everyday. I’d recommend it to any ESL teacher, but especially to those who are hoping to set up their own school in the future. Having the freedom to teach from home and decide your own curriculum is the dream of most Eikaiwa teachers in Japan, at least those who plan to stay for a while. Subscribe to Chris’ blog and watch how he does it.

I don’t have the energy to teach!

I often feel that way, and it turns out I’m not the only one. It seems teachers across the nation rely on some form of energy drink. My sugar-rush of choice is Ripobitan D (third in this list). Chris swears by the new make-me-happy Garlic Power. How about you? Do you load yourself up on these liquid energizers? If so, which ones?

Tips and Tricks for Survival in Japan

One of the first blogs I ever subscribed to was LifeHacker, a blog jammed with tips and tricks to increase productivity. When it comes to living in Japan, the equivalent blog would be NihonHacks, a collection of time and money-saving tips for foreign students, visitors or “lifers”.

Top Tips and Tricks from NihonHacks

NihonHacks.comNihonHacks is the work of Thomas Hjelm, a former exchange student and current JET teacher in Hyogo. Thomas has written articles about using JR Odekake NET for planning trips by train, saving money on cleaning products by buying refills, how to find cheese in Japan, how not to waste rice, how to make miso soup quickly, finding cheap steaks and even winning on a UFO Catcher.

Beyond NihonHacks – BabelHut and TwoFatBrothers

NihonHacks isn’t Thomas’ only project. I know he also writes for BabelHut, a blog dedicated to language learning, and he’s working on a new blog with his brother called “Two Fat Brothers“, a blog which documents their dieting competition. I would follow along if I wasn’t already far too skinny!

JapanSoc and Baby Boys

Thomas was one of the first to support JapanSoc, so I’d really like to thank him for that. Incidentally, we are both fathers of baby boys born last summer, so I’m always looking out for pictures of little Noah on NihonHacks and showing them to my wife. If Noah and Rikuto weren’t growing up so fast, I’d suggest to Thomas we start TwoFatBabies.com!

JapanSoc Voting Button for Blogs

By now you’ll know that I’ve started a social bookmarking site for everything Japan-related. If you’ve registered for JapanSoc and write about Japan on your own blog, then you’ll probably want this Digg-style voting button on your site.

Update: The WordPress plugin for this button is now available directly from WordPress. Read about the updates here: New JapanSoc it! Button. April 14th, 2009.

What does the button do?

Example of the JapanSoc Voting ButtonIt allows your readers to easily submit your blog posts to JapanSoc, and then automatically shows how many votes, or socs, your article has received from other JapanSoc’ers. After an article has been submitted, clicking the button will send your readers to JapanSoc where they can vote, or otherwise to the login/registration page.

Why should I use it?

It should encourage more of your readers to sign up for JapanSoc and vote for your posts, giving you more exposure on the social bookmarking site, and bringing new visitors to your blog.

How do I add it to a WordPress blog?

If you are running your own WordPress blog, then follow these instructions:

  1. Download the JapanSoc WordPress plugin
  2. Upload the japansoc folder to your wp-content/plugins folder
  3. Go to Admin -> Plugins, scroll down to JapanSoc: Soc it!, and click activate
  4. From the HTML tab, type <!--japansocleft--> or <!--japansocright--> in your post where you want the button to appear

How do I add it to a non-Wordpress blog?

If you don’t have a WordPress blog, you can still use the button, but you must be able to to insert Javascript directly into your post, or be able to edit your blogging template directly.

To add a button on a page with a single post, just copy and paste this:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.japansoc.com/evb/button.php”></script>

If you have a page with multiple posts, you can separate each instance of the button by using the two lines of code below, and providing a url for each post.

<script type=”text/javascript”>submit_url = ‘url of the post‘;</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.japansoc.com/evb/button.php”></script>

Thanks to the Xorsyst, creator of OtakuStuff.com

Credit for the JapanSoc Voting Button goes to Louis from Xorsyst.com, one of the oldest blogs I’ve come across, with content dating back to early 2002!

OtakuStuff - Social Bookmarking for OtakuOne of his latest articles announced the launch of OtakuStuff.com, a social bookmarking site for fans of Japanese anime, manga, games and cosplay. In building the site, Louis made the above WordPress plugin, and was kind enough to share it with us at JapanSoc. If you’re an Otaku, make sure you sign up for OtakuStuff and get the Moe It! version of this voting button for your blog.

Japan Exposed Through Opinion Poll Translations

What Japan ThinksForeign perception of Japan is often tarnished by sweeping generalizations made by people who lack the language skills and tools necessary to understand the real thoughts and actions of Japan’s general public.

What Japan Thinks

Introducing Ken Y-N, a legend among Japan bloggers and the face behind What Japan Thinks, a blog full of English translations of Japanese opinion polls and surveys. A keen statistician and Japan enthusiast, Ken has amassed nearly one and half thousand subscribers while shining some light on Japan’s bad office habits and why Japanese women love American men.

Helping the Japan bloggers’ community

His new found fame has brought him some publicity in the form of an interview with the Japan Times, and now he’s sharing his fortune with the rest of us by hosting crowd-pullers like the Japan Blog Awards and using his web skills to promote the JapanSoc social bookmarking site with the JapanSoc FeedBurner FeedFlare.

There’s more to Ken than charts and graphs

One last interesting tidbit about Ken is his other websites. First, do you remember that immensely popular Japanese website that would tell you what you were thinking? Well, Ken jumped on the opportunity to make an English version and the result, BrainScannr, tells me that I’m thinking happy thoughts, which makes it almost as accurate as Kazuko Hosoki! Next, If you’ve ever wondered what your name would be if you were a Buddhist, Ken has the answer. His site, My Buddhist Name, will do the English to Buddhist conversion for you! However, I’m not so sure it’s all that accurate since my Buddhist name turns out to be The Girl Lion Always Youth! 😯

My favorite blogs

I’ve been writing a lot of posts about Japan since I started this blog and not enough about English teaching or making money on the internet. Today, I’ll focus on the internet side of things.

The first thing I do every day is check my email (read ‘delete spam’) and then I log straight into my personalized Google homepage to check my favorite blogs. I’m still surprised so few people I meet in my daily life subscribe to blogs. There are so many to choose from that it’s easy to find people with the same interests as you.

One of my favorites is Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People blog. This site is full of motivation and he covers so many topics, including time management, money and problem solving. I first stumbled across his site when he wrote 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job – an absolute classic! Incidentally, Steve has just launched his Forums section and it has attracted over 1000 members in just the first three days!

Another of my favorite blogs is John Chow dot Com – The Miscellaneous Ramblings of a Dot Com Mogul. John writes posts so often it’s hard to keep up, and I often sacrifice breakfast in order to read all his latest news. As the title of his blog suggests, he talks about the latest goings-on in the internet world – topics such as online marketing, blogging, and …erm, Really Expensive Burgers! If you have your own website and are interested in earning dollars from advertising or simply promoting your blog, I highly recommend John’s blog. The post that first brought me to his site was The Internet’s Biggest Google Whores which made a daring attempt to list the top 8 Google Adsense earners.

For ESL humor, you don’t have to look any further than Az’s GaijinSmash.net. Az writes about his experiences teaching English in Japanese public schools, and they are so funny you’ll wet yourself.

I guess those are my three favorite blogs. I also subscribe to web feeds from tech forums such as Digital Point, the social bookmarking sites del.icio.us and digg, and of course my favorite news sites.

What I like most about web feeds is that the news you want comes to you. You don’t have to go looking for it, or have to sit through news that doesn’t interest you. Really, once you’ve signed up to a bunch of news sites, you’ll suffer from information overload! I often find myself knowing more about Japanese news than my students because I read it on the web before they see it on the evening news!

If you don’t yet subscribe to web feeds, you are missing out! Find out more about web feeds on Wikipedia. Then come back and subscribe to this blog!