Friday, March 07, 2008

Guest Post Friday: 'Bells and Whistles ... Incorporating audio and video into your blog' by Keith Kellet

Welcome to Guest Post Friday. Today Keith Kellet is writing about the evolution of his travel blog and how he incorporated audio and video into it.

Keith Kellett is a British travel writer who took up writing, photography and blogging to keep him occupied in retirement. He says he is trying hard not to let it become a full-time job.

'Bells and Whistles ... Incorporating audio and video into your blog' by Keith Kellet

There are many things you can do with an electronic publication that you can’t do with a print one. When I say electronic publication, I’m going to concentrate on blogs, although much of what I’m about to say also applies to e-zines. They’re pretty much the same thing, although an e-zine is usually open to contributions from anybody, for which the publishers (hopefully!) pay. A blog is often an unpaid labour of love, either by an individual or a small group of people with like interests.

Strangely enough, even the most mercenary of writers seem to agree that, although they normally abhor the practice of ‘writing for free’, it’s all right in your own blog. As they say in Yorkshire ‘If ever tha does owt for nowt, do it for yourself!’

With a print magazine, you get words and pictures, and that’s it. With electronic publications, there’s the possibility of linking to relevant articles or information on other sites, as well as incorporating sound files or video. Sometimes, there’s even a facility for readers to give almost instant feedback, and ‘have their say’

Now, I’m going to describe the programmes I use. That’s not to endorse them, or say one is better or worse than another. They just work for me.You can find my Travelrat’s Travels blog at I use the Wordpress platform for ease and general user-friendliness. Before I set out, I laid down a few rules for myself. Unless I was away, I would post entries three times a week; on Mondays, I’d put up an entry from my ‘Travel Diary’, and on Wednesdays and Fridays, general thoughts and hometown happenings, not always travel-related. George Courtauld used this formula to good effect in his book Travels of a Fat Bulldog, alternating between tales of his trips as a Queen’s Messenger and stories from his farm in Essex.

The original idea was to post pictures on a Wednesday, but then I found out how easy it was to embed a picture into a post. Not too many, though, unless your blog is to be a mainly photographic one. For text-and-pictures, I reckon two is about the maximum on any one post; any more than that, and I’d recommend a ‘slide show’. You can make this for free at and embed it into your blog simply by cutting and pasting the code from to your blogsite.

If you want to take the option of adding music to your slide show, then I suggest you put it on a separate page, or otherwise, it will play automatically whenever someone visits your blog.

After a short while, I opened a Pic of the Week page … the picture is changed every Saturday when I’m at home. One thing, though. Size your pictures to 320 X 240 before uploading them. They’ll upload faster, and will fit nicely on to your blog page. And, it’ll make it less likely that some rascal will download them, and use them without your permission.

Once a month, I add a ‘Country page’. This consists of photographs, an article (sometimes dating back to 1996), some links and a pictorial ‘slide show’. These, you can access by clicking a tab on the home page, rather than scrolling through the blog to find them.

Uploading video proved to be easier than I expected, too, and I was able to ‘show, not tell’ in a way I never could before. The software I use is Windows MovieMaker, which came bundled with my computer. You do need something that will make digital video files, but there’s no need to dash out and buy a digital camcorder. Even a cheap digital camera may allow you to take short movie clips, or maybe you can do it with your mobile phone.

Even if you can’t do sound, MovieMaker will allow you to do narrative as you’re editing your clips. When I’m done, I upload to YouTube, then embed them into my blog … there’s easy instructions on how to do this in both Wordpress and YouTube. A word of caution, though. I’ve seen blogsters who have seen someone else’s video on YouTube, and embedded it into their blog. I’m not sure whether this is actually illegal or not, but I do feel uneasy about it. I’d advise erring on the side of caution. Put in a link by all means, but don’t embed it.

As far as sounds are concerned, I’m still experimenting. You can make a sound-only podcast with MovieMaker, but the result will be in a format that the site I use,, won’t accept. But I can import it into iTunes, which I set up to convert anything it imports into MP3 format … don’t ask me how I did it; I’ve forgotten! I haven’t yet worked out how to embed the sound file into my blog, but I can provide a link to it.

So, there you have it; not only words and pictures, but also moving pictures, and spoken, rather than written words. There’s instructions on how to do it on all the sites I mentioned … I’m reminded of the line in ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ … ‘How does a German officer learn anyzing? From ze book of instructions!’ The important thing is not to let one medium take over the site to the detriment of the others. I can’t tell you how to do that, though. I have enough trouble trying to achieve the balance myself!


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