A New Year, A New Guide to Using Testudo Times

I'll admit it: we're starting to grow. Basketball season is a good time of year for Maryland blogs, and new members are joining every day. Here's the problem: this can be a bit of an intimidating place.

We're a little different than most blogs, that's for sure. With that in mind, I figured I'd try to throw together a guide on how to use and interact with Testudo Times.

If you've been here for forever, then you may not need this. Or you may want to read over parts of it to get a better understanding of some things. If you're completely new, maybe you want to read over it to get the gist of what we're about.

Please read on:

We Should Probably Explain...

We're not really a normal blog, per se. There's a few things that are a little bit different about the way we do things. The first, and most important, is community involvement, but we'll get to that later. Before any of that, I assume I should explain some of the things we do.

There are two types of posts from the authors (that's us) at Testudo Times: stories and shots. Below is a story:

Stories_medium

Pretty simple stuff, right? Headline, picture, and content. There's a small red link that reads "Continue reading this post >>", and it does what it says. We refer to that little red link as "the jump".

You'll also see the comment count - on this one, there's ten comments, and I haven't read any of them. If I read 3 comments and then checked back and there were 10 total, it would read "10 comments, 7 new". Clicking directly on the comment count will take you to the comments on the full story page. You can also let others know about a Testudo Times post - please do - through Facebook or Twitter.

We have a special story every day - the Maryland Minute. That's marked by the headline "Maryland Minute XX.XX.XX - [insert top headline here]"; it's basically a collection of links every day that weren't quite big enough to be stories but are still newsworthy. It's a great way to get all the information you might've missed.

Now for shots:

Fanshotsme_medium

A shot is a snippet of information that is really too small for a full story but too big to simply be mentioned in the MM. Generally, very little analysis will be included - they usually speak for themselves. They are marked by the gray background, differentiating them from a normal story.

There are a ton of different types of shots, but the most common are links, quotes, and videos. For all shots, the little icon in the bottom left that gives the date is actually a permalink - that is, if you want to show someone else the shot by providing a link, you'd click on that and then copy the address of that page. On the other side of the darker bottom bar is the comment count - it functions the same way as normal stories.

Videos are usually just YouTube embeds, often of a play from the previous night or highlights of a recruit.

Quotes are marked by the giant quotation marks that indent the quote being...uh...quoted. The quote will be indented about a half inch in from the link to it and our own little analysis.

Links, which are above, are pretty straightforward - they link things. To get to the page we're linking, click the centered, red text at the top of the gray box.

Keep In Touch

There are two ways to read Testudo Times - coming here every day (no problem with that) or through an RSS reader, such as Google Reader. Most modern browsers, including Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, have one. To subscribe, simply click one of the links on the right hand side of the page and pick subscribe.

Rss_medium

The Idea

We here at Testudo Times most certainly are a blog, but we aspire to be more that - we want to be a community. You are just as big as a part of us as we are. It's your comments and your posts that can make this site bigger and better; we don't want to talk at you, we want to talk with you. It's for that reason that we encourage heavy interaction between you, us, and your fellow readers.

We have a few ways to accomplish this: comments, FanPosts, and FanShots.

The Basics: Signing Up

Excuse me if this seems base, but I just want to make sure you're get the idea to the fullest. Signing up is a pretty simple process and you should be able to do it if you've ever signed up for any other web service, and I'm assuming you have.

Sign_up_medium

Pretty simple. Just click on that big red button, provide the necessary information, confirm your email, and off you go.

When you come back to Testudo Times, that big red button will be replaced with your virtual HQ - your place to handle your stuff. We'll explain more about it later, but when we reference, we want you to know what we're talking about.

There is one cool thing about signing up - when you sign up for us, you sign up for an entire SBN membership. That means that joining and commenting any of SBN's awesome blogs (Bullets Forever, BC Interruption, Camden Chat, Hogs Haven...actually, just about everything here is a good blog) is as simple as one click - no more signup.

Step One: Commenting

Comment_view_medium

Commenting is the most easy and most common way to interact. I'm a little biased, but I truly believe SBN (our parent company) has the best commenting system on the internet.

Why do it? Well, why not? If you agree, disagree, or have your own idea on the same topic, please let us know. It's a great way to get discussion going and get your own voice heard. It's actually quite fun - give it a try sometime if you don't.

Commenting can either be very basic or very powerful. First off, there's reading comments - a pretty simple procedure. Comments you have seen before are white, whereas new comments have a yellow background. If you simply visit the page, all the comments will be marked read.

There are, however, some extremely helpful shortcuts to navigating through comments that are listed at the top of the comments section. The most valuable is Z - simply hit Z to focus on the first comment, then hit it again to mark that individual comment as read and cycle to the next one. That's an extremely useful feature in quick-developing threads like Game Threads.

Another thing you should know about comments - they automatically refresh. No need to hit F5 - when someone else comments, it'll pop up, without you having to do anything at all.

The commenting system we employ mixes normal blog comments with forum posts - for instance, you can have a subject line (recommended) which can either be your first sentence or an actual subject (we prefer the second, but both work).

If you want to reply to what someone else has written, feel free to hit the reply button. That will nest your comment right below the other regardless of when you made it, and makes navigating through threads much easier.

As for writing comments, you have to have either a subject or a body - we like both, but it's far from a necessity. That circled area is your virtual tool belt, providing you access to linking text, inserting images, blockquoting, and the usual formatting stuff. Using this can make your commenting much easier for you and others.

Offended by a post? Love it? Let us (or others) know. Just hit the actions button, which will turn into several other buttons - namely, Rec and Flag.

Rec'ing a comment is a way to let others know that this is a really good comment - maybe it's really insightful, funny, or just plain awesome. Once a comment is rec'd thrice, it turns green with a little thumbs up at the top as a way to let people know that they should read that comment.

Flagging is when someone does something they shouldn't: spamming, saying something offensive, and so on. If you felt it was wrong, hit flag. That sends us a little message to let us know that there could be something wrong that comment. We'll review it and possibly delete or hide it.

Game Threads

This is kind of related to commenting, so I'll include it here.

Every game , we post a Game Thread. It's basically a place to get together and talk with other people about the game. Because comments refresh automatically, it's a great place to talk - a mix of a chat room, a blog, and a forum. We really encourage you to share your thoughts as you watch the game, whether they're simply you rooting for your team or heavy analysis.

Step Two: FanPosts

Fanposts2_medium

Our version of forums, FanPosts are you're thoughts on basically anything. Think you know why Cliff Tucker is struggling? Want to share your thoughts on Maryland's next opponent? Here's where you should do it, especially if there's no post up related to it. We're pretty free here to talk about almost anything.

To post a FanPost, you head up to your HQ at the top right and choose "New FanPost." That will present you with this editor:

Fanpost_editor_top_half_medium

Obviously, some the stuff is self-explanatory, but I figured I'd point them out anyway. First off, make sure to include a headline. It'll prompt you if you don't, but there's many a time I write a post only to realize I didn't include a headline - generally, that's the first thing you do.

You can also choose between Visual and HTML views - visual is what you expect it to be. When you make a change, it'll show up. HTML is more complex and complicated, and requires knowledge of HTML code. Sometimes, if you know what you're doing, you might delve into HTML to do some more powerful stuff, but most can be done right there.

Then there's "Media & Assets", which is where you bring in photos and videos.

Lastly, there's The Jump, which we referenced earlier. It's that long white bar in the editor area. For what it's worth, you don't have to include it - you can delete it or move it around at your will.

I'll leave most of the rest up to the SBN explainers, because they do it best. To know how to use the Editor, click that little yellow button at the bottom of the main editing area that says "Show Editor Help". Literally everything about the editor can be accessed there.

Below that on the editor page, there's this:

Fanpost_editor_bottom_half_medium

These are ways to make your FP better.The top is the AutoTagger, which scans your post for any players or teams it can find, and then automatically tags those players. It then drops down to show the full tagging menu:

Tagger_medium

Tagging is really important to us - it makes related stories more relevant, and allows people to more easily access information based on similar things. Did you write about Cliff Tucker and Greivis Vasquez, as I did above? Then tag those players - that can be as easy as clicking a checkbox. If you wrote about Villanova, then type Villanova in the Team box and select them when they pop up. If you referenced Maryland's next game, please check that box. Maybe you mentioned Terrence Ross somewhere - put his name under "Topics" - that's basically any tag that isn't a player, team, or event.

It's quick, but it does mean a lot.

Below that comes polls and Twitter, which are fairly self-explanatory. Polls are used to poll the reader about something - maybe who Maryland's top football recruiting target should be. At the twitter section, you can link your Twitter account to tweet what you post.

One quick word: there's a 75 word minimum when making a FanPost. I'm not as anal about it as some other SBN sites, but if you finish out your post like:

WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS WORDS

so you reach the limit, you might want to consider making a FanShot. I won't penalize you for it, but it's something to keep in mind.

How to Make a Good FanPost

A couple of tips:

  • Don't Be Afraid to Be Long: We don't need an essay, but never think you wrote too much.
  • Give Some Insight: It's okay to talk about something, form your own opinions, and then talk about them in the FP, as long as you can take people disagreeing with you. It's more fun that way.
  • It's Okay to Ask Questions: Don't know something? You can ask the community.
  • Be Relevant: I know I said you can discuss other things, and I do mean that, but if you want to talk about the Orioles, I suggest you hit up Camden Chat. They're more qualified to deal with it.
  • Be Timely: Again, I'm not entirely anal about this, but try not to bring up subjects that were big, oh, ten months ago.
  • Be Coherent: If you have a few spelling errors, I'm not going to blast you. In fact, I very rarely do much moderating in the FanPost section. That said, people will appreciate your post more if you use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Step Three: FanShots

Fanshots_medium

Remember when we described shots, above? Good, because now you get to do some.

FanShots are your own version of our shots. Did you see a link we didn't cover? Don't email us (though you can do that, if you want). Make a FanShot. Cool video on YouTube? Make a FanShot.

Like our shots, FanShots usually don't have much analysis, because they don't need it. It's okay to add your own thoughts, but they're far from required.

To make a FanShot, click the New FanShot button back at HQ. That will bring up the editor:

Fanshot_editor_medium

The types of FanShots are at the top - Links, Quotes, Images, Videos, Lists, and Chat. You can select which one you want to get to that type of FanShot format. Then just enter in all the usual stuff. Over at the right is the tagging section - we really encourage you to tag your FanShots, just like your FanPosts. Is it about a particular player - say, D.J. Adams? Then choose the right league from the drop down menu at Players, and just start typing D.J. Adams - before long, a box will pop up, allowing you to choose the correct one. The same applies for specific teams.

Hope That Helped

Have a good new year, everybody.

Any more questions? Rules, regulations, practices, tags...ask away in the comments.

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