Wednesday, August 1, 2007

How to Use this Site

OK, so you've never 'blogged' before--Don't worry, it's a piece of cake.

If this is the first time you've been to this page, you might not be sure what it is, exactly, you are looking at. First, you're probably going to need to get familiarized with the layout. There is a lot of information on the screen and it might be a little confusing. So let's look at the general layout without all of that distracting information:

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(click on the picture for a bigger image)

OK, so now might be a good time for a little tip: If you want to open another window without leaving this one--to, say, look at the image above, you can right-click on the link (in this case the image above) and select "open new new window", or if you are using a newer web browser, you can select "open in new tab". That way the drawing will be open in another web browser screen, and you don't have to leave this post. What you should see in that other tab (or window) is an image that looks like this:

Only even bigger and clearer, so you don't have to squint.

The first thing you should notice is that there are three columns of information, and some header and footer bars. The center column is labeled "blog posts". Congratulations--that is the portion of the page that you are reading right now. Let's talk a little more about the blog posts in a bit.

The very top of the screen is the 'navbar' or navigation bar. That is a feature of all blogs that are run on the popular 'Blogger' system which is provided by Google. This allows you to navigate through the blogs on this system (there are a lot of them), or search this blog, or create your own blog (it's free). If you want more information on that, hit that stylized orange "B" at the left hand side of the navbar and that will take you to a page that can get you started. Ignore that for now.

Right below that is the header. That's the top portion of the screen on the actual blog with the image of the Seattle skyline. That is actually a button of sorts, and if you hit it, you will be taken directly to the front page of this site from no matter where you are in the site. It's a handy tool if you get lost.

All the way down at the bottom of the page are two footers. The top footer is labeled "logo"--that is simply another Blogger icon that will take you to a startup page for that service. The lower footer is labeled "HTML/Javascript". If you scroll down to the bottom of the page in the actual site, you will see that this is simply a little odometer looking box. That is known as a counter, and it gives the blog operators (in this case your PSASHRAE board) valuable information about how many people use this site and what they find useful.

That covers the headers and footers, now let's look at the left hand column. You should see six boxes, labeled "Chapter Links", "Officers of the Chapter", "Regional Chapter Links", "Industry News", "HTML/Javascript", and "How do you like the new". All of these boxes (except for the last one, more on that later) are just convenient places to provide useful links to other resources on the web of interest to our membership. The first provides links to our chapter website, the Society website and this blog. The second provides a link to our website contact information page. The third links you to the websites of the other chapters in ASHRAE region 11. Pay them a visit sometime. "Industry News" is just a feature that searches Google for news of our industry every time you load the page--you can select certain keywords to display results for by simply clicking on the underlined words right under the sub-header. As of today's posting, you can choose from "ASHRAE","Air Conditioning", "Construction", "Heating", "LEED", "HVAC", "USGBC", or "Ventilation". Give it a try. The next box, cryptically titled "HTML/Javascript" in the layout image, is actually titled "ASHRAE Press Room" on the actual site. This is a direct feed from ASHRAE of the press releases they have released from their publicity department.

And the "How do you like the new" field? That is a poll (titled "How do you like the new PSASHRAE blog". Feel free to register your thoughts by clicking on the radio button next to the response that reflects your opinion, then clicking the "vote" button. I'll wait......

Oh, I see you'd rather finish the tour first. Good thinking--you don't want to vote prematurely!

Let's jump over now to the right hand column of the site--You should see four boxes over there: "Topics", "Archive", "WS2 Task List" and "AdSense". Probably the most important box in this column is the "Topics" box. This is a feature that allows us to organize the site in a way to make it easier for you to find things. There are several topic titles listed below the title bar on the actual site. If you hit, say, "Membership", then the site quickly re-arranges itself to only display the articles that we have tagged as being relevant to membership issues. Give it a try. See? Instead of having to wade through every single article posted, you can just narrow your search to just the articles that are related to the subject you want to see.

The "Archive" box allows you to look at older posts that are no longer kept on the front page of the site. It is arranged by date, so you can zoom into the time period you wish to search.

The next box is essentially a task list that we are currently using as reminders to us to do things for the site and for other technology tools we want to roll out for the chapter. Unless you really want to get more involved in the chapter (hint, hint) you can ignore that. The "AdSense" block below that is just an experimental revenue source for the chapter. You can ignore that, too, for now.

So now you know all about all of the things that surround the main body of the blog--don't get too comfortable with what you see. There is a good chance that this will change, probably many times, before we settle in on an arrangement that works best for us.

Now let's get to the main course--that's the box labeled "Blog posts" in the center of the screen. It's also the part of the website you are reading right now. This is the meat of the blog. This is the area where we provide information that we hope is useful and interesting to you, the reader. It's also the part of the website where you can interact with us and with others using it.

Each blog post is initiated with a headline; this blog post's headline is "How to Use this Site". Click on it. What happened?

What you should have seen is the page reload, and then focus in on this article. In fact, if you look closer, the only article being displayed will be this article. If you look up at the address bar in your browser, you should see an address that looks something like:

You have just found the unique address of this article! If you find it especially useful or compelling, you can then copy this address and e-mail it to someone else who might find it really useful. Or, if you are really advanced, you might link to it in another webpage somewhere. That way, the person who you want to show this article to doesn't have to search the entire site to find exactly what it is you were trying to tell them.

Next, of course comes the article itself. This will be recognizable by the clarity of writing, the technical knowledge, the wit, the piercing insight, and the embarrassing spelling erors. Scattered throughout the body of the article may be highlighted words that look like this. Go ahead, click on it.

Find your way back, yet?

That highlighted word is a "link" and it will take you somewhere on the web--in this case right back to the article you are reading. But it could take you somewhere else, like say, the ASHRAE website, our original PSASHRAE website, or a dancing hamster. (It's the internet. That's just what happens around here).

Now let's look down at the bottom of the article. This is where things really get important.

You should see something that looks like:

There are three things of note here, the time stamp, the labels and the "comments" button. The time stamp gives you an idea of when the post was created. Expect to see things like "03:00 AM" there, because, this being a blog, all posters are required to be wearing pajamas in their parent's basements when they post. (We have our legal department working on a waiver.) But the time stamp is also a link, and just like the headline, it links you to a page that displays this post and only this post.

The labels indicate the labels the author has decided apply to this article. These are also links. If you click on, say, "Awards", the link will take you to a page where all of the articles tagged "Awards" are listed. It works exactly the same way as if you had clicked on the "Awards" tag in the "Labels" section of the right-hand column. (Only it won't work if you click on the words in the box above. That's just an image of what you see at the end of an article-ed.)

The last thing left is the most important: The comment link. It is found right here:

That's the part where you come in. Click on that link and you will be taken to a new screen. On that new screen you should see two columns--the left one will have the comments that other users have left, and the right column has a convenient input box for you to leave your comment (you may need to get a free Gmail account first).

What should you say? Well, anything. It's really up to you. While we do ask commenters to observe some basic posting guidelines, the whole point of having a comments section is to allow the users to give us their feedback. It can be on anything at all: Pointing out grammar errors in the post, asking for more information, giving the Chapter suggestions on how to better serve the membership, adding information on the subject of the article for the benefit of other readers, etc. etc...

Consider this just another route to communicating with your chapter officers and with the membership at large.

So now you should have a better idea of what this site is all about. Please feel free to use the comments (or the contact information in the upper left) to ask any more questions you may have. Have fun, and let us know how you use this site!

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