My brother asked me how he may be able to put a feature on his blog to allow guests to enter their details and have some form of database. So as I explored the way to do it, I thought that it will be a good feature for others' web site as well.
There are many free blog widgets/gadgets which are embeddable that one can find by simply googling "guestbook gadget", "embeddable guestbook" or such similar search word. Google has a site for their sponsored gadgets which you can view and then copy the embed code onto your blog. However, though simple, many of such gadgets are supported by banner ads, require membership to outside data company or may not generate data at all.
So for this endeavor, I decided that more personal control is required. Such feature is preferably without a need to go outside google (since this blog is hosted by the same).
The steps are:
1. Creating a google spreadsheet to serve as container of the guest-details and the capture form.
2. Have a google blog to serve as the gateway site where you can invite those casual surfers and guests to register. This is where the embed code of 1 above is used. Preferably you have to offer something worthwhile for their effort to provide their details.
3. Have a separate restricted site where those you have accepted can be invited or be given their access code via their email.
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Now let's explain the above three steps in more detail:
1. Google Spreadsheet
Google documents is available as a drop down menu under "More" on the google initial page.
Here's a tutorial to let you view how it's done. But for your purpose, you may have the following table headings: a) First Name b) Last Name c) Email Address d)Location. Please bear in mind in the following video, the tutor went directly to form, so he was limited to the data available in the wizard. For you, just enter the mentioned table headings a) to d) first on the spreadsheet. So when you click the form menu, such data will be available:
Copy the embed code provided by the form to a notepad document. You will paste that code in the body of your welcome/gateway page.
2. Google Blog
Here is one tutorial for setting a blog hosted by google. I find their blog, simple enough but full featured compared with others I have tried.
Before we go to no. 3
Here's a picture of my sample google spreadsheet:
or go here to view it in real time. You may also notice that google automatically added a column for "Timestamp".
Here is the Guestbook as embedded (I tweaked the theme a bit - themes are available on the google doc form menu):
I accidentally deleted the "Last Name" from the "Form Menu", but for sample purposes, it may not matter. It points out also that you may add additional column to tag which valid e-mail address were already replied with.
Enter details on the above form and refresh the real time view of the google documents to see if data is forwarded accordingly.
Bear in mind that in your case, you can restrict viewing of the said spreadsheet so no one else can view the database captured.
Not all will fill 'em up with the right data. So you have to weed and trim your data spreadsheet container by deleting some irrelevant rows. Your reply to their email address is a security measure so that they will fill-in at least a valid e-mail address.
3. Restricted Site
For this purpose, there are several alternatives:
A. Creating a Google Group Site: On the google initial page, under the drop down menu "More" the . Google have templates which are for members of a group. Obviously, that will be limited to those who have valid email accounts. If you are logged in to your google account, you can access the google site.
I have tried one template - see it here. You can restrict it as follows:
These templates are pre-filled in a structure of several pages, the contents of which may be time-consuming to be populated or edited if you have few available materials or information to work with.
B. Host the restricted site on your computer (where you have all the controls):
Opera and Firefox have add-ons to let you share pages/files from your computer. I find that Opera Unite is simpler to manage/secure but if you want to have the flexibility of scripting, Firefox's "POW" is more programmable.
POW is available here. While, if you have a fairly recent version of Opera, the server is activated by an icon on the sides or bottom (resembling fan blades).
Another way to host your files and share it to the net is by downloading a limited version of "Badblue". Using this is very simple but there are some disabled features for the free version. I found a download page here.
C. Pay for a hosted restricted site. You may already have some of these corporate or personal sites for which you pay regularly and consequently let some admin take care of security. You can simply e-mail the locations of these sites and the related access codes.
D. KeepandShare, Rapidshare, Hotfile etc. You may also convert your documents into PDF format and upload them to free and paid file hosting services. You can download "PrimoPDF" which installs for you a printer that outputs whatever you print into PDF format. You can then upload these to the file hosting service and email the links to your bonafide guests. However, you won't have much control once they downloaded the files.
Sample of more simple guestbooks:
b. more here
c. the Google gadgets are here. But for guestbook, you have to search because a ton of all sorts are available there (not only guestbooks).
- As the google form is created by their wizard, there seems to be no way to infuse in them some validations or scripted actions (for example, refusing to move to another field until a required field is filled up).
- I tried KeepandShare a little and they offer good services. There are email notifications when someone downloads your shared files. I have not tried Rapidshare and Hotfile, but I guess they are fairly common.
.ciao and have fun