Performancing Metrics

Archive for August, 2006

WordPress.com Gets Avatars

Much like Gravatars, WordPress.com now has plain old Avatars. The new feature was just added today, and already is getting rave reviews.

On your profile you can now upload an image to be associated with your account, also known as an avatar.
We’re still rolling out the places these will show up, but for now you can see them in the comments section of this blog.
Why not upload an avatar and then leave a comment to show it off? Any ideas for how we can use avatars?
Update: You asked for it, you got it. There are now avatars in the latest posts, tag surfer, and my comments pages.
Update 2: There are now avatars in the forums.

This is a free addition to WordPress.com and so get uploading. Not that anyone really wants to see what you look like.

Categories: WordPress News

Chris Pirillo Gives Tips on Avoiding the Echo Chamber

The blogosphere is one big echo chamber. Bloggers are, after all, fond of simply linking to and citing content by other writers, which are, themselves, most likely influenced by material elsewhere. And yes, I’m guilty of that, myself. Even this blog post is not entirely original.

While there’s nothing wrong about expressing agreement or dissenting opinion about material that’s already available elsewhere, being creative and original adds more value to your blog. Moreover, it can be real fun to do something original and out-of-the-ordinary once in a while.

Chirs Pirillo writes:

  1. Don’t live inside your news aggregator.
  2. Say something original at least once a day.
  3. If warranted, quote an “unknown” source.
  4. Don’t link to the same site more than once every two weeks.
  5. Wait a week before publishing your thoughts on hot topics.
  6. Create, don’t regurgitate.
  7. Think twice before using buzzwords.
  8. Make yourself uncomfortable.
  9. Stop whining (or worrying) about what list you’re on (or not on).
  10. Stop saying we need to get out of the echo chamber.

Now, so I wouldn’t be part of the echo chamber, here’s something I’d like to add. It’s something I wrote a little while back about writing blog posts that get noticed. I still find good advice in my own words, when it comes to creating blog posts of substance.

  1. Pick an interesting topic and learn all there is to know about it. This may be a current event or a hotly-contested issue. But I think it’s best to be unique and try to zero in on something no one else is noticing, but you know you can write effectively about. Be creative.
  2. Make a strong point and take a stand. If you will just echo what everyone else in the blogosphere is saying then your post is probably not worth the fuss. True, it may make for good reference, but that’s just about it. Express your opinion and express it clearly, concisely, and unequivocally. Speak up.
  3. Write with conviction and confidence. Readers love it when they see someone expressing their own opinion and doing so with passion. You are more likely inspire your readers to do the same. Move mountains.
  4. Invite discussion. Your readers would hate it when you shoot down each and every dissenting comment on your posts. Agree to disagree. Welcome even the people who don’t share your own opinions. Talk and talk back!

Categories: Blogging Sense, Blogging Tips

Akismet Hiccups

I’ve noticed an upsurge in comment spam in all of my WordPress-powered blogs and I had been wondering how these could have gone past Akismet, being obviously spammy comments.

Apparently, Akismet’s servers had some glitch, which let these comments through. The announcement should also be linked from the WordPress blogs portion of your WordPress dashboard.

The stats code introduced yesterday had a bug which only triggered about 24 hours after it had launched. It kicked in for different blogs at different times, but the result was that starting sometime last night you probably started to see really obvious spam getting past your Akismet filters.

I’m really sorry about this, when things are working smoothly it’s easy to forget how much vile junk is actually being blocked day to day. I’m going to go through my blogs now and double-check that no spam actually got published, and I’d suggest other folks do the same. The “mass edit” mode under “Comments” should be useful for WordPress users.

We apologize for any spam comments appearing here on BloggingPro. It’s good that I noticed this glitch early on and was able to use the WP “mass edit” mode to kill the offending posts. I’ve had enough of xanax, online casino and penile enlargement comments for a day.

Categories: WordPress News, WordPress Plugins

Feature: 5 Reasons to Use WordPress as CMS

ZMAng sent in a great article to go along with the series he has on blogHelper relating to WordPress as a CMS.

If you are an experienced user of WordPress (WP) and want to setup a non-blog website – perhaps a portfolio site, news/magazine site or even an e-commerce site – you might just want to skip the more robust content management systems (CMS) most people tend to suggest, like Drupal and XOOPS, and consider using WordPress for your CMS-oriented task instead.

Why? Because…

  • It Can Be Done, and (Quite) Easily Too
    If you were avoiding WP for your news or portfolio site because you thought WP could only be used as a blogging platform, think again. You would be surprised at the multitude of ways WP can be used as a CMS, and how easily you can customise it to do your bidding. The huge repository of currently available WP plugins already ensures that your job is half done.
  • You’re Familiar With It
    This is probably the No. 1 reason why anyone would want to use WP as a CMS. Familiarity not only breeds trust in the system, but also the ability and expertise to customise it to fit your every need. For those who love to tweak the stuff they use, you’ll be saving a lot of time in the long-run from not having to learn/master a whole new CMS. While you might save time initially from using a CMS more specific to your needs, what if you need to bring in a new function or two?
  • It Integrates With Your Blog Perfectly
    I’m going hit you (or is it get hit with?) with a big duh! here. There’s no need to worry about integrating your blog with whatever CMS you’re using for the rest of your site if you use WP for everything. Imagine having to integrate your e-commerce CMS with WP. Urghh…
  • It’s Very User-Friendly
    More robust and feature-filled CMSes tend to be weak(er) in user-friendliness and high on complexity (think Typo3). Teaching beginners to handle WP is a much, much easier task. Here, I’m referring more towards the front-end of things with regard to community sites with multiple contributors, where it’s likely that the people who publish the majority of articles are less experienced CMS users.
  • There are Tons of Great Themes/Templates for It
    I challenge you to find another CMS with a better stock of free themes/templates (in terms of both quality and quantity). In fact, I’m willing to risk my neck and say that many of the more feature-laden CMSes have a real lack of free and great themes. But just on Blogging Pro alone, you’ll find a huge selection of great WP themes you can customise to fit your CMS needs. And if you think all WP themes are completely blog-centric, here’s one to debunk that myth.

But nothing is ever perfect, including WordPress, so there are downsides to using WP as a CMS. More on that, and the technical details of using WP as a CMS at my joint. So, make sure you consider them first before finalising your decision. Heh, no free tech. support if something fails, ‘kay?

Categories: WordPress Tips

On Page Google Search Results

One of the biggest pet peeves of Google’s search bar that you can put on your pages to search Google’s index or your own site is that it brings you to an external Google page, rather than keeping people on your own sites.

Google has rectified this problem recently in making it so that the results show up directly on your own site. Some people have reported problems trying to get this work, especially with WordPress. I am not sure of the exact problem, but no doubt there will be tweaks, fixes, and hacks to get this improved revenue producing tool working on every type of site.

Categories: Blogging Tips, Blogging Tools

Problogger Idea: Ads on Laptop Lids

It started out as wild ideas exchanged in jest via email and IM. But this concept might just encourage the house-bound problogger in me to go out more often into the wild outdoors to work (meaning anywhere with WiFi, of course). Sacha Chua brought up the concept of networking via messages stuck at the back of laptop lids, and thought it might be a good venue for advertising.

The budding entrepreneur in me thought it might, indeed, be a profitable idea. I can either do this on my own, or set up some clearinghouse of sorts for advertisers and people interested in renting out their laptop lids for ad space.

Apparently, Sacha is going all-out with the idea and is renting out space on her 8.9-inch subnotebook, which she will be bringing to BarCampEarth Toronto this weekend.

Yes, real estate is sparse on this teensy notebook, but it seems the combination of small laptop and geek girl catches attention quite well.

The back of an 8.9″ laptop screen *really* doesn’t seem like much space to advertise on, but *everyone* looks, believe me. It’s the irresistible combination of cute geek girl _and_ insanely tiny laptop. (Gotta love that Sony Vaio PCG-U1!)

And it happens *every* *single* *time.* It helps that I have small hands. Most people just can’t deal with gadgets that small. Sure, black Macbooks are trendy, but they’re not as rare as a *teensy* little laptop that a geek girl is happily typing away on. (In Emacs, no less.)

I can’t help it. I get attention. I might as well make use of it.

It does help that the prospective audience at Sacha’s BarCamp adventure would be geeks–you get a niche audience, so your advertising is targeted. And you get an evangelist to talk about your product or service, to boot!

I’ll be speaking at an IT educators’ convention next week, and this gets me thinking, myself. Would slapping on stickers to the back of my new laptop be worth it? Looking at Sacha’s rate card, I’ll get about 300 bucks if I fill the area of my 14″ widescreen. Well, if a sponsor would subsidize my daily trip to the wireless-enabled cafe (or mall, park or anywhere with good food, great coffee and great people), I would probably give it a go.

Problems solved: I get to go out. I get some writing work done. I get my caffeine fix. I satisfy my sweet tooth. I get some extra cash to spend.

Of course, advertisers should consider some things before sponsoring laptop owners. For instance, they should target laptop owners who are frequently in the public eye, and not just any person who probably leaves his laptop at home or the office. Also, participants should be evangelists in their own right–they should be able to talk about whatever they’re advertising in an honest, positive light.

At the very least, this should be a fun idea to consider. And if messages on your laptop lid don’t make you money, these can at least be good conversation starters.

Categories: Blogging Sense

Are Personal Blogs too Personal?

Recently, I put up a post on why people blog, and really it brings up another subject that has been highly debated in my family: personal blogs are too personal.

Many blogs, including my personal one, discuss my family members, friends, and people I come into contact with in great detail, and some of them don’t always like what I chose to write on the site. Interestingly enough, I have never been asked to take down a post by any family or friends.

Personal blogs allow people to rant and rave about their lives, and talk about the things that make them different, special, or even just keep them going from day to day, but what if it goes too far and offends someone or talks about something that another mentioned person feels is too personal? My family can be much more conservative than me when it comes to talking about life and whatnot. They don’t see the reason behind me even having a personal blog. Why does the whole world need to know how my life and family are doing? Why does the whole world need to know he activities and tasks that I take on?

Where do you draw the line with personal blogs? I know many bloggers only refer to their significant others with “codeword” names or their first initial, or have been told never to mention certain subjects.

It is an interesting problem for people out there that really want to connect with other people and let them into our lives and point of view as we have to try not to compromise the comfort of anyone else. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Categories: Blogging News, General

Featured WordPress Theme: Minimalistic Blue

Minimalistic BlueOne of the first people to send me a submission for my vacation was Anthony Cole, a football playing geek in Silicon Valley, California. He wanted the world to see his Minimalistic Blue theme for WordPress, and I can see why. It is a simple two column theme that is easy to extend and change.

He was even nice enough to give me a few more details on the why and how of his theme.

I created my theme originally because I wanted something rather simplistic. I had looked at what was out there before I took a shot at it and I didn’t really see anything that fit the bill. I needed something that was lightweight, simple, and extendable. I targeted it at people like me, who wanted something that was readable and easy to navigate. It’s really a simple theme and I want to keep it that way.

A few people that are using it now are:
http://www.sarapcalledmeemo.com/
http://loudestnoise.com/

Most of them are customized to some extent, and I like it that way. As I said earlier, I created this theme to be extendable.

I got alot of compliments on my theme, and it was eventually featured on CSSMania and a few other sites. So I decided “Why not”. There was no real benefit to me not to release it, and in addition, a few people were nagging on me to do it. And so I took mine and modified it a little bit (removed the header, cleaned up a few things, etc.) and released it.

Very good stuff. Check it out at AnthonyCole.net.

Categories: WordPress Themes

Why Write a Blog?

I don’t know about other people’s reasonings, but I started a blog to let my friends and family know how I was doing late in high school before I went off to college.

I wrote it via notepad in HTML and uploaded it onto my Geocities account.

Why would anyone want to keep up a blog? Some people use it as a way to release stresses, much like a journal or diary, but other times, it can be just a form of communication much like a conversation with a bunch of faceless friends.

My family does not understand why I blog. They find the whole thing a little strange, airing out life choices on the Internet, commenting on products and services in hopes that others will actually care about your point of view. They really don’t “get” the whole online publishing medium.

There is one person in my family that shows a great interest in technology and how it can help her connect to other people: my grandmother. My grandmother understands the idea of online publishing well, as she has really become more interested with technology as she has grown older. She used to send out yearly letters to her family half the country away, which would take her a while to compile and look nice, organize, and mail, but now using the computer, she can make it all work in a matter of an hour or so, and e-mail copies of it to everyone.

While it’s not public like blogging, it is still her version of publishing online, and with WordPress.com‘s new Private blogs feature out, I think hidden blogs will have an amazing amount of growth as it will appeal to those that only want to share their life information with people that they know and trust.

Many people that write online don’t feel that they have anything they really need to hide in their life, and thus publish their thoughts, opinions and whatnot online. I think one of the more compelling things about blogging has to be the feedback. Having people feel the same way you do, understand where you are coming from and spend the time to let you know they agree is just a satisfying and fulfilling side effect of writing online.

While I don’t think everyone has to have a blog, or website, I do think that many people would benefit from one. For starting out, I highly recommend WordPress.com, especially if you want an easy to use, hassle free, and now private blog.

Categories: General

Being Approached to Write about Products on Your Blog

Recently, I was approached by a company to write about a product on my blog. I found out that I did not fit their criteria, and that really bugged me since they wanted to work on a viral advertising method to promote the product.

Their criteria were very strict, and so I was disappointed. When we were talking about it, they made no mention of needing me to be positive about the product, but they probably would not try to do such a thing with a product that has not tested well before.

I think such things are going to become more prominent with larger and smaller bloggers in the blogosphere as companies look for cheap and effective advertising, and in my mind, word of mouth is some of the best advertising a company can get. Impress a few key people, and you can sway the opinion of many.

This does not mean that I think you should hide the fact that you were approached to write about such product. I think being honest with your audience is the best thing you can do to retain your journalistic integrity. Some people try to hide that the article they wrote was in a way sponsored by a company or service, and I think this is a sad way to run a blog, and a fast way to ruin one.

If you are approached by a company to write a post on a product, be as objective as you can, and don’t just turn it down because if you approach it correctly, you won’t be doing anything wrong according to me.

What do you think though? Can you trust a blogger that has gone ahead, tested a product and written about it on his site?

Categories: Blogging Tips