Archive for July, 2007
I try to keep a keen eye on the industry that helps design, develop, and manage blogs, and that arena has a new entrant with Blogging Squared, a group from Ottawa, Ontario Canada led by someone I know very well, John Wiseman. Blogging Squared provides services like custom blog design, training sessions, blog development, search engine optimization, and maintenance.
One of the more interesting additions to what they do is the training sessions. They have them set up for small businesses which includes information on building relationships with their audience, and thought leadership.
I had a chance to ask John why he would start Blogging Squared:
I’ve been involved in web development for about six years now. Three years ago when I started blogging, I had no idea blogs would be so influential. I still enjoy writing for my blog but have developed a real interest for designing them. Moving away from web design and focusing on blog design and consulting has been a natural transition for me. I really enjoy teaching small businesses about the power of blogs and helping them grow their online presence. It’s really a pleasure to wake up every morning and know that I’ll be working on projects that I’m passionate about.
In continuing with this, Blogging Squared has set up a blog on their site, and they dish out some great information and advice, much of it specifically directed at things they have found that are useful for the WordPress blogging community which is their focus.
You can find John Wiseman at Blogging Squared, or his personal blog JohnWiseman.ca.
Note: They are also looking for great WordPress talent, and so if you are someone that can take a PSD and make it into a WordPress theme quickly and following web standards, then contact John through the contact form on Blogging Squared.
I arrived in San Francisco Thursday and started the WordCamp 2007 gauntlet with a meetup that started out slow and turned very interesting very quickly. I’ve written at length about it on the WordPress Report, so I won’t rehash that here.
WordCamp 2007 kicked off promptly at 10:00 AM in the large hall of the Swedish-American Hall in San Francisco, fueled by coffee and WiFi. Standing room only crowds filled the hall and the balcony during every single session, beginning with Dan Kuykendall walked people through usage of his popular podPress plug-in making podcasting with WordPress easy. The session stalled a bit because the load of hundreds of laptops crashed the WiFi server 10 minutes into the session. Once everything came back online, several people logged into a test blog he’d set up and left several humorous posts and comments.
Next up were John Dvorak and Om Malik, who lounged back in the “thrones” on the stage to compare blogs versus mainstream media. The gist of what was said is that mainstream media doesn’t understand blogs; doesn’t respect blogger and fails horribly at what blogs do best: develop a relationship between the blogger and the reader through the use of comments. The two agreed that bloggers, on the other hand, routinely fail to keep their content relevant and interesting, opting instead to repost twitter comments, talk about what they ate for lunch or their pets, or regurgitating gossip and innuendo about Paris Hilton or other over-exposed non-news. They also agreed that bloggers need to differentiate themselves visually, specifically to have their blog appear not to be a blog; that is, design your blog to appear more like an actual web site or portal, instead of screaming, “This is a blog, just like millions of other blogs!”
Lorelle continued with this thread, stressing the need to write about what you’re passionate about while keeping in mind that someone a world away couldn’t care less about the trouble you’re having with the phone company or your preparation for minor surgery. She also (quite loudly and passionately) expressed the importance of fostering comments on your posts as well as posting comments on other blogs that as similar to your own as a form of marketing yourself. Another point well made was the need to write well, to ruminate a bot about your subject, and to limit yourself to a focused niche that you are familiar with.
Jeremy Wright of b5media followed with what turned into a panel discussion of monetization techniques preferred by several established bloggers. His presentation also focused on generating good content, and how bloggers should do 2 or 3 things well instead of 10 to 12 things poorly. He also recommended focusing on building relationships through good content and encouraging feedback through comments, saying that regardless of the advertising method chosen, money will follow.
Lloyd Budd and Mark Jaquith detailed their history and involvement with WordPress and encouraged users to help with both development and evangelism by reporting bugs they find, helping new users through the IRC channel and the support forums and even detailed how developers might contribute to the documentation through the Codex.
The bulk of Robert Hoekman, Jr.‘s improvised presentation was the benefits of stripping away everything that isn’t necessary to improve the readability and functional flow of your blog.
Matt Cutts‘ presentation was far and away the most interesting and useful session of the day. Pearls of wisdom provided:
- Don’t put your blog at the root of your domain.
- Name your directory ‘blog’ instead of ‘wordpress’.
- In URLs, no spaces are worst, underscore are better, dashes or hyphens are best.
- Use alt tags on images: not only is it good accessibility, it’s good SEO.
- Include keywords naturally in your posts.
- Make your post dates easy to find.
- Check your blog on a cell phone and/or iPhone.
- Use partial-text feeds if you want more page views; use full-text feeds if you want more loyal readers.
- Blogs should do standard pings.
- Standardize backlinks (don’t mix and match www with non-www).
- Use a permanent redirect (301) when moving to a new host.
- Don’t include the post date in your URL.
- When moving between hosts, wait until Googlebot and traffic begin to visit the new host before taking down the old one.
- If using AdSense, use sectioning.
- Use FeedBurner’s (now) free MyBrand feature to take control of your feeds (i.e., feed.bloggingpro.com instead of http://feeds.feedburner.com/bloggingpro/PfjF.
A good indication of how good Cutts’ presentation was that nearly 100% of those attending preferred to remain in the hall asking questions well after the hour was over rather than break for dinner.
Tomorrow, I’ll be back with WordCamp Day 2 where the focus will be development and the more technical aspects of WordPress.
Charles Stricklin is the president of Four-Oh New Media, LLC, a podcast and new media production and consulting company. He produces and co-host The WordPress Podcast and Podcast Planning.
Back, a long time ago, there was a plugin that made it easy to add other plugins to your WordPress blog, but that plugin died off, and since then we have had to do things the manual way, but now, a new plugin, OneClick, has been released, and it is pretty powerful.
Oneclick is my first wordpress plugin. It allows uploading of a plugin or theme without the need of manually uploading by FTP, allowing the upload from the Admin panel. All you have to do is browse for the zip file and click â€œuploadâ€ and the plugin does the rest.
Subscribe to the oneclick RSS Feed at http://oneclick.tumblr.com/rss. Iâ€™m gonna be posting updates, screenshots of in progress work, and beta notices. So donâ€™t lose out!
Check it out. I have tried it on some blogs, and it works really well. I am still very concerned about the security implications in regards to this plugin, but I have found chmod 775 to be more than enough to get it to work. If anyone has a security analysis of this plugin, I’d be forever in your debt. Until then, I will keep enjoying the ease that is OneClick.
Darren has a great post series going on his blog right now about rediscovering your blogging grove. It is a series of posts that do more than just ask you to write about something specific, but also how you might want to go about completing the task, and why it is important.
With his usual flare, Darren does a great job of setting up more than just some questions for people to answer.
Much has been said over the whole sponsored/not sponsored theme issue, and I really don’t want to touch on that again, but what I do want to talk about is how it is being dealt with, and the effects that the sweeping edit of what is and isn’t allowed effects the community.
Like many others, Cory Miller has had his themes removed from Themes.WordPress.net. This wouldn’t be a big deal in itself, if it wasn’t for the way it was being handled.
Cory has this to say:
I found all but one of my themes were deleted â€¦ without warning â€¦ without the opportunity to update my themes to comply with the new policies, which I would have done â€¦ and without the ability to even login once I heard of the new policies.
So in effect, they have:
- not given us a true deadline to remove or update our themes
- not allowed us a grace period to update our themes to comply with their new rules
- not allowed us to even login to update our themes
I don’t think this was the best way to effect a change in policy, but it is an interesting and valid point. I have also heard reports, and experienced first hand, that some of the themes removed, were not sponsored themes, which makes me wonder what the rules were.
The folks over at Automattic have put up news on the WordPress.com blog of a really neat Facebook application which brings the world of WordPress.com into Facebook.
In this app youâ€™ll find the core blog features youâ€™d expect: publishing posts, adding bookmarks and viewing stats. Beyond that weâ€™ve taken advantage of the social network information that Facebook provides, with a Friends feature that shows you the most recent WordPress.com blog post from each of your Facebook friends that have added the app. Posts you make within the app show up on your WordPress blog here, and vice versa.
If you are a fan of WordPress.com and Facebook, I suggest you try this out. Check it out at WordPress Facebook App.
One of the things not talked about very often is the blogging tools that you can use in conjunction with your blogs, making sure you rarely, if ever, log back into their normal administration panels. One such tool is Windows Live Writer, which has recently got some praise from Matt over on the WordPress.com blog.
Why should you use a desktop blogging client in the first place, when the web works so darn well? Well personally I fly a lot, and WLW can work offline without an internet connection, so I can create, edit, categorize, and do everything I want to and then when I get online at home itâ€™ll be magically synced to my WordPress. Because WLW a regular Windows program as opposed to something inside your web browser theyâ€™re able to do some pretty neat things with the interface and provide a good experience for blogging.
Check out his “full” review of the software, as well as some details about how widely used the software is on WordPress.com.
David Airey has a great little tutorial up on how to modify your WordPress login page, so that it fits more in line with the style of your site.
Even better, it is basically just the modification of two image files. So check it out. He seems to be using this as a way to remind his customers of the work he has done for them, by repeating his brand every time they need to log in. A very wise move for those trying to really get their name out there when it comes to customizing WordPress.
Bloggy Network has started another blog network focused on local blogging.
Here are some details about the network from the Bloggy Network blog:
As such, Bloggy Network is very proud to launch a new mini-network centered around local cities called ‘is My Home‘. We have started out in nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, and Philadelphia.
Each is My Home blog is tailored to your city – this ain’t no cookie-cutter content. Our bloggers will be poring over their cities, making sure you know what is going on. If you are looking for a great wealth of local information, and haven’t found what you are looking for, our blogs are a great place to start.
It is just the start of a much larger network and project, and we hope you’ll all check it out, and let us know what you think.
Also we are looking for more bloggers to talk about their city (US only at this time). Feel free to contact me at [email protected]
A big hubbub is being made recently about sponsored themes not being listed on WLTC any more. Does this personally bother me? Not at all. It’s his site – he can do whatever he wants. Just like they have every right to take sponsored themes off themes.wordpress.net.
But when posts are titled “WLTC High Ground” it just makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Talk about elitism. “You release sponsored themes, you must be inferior.” I have got nothing against Matt Mullenweg, he is a swell guy, and one of the very few people that I respect in the blogging world.
Bloggy Network has released one sponsored theme. We did it in a unique way, and pretty much received zero critism. Did I feel bad about releasing a sponsored theme? Not one bit.
Thing is – we have a lot of experience ‘on the other side’. Any post on a forum like DigitalPoint asking for sponsor themes invariable lists our own blog themes site.
We charge for sponsorships like we would for a normal design. They came to us and basically bought a design. We did haggle over the details (such as the ability to remove their link if people wanted), but the final price was still in the four digits.
There is a market for sponsored themes. And just like anything in life, there is crap (ie stuffing fives links on a five-minute design), and quality (I like to think our InSense is a quality theme). The blanket statement of ‘all sponsored themes are evil’ is rather childish. We have had over a dozen established web companies come to us, interested in sponsoring a theme. We decided to stop, not because we felt it was wrong, but because we could pull more benefit for ourselves.
We don’t release sponsored themes ourselves anymore, but we are developing themes to release on several of our blogs. A nice little pink and star filled WordPress theme will be released on Celebrific within the next few weeks. We will link to Celebrific from that theme, as we are building it specifically for the blog’s demographic and are releasing it directly off that site. It will contain a link back to the site itself as well as Design Disease, which is our design arm (and obviously did the design). We do want the attention it will provide. Are we suddenly not welcome in the ‘high ground’ because we released a theme with a link back to our site? The marketing boost that our latest theme, Illacrimo (just try to tell me that is a cheap theme) did for LifeSpy was fantastic.
I personally believe the SEO value is minimal. Google isn’t stupid – people have been adding links to the footer for ages. They are not dumb enough that their search engine couldn’t filter out the text that is in the exact same sentence in the exact same spot of a design over and over and over again.
The slippery slope of ‘sponsored’ concerns me. Are our themes considered ‘sponsored spam’? Thing is – we know about the troubles of subjective decisions. We approve every single blog submitted to Blog Flux (up to 500 a day). We manually verify each and every single one – the web is subjective, not comprised of two colors. Sponsored themes with five links made in five different colors? Ban them. But a high quality sponsored theme that people actually like – why not?
We released Illacrimo on LifeSpy because it fit what the readers over there were looking for. Because of the theme release, I would estimate that LifeSpy received between 10,000-15,000 extra visitors to the site (which includes approximately 5% from Weblog Tools Collection), approximately 50 sites linking to the actual post of the release itself, 7,500 downloads (about 15% from themes.wordpress.net), and close to 250 new subscribers to our site feed.
Isn’t the argument that good content gets you traffic? In our case, a good theme release did that for us. We gave up money by not developing a theme for someone else, but we gained in many ways (opportunity cost well spent). I believe Illacrimo firmly belongs to the ‘top 10 free-WP themes ever’ list.
The stigma being associated with sponsored themes concerns me – mostly because influential people are grouping all sponsored themes as the same. If a customer comes to us, orders a design, and then releases it to the public – are we supposed to stop them? Shall we grill all potential clients about specific use for this theme? Is it wrong for them to release the theme for free, even though they fully paid for it? We create designs for various companies, many of them firmly rooted in the brick and mortar area – what they do with the design should not be our concern.
I think it is important for the community to realize that the issue is not sponsored themes themselves, but a certain (admittedly a large) segment of that area.
This would have been a simple matter of only allowing themes in that agree to the following three points:
- Only one sponsored link and of course a link to the author’s site may be included in the footer
- The link text contained within the footer must use the actual site name, not SEO’ed link text
- The users who download must be able to remove the sponsored link if they’d like
Point #1 takes care of the overflow of links
Point #2 takes care of a large chunk of SEO spam
Point #3 ensures that people can still use the design if they feel uncomfortable with the sponsored link.
The above is the new standard that our own Blog Flux Themes will be adopting. Blogging Pro will adopt the same criteria. I encourage other bloggers to adopt the same basic rules.
I look forward to having a constructive conversation about sponsored themes.