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Archive for August, 2008

WordPress 2.6.1

Barely two-months after the major version 2.6 release WordPress kept it’s promise of releasing 2.6.1 with all the 60-fixes proudly done.  It’s very encouraging to see the developers working on bug reports.  Such an ill-feel if you get stuck on bugs until the next major release.  I think this is the value of a thriving support community, and one which will make WordPress immovable from #1.

2.6.1 offers several improvements for international users.  Styling of the admin for right-to-left languages is much improved thanks to the efforts of the Farsi and Hebrew translation teams, and a mysterious gettext bug caused by certain PHP configurations is now fixed.  For IIS users, 2.6.1 fixes several permalink problems. Image insertion problems in the Press This feature experienced by IE users are also fixed. Of note to everyone is a fix for a performance bug in the admin where those with a lot of plugins would experience slowness on some pages.

Initially released as a beta version it now makes its official debut online. The beta stage has been fruitful with a very impressive download count for the testers, early adapters and well…  for those who just had the time.   If you’ve got a single WordPress blog or two, you may want to consider following the official updates all the way to the major version 2.7 release.  But for those who manage a hefty number of WordPress blogs, you may or may not do the update route.  Not unless the bug fixes affect you and your blogs in a “major” way.

Not really sure if some are security fixes, but just to be on the safe side (and if you’ve got time) it’s best to update.  You can download WordPress 2.6.1 right here.

Categories: WordPress News

For the commentsphere: DISQUS WordPress plugin 2.0

 

Blog publishers and owners are getting very excited about the new Disqus version 2.0.  What’s that?  A brief intro on what Disqus is? OK:

Disqus, pronounced “discuss”, is a service and tool for web comments and discussions. The Disqus comment system can be plugged into any website, blog, or application. Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

Disqus is a free service to the general public with absolutely no inline advertisements. A premium service for large-scale websites is in the works but is not yet available.

Version 1.0, while attracting about 30,000 blogs, was a bit of a turn off because of comment migration issues. The tool was “usable”, to a limited degree, even when data isn’t stored locally.  You know, which is basically how a widget is.  Forget about migrating your comments from point A to B.  It’s stuck in the Disqus database. Moderating and managing comments are done in Disqus, and since comments aren’t indexed with your website… SEO benefits from comment data isn’t possible.

With Disqus version 2.0:

  1. comments are synced into your WordPress database.  This in turn gives you SEO benefts. 
  2. OLD comments can be imported too…
  3. AND comment moderation is done within the WordPress admin area, making it easier to manage.

LaughingSquid and Mashable have very positive comments about the new 2.0 version of Disqus.  My personal favorite is that Disqus developed a feature where you are given the ability to collect all your personal comments on every blog that uses Disqus and have your “mini-blog” of comments page at Disqus.com.  How dandy is that! :)  Check this page out as an example.  If you love commenting on blogs… you better tell its administrators to install Disqus right now.

 

Categories: WordPress Plugins

WordPress Theme: Fervens A, B & C

This is my first theme recommendation, and a WordPress theme just recently released by Smashing Magazine and Design Disease.  I sure hope the author submits it to the WordPress Theme Directory soon because I think this is a great find.  I found it really cool that the author has also included the PhotoShop Document (PSD) design files for modification.  An extra point as well for giving us an online demo of each theme version.

Fervens Theme – Available in 3 versions, each with a different sidebar position.  They all can be downloaded right here.

“Fervens is a 3 column theme that has a base idea of “freshness”. Summer is my favorite time of year as it always amazes us with a rainbow of sensation and colors, making this time of year the best of all.  The green of the plants and trees, the blue of the water….I love this time of year :)”

What I feel is so lovely about this theme is the Flickr plugin.  While pros can do this thru code-level, newbies would appreciate that it’s coming out-of-box.  Something that makes it more useful turn-key.

Main Features of the Theme

  • 3 columns of fixed width
  • widget-ready — two widget supporting sidebars 
  • the theme is using 3 plugins; 2 of them are integrated into functions.php, so there is no need to install them. These plugins are Gravatar, Recent Comments and FlickrRSS. You can use the last one to present your Flickr images in a Flickr Photostream (see the demo).

***a bit of trivia: The author of Fervens designs also developed the Bloggingpro.com theme. :)

 

Categories: WordPress Themes

24/7 free tech support on WordPress.com

Now that’s news!

WordPress.com announced that they have extended their support hours from 9AM to 4PM PDT to 24-hours weekdays… to 24/7! That is one huge commitment that this team has put on and I think deserves a standing ovation. Kudos to you guys!

When you send a support message to wordpress.com you’re assured there’s a real human being replying. If you send a support question and you don’t have a blog hosted at wordpress.com, it will be ignored. This is solely for wordpress.com hosted blogs. They’ve said that they would respond to any wordpress service question, so fire away. Just please be sure that you’ve exhausted time into their FAQs and FORUMs before you do. There’s a high chance that you’re question has already been discussed in length by experts and users like you.

Support team profile can be read here, they are the happy engineers behind http://automattic.com

I really think that support will define the successful online tool. There are many online products available and some are hands-down so useful that people like me use them (even if support is not good). WordPress.com is so spot-on in looking after the well-being of it’s users. I’m sure they’d get a ton of happy people blogging away. And because wordpress.com is ad-driven, the new support system will ultimately result in more blog pages to attach those ads to… good thinking guys! And congratulations.

Categories: Blogger Tools, Blogging News

10 Design Tips from Tech Soapbox

AhmedF of Tech Soapbox gives us 10 HTML tips that will help improve speed and efficiency. I say building in the sense that you could either be a theme designer creating a blog template, or you could be tweaking your existing blog for speed.

For instance, Ahmed recommends you put in your content first, then other elements later. Good for SEO. Same with using proper headers and nesting these accordingly (H1, H2, H3). How about loading your javascript at the end of the page rather than the beginning? Great for making sites appear faster.

Then for usability, there’s the use of tabindex, which is great with people who are fond of using the keyboard to navigate rather than the mouse.

And then there’s conforming to web standards and conventions. I know designers these days do their best to conform. However, there are still some who use HTML elements for purposes other than their original intent. Yes, that’s thinking out of the box. But that “box” was created for a purpose. And sometimes structuring things differently makes it difficult to make changes down the road, especially when you change the use of commonly-used tags like LI, SPAN and P.

For non-designers or non-developers, these things might sound a little too technical. But if you look under the hood of your blog (i..e, the underlying code of the theme), or at least even your blog’s source, it pays to clean it up or tweak it to improve on the end-user experience. Even if you shave just a few seconds off loading time, or even if the improvements seem trivial, multiply that a thousand times over, and both your readers and your server will appreciate it.

Categories: Blog Design, Blogging Sense

A blog of 4 years is now silent

Distinguished blogger, William Patry, has decided to stop blogging.  Every post, all but his farewell, is now a stark reminder of how he was brought to that decision.  Understanding the post comments, it would evidence the legacy that this blogger has impressed on his readers.  I know that this post is now starting to feel like a eulogy, maybe because William Patry has contributed 26 years of personal views into 800 blog posts over a 4-year time period.  The blogosphere has lost an excellent blog, and a much sought-after and widely-read blogger.

I’ve visited other blogs (here, here and here) who have mentioned this story. In a unifying way they have expressed a great loss for the internet.  Patry’s copyright blog has been a great reference to lawyers, politicians, big big companies and well, his fans.  That blog will surely be missed.

Who is William Patry?  He is…

Senior Copyright Counsel, Google Inc. Formerly copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, formerly Policy Planning Advisor to the Register of Copyrights, formerly Law Professor, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; author of numerous treatises and articles (including one on fair use with Judge Richard Posner), including the new 7 volume treatise on “Patry on Copyright”. The views in this blog are strictly mine and should not be attributed to Google Inc.

That text reference was taken from the “about me” section of his blog accessed thru www.archive.org .  The last line, to me,  is the most striking one.  His blog was a personal blog, and while he is Senior Copyright Counsel of Google, that last line separated his views from his office.  When he posts, he says he posts not as Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel, but as William Patry.  It would seem that many found it hard to read his words in a personal nature.  Reading his farewell post, he mentions that he leaves for two reasons:

  1. The Inability or Refusal to Accept the Blog for What it is: A Personal Blog
  2. The Current State of Copyright Law is too depressing

 

Categories: Blogger News

WordPress Automatic Upgrade v. 1.2

When I log into my WordPress site I usually skip scrolling down the dashboard, quickly pressing either “write” or “manage”.  Last night was different, as I was enjoying my hazelnut flavored java I scrolled down to see what was down below.  I seldom do that, so I thought, hey… let’s see what’s down there. 

Interesting.

One of the most popular plugin downloaded, WordPress Automatic Upgrade, has been recently updated to version 1.2.  I posted about automatic upgrade plugins before (here and here), but that was about the zirona automatic upgrade tool.  I am still using Zirona on most of my blogs, but also thought that you may want to know what WordPress Automatic Upgrade offers.

Here are the fixes for version 1.2:

  • Fixed a major issue where plugins could not be activated, due to WP installation logging users out after upgrades.
  • Fixed a issue where users were not being able to download backup files when WordPress URL and Blog URL were different.
  • WordPress Automatic Upgrade will only run if your WordPress is out of date.
  • WPAU now uses Snoopy to download files rather than using regular PHP methods.
  • Added a WPAU Nag where users will see a message to start automatic upgrade if a new version is available.
  • Automatic Upgrade option will only be visible to Administrators.
  • Disabled Automated Mode.
  • Few other minor changes.

And something to look out for for version 1.3:

  • A better user interface including verbose output where users will see what’s being done in real time.
  • Ability to skip certain tasks or run tasks on demand, so users can run file backups, database backups etc selectively.
  • Ability for users to choose the language of WordPress they want to download from.
  • Complete Internationalization support.
  • Cleanup of code to make WPAU more faster.

I do appreciate what’s offered in version 1.2, but man, version 1.3 is something to look out for.  I totally want to select what tasks are to be done by any WordPress upgrade plugin.  It maybe just me, I feel helpless when I press the “upgrade” button and just watch what is being done.  But I know there’s a flipside to wanting even a little control.  Even so, I hope version 1.3 nails this feature spot on.

 

Categories: Blogger Tools

A Look Into Google Web Optimizer

Daniweb.com has published a short piece on what Google’s Website Optimizer can do for your website or blog.

Tom Leung, product manager for Google Website Optimizer, says it’s not always easy to know what drives traffic without a tool like Website Optimizer to help. “In the old days, you would just make [your] changes and hope for the best, or you might look at your traffic the next week and see if there were any changes in your web analytics dashboard.” The problem with that approach, Leung explains, is that you don’t really know why you saw a traffic change. Was it due to your design change or maybe you had a really popular blog post that week?

Leung says where Website optimizer fits in is that it lets you make those improvements with some scientific certainty. “Now I have a tool to evaluate which changes are good, which are neutral and even more importantly, which are bad,” he says. Website Optimizer includes two experiment types: A/B, which switches between two page designs and multivariate where you can test multiple elements such as different headlines and pictures to see which one works best.

Part of Gogole Analytics, the Website Optimizer lets you test different versions of your site, to see which best serves your purposes in terms of user interface, traffic, conversions and whatnot. So instead of blindly making guesses on which layout is best for conversions, for instance, or perhaps the length of time each visitor spends on your site, you can back these up with figures.

Google has recently partnered with content management vendors, to supposedly implement Website Optimizer as built-in features. I wonder if this can be done with WordPress, too, to negate the need to paste code onto pages being tested. Plugin, anyone?

Categories: Blogging Tools

Update: The Olympic Blogosphere

Monday morning, I’m off to a happy start.  Got my cup of java to my left and my trusty mouse at the right, firing up my iTunes to download my daily podcasts.  Currently listening to CNet’s Buzz Out Loud online (episode 779).

Here’s an update from the Olympics post I made regarding China’s allegedly strict rules on internet information access to and fro journalists and “media” tourists covering/enjoying the Olympic festivities.  From a report by the New York Times, China has apparently heard and is “bowing to criticism from Olympic officials, foreign journalists and Western political leaders, and have lifted some of the restrictions that blocked Web sites at the main press center for the Games, although other politically sensitive sites remained inaccessible Friday.

The government made no announcement about the partial lifting of its firewall, and it was unclear if the change would be temporary. The International Olympic Committee also sought Friday to counter statements by its top press official, who had suggested that I.O.C. negotiators had quietly acquiesced to the government’s restrictions.   (from a report by Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times)

This is a great turning point that will surely have a direct affect on the Olympic spirit.  I am hoping that bloggers too would find it easy to access their blogs not only in media centers but also in public internet access areas.  Complementing facts and figures that mainstream media offers, the world will benefit from experiential writing/media that bloggers are known for.   I, for one, would encourage blogging to be a part of the Olympic experience.  While blogging hasn’t really made a mark in the past 2004 Olympics, I believe NOW would be an opportune time to include it as part of the the Olympic fodder.  Would you agree?

 

Categories: Opinion

Del.icio.us loses its dots :)

I love Del.icio.us, I’ve been a loyal user of this well-loved social networking site.  Today, I think I will love it even better.  I just heard that they’ve made my life a little better.  I really had trouble entering their URL like, forever!  I’d go deli.cio.us or de.licio.us or deli.cio.us arrgghhh… only to find out I’ve mixed the dots for the millionth time.  NOW, I just head-on and put www.delicious.com …. now isn’t that easy.  C’mon, I know it’s NOT JUST ME.  (I know, I know, delicious.com has always forwarded to del.icio.us anyway, but hey, now the reverse is true! Yay!).

Delicious has a bold new design that is more powerful and easier to use, along with a revamped search that’s faster and more robust. It’s also full of useful features that people have been requesting for years.

The new site is LIVES(!) and now has softer blues and was reported to have a more user-intuitive interface.  It’s now presented with the general public in mind vs. before when it mainly just made a mark on the techies.

Webmonkey has summarized the changes like so:

  • Completely revamped interface
  • The navigation bar is now organized into Bookmarks, People, and Tags.
  • A new MyTags page lets you see all your tags in an expanded cloud
  • The bookmark summary can be adjusted to show more or less detail and now shows a save count so you can see how many other people have bookmarked the page.
  • You can also see everyone’s bookmarks for that web page or just those people in your network.
  • The new sidebar improves tag and tag bundle navigation

I feel that the interface does make things look more organized.  I appreciate the fact that my bookmarks now display in full width, showing me new info that are useful.  Speedy too… Come check it out!

 

Categories: General, Interesting

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