I Broke My Blog

Again. Since moving over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, my blog has been broken numerous times. Two or three occasions were down to a plugin being hacked. It was almost certainly hacked just the once, but it took more than one go at reinstating the blog to fix the problem. On another two or three occasions, the blog simply shut down and disappeared for no good reason. Which left me with more time consuming repair work to do.

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Fascinating Spam Scam

Blogging is an interesting hobby. A bit narcisstic at times, I guess. There are minor irritants though. Spam being one of them. It is a very minor irritant. Barely irritating at all, thanks to Akismet, WordPress’s spam filter. Although every now and then Akismet goes haywire and lets a few through. That’s why a new commenter will find their ditty in the moderation queue. Once I’ve approved one comment, future comments get posted automatically though, so it’s no big deal.

I’ve had a total of 4,893 comments so far. Admittedly half of them are probably mine. Although it has to be said I lost all the comments I’d previously received when switching to WordPress in 2009. My Akismet stats page tells me that they’ve stopped a total of 39,979 spam comments from polluting my posts. That’s quite some tally. The spam ranges from blatant flattery, to rude critique…anything to get a response. And to keep the spam in place.

I encountered a new type of spam recently though. Sent by email, through the comments page. I’ve been nominated for a Fascinating Blog award! The ultimate in flattery. They’ve even, ever so kindly, created a badge to post in my sidebar. so that people will see how marvellous I am and then click on it to vote for me. And, of course, to be exposed to their scammy looking Accelerated Degree program. they get the added bonus of having a link to their website there to boost their ranking on Google.

It is a pretty badge though. Should I, shouldn’t I? There is a $100 restaurant voucher for the winner!  No, I think I’ll pass. Not least because, for their 2012 award, they’ve selected one of my posts from 2009. Pft. At least this scam is more imaginative than the plague of emails I’ve received in the last year from friendly souls telling me they think my blog would be a perfect fit for one of their guest posts! Oh thank you! So much! If I didn’t know that this is the cheapest spam scam going, I’d be flattered. Sometimes I entertain myself by replying and telling them I’d be only too delighted to have their post on my blog. Please send $200 to my Paypal account. Some of them optimistically reply telling me they don’t pay to have their ‘guest posts’ on my blog, because this arrangement, apparently, benefits me! Not them, they’re just doing it all for my sake.

Some real people do visit my blog though. Not as many, truth be told, as used to visit when I was blogging from Mexico. Most months, it’s half as many.But still, it’s about the quality of the audience, not the quantity. So let it be known, I highly value you chaps and chapettes who are still following along. I know who you are! Well, some of you. But thanks to a recent improvement in WordPress’ stats, I do at least know where ya’ll come from. Mostly the US. Followed by Mexicans. Those lazy, feckless Brits come in a distant third. A cheery hello to you brave Slovakians. Both of you.

I’d like to monetize those visitors. I used to earn a ton from blog advertising. Of course, the adverts were just as scammy and Google-spammy as all those offenders I’ve mentioned above. But at least I got paid for it. Handsomely. WordPress.com doesn’t allow freelance ads on their hosted blogs though. I understand the reasons why. Firstly, because they advertise on our blogs. I could pay $30 a year to be ad free, but that seems steep to me. Secondly, because they’d end up with a million or three spam blogs.

They have launched WordAds recently though. Finally, I can run ads on my blog and get paid. I gave it a whirl. For about ten seconds. And then took it straight off. It’s a ghastly implementation of a good idea. It screwed up the formatting of my blog, sending lines off the edge. I like the idea of a square ad in the sidebar. But it needs to fit my blog theme, and not go off the edge. I do not like the idea of the huge full width top ad banner. Horrible. I have serious doubts as to whether I’d ever have made much cash. But I’m not willing to trash my blog to find out.

WordPress to Blogger

There’s a ton of options when choosing a blogging platform. Only two of them are serious options as far as I’m concerned – WordPress.com and Blogger. All the others have issues which render them, for the time being, as non starters. I currently use WordPress.com. But I am pondering a move back to Blogger, which I used from 2007 until 2009. You can monetise blogs. I earned about US$20,000 from 2007 through to early 2010. That’s not to be sniffed at. You can’t monetise WordPress though. Not easily or cheaply, anyway. I do have some thoughts on Blogger.

  • Blogger has matured a lot since I left in 2009. A lot of good changes. But it still lacks the professional feel you get from WordPress.com. They have all the features and ease of use right. Why does it have to look so Orange and blocky though? It’s like EasyJet got into hosting. EasyJet is cheap and no frills. When the competition is also cheap but has the frills, you’re not offering a comparable product.
  • I like that Blogger lets you do what you want. Running adverts? Fine. Want to install javascript? No problem. Want to totally customise the blog? Knock yourself out. If Blogger can do all that, why can’t WordPress?
  • I am moving more and more into the Google-sphere. But virtually all of their products have elements that turn me off. And they are almost always basic, common sense elements. Like Google+ photos, which load all my albums – painfully slowly. Too much excess and fat going into all that coding. Google is becoming more like Microsoft everyday. Empire of bloatware. Which is ironic, because Microsoft is becoming more like Google (or what Google used to be) every day. Clean and lean.
  • If I want to swap from WordPress.com to Blogger, I need to import my blog into Blogger. It can be done easily from Blogger into Google. Yet the only tool that exists to do it the other way round is WordPresstoBlogger. Which has been around for ages. And will only convert a 1mb blog. Unless you want to play with the self hosted version. Pft. You’d have thought that after all these years, Blogger would have created an import utility.
  • WordPress.com is clever. They use a ton of shortcode to embed stuff. So if you do manage to export it somewhere else, massive chunks of your content is broken. Blogger needs to recognise WordPress shortcode. Else developing an import tool is a futile gesture.
  • If WordPress just permitted ‘trusted’ bloggers to use javascript, and permitted advertising (and not their own nasty ads that currently get served up!) then Blogger would have little to offer in way of competition.
  • I was Blogger’s ‘Blogger of Note‘ back in early 2009. Because they pointed to my domain, garydenness.co.uk – which I took to WordPress with me – I still get a lot of traffic from them. Which I think is quite funny. They’re be better off linking to the underlying blogspot address and avoid promoting the opposition.

 

WordPress Plus

Seeing as I had sold two of my photos hosted on Flickr, and sold a web site since my return to the UK, and seeing as I’ve only had a 16 hour a week job for the last month, I got all creative and designed me a website of my own. Using WordPress, a fancy theme and some clever plugins. The idea being to sell more websites and to have an outlet to display my photography.

I haven’t really completed it. A lot needs reworking, especially text. I like the name though. Mucho Gusto. But now I have a full time job starting on Monday, there’s really no rush. I’m not going to be actively pushing any sales. But I do like the basic site I created – you can see it in action here. And I did start thinking. Perhaps I should simply convert it and host my own blog, this blog, on that platform.

I’m still thinking about it, but I probably won’t. There are some obvious pros. It look nicer. I can add masses of functionality. There are some cons too. I’d have to fork out some dollars on hosting, and I’m not currently overendowed in that department. But more importantly, I’d break my RSS feed (probably) and lose the WP.com traffic.  There are benefits to being within the WP.com blog ‘family’.

There’s an easy solution, but one that WordPress don’t seem to want to explore. At the moment they give you two choices. WP.com, which they host as part of their community, but to which you cannot add any plugins, or Javascript and have limited theme options. Limited in both number available and functionality. They have actually started selling Premium themes, but none that are worth paying a penny for in my opinion. Nice, but no nicer than the free ones really. I dare say they’ll find a few poor souls who know no better though.

Or you can go the WP.org route. Sort out your own hosting and download the WP software. You can do what you like because you are no longer on their servers nor part of their community. There should be a third option. Let’s call it WordPress Plus. They could charge $25 a year (or maybe a little more) for a product which looks exactly like WP.com, with the .com domain, and no third party hosts to directly deal with. But with all the .org functionality and freedom.

If they really don’t want to risk doing this with their own servers, they could easily strike a deal with one of the big hosts. WordPress Plus in partnership with HostMonster. Or something similar. It seems to me it’d be a winner. I’d buy. But till then I have to decide….stick with WP.com or go buy me some webspace and set up my blog there?

Digital Ditherings

I pondered and pondered some more. Meh. I’ll stick with WordPress.com. I really shouldn’t be spending any more money or time tinkering with a new blogging platform. My problem is an affliction of interweb curiosity, and it can be expensive. I’ll just have to give this bout of curiosity a dose of cold turkey.

I have a new online toy to play with now. Cliqset is similarish to what FriendFeed used to be before it sold out to Facebook and began a long, slow and painful death which is continuing to this day. It basically brings all your social networks into a single feed, which I have now used to replace Google Shared items in my sidebar.

Not that my Shared Items will not be there anymore. Google Reader is included in my Cliqset feed. Feel free to follow me if you get into it. I’ts good – I’ve now deleted my Google Buzz account, which was a frankly dreadful and half arsed attempt at a similarish thing.

I’ve also joined up with Readernaut, a book readers type of social network. Interesting idea, and it’s nice to keep a catalogue of books one gets through. It’s got an icon in my redesigned sidebar too, along with eleven others. The icons brighten things up, doncha think?

But they both remind me of one issue with WordPress.com that irks me. My blog posts are reproduced in Facebook, and I get comments in posts there. And they are also now reproduced on Cliqset, and who knows – they may get comments there. Comments all over the place. With WordPress.org you can bring the comments back to the original post in the blog, where they should be. And I could salvage my old Disqus comments. Such is life. One day…

The Org Switch

I’ve been pondering the idea of switching from WordPress.com to a self hosted WordPress.org blog for a while. But more so lately. There are some obvious pros to doing this, from my point of view anyway.

  • Get rid of .com’s Google Ads
  • Put my own ads on to make a little money
  • The ability to embed javascript tools
  • Get a proper Flickr Widget
  • Install Disqus commenting

Click here to hear audio.

There are some cons too. Hosting will set me back about $40 a year. Extra work phaffing around with platform upgrades and the (albeit shallow) learning curve. The possibility of my RSS feed breaking. Dot Org is a more powerful platform, but its capabilities aren’t really the selling point for me beyond the pros I’ve listed.

I have also been unable to find a theme that I really, really like. One that kicks my current theme’s butt. It has to be clean, aesthetic, customisable, and free. I will ponder on, and welcome any thoughts that passers-by might have.

Comments, Stats and Lies

For years I’ve been recommending, sometimes pleading, with Blogger bloggers to install the Disqus commenting system on their blogs. Blogger’s commenting set ups suck. Really, really suck. It does work a lot of the time, I guess. But then chemotherapy works a lot of the time. It’s not something you’d go for if there was a better, pain free alternative though, is it?

Disqus integrates Twitter and Facebook in a much better way. It displays on a post in a much more user friendly, more aesthetic manner. And it enables threaded commenting. I personally wouldn’t now use a commenting system without threaded conversations.

The biggest argument I’ve heard against Disqus is that it was tricky to install. I didn’t think it really was, although it wasn’t the easiest plug in ever. That’s all changed now. It really couldn’t be simpler. I tried it out yesterday on one of my Blogger blogs. You register an account, then register a blog (name and url address), and then you click a button. That’s it.

Another plus is that more and more blogs and websites (the Independent newspaper in the UK is a good example) are using Disqus, which makes having an account handy.

In other news, I’ve decided to add buttons to my blog. Stat Counter, because Rich of the Mexfiles can tell which countries his visitors come from, and, because WordPress comments doesn’t offer this into, I can’t. One must keep up with the Jones’, you know. I can now tell you I’ve had 5 visitors from Vietnam in the last twenty four hours. Fascinating stuff. There’s also now a Creative Commons button. Because people keep stealing my content. Now they can’t. Think about it.

Edit: I almost forgot about the lies! Stat Counter says I’ve had 74 visits today. WordPress tells me only 68. It’s possible that WordPress doesn’t count ghosts. They should. I’d like a few more ghosts here. Statistics for blogs isn’t an exact science. So if every visitor could just leave their name, country of origin, length of time spent on the blog, IP address, broswer they are using, OS they have installed….

Am I being detained? (via The Mex Files)

WordPress.com has a new feature – reblogging. You can ‘Like’ a post, and having done so, get the option to reblog it on your own blog. Which is what this is….me trying out the new feature. With the most recent post on a WordPress blog I subscribe to that I…well….liked.

I don’t recommend doing what checkpointUSA does without a lawyer and a video-camera in your car (and a car), but I wonder what is going to happen when local police (in places, like, oh… Carefree, Arizona) decide to check out “suspicious” pedestrians.

Sombrero tip to Bender’s Immigration Bulletin. … Read More

via The Mex Files

WordPress Gallery

WordPress.com has a brand new feature – the ability to serve up galleries and slideshows from within the Media Library. No need to go to Slide.com or Photobucket anymore. Except, the amount of text you can include is really limited to just the title. Which is a shame. This gallery is of the 6 ‘Most Interesting’ photos I have on Flickr, according to their algorithm. Tomorrow I’ll publish a slideshow when it’s time for my monthly poll for Photo of the Month. I’ve already tried it in preview. I have to say, whilst useful, I have seen better and more customiseable slideshows. I’m not sure it is a feature I’ll use too regularly. Although it is nice having it built within the blogging platform. Hopefully the WordPress team will develop them into a more complete and aesthetic package.