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Geek, PSA

Careful what you post online

So it began innocently with this Tweet/Foursquare check in.

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.09.43 AM

I checked in with Foursquare which is something I do on a regular basis. I do this every time I visit the store. It’s a form of advertising in my not so humble opinion.

The store then got a call from someone named “James” asking for me. When I picked up the phone I was asked if I’d locked my key in the car. Naturally I asked who is this and a short game of “Don’t you know?” which ended with Lily saying “That’s nice, everything is fine now, goodbye.” and hanging up.

I thought the call was from a customer so I gave the phone to Lily. “James” claimed to have met her yesterday.

Here’s what happened: either the Tweet or the Foursquare check in matched a search. Somone saw that the store has a web site, the phone number is there and the rest is history. Or it could have been one of my followers (I’d like to think that’s not the case) or I’m on a Twitter list.

Now as stories go this is creepy and definitely stalkerish but it could have gone much worse. There was no swearing, no shouting and we didn’t get a call back (the number was marked private of course). But that really was my own personalized PSA about casually posting some details online.

I’ve been using social media (that’s a great term isn’t it? It beats “online extrovert”) and I am always aware of the risks. We’ve all read about or even know someone who has been harassed and stalked. I’ll try and be more circumspect about details like that in the future. It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of this media. The world is more connected and that fellow could have been calling from anywhere.

If someone’s reading this and getting a chuckle then thanks for the wake up call. I’ll adjust accordingly.

What really irks me is that I’ve been trying to get Lily to use Twitter. This little episode really cements her opposition to that. It’s not that she has anything against Twitter it’s just that that medium doesn’t interest her. This small event pretty much means her social interactions will remain squarely in the real world.

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Cool, Geek, Software

Favorite new WordPress 3.9 feature

Copying and pasting from Microsoft Word directly into the Visual Editor is my new favorite thing in 3.9 beta. I just tried it on Lily’s store WordPress site and it worked alright. This is a fortunate side effect of 3.9 getting a new version of TinyMCE.

I know, that sounds anti-climatic even a little mundane given the great enhancements that 3.9 will be delivering. But I occasionally (once a month) have this conversation.

Them: How can I copy this Word document into WordPress?

Me: First select the text and paste that into notepad. I like notepad++ myself.

Me: Then you take the text you just copied into notepad select and copy it into the Visual Editor. Again.

Me: Make sure you copy from notepad. Bad things will happen if you paste that into the Visual Editor directly from Word.

Me: Then you apply the styling such as bold, underline, etc. To that text. For titles I like to use the <h3> tag myself.

Me: No, that layout thing you did in Word won’t work.

Me: Images? If you use the Snipping Tool then you can save that image to your hard disk.

Me: Once you’ve done that, upload that into the media library.

Me: Then you can insert it into the WordPress post. The image I mean, I usually go with centered and no link.

Them: Zzzzzz Wha-? What we’re we talking about??

I myself don’t like the idea of users creating content for WordPress outside of WordPress but I’m told I’m special. Apparently “regular” users (yes I’m doing the “air quotes”) such as my wife and some siblings use Word that way.

Lily creates flyers for wine tastings once a week. Right now she has to wait for me to create the event on the WordPress site (thank you Modern Tribe! that’s a great plugin) then cross post it to the company Facebook page. If I can show her how to just paste the content into WordPress to create the event then she can deliver the post sooner.

Also that means I’ll have one less thing to do each week.

Next I have got to test out dragging images into the Visual Editor to upload them that way. That’s got to improve “regular” users workflow too.

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Geek, Software

Let’s play a game called SERP

On the support forums occasionally (OK today) someone will ask that a post be edited to remove a link or company name for SEO reasons. Unless there’s a good reason for that (and SEO isn’t) then it just isn’t done. There are millions of posts on those forums; can you imagine if a small percentage of members asked for posts to be edited that way?

It’s not always necessary to edit The Interwebz

I am not a web front end developer. I don’t do “SEO”, I don’t at this time have any advertisements on my site. I post to my self-hosted WordPress blog for my own amusement and occasionally the amusement of my friends.

But just for giggles, let’s do a search on Google for my name. I wonder what comes up?

seo-games-jan-dembowski

Huh. That’s weird.

The first hit is my Twitter page, followed by my Make/Support author page, a Polish biologist then a general who both died before I was born (no relation). Then there’s some images (hey, 3 of those are me!) and then my WordPress site. Ah, there’s my Flickr page. I was worried about that not being there.

There is nothing on that search engine results page pointing to the WordPress forums. That’s a shame. I’ve got *looks WOW* 10,772 posts in the forums. That’s not necessarily a lot by the way.

How did that happen?

Again I am not into “SEO” and I haven’t done anything to impact that SERP. I even had to look up what SERP meant to make sure I’m using the term correctly.

But my guess is that the results happened that way because those links are pertinent and each of those links have content that is updated. That’s all there is to it.

  • I tweet everyday non-stop so it’s no wonder that popped up as the first hit.
  • I post to make/support at least once a week so there’s that.
  • Links 3 and 4 are cool and I like that my name is notable (even if the original spelling was Dębowski, ę is pronounced /ɛm/, w is a v sound, look it up).

The important thing is that I produce content and that’s why when someone looks up my name you get sites that I actually update.

So “SEO” magic isn’t real?

There are people who advertise and I assume make a living on SEO work and I am sure they know what they are doing.

If I had a site that I was selling something then I may be concerned that my actual site is 6th down from the top (skipping the images). If I were selling something then perhaps I’d use an SEO plugin. I’d also update my actual site more frequently.

Even without my doing anything special a search for my name shows the links that I expected to see.

My advice to people who want links removed from the forums or anywhere remains the same: if you don’t like your search engine results then change them. Produce original content on your own site. That’s really all there is to it.

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nasa-backpack
Geek

Yes, I “want” a new backpack

I’ve 2 backpacks, one that is just a laptop sleeve from 2002 and really is falling apart and the other is a camera backpack.

Me: I need a new backpack. *Starts looking online*

Lily: You mean you “want” one, you don’t “need” a new one. Use the one from Costco. I’m not using it anymore.

It’s this one BTW. I think it’s a little large and doesn’t have padding for a DSLR camera.

nasa-backpack

In 2008 the whole family went to Disney World and I purchased a Lowepro Fastpack 200 backpack.

At the time I got it for it’s quick access to the camera; you swing the bag off of one shoulder, do a triple somersault, perform a mid-air unzipping of the bag and poof you have your DLSR in your hand before you’ve put your feet back on the ground.

Thinking about it, that’s not a feature I’ve ever used…

That bag went with the family on a cruise, to China (that was an awesome trip) and has seen thousands of miles. It’s a bit small for non-camera related items and doesn’t have a laptop sleeve. My 11″ MacBook Air fits barely but without padding every impact risks breaking it and I do bump into things. One of the zipper straps broke and I replaced it with a keychain ring.

At the moment I’m leaning towards the Tamrac Aero 80 but I need to see it in person. It’s got enough space for my laptop and camera but if I can’t fit the other stuff (salad Tupperware, small assorted junk I carry with me everyday) then it won’t work.

There’s two really big camera stores near me at work so by the end of the week I may get what I need. I mean “want”.

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blue-l
Cool, Geek, Software

WordPress actions and filters are still very cool

I spend time perusing the WordPress support forums (now that’s an understatement) and sometimes I come across someone being unhappy with a plugin. In this particular case a plugin was adding a notice to the admin screens saying “Upgrade now for only $24″.

I really have nothing against plugin authors deriving income that way but I prefer that messages like that in my WordPress dashboard be dismissible. That dashboard real estate is mine and I just don’t like to share.

The plugin adds that message using this code.

add_action( 'admin_notices', 'emg_upgradepro_message' );

WordPress actions and filters are a wonderful thing. It’s a queuing mechanism meaning that the order that your PHP code loads or is executed does not matter. What matters is that actions (or filters) get added to the queue and executed in priority order.

That add_action() does not have a priority so it defaults to 10. Actions that are added that way can be removed too but you have to have that remove_action() in the queue after the action is added. You can’t remove it before it’s added.

I was able to easily (took me 3 minutes) by creating another plugin that just removes that action like so.

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Remove Easy Media Gallery Upgrade Notice
Version: 0.1
Description: This plugin removes the Easy Media Gallery Upgrade notice in the WordPress dashboard.
Author: Jan Dembowski
Author URI: http://blog.dembowski.net/
*/

add_action( 'admin_init', 'mh_no_upgrade' , 15 );
function mh_no_upgrade () {
        remove_action( 'admin_notices', 'emg_upgradepro_message' );
}

And that’s it. The priority 15 should make it run after the action that adds that message and it does: the message is gone. This may not be the best way to do it but it’s an easy 3 minute fix.

Keep in mind that I don’t use this plugin on my main blog but exercises like this one just show how easy it is to extend WordPress.

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