Reviews: most popular type of blogpost?

Screenshot from the WordPress tag cloud

I was looking for new blogs to follow and I turned to wordpress Explore Topics which is nothing more than a tag cloud, obviously aggregated from all the wordpress.com blogs.

Now, the tag with the bigger size is “Reviews” which is an interesting insight. Are reviews really the top reason why people blog or is the bigger proportion of blog posts about reviews? This means that out there a treasure of data mining is awaiting to be discovered.

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Bookmarklet Fu

bookmarklets

These little javascript programs can mean a lot to personal productivity and social media engagement. I came to this conclusion only recently, while I am using bookmarklets for years now.

The oldest I can remember of is the delicious bookmarklet. Honestly, without it my delicious account would be empty.  There is also a firefox add-on which, combined with the buttons does a lot more, but, hey, it is simplicity that we are after, aren’t we?

With the advent of Google Reader Notes, ‘Note in Reader’ became   kind of a regular but never really got off. I use it to share things in Reader occasionally, but most of the time I share things either in twitter or in friendfeed. Why? They show up much faster and the crowds in these two services are so much bigger than Google Reader. Google Reader is something like a library: you can’t make too much noise, so its perfect for reading systematically. But when you want some action this isn’t the place.

Press This‘ has been around for quite some time now. Maybe it is the second bookmarklet that I have come accross. Unless you want to blog about news, or respond to posts you have seen, it is not that useful. And adding pictures and media seemed hard. For some reason I had’t used it much. Until two days ago when I discovered, that much like posterous and friendfeed bookmarklets, it allows you to easily pick from the pictures of  page you want to blog about, and put them into you post. For thematic blogging it is superb. And deprives you of none of the wordpress blogging  amenities.

For twitter I do not use bookmalets to post, while there are quite a few out there. But I use one to shorten urls with urlborg. Then I manually copy and past the short urls in twitter. Why? Because I am using too many different clients and can’t have a unified solution.

The Friendfeed bookmarklet is a must, provided you are on Friendfeed, and you better be there. Makes it so easy to share a piece of content and spice it with an image or two, that it is irresistible.

Posterous was a late discovery of me. While  aimed at posting through email, does have a bookmarklet too, with editing capabilities  of the content shared, plus an extra area to add your own thoughts- comments. The combination speeds up casual blogging and, actually tempts you to blog more.

One thing I would like to see, is

One mark to rule them all, One mark to find them,

One mark to bring them all and in each browser bind them
to paraphrase J. R. R. Tolkien.

Yes, there are more. Much more. But the above are  the ones I care most. How about you?

Akismet goes Statistic!

Seventieth anniver...

Image by Getty Images

via Daylife

Care to know how much spam you missed? Not really.

But it is an educating exercise nevertheless. And if you happen to have a hosted wordpress blog, then Akismet, the spam filter, can be of use as  Akismet now comes loaded with stats.

Since I happen to own one (hosted wordpress blog), I had a good look at it.

Confusing!

The canned meat in the picture above is ham. But ‘ham’ according to Akismet is a comment that is the opposite of spam. A proper one.

This leads to a ham to spam ratio calculation.

Still there?

If ham were spam none would starve (commentwise, I mean). See this yummy pie from my Greek blog stats and you will understand.

Jokes aside, Akismet does a pretty good job. Yet, for me, it is not the overall stats that are of interest.

The new Akismet offers an insight into two other more important metrics:

  • Missed Spam, the spam that made its way to a post.
  • False Positive, the real comments that were mistaken for spam.

Of the two, I value more the second, because it reveals a real problem: I am sure you have experienced the small frustration of leaving a comment and seeing it disappear. This can drive a new visitor away for good. That’s why I would like these stats to include the actual comment links. An examination of a relatively large number, might reveal a pattern as to why this happens, a pattern that can be reported back to the Akismet team.

I only hope the team is listening 🙂

Media Manager for WordPress

From time to time, I like to write a kind of how-to or tip post, usually a result of tweaking the tools and services that I use. Here is a little one for wordpress.

If you have used before an open source CMS, what you probably are missing in wordpress is the media manager functionality that the likes of  Joomla have for ages now.

Well, the truth is that you shouldn’t,  because it is there, only not too obvious.

First of all you have the Media Library under the Manage Tab in the WP Administration, but, guess what, this is only for viewing the media you have uploaded, and, despite the name of the file executed to show the library (= /wp-admin/upload.php), there is no way to upload from this screen, which I find kinda odd.

So, the only place to go when you want to upload something, is the Write tab, which displays the editor.

On top of the editor there are these little buttons that allow you to insert images, audios or videos in a post. Which is all we need, one might think, unless you want to do some mass uploading of, say, images that you might use later in a series of posts or different pages without risking  of posting things accidentally.

Paying a little attention to the URLs underneath these buttons, we see that ‘workhorse’ there is a file called  media-upload.php, residing in the wp-admin directory:

http://yourblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php

This url can take some extra parameters, the most important being the type one, e.g.

http://yourblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/media-upload.php?type=image

But if we use the plain url, without any arguments, in a browser address bar of another window or tab, we open the familiar upload pop up as a separate page.

Bookmark this address to have it handy. You can use it as a media manager, which is what we were looking for in the first place.

For mass uploading select the media files from your disk (Ctlr + right click for each pick), as in the picture below,  hit the button and..

one by one, the media find their way in you library.

You can’t use this separate page to insert media directly in a post though, which is a safeguard from accidental posting. It is also needless, since  you have the media buttons on top of the editor, anyway.

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WordPress.com: get more juice out of it

Let me start by stating that I love wordpress. I love it as an open source project, as a blogging platform, as a business model (.com, that is) and as a community, in general.

I started working with WordPress in September 2006. By the February of 2007, I already wanted to migrate to my own hosted installation. I run one ever since but, yet, for this blog, I chose to return back to .com.

The hosted wordpress gives a lot of flexibility. The most important  capability you have in a hosted wordpress, one not found in wordpress.com blogs,  is that you can run javascript and flash for plugins, ads, widgets, or your own hacks.
The support for plugins is critical. There are  so many of them out there, I am sure someone   can make your wildest blog dreams come true.

The downside is that you have to take care of updating and upgrading, figure out how to deal with high traffic, malevolent attacks and lots of other things that keep a sys admin awake at night.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but, certainly, one has more work to do with a hosted wordpress.

When I decided to start this blog, I wanted to avoid this extra hassle. I have my greek blog to experiment with, it works fine, I am happy with it, but that’s about it. Doubling the hours I spend for sys admin tasks, won’t make me a better blogger.

So I turned back to wordpress.com and started looking for things that can ease the restrictions that the default offering entails. Here is what I found:

a. Themes
With wordpress.com you get a limited number of themes, most of them not to my taste, but with an extra 15$ per year you can buy the CSS upgrade. Having access to the css file, allows you to play a lot with a theme’s look and feel.

It is not a trivial task, but lots of people with a little guidance may utilize the option.  Most  will find it easy enough to change fonts and colors while, with a little bit of extra effort, some borders, paddings and margins can be tackled too.

A CSS guru,  playing with positioning, dimensions, background image properties etc,  can make the theme look entirely different from  the original. To learn CSS, you can start here.

b. Media
WordPress.com gives 3Gb of storage space per blog and, given the falling prices of storage,I predict  this is going to go up. Yet, this amount of storage suffices for one to live his whole life and never  ‘consuming’ it, provided he follows a clever media storing tactic : upload images and photos to the likes of flickr, picasa or imageshack. Upload videos and sound file to any video hosting site.
While wordpress.com supports only Youtube, Google Video and DailyMotion for the time being, there is one more extremely useful  option (still beta): vodpod.
comes in two flavors: as a firefox plugin (it didn’t work with FF3 though, till the time of writing) or as a simple bookmarklet.
With the vodpod  you can insert any video in the wordpress editor.  So, if you have lots of videos of your own, first choose a video hosting site, upload the videos there, and then with vodpod embed them in your posts. Check my post with the video of Matt and you will see that it is actually coming from blip.tv.

Saving media in external sites is a good practice anyway. Avoids single point of failure. If I choose to export the blog and transfer it elsewhere, the media links will work immediately without having to move a single file.

c. Feed
Now, this is a tricky one. Most bloggers would like to have a feedburner chicklet to display their feed subscribers. Provided they have a feed ‘burned’ in feedburner, this is perfectly feasible with wordpress.com: you can copy the chicklet code in one of the text widgets provided and it will work nicely.
The problem is that, in this way, you do not actually redirect your feed to feedburner. Two feeds exist seperately: the default one, and the one constructed by feedburner, which meanr that there are two different feed urls also.
To have a unified feed would require an plugin such as  that one is not allowed to install. Remember? No plugins can be installed by users in wordpress.com blogs.

This means that your standard wordpress feed address is still there for people to use and will ‘lurk’  underneath the feed icon in the address area or a toolbar.
Those subscribed to the standard wordpress feed will not show in the feedburner chicklet.
There are no technical means to remedy this (not to my knowledge, at least) but one can apply some psychological techniques: use a feed icon of your own (same process as the chicklet above) and place it as close to the top of the page as possible. Grab the attention of the visitor. You can perfom a heatmap test to check whether your feed icon is visible enough. Use feng-gui to produce a heatmap. Here is an example of mine.

That’s about it.  Tell me whether you found it useful.

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Matt Mullenweg’s Presentation at GBC08

I repost here the video with Matt Mullenweg‘s presentation in  the Greek Blogger Camp which took place at Ios island at the end of May.

Matt was with the Greek Bloggers for a second time and he gave a speach mostly about the future plans of WordPress. Some of the information revealed there, were first time public announcements.

Enjoy Matt as much as we did.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Matt Mullenweg’s Presentation at GBC08 “, posted with vodpod
Don’t miss to check out Matt’s photos from the  event here and here.
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