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What Passes For Good Information Might Not Be

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 21, 2014
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By now those of you who are using WordPress as your blogging platform of choice know that there’s an update, 3.9. It’s definitely changed some things, including overriding some of my settings for how I have my admin area colorized, but I’m going to let that go… for now…

panel01

Instead, I want to key on something you might not have noticed yet. If you look at the comment section of your admin area, underneath the names of people who comment on your blog you’ll now see this number. It shows how many times someone has commented on your blog; cool eh?

I thought that this would be cool to use because maybe I’d want to write a post showing how many people have commented often and how often they’ve done so. Then I looked deeper at it.

As an example I’m showing a strip of my admin panel (so, my colors are funky lol) highlighting our friend Peter Pellicia when he was calling himself Sire. You’ll notice that had made 3 separate comments; you’ll also notice that the number of approved comments WordPress is showing aren’t the same. Heck, they’re all drastically different.

I looked at a bunch of comments from Pete just to see if I could find a pattern. Turns out that answer is no. It’s not based on link, topic, email address, name… You can look at it yourself; there’s nothing defining what it’s looking at.

Thus, I’m forced to conclude that, even though it initially seemed cool, it’s really worthless information. There’s nothing legitimate I can do with it, and if you look at your information, at some point you might realize the same thing.

Sometimes that’s just how it goes. Some of us hold onto certain numbers as if they’re the Holy Grail while others look at those numbers and scoff. Let’s see… Klout score, page rank, Alexa rank, Compete rank, number of followers on Twitter, number of friends on Facebook… over and over we see numbers that are supposed to mean something that probably mean less than what we think. Some are good as a visceral reference (for instance, I tend to use Alexa as a broad based number to determine how well a website’s traffic might be, realizing that a site in the 100,000′s is working better than a site in the 3 millions while recognizing that a site in the 3 millions might be making more money if it’s targeted to its audience properly), but not much else.

For that matter, even the number of blog comments might not tell you what’s going on with your blog. The difference between a blog post with 300 comments and a blog post with 2 might be the popularity of the writer and not the content. If Sergey Brin writes a blog post and takes comments, how many people do you think will comment hoping that either he’ll see it and want to hire them to work for Google (ain’t happening kids lol) as opposed to commenting on this blog hoping I can help make them famous (that’s not happening either… for now…)?

Even Google Analytics, for all the press and publicity we’ve all given it, can’t really help us out. Most of the data about keywords is hidden in a collective area, so we don’t even know why or how people are finding us via search engines. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the data they’re giving us really means in the long run; that’s not helpful is it?

Bummer right? If there are so many reports and such that we can’t trust, what can we trust to help us figure things out?

First, you know what your engagement is like, so trust your instincts. I love using Adrienne Smith as an example of someone who truly gets the engagement piece. Her blog posts always get a lot of comments, and not nickel and dime stuff. She puts things on Facebook and Google Plus and you see a lot of people responding to it, even if it’s just questions like what color is your dog (I don’t think that’s specifically one she’s asked but… lol).

Me? Most of the things I put on Google Plus are ignored, and sometimes I wish more of the stuff I share on Facebook was. lol Still, I know where I stand and have an opportunity to figure out what I need to do to improve. I don’t need any of the rankings to tell me what’s going on; I can see which posts people are commenting on and I know which of my tweets get shared on Twitter.

If you didn’t sit back and look at the numbers, are you comfortable trusting your own instincts to know where you stand on social media? For that matter, do you trust your instincts to help you get through life? Let me know; I’m interested in this topic and hope you are also.
 

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WordPress 3.3; It’s On My Nerves Right Now

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Dec 13, 2011
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Yes, I have my gripe with WordPress that I’m going to get to, but I’d like to mention the latest interview I did that’s shown up, this time on Arlee Bird’s Tossing It Out blog. Wow, what a loyal following he has, and there were lots of comments before I even got there; that’s special. Thanks Lee; and for those who are wondering what this is about, check this out.

As many of you know, WordPress has updated things, and now we’re on 3.3. I’m not sure how you feel about it but I’m bothered by some of the admin things. I write this to warn those of you that haven’t upgraded what’s coming, while also saying that when you don’t update you risk leaving your blog open for outside attacks. Okay, here we go.

The first thing that bothers me is that my menu to the left is now always closed. I can’t figure out how to open it up, and I’m not sure you can. That’s because now when you hover over one of the menu items a second menu opens to the right with all of your choices. Thing is, it opens up into whatever you have on the right already, and thus it makes it hard to read those menu items. Who the heck decided to turn the internal menu into a fancy website menu?

Next, the bar at the top. With the last upgrade this sneaky little bar showed up both in the admin panel and on the outside of one’s blog while signed in. However, you could turn it off under Users, which I did. This time around they’ve added it and merged it with what was there before, and there’s no getting rid of it. So I’m seeing my picture with “Howdy Mitch Mitchell” at the top right, and it’s just weird having to keep looking at myself while I’m in the admin area. I know the idea is to give us something that we can access some of what we do quicker but I really didn’t need it.

The third thing I’m not crazy about are these windows that keep popping up all over the place, telling me that something’s changed. Yeah, I noticed it. I guess they did this because with past changes people griped and said they couldn’t figure things out but I haven’t been able to figure out if I can turn it off, or when it’ll stop.

Now, the one thing I have noticed that I kind of like is that they’ve changed how one can upload images, or pretty much anything. That system has always run slow and been pretty ponderous, and now you only have to click on one thing and it will bring up whatever type of file you want to bring into your post. Supposedly you can also drag something in, but I’ve never been able to figure out how to drag something from one place to another when using tabs.

That’s all I have for the moment. Being forced to integrate certain things and get used to them is like making dogs and rabbits be friends. Oh yeah, I guess it turns out they can be. I guess I’ll get over it at some point; right now it’s so new that I have more gripes than likes. What say you?
 

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4 Things You Can Do With Your WordPress Blog You Might Not Know Already

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 24, 2011
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You know, every day it seems like I discover something new about WordPress. Some of these things I’m betting many of you know, but I’m also betting that the majority probably doesn’t know these things. So, I thought I’d share a few things to help everyone become more proficient with their WordPress blogs.

First, let’s talk about the Add New Post area. I’ve always used the HTML version instead of the WYSIWYG version, which means I code all my stuff. However, in this newer version it actually gives me some choices of things I can do that I don’t have to specifically write code for anymore. By just highlighting the text, I can then decide to bold, italicize, link, and do a host of other things I had never noticed before. That stuff hasn’t always been there, and like ads on many blogs, you just go blind to stuff. For me, the only ones I’ll probably use are bold, italicize, ul, ol and li. List posts will be much easier now; whew!

Second, while still here, y’all know about the Upload/Insert thing as it applies to adding pictures and the like, correct? You know that little box next to these words is if you want to add an image to your blog post, right? When you click on it, you can select an image from your computer and pop it into your post. You’re usually given four choices to select from if your image is large enough: thumbnail, medium, large and full size. Did you know that you can change the sizes of the first three?

What you do is go into your settings at the bottom left and select Media. Once you click on it you’ll see the 3 choices. I alter the size of medium to have a width of 235, which is just slightly less than half the width of my content area. I have the max height around 300. For the large, I changed the size to 480 because that’s the full width of my content area on this blog, and I made that the max height as well. I left thumbnail alone because making it smaller makes the image hard to see, and making it larger means it’s not quite a thumbnail anymore. If you like the images you’re putting into your blog to always be the same size, this works wonders.

Next, have you been getting more spam comments than normal lately? Do you look at the IP addresses and notice that many of them that come in on the same day come from the same IP addresses? If so you can have these particular IP addresses send these comments directly to your spam filter instead of having to do it manually.

You do that by highlighting and copying the number, then go to setting and Discussion. Go all the way down to where it says Comment Blacklist and paste the number in there. Save and you’re on your way. I also use that for some people that come by often to comment but their comments are a bit dodgy, as Sire might say.

This way it’s kind of a moderation for you to determine whether you want to allow that comment to show on your blog post or not. Some might say I’m now moderating comments, but these are people who have proven that they really aren’t participating in the process, including ever responding to questions you might ask them in a comment; trust me, I’ve tested this.

The last thing I’m going to talk about are screen options. Every page you go to in your admin area is also called a ‘screen’. If you look at the top right of each page you’ll see something called screen options. If you click on that, a menu drops down that shows you everything on that particular page except your menu to the left. You can now select stuff you want to see and stuff you don’t want to see.

For instance, on my posts page I keep things really simple because I don’t need to see all those tags and a lot of other stuff next to each post. I limit mine to title, categories, comments, date and Post Rank, which is a plugin I’ve talked about in the past. I know I’m the only author on this blog, so I don’t need to keep seeing my name.

As a by-the-way item, you can also move most things around on your screen to where you’d rather see them. Just put your mouse over the top of each window, hold down on your left mouse button, and drag the window to where you’d like it to be. Move it slowly and you’ll see impressions show up and drop your window where you’d like. Sometimes you might have to move in increments if you’re making a drastic move.

There you are, 4 things you may or may not have known. Of course, this might spark someone to write a post of their own on things they know that I didn’t know, but if you’re going to do that make sure you’ve looked at my post on 5 Areas You Should Know More About In Your WordPress Admin Area and then the followup, 5 More Things To Know About Your WordPress Admin Area.
 

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Trouble With WP Images? You May Be Stuck With Some Of It

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Feb 23, 2011
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Every once in awhile I have problems uploading images to my blogs. I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but I finally decided it was time to go after the problem, as y’all know I will almost always do eventually. If you’re having problems uploading images, your reason could be in here.

Frankly I had multiple issues. One, I might try to upload an image and get this weird error message about my homespages and running out of space. Two, the image might upload to my computer, but wouldn’t give me the option of adding it to my post. That obviously does me no good whatsoever. And a couple of times it would just quit in the middle, and that would be that. I could just upload the image to my server and then pull it in, but that negates the WP Smush-it plugin I use to try to reduce the size of some of my images.

So I went online looking for my solutions. The most common solutions I came across were to increase the size of the memory of your site via adding code to a file called php.ini. Not everyone has that file, but it’s easy to create and add, and it actually has solved a problem for me in the past when I had problems after upgrading to WordPress 2.8. But across the board, it doesn’t always work.

I went looking to find out why all the recommendations weren’t working and I came across something interesting and, of course, it makes sense. I have what’s called “shared hosting” via 1&1. The main packages of all the large hosting companies are shared hosting, which keeps the prices down. It’s a great deal, and you pretty much get a lot of space.

Pretty much, that is. It turns out that not all hosts will allocate you all the space you think for everything you do. One of the things about 1&1 is that they restrict the total size of images you can upload in a month. I never knew that until I started doing some reading. However, it doesn’t only depend on the images, strangely enough. It seems that one of the things taken into consideration is the space your plugins take up as well. So, for most of us, we get between 30 and 40 MB of space.

Since I knew I couldn’t do anything about the images, I decided to look at my plugins, which I’ve never really thought much about before. By totally getting rid of 5 plugins, it seems I cleaned up lots of space, and if I make sure not to upload a lot of large images, I shouldn’t have that problem anymore.

Ah, but my problem wasn’t completely over. At this point all that had improved is that images were uploading; I still couldn’t seem to access them. That meant it was time for more research, and after a long while I came upon something that I’d never considered. It seems that, depending on which browser you use, you could have problems uploading images after a certain point. I use Firefox, and I have always used the browser upload for my images. The recommendation I came across was to first clear the cache on my browser, close it, open it back up, then switch to the flash uploader instead.

Hey, I’m game for anything, even if it seems kind of petty. Lo and behold, it worked. It seems using flash overrides whatever blog you were having, and though it seems to take a little longer to process your images, at least it processes them. I did a test on an older post where I had uploaded a very large file, and it handled it with no problems. That turned out to be great because they WP Smush-it had the opportunity to make it a much smaller file, which would help that particular post load much faster.

There you go. If you find yourself having any problems with your images, it could be any of the reasons I mention above. The fixes are relatively simple, and it’s probably best to at least give them a try to see if they resolve your issue before going any further with all the files and such. One other recommendation was to call your hosting company to see if they would increase your file storage size, but everyone said it was doubtful that would actually work.

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Formatting Your Images On Your WordPress Blog

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Aug 7, 2010
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I’ve seen this often enough, and I decided it was time to say something about it.

When you add images to your WordPress blog, do they show up like this:

Notice, it’s sitting out there in its own netherland, not quite falling into place with the rest of my text? That has to be somewhat irritating, because it takes up space and, well, it just doesn’t look all that good. No matter the size of the image, having it pop out like this makes it seem like it’s not a part of the post. WordPress seems to do this as a default for many blogs. There are certain themes that will render the images properly, but for the most part I don’t see that happening with a lot of people.

You’ll notice that when I post images, they’re part of my content. it wraps around the image, and is under some kind of control. It’s integrated into things, and I can move it left, right, or in the center if I so chose, although I’ve never wanted to have an image in the middle as far as I can remember.

How do I do it? I add a little bit of HTML code to my posts, and whether or not you like doing it or understand it, I think by showing you what I do that you might like how it looks in your blog posts. And then if you can’t remember it, or even if you do, all you have to do is remember to go back to posts where you’ve used the code, copy and paste it into your new post, and then just change the image link. Having said that, I decided it was easier to show it to you as an image, and this time it’s intentionally in the middle so you can see the code without it disappearing:

As you can see, at least I hope as you can see, it’s not difficult code, but it’ll wrap your text around your image and thus blend things in better; at least that’s how I see it. I hope it’s a helpful tip; any questions, just ask.

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