From WordPress

CodeColorer for WordPress is totally sweet

After trying out a few code snippet plugins for WordPress, and not having much luck, I found CodeColorer. CodeColorer creates a nice code box for your snippet, which is quite visually appealing. Here’s an example of some php:

[cc lang=”php”]
‘none’);
echo $foo;
?>
[/cc]

Once you look at the code snippet that CodeColorer outputs, though, you start to get a sense of everything that it can actually do. For example, mouse over one of the functions above, and you’ll notice it links you to the appropriate function reference on php.net. I’ve just started working with the plugin, so I’m sure I haven’t tapped all the features yet, but so far I’m quite impressed.

neverblog is now running on a Linode VPS

[simage=127,288,y,left,]Speed: sweet, glorious speed. That’s what you should find as you visit this site in the future, now that everything’s been moved over to a Linode Virtual Private Server. After checking out a colleague’s site that loads pretty much instantly, despite being  a similar WordPress blog, I decided to sign on with Linode and dump my current Dreamhost shared hosting. At the same time, I followed the same colleague’s suggestion to switch my web server from Apache to nginx. If you’re not familiar with nginx, and you’re hosting a site on which you control the web server, nginx is definitely worth a look as an alternative to Apache, since it’s lighter and faster (also, it seems that the program’s author is willing to work with users to improve functionality).

I was pretty happy with my Dreamhost shared hosting for a while, but this site has outgrown the limited resources that I had, and furthermore the actual physical host that Dreamhost had me on was getting quite old (and full o’ data). I tried a Dreamhost PS for the last week, and while it seems to be decently fast (although the preview PS has 2+GB of RAM), I’m a little ticked off by the pricing. When I was looking at the PS, it was listed as $15 a month for 300MB of RAM (not a bad deal). Once I signed up for the trial, however, the total cost was revealed as $15 plus the shared hosting fee I already pay ($10.95 a month). That brought the total to about $26 a month, a lot more than the $20 a month for the Linode VPS with 360MB of RAM. All in all, the last 4-5 hours of moving my sites over has been worth it, and Linode has been tip-top so far. I’ll post more on them as I continue to use their hosting, and post some articles about the configuration I’m running on the VPS.

Tagline Rotator Plugin for WordPress version 1.1

Thanks to the holiday break, there’s a new version of Tagline Rotator available in time for the new year. You can read about it on the WordPress site here. The major improvement is that it now uses WordPress database prefixing. If you’re not familiar with this, it won’t affect your use of the plugin (you should still upgrade though). If you run a WPMU (multi-user) blog, or if you have several blogs sharing a single database, however, this is great news. It means you can run as many separate instances of Tagline Rotator as you want on the same database, and they will each use the prefix assigned to that blog. Please let me know if you run into any problems with this new version, and please use the automated upgrade feature of WordPress (or at least de-activate and re-activate the plugin when you upgrade). This will allow the plugin to rename its table using the WP prefix. Otherwise, you will get a mySQL error if your WP database prefix is not wp_ as the new version will be trying to access the taglines from the renamed database before it has been renamed. De-activating and re-activating the plugin fixes this error if you do get it.

Shashin now has a WYSIWYG, or Is Mike Toppa a WordPress god?

I use the Shashin Picasa plugin for the photos on this site. I broke it today trying to upgrade my Tagline Rotator plugin, so I upgraded to the latest version of Shashin to try and get it working again (it did). After checking the version notes, I did a little dance–see, it used to be that you had to go into Shashin’s Tools page in your WordPress admin to get the unique ID associated with your Picasa photo in order to embed it. The main thing that attracted me to Shashin was the the wide variety of ways you can display photos, and the flexibility of the plugin to conform to different blog types, etc. However, while the notation used to insert a photo or a set of photos is simple and quick, having a WYSIWYG within the WordPress editor is very useful and a welcome addition to the plugin. I’d have to say that, for my purposes, Shashin is perfect and its author, Mike Toppa, deserves a good amount of praise for the work he’s done.

neverblog.net has a new look

After over a year with my previous theme, I’ve decided to switch things up a bit. The major motivating factor was the lack of a central theme to my blog–I’ve decided based on the variety of topics that I want to present more diverse content on the homepage. Unlike the previous scrolling format which displayed the previous 10 posts in their entirety, the new theme features the latest post and allows easy access to content by topic. The bonus is a much faster page load, as I’m not pulling in multiple megabytes worth of images for every pageload. Let me know what you think of the new look with a comment below.

Google AdSense now integrated with Google Analytics

When I signed in to my Google AdSense account today, I noticed a link up near the top of the page that invited me to integrate my AdSense with my Analytics account. I followed along through some simple steps to add the AdSense to existing sites, then chose one to be a primary. The primary site will automatically integrate with AdSense data. Any other sites you want to track require that a small snippet of JavaScript be inserted on any page you want to tie in between AdSense and Analytics.

Google says the service takes a few hours to set up and get running. I’m curious to see what I find tomorrow…

Daily Woot WordPress Widget

Overview

For those of you unfamiliar with the site woot.com, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Basically, the concept of Woot is that they buy a certain quantity of a particular item, then start selling it at 1am EST until it sells out, or until 1am EST on the next day. Oh yeah, the price is rediculously low, and shipping is always a flat $5, whether it’s a USB key or a 42″ plasma TV.

Obviously, most of the stuff Woot puts on their site sells out. In fact, it’s not unknown to have a Woot be sold out by 1:30am, a mere half and hour after posting. Time, clearly, is of the essence where getting a Woot-deal is concerned, and that’s where the Daily Woot Widget comes in. With the widget, you can easily insert the daily Woot item into your blog’s sidebar. Since it’s a widget, you can customize the title in the Sidebar Widgets menu of your WordPress wp-admin panel. Additionally, I’ve added in functionality to let you specify the width that you want the widget to be, so that it’s compatible with your sidebar’s unique dimensions.

Please keep in mind, if you try this widget out, that it is still very much in the beta testing phase. This is my first widget, so if some of the sidebar integration messes up your entire sidebar, don’t blame me, or at least don’t tell me you’re blaming me. Also, if you do encounter and bugs or “accidental features,” please fill out a comment and let me know.

Installation

Download the Daily Woot Widget (1294) and copy the woot.php file to your /plugins/widgets/ WordPress directory. Then go into the plugin admin page and active the Daily Woot widget. Customization is available on the Presentation -> Sidebar Widgets admin page.

Lunarpages Coupon Blog: it’s what it says it is

The following is a sponsored review of Lunarpages Coupons, a blog that maintains a list of actively available coupons for Lunarpages hosting.

Upon visiting the site, the first thing that I noticed is that it very clearly and obviously displays the coupon codes for Lunarpages, as the site’s name would have you believe. The codes are updated monthly, and there have been recent updates. Clearly, this is not a scam in the sense that someone is actually trying to run ad revenue through a spammy blog with the enticement of ‘coupon codes.’ Furthermore, it’s clearly run by a real person, not some content aggregator. For these reasons, the site and it’s aim of listing out money-saving coupons for web hosting is an admirable goal.

However, seeing as the site has put out a campaign to build public awareness of its existence, one would hope for an additional amount of content on the site besides just the codes. After all, as far as I can tell, without being to critical, the only relevant content on the entire site is basically three lines:

“28offplus2″ – $28 Off Plus 2 Free Months
“Save35″ – $35 Off
“Save50OnDed″ – $50 Off on dedicated servers

Now, that’s not to take away from the fact that updating the site regularly means that it is not only a one-time blog post about a deal that may expire the next day, or twenty minutes later. It takes a certain degree of dedication and consistency to do so. But the other thing that preplexes me is this: if I want a coupon code, a simple Google search for that company plus the term ‘promo code’ or ‘coupon code’ usually yields the results I need. In fact, since Google allows sorting by date, you can narrow your results to find the latest posts about coupons anyway. So, in the final analysis, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a Lunarpages Coupon blog, but it may not actually provide a significant service that would make it a good bookmark for repeat use.

Is Google writing a code of ethics for the Web?

Karl MarxThere has been quite the buzz recently about Google’s recent move to encourage use of the rel=”nofollow” tag on paid links. Matt Cutts, whose blog offers an insider look at SEO in the Google world, argues that buying links to boost page rank should be prevented, as it constitutes deception of the search engine’s algorithm, and prevents it from serving the most relevant links to searchers.

The Official Google Blog also has an article about the nofollow attribute, which clearly states that incoming links from sites that Google deems have been paid for will not be ‘credited’ towards the target site’s page rank. Now, my point here is not to argue that Google should be allowing comment spam and other obvious and highly exploitable means of link-spamming. However, the fact that Google (and now Yahoo! and MSN Search) have decided to support and enforce the nofollow attribute as the default for paid links means that the three major search engines on the Web, through which most of the people that find information on the Web locate the sites and content they want, have taken the stand that money shouldn’t be able to buy recognition on the Internet, or at least better search results on the Internet.

While this attitude seems quite reasonable, and is garnering a lot of support throughout the blogging community, where spam is an ever-present problem (thank you Akismet, 10,000+ pieces of junk automatically filtered and counting), few seem to be regarding it as the fundamental cultural paradigm shift that it represents. In the ‘real’ world, companies with large amounts of capital can fund massive marketing campaigns, using their clout to eliminate poorer and weaker competitors. It is a simple reality of capitalism that money continues to be used to buy influence in the offline world; in fact, large firms constantly flood the market with print, radio, and TV ads that cost billions per year across the board. Why is it then, that Google and other online search giants have decided that paying to be noticed is deceptive and wrong? Is it a moral stand against a cutthroat practice, or merely another assertion of corporate domination over a particular market by its largest players.

I, for one, will be curious to see how the forces at play in the market affect the decision Google has made on paid links, as sites like ReviewMe and Text-Link-Ads will have to decide whether to conform with Google’s ultimatum, risking the wrath of their advertising clientele, or to leave the nofollow attribute out of their links, thereby risking losing publishers who fear a declining page rank. All in all, I think the decision made by Google to filter search results by non-paid links only is noble, but it ignores the larger reality of our society, which is that money drives people to content all the time.

One Dollar Bill PyramidTake, for example, the recent advent of Gofbot.com, a site operated by McDonald’s as part of a marketing campaign featuring fake newscasts proclaiming Gofbot to be ‘bigger than the Big Mac.’ The point of the campaign, and the fake page counter on Gofbot.com, which always resets to 4 hits, is that nothing is bigger than the Big Mac, a tried and true ‘American classic.’ However, if you look it up, Gofbot has a relatively decent (for a site with NO content) Alexa ranking of 352,306, driven solely by the TV campaign and the buzz it created. The page takes you to McDonald’s website after you’ve seen the mini presentation, and voila! McDonald’s has paid to send you through a link to their site. And they did it by circumventing Google and placing their high-priced advertisement in a market that already accepts that money buys the attention of people in our society.

When you consider that the Web doesn’t live as an entity by itself, and that search engines are but one way that people are driven to websites, it certainly complicates the issue that Google is taking such a clear stand on. I would love to see a world in which advertising dollars don’t make you more relevant for a particular search term, but I’m not sure Google’s moral stand can survive in a world where money already buys the attention of millions of consumers every day.

SEO, google, search, paid links, gofbot.com, mcdonalds, mcdonald’s, msn search, yahoo, advertising, online advertising, nofollow