Friday, November 13, 2009

Google Wave on Ubuntu

Long time no post, but I must write about this.

Google Wave is finally ready for the select few to try and provide feedback. I'm so in!!!

Its supposed to enable communication and collaboration at the same time. My favourite way for working and relationships. The idea itself tells me that sharing information and working together just got far easier.

What's more, I'm not on the standard windows-IE/Firefox combo, so I get to take a look and discover new stuff. So far...

Logged in, nice interface. Somewhat self-explanatory, though I'm certain nosing around is going to reveal interesting stuff.

There are two standard welcome messages, one of them with a welcome message and video tutorials which are "read-only" - already I get the feel of what it may mean to edit something landing up in my inbox....

This is what it looks like in Firefox on my Ubuntu:
Unfortunately, the video tutorials are not playing any sound on my machine in Firefox, but work fine in Google Chrome.... Is this a bug or what?

This is what it looks like in Google Chrome on Ubuntu (which is also a beta). Though in this case, Chrome is definitely working far better than Firefox for Wave. More space on the screen (which is a definite bonus when you are Waving). Plus the audio works....

Opera is currently not supported. Nor is IE (of course). Actually, better way of putting it is that Firefox, Chrome and Safari are supported.

The video is of Greg Product manager for Google Wave in Australia. He describes a Wave as "a shared space where you can discuss and work and communicate with friends and colleagues using text and videos and photos and maps and all sorts of interesting stuff..."

And so it seems to be from what I've seen so far.

Its rather simple. You click contacts to start waves, the navigation panel on the top left is pretty much like email and social networking mixed up and simplified.

I'm quite enjoying the simplicity and high usefulness which is something I've started associating with Google. Its still quite buggy, but very exciting. Watch out - This is going to take over online communications!!!

On the other hand, its also going to cause a wave of monitor upgrades. Anyone who is still using small screens for their computers is just going to.... want more real estate to Wave with.

Well... since this is a post about my first impressions and neither a review nor a tutorial, I guess I'll have to stop here and head off to Waving.

Will login with my Windows and take another look at the thing and post back later.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Google Chrome on Ubuntu and Linux and Mac

Oooookay, so lots of people are beginning using Google Chrome. Lightweight, fast and efficient. The all taste no clutter that we have expect from Google.

While windows users are trying out the new browser, Linux and Mac users twiddle their thumbs impatiently. If you are willing to go through a little pain at times, you could install development or beta versions. Of course, they will be buggy, but hey.... you'll become a part of the history of google by helping test out thier stuff.

Read more about it and see if this kind of a test drive is for you.

I have started using chrome from my Ubuntu Desktop, and so far, so good. nice look, fast and no major issues so far, but then I've hardly used it yet.

Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Optimizing for Bing - the new challenge - 5 surefire strategies

The SEO scene reminds me of how people hate their stomachs and just can't accept them for being how they are, even if they are absolutely flat. They would just like them to be flatter, slimmer, whatever. Similarly, webmasters can get so obsessed with SEO (check out the comments and browse through these excellent blogs to see how much similar information there is that's all highly followed), that they are always on the hunt for that elusive tip that will skyrocket their traffic, double their page rank, or something. No matter how nice their site is, it is not good enough.

Such insecurity. I have a business, I talk with clients everyday, I am familiar with how they describe what they want, and its simple to write my site in a way that makes sense to them. This will translate into correct keywords, automatically, or I could look around and get to that same list after months of research. Even long tailed keywords just happen, when you write in a way that shows your familarity with your market.

I don't need a keyword research tool to tell me that more people are familiar with (and thus search for) the term "team building", while fewer will look for Organization Development. I know that from my conversations with clients. But its not as fascinating as using some gadget/software to validate what I know and waste time. Is it any surprise that there are more male voices on this front? (I have an association with men and a fascination for gadgets/software and such-like)

The behavioural scientist in me worries about this kind of 'disowning' of a part of the whole. Its as though everything negative gets projected to one aspect and disowning that aspect till fixed is somehow miraculously supposed to cure all ills. All my discontent about not being a millionaire is because the site isn't adequately SEOd, or I'd be more look better in that dress if it weren't for this paunch.

Now that MSN and Yahoo are married, there is going to be a new SEO scramble. Did a search on what the scene is like currently, and Many posts from 2004 and 2005 are being unearthed and landing up on the first page of search results. Incredible how long people haven't really looked at Search engines other than the big G for so long.

The prediction is that the next couple of weeks are going to see a new rash of SEO tips and Tricks for Bing. I am no expert, but here are definite tips I can predict, which will end up coming as new and old mixes:
  1. Content is King: Bing likes fresh content (as though Google and Yahoo didn't, but it will be presented as an insight)
  2. Good design and clear site architecture (in all its forms). Some will call it optimizing certain pages for certain keywords, structuring categories on blogs, directories on sites, optimally named files and permalinks.....
  3. No duplicate content: Cannonical urls
  4. Build links. Be generous in linking out (hopefully to the guru that gave you this advice)
  5. Encourage return visitors through encouraging comments, sign ups for newsletters, subscriptions to RSS feeds, etc. Create community, conversation, etc
and so on.

The truth of the matter is, no matter what search engine you optimize for, you are going to end up focusing on the same things. You will have an epidemic of self-proclaimed SEO experts writing posts which sound so similar to others, that its tough to keep track of who said what.

Wouldn't be surprised to see a few links to advice from Matt Cutts (never mind that he's with Google), since the rising star of Bing is yet to step into the spotlight. I don't ahve anything against Matt Cutts, and his advice is always sound, but it gets irritating to have echoes of the same few people (echoing each other) and their often similar sounding advice coming up as fresh content all the time.

In fact, Matt Cutts on content and spam, SEOBlackhat and Avinash Kaushik on Analytics are probably the few who come up with surprises.

On my part, I am not doing anything much at the moment to optimize for Bing. Let me see if there is something outstandingly different that I have to do that will kill my traffic if I don't other than submitting my site there. The way I see it, its the job of a competent search engine to keep track of content, and its our job to manage our sites as we see fit. Chasing search engines is only going to lead to obsession.

Nowhere on the Bing site are any instructions that their spiders are incapable of handling regular sites. In fact, I added my site to the Webmaster Tools they have, and it was happily indexed and providing data on my links already. Not as fancy as Google, but definitely faster, and seemed far more accurate. Why do I need to fix, tweak and optimize something that seems to be fine?

Okay, I don't make huge amounts of money online, but hey, my traffic pays for my site and brings me enough clients in the real world to not worry about ads paying for my coffee. That's impressive considering that I never go hunting for clients in the real world, and simply deal with the ones I get approaching me on their own.

If you are getting seduced by all the posts coming up on SEOing your site to bits, do keep a sense of perspective, and remember that all those tips are unlikely to speak of a single thing you haven't read before, unless its an individual's name, or promoting some product or service or book. Chill out, and let the bloggers do their thing and get traffic for their site. Do what you can, and enjoy yourself all through. You loving your blog will go a far way to getting traffic than you constantly trying to 'fix' it.

Afterall, if you can't love your space for what it is, warts and all, who will?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wordpress 2.9 - the votes are in

The Wordpress site has just released the results of the survey on media features for Wordpress 2.9.

While the results are complicated, and best looked at right there, what I found intriguing was the number of features people found desirable, and the dilemma about including them in the core, distributing them with the core release as cannon plugins, or developing cannon plugins but keeping them in the repos for optional download.

The strength of Wordpress is its sleek efficiency, which will not remain so sleek, if things keep getting added to it, and the package keeps bulking up. Not everyone uses every feature, obviously. Most bloggers don't need exotic media stuff to blog. Yet, who would dispute that it would be fabulous to have the ability to work with media more efficiently? I dare say many bloggers will begin using it once they find it available by default.

Also, the more things added to the main distro, the more complicated it will be in terms of continued development, testing, updating..... that much more code to wade through, compatibility to ensure and functionality to be tested before each release. It is going to hold meaning in terms of manpower and skilled resources.

Its an interesting dilemma - functionality, but how? Increased function, or minimum bulk and high efficiency.... will be interesting to see how the decision flows.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick SEO Tip

You hear about things like long tail keywords, Wordtracker, Hittail... and you begin research on how to get those three and four word phrases into your content so that you may benefit from the highly targetted traffic they could bring you. Loads of effort, all to the good.

There is one quick and easy way to also look at your site content to find tweaks that help.

Login to Webmaster Tools and look at your search queries page. Here, you find data about the searches your links showed up for, and the searches they got clicked on for.

If you see, you show up for far more searches than those that convert (get clicked). So what is happening between that particular cup and lip?

What is happening is that you are appearing on the results page, and the results around you are getting clicked, and you are not. What it basically means that your title and description showing in the search results is not working to get attention.

Quick fix:
  • Search for those terms you appear in the top ten, but don't get clicked for.
  • Replicate the search.
  • Which is that page of yours that's showing up?
  • Look at your neighbours. What do their links read, what does their description read? What does yours say?
  • How can you change your page title to make it more interesting in that page when it appears there?
Edit. Done.

You don't have much control over the descriptions in Google, as they often are excerpted from the content relevant to the search (which actually works just fine for our objectives). However, changing the title will help you seem more capable of answering whatever it is the search is inquiring about.

Google Gods bring no rain

I wonder what is happening with my websites. All of a sudden, the traffic has gone down like....
Visitors are like....
I wonder what in the world is happening. Its happening on my other sites as well, but okay, I'd been fiddling with the design there. This one, I've done nothing but post.
On the other hand, this blog is largely neglected, and I've made changes here too. But its going up. Searches I've done before show me sites I've never seen before. Page ranks for many sites that were healthy earlier, including mine are 0.
What in the world is Goodle up to?
Some say its a new update. I say its not working. Not for my site well being, or my searches finding me what I want.

Anyone else going through the same? Anyone have a clue?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Redirecting most old Postnuke pages to the new Zikula site

The first order of the day is to redirect old pages to the new pages.

For this, go to your old sitemap, and see the links that you have. If your site is not very heavy, you can redirect each page individually from the old permalink structure to the new one.

Create a file called .htaccess in your root folder (where your index.php is) and put the following into it:
Options FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on

Then, we will be writing in our redirects. If there is already an .htaccess in the root folder, just edit it to add your redirects to it (make sure the above lines are present already, or add them in):

RewriteRule ^Article1.htm$ [R=301,L] is where the article used to be (you don't need to put in the whole url) and we are now sending it to the new location. Refer to your old sitemap, and point everything to its new locations as separate lines.

This will tell the search engines about the new locations, as well as redirecting any referral links pointing to the old locations along with the traffic and good karma.

For a very large site, this method may not be practical. In that case, you have to make tough choices. Save what you can, and pray for the rest.Some suggestions.

  1. Figure out the pages with the most links and traffic, and be sure to redirect those specifically.
  2. Install your sitemap, and point the url for the old sitemap to the new one, so that all engines coming to look for info at your site will directly go to the new information, though they came out of habit to the old sitemap.
  3. See if there are patterns you can roughly redirect (rather than shelling out 404s) For example, anything with a certain module name, goes to the page for that module.
  4. Edit page content of index locations of new pages where possible (that haven't been individually redirected) - for example, the main downloads page where all downloads are getting redirected to, can contain an index of downloads and their new links for quick reference and manual click through.
  5. It helps to have your 404 error (page not found) page describe what's happening, and assure visitors that things will soon be smooth again, in the meanwhile, to navigate using the very convenient options you will provide.

You can use RedirectMatch for this stuff:

RedirectMatch (.*)\.pdf$

Be sure to put your RedirectMatch list after your redirects, so that specific redirects go to their accurate pages before the slack gets taken care of.

So download number 64 may not redirect to the exact page, but all downloads will go to the main downloads page. This is better than 404s. With some study of the older and newer link structures, it will be posssible to use regex to get quite accurate redirects, particularly if you aren't using short urls (though that kind of defeats half the point of the upgrade)

RedirectMatch (.*)\.gif$$1.gif

Test. Test. Test.

Issues with redirects will be visible instantly, so if things work, they work. If not, tweak. There are abundant resources on the net to use .htaccess redirects. Search. Sometimes, inexplicable issues can happen which are peculiar to your server, software, installed modules, or other things, so if something is working for the world, but not for you, don't lose hope. There are enough websites in the world and someone or the other has experienced your settings too. You'll be sure to find references that work.

Last, but most important:
  • Keep a sharp eye on hits from search engines to your new url structure - indicating that that engine is now aware of the change on your site.
  • Keep an eye on your traffic sources - referrals in particular, and share updated links where possible - most people will appreciate having updated information to replace outdated information (though, sometimes it just might trigger some lazy ones to delete your link and leave it at that, so see how well you know them)
  • Keep an eye on your error log for two things:
  1. 404s: which are the pages that have large numbers of 404s? You may want to redirect them specifically, or as a pattern to some page.
  2. 500s: Internal Server Error - these can sometimes happen when your .htaccess gets too large, or is creating issues and will crash your site till they are resolved - urgent.
Following this should get much of your site back visible from your earlier links, while ensuring that the transition to new links is happening smoothly in the background.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pinging update in the new Wordpress

I just came across this post by Thord Daniel Hedengren where he speaks with quite a bit of outrage about a change Wordpress has made in their pinging code which he discovered in a post by Christian Bolstad. Basically, for the less techno-savvy (and for me) what it means, is that earlier, when you published a post, Wordpress used to ping (inform) various places that keep track of the content on your blog about the update. This took time, which directly translated into waiting time while your post was published. Now, what it does is publishes your post, and pings separately in about an hours time.

Thord is of the opinion that this causes some damage to his site being indexed fast enough. It may be true. Who knows? What I found so strange was that he seems disproportionately angry about the whole thing. Part of his anger is about the nature of response from Denis de Bernardy which he has quoted, where Denis seems dismissive about his concern and makes a valid point that its difficult to get people accountable when they aren't being paid, so if information on this change was not present in the documentation, it is likely to be an ommission because it didn't seem like a big deal, rather than a deliberate secret (which doesn't make sense in an open-source project :D) and he suggested that Thord put it in the documentation if it matters so much to him.

While it isn't such a big deal for me, I find it fascinating to see the kinds of things bloggers find threatening to their online well-being. "Putting the real time web to a halt", "Tells no one" is quite an extreme way of putting this scenario (is it only me who thinks it reads like its implying a deliberate conspiracy?). Your site is updated, services accessing your feed see the change immediately, and its only the notification of the change that is delayed. Have some perspective. To his credit, Thord has submitted a counter patch for this change.

I honestly hadn't thought that it would matter. I was not aware that the delayed ping will do much damage to my blog. Still don't think so. Perhaps because my blog isn't one that gets updated within hours. I don't see the big issue for me at the moment, considering that its only the notification getting delayed and regular access to the feed is up to date - at least that's how it is on my blog. My feed is showing correctly immediately.

On the other hand, with a large list of services to ping, I see the value in separating it from the regular posting in the interest of efficiency.

So to me, it looks like people want different things from something as simple as a publish button. I can't figure out the great deal if a publish button doesn't ping automatically for me. Afterall, it doesn't do many other things for me which make a difference to my site as well. It publishes, which is the main thing, and I am happy that it publishes more efficiently.

It may just be me, but I'm actually happy about this change,. as I often end up publishing, reading my post, editing, publishing the edit and so on a couple of times before I'm completely satisfied. I always worry that I may get penalized by the pinging services for 'ping spamming' if there is such a term. But there wasn't much I could do about it. Now, I can edit for an hour, go back and forth, and it gets pinged when its ready.

I like this.

Postnuke to Zikula with minimum disruption

Everyone who uses Postnuke and is upgrading to Zikula are going to go through the pain of lost links, indexed pages, and so on.

It was precisely for this reason that I held back for a long time too.

However, Zikula is better than Postnuke, and eventually, there comes a time to commit to the move, or start losing interest in the whole system itself, particularly since nothing is happening with Postnuke anymore.

There are some problems I faced, and some solutions I found, which I will be sharing in a series of posts here.

  • The first, and key thing to do is to make a copy of your current sitemap, so that you have all the links.
  • Do the upgrade as instructed after backing up the site.
  • Go through your modules list with a fine toothed comb, and test them - navigate, access, edit, etc. Upgrade all those that have upgrades.
  • Identify the ones that can't be upgraded and deactivate them for now.
  • Navigate through your site and see which blocks don't show, which links don't work, and so on.
  • Create a list of everything that is going wrong.
In the next posts, we will deal with some of the most urgent aspects of getting your site back into functioning for most visitors coming there rather than 404 pages and inexplicable issues.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

10 tips for traffic generating comments

So, like everyone and his neighbour, you comment on blogs to get links and traffic. So, like everyone and his cousin, where is the traffic?

The following list contains some tips to get the most traffic from your comments (and perhaps a few links too)
  • Make meaningful comments: I thought I'd get this one out of the way. Its sound, and everyone knows it. Yet, what is a meaningful comment? I'd say, its a comment that enhances what is on the page. Add to the post, disagree with it, support and supplement the perspective of another commenter, ATTACK another commenter, sensitively, if an opportunity arises..... become a part of the story of that page.
  • Be real. Have emotions, show uncertainty, have ideas you are enthusiastic about..... share experience not just for authority, but for sharing yourself as a person in related circumstances.
  • Which blogs to comment on, which posts to comment on: Naturally, you want blogs that are relevant. You want posts that you can comment on with authority and enthusiasm. It works better to comment on posts with a few comments so that you are closer to the original post, and have less competition. Arun Bansi Lal suggests subscribing to blogs to find new comments that you can quickly post on.
  • Subscribe to comments: This is often overlooked. You make an awesome comment, and the blogger or another person responds to it. If you are in the loop enough to pick up and create a conversation - you have succeeded in creating curiosity around yourself - guess how curious people will try to find out more about you? Click!
  • Where to link to? Home page? heh. And you are building links! What you want to do is link to a page that is relevant to that post, or your comment. Who knows, the blogger may simply choose to link to it, if s/he finds value......
  • The flip side of where to link to: Sometimes I have a post I'd like to bring people to. So then, I will hunt for blog posts that are relevant to that post, comment and link to that post. For example, I have written this list. Now, I can go around looking for who else has written about effective commenting for traffic, and comment there and agree/disagree/contribute.... and link to here.
  • Be generous: Don't hoard your knowledge for your site and comment teasers everywhere. It works sometimes, but it gets old real fast. Be generous in your appreciation when you find something appreciateworthy, be generous in your responses to differing perspectives. Mostly, be generous with links, ideas, contributions..... and not just with some payoff in mind. People are more interested in what they can get, and if both of you think that way, there is no bridge. If you can be generous, the gap is bridged, and then you have a relationship you can take ahead.
  • Link to blogs you comment on at times. Its not always about getting your link on their real estate. It often is about you putting your money where your mouth is - all the efforts in the world are not going to build you anything, if you enjoy someone's hospitality for their links, and refuse/forget to acknowledge them when on your own territory.
I think each person has their own ideas of what works best for them.

What works best for you?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wordpress 2.8.1 Editor Problems?


  1. You upgrade your wordpress. Things are good
  2. Suddenly, you go to make a new post, or edit an existing one, and voila, it opens with html code.
  3. So you click on the 'visual' tab, of course.
  4. Nothing whatsoever happens.
Other symptoms -
  1. White text on white background - its there, just not visible.
  2. Tough to upload/edit images
  3. Tough to assign tags
  4. Some issue with moving widgets around.....
Everybody and his cousin knew that there was a problem with the text editor in 2.8.0. You have gone from 2.8.0 to 2.8.1. surely this is not happening to you?

So what has really happened? My suspicion is that since they took out the fancy editor in 2.8.1, for some reason, your broswer cache lets it seem to work for a while longer than it actually does, so when it finally clears and you don't have it anymore, you don't even think of the update, since it had seemed to work since then.

What you have lost is just the fancy editor.

Never fear, when this nerd in progress is here!

Do so:
  1. Upgrade your Firefox - for some reason, I observed that wherever people having this problem spoke about their browsers, there was mention of outdated versions of firefox. Wondered if they were linked for quite a while before giving it a shot - it worked. Didn't solve the problem completely, but it was much better, and I was then able to solve it easily.
  2. You will now be able to see clearly where you stand with this. You will notice the difference between the html and visual views, and both will function, though without the editor - so you have one with bbcode kind of mark up and html.
  3. Install the FCKEditor plugin.
  4. Done.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

OpenDNS hijacks the Address Bar in Firefox

If you have just started using OpenDNS, your first dismaying discovery is likely to be that typing in words in the address bar no longer results in a google search, but are redirected to an OpenDNS guide search. Done without a warning, this is as good as a hijack.

This would still have been useful and functional if the search results were relevant. Unfortunately, OpenDNS uses Yahoo Search Engine, which is not really as good as search engine, particularly if you search a lot (who doesn't?) or if you are fond of google search (who isn't?).

Does that mean you shouldn't use OpenDNS? Nope. OpenDNS provides fast and excellent DNS service (not search). The additional possibility of being able to manage your account also helps if there are sites you want to bar access to, etc.

Luckily, you can fix your addressbar, and life can be back to how it used to be. This is what you need to do:
  1. Start a new window and type "about:config" without the quotes. If you are using a Firefox3, a security warning will come up. Click "I'll be careful, I promise"
  2. The top of the page contains a window for filter. We are looking for keyword.URL - type that in, and double click the Value field and type in "" (or the search string for the search engine of your choice).
  3. Done. Have a cup of coffee.

Web Analytics Demystified

Just wanted to share an awesome post by Avinash Kaushik on his blog. Well, the post was long ago, and I found it long ago, but I found it again in my bookmarks today, and boy, was I glad.

What I really enjoy is the simplicity of this post.

Avinash speaks about using Analytics to improve the performance of your blog in terms simply enough for a child to understand. It literally boils down to what you want to do, and how you go about finding where to begin.

If you are a webmaster or blogger, this one is definitely not to be missed.

Another writer I enjoy reading is Arun Basil Lal of Million Clues. his posts are often packed with good information that is immediately applicable to see results.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick tip to increase AdSense income

Long time no write.

Just thought to dash off this note, if you aren't still doing it.

Link your AdSense and Google Analytics accounts with each other, to find out which content is earning money for you. Then, it gives you an idea of what works and what doesn't, and you can do more of what works, rather than waste time on what doesn't.

How much better can an SEO tip get?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing with emotion

When you make a post, share a bit of yourself in there. What are you writing about, why is it important to you, how does it make you feel, what do you wish to see, and so on.

As a reader, I feel great joy to discover a human angle to what I'm reading. Most of the time, if it is absent, I will move on without really registering what's being written. There is a sense of connection that brings credibility to the writing that is far beyond the usual "information exchange".

What is it that you wish to read on a blog?