Archive for the Category Web


Sorry, Pepsi

I love Diet Pepsi. And this summer, they have a contest going where you can collect codes under bottle caps and redeem them for chances at prizes on their website. So i went to the website to register. I logged in via Facebook, but they still needed all my information and a new password. Not sure what the point of Facebook then was, but I’ll live.

The form had a captcha, though. And everytime you failed the captcha, you had to fill out a new one AND re-enter your intended password (8 character minimum) twice. I started taking screengrabs after I failed the first half dozen times. This system of captchas is broken.

Please note that Pepsi doesn’t give you the option of choosing lowercase characters. Maybe THAT’S the problem?




Google Reader dies next week

Something you don’t see everyday


Facebook “unavailable”?!? THE HORRORS!


Google today announced that they’re shutting down Google Reader on July 1st. It’s a product they’ve willed out of existence, with a steady stream of neglect. That’s why this quote seems a little two-faced:

“We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites,” SVP of Technical Infrastructure Urs Hölzle writes in the blog post. “While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined….”

Of course it has. It’s been broken for months for many people and Google did nothing about it. They’ve decided to put all their eggs in the Google+ basket and gave up on Reader a long time ago. And Google honestly wonders why usage declined? Because they abandoned the ship! Nobody knew is coming on board a sinking ship. Google is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is that with Google relinquishing its overwhelming majority of the RSS Reader market, this might just pave the way for others to “innovate” in “the space” and give us something new and better. And, as many have already joked, that’s when Google will swoop in and buy them. UGH

One of the competitors, Feedly is down for the count tonight. Too much traffic in the wake of Reader’s demise, I bet.

But who can replace Google Reader for me? Here’s what I need:

  • Web-based, not an iPhone or iPad app
  • Keyboard controls, to help me zip through all the feeds I like to read quickly
  • Preferably, able to import my current list of subscriptions from Google Reader, but that’s optional
  • Something that will get through the proxy filter at work.

It doesn’t need to be free. In fact, I’d happily pay for this service, just because it makes it less attractive a company to be bought up and dismantled by the likes of vultures like Google.

Google also announced the departure of Android guru, Andy Rubin, who’s moving on to other projects at Google. I’d put my bets on a Google Watch. They need to catch up faster to Apple than they did with the MacBook Air, so now they’re trying to catch up to the rumors of what Apple might be doing. (Seriously, take a look at the Chromebook and tell me it doesn’t just look like a cheap MacBook Air, years later. Hey, it’s got a Samsung logo on it, so the pattern holds…)

Monoprice is doing HTML Wrong

Wrong form type there

If I have to spell it out:

“Primary” would indicate a singular selection. This form uses checkboxes, which means you can choose more than one option. Radio buttons would be the correct input in this situation.

How Not To Update WordPress

Well, first, let me tell you what to do:

  • Make a complete copy of all files to your local computer. Heck, make two. Download it once to your local hard drive, and then download a complete copy of everything under public_html onto an external plugged-in hard drive or thumb drive or whatever you’ve got.

    • You can use an FTP client to do this. I use Transmit, a much-beloved Mac App that’s been around a long time.
    • You can also do it from the command line. Use rsync. Automate it. Script it. Cron job it. Stop thinking about it. That’s half the battle with back-ups.
  • Poke around in those copies to make sure everything is there. Pay special attention to the wp-contents directory, because that’s where all the images you upload are stored. It’s always where your plug-ins are based, and where your themes live. If you overwrite this directory without a backup copy, you’re in trouble.

  • When you do upload the new version of WordPress and your FTP offers you the option to MERGE or REPLACE the wp-contents directory as it exists with the updated version, go with MERGE. If you REPLACE, you’ll delete everything first. You don’t want that.

Long story, short: That’s what I did a couple weeks back. I REPLACED instead of MERGED, and I thought I had a back-up already when I didn’t. I made a second one, which I thought had finished. I didn’t double-check either backup. I didn’t have the complete wp-contents directory backed up in either place. I lost it all. Plug-ins and themes aren’t a big deal. This blog is run on a standard theme, with not too many adjustments. I re-found it quickly and installed it. Turns out, that was the German version of it. I had to track down the English version, but that was easy enough.

Thankfully, my wonderful hosting provider (the ever-awesome was able to restore from a daily back-up. And since I hadn’t posted anything new in the last day, it was a full recovery after that.

So, take it from me: Make a full and complete back-up. Back up more than you think you’ll ever need. Do it regularly. Do it particularly just before updating the supposedly easy “One Click” WordPress upgrade, which always endangers your files, no matter how blase they try to make it seem to be.

Failing all that, create a static blog engine. I’m trying… I actually have one that works to create the front page and the 6000 individual pages that would make up this blog. But the archives aren’t implemented yet, which are turning out to be a bit of a pain in the butt. Someday, I’ll have time to get back to that.

My Weekend Writing Appearance

Chad Nevett is doing his annual Blogathon fundraiser on Saturday, posting regularly for 24 straight hours. I am one of the special guests contributing over the course of the day. It’s a fun topic. Keep an eye out on his site for it as the day progresses and Chad slowly drives himself insane. For a good cause.

Quote of the Day, 22 Jan 2013 Edition

Twitter is deprecating its support for an insignificant power user segment that has been impotently threatening to leave en masse for over a year. And it’s doing so because there’s an enormous population of people using Twitter for altogether different purposes than we care to consider or grace with our arrogant presence. It’s looking to make money from a demographic of sociable, connected, and care-free users that are using Twitter for the sake of its features, not the way its app ecosystem works.

Artificial Unintelligence

Twitter recommends that I follow —

Follow me on Twitter


To be fair, though, I probably should, if only for the useless stats boost.

Inbox Zero

Last month, I took a few days and whittled my GMail inbox down to zero emails. Not zero unread emails. Zero emails, period. It has remained empty to this day.

Why: It’s distracting to have hundreds of emails in my inbox. I missed emails that scrolled off the front page. I forgot to answer some that didn’t need much of my time, but that I kept putting off and became easier to ignore. I started to feel badly about checking my email, knowing I had others down the list that I hadn’t properly dealt with. Why should I look at even more?

Even worse, I didn’t know what I was missing. I just had the feeling that I was missing something. That lack of control and knowledge is killer. I’ve been reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” recently, and while I haven’t adopted it as my productivity system, I picked up enough to know that using some of the ideas in the book to clear out my mental To Do list — which is what my inbox has become — would be a do-able and smart thing. Having an organized system where you know where everything is — even when you don’t know everything you have — frees up your mind. It removes those doubts. It lets you move ahead and do more stuff, instead of thinking about or worrying about past stuff.

Inbox Zero

(And, yes, it meant I had to read a ten year old book to finally come around to Merlin Mann’s famous “Inbox Zero” talk from five years ago. I watched it originally on a train ride into New York City a few years back. I need to give it a rewatch now to see what else I can glean from it.)

How: GMail has the archive function. (It’s the y key for my fellow Gmail keyboard fans.) I made judicious use of it. Too much of the email in my inbox was there because I didn’t want to delete it, but I didn’t know what to do with it yet. It was there just in case I needed it later.

“Fine,”” I said, “I’ll keep it. But I don’t need to always be looking at it.”

Off it went.

I created a folder named “__Answer”. Those underscores are there to make sure the folder name is on top of my list. (Yes, technically, this isn’t a folder, but a label. It’s used the same way. Gmail just tries to be cute about it.) In “Getting Things Done” terms, these are my action items. These are the emails I want to answer but don’t have immediate time to do so. In there goes all the emails I can’t look at at the moment. If they’re a link to a website or to a program I want to download, I put it in “__Answer” until I’m at home on my main computer and can perform those actions. Often, it’s an email where I click on the link, wait for that tab to open, and then delete the email. Two clicks and it’s done. It doesn’t pile up.

The big thing here is to not let the “__Answer” folder explode. It’s too easy to move things out of the inbox and let them sit in other folders. This is the folder where that might happen. So I dedicate the first 15 minutes of the night at home when I sit behind the computer to going through this folder. I click on all the links to see all the pages. I write responses to the more personal emails. I respond to the various PR people, whether it’s for or for Pipeline or this blog. I delete the emails that seemed important ten hours ago, but which by that point are obsolete or just not important enough to waste my time on.

It feels great. Things are always moving. Nothing stagnates. I don’t forget things. I get things done, so to speak.

Inbox Zero

I have more folders. “NextPipeline” is there for emails relating to the following week’s Pipeline column at CBR. Those might be responses to the previous week’s column. They might be links to quotable tweets. They might be links to blog posts or publisher pages of things I want to discuss. Sometimes, they’re little ideas I’ve written up to put in the next column. In those times on the weekend where I sit down in front of the computer and feel like I have nothing to say for Pipeline, this folder is a godsend.

The “VariousandSundry” label/folder is the blog version of “NextPipeline”. If I had more time, I’d use it more to generate more blog posts, but at least it’s the start of a sytem.

“Links” is a bin of emails linking to various blogs and other websites I want to read, but may not be time sensitive. I archive a lot of these. I have sub-folders here, too, specifically for things like “Programming” and “Tech” and “Comics” topics. They become searchable morgues, in effect.

I also have a “__Coupons” folder where I hide away the various deals I get sent from the membership cards I have. Next time I’m in the mall and need a quick dinner, I know where to look for that T.G.I.Fridays coupon now. No digging through things. Do I have some photos I want to print up? Check in this folder first for coupons to Shutterfly or CVS or AdoramaPix. And if I need to send flowers, I know where those FTD deals are. Need a book? The latest Barnes & Noble deal is in there. The big thing to remember here is to stop in one or twice a month to delete all the expired emails. Most of them are good for less than a week.

There are more folders for smaller categories. I have one for things related to my daughter’s school, for example. Those are archived there just in case, and labeled to be easier to find, rather than just archived. I have a folder for “CBR Reviews”, even if I’m not the editor there anymore. I’m still an occasional contributor, once or twice a month. Information shared there that might come in handy later is saved.

It’s only been a month, but it feels great. I’m generating more positive email and having more conversations. Things don’t drop off the page. I feel more productive. It’s a good thing.

Next time: The nice side effects of Inbox Zero.

Best Typo of the Day

Saw an ad looking for a full time blogger in Los Angeles. The first part of the job description made me laugh out loud:

Creating engaging blog content that is relevant to weightless/dieting and a health centric lifestyle

Later references to the same topic spelled it correctly with “weight loss,” but now I can’t help but picture overweight astronauts on a space station losing weight and finding themselves floating higher in the air. That is completely scientifically inaccurate, yes, but it’s just the funny image I had in my head.

Funnier still is a later job requirement:

The ability to spell check one’s own writing is a must and is something that is expected and required of the blogger.

This is meant to be a shill blog and social media outreach that’s soulless and heartless. It’s doomed to fail. Here’s more of the job description:

Daily content creation and updating on Twitter page – Must be able to write in a social media based relatable style that is engaging to readers

I’m afraid of someone getting paid to be as bad a Twitter user as the average Twitter user. Engage with Trending Topics today!

The budget for this job — handling the company’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter presences — is $500 – $1,000. What a deal!

YouTube Feature Request

The one thing YouTube is missing is a simple feature that most audio players/podcast players have today: a fast-forward and rewind button. Yes, you can scrub through, but it’s inexact and tricky. Give me a 10 second rewind button and a 30 second fast-forward button and I’d be happy.

While you’re over there, check out these recent videos:

Quote of the Day – 27 November Edition

…all original content is by big companies that have partnered with Twitter to use Twitter as an announcement platform, all users just talk about what these things mean, and trends are what you look at — now that of course means that everything in trends is not really a trend, just chatter about what will effectively be ads. Yay, Twitter!

This is essentially the systematic destruction of a once valuable and far reaching tool.

Ben Brooks

Post-Mortem: iPod Nano Color Analysis

A tweet from John Siracusa could net your blog 4,000 hits. It worked that way for me, at least. Not that any of those 4,000 will stick around, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts.

On Sunday night (September 30th), after spending probably far too much time in Skitch and Pixelmator, I had made an image I thought might be popular in the Apple blogosphere/podcast-o-sphere. (That can’t possibly be a word, but this is the internet. Neologism was invented just for it. Wikipedia tells me so.) You can read the whole story behind the image alongside it at the original blog post.

After proofreading the text, I tweeted it out into the world. Those were my first two mistakes. First, I missed the obvious mistake where I referred to the “iPad Nano” twice in the post, including the headline. (The image file name had it right, though.) Second, I used the Twitter website to post the link. I walked away from my computer, came back an hour later, and the tweet was still sitting there in the textarea on the web page. It hadn’t gone out. I keep forgetting that hitting the “return” key doesn’t send a tweet. You have to click the “Tweet” button. It happens with me and the Twitter web page all the time. I still haven’t learned.

So I made the correction and off it went. I used to shorten my URL so I could track the stats on this post, in case it turned out to be popular. I was thrilled a few minutes later when I saw I had 97 hits. Since most of my Twitter “following” comes from the comic book world, I knew that kind of number had come from someone on the Apple side retweeting me. Sure enough, @Siracusa did it.

bar chart of visit in first hour after the writeup on Twitter

Less than an hour later, 1200 people hit my humble blog. I don’t get a tenth of that on a daily basis anymore. At the height of this blog, I may have had a couple hundred people visiting every day. These days, I doubt I have more than a few dozen reading what I post. It’s my fault. This blog has no focus and I don’t update it regularly enough. Both are kisses of death. This isn’t so much a commercial enterprise as it is a place for me to spout off on the random things I like to write about, so that’s OK.

By the time I got to work and checked the stats again, I was over 3000 hits. That’s when I started to panic that I blew it. My blog is in no shape for this kind of traffic. Is the front page cached? Will anyone know who I am? Will anyone care? The blog is a mess. It violates most sane blogging practices. I’m trying to fix some of that with the new engine I’m writing for it, but it’s a little embarrassing in the meantime.

where everyone came from when my site got Tweeted

Interestingly, some Monday afternoon hits came from people more interested in fashion. The link had some legs (no pun intended) amongst a fashion twitterati blogger or two. That helped.

By noon, the initial boom had trailed off. Readers were still trickling in, but like most “viral” posts, this one had already peaked immediately and faded off to (what I think will be) a very short long tail. The post didn’t make the Follow Up section of the next Hypercritical podcast, so there wasn’t a second bounce at the end of the week. (Still, it was a great episode talking about App Dot Net. Well worth listening to.)

By Tuesday afternoon, the hits were down to nearly nil at Bit.Ly. One other interesting thing I learned: Google Analytics saw nothing. At some point in playing with my WordPress theme months back, I must have deleted that bit of JavaScript and never added it back in. Whoops. I’ve now corrected that, to discover that my readership today is, indeed, in the dozens.

At the time of this writing, a week later, my total hits through the link stands at 3,909.

Good news: Nothing ever crashed or so much as scratched. Bad news: I see Express ads for colorful jeans on every website I visit.

Like I said, this blog is a total mess, but I’m hoping to get better soon. And for a couple of hours, it felt good to be “well-read.” It gives me a little bit of encouragement to still dream “bigger” and work harder on more things.

Dangnabit, Pants! Leave Me Alone!

I’m blinded by all the colors!

Even has Express ads

One of these days, I’m going to post the write-up showing the stats of what a single @siracusa tweet can generate in the way of blog hits. Soon, I promise. I have graphs for that, too.