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May 4, 2015

And Now With Custom Short URLs



Hopefully - assuming this works - all new articles posted on here will be automagically tweeted out via Feedpress using my custom URL shortener -

Fingers crossed!

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May 4, 2015

Dumping Feedburner


feedpress-logo-love-rssI've finally dumped Feedburner.

If you're subscribed to this site's RSS feed you should *hopefully* be reading it via

I'll post more about why I switched over to Feedpress, but suffice to say that Feedburner is probably going to be killed off by Google at some point and I'd prefer not to be "stranded" :)

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May 1, 2013

Posterous Dies – Posts Imported


With Posterous being shut down - supposedly yesterday - I have imported all the posts from my Posterous account into this site. You won't notice the posts unless you peruse the archives, but they're there ..

They also look a bit odd, but I thought it best to preserve them somehow.. even if it did look a bit odd ...

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February 24, 2013

Big Companies Trying To Monopolise .blog, .cloud and more



ICANN is currently evaluating a couple of thousand applications for new top level domains. Most of the applications are for new and interesting domain extensions (the bit on the right of the dot) that will provide greater consumer choice and foster competition.

Unfortunately a smaller subset is from a companies that believe they have special rights to corner off entire generic keyword spaces for their own use.

Cloud computing, for example, is something that so many companies are involved with that it would be impossible to enumerate how many are involved. Yet Symantec plans to use .cloud for itself and nobody else.

Or what about Google's application for .blog which they want to keep solely for the use of Blogger users?

I've put together a few key points about the issue here.

If you feel that allowing a few companies to monopolise keywords like this is a bad idea let your voice be heard here.

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July 8, 2012

Automatically Generating Rich Snippets For Recipes


I've been blogging on and off about my experiences and progress with dieting over on my diet blog.

One of the things that I've also been doing is sharing recipes for the various things I've been eating.

In order to display them "sanely" I opted for a WordPress plugin called "Easy Recipe" mainly for the display. I wasn't as concerned with the rich snippets and microformat stuff that it also can handle I just wanted recipes to show up clearly.

Here's one for chicken with olives

What's interesting, however, is how it displays in Google search:

Not incredibly exciting, but that will depend on how much data you provide.

Running the recipes through Google's rich snippet tool shows how well it works.

The tool is also handy to check if your site is setup with the "author" attribute for your posts, which you can do via Yoast's SEO plugin

Of course my dieting blog isn't all about recipes and doesn't get that much traffic anyway, but it's still nice to see how using a simple plugin can help with Google and other search engine's understanding what the content is about.



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January 29, 2012

Captain Obvious Says Blogging Regularly Gets Traffic

I posted a few weeks ago about how I was going to go on a diet and change my lifestyle.

Yesterday marked 3 weeks on the diet, so I posted a "status report" / "progress report" (I work in IT - you'll have to excuse the IT-esque terminology!).

What I didn't go into were some of metrics related to my weight loss / diet blogging.

On the podcast Conn and I are going to be talking more and more about sharing tips and tricks with people to help improve their websites. So one of the things we thought we'd talk about was "breathing life into an old blog". My dieting and weight loss blog isn't the case study, but it's still quite interesting to see how traffic etc., on there has developed over the last few weeks.

So a bit of background first.

The site had been left idle for quite some time - there hadn't been a single update since November 2009. It was also running MovableType. Much as I love MT I've been moving all my blogs over to WordPress due to the phasing out of MT development and also it's a lot easier to get a WP based site tweaked quickly and easily.

So I migrated the existing content over to a fresh WP install and gave it a "new coat of paint" with a relatively simple theme from Woothemes. James had done a logo for the old site a couple of years ago, but it had never been used, so he updated it slightly and that gave the site a slightly more "professional" look.

I've had Google Analytics tracking set up since the beginning, so it was simply a matter of adding the correct code into the theme's options (it supports it "out of the box").

I hadn't had Feedburner configured for the RSS feed for some odd reason, so that was rectified.

In terms of RSS traffic the numbers aren't exactly stellar, but they're growing: Feedburner stats January 2012

NB: feedburner wasn't setup before January 2012

What about web traffic? Google analytics stats January 2012 Google analytics stats January 2012

You can click to enlarge the graphic, but the basic metric to note is that since I started posting on there more regularly ie. practically every day, since the beginning of the month the traffic has been going up. I'm cross-posting and sharing the posts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, which is driving some of the visitors, but there's also a few that are following it via RSS, or simply following it without subscribing.

I'm tracking the site's "progress" using multiple tools, but the obvious "take away" is that the more fresh content you produce the more traffic you'll get.

Another one of my sites, for example, has been left on "auto pilot" for the last couple of months and the traffic has dropped quite a bit as a result. There is "fresh" content on there practically every single day, but it's not original, so the search engines aren't giving it much "weight", which makes sense.

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August 12, 2011

Defining A Blog Comment Policy

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word BlogOne of the things I've always loved about blogs and blogging is the discussion and debates that go on in the comments section.

While it can be a bit daunting to keep up with some blogs' comments due to the sheer volume that isn't an issue I normally have to deal with.. though it wouldn't be such a bad problem to have :)

However, as anyone who runs a blog will know, there are a lot of people out there who like to abuse comments to promote themselves or their clients' products. The more obvious ones are easy to categorise as spammers and automated tools like Akismet or Bad Behavior or BlockScript can block a lot of that junk quickly and easily.

But that isn't the only type of spam, and it's also not the only type of abusive behaviour that goes on.

With that in mind I recently published a comment policy for this site. It's based on the one that the company has been using for the last couple of years, but with a couple of tweaks.

Am I missing anything obvious?

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August 11, 2011

Fixing Permalinks With Mod_Rewrite

I've posted a couple of times about the migration from MovableType to WordPress (and all the other moves that preceded it).

One of the things I discovered via the "Redirection" logs was that I was losing quite a bit of traffic due to some "anomalies" and differences between how the permalinks are currently set and how they'd been when the site was using MovableType.

While I might have wanted people and search engines to always refer to posts using something like:


a lot of them had picked up on the index page, so they'd got:


While that was fine in MovableType and would work fine, it was causing me headaches in WordPress, as that was not how I'd setup the permalinks, nor did I want to set them up that way.

I'd also got a few posts that had a completely different URL structure to the rest of the site, which was odd and quite annoying, but again, as MT stored the posts as actual files it didn't matter too much. In the worst case scenario two versions of the same post might be available - and duplicate content will beat a 404 error any day of the week in my book :)

I tried to fix these anomalies, but while I managed to get various wordpress plugins to fix the bulk of them I was still left with a bunch of errors..

So Niall came to the rescue. He's a bit of a wizard with regular expressions and mod_rewrite

Here's the two rules he added that fixed all my problems (or enough of them to keep me quiet - WordPress' insistence on putting apostrophes back into URLs isn't something I can fix easily!):

RewriteRule ^/blog/archives/([0-9]{4})/([0-9]{2})/([0-9]{2})/(.*)/ /blog/archives/$1/$2/$4/ [L,R=301]
RewriteRule ^/blog/([0-9]{4})/([0-9]{2})/(.*).html$ /blog/archives/$1/$2/$3/ [L,R=301]

Thanks Niall!

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August 3, 2011

Do People Still Use Blogrolls? And Would You Want To Be In Mine?

Image by Mike Licht,

This site started out on Movable Type years ago .. When they changed their licensing I switched to WordPress.. And it was on WordPress for a couple of years.. until it wasn't anymore.

So when I switched it to MovableType back in 2007 the "blogroll" I'd been maintaining disappeared, as MT didn't really have a way of handling it (well it did, but it was messy) so I had a couple of links in a widget and that was it.

Now I'm back using WordPress which ships with the option to publish a "blogroll" or any set of links into the site's sidebar. (I've currently got a very very small one .. )

But is there any point?

Do people actually look at them?

Do people want to be included in them?

If I published one would you want to be included? (Assuming I have some idea who you are and actually want to link to you .. )

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July 11, 2011

A Couple of WordPress Plugins and Tips To Help With Migration

WordPress Logo

Image via Wikipedia

Moving from MovableType to WordPress involves a bit of fiddling about with redirects. How much fiddling you need to do will vary on your setup. In my case my MovableType URL structure was based loosely on a WordPress one, as I'd migrated from WordPress to MovableType previously.

Of course if things were that simple life would be a lot easier - and probably a bit more boring :)

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that "simply" redirecting a couple of things wasn't going to work for all posts .. ..

A couple of plugins that helped resolve this (assuming that it is actually resolved):

Redirection - a very powerful suite that logs 404s so that you can redirect on a per page / post / file basis or setup a solution to catch all the issues

Permalink redirect - handy if you need to update your permalink layout and don't want to lose traffic to the old links

For some reason, possibly the settings I had in my MT install, all comments were set to off on the imported posts. This post has a lot of handy tips on opening comments (or closing them) using MySQL ie. directly running queries on the database. A single SQL query is a lot faster than manually updating hundreds of posts!

WordPress SEO - helps with tweaking your WordPress powered site to maximise the SEO impact

WP Super Cache - One of the things I love about MovableType is that you can set it up to write static files so that no matter how much traffic you're getting Apache can do the heavy-lifting and MySQL only gets involved from time to time. Donncha's plugin suite brings sane caching to WordPress and helps make your site a lot more responsive

Subscribe to Comments Reloaded - while a lot of people seem to like offloading this kind of thing onto a 3rd party service I'm more comfortable running the comment subscriptions directly from my own server.

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