The new world of social media commenting

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A website used to be a business card in the beginning… then you could find some web apps (especially e-com sites) that “did something”.

On today’s internet social media has taken off. Most sites that offer up content in one form or another (like sports commentary, news sites, blogs, etc…) tend to want your participation. It’s in the interest of most site owners to somehow spark a conversation on a news article in order to keep you coming back.

I personally find some of the conversations on tech and sports blogs/sites to be quite engaging.

However, I’ve become a bit annoyed at some of these sites. Primary reason? Because they still require me to “sign up” to their site in order to comment.
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Google to improve search results and kill content farms!

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I just read an article on CNN’s technology news site that gave me a renewed sense of hope…. well, maybe not hope but let’s just say it left a rather favorable impression on me.

You see I’m one of those people who, from time to time, use search engines quite frequently. Given a technical challenge or some programing quirk that needs solving I often resort to my friends the search engines for help.

Google is generally my tool of choice.

In the last year on several occasions I was attempting to do some research and kept landing on websites that just seemed to me to be utter garbage filled with keywords. I’m sure you’ve heard of “those sites” before. Content farms, link building sites…. yada yada yada. An army of websites filled with so many keywords as a means to build search engine results. Early on these websites were merely keyword filled gibberish…. but as with the evolution of the search engine algorithms used so went the evolution of the fake content spewing software and content farms.

I noticed an increasing number of sites I’d land on were an almost readable slew of textual gibberish.

I found it quite aggravating on a few occasions that so many of these websites were showing up in my search results even when I’d try to modify my search terms. Obviously there was some thought put into the creation of those fake sites to trick both the search engines and the people viewing the results so that they’d land on their websites (often laden with google ads or an equivalent).

But with this news that Google was about to make changes to their search algorithms in an attempt to improve the results. Well, I just had to smile.

As the article does mention, I’m sure some legit sites might rank a bit lower…. but in terms of the usefulness of a search engine, it should be vastly improved.

Merci Google!

Building a WordPress plugin – Useful video

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Recently I’ve been working on a couple of ideas for a WordPress plugin and since it’s something I haven’t done yet, meaning writing a plugin from scratch, I thought I’d do a little research. I’m familiar with Hooks and how filters and actions work…. but I figured a little research would be wise.

Research is always wise. 😉

Found this video and thought I’d share. This is from 2009 but much of what’s discussed is relevant.

My first computer – Tandy 1000

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Anyone remember these things??

I had a Tandy 1000 HX. No hard drive…. and it was in the first wave of computers with the 3.5 inch diskettes.

Used to compose music… really terrible music I should note, on this thing.

Anyone remember the games in this era?? I remember spending so many hours playing the King’s Quest and Space Quest games…. I loved the sense of humor in the Space Quest games.

Here’s a Christmas commercial for the Tandy 1000. I vaguely remember seeing this on TV.

Enjoy!

Google extends free calls to US and Canada

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While this isn’t the newest of news I think it’s certainly worth mentioning.

If you’re a Gmail or gTalk user you’ll be able to take advantage of free calls to the US and Canada. This has been the case previously but Google has announced that they’ll be extending the “free call” period for 2011. And just so you know, those are calls to land lines. So you can call whomever you wish.

I had previously used Yahoo’s calling features in their messenger and had purchased a block of credit (something like $20) which lasted forever since I was only being charged $0.01 per minute for US and Canadian calls.

But this Google offer, I love it. I’ll certainly be using it. However, I should note that I haven’t used it very much but have tested it. Since I always have my Gmail account open and I can fire it up through the browser, it just seems so much more convenient. I’d also think that any “lag” issues would likely match those I had found with Yahoo messenge, that being a slight delay.

First tests were quite successful.

Here’s a TechCrunch article on Gmail’s free US/Canadian calls for 2011.

Unexpected changes and hoping for new opportunities

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I was kind of taken by surprise, well, not kind off… I was really taken by surprise.

I found myself being told that I had to be let go by my employer. Now I want to be clear, I have absolutely no “ill will” for my employer. I love and respect them very much.

It was a case of numbers and you folks who’ve been self-employed or run businesses know that if the numbers don’t match up, then things can’t continue the way they’re going…. something has to change.

So just before Christmas I found myself without work. Thankfully I had my daughter’s Christmas gifts bought and paid for.
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Magento Error: Method Varien_Object::__tostring() cannot take arguments in Magento

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Today, I started backing up a Magento based site that will be moved in coming days. I did a bit of reading around to try to get a feel for what kind of an endeavor this would become.

The process of backing up the database and all web files were quite straight forward (as they should have been).

I decided to attempt the get this version of Magento running on my local dev box using MAMP before setting it on the newer server and repointing the DNS entries. So I imported the database and transfered all Magento files into the web directory.

Following some instructions found in the Magento forums, I modified the /app/etc/local.xml file with the new database settings in my MAMP install.

Then, I changed 2 rows in the core_config_data tables. (more…)

Search result woes when wanting hosting provider reviews on Magento

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I’ve been looking for a host for a Magento eCom site that I will eventually need to move.

While I can find many hosting companies that seem to offer “Optimized Magento hosting” at attractive prices, I’m having a bit of a struggle finding real reviews.

I’ve found some great info over on the Official Magento Boards, but searching for content on blogs or reviews, in my first hour, I’m coming up quite blank. The forums on the Magento site are probably the way to go. I needed some support before on a plugin we used for shipping and got a great response.

Most of my frustration here is due to the fact that there seems to be so many “ghost” sites out there that are tweeked for SEO for these search terms…. and mostly serve up very general info and tons of adds….

Maybe it’s something that I’ll blog about on here. The hosting provider we go with and what the experience is.

How to reset WordPress to default data?

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I’ve had my head in quite a few WordPress based sites as of late. Something I’ve had to do on our development space is setup new WP installs to clear out the settings.

Today, I found “WordPress Reset“, a handy little plugin that allows to wipe out WP content to defaults. If you’ve got multiple themes setup, don’t need to worry…. it doesn’t touch the files at all. It just resets the WP database.

It also saves your admin account.

Check it out.
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Very useful WordPress 3 User Guide

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I’ve recently developped a few sites based on WordPress and have done a bit of training with users on how to administer their websites. Like editing their texts, images, categories, tagging….etc.

So I’ve been thinking about developing a half visual document for them. Something that would contain the generic “Post, Page, Category, Media”…etc. Along with some documentation on installed plugins or theme options which would be a bit different depending on the site.

This morning while doing a quick Google Search, I came across what appears to be a VERY well done WordPress guide and thought I would share.
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