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October 2010

15 posts from September 2010

Dear Facebook, can you PLEASE give us notifications for new Page comments/links?

Dear Facebook,

Can you please help us out here?  You see, we've come to understand that so much of the conversation these days is happening within the pretty walls of your garden. We like it.  We write there. We play there. We post photos. All is happy.

Some of us have even created Facebook "Pages" for various parts of our lives.  We've created Pages for our businesses or employers, schools, churches, community groups, bands, bars, blogs, causes, projects and pretty much anything else we want to promote.  I've done it myself for a book I wrote and also maintain my employer's Page (Voxeo).


Here's the problem.  There are certain <expletives deleted> unethical people who believe that they have a right to fill up your Facebook Page with links to whatever products or services they are paid to shill.  So they find your Facebook Page and leave posts on your Wall or add them as Links.

They are slimy spammers - and their garbage pollutes our Page and detracts from the conversations we want to have.

Sure, we as "Page administrators" can remove the postings to our Page, BUT WE HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT THEM FIRST!

This is the crux of the problem.  After all this time, you still don't provide any way for us to know when someone has posted something to our Page.  Sure, you give us a weekly email summary of the activity on our pages... but that doesn't really help us know what has been posted.

We have to keep going to back to each Page and checking now and then to make sure spammers aren't polluting our page!

facebookemail.jpgBut what I don't get, dear Facebook, is why this is so hard to do... I mean, you send email notifications for practically everything else that goes on within your pretty walls!  Most of my personal email inbox these days seems to be filled up with various notifications of who commented on what and who wrote on my wall and who sent me this and who did what to whom...

In fact, I can even get all those notifications by text message and receive them "in the moment" on my mobile phone.

So you are already notifying-us-to-death, Facebook... but why can't you give us the one notification that we as content creators within your walls really need?   I mean, part of the point of Pages seems to be so that we'll buy ads to promote our pages and get more "Likers" (side note: what the heck was wrong with "Fans"? It was so much easier to say).

So if we're creating pages to then create ads to then give you MONEY, wouldn't it make sense to help us out a bit?

Just send us yet another notification or text message whenever someone posts something new to our Pages.  Can it really be that hard for you to do?

Thanks for listening (or not),


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Recommendations for a WordPress Hosting Provider?

wordpress.jpgAt the very severe risk of opening myself up to endless spam comments from a zillion people trying to get me to buy their hosting services... I want to ask you, dear readers and friends, a simple question:

Who do you recommend for hosting WordPress sites?

For some time now I have been unhappy here on TypePad... many reasons, some of which I've written about and others that I started writing about earlier this week... and then SixApart dropped the news that it had been acquired - and I seriously wonder what kind of investment TypePad will really get. But that's for another post...

Anyway, I'm finally gearing up to bite the bullet and move over to WordPress, a platform I use daily and have become extremely pleased with. I looked at and in fact have a couple of smaller experimental blogs there... but it is too limiting for someone like me. So I need to go self-hosted.

Type "WordPress hosting" into Google, though, and you get a zillion entries... everybody and their brother, sister, mother, father, aunts and uncles seems to be in the game.

In doing some research, I'd narrowed it down to a few services... and was pleased to see them listed on when I found that site.

Here's what I want:

  • EASY INSTALLATION - I want to just make a couple of clicks and have WordPress up and running... I don't want to download it, set up MySQL, do the Apache config, etc. Been there, done that... I'm looking to write, not administer.

  • MULTI-SITE - I have a network of blogs... I need a hosting provider that supports WordPress 3.0 in its full MultiSite usage.

  • EASY UPDATES AND PLUGIN INSTALLATION - WP 3 has all sorts of great ways to update the system, install plugins, update plugins... I want to use all that WP goodness. (I don't want to be waiting for a provider to have the latest and greatest version available. I want to get it all direct after install.)

  • DOMAIN MAPPING - It goes without saying that I want to map all my various domains to WP in MultiSite mode.

  • BACKUPS - While I'll make my own backups, I want the provider making backups, too.

  • COMMAND LINE - Having said all the "easy installation" stuff, I do want to be able to ssh into the server and muck with it if I want or need to. In fact, I'd potentially like to be able to run python scripts for Tropo apps on it. I may want to run other software, too.

  • RELIABILITY, SCALABILITY, SECURITY, STABILITY - It should go without saying that I want all of these traits in a hosting provider, too.

  • OUTSTANDING SUPPORT - I work for a company that provides hosting for communications apps. We provide an insanely high level of customer support (in fact, we call our teams "Customer Obsession Teams")... our team have set a high bar for me personally... so I'm looking for a provider who can give a high level of rapid response, assistance, etc.

And naturally, I don't want it to cost an enormous amount. I kind of like what MediaTemple offers... although some of the others out there have better pricing... what do you all think? If you do self-hosted WordPress, who do you use? Why did you choose them? Any other criteria you would add to my list above? (Feel free to email me if you don't want to post public comments.)

Thanks in advance... and naturally I'll be chronicling my move from TypePad over to WordPress... from everything I've read there are parts of it that will be potentially quite painful. :-(

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Ragan's "WordPress for Business" Webinar - Oct 21

raganwordpresswebinar.jpgWant to learn about how to set up a corporate blog using WordPress? Want to find out how you can get involved with social media on a limited budget?

I'm not usually one to promote commercial webinars on this site... in fact, I don't think I've ever done it before. But I'll make an exception for Ragan's "WordPress blogging for business" webinar coming up October 21, 2010, from 2-3:15 US Central time.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. I'm a huge fan of WordPress, have built Voxeo's multi-blog portal on WordPress and maintain a blog about using WordPress for business.

  2. Because I'm a heavy user of WordPress, I want more people to use WordPress for business... the more business users of WordPress there are, the more plugins will be written that are business-focused, the more tips will be shared, the more consultants will be able to specialize... etc, etc.... it's one of those opportunities like the Apache web server where all win by the collective usage and sharing.

So I applaud Ragan for running this webinar. It's not free, but at $99 it's not expensive, either. The agenda also look great:

  • Use the right strategy to name the blog—using a subdomain or a separate URL
  • Install WordPress software using or
  • Customize your blog's settings and create various user profiles
  • Find the best plugins for your blog's needs
  • Create your keyword publishing guide through search optimization strategies for blogging
  • Design a publishing calendar to keep your blog relevant, interesting and useful
  • Establish and publish a blog comment moderation policy
  • Know how and when to participate as publisher and commenter
  • Sprinkle social media content throughout the blog
  • Use Google Analytics to measure blog traffic and activity

If I were giving this webinar that is the kind of agenda I'd choose.

Now, I'm going out on a limb here a bit as I don't know the presenter, Pete Codella... I've never heard him before and so I have no idea how good he may or may not be. Ragan is NOT a non-profit, though... they need to keep their lights on, so I'm going to assume that Monsieur Codella is a good presenter.. his bio seems solid, too.

Anyway... if you are interested in potentially using WordPress for your blog site, do check out this webinar.

Disclosure: I have NO financial connection to Ragan Communications and they have no clue that I am writing this post. I should note, though, that they are one of the sponsors of the "For Immediate Release" podcast to which I contribute weekly reports. I do not, however, receive any financial compensation for my involvement with FIR. I just think this is a cool webinar that Ragan is offering.

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Novelty trumps production values - for a while (the maturation of new media and video)

Video Camera

A few weeks back, Mitch Joel wrote a great post on his blog called "Online Video Can Kill Your Credibility" that really asked those of us involved with video online to step up our game a bit and really look at how to make better videos.  Mitch, who admittedly does not create video himself, pointed out that with the sheer volume of videos being uploaded daily we need to look at how to improve the production so that our videos stand out.  He offered several suggestions, of which I'll point out:

  • AUDIO - It has always amazed me how incredibly important audio is to video. Mitch has a number of good pointers here.

  • LIGHTING - This may be obvious, but it's a point that people so often don't pay enough attention to - make sure you have good lighting!

  • BACKGROUNDS - It does matter what is behind you. Does it support your story? Or does it at least not detract from your story? (i.e. do people watching your video spend their time trying to figure out what the big orange thing on your shelf is?)

I agree with Mitch on the value in Steve Garfield's great book, Getting Seen - and I in fact recorded a video review about the book.

However, I'm not sure I entirely agree with Mitch's overall view that without improving production values your videos are doomed to die.

It all depends upon your audience.

It may be that the format for your videos may be perfectly fine as the "man-in-the-street" form with quick interviews taken with a Flip camera and rapidly posted. It may be that your video shot in your messy office fits in with the theme of the show.

Or not.

Mitch's post is a great reminder of the natural evolution that occurs in every "new media" as it matures into just "media". Go back to the mid-80s when the Macintosh first came out and brought everyone into the world of "desktop publishing". Do you remember the "ransom note publishing" that ensued when everyone started throwing a zillion fonts on a page just because they could? Do you remember how many horrid looking documents were created? Over time, though, people learned to use the tools better and expectations were raised for a higher level of document.

Similarly, back in the early '90s when the Web was brand new, pretty much everyone had to connect in to a server and edit HTML files by hand. The fact that you HAD a web site was the huge deal - so people didn't care as much about what it looked like. Over time, expectations have been raised and (thankfully!) many of the atrocious sites have been left back in the 90's.

Ditto podcasting... back in the early 2000's when podcasting first appeared it was perfectly fine if someone just turned on the microphone and pressed record. It was a new, joint experiment and any podcast was cool... ditto video podcasts...

Novelty trumps production values.

To Mitch's point, though, there comes a point in time when the "new media" is so commoditized that higher quality content does rise and get greater visibility. It is up to all of us who create video to take a look and ask ourselves - what will we do to stand out from the competition? How will you improve the quality of what you are doing?

I know what I want to do with my show - what are you going to do with yours?

P.S. And yes, we're in this funny state where you don't want to improve your quality too much or people see it as "too commercial" and "not authentic" - there's a balance in there somewhere... that will undoubtedly change over time as well.

Note: Photo courtesy of pursuethepassion on Flickr.

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Open Facebook alternative Diaspora launches "Developer Release"

diaspora.jpgToday Diaspora, the open source project aiming to build an "open" social network along the lines of Facebook, released its "Developer Release" to the public. You may recall back in May when the 4 NYU students behind Diaspora just happened to tap into a moment of anti-Facebook rage and announced their effort to build "the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network".

They provided a couple of updates over the summer (one of which I wrote about) and now they announced that their code is available for download at:

Now, there IS a big caution - the code is by their own acknowledgement very much "pre-alpha"... meaning "don't expect to use this in production or even for it to work". :-)

The installation process is not for the non-tech-savvy, either... it involves downloading and installing various parts and pieces to get everything on your system that you need. This is primarily a release to get their software out there and let other people hack away on it and contribute back to the effort.

It's very cool to see this milestone and I'm looking forward to see how the project evolves now that the code is out in the public sphere. Great stuff!

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The "New Twitter" web interface - will you use it?

The big news in the Twittersphere today (hastag #newtwitter) and predictably all over Techmeme) is the "New Twitter" web interface announced by Evan Williams last night and described in a blog post and a web site which includes this video that briefly shows the new UI (possibly the longest build-up I've seen in a bit!):

This new user interface will be rolled out to Twitter users in stages over the next few weeks.

In looking at the screenshots and video it looks like a slick new UI, very much along the lines of how the new "official" Twitter client for the Ipad looks. It hasn't been rolled out to my Twitter account yet, but the question I wonder about is:

Will I ever use it? (i.e. do I even care?)

You see, I'm apparently in the 22% of active users who do NOT use regularly (per the reverse of Evan Williams' tweet). I do pretty much ALL my tweeting from either:

  • TweetDeck on my laptop or home computer
  • TweetDeck on my iPhone
  • TweetDeck or the "official" Twitter client on my iPad

I pretty much never go to outside of occasionally going to check if a post made it there if there was some question with regard to the Twitter API.

Don't get me wrong... I think it's very cool that Twitter has done this update for the 78% of active users who apparently rely on the site. I'm just wondering how useful or not I'll find it.

What do you all think? Do you use or a third-party client? Do you have the "New Twitter" UI yet? Like it? Will it make you switch to using the website more?

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Brogan is right - the "Editorial Calendar" WordPress plugin truly rocks!

On Friday I saw Chris Brogan's post "Use an Editorial Calendar" and immediately had to go check out the plugin's page.  Chris is right on target... this is definitely an awesome plugin!  I now have it running on Voxeo's blogs and on the VOIPSA blog and so far have been quite impressed.

Now, much of the time my posts across my various blogs react to current issues or to topics I've had brewing for a while.  But in some cases, particularly the Voxeo blogs, I've wanted to apply some more discipline to the writing to ensure that I am in fact getting out posts with a regular frequency.  I like the fact that with this plugin I can simply get a quick view of what is currently scheduled and know when it would be good to target some more posts:


It's also great that directly from the interface you can create new posts (or at least stubs for new posts).  If you are laying out a campaign tied to an announcement or theme, this is a very easy and graphical way to lay out your post schedule.

I also like the fact that you can go back historically and see the flow of when you posted in a nice calendar format... complete with the names of the post authors (a setting you have to enable but is well worth it in multi-author blogs).

I'm very much looking forward to working with this plugin more - and wish there were something like that for here on TypePad (where this blog and Disruptive Telephony are located).

The folks at Stresslimit also put together this video screencast introducing the plugin - good stuff!

The WordPress Editorial Calendar Screen Cast from Zack Grossbart on Vimeo.

If you use WordPress you can find more info about the Editorial Calendar on its plugin page and can install it either from there or from directly inside of WordPress if you are set up that way.

Thanks, Chris, for recommending the plugin and thanks to the Stresslimit team for making it available!

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Is it e-book? e-Book? eBook? ebook? Ebook? EBook?

Anyone else wondering when we will all standardize on what we call an electronic book?  I routinely see some or all of:

  • e-book
  • e-Book
  • eBook
  • ebook
  • Ebook

I haven't personally seen "EBook", but I could imagine that being a candidate, too.  What do you all think?  Which one should we use?

P.S. Of course, some 30-ish years in, we still don't know whether it's "e-mail" or "email" :-)

One simple reason why O'Reilly ROCKS when it comes to e-books

Ever since getting my iPad, I've been starting to buy more e-books and reading them on the iPad.  I've bought them directly in iTunes and also from other different vendors.  Today I was reminded again why O'Reilly & Associates continues to be such a great publisher to buy from... here's the email I received:


A simple email letting me know that an updated version of the ebook is available for download - and what was fixed.  I've received this now for several of the ebooks I purchased for them.  It's wonderful customer service and makes me want to buy from them again!

Great work, O'Reilly folks!

P.S. Disclosure: O'Reilly hasn't paid me for this blog post nor do they have a clue I'm writing it. I just like their products and service.

What is Your Backup Plan for Your Blog?

Off-site backup for Dallas companiesWhat is your backup plan if the platform you use for blogging suddenly... disappears?  What if the provider just shuts down one day? with no warning?  What if they have a server failure and your blog(s) go offline... and may be offline for some period of time?

How quickly would you be able to get back online?

And how quickly can you have your content back available - with correct URLs?

As folks who blogged at discovered this past week, you may not have a whole lot of time to figure this out... thankfully they at least have most of a month and some easy transition tools... but other users on other platforms may not be so lucky...

But what is your backup plan?  Do you have one?  If not, perhaps it might be time to think about it?

(Next post, I'll share some of my own backup plans...)

Photo attribution: alexmuse on Flickr

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