Fall in love with WordPress again with WordPress 4.0

Hello!

So as I said, hello! I wanted to make an entrance, since it has been 7 weeks since I wrote an article!

I also wanted to show off how brilliant WordPress 4.0 is, by adding a YouTube video. I literally just added the URL to the post and voilà, the video appears then and there in WordPress as I am writing this article. No need to preview the post or wait for it to go live, I add the URL and the video is there straight away!

Why that video though? Well I am back, and WordPress has just been given a bit of rejig with the release of 4.0 – named Benny.

So, we are going to save the world and their will be a good dose of cool cars, gadgets and weapons, mixed with a bit of humour along the way.

Alright, this is quite tenuous, maybe I just wanted to put the video in because I could. I did because I could.

It’s all well and good being serious with this blogging malarkey, but one needs to let ones hair down once in a while, and a funky friendly post is a good way to do that. Probably.

WordPress is fantastic. In my humble opinion, no other blogging platform comes close, let alone another free, open source one!

This is a bit of a non-post of ramblings, but trust me, there is better stuff to come.

You are still reading anyway, aren’t you?

Bring The Girls Back

nigerian girls

The kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls has caused outrage across the world, and thousands of websites have articles about this event. The articles are illustrated by photos of the girls, or of girls anyway, and it is the use of these photos that I want to address today.

If you do a search on the story you find many many photos, and many different stories. But the truth about these photos is that many of them are not photos of the girls in this school. Now we might say oh yes the photos are just to make the post look nice, for effect, an African school child crying to help the cause. But I think we should go further than this, they are real people and they are being exploited, it is misrepresentation.

If we start with this article from the New York Times we read an interview with a photographer who took some of the pictures that have “gone viral” in the publicity surrounding the Nigeria girls. The photographs were used for the Bring Back our Girls twitter campaign, and I am not for any moment suggesting that the campaign has anything but good motives, but the people in the photos have nothing to do with the school, the girls or even Nigeria.

The girls live in Guinea-Bissau, which is like using a school girl from London to show the degradation of inner city Milan. It is misrepresentation. These girls have families and lives of their own, suddenly they represent the horror of kidnapping and possibly slavery or forced marriage, how would you like it if it was your daughter or sister (or mum, the photos could be old)?

And also the misrepresentation goes further. The author of the images did not want to show these horrors, she wanted to show the beauty of the child, or many other aspects of the composition. She finds her photo used to depict something that it was never meant to be, and with the possible addition of a few ‘photoshopped’ tears anything is possible.

If we go to the Facebook page of the same organization we find a series of schoolgirl photos, but they are all very different. In one we see a group of girls in Muslim dress in a poor rural school, but in the next we see a well cared for classroom with a shelf full of DVD’s Christmas decorations and girls dressed in school uniforms. Which one really represents the realities that these girls live in?

If we go to this Nigerian site we see another group of once again differently dressed girls and women in a much less rural setting that that depicted in the only photo from the Facebook page that contains any information at all, a photo of the school sign that the girls were taken from. My understanding of this area of Nigeria leads me to assume that this is a completely false depiction too, just another group of girls (possibly) walking to school somewhere (maybe) in Nigeria.
And I don’t want to go on but the list is endless, hundreds of photos of African schoolgirls.

Now I don’t want to come across as too critical here, I am a blogger and writer myself as you know and I put images into my stories. I am sure NASA would not be too pleased if some jumped up blogger was using on of their images to demonstrate the problem of space junk, but is that the same as using photos of real people doing things that really are not related to the story in question, particularly when the story is as terrible as this one? I am sure that all of the people that have written these stories have done so for the right reasons, we all want to get the girls back, and the Internet is our means, but we must try not to do it at the expense of falsely depicting others.

I have another post here you might like to read about mistaken identity through the circulation of a photo via digital media, the story contains many similarities.

Writing frequency

Today I pose a question: is it possible to blog on a daily basis?

It is easy to ‘scrape’ content on a daily basis, but can you write and publish a really good post every day? Jonny seems to have publishing weekly down to a tee, every week we get something new and thought provoking. 4 to 5 posts each month, every month.

I have a more erratic style of publishing, 2 posts in January, 5 in December, 1 in November, 3 in October, 5 in September, none in August – you get the picture.

I like to spend a lot of time on articles. I usually do a lot of research and background reading to try and put together an interesting, factually sound piece of work. I am a little bit of a perfectionist, which is sometimes really good, but it can be annoying. If I care about something, I like to put a lot of work into it. I care for this blog, so I want every post to be really good. Not every post I publish has or will be really good. I need to face the facts.

So, I as I am writing this I am setting myself a challenge. Write an article at least once a week and hit publish. No faffing around, just write a post and publish it every Monday.

A blog needs posts. I need to be consistent.

See you next Monday.

Over and out.

404 pages can be fun

The value of a good 404 page is often underrated and with so much competition on the web, it’s important to ensure that your 404 page stands out from the rest.

Many users are unsure of the purpose or role of a 404 page and are likely, when coming across one, to leave the site. In order to protect yourself there are some steps you can take against this.

What are 404 pages

A 404 page is what a user sees when a page on a website it not available because the requested page could not be found on the server of the website they are looking at. This could be because the page they are looking at has been removed, or because they typed the URL wrong.

Be helpful

Rather than assuming the your visitor understands the issue and knows how to resolve the problem, give them plenty of options to use to help navigate to the page they need. Ideas include a search bar, home page link and links to other popular articles on the website, they will have plenty of options for continuing across your website.

Be funny

Many websites choose to add a bit of humour to their 404 pages. This can help to manage a situation that could otherwise be annoying for visitors. Jokes in reference to the error will usually be successful as it shows that the website acknowledges the hassle and is attempting to compensate for it.

Stay on-brand

It’s too easy to create a generic 404 page, but they can be used as a fantastic opportunity to re-establish your brand and voice. Using the colours and fonts most closely associated with the company will reassure those customers are confused, while also keeping them on track with the company message.

Here are some examples of interesting 404 pages.

BBC 404 page

The BBC’s 404 page

The BBC offer an iconic image and some useful suggestions.

Virgin's 404 page

Virgin Travel‘s 404 page

Virgin doesn’t let 404’s get in the way of businesses, its 404 pages let customers search for cruise holidays!

Technology Bloggers 404 page shows a HTML hole (it’s just an image!) and gives some helpful suggestions.

How Much Freedom Does the Internet Bring You?

On the surface Internet living seems to bring a great deal of freedom to many different parties. Last month for example I posted from the USA, Italy and the UK, we can work from home, buy direct and have access to all kinds of information.

This might make us feel that the web itself creates freedom, or that it is free to operate as we wish. I am not so sure that this is the whole story however, and others agree.

How much freedom of speech really exists?

How much freedom of speech really exists?

Last week Security technologist Bruce Schneier gave a talk as part of the TEDx Cambridge series. Schneider is very interested in security and perceptions of security as this previous TED video shows, but last week’s talk was different.

He took the problem of Internet freedom as his topic, and raised some very interesting arguments. The following quotes are taken from his speech as reported on our local Boston.com website:

“Which type of power dominates the coming decades? Right now it looks like traditional power. It’s much easier for the NSA to spy on everyone than it is for anyone to maintain privacy. China has an easier time blocking content than its citizens have getting around those blocks.”

We can see that there is some evidence to support this case, if we look at this article that appeared in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. It recounts the tale of Google pulling out of China because they no longer wanted to censor their searches. Google chose to redirect users to their non censored search engine based in Hong Kong. The Chinese government managed to block the results anyway, so users were left in the same position as before, no access to the information.

If we take a broader look though we find that it is not just China but other countries that are making repeated requests for Google to censor their content. CNN report the revelations of the recent Google Transparency report, where Canada, France, the UK and the USA feature strongly in the league of requested censorship. The report is here, easy to follow and a 5 minute thumb through might change your ideas regarding freedom and regulation on the web.

Just yesterday Linkedin announced that they challenging the US government over data requests. US organizations are allowed to publish the total number of data requests, but cannot break the figure down to reveal the number made by security services. Linkedin say this legal situation makes no sense, and many other companies agree. Read about it here.

“Cyber criminals can rob more people more quickly than real-world criminals, digital pirates can make more copies of more movies more quickly than their analog ancestors. And we’ll see it in the future. 3D printers mean control debates are soon going to involve guns and not movies.”

Just this week The Independent ran a story about Europe’s criminal intelligence agency that is fighting unprecedented levels of crime across several fronts as gangs capitalise on new technology. We are not talking about a few individuals hacking into the odd bank account here and there, we are looking at the new form of organized crime. A multi billion dollar industry in Europe alone.

The gun reference is of course to the distribution of plans for a 3D printer manufactured gun. Read about it here.

Caution in cases of political dissent

Caution in cases of political dissent

Much has been written about how Facebook and other interfaces have the power to democratize society, and their potential to promote revolution. The so-called Arab Spring is often given as an example, but as well as dissidents using Facebook to organize protests, the Syrian and other governments also used Facebook to identify and arrest dissidents.

There are plenty of examples. Here is an article about 3 Moroccan activists who were arrested for their comments criticizing governments at that time. One used a Wikileaks type platform, another Facebook and the third Youtube. They were all arrested and charged with various and sometimes unrelated crimes.

I wonder where they are now?

Goodbye CommentLuv

“…blogging has changed, and the blog itself is no-longer where many people read and interact. Read in the feed and comment on social media. Blogging is still there, but I think comments are slowly dying…

A feed and social profile were luxuries years ago, however now it seems they are part of blogging itself – if you don’t have them do you have a blog at all?”

That is a quote from a comment I left in June this year.

Digital media explorer Ari Herzog has noted how blog comments are evolving, and he now offers his readers the ability to leave a comment via the standard (vanilla) WordPress commenting system, as well as via Facebook and Google Plus.

Blogging is still very much alive, however as my opening quote suggests, the way authors go about publishing content and how readers then go abut digesting and debating this, has changed significantly in recent times.

CommentLuv

Just over two years ago I wrote a post detailing why you should use the CommentLuv plugin. Today very few 0f the reasons I state still hold true.

I have now deactivated CommentLuv on Technology Bloggers for these simple reasons:

Two comments with CommentLuv links

Two great comments with irrelevant CommentLuv links.

  • CommentLuv looks messy – take a look at the two comments to the right. They are both great comments, but they are followed by an untidy, irrelevant link. If someone is interesting in your site, they will check it out anyway.
  • CommentLuv promotes spam – having looked through our comments, very few of our genuine visitors actually take advantage of CommentLuv, yet almost all the spam comments we get include a CommentLuv link.
  • CommentLuv increases load time – you know how obsessed I am with speed, so much so, any plugin which significantly impacts load time is now under scrutiny. CommentLuv is quite a heavy plugin which I have found has a big impact on page load time, and that extra lag isn’t justifiable for what it offers.
  • CommentLuv is bad for SEO – one of the key things Google has been clamping down on of late is irrelevant links. If you run a site about lawnmowers, and you have a large number of links coming from a technology website, it probably doesn’t do you any favours. Similarly, if I have written an article on something tech related, comments with random links introducing irrelevant keywords, dilute the content and probably don’t do my article any favours.
Google SEO chart

CommentLuv is arguable bad for SEO.

CommentLuv was once a great plugin, but its time has passed. The web is changing, blogging more so than ever, so it is time to say goodbye to CommentLuv.