From June 2009

Skype Headset Giveaway Results

skype-logoCongratulations go out to Josh Penrod of Amish Robot for entering our little giveaway and winning the Skype headset and 30 minutes of talk time. We’re looking forward to that “thank you” call Josh. ;)

For all of you who didn’t enter, let this be a lesson to you. Josh only took a few moments to register and post a comment for a chance to win. Now he;s got a sweet Skype headset for his efforts. We expect to see a better turnout for free warez next time.

For those of you who entered this time and didn’t win, keep leaving comments. Next time you could be the winner.

Why Aren't the Dates Showing Up in My WordPress Posts?

If you are a prolific writer you may have this problem: You are looking at your archive, index or search page results and notice that not all your posts are showing their respective post dates.  What’s the deal with that?

The deal is that the WordPress Loop will not print out the same day more than once.  So if you have more than one post for a single day, only the first post of that day will have the post date printed out.  This is a function of the “the_date()” Template Tag.

But there is a very easy solution, fellow bloggers (unless you are such a voracious poster that you post several posts at the exact same time).  Go into you template folder and open up the index.php, archive.php and search.php pages (and any other pages that list out posts).  Within The Loop simply swap out “the_date()” for “the_time().” Assuming your posts don’t have the same post time, each post time will be unique and therefore print out.

Now, use the PHP date formating to configure your prefered date display format and use that for the argument in “the_time().”  For example, let’s say you like the date on your posts to read like so: June 18 , 2009, 6:30 pm. Then you would replace your the_date() with the_time(“F j, Y, g:i a”). And if you don’t want the time shown at all, no problem. Using the_time(“F j, Y”) would produce just June 18 , 2009.

Increase SEO Keywords in your Posts

Here’s another little tidbit I picked up from WordCamp.  This is comes to you from Matt Cutts.  (For credentials, Matt has a Ph.D., has been with Google since 2009 and is currently head of Google’s Webspam team.  So, I trust this tip.)  Granted, this is not a huge thing, but still every little bit helps.  So, here’s how to squeeze every little bit of SEO goodness out of your blog posts.

When you write a new post in WordPress, WordPress usually take the title of the post and uses that as part of the Permalink for the page’s URL.  (I’m assuming you have set up your URLs to contain the post title in there somewhere.  If you haven’t you are probably not into search engine optimization…and this post may not interest you.)  When checking the content of your post page, Google (and other search engines) will look at the URL of the page, items in headers tags (like <h1>, <h2>, <h3>…), links, alt tags…so on and so forth.

One thing that search engines do not do however is look at your page and say, “Wow, this page mentions ‘WordPress’ 88 times.  This page must REALLY be about WordPress and therefore we will rank this one so high for the keyword ‘WordPress.'”  Instead, Google will see “WordPress” mentioned a few times and think, “WordPress.  Got it.  What else?”

So, rather than flood your post with tons of the same keyword – spice it up*.  Specifically for this tip, there’s no reason for the title of your post and the Permalink to be exatly the same.  So, use those two things to add some variation.  Notice what I’ve done here with this post.  The title is “Increase SEO Keywords in your Posts,” wheras the URL is “more-keyword-in-blog-url.”  (I admit my URL looks like a caveman wrote it.  I’m not saying this is a great example; I’m just saying notice what I did. Hopefully you can do it better than I can.)  So in addition to keywords “Keywords” and “Post,” by changing the Permalink, I’ve also told Google and other search engines to also consider “Keyword” (singular), “Blog” and “URL.”

Happy blogging, buddies.

*When you spruce up the keywords in your posts, don’t just run to the thesaurus and toss in a bunch of synonyms.  Yes, you want variation.  But remember, after the search engines look at it, humans have to read it too – so keep it natural.

Skype Headset Giveaway

MySpace IM and Skype HeadsetAt our recent trip to WordCamp San Francisco, we talked with lots of vendors, potential partners and Matt Mullenweg himself.

One of the interesting vendors we talked with was MySpace. It turns out that they’ve got  new WordPress plugin and (like all other social networks) an API for connecting their platform with other platforms. We have one client in particular (Taro Gold – WordPress & MySpace) that uses MySpace as a means to get their books and music some publicity.

Currently the MySpace plugin allows “bloggers and commenters the ability to log in using their MySpace credentials rather than having to set up and remember yet another username and password.” This feature seems kind of trivial, but after talking with the representative, he revealed that they’re working on adding some other features that seem like they might be worth it, such as the ability to cross post between WordPress and MySpace.

While I’m personally not a huge fan of MySpace due to it’s lack of design standards, but I do see the benefit of using it for traffic generation. This is a huge step forward, and for that I commend them.

So what does this have to do with a Skype Headset, and why are we giving it away? Skype has also aparently partnered with MySpace  so that now you can use Skype to make phone calls with your MySpace IM account. MySpace is trying to promote the partnership, so they were giving away Free Skype headsets with 30 minutes of talk time. We picked it up, and while we use skype daily, we thought it would be in the good spirit of WordPress to give back to our community.

So, leave a comment on this post telling us what you’d do with 30 minutes of Skype talk time. We’ll choose a random comment on Friday, June 19th and announce the winner the following Monday.

WordPress 2.8 Available Now

WordPress 2.8 is now available for download!  WordPress 2.8 is nicknamed “Baker” after jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. What you should notice from the begining is that this version of WordPress handles and works faster than previous versions. The nice folks at Automattic attribute this to how they have “changed the way WordPress does style and scripting.”

One of the more prominent upgrades is the Theme browser.  Similar to how they updated the plug-in search and install in a previous version, you can now browse through the entire theme directory.  (These only include themes in the WordPress directory.) They allow you to search by theme attributes such as color, columns, width and features to narrow down your results.  Then you can install your selected theme with one click.  Again, Automattic just making things even easier.

Developers will really appreciate another new feature – syntax highlighting! If you are like me, you tend to make code adjustments in text editors rather than the WordPress admin mainly because syntax highlighting makes coding so much easier. Now you can code right in WordPress easily thanks to the CodePress editor. Furthermore, they have adding in contextual documentation as well as a function look-up that seems super handy.

Another treat for developers is the way they have redesigned the widget interface.  (This is a bit frustrating if you have already taken the time to become proficient at making widgets, but…) This upgrade will allow you to do things like “edit widgets on the fly, have multiple copies of the same widget, drag and drop widgets between sidebars, and save inactive widgets so you don’t lose all their settings.” We (developers) now have access to “a much cleaner and robust API” to help us create our widgets.

Sidebar are now easier to manage as well.  You can manage all your sidebars at the same time rather than having to update each sidebar separately.  Also, if you customize a widget, if you take the widget out of active duty, WordPress will remember the settings you selected for later use.

One nit-picky thing though.  They’ve changed the color scheme in the admin if you are using the Blue Admin Color Scheme.  What was once beautiful and soothing has now become stark and jarring.

For a list of all upgrades and improvments, click here.

Download WordPress 2.8 now (or click the upgrade link in your WordPress admin).

YSlow and Compress Components with GZip

With the Firebug add-on YSlow, one of the components that gets rated is something called Compress components with gzip. When you run YSlow to optimize your website or blog, you may be getting dinged on that component. Here is how to improve your site’s speed a bit – with two huge caveats:

  1. You web server must be running Apache 1.3
  2. Your Apache 1.3 must use mod_gzip

If those two items are true, then to set up gzip compression, paste the following into you .htaccess file**.

<IfModule mod_gzip.c>
mod_gzip_on Yes
mod_gzip_dechunk Yes
mod_gzip_keep_workfiles No
mod_gzip_can_negotiate Yes
mod_gzip_add_header_count Yes
mod_gzip_send_vary Yes
mod_gzip_command_version '/mod_gzip_status'
mod_gzip_min_http 1000
mod_gzip_minimum_file_size 300
mod_gzip_maximum_file_size 512000
mod_gzip_maximum_inmem_size 60000
mod_gzip_handle_methods GET POST
mod_gzip_temp_dir /tmp
mod_gzip_item_include file \.html$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.php$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.pl$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.rb$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.py$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.cgi$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.css$
mod_gzip_item_include file \.js$
mod_gzip_item_include mime ^application/javascript$
mod_gzip_item_include mime ^application/x-javascript$
mod_gzip_item_include mime ^text/.*
mod_gzip_item_include mime ^httpd/unix-directory$
mod_gzip_item_include handler ^cgi-script$
mod_gzip_item_include handler ^server-status$
mod_gzip_item_include handler ^server-info$
mod_gzip_item_include handler ^application/x-httpd-php
mod_gzip_item_exclude mime ^image/.*

If all goes well, you should now get an A for Compress components with gzip*.

*If you don’t get an A, (gzip-compress) it is likely due to the fact that you are calling in external files like JavaScripts, style sheets or images. If that’s the case, you are out of luck unless you have some control or influence over the external file.

**If you do not have an .htaccess file in you file system, you can create one. Simply create a file called “.htaccess” in your web root. Open the file in your favorite editor and paste in the code above, save and close. Sometimes, the .htaccess file is hidden from view. If so, you may need to turn on a toggle for “Show Invisible Files” or something similar in you FTP application or Web File Browser.

Speed Up Your Website or Blog with YSlow

Brandon and I just got back from WordCamp in San Francisco. Boy howdy did we learn a lot of great tips and tricks for WordPress (and met a lot of great new people!).  One of the speakers I saw was Steve Souders, an originator of something called YSlow. So, here’s the first tip I’ll clue you in on – YSlow. YSlow analyzes your website and give suggestions for ways to improve the speed and performance based on a set of rules for high performance web pages.

YSlow is a Firefox add-on integrated with the Firebug web development tool.  So, right off the bat, we’ll need two things.  One, you need to be on FireFox (sorry, IE users, but it’s time to upgrade anyway).  If you don’t have it, get it here.  Next, you’ll need to install Firebug. (It’s easy, FireFox does most of the work for you.)  Finally, install YSlow.

Once all that is set, running YSlow is super easy.

  1. Load the page you want to inspect (in FireFox, of course).
  2. Click the YSlow icon in the bottom bar of the browser (YSlow Icon).

When loaded, you’ll get a letter grade for each “speed element” as well as an overall grade for the speed of the site.  (See a snipit below)  With each of the speed elements, there are tips on how to improve the grade.  In just a few minutes I took from an “E” graded site that took 6-7 seconds to down load to a “C” graded site that loads in about 2-3 seconds!  Some of element are beyond your control, but there are a lot of good little tidbits in there to help you speed up your site.

You’ll even see a quick stat for each page load in the bottom right corner of the browser like so YSlow Stats.  This gives you the overall grade of the site, the size of the load and the time of the load.  What you see there is the new and improved

Happy optimizing!

YSlow Snipit