Connecting content and the social conversations

Blog comments

A topic Shel and I discuss in this week’s FIR podcast episode 715 is commenting on blogs.

More specifically, about the conversation that can happen in response to a post someone writes and publishes on a blog, and where the conversation actually takes place.

Increasingly, it’s not on the blog itself – it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere across the social web except in the comments section of the blog post that prompted someone to add their two pence-worth.

Here’s an example: as the screenshot above illustrates – from a post I wrote last week about The Sun’s new paywall – there are no comments to the post directly, but ten comments across Twitter and Facebook that reference the post.

You might be wondering how those external comments appear on the blog. They do thanks to a nifty WordPress plugin called Social from Crowd Favorite that automagically finds and connects comments to a particular post where they appear on the major social networks

Actually, that’s not strictly true as conspicuous by its absence is Google+ and any comments about the post anyone makes on that social network. So conversation on Google+ is disconnected from content elsewhere, eg, on blogs.

But now there is one way in which you can connect Google+ to posts on WordPress blogs – albeit not in as integrated a manner as you might wish – via Google+Comments, a WordPress plugin developed by Alex Moss.

What this does is add a Google+ comments area below your post that’s additional to the blog comment area of what shows from a plugin like the Social one I have installed. So it’s a separate area. It’s similar to what you can do with Facebook commenting via plugins.

You can also manually add Google+ comments anywhere to a post, such as within it like this:

Google+ Comments

Powered by Google+ Comments

Try it – leave a Google+ comment!

From what I can understand in how it works, it doesn’t behave like Crowd Favorite’s Social plugin – that brings in links to comments made elsewhere – but is a full-blown comment system, as it were, in which you write and post your comments to Google+ and see related comments others have made on Google+.

I think it’s a good concept and could be a credible complement to third-party commenting platforms like Disqus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate and others, as well as to native blog commenting.

Although I do have the Google+Comments plugin installed and activated, I haven’t enabled it for all posts. Not yet: I want to see how it works in practice, what others do with it and how people feel about it. Plus it look like it has some display/CSS styling issues with how content is presented in this blog.

Until knitting together the online conversation stream becomes more seamless – in essence, joining up all the dots that form online conversations centred on a blog post – and simpler and easier, and doesn’t require workarounds like plugins and other tools and services that perform the necessary connectivity, this at least enables Google+ to be part of the overall conversation.

The nature of commenting has shifted, too, along with the proliferation of places where you can add a quick opinion and the growth of short-form posts that almost resist anything longer than a quick tweet or a Facebook like.

Still, whatever the length of a post and a comment, Google+Comments will likely connect more of the dots. On WordPress blogs, at least.

(Via Debi Davis)

PR blog lists: not so much who, more how

Keep calm, it's not rocket scienceWhat’s the first thing you do when you come across a list of blogs, ranked in an order of some kind with ’1′ being the best ranked?

a). Post comments about the list to highlight the blogs that aren’t in it that you think should be?

b). Look for mention of yourself and, depending on where you find yourself in the ranking, tell everyone?

c). Dismiss it out of hand as being hardly credible – “it’s just a list” – and a waste of time?

d). Look for explanations of the measurement and ranking methodologies to help you decide whether the list is worth your attention or not?

Yes I know, it is a bit of a ‘leading list,’ as it were, contrived a little to conclude with my preference.

But it does seem to me that a-to-c have been the popular choices I’ve seen online recently about a handful of blog lists that have been published this month that rank PR bloggers. I’m included in these lists although that fact has no bearing on why I’m writing this blog post.

Specifically, about these two lists:

1. 60 of the best global PR blogs published by Forth Metrics on July 24. Forth Metrics is the firm behind the Inkybee blogger outreach web service.

60 of the best global PR blogsWhat interests me about this list is the explanation Inkybee goes into on why they came up with it, noting “what this list does do is demonstrate the power of Inkybee to assimilate relevant blogs according to a ‘linguistic fingerprint’ of a subject matter and present them for discussion.”

That sets the scene right away in terms of what to expect. Note the title is “60 of the best global PR blogs” rather than “The 60 best global PR blogs.” Quite a difference.

When you take a look at the version of the list you can manipulate in terms of what it ranks, you can choose to sort the 60 blogs and bloggers listed by overall rank, or by visibility, engagement or relevance. Each of those metrics is explained in the detailed Top 60 Lists: Methodology text.

And note the disclaimer:

We recognise that there is no definitive right answer to “the Top 60? and we’re not saying that the blogs listed are any better than any others not listed. We’re merely using this as a demonstration of Inkybee technology.

Backing that up, Inkybee makes multiples reference to its request for feedback and comments about the list and the methodology, about which there are some thoughtful responses in the blog post comments.

2. Top 50 UK PR Blogs 2013 published by The B2B PR Blog on July 18. The blog is managed by Heather Baker, founder of B2B PR consultancy TopLine Communications.

Top 50 UK PR Blogs 2013I recognize many of the UK blogs and bloggers mentioned.

My first thought was – how did they come up with this list? I couldn’t see any reference to how they did it.

So I wanted to know the research, analysis and ranking methodologies – the more I understood about the background to it, the more it would help me decide whether such a list is worth not only my attention but also referencing it in future and recommending it to others as a ‘good list.’

Heather pointed me to Top 50 UK PR Blogs FAQs, written to explain how they did the list in 2012 (I missed seeing that one), saying that “the methodology was much the same this year.” The FAQ outlines the three steps they took in compiling the list and then ranking it; I found step three being the most interesting:

3. We scored the blogs: We chose to score all 74 blogs [in a long list] on 10 criteria. We’re not going to share the specifics but we will let you know that we chose ten factors (from Alexa ranking to various measures of social engagement) that we know are relevant and we weighted them equally so that no single score or dimension could significantly influence the outcome. However, where two blogs achieved the same final score, we used their Alexa score to order their ranking.

Helpful and it certainly lets me see the list in a better context of relevance.

So, two lists of PR bloggers from two different perspectives.

Both lists are worth my attention as I understand more about how those included in the lists came to be included, as well as knowing a bit about the people and the companies behind the lists.

Which lets me make a point to those who compile such lists – please explain your methodology in detail so that it becomes an easier task to decide whether to give your list any attention or not. You need to do that proactively: don’t wait to be asked about it.

Lists like these would be places I’d include in my research when I’m looking into discovering influencers, for instance, and learning more about them. They’re not the only nor the most authoritative places I’d use, and I don’t limit this to PR blogs and bloggers. But I would certainly have them in my research toolbox.

Here are a few other lists and free resources I use that provide detailed information on  the ‘how’ – thus adding to their credibility and making them worth your attention – or are from sources that have already demonstrated their credibility and trustworthiness:

  • BlogLevel, a blog measurement tool created by Jonny Bentwood at the Edelman PR firm. It offers multiple ranking methods and explains in technical detail (check the equation) how its methodology works. (See also: TweetLevel.)
  • Top 50 Public Relations Blogs from Cision US, updated in June 2013. Predominantly US blogs, some Canadian. I see none outside North America. Cision says: “The list is ranked by user views per month and inbound links, using data from Cision’s media database.”
  • PR Blogs UK Top 10 from Cision UK, updated in January 2013. Cision says: “Cision’s blog ranking methodology takes into consideration social sharing, topic-related content and post frequency. Profiles of these PR Blogs and their authors can be found in the CisionPoint Media Database.”
  • AdAge Power 150. A venerable list started by Todd Andrlk in 2007 that today lists over 1,100 marketing and PR blogs worldwide. It was discontinued this month by AdAge. I think it will have continued validity at least for the rest of 2013 as it was last updated this month. I intend to still use it during this time (I suggest you download an OPML file of all the listings while you can).
  • Influencer-ranking tools and services like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex. Whatever you personally think of these, and the overall concept of influencer ranking, they are useful tools as part of your overall research approach.

What other free resources would you add  – for example, lists that explain their methodology – that you think would be worth paying attention to?

The Google Reader shutdown: Last chance to move on

Just a reminder

If you use Google Reader, you’ll know by now that Google is shutting the service down on July 1. That’s tomorrow.

Since its launch in October 2005, Google Reader became a popular choice for many as the preferred method of subscribing to, reading and sharing information via RSS from blogs and websites.

I’ve had a Google Reader account since its launch, yet I never really used Google Reader. My preference was a desktop reader programme: FeedDemon for Windows. I preferred a tool that ran on the computer I was using and that I could use offline, when there was no network connection – more common than not back in the early days – and that let me do far more than simply subscribe to RSS feeds and read the news. I’ve been using FeedDemon since 2004.

Until relatively recently, you could synchronize FeedDemon content with your Google Reader account. I saw that as the best of both worlds – your content from your RSS feeds available on your computer whether you had a network connection or not, and also access to that content in the cloud (as we now call it), handy when you were using a computer that didn’t have FeedDemon installed.

Over time, Google Reader became a de facto choice – along with other in-the-cloud tools to access, read and share news and information – for increasing numbers of people.

But things move on: new services emerge, we see huge changes in people’s behaviours and the devices we use – more mobile and cloud than desktop – and, according to Google, usage of Google Reader has been declining in recent years.

And now what? Google Reader really will shut down on July 1 and if you haven’t backed up your data yet and set up another service to use, you’re almost out of time.

My recommendation for today – backup your data now; if you haven’t got an alternative ready to move to, you can spend some time choosing one without much worry as long as you have your backup done (unless you just want to start from scratch again).

To do that, go to Google Takeout and follow the simple instructions. It shouldn’t take you long. (But read this too: Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader.)

As for a replacement for Google Reader, you’re spoiled for choice today. Since Google announced last March that the end of Reader is coming, quite a few companies have launched replacements and others with current offerings have stepped up their awareness-raising.

So where should you go? Much depends on what you want from a feed reader. A good start would be comparing what’s on offer. Here’s a handy chart courtesy of MarketingLand:

[Chart] Compare feed readers

Not listed is FeedDemon. I believe it’s still a viable option and I plan to continue using it, especially as developer Nick Bradbury released an update a few days ago.

Yet I recognize the changes I see where the convenience of being able to access your subscriptions from any device, any where and at any time is increasingly compelling, and that makes a program that runs only on a Windows computer – and that you have to install on every computer you might want to use it on – look increasingly cumbersome and unattractive.

So I’ve also been looking at alternatives, not as a migration route from Google Reader but potentially as a complement to FeedDemon. And I’ve yet to discover one that offers me all that I love about FeedDemon and find most useful.

But looking around is what I’ve been doing, and I’ve settled on one attractive and potential choice for me – Digg Reader. It’s in beta and certainly far from perfect at the moment. But I like its look-and-feel simplicity on the desktop a great deal, that mirrors the simplicity and clean look of both Google Reader and of FeedDemon. There is an app for iOS; I’m looking forward to the Android version when that comes out.

Screenshots (click or tap for full-size images) -

Digg Reader beta:

Digg Reader beta

Google Reader:

Google Reader

FeedDemon:

FeedDemon

(It’s funny, I get a sense of dé jà vu looking at all of these products – they remind me of Bloglines, the very first RSS reader I used.)

Still, I’m sticking with FeedDemon on my Windows machines and I will use a cloud-based reader on my mobile (Android) devices such as Digg Reader (and Flipboard, my current favourite reading and sharing tool on Android).

So, do your Google Reader data backup if you haven’t already, and spend a bit of time looking at other options. You have plenty of choice.

Some helpful further reading and reviews:

Last Call: Google Reader Dies Monday, Here Are The Best Alternatives – TechSpot
Top Alternatives to Google Reader Plus Other Discontinued Google Products – Search Engine Journal
Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives – Lifehacker
10 Google Reader Alternatives That Will Ease Your RSS Pain – Gizmodo
Google Reader: what are the alternatives? – The Guardian
FeedDemon 4.5 cuts Google Reader ties, Pro version free for all – GHacks
Getting ALL your data out of Google Reader – persistent.info

Related posts:

WordPress ten years on

WordPressTen years ago, on May 27, 2003, WordPress was released.

It wasn’t the first software that enabled anyone to write their thoughts down and publish them online for the world to see. But its free and open source credentials along with its extensible plug-in architecture made it an easy choice for anyone to start blogging at a time when the landscape was dominated by blogging software and platforms that were somewhat complex to learn and most cost money.

Ten years ago, I was using Blogspot, the paid blogging service from Blogger that was acquired by Google in February 2003. I moved to TypePad in mid 2004 – that site is still live, kept as an archive -  experimented with Movable Type along the way until settling on WordPress in early 2006.

So much has happened in these ten years in a constantly- and rapidly-evolving landscape, one that has expanded massively and globally and that offers would-be content publishers, individuals and organizations, myriad choices of methods to get your thoughts out there, connect with others and join that phenomenal conversation that’s going on.

Pioneers like Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, deserve recognition and thanks for the architecture they have created, upon which you see the many platforms of today.

Among it all, though, WordPress stands out as a worthy example of a real ecosystem – embracing platform, developers, users, fans and critics – that still is true to its original free and open source ideals. That’s crystal clear to see in Matt’s words yesterday extolling WordPress.

And in the practical sense, WordPress is just easy to use: easy to set up, manage, change your blog, add to it, use it on any device… In sum, I love WordPress.

Here’s to noble ideals, great content, conversations and longevity!

Additional reading:

[Later:] Some great metrics on WordPress over the years in this concise infographic from Statista via VentureBeat:

WordPress Turns 10

Related post:

How to secure your WordPress site against hacker attacks

WordPress under attackOne of the easiest content management systems to set up and use is WordPress, the largest self-hosted blogging platform in the world, powering more than 60 million websites worldwide.

That fact may be a key reason why WordPress is in the news right now as the subject of a large-scale attack from a huge number of computers from across the internet  – known as an automated botnet attack – attempting to take over servers that run WordPress.

Some are saying that this current attack is the precursor of a botnet of infected computers vastly stronger and more destructive than those of today. That’s because the servers have bandwidth connections that are typically tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times faster than botnets made of infected machines in homes and small businesses.

WordPress’ popularity comes at a price in a situation like this, as a perceived vulnerability in the platform’s ease of use is weak security by users.

That weak security typically means continuing to use the word ‘admin’ as a user name – this is the default administration account that’s created when you first install WordPress – along with a password that brute-force attempts to guess are likely to succeed, which is what’s happening with this attack.

If you’ve disabled the default ‘admin’ account in your WordPress installation – or, even better, you’ve deleted it – and have something else in its place as the main administrator of your WordPress dashboard, that will likely take you out of the immediate target area of the attackers.

And if you’ve set a strong password – at least eight characters and in a combination of upper- and lower-case letters along with numbers and extended characters – you’re in a good position to be passed by if or when a botnet comes calling at your WordPress front door.

Don’t be complacent, though – this attack serves as a great reminder that securing your WordPress blog or website so that no one can get into it unless they’re invited is something you do need to be sure about.

So what can you do to make your site secure enough right now to deter such attacks in the future?

First, make sure you have the latest WordPress version installed. As of today, that version is 3.5.1.

If you still have an administrative user called ‘admin,’ there are two steps to take:

  1. Create a new admin account with a different name and give it a strong password.
  2. Delete the ‘admin’ user account; during that procedure, you’ll be asked by WordPress which other account should you assign posts, pages, etc, created by ‘admin’ to. Choose the new admin account name you just created.

Next, enable two-step verification for each user in your WordPress account. The simplest such service for a WordPress user to install and implement is the open source Google Authenticator. If you have that enabled for your Google account, or other services such as Dropbox or Amazon S3, then you’ll be familiar with how it works.

WordPress login with Google AuthenticatorAnd you’re in luck for your self-hosted WordPress site as there’s an excellent plugin that sets it up for you – Google Authenticator plugin for WordPress.

Grab it now, either by downloading it from the WordPress plugin repository or installing it via the ‘add new plugin’ function in your WordPress dashboard.

You’ll need the free Google Authenticator app for your smartphone in order to use this security feature. There are versions for Android, Blackberry and iOS.

And if you then follow the excellent “How To Enable 2-Step Authentication On Your Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site” guide published last week by Techfleece, you’ll be up and running in no time with a WordPress site that will give you more peace of mind than you had before.

In my view, this is the bare minimum you should have set up in your self-hosted WordPress site that gives you a good level of security for your peace of mind. It would make it more difficult to hack into your site.

There’s a lot more you can do as well including steps to take to better secure the server on which your WordPress platform is installed. There’s a great tutorial on the WordPress Codex that can tell you more.

Don’t let spammers, hackers or botnets mess up your presence on the web. You can be secure.

This post was first published on the Official WebHostingBuzz Company Blog on April 16, 2013. Founded in 2002, WebHostingBuzz is a web hosting company based in Auburn, MA, USA and in the UK. It offers web hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting services from data centres across the United States and in Europe. WebHostingBuzz is a sponsor of NevilleHobson.com.

If your WordPress site runs at WordPress.com – it’s hosted by that service, not on your own server – follow this guide to set up two-step authentication: Greater Security with Two Step Authentication.

See also:

A fix for Windows Live Writer to ‘see’ a WordPress theme

windowslivewriterI’ve used the Windows Live Writer content creation and publishing tool for blog posts and pages from Microsoft since it first appeared in beta form in the mid-00s. In my experience, it is the best offline blog editor for Windows bar none.

It’s not perfect, mind you, with probably the biggest frustration being that of configuration with a theme on your blog, often manifesting itself  when you change the theme from one to another.

When WLW doesn’t recognize your theme, it means that you don’t get almost-true WYSIWYG when you write or edit content. So you don’t see your writing as you would when the post or page is published on your blog.

It is frustrating when you can’t see what you’ll get either in WLW’s edit mode or, more importantly, in its preview mode. What you have to do is publish the post to your blog as a draft and then view it in preview there if you want to see what it will look like when actually published, before you hit the ‘publish’ button.

What a performance – one that frustrates many bloggers enormously and can seem a huge deal if you do a lot of blogging.

If you search for solutions online, you’ll find no end of suggestions: this one, for instance, which talks about setting a static page – a suggestion I’ve seen quite a bit.

I tried it, but it didn’t work for me for my self-hosted WordPress blogs (meaning, it might with other blog platforms).

I experienced the issue myself this week when I changed the theme of my primary WordPress blog. WLW worked fine with the previous theme, but wouldn’t ‘see’ the new one. As I ‘ve been through this quite a few times before with mixed results on resolving it, I decided to live with it this time after being unsuccessful with the suggested solution I mentioned above.

Yet a thought occurred to me today that, when I tested it out, proved to be a solution to the problem. When writing in WLW, I now see a post as it will closely appear when published as this screenshot shows.

wlwtheme

The fix was very simple. I don’t really know why or how it works but it does.

One thing I noticed when researching a solution this time was references in some of the ideas I encountered to how WLW works when it tries to detect your blog theme.

A common view I saw that was that when WLW publishes a temporary post to your blog as part of its detection process – which, btw, it asks your permission first – it publishes that temp post to the category ‘Uncategorized,’ which is the default category set by WordPress when you first install that platform.

That was the key in my case – the default category was set to something else. Here’s what to do:

  1. In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to Settings -> Writing.
  2. Check in the dropdown list that the default post category is set to ‘Uncategorized.’ If not, select it.
    writingsettings
  3. At the bottom of the page, click ‘Save Settings.’
  4. Then, in WLW, try to detect your blog theme again.

(While you’re on that page, double-check that the check box for ‘XML-RPC’ in the Remote Publishing section is actually checked.)

In my case, it then worked. As I mentioned, I don’t know how or why it worked as ‘Uncategorized’ wasn’t set as the default category with the previous theme I was using: WLW had detected that theme just fine. Maybe it’s something in a particular theme as well.

Still, if you’ve been experiencing this issue, and whatever WordPress theme you have, maybe this fix is worth a try to see if it works where other suggested fixes haven’t.

If it works for you – or doesn’t – I’d love to know.

Incidentally, it looks like the future of Windows Live Writer in terms of Microsoft’s continuing to develop it is in doubt with changes to Windows Live Essentials (the software suite in which WLW forms part). It would be a shame if WLW falls by the wayside in terms of development as blog platforms evolve and become ever more functional, where an offline editor that lets you take advantage of that becomes even more an essential tool.

I’ve always thought that WLW ought to have been an integral element in Microsoft’s Office suite. You can write blog posts in Word (did you know that?)

wordblogpost

A far from satisfactory tool or experience, though, compared to Windows Live Writer.