Always Get Better

Archive for November, 2008

The Net is Recession-Proof; Hire a Blogger

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

An interesting article at the Silicon Alley Insider today – recession winners are designers and SEO experts.  Advertising is tricky for businesses because dollars spent can’t always be tracked to dollars earned.  When it comes to designing a web site I like to go with the analogy of a salesperson.  A web site is like an employee who works 24/7, can serve unlimited numbers of customers, and remembers everything they are told about every product.  Every dollar spent on a corporate web site is returned to the company passively over time – and as the site ages and grows in traffic, its value continues to increase.

Those are interesting elements to keep in mind when making purchasing decisions.  As we head into hard times it is more important than ever for businesses to connect to their customers in real and organic ways – social networking is the tool for the job.

For the best bang-for-the-buck, look for companies to increase efforts at creating and maintaining blogs either through the acquisition of in-house writers or by outsourcing to professional bloggers.  Blogs are search-engine darlings, but their real power lies in the fact that people are not just visiting blogs – they are reading them and participating in discussion.

Any company that has not yet begun to consider the benefit of the blogging medium to increase their brand awareness is going to find themselves left behind like the dinosaurs of the industrial revolution.

Improving WordPress Page Titles

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

Anyone half-serious about running a large blog knows that search engine ranking is critical to getting properly indexed. Over 90% of the traffic to Always Get Better originates from search engine traffic – therefore the ease of which Google (among others) is able to index this site is the life-blood of its continued success.

WordPress is a terrific platform with out-of-the-box support for many of the critical elements necessary for site building: CSS layouts, RSS feeds, track backs. But the glaring problem with WordPress is the default title format: “Blog Name > Blog Archive – Post Title”. What is that!?

Many search engines only catalogue the first several characters of web page titles. If the title of your post is at the end of the page title, it may get cut off in favour of your blog’s name!

The simple solution is to reverse the code as explained at the WordPress garage (and quoted below for convenience):

You can switch it through the use of plugins, but if you want to avoid using another plugin you can fix this in the header.php file. Find the code that starts with <title>, and replace what is currently there with this:

<title><?php if ( is_single() ) { ?> <?php wp_title(''); ?> &raquo; <?php } ?><?php bloginfo('name'); ?></title>

Losing Weight with Wii Fit

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Let’s start with the conclusion – I lost weight with Wii Fit.  We bought the system in September and my progress has gone like this:

September: First month
October: Down 7 pounds
November: Down 7 more pounds

So to date I have lost about 14 pounds in two months.  Not bad, considering I didn’t really do much else.  That puts me now at my lowest weight in about five years, and all of my clothes are baggier.

Ah, but there is a catch.  In addition to using Wii Fit, I made (and stuck to) a meal plan which included no soft drinks or fast food.  I did not increase my activity levels though.  I basically just improved my eating and used the Wii balance board to monitor daily changes in my weight.

For anyone considering buying the Wii Fit, I would advocate the idea that it should be thought of as a tool and not as a gym.  The software does a great job in getting people off the couch and having fun, but it certainly doesn’t come close to the benefit one would get from actually going outside and walking around.

The real power of Wii Fit is in its ability to track changes in weight over time.  Seeing tangible results on the graph and experiencing spikes in weight due to late-night snacking gave me immediate feedback on my progress.  I found that made all the difference in finally getting me onto a healthy diet.  My next task is to increase my physical activity – maybe I will actually tone up a little.

Removed Login Link from Drupal Site

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

In Drupal it is possible to remove the login option from the site template by using the Blocks tool in the administration.  If you do this, you won’t be able to log in from the regular page template.

Logging in is still possible and easy.  Just add the querystring: ?q=user to call up a login prompt.

Slogan Not Appearing on Drupal Site

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

A common issue faced by theme developers is that of the site slogan not appearing even when the variable $site_slogan is present.

The site slogan is disabled by default.  To turn it on in Drupal 6.6 go to the Theme selection list and choose Configuration.  The site slogan is one of the checkboxes available on the left-hand side.

The same thing might have to be done in the theme-specific settings to take effect.

Drupal Stuck at Database Configuration

Monday, November 24th, 2008

When configuring Drupal 6.6 on a Windows XP/Apache/MySQL box, I ran into an issue whereby I would enter the database information on the Database Configuration screen, press the advance button, but be constantly redirected back to the Database Configuration screen.

The Drupal community indicates this is a problem with permissions – Drupal needs to be able to write to your site’s settings.php file.  All permissions appeared to be correct in my setup but I was still unable to continue.

The solution was to edit the settings.php file, putting in my database information manually.  Just look for this line:

$db_url = ‘mysql://username:password@localhost/databasename’;

And change the username, password and databasename parts.

Then return to the Database Configuration screen, enter the information again and continue.  The correct database information will be read from the settings file and the configuration will continue to the next step.

Happy hunting!

And We’re Back!

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

I recently transferred from GoDaddy to MediaTemple. Although their administrative interface was somewhat, I found GoDaddy’s hosting service decent enough to meet my needs so the move has nothing to do with dissatisfaction in their service.

MediaTemple was recommended to me by a close programmer friend who has been using their service for some time and had nothing but glowing reviews for them.  So far the hosting seems alright – the setup was almost instantaneous and the administrative tools very easy to work with.  Their pricing is a little on the high side but certainly not unreasonable.