WP-Sweep – You Simply Need To Use It On Your WordPress Install

WP-Sweep - Keep Your WordPress Database Running Smooth

Over the years my WordPress database had become bloated – very bloated. Despite using WP-Optimize to keep the database in check, 12 years of content, many host migrations and export/import cycles had caused my database to balloon to a massive 98.6 MB in size.

Needless to say, this caused more than a few issues when I recently migrated my site to dedicated WordPress hosting and importing the database was a nightmare.

Enter WP-Sweep. Developed by WordPress guru Lester Chan, WP-Sweep gets way more involved than WP-Optimize does, including functionality to remove orphaned and duplicated post meta. Duplicated post meta from years of imports and exports were to blame for most of the bloat on my install.

A couple of sweeps with WP-Sweep and my database was reduced to 12.9 MB.

Needless to say, backup your database before sweeping – just in case.

Distraction Free Blogging? I’d Pay For That!

Distraction Free Blogging

While I applaud the efforts made by the WordPress team to include a distraction free editor, it unfortunately does little (and cannot for technical reasons) to stop the myriad of distractions that occur on my desktop or laptop. The only real way to stop the flood of email notifications, IM’s, phone calls is to disconnect from the internet completely, turn off my phone and write my posts in an offline editor – none of which have feature parity with the WordPress platform.

When I look at my kindle e-reader I see a device perfectly setup for distraction free reading – all you have to do is silence your phone and go into another room, and I find myself wishing for a simple tablet like device that only allowed me write and save drafts to my WordPress site.

I’m thinking a 7 – 8 inch, tablet-like device with a foldout keyboard, can have a cheap low-resolution screen because it serves one purpose only, to push blog posts to my CMS via an API.

I’d buy one in a heart-beat.

BIIP… BIIP.. BIIP… Tasticles!

Cardinals have “bunga bunga” parties in the Vatican, Darth Vader runs Death Valley, levelling 5000-year-old Peruvian pyramids, the State Department spends $630,000 failing to engage on Facebook, Bebo goes cheap(er) and the Viralheat Blogathon.

Stories mentioned in this episode of the Nothing Serious Podcast include:

How Not To Apply To Guest Post (And 5 Tips To Avoid The Circular Filing Cabinet)

How Not To Apply To Guest Post

I received the above application to guest post on my blog this morning, which set my teeth on edge.

Everything about this generic, impersonal, templated application is an insult to the owner of any blog that receives it, and it would have ended up in the virtual circular filing cabinet if I’d had my morning coffee and wasn’t feeling slightly cranky.

Let me offer prospective guest bloggers some tips to avoid having your email deleted by site owners like myself:

1. Read My Blog

Read my blog, listen to my podcast, find out who I am and what makes this blog tick.

Even skimming the archives and poking around for 5 minutes would help you avoid such stupid mistakes as starting your email with “Dear Editor”  and offering  me a piece of your “comprehensive research”.

2. Flatter Me

Stroke my ego – Seriously! Tell me why a certain post is your favorite, or about something that I wrote that really got under your skin and made you want to roar with anger.  It lets me know that you’ve got a genuine interest in my site, and implies that you may have a good feel for what sort of posts fly well with readers.

3.  Tell Me What You Are Going To Post About And Why?

It’s not enough to tell me that you want to guest post, you have to tell me what you want to post about. Get me thinking, whet the sword of interest and make me want to read your post. Keep it brief, but a few tantalizing details about your post can go along way to making me agree.

4.  Link To Your Blog And Examples Of Your Writing

It doesn’t matter how good your pitch is, or how tantalizing your idea sounds, without being able to get a feel for how your writing style and see your blog there’s no way I’ll agree to a guest post.

If you’re not writing for yourself, why should you write here? Also, there’s no way that I’m going to go searching for your blog if you haven’t linked to it. Insta-bin!

5. Keep it brief

My time is valuable. While my time may not always be money, it could me my relaxing time, time spent with my beautiful wife, or playing with the kids. Every paragraph you add to your email dramatically increases the odds of it being sent to the trash.

Try to keep your email about 2 paragraphs long.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Waste Your Time (Or Mine)

This tip is specific to my site so I wanted to separate it out from the others.

Don’t waste your time applying for a guest post if all you want to do is shill a product. I make a large distinction between people who want to write guest post that bring value to my blog versus people who are trying to market a product.

Guest posts from bloggers who are writing to reach a new audience and share a genuine opinion or helpful tip, bring value to my site and to themselves.

Marketers who are looking to guest post just to have their product mentioned don’t bring value to this blog, but they can apply to have me do a paid and fully disclosed review. All reviews come with the caveat that they will be 100% honest (which may not be good if you’re afraid of criticism).

Do You Disclose Sponsored Posts?

DisclosureDo you disclose sponsored posts? You really should, you know!

Disclosure isn’t something I’ve seen talked about a lot on the web lately, unless it’s people complaining about TechCrunch, or TechCrunch a throwing a rather pathetic hissy fit about biased reviews (see the comments for a good laugh).

Disclosure appears to be something that seasoned bloggers just take for granted and don’t bother talking about, but I think it’s something that we need to keep bringing up because many of today’s bloggers are new to the scene and missed all the fuss.

Back in 2009 the FTC published guidelines regarding the use endorsements and testimonials in advertising . The guidelines basically made it clear that a blogger (or celebrity, but then again we’re all celebrities these days right?) must disclose any arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post. This also applies to social platforms such as Twitter and  Facebook.

If you don’t disclose, then you and the company risk being fined.

Here’s a link to to complete guidelines for those new to blogging or who haven’t previously read them: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (.pdf). If the legalese is too much for you check out this post for a more straightforward explanation.

(FWIW – Here’s my original post about these guidelines from 2009)

I post sponsored posts on this blog. I’ve always marked them clearly as being sponsored both in the post itself (as required by the guidelines) as well as stating it clearly on the policies page – here’s an example post I did earlier today for a Samsung campaign.

I don’t do the $5 sponsored posts that many bloggers do. I’m choosy about the campaigns I will do sponsored posts for, and invariably I have to invoice those companies, which means earnings have to be declared when I do taxes etc…

Yet, I wonder how many folks who do the $5 dollar posts actually disclose them. I see pitches for them, or folks asking for them on the various “I’ll do X for $X” sites (that sounded quite dirty didn’t it?), quite regularly. There’s usually no mention of disclosure in the pitch, or they’re deliberately vague with the wording. I also guess that unless you do a huge number of such posts, it’s rather easy to fly under the radar, not declare them for taxes and maybe even slip them past your readers as well.

Lets be honest, it doesn’t take much encouragement for folks to slip $5 bucks here and $10 there into their PayPal account smug in the knowledge that the tax man, and the FTC will probably never know.

As mentioned above, it’s not just the unscrupulous who may not be disclosing their posts, but it’s also those who are new to blogging since 2009, or simply didn’t become aware of it when it was announced.

So have you been disclosing your posts? Have you forgotten about the FTC guidelines? Were you ever aware of them, or do you simply not care?

Have You Gone Static?

staticIt was remarkably fitting that I just had to perform 2 theme updates on this blog – 1 automatic and 1 manual – for Genesis, and still had to disable minification of CSS to make things look right.

You see, I spent a lot of time today thinking about blogs created as static HTML, and I’m sure I don’t need to expound upon the benefits of serving static HTML over dynamically generated content from your server.

Maybe it’s just me, but the use of generators to create blogs with static HTML instead of running a CMS appears to be something of a trend among developer bloggers.

It’s funny to see things come full circle. My very first self-hosted blog was created this way after a period of doing it all by hand.

While poking around I found this list of 32 generators (mostly written in Python or Ruby) and I’m curious to know what other folks experiences are with them?

I’m also wondering if anybody has any experience with using plugins such as WP Static HTML Output or Really Static to get WordPress to output static HTML files that you upload to your server?

Blogging Without A Contact Form = You Miss Out

Blogging Without A Contact Form

I’ve said it before, and I’ll damn well say it again – “If you don’t have a contact form on your blog or site, you’re not worth my time following”.

Having spent a large part of this morning building a contact list of local bloggers for outreach, I’m shocked by how many don’t have even the simplest of contact mechanisms listed on their site.

I’m not even talking about putting your email address out there – how about a simple form so that I can reach out to you?

I respect that people want to protect their privacy and don’t want to inundated with spam, (neither of which need to occur if you set up a proper contact form) but it strikes me as lunacy to miss out on potential advertising, content, partnerships, feedback from your readers, and more because you don’t have one on your page.

Of course, you’ll receive a handful of messages that you’ll have little to no interest in, but it may end up being a small price to pay.

More importantly, it strikes me as disingenuous to build a community of readers but not give them the ability to reach you with thoughts that they may not want to leave publicly in your comments.

Remember When Blogging Used To Be Fun?

In the not so distant past blogging used to be something that I enjoyed. It used to be something that I did everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, as well as podcast, develop and find content for our sites. Lately all I do is work on our sites.

It’s not that I don’t like blogging, I love it, but somewhere along the line work encroached to the point that blogging became one more thing and eventually got pushed to the side. Sara feels the same way and by knocking our heads together multiple times we think we’ve come up with a way to fix that. A way to bring the blogging passion back, make all of our sites better and make it all fun again.

Back when we started UrlyBits (which was then called Daily Shite) we were in it for the fun. After time the fun blog we started to share the funny stuff we found on the web started to become work. As it became more popular (and as the money started trickling  in) we saw the potential to turn it into my fulltime job, and, as the money came in and the audience grew we started to feel obligated to post.

Random posts during the day grew into a schedule because we felt that people were expecting content, and in turn, that schedule became an object of stress. That stress wasn’t much at first because we were only doing 5 or 6 posts a day, but then we started thinking of growth.

Growth led us down the path of 9 scheduled posts a day (not much if you think about it, but it didn’t stop there) and as we set goal after goal (10,000 pageviews per month, 100,000 visitors a month, a million visitors a month…) we spread ourselves too thin. Things may have been fine if we stuck with  just UrlyBits but we started launching other sites as well. Some lived and some got killed off quickly because they didn’t perform but each one was more stress.

At this moment, besides our personal blogs, Scrw Media and some random stuff we have 7 main sites that we maintain which require 33 pieces of content everyday. 33 pieces of content will take me about 3 – 5 hours to get together on a reasonable day. On a “slow” day for the internet (or me) it can take considerably longer. Add to the the need to maintain the sites, build community and a social presence, not to mention develop new features and things start to take their toll. It all becomes a but much.

More often than not my 7 am start at on the sites culminates in a break around 5pm when Sara gets back from her day job and then there’s still another couple of hours of work ahead.

Lately I’ve been trying to make it so that Sara doesn’t have to work on our sites when she comes home. As odd as it may sound I actually want to spend time with my wife. I want to have date nights, game nights, bad horror movie nights, spend time and even sometimes just shut myself away and play on the Xbox or learn a new programming language.

I’m not by any means saying that all of this is not possible, heck, I’ve been doing it day in and day out for the past few years, but there is a balance that is quite difficult to find and the resultant stress means that you don’t properly enjoy your “free time” because work is always nagging at the back of your mind.

To quote Bilbo Baggins – ” I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread.”

So here’s the plan to bring to free up some time, bring the fun back to work and blogging and generally make our sites better quality while we’re at it.

1. Cut back on the number of sites.

We’re going to roll 4 of our existing sites together so Unscrwed, Get In Mah Belly (which we hardly touch anymore) and Utterly Cute will all get rolled into being subsections of UrlyBits rather than stand alone sites.

That should allow us to maintain the audience and brand for those sites while increasing the diversity of post on UrlyBits and allow us to provide a more “round the clock” schedule while actually reducing the number of posts that have to be done. The reduced number of posts should also allow us to increase the quality of post as we can afford to be a bit pickier.

Once this is done we should have only 4 core sites to focus on, but that may even be reduced to 3 over time as there is a possibility of rolling Is Viral into UrlyBits as well.

2. More Authors/Contributors/Submissions – Build Community

We have an awesome submissions process in place on all the sites which makes submitting images and videos ridiculously easy and allows contributors to set their links for attribution as well as give themselves credit, but we’ve sucked royal ass at promoting it and building a community that takes advantage of it. This is going to change. Needless to say, a stronger community will actually take some of the workload off of us and bring a lot of the fun back via interaction.

3. No work on the weekends.

There’s nothing worse than working crazy hours all week only to have to work on the weekends, or for me to have to work while the kids are here with Sara. That needs to stop and by scheduling content in advance, better automation, stronger community, I will hit the goal of being able to have the weekends off. I don’t think I need to expound too much upon what having weekends off will mean, but needless to say –  interests, more things to talk and blog about, more time for learning, play and above all more fun.

4. Stop taking ourselves so damn seriously.

Sometimes we forget what we do and get delusions of grandeur. We’re bloggers and content aggregators and we started out doing this for shits and giggles. Every now and we grow a little too big for our britches and take ourselves far too seriously and the community slaps us down in fine style – like recently when we changed to a nice shiny magazine theme and traffic fell through the floor (wish I had read “You just don’t need a magazine theme” first) and were forced to bring back many of the standard blog features of the previous theme. Lets face it, we’re not publishers, we’re bloggers.

Going all “magazine theme” is one of those things that was a result of us taking things too seriously, of feeling like we had to present a professional face instead of the just being ourselves. Well we’re bringing an end to that to and that will be represented in our upcoming designs, attitudes and interactions with our sites and audience.

Going forward things are going to change A LOT on our network of sites and also within our personal lives as a result of these changes.

Just look at the picture of my whiteboards below. Everything written on those boards is either a goal, outcome, or decision made this morning with regards to everything I’ve talked about in this post and many of the action points need far more discussion and planning. You can also be sure that as we discuss these points there will be many, many more goals and action points created for us to execute on.

Once it’s all done there should be far more time for fun, frolics and allowing the passion for what we do to come to the surface… and I think it’s going to be fun getting there.