Revisiting WP.com for my “Working and WordPress-ing” notes

It has been more than a year since I made my last post on this site. At the request of some dear friends, I thought I give the control panel of my site at WordPress.com another look to see if I can continue with my experiments.

I am quite pleased to find a number of niceties and functionalities.

1. On new themes: I counted five pages of 30 theme thumbnails per page. I am not sure if there are 150 themes in there as some of thumbnails keep repeating, but anyway, I found some beautiful themes and some, premium themes too (meaning, you need to pay to use the theme).

For a change, I decided to use Greyzed, a dark and grungy theme with drop-down menus and a widgetized footer. (Updated: 2011-09-29: What you are viewing now is a Rusty Grunge by Chris Wallace. I will write in my next post why I dropped Greyzed – after only a day!)

2. In the editing page, there is now a “Writing Helper” which allows you to use an existing post as a template and Request Feedback for getting feedback on your draft before publishing. (It’s good that the Share A Draft plugin for self-hosted blogs had been ported to WordPress.com.)

3. Also under Appearance panel, there is “iPad” which when activated displays “a beautiful app-like experience to visitors browsing with an iPad.

4. Under Appearance, there is also this “Extras” which you can switch on or off by simply clicking on “Update Extras” for your selected option. If activated, your blog will be displayed with a mobile theme when viewed with a mobile browser.

Obviously, this is an alternate to “iPad” for viewers who do not use an iPad like me.

5. Under Settings, there is “Webhooks” which I passed over as I am not into “hooks” yet. (Perhaps, later.)

6. Under Widgets, I found a number of new apps. Depending on which theme you use, you can put these widgets to enhance the appearance and functionality of your blog. From memory, these are the new widgets: Facebook Like box, Flickr (or has this been there since last year?), Twitter (I am sure this was not there before because I even posted “How to twitter your WP.com post”), Vodpod videos, del.icio.us, and Authors for multi-author site, obviously.

These are my impressions. I will probably have a closer look at some of the recent changes to WP.com so I can share my observations with you. Meanwhile, it would be great if you can start exchanging notes with us by sharing your impressions and comments.

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My experiments are now over

Thanks for dropping by. I have essentially finished my experiments with WP.com blogs with answers to most of the questions my friends have asked me in the past. With that, I would like to focus my energy on managing my company’s websites. But if you still have questions about WordPress or on my posts on this site, feel free to contact me.

Again, thank you for your visits and comments.

Australia wins its biggest anti-spamming case

Australia wins its biggest anti-spamming case

This post is out of my ordinary posts, but I thought I’ll let you into the latest developments in Australia’s fight against spamming.

Today, the Federal Court in Brisbane imposed Australian $6.5 million in penalties to two respondents who were allegedly involved in SMS spamming. The two respondents are part of a group, according to the government watch dog Australian Communications and Media Authority, that was likewise penalised Australian $22 million in a landmark decision last 23 October.

You can find out more about these developments in two of our company’s websites, The Filipino Australian, and SPAMWATCHERS.

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The role of internet service providers in curbing spams

spamhaus-10-worst-spam-serv

Top 10 Worst Spam Service ISPs

For those who have been following me and my blogs over any period of time, my dislike to spam is well known. I regularly post news and anti-spam tutorials as part of our company’s educational drive.

Today, I posted an entry, Australia not in Top 10 worst spam origin countries, but home to #6 spammer.

The gist of my blog is that Australia has been able to stay away from the Top 10 list because of its strong spam laws.

But governments can only do so much in fighting spam. The real key to fighting spam is the private sector’s network of internet service providers. Unless ISP networks cooperate, the fight against spam will be a losing battle.

But will networks cooperate?

The daily updates of the independent spam-tracking organisation, the Spamhaus Project, show that the positions and ranking of the world’s worst spam service ISPs keep on changing. Last May 2009, even one of the largest ISPs in the United States was in this Top 10 list, and it was ranked #6 worst spam service ISP.

Here is a part of the Spamhaus Project report :

Although all networks claim to be anti-spam, some network executives factor revenue made from hosting known spam gangs into corporate policy decisions to continue to sell services to spam operations. Others simply decide that closing the holes in their end-user broadband systems that allow spammers access would be too costly to their bottom lines.

The majority of the world’s service providers succeed in keeping spammers off their networks and work to maintain a positive anti-spam reputation, but their work is undermined daily by the few networks who, out of corporate greed or mismanagement, choose to be part of the problem.

If corporate greed, it would of course be foolish to assume that these networks will give away the proverbial “goose that lays the golden egg”. At best, they may stop servicing spam business only when cost structure arising from loss of customer support or from government lock-down pressure will be greater than the profits they derive from servicing spammers.

If mismanagement, networks have to put plugs to holes in their operations including a regular monitoring and reporting of any unusual activities in their network. Even that would mean extra costs which many ISPs will try to avoid as much as they can.

You can read more about this in my blog, A Matter of Sharing.

Experimenting with PicApp images in my blog

[picapp src=”0/2/3/e/UCLA_Bruins_vs_356f.jpg?adImageId=5147881&imageId=6774884″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

Embedding a PicApp image in a WordPress post is very easy. There are two embedding codes supplied. One is for self-hosted WordPress blogs. Another is for WordPress.com-hosted blogs like this one. To copy the code, highlight the whole code applicable to your site, and then paste it on where you want it to show in your post.

The image above is an example of a PicApp image embedded on this post using the codes supplied by PicApp for WordPress.com hosted blogs.

What if you do not want the thumbnails strip?

If you are not a great fan of thumbnails being displayed on the related-images strip, you can make them “disappear” by resizing the image. I did not even experiment with this one. The information was already supplied in WordPress.com’s support forum. Well, not exactly the way I wrote it here. But it was pretty obvious from the WordPress.com’s support page that that was how it could be done.

Below is a sample image grab where the related-images strip is removed and replaced by a PicApp-linked “Gallery” icon when the image is reduced. I reduced the image size by 50% of its original size.

[picapp src=”0/2/3/e/UCLA_Bruins_vs_356f.jpg?adImageId=5147881&imageId=6774884″ width=”250″ height=”167″ alt=”test image” border=”0″/]

How do you wrap the text around the resized and smaller image?

[picapp src=”0/2/3/e/UCLA_Bruins_vs_356f.jpg?adImageId=5147881&imageId=6774884″ width=”250″ height=”167″ alt=”test image” border=”0″ /]

I admit I am no expert in CSS. But what I normally use – a simple stylesheet – to align an image left or right works.

On this example, I used a stylesheet with the image being floated to the left and with a margin to the right of the image of 10px to make way for a nice whitespace between the image and text left margin.

I am pretty sure there are other ways of wrapping the text around the image or aligning the image left or right of your post.

Will I be using PicApp images in my blog? When pressed for time or I don’t have the right photographs in my library, why not? After all, the images are free, are they not?

Well, not exactly free like in free to do what you want with them. What is “free” is free access. We still have to “pay” for them, I suppose, by way of the traffic redirected to PicApp’s where advertisements are displayed or the viral marketing effect we create for PicApp by making the embedding code of the images available in our blogs for others to use.

To me, that is a very small price to pay, especially in these days of sharing and bookmarking.

How reliable is Alexa in measuring your site’s traffic rank?

Alexa Traffic RankingEven to someone like me who enjoys browsing over site statistics and testing the accuracy of the resulting metrics, understanding an Alexa traffic rank is not an easy task.

Except for the fact that the Alexa traffic ranking system is based on information generated from Alexa toolbar users and that “A site’s ranking is based on a combined measure of Reach and Page Views” plus some kind of “data normalization” which also are not explained, there is not much information about the Alexa ranking system.

In its FAQ, Alexa also stated: “Alexa’s traffic rankings are based on the past three months of global traffic according to our diverse data sources, and are updated weekly.”

Given this minimum traffic tracking period, I wonder how a blog like mine ~ although barely two weeks old ~ was able to attract a traffic ranking. Is it because my blog is hosted by WordPress.com, and Alexa is biased to WordPress.com-hosted sites? I don’t think so. I know of other sites hosted by WordPress.com which have been online for many months now, yet they are still showing an Alexa “No Data” status. I am certain that some people are visiting those sites. (Note: The small Alexa image on this page shows “No Data” for Alexa which we could only surmise that Alexa did not like to make its traffic ranking public.)

I think I will stick to metrics like unique visits, page views and the like in gauging site traffic performances. At least, these figures are easy to understand, and I can explain the figures to other people.

But I cannot say the same thing with Alexa’s traffic ranking. After all, according to Alexa, if a site traffic ranking is beyond 100,000, the figures are statistically meaningless. For a site traffic rank to be statistically meaningful and reliable, a site should be close to the top rank. Quite a tall order, isn’t it?

Alexa’s statements read as follows:

Sites with relatively low measured traffic will not be accurately ranked by Alexa. Our data comes from many various sources, including our Alexa users; however, we do not receive enough data from these sources to make rankings beyond 100,000 statistically meaningful. (However, on the flip side of that, the closer a site gets to #1, the more reliable its rank.)

With many websites that are not even close to the top 1,000 or even 50,000 (let alone #1), I wonder why advertising placement agencies even bother to look at a website’s Alexa traffic rank!