Everyone’s a winner

It’s been a bit longer than I’d wanted, but I’ve finally gotten to wrapping up my first blog contest.

The premise was simple; tell me a backup horror story and you could win a Clickfree Transformer SE backup system. And some of you did tell me some pretty good stories.

Here’s some excerpts:

On Versioning:

Being an artist, dur­ing one of the more heated pro­gram­mer debates I took a closer look at the SVN logs and dis­covered that indeed this guy had stealth­ily checked in some­thing between our changes. Luck­ily for us, when you use a ver­sion repos­it­ory sys­tem (soft­ware or hard­ware) you can roll back your changes to a pre­vi­ously uploaded state that’s stored on the device (since all the data gets saved for each change that is made). I gave this a try loc­ally and quickly dis­covered what the prob­lem was and relayed it to the rest of the team.

On server backups:

I had a stack of flop­pies (and my brother and mother had stacks of flop­pies at their houses) that could only be read by an Osborne com­puter and that I was the only per­son I knew who still used an Osborne com­puter.… so I went out and bought a backup Osborne. And sure enough, my com­puter died a month or so later. But I thought, no prob­lem, I have my back up, and it sur­vived long enough for me to upload everything to the UofA’s MTS sys­tem. There! Backuped on a main­frame, what could be more secure than that?

On offsite tape storage:

I put in a help ticket to request the tape. Unfor­tu­nately, it’ll take three weeks for the tapes to be retrieved. Ah well, that’s ok. My reports are not a 911 and I’m just happy my data is safe. Six (6) weeks later the tapes arrive and reveal my web logs can­not be restored from the backups. Data gone.

On luck:

Next, we real­ized that no one had ever attemp­ted to do a res­tor­a­tion of the data. Upon fur­ther invest­ig­a­tion we dis­covered that it wasn’t just a mat­ter of people not hav­ing attemp­ted it but that we couldn’t actu­ally do a test restore on the old sys­tems without affect­ing the pro­duc­tion sys­tems. Had we wasted hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in tapes in a vault that could be worthless?

Well, thanks to some great work by Larysa at Clickfree, we’ve got prizes for all the contest entrants. If you ‘ve not read the full entries then check out the comments on the entry post here.

Congratulations! I’ll be pinging the winners shortly 🙂

Blogging is nothing to be afraid of

Though the name Blog sounds horrible; perhaps the name of a large pool of dank, dark, brackish water that eventually spawns a monster so horrible, only the most stalwart of cleft-chinned heroes could possibly defeat it, Blogging really is nothing to fear. Really… …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

The top three URL shorteners for ReTweets

If you use Twitter at all you know that tweets really are the essence of tight-writing, since you’ve only got 140 characters to work with. If you’re planning to include a link to other web content or leave space so that others can retweet your tweet, your character count drops further.

Savin’ the tweet, one character at a time
This is where URL shorteners come in, they’re services that take long URLs, such as:

(89 characters, leaving 51 for your tweet)

and convert it to this:

(18 characters, leaving 122 for your tweet)

There’s short, and then there’s short
Everyone and his grandma has a URL shortener these days. If you use Google apps for Domains you can even set up your own URL shortener using Short Links. I don’t do this because bradgrier.com is already too long.

But if one of your goals is publish your content, as well as make it retweetable, then you want check out these three URL shorteneing services:

According to research recently released by Dan Zarrella, tweets with links shortened by these services are more retweetable than others, with bit.ly being the best by a large margin.

What do I use?
In my case, I use ow.ly. It’s bundled with Hootsuite, an online twitter management application. Oh, yeah, they’re Canadian too 😉 but I digress.

My Goal
When I tweet, it’s simply to spread the word about something I find interesting. Selecting the ‘most retweetable’ URL shortener won’t give me a huge advantage, but when you add it to  audience consideration, time of day, and your tweet ‘headline’, you’ll find it all adds up. Take a look at Dan’s report for more info. on retweeting, or look at the summary item Fast Company ran earlier this week.

Tweaking your FeedBurner / FeedSmith plugin to support WordPress 2.5+ tag feeds (easy!)

FeedBurner Logo (© FeedBurner, Inc.)
Creative Commons License photo credit: magbag

Sorry for the uber tech in this post, but I thought this was a simple fix that anyone running a WordPress 2.5+ blog could do if they wanted to enable ‘Tag Feeds’.

Before I get into the how, let’s explore the why briefly.

Some background:

  • Feedburner is the service I (and many many other) bloggers use to improve RSS Feed performance and measure readership of our RSS feeds.
  • The FeedSmith / FeedBurner plugin is a component for WordPress (the blogging platform I use here) that simplifies the administration and implementation of Feedburner.

The current incarnation of the FeedSmith / FeedBurner plugin doesn’t support the new WordPress feature of RSS Tag Feeds. No big deal if you don’t care about allowing your visitors to subscribe to your content based on Tag. But you’re missing an opportunity to allow your readers to better filter the content if that’s the case.

For example, lets say a visitor is only interested in receiving my posts on photography. They don’t care about all this technology, web content, usability, or search engine optimization that I may be writing about. They only care about my photography posts. WordPress 2.5+ allows you to subscribe to any Tag Feed or Category Feed. But not if you’re using an unmodified FeedSmith plugin. Fear not, I’ve got a fix for you in a moment.

The way the current FeedSmith plugin works is that it takes all my feed subscription requests (comment, category, tag, etc) and returns only the main blog RSS feed, which is the main feed at Feedburner. Not good if you want to have an RSS Feed of only my photography tagged posts.

The workaround is quite simple and requires slightly modifying your FeedBurner / FeedSmith plugin. Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to the main Plugins page. Scroll down until you find the Feedburner / FeedSmith plugin. Click on the Disable link in the right-hand column. When the page refreshes, scroll back down and click on the Edit link.
  2. The Plugin Editor screen will open. Scroll down in the edit window until you find the function function ol_feed_redirect()
  3. In that section you’ll be adding text to a line of code. Change the text that reads
    is_feed() && $feed != 'comments-rss2' && !is_single() &&
    to read
    is_feed() && $feed != 'comments-rss2' && !is_single() && !is_tag() &&
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and press the Update File button.
  5. Then, go back to the main Plugins page, and re-enable the FeedBurner / FeedSmith plugin by clicking on the Enable link.

Congratulations, you’ve just re-enabled Tag RSS Feeds for your WordPress 2.5+ blog whilst maintaining Feedburner compatibility for the main feed.

Bonus for the advanced student: Since your Tag RSS Feeds are now separated from the main blog feed, you can set up discreet Feedburner feeds for select tags. Unfortunately the little hack above won’t automagically redirect RSS Subscriptions to Feedburner for you, as the FeedSmith Plugin does. You’ll have to manually publish the Feed URL, thusly:
<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/BlogbradgriercomWordpress">My WordPress tag feed hosted on Feedburner</a>

Which would render thusly:

My WordPress tag feed hosted on Feedburner.

Hello there…

Wow, my first post on an ancient blog: red-5.info, which you can find at Archive.org

March 05, 2003

Hello there…

Wow, after playing with a very cranky server, reading a whole swack of online documentation, and swearing a lot…I stumbled upon this excellent tutorial. Now to figure out templates.

Posted by Brad Grier at March 5, 2003 10:30 PM

I grabbed this post and dumped it into the blog so I can find it again some day 🙂