Now Featuring: Somebody Had to Say It

There’s a segment that comes on sporadically on a favorite talk show of mine over at WBAL, called “Somebody Had to Say It”. I’ve decided to bring that format here to Technosailor where occasionally, depending on how popular it is, I will be putting together short podcasts of callers saying what’s on their mind.

The idea is that there’s something that just gets in your craw and somebody had to say it, yet no one is. Whether it’s politically incorrect, just not very popular and no matter what topic – politics, religion, tech, blogging, sports, whatever! – somebody had to say it and I’m asking you to say it.

The process is real simple. Leave me a voicemail at 443-450-4646 with your short (under a minute) rant about whatever you want to rant about. Keep it brief, keep it to the point, but tell me whatever you want to tell me however you want to tell me – and use the phrase “Somebody Had to say it” in the call.

Example:
Hey Aaron, somebody had to say it. The way Bush’s immigration policies are going, he may as well run for President of Mexico when he leaves office in 2008.

Not all calls will be used, but I will make every effort to get as many calls on as possible.

Enjoy!

Problogger Meetup NYC Review

Question: What do you get when you mix a man who has a massive audience for his “Helping Bloggers Make Money” blog, ProBlogger with a New York crowd that eats up his every word?

Patrick Gavin & Darren RowseAnswer: A giantly successful meetup at Connolly’s in Midtown Manhattan.

On Thursday afternoon, I jumped on a train to NYC and headed over to the party, hosted by ProBlogger and sponsored by Patrick Gavin and Text Link Ads. Lara KulpaTons of great peope. Some folks I’ll never remember names for and that’s a shame, but I have to be honest. I did get to meet Phillip Liu who is a bright and emerging star on the blogging horizon as well as cool folks like Lara Kulpa, and Mike Levin. My friends, Darren and Loren Feldman were there and of course I finally met the inimitable Minic Rivera. Joshua Rosenstock busted me down for being slack about my posting over at Washington Hotlist so I have to make amends and start posting again soon.
Aaron Brazell & Phillip Liu
I arrived back here in Baltimore yesterday afternoon but the week is not over. Tonight is the Maryland blogger meetup that I am hosting in White Marsh at Red Brick Station. Please come on out.

WordPress FAQ: How Do I Use Category Themes?

Is it possible to have different layouts, theme or links depending on the category the user has clicked?

This question comes from Milo Riano. Milo wants to be able to have what I call a “flexi-site”. A Flexi-site is a site that is flexible in terms of display options or layouts. This could really be an extension of the question about multiple blogs as well.

Template Files

The key here is in template file hierarchy. WordPress looks in the theme directory to find the following files, and in this order:

  • category-X.php
  • category.php
  • archive.php
  • index.php

So if you have a blog that you assign a category of “Linkblog” to, and you want the linkblog to be displayed in a different format that the rest of the blog, you could simply find the ID number of the category (We’ll call it 23 for the sake of argument), and you could create a special template file with the unique layout you wish to use, and call the file category-23.php. Now everytime the category page is loaded, the template file category-23.php will be used.

Custom CSS

You can take this approach a step farther through customized CSS stylesheets. As most templates use the inbuilt function

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<php get_header() ?>

to summon the use of the common header.php file from the theme, it is also possible to create custom headers and include those directly.

However, the better solution to this, providing you don’t have a vast number of categories that you want to display different CSS files for, is to simply use the WordPress template tag

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is_category()

to figure out whether to display an alternate stylesheet.

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<php
if( is_category( 23 ) )
{
?>
   <link rel="stylesheet" href="http://example.com/wp-content/theme/cat23.css" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<php
}
else
{
?>
   <link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php bloginfo('stylesheet_url'); ?>" type="text/css" media="screen" />
<php
}
?>

You can get real creative with this instead choosing to use

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is_category()

to determine if extra CSS can be added after the main CSS thus overriding styles. There are quite a few options and you are limited only by your creativity.

If you have questions for this ongoing WordPress FAQ series, shoot me an email and let me know. By doing so, you’ll get a free link to your site.

WordPress FAQ: What's up with the Amazon Plugin with WP 2.1.x?

How do I use the new version of the Amazon plugin? It never brings up what I am looking for and its very annoying. I want to be able to use it the way it was before the WP upgrade.

This question comes from Shannon Nelson who is complaining about the new version of WP-Amazon. Many of the blogs at b5 are product based or have a strong connection to products and so the WP-Amazon plugin is a favorite among affiliate bloggers.

The problem is that the new version of WP-Amazon, though still beta, leaves a large chunk of the less technical population behind. Based on the plugin site, I’m confident that the issues will be resolved by the time this version comes out of beta, however until then we’re stuck with it. The stable version of the plugin does not work on any of the WP 2.1.x branch and the beta preview version is only compati ble with Firefox 2, Opera 9 and (I think) Safari. Internet Explorer users are the big losers here.

Stay tuned tot he plugin page for news on future releases and we’ll be proactively monitoring and upgrading here at b5media.

WordPress FAQ: How Do I combine Blogs?

This morning, one of our bloggers posted a question in our internal forum. She was seeking guidance on how to take a few (three) blogs and combine them. I provided three solutions for her and decided, in the process, that I would kick start my braindead blogging (lately) into a mini-series of WordPress FAQ questions. Feel free to email your question to me at aaron [at] b5media [dot] com.

The question is:

I’ve wanted to have a personal blog (and really collate my 3 personal blogger blogs into one) and I’m looking at WP but I don’t want to have the “*blog*.wordpress.com” attached. Can I do this with a free blog, or do I necessarily have to buy one?

There are three different possible solutions I see to your problem, Grace. Each one, naturally, has a different difficulty level based on your technical confidence. As is always the case, the most cmplicated solution will probably give you the most flexibility long term. In all three cases, you’re looking at having to use WordPress.com as a go between to bring Blogger blogs in, then export as WordPress-formatted XML file, then import into WordPress via the built in WordPress 2.1 importer (or use mine if you’re on 1.5 or 2.0).

Combine all three blogs into a homogenous blog

The first solution would be to simply import all your blogs into WordPress and get all your content into one place. In my experience and observation, this will give you a solid platform that is still easy to use while giving you some probable SEO benefits. It seems that search engines tend to like WordPress blogs more than Blogger blogs.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Pro: Simple WP install, simple maintenance, familiar WP usage.
Con: You concede the ability to separate out the blogs as individual entities within the blog.

Single Blog, Broken out by Category

This is a similar approach to the first. You essentially bring all your content into the new WordPress blog. However, this time, instead of just having a lump amount of posts, assign a category to each post from each blog (i.e. Blog1, Blog2, Blog3). In this way, you will be able to massage your template using WordPress’

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in_category()

tag to determine what gets shown on each page. While this does not directly preserve each blog (all the content is part of the single WordPress install), you can achieve the appearance of multiple blogs and have the ease of the single WordPress admin.

Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Pro: Simple WP install, single WordPress admin, template flexibility
Con: Blog content is still managed as a single group of posts separated only by category iearchies.

WordPress MU

WordPress MU is the multi blog format of WordPRess. It supports multiple blogs and multiple administrative bloggers. In essence, you can power all three of your blogs from one single install of MU. If you need the actual flexibility of actual separate blogs, this is probably the right choice for you. However, it does have significant drawbacks.

Difficulty: Hard
Pro: Extreme flex. Lots you can do, lots of added perks from standard WordPress. Probably good for blog network level stuff or when five or more blogs are being managed.
Con: MU is quite tricky to setup. It has made significant strides in recent months, but it is nowhere near as polished as WordPress itself. It also requires some digging in the WPMU forums to find answers to questions like how to make MU respond to top level domains (i.e. http://example.com as opposed to http://example.mysite.com). Also will require a degree of systems level knowledge and comfort.

Whatever you choose, I’m confident WordPress is the right choice for you. Obviously, we have a system here that sings along on individual WordPress installs and we have had great success.

What questions do you have? Email them to me. Keep them WordPress related. :-)

Business Plan Series: Part 3 – Corporate Overview

Last time we discussed the importance of analyzing the market and setting up the problem(s) that exist so you can address.

Some cases you will want to answer in a shorter format what your company does and the problems it is fixing. This also the time to discuss vision and overall goals. This is what many call the “Company Overview”. Think of it like a birds-eye view of the company as it currently exists and where you envision it to be in the future. This is almost a quasi executive summary because you are trying to tie a number of elements into a picture that people understand and see where you are coming from.

You need to include the following things:

Company Description – This is a paragraph or two that is the core message and history of the company and if people read only this they should get what you are trying to do.
Mission – What are the guiding vision points for this company? Provide X, Support Y?
Goals and Objectives - This is the place for major milestones including revenue, customers and other important metrics.
Structure – This is for legal and tax structure plus owners/stockholders
Core Competencies - This is to close up the section with powerful value propositions and differentiators that will go into more depth in the the sales and marketing section. Right now it is about showing that you have the resources and wherewithal to build the business.

You might also want to include investor and company highlights to build the story you are trying to tell.

NEXT TIME: PRODUCTS AND SERVICES - After you have explained how compelling the problems and needs are and your vision for the company you will need to discuss the solutions your company provides to answer the problem.

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Last Minute NYC Trip

I’ve decided to rent a car and make the drive up I-95 to the Problogger NYC meetup on Thursday evening. It was all very last minute. Had to find a place to stay, rent a car (because mine certainly won’t make the trip) and throw together arrangements (i.e. make sure the Wife would allow it ;-) ). So if you’re making the meetup, speak up so I know who to look forward to meeting.

Kent Brewster Said it Right

At SXSW, I sat in on a session “Web Hacks” which ended up being nothing about web hacks. The panel discussion was allowed to spiral into politically laced commentary on copyright law. One of the panelists, Kent Brewster from Yahoo! Pipes Yahoo Developers Network , had a great response to a audience member who wanted to know what the big companies like Yahoo were going to do about the lack of societal ethics which led to copyright infringement. The question was phrased ambiguously enough using “you” as a reference to Yahoo, but Kent promptly responded to the “you” as a personal reference.

“I take time with my kids, each one of them, every day and every night to teach them the morally guiding principles of life that I want to have instilled in them. It starts in the home.”

While this is not a direct quote, this is the essence of it. I side with the questioner who was looking for some kind of assurance from the big corporations that their weight would be used to help stop content scraping and publisher rights infringement. However, Kent is completely correct in assessing the issue and determining that this is truly not an issue that can be dealt with at a societal level – that the morals and ethics that cause people to steal and cheat to get ahead are morals that were instilled in their own homes and environments. In order to “save” the next generation and “right” the ship, so to speak, the morality of the parents of today should be at a level that will positively instruct the parents of tomorrow.

Kent, I tried to talk to you at the conference, but unfortunately got sidetracked. Would love to talk more with you if you happen by this entry.

Automatic Activation of Plugins

A long time “want” for WordPress, especially since dealing with a large number of blogs at b5media, has been to have a WordPress MU feature that provides a directory whereby all plugins are automatically activated. I have asked for it on back channels for several months now, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how simple (and how backwards) the same functionality could be. I have to give credit to Barry and Matt at Automattic for pointing this out to me. Oh, Ryan did too.

The answer is the long-time hidden resident of WordPress, the my-hacks.php file. You create a plugin directory where all plugins will be activated from (we call it b5-plugins), and then simply update the my-hacks file as such:

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<php
require_once('wp-content/b5-plugins/my-plugin.php');
?>

We could probably go one better and read all the files in that directory into an array an execute, but my security fritz goes off when I get to that level of blind automation.

b5media is Hiring

We are hiring a slew of positions (not blogger positions, though there are those too). Jeremy has posted the details. Among those are:

  • Operations Manager
  • Affiliate Manager
  • WordPress Developer
  • Print Designer
  • “Music Phreak”

If you’re interested, we’d love to get an email from you with your qualifications, and perhaps even a resum√©! :)