Don’t Subscribe To My Post Comments If You’re a SpamArrest Customer

On this and other blogs, I have a recurring pain in the butt issue. Some people subscribe to a comment thread, and upon every comment following, I get a challenge email from SpamArrest when the notification of a new comment email is sent.

Here’s news: I don’t click the verify link. As a matter of fact, I don’t even GET the verify link. All of those verification emails go straight to my trash can. I realize this might not be very reader-friendly, but I simply don’t have time to open up every email and click those stupid links, even if I were inclined to.

So please – if you’re a spamarrest customer and you want to subscribe to a comment thread, put on whatever kind of whitelist they have so you can get the subscription notifications. Otherwise, you won’t get any notices from this site about updated comments.

Protecting Your WordPress Blog From Hackers, Crackers, and Jerks

The last few days have seen a rash of hacker attacks on WordPress blogs, with isolated reports going back a month or more. Without exception, as far as I can tell, the successful attacks were on blogs running outdated older versions of WordPress. The latest exploits involve hidden admin users and permalinks polluted with javascript code, outlined in these posts on the WordPress support forum:

WP 2.8.3 and 2.8.4 are NOT vulnerable to this exploit. If you’ve been hacked any time in the last month, and you’re running pre-2.8.3 software, the monkey’s on YOUR back. If you were hacked and running up-to-date version of WP, send the details to please.

If you’ve been lax and haven’t upgraded to the latest version, don’t do it until you’ve determined whether or not you’ve already been invaded. If you have, clean it up first, then upgrade. (Be sure you read the “Beyond Upgrading” section at the end of this post) Read more

Skype Can Be a Pain In the Ass

I don’t restart my computer very often; it mostly runs 24/7. So when I did have occasion to do a restart, I was hit with the issue that my development instance of Apache wouldn’t start. I would get the error: “Windows could not start Apache 2.2 on Local Computer. For more information, review the System Event Log. If this is a non-Microsoft service, contact the service vendor, and refer to service-specific error code 1.”

Never one to follow instructions, after several retries, much teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling, I decided I might make more headway were I to have a look at the Apache error log.

Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Just a note that the file had been overwritten.

So, maybe following suggestions is a good thing. Opened up the WinXP event viewer. Hallelujah, there it is.

“The Apache service named  reported the following error: >>> no listening sockets available, shutting down.”

I have Apache configured to listen on port 80, so I don’t have to go through shenanigans when I’m developing a site. What this error is telling me is that port 80 isn’t available to attach to – probably because some other program got there first.

I’ve never had this problem before. What’s different between now and the last time I restarted my machine with no problems?

Aha! I upgraded Skype.

Sure enough: shut down Skype, Apache starts up normally.

Skype was hijacking my listening socket, and because it’s higher up on the auto-start list than Apache, Apache choked.

AFAICT, this wasn’t previous Skype behavior. I’ve never had the issue before, so logically the last upgrade changed things.

So I set Skype to start manually instead of automatically. Problem solved.

45 minutes wasted, never to return. I know that’s not much, but still.

Using My Way Links To Build Incoming Traffic

This isn’t strictly WordPress related, but if you are an avid blogger and use your blog(s) for income, then you might want to check out Jonathan Leger’s My Way Links program.

One thing that we’re all looking for as bloggers is traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. To get that traffic, we have to rank well in search engines for the things we write about. One of the biggest boosts to that ranking is incoming links, meaning links on other sites that link to pages or posts on your site.

Those can be difficult to get. For a lot of us, it’s not all that important. We’re content to let the community decide the worth of what we write, and link back to us every once in a while.

If you depend on your blog for income, you can’t afford to do that. A lot of your time is spent on SEO strategies. That’s where the My Way Links program comes in. You can build a variety of incoming links from authority sites at a quicker pace than you normally would be able to. You’ll want to use it in moderation of course, but a tool like this is invaluable when it comes to getting high-quality inbound links that will help get your blog found in the Big G.

I wrote a short note about this on TheFastLane blog also, entitled SEO Linking Strategies. You might want to check it out also.

Using PHP Short Tags in Plugins Is a No-No

I had a client call up over the weekend in a panic because her blog disappeared.

“Help! All I see is a blank screen!”

“What’s the last thing you did?” says I.

“Updated my theme files,” says she.

So after an hour’s worth of troubleshooting, I found the problem:

Plugin and theme developers: please do us all a favor and do NOT use the short PHP opening tag (<?) instead of the full length tag: <?php.

Just because you have your development server set up to recognize short tags doesn’t mean that production servers do. In fact, many if not most of them don’t.

Just a request. Yeah, I suppose I make some money fixing this stuff when you do that. But I’d rather not.

Bloggers: if you upload a plugin or theme and you get a fatal error saying “Unexpected $end in filename.php at line xx”, this is one of the first things to check.

Unfortunately, if your web server isn’t set up to allow short PHP tags and also doesn’t display errors (production servers shouldn’t display PHP errors or notices) you might just get the dreaded blank white “I’m dead” screen.

Just something to be aware of.

Just Released – The Simple Link Cloaker Plugin

Anyone who’s ever done any affiliate marketing knows the value of ‘cloaking’ outgoing affiliate links. First, it can deter the occasional commission thief who will strip out your affiliate code and replace it with their own, robbing you of a well-earned commission. Just as importantly, it makes your links more ‘professional’ looking when the visitor hovers over the link and looks down at the status bar. They’re more likely to click if the status bar reads rather than Agreed?

So, lazy affiliate marketer that I am, I looked around for an easy way to cloak affiliate URLs. Easy being the operative word here. I wanted the system to work with WordPress, I didn’t want to upload a new PHP file every time I needed a new affiliate link cloaked, didn’t want to mess with lame <meta refresh=”99bottlesofbeer”> meta tags in new files.

I looked around for an existing WordPress plugin that would do the trick, because while I could certainly write one, I didn’t want to. Like I said, I’m a lazy affiliate marketer.

I found several – but they all did WAY more than what I needed. One that I tried even attempted to verify outgoing affiliate URLs – handy, but it added almost a minute to my posting time, and I didn’t really need the verification.

Another did everything but my dirty dishes.

Enough was enough. Broke out the PHP editor and sliced my own.

This plugin is simplicity in action. If you’re at all capable of copying/pasting or writing down a simple URL, and don’t need fancy tracking and CTR stats, this plugin’s for you. You’re not limited to a certain folder name or names, you can make the outgoing URL as long or short as you want it, make it say anything you want. Doesn’t matter.

You can download it here. If you like it, and it helps you make affiliate money easier, you can show your appreciation and buy me a beer Amp. I live on Amps. Especially the Charge lemon-flavored one, and the Tradin’ Paint 3-flavor version.

Dealing With Duplicate Content Issues on WordPress Comments Pages

I saw a tweet today about WordPress comment page duplication issues related to SEO. While the word is still out as to just how much damage it does or doesn’t do to your ability to get found by the Great G, this specific problem is relatively easily fixed — and not by disabling the paged comments feature that the Wizards of WordPress have so kindly coded for us (you ever had a post with 300 comments? you’ll understand what I mean…).

All it takes is a little bit of code in the functions.php file in your theme. If you’re uncomfortable editing your theme files or don’t know how, leave a comment and I’ll whip up a little plugin. This may be a good time to learn to edit your files, though đŸ™‚

This little bit of code doesn’t affect anything but WordPress comment pages. If you use WordPress for something other than a plain-vanilla blog, you may need the horsepower of Yoast’s Canonical URLs plugin for WordPress.

So in your functions.php file, insert the following code (I split the echo lines up for clarity, normally they’d be all on one line):

function canonical_for_comments() {
 global $cpage, $post;
 if ( $cpage > 1 ) :
  echo "\n";
  echo "<link rel='canonical' href='";
  echo get_permalink( $post->ID );
  echo "' />\n";
add_action( 'wp_head', 'canonical_for_comments' );

Make sure you paste the code before the last ?> characters at the end of the file.

For those of you who care, here’s a quick explanation of what the above code does — you’ll get a short intro into the behind-the-scenes functioning of WordPress.

When a visitor navigates beyond the first page of comments, the variable $cpage contains the page # that’s being displayed. The $post variable contains all of the information about the post. The function tests to see if we’re on a comments page greater than 1, if so, it spits out the <link rel=…./> characters. But where does it spit them?

That’s controlled by the add_action line. We’re telling WordPress that when it’s building the head section (‘wp-head’), to add our special ‘canonical_for_comments’ function.

Simple, easy schmeezy.

Why I’ll Probably Never Visit Your Blog Again

In my office, I run on a 8mbs cable connection. In other words, about a bazillion times faster than dialup. I don’t pay the extra money for this kind of speed just because I want the technology. I do it because page load times make a difference in my day.

So when I visit your blog, and I’m stuck waiting on an adserver to spit out an ad, and nothing else on the page is loading, what do you think I’m going to do? Right-o. The little ‘x’ button up in the corner. I’ll say goodbye to what could possibly have become one of my favorite blogs. But I’ll never know, because I refuse to wait for 30 seconds or a minute for your network adserver to respond.

Now, I’m not against ads. Not at all. Not even close. I help people monetize their blogs quite frequently. Advertising of some sort is the life blood of a working blogger.

But do it intelligently.

Hire a developer to rework your templates so the ads load LAST. If you’re with a network that requires scripting in the <head> area of the page, switch networks. Pretty radical? Why? They’re not doing you a favor when their servers are overloaded or slow to respond. You’re losing readers.

Work with your ad providers to provide reader-friendly advertising. You never know – you just might gain more readers and make more money in the process.