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Post WordCamp RDU Thoughts.

WordPress is a piece of cake. XD
WordPress is a piece of cake. XD

Yesterday was WordCamp RDU at NCCU's School of Education.  Being my first Camp of any kind, the night before I searched for ideas and tips on what I should prepare for.  The first article I found had three basic points.  The most important to me was something I didn't think of: be prepared with questions for the speaker.  I knew I would get to ask questions, but I didn't think to have them prepared beforehand.  It's the simple things that we miss.

I spent all evening trying to come up with some questions and I kept arriving to the same question for all the speakers.  How do you get creative?  Then, I thought, if I could only ask one person this question it would be Matt Mullenweg.  I did get to talk to him for a brief moment, but I'll get to that in a bit.

So Saturday morning I met up with a friend of mine from NC State and we headed out for the school.  From the very beginning I could tell we were going to have fun.  The volunteers were friendly and helpful.  Danielle Baldwin, one of the people responsible for the event, did a great job.  It was like they had done it before and yet, this was the first Raleigh/Durham WordCamp.

The other participants were really great too.  (Well, except for a couple of rude people. Yes I am linking that image, that guy was rude.) I met a couple of awesome writers and fellow geeks.  The dynamics were all over the place as well; old, young, experienced, beginners... everything.  It was awesome how this dynamic didn't matter, everyone had a great time sharing their thoughts and experiences on WordPress and what they use it for.

There were two sets of presentations, sometimes three at a time, and a few of them were difficult to choose between.  For one time slot it was between Copyright tips, WordPress as a CMS, or Videoblogging.  Of the three I was more interested in Copyright Tips and Videoblogging, but you can see the difficulty in choosing from the three.  All very good and interesting sessions.

The best presentation of the day, in my opinion, was given by Andy Beal about SEO.  My SEO is pretty weak 'cause SEO and I have issues. 🙂  Andy's zeal about the subject, along with some great questions by other antendees, really helped me understand it more.  He's a pretty rad speaker.

The keynote for the day was by WordPress creator, Matt Mullenweg.  I have a thing about presentations: the slides are not que cards.  I don't like it when people just read off the slides and offer no other comment or conversation about what they put on the slide.  Matt had about three or four slides with only a few words of text.  Everything else came from him.  This, I think, is hard to do which is why people rely so much on the slides.  Matt was inspiring to say the least with is presentation and his thoughts.  He's a cool dude.  It takes a big person to say they don't like their own product (He did say they are fixing it.  Actually, the new version is coming out later this month.).  Amazing guy.

So, during the Q and A, people were asking him questions mainly about WordPress, Automattic, and the many projects he's involved with. My question seemed out of place and I felt like asking him one on one anyway.  After the keynote, I had a chance to ask him my question.  His answer was pretty straight forward.  "For starters, if I am working on a project that is on the computer, the first thing I do is get off the computer."  He does his photography and he also sketches in a moleskin for inspiration.  He mentioned the site ColourLovers.com, which is new to me and is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  If I sound fanboy-ish, than so be it but Matt is an inspirational creative and I am glad to have met him.

There are a few other resources from yesterday that are starting to get posted online.  I know Wayne Sutton did an interview with Matt and he recorded A LOT of video of the event too.  I saw almost everyone taking pictures and stuff, but I have yet to find any on Flickr, save a few from myself and Wayne Sutton.  Mine aren't that great, btw. 😉

So that's pretty much everything in a nutshell... a large nutshell, but a nutshell nonetheless.  It was a great time and my only complaint is I didn't win a WordPress shirt. 🙁

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Online Web Apps for private journaling.

I've started up my personal journal again.  (Yes, I am writing a diary...)  Only this time, I thought I'd try a virtual journal in the hopes that I would continue writing in it longer than a few months.  I enjoy writing and chronicling my thoughts, but writing in a book never worked out for me.  I would jot down my thoughts and ideas more often if I could write from anywhere and anytime.  What better way to write on the go than with my iPhone?

The first thought I had was to search for some sort of iPhone app that was password protected.  I found a few, some free and some at a small premium.  Writing from the iPhone is convenient when there isn't a full size keyboard around, but I would rather use a computer when it is available.  So if I was going to buy an app, it would need to sync with some online service or at least sync with my PC.  I couldn't find any apps that had this functionality so I thought of just using a webapp instead.

Immediately, I found this cool service called Penzu.  It's a very well thought out service and really simple to use.  It's completely private and, unlike a public blog, the individual entries don't have a URL for robots to scan.  Let's say someone figured out your password, each entrycan be individually locked and would therefore require a second password to view.

It's also well designed.  When you visit the site you can start writing right away by clicking on the "try it out" link. After you're done writing, just log in and it will save the entry automatically.  As you're writing, the text appears on what looks like a sheet of lined paper.  Like I said, really cool site.

Unfortunately, writing on it in Safari on the iPhone is really cumbersome.  I was typing pretty fast and after a while, I had to stop so it would catch up with me.  The site is really good, and adding an iPhone app would make it the best private journaling application I could find.  I ended up not using it because of how the iPhone interacted with it.

This search turned out to be a little more drawn out then I thought it would be.  I thought of  using Evernote or the Notes app, but I thought I would look at Blogger and WordPress first to see if there was a "private" setting.  I created a blog at WordPress.com first and set it to private.  Using the WordPress iPhone app, I was able to log-in to the blog and start writing.  I checked to make sure I couldn't access the site if I wasn't logged in and that the RSS feed was not displaying either.  So far, this seems like a pretty good solution.

Evernote could work as well since I have the desktop application and the iPhone application.  It wouldn't be as  efficient since it's designed for quick note taking, plus I'm a huge WordPress fan so using the WordPress.com blogs is ideal for me.  Blogger allows for private settings too, but I couldn't find an iPhone app for it.

I honestly hope that Penzu releases an iPhone app to go with their web application - I'll switch over if they do. Penzu is designed to be private unlike WordPress which is designed to be public.  Either way, WordPress is a good solution for now and hopefully I'll keep up with this journal-keeping quest for once.

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Hacking WordPress shortened links and Twitter Tools

This shortened URL business really has gotten out of hand.  Morning Toast wrote a rant about it a few days ago and it got me thinking about their usefulness.  He also twittered about Flickr's own URL shortener as well.  Although Flickr uses a different domain name for these shortened URLs, the link is still obvious about it's context; it is a Flickr image.

I found out about this idea of using "rev=canonical" within a link.  I'm still trying to understand the whole concept: essentially if a link is created, a shortener service checks if the link owner has already shortened it.  If the owner has indeed shortened it, the shortener service will provide the owner's short URL to the request-or.  That's way to complicated for me, but it would be nice have my own shortened links when I post them to a service like Twitter.

Then it hit me.

I remembered that when you first install WordPress, "pretty" permalinks are deactivated.  Running in this default mode, a post link looks like this: http://guamaso.com/?p=293.  It still doesn't have the context of the post itself, but at least now you know that it is related to The Guamaso.  It may not be shorter than http://bit.ly/1m4Qp, but the added context is worth it to me.

So how do I implement this "built-in shortener?"  I use Twitter Tools to automatically send a blog post to Twitter.  Why not use Twitter Tools to send the short URL instead of the pretty URL!  I changed a few things on line 466:

$shorturl = get_bloginfo('url');
$shorturl .= "/?p=";
$shorturl .= $post_id;

LINE 466: $url = apply_filters('tweet_blog_post_url', $shorturl);

UPDATE: The items in bold are what I changed / added.

I sent a a test "twit" to Twitter earlier and it worked (actually, I initially forgot to add the "p" but it's in there now.).  So instead of passing the full permalink that will get shortened by Twitter anyway, it now sends the shorter WordPress URL that starts with my domain name.  Boom.

I don't think a reader can find the post's ID without direct access to the Admin area, so providing this short link for the reader to use is the key to making this method successful.  I'd also like to see more plugins that use these shorter links when posting to Twitter.  It makes way more sense then letting Twitter make the decision.  On the other hand, blogs that post 10+ entries a day may out grow it in a few years... but hey, maybe by then we'll jump to the next social trend anyway.

UPDATE 2: Scratch everything I just said!  Don't edit Twitter Tools, instead download the Twitter Friendly Links plug-in.  It works with rev=canonical, Twitter Tools, and it will also add the short link on your posts for your readers.  The best part is it will make the link shorter than with the hack I explained above.  Instead of http://guamaso.com/?p=293 it will be http://guamaso.com/293. Good plugin, give it a try!