May 092015
 

ManMicrophoneThe first time I saw her she was sitting cross-legged on the hood of a police car in the parking lot of the county jail.
Indian style we would have called it when I was a kid, back before using group descriptors as the adjectives they are was considered taboo.
I considered asking which term she preferred.
Unable to decide if that sounded like the worst pick-up line in history or exactly the type of insightful query that would pique her interest I moved on.

The second time I saw her she was trudging through three feet of still falling snow.
Only her eyes were visible. Peeking out from the layers of cloth she had swaddled herself in to hold off the freezing winter.
I considered offering her a ride.
Unable to decide if that sounded like a serial killer seeking his next victim or exactly the hero she was hoping for in her hour of need I moved on.

The third time I saw her I was so overcome with relief that I remember almost nothing else about our environment.
Simply knowing that she had survived the maelstrom was enough to erode all other items of importance into mere pebbles that turned the world to static.
I considered introducing myself.
Unable to move, much less speak, I instead bathed in the warmth of knowing she continued to exist long after she had moved on.

The fourth time I saw her I was standing on a stage behind a microphone, having just forgotten every word of the poem I was about to recite for the crowd.
She entered the bar like a whirlwind, last to arrive, but immediately the only audience that mattered to my long-shattered mind.
I didn’t consider at all, but instead merely spoke.
We’re all hearing these words and thoughts for the very first time,
here,
together,
in this moment.
Perhaps tonight is the night we shall finally move on together.

Dec 172008
 
Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Welcome to the ninth installment of my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series.

NOTE: Although the main focus of this week’s tutorial is sponsored blog posts, there are many, many uses for what I’ll be sharing with y’all today so don’t run off just yet. After the tutorial I’ll share some other great uses for today’s lesson.

Anyone who has ever taken a sponsored post through any of the ‘paid to blog’ companies knows that they’re all full of various rules restricting how you can lay out your blog. Anyone who has taken sponsored posts for more than a few months has no doubt run into frustrations at what seems to be the usurping of your blog by these companies. Well, I’ve finally found a simple and elegant solution – separate templates for individual blog posts.

To see what I mean click over to my latest post at Gilroy Review about how columnist Cynthia Walker hates poor people.  Scroll down and take a look at the entire layout of that post.  Then click on the navigation to go to the post before it on Mary Jane Goods.  Notice anything different?  The ad placements are totally different because one is a sponsored post while the other is not. (BTW, if you’re reading this Google, the sponsored links are all nofollowed so don’t get your servers in a bunch).

All I had to do to accomplish those entirely different post layouts was tell my blog that a different author wrote each post.  I use author because I’m the only person writing on these blogs and my blog themes don’t mention author names anyway.  I could do the same thing with a specific tag or category as well.  I only use author because it’s completely transparent on my blogs.  Now, this did take a little set-up which is what I’m going to layout for y’all here in this post.

I learned how to do this, BTW, thanks to a great post by Justin Tadlock on his terrific Life, Blogging & WordPress blog.  That post contains a lot of code because it covers so many options, and all of that code can be pretty intimidating to people who aren’t used to messing about ‘under the hood’ of their WordPress installation.  So I’m going to stick to one simple system here.  If you want to change templates based on something besides the author of the post then please visit Justin’s site and you should be able to follow along just fine after seeing how easy it is here.

How It’s Done-

Enough blathering.  On to the tutorial itself…

First you’ll need to visit Appearance > Editor within your WordPress Admin and select your Single Post (single.php) file.  Select the everything in the text box there (either drag your cursor over all of it or simply click in the box and hit CTRL-A) and then paste it into your favorite text editor.  Personally I use EditPad, but Notepad works just as well in this case and is available on every Windows computer.

This is the basic template file that determines the layout of the single post pages on your blog. It’s probably already setup in an ‘advertiser friendly’ manner so you’re going to leave this copy alone.

Now return to your WordPress admin, go to Users > Add New and make a new user that you’ll only use for your sponsored posts (or whatever pots you want to use the old template for).  By the way, if you want the author to display the same as your current account on your blog just include the same name in the Nickname box and select that name in the “Display name publicly as” drop down menu.  Ok, once that user is made click on them to go to their edit page and look at the URL in your address bar.  Roughly in the middle you should see something along the lines of "?user_id=4". That number is the key to our next step. Return to your text editor program and save the file as single-author-?.php, replacing the ? with the number you saw in the URL above. Pretty easy so far, right?

Okay, now you just need to open your FTP program and connect to your server. Navigate to Your Blog > wp-content > themes > Your Theme and make a new folder or directory there called single. Then upload your newly saved file to that folder/directory. It should end up looking something like my FTP directory to the right.

That was the hardest part, I promise.  Now you just need to return to your WordPress admin area again and go to Appearance > Editor but this time select Theme Functions (functions.php). Each of these is going to look a little bit different depending on what theme you’re using, but you don’t need to worry about that. Just scroll down to the very bottom where you’ll see ?> and place your cursor on the blank line above that one. Then paste the following into the file and hit Update File-

/**
* Define a constant path to our single template folder
*/
define(SINGLE_PATH, TEMPLATEPATH . '/single');

/**
* Filter the single_template with our custom function
*/
add_filter('single_template', 'my_single_template');

/**
* Single template function which will choose our template
*/
function my_single_template($single) {
	global $wp_query, $post;

/**
	* Checks for single template by author
	* Check by user nicename and ID
	*/
	$curauth = get_userdata($wp_query->post->post_author);

	if(file_exists(SINGLE_PATH . '/single-author-' . $curauth->user_nicename . '.php'))
		return SINGLE_PATH . '/single-author-' . $curauth->user_nicename . '.php';

	elseif(file_exists(SINGLE_PATH . '/single-author-' . $curauth->ID . '.php'))
		return SINGLE_PATH  . '/single-author-' . $curauth->ID . '.php';

/**
	* Checks for default single post files within the single folder
	*/
	if(file_exists(SINGLE_PATH . '/single.php'))
		return SINGLE_PATH . '/single.php';

	elseif(file_exists(SINGLE_PATH . '/default.php'))
		return SINGLE_PATH . '/default.php';

	return $single;

}

Now just go back to your Single Post (single.php) file and make whatever changes you want to your single post layout – ad layouts, styles, backgrounds, etc – without having to worry about the opinions of the sponsored blog companies you work for. Just make sure to select that other (fictitious) author whenever you do a paid post and theirs will appear on a page that meets all of their requirements.

Personally, I also plan on using this when setting up a Daddy-Daughter blog with Zaira in the near future to give my posts a black & white color scheme and hers a pink & black scheme. This system would also be perfect for when you have guest bloggers and it can also be used to differentiate between categories or subjects on your blog rather easily. For example, if you have a weekly photo feature as many do, or host a blog carnival you could use an entirely different template for those posts. As I mentioned above, if you want to differentiate by category or tag just visit  Justin Tadlock’s original post on the concept at his Life, Blogging & WordPress.

I’m sure there are plenty of other uses for this as well, so if you’ve got any ideas, please leave a comment and let me know!  Or, if you have any questions or problems, just leave a note and, as always, I’l ldo my best to help.!

Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Dec 112008
 

It’s not exactly news that I’ve been far from happy with Izea, PayPerPost and SocialSpark for some time now. I actually abandoned writing for them for about two months, but have returned as they’re still one of the most consistent money makers available to me on the web. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse over at Izea.

The last time I wrote about PPP was back in August related to Izea’s love of PageRank and how they’ve further embraced it instead of abandoning it as they had promised when Google attacked the bulk of their bloggers.  It seems good old Ted Murphy has decided that PayPerPost’s original critics were right and it really is all about selling PageRank and text links and actually has nothing to do with quality bloggers writing thoughtful and detailed reviews about products and services.  Why would I say this?  Well, according to Carri Bright (Izea’s Communications Diva)

The good news, though is that as of tomorrow (12.11.08), Tack Rating is no longer going to be a segmentation factor for Opps in PPP. So, while you may still receive a ban (deserved or otherwise) this will no longer affect your ability to take Opps from OTHER advertisers or lower your Tack score.

If you’re unfamiliar with PPPs workings, a ‘tack’ is the rating system advertiser’s have to give feedback on how well the blogger performed their duty when taking the advertiser’s opp (opportunity / sponsored post). Up until now, advertiser’s have been able to require a minimum average tack rating before a blogger could take one of their opps. This system allowed better blogs to (theoretically) rise to the top as an advertiser could require a 4 or 5 tack rating, leaving out all of those who previous advertisers have rated one or two tacks for poor English skills, outright lies, or rule bending.

The system was far from perfect, but was at least based on advertiser input and not the conflicted interest of PPP’s “reviewers” who (according to this ongoing thread) don’t seem very interested in disqualifying low quality blogs or even outright frauds and cheats.  In the past advertisers could allow even the one tack rated sploggers take their opps of they so chose, but now every PPP advertiser is required to let anyone and everyone who manages to game the (seriously broken) PageRank and RealRank systems get paid for linking to their website despite the quality of their writing or ability to follow simple instructions.

Aug 182008
 

Do you have multiple tabs (or even worse, browser windows) open when you’re writing a blog post?  I sure do.  One has the post I’m writing, another (and possiblya 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th) have the source or reference article(s).  Although I’ve been blogging with WordPress for a couple of years now I still have issues with getting all of the images and other graphic elements to layout properly at times. Thus, I’m constantly using the “preview” feature to keep an eye on exactly how my published post will look and that means yet another tab to flip back and forth between.  When I first started blogging I would have multiple browser windows open. Then I discovered tabbed browsing so I was able to work much more efficiently. Still I would frequently decide it was too much of a hassle to keep flipping back and forth between various tabs, thus creating more work in the long run as I had to go back and edit my posts repeatedly.

Then I discovered the Split Browser extension for Firefox by Shimoda Hiroshi. Now I can effortlessly have the editing box in which I’m composing my blog post, the source material web site, and a preview of my blog post all on my screen at the same time.  The Split Browser extension can be found in the official Mozilla Firefox Add-Ons directory and is a simple one-click install (like most Firefox extensions). When you restart Firefox the only difference you’ll notice is the addition of a “Split” item in your menu bar. However when you move your cursor to the edge of your browser window a pop-up button will appear which will allow you to open the current page in a split browser pane. You can also drag links, bookmarks, etc onto any of these pop-up buttons to open that item in the new split browser pane.

If you don’t like the pop-up buttons appearing you can disable them through the extension’s extensive Options menu which hosts a score of various options. Personally, I kept accidentally opening a split browser on the right side when I’d try to scroll a webpage.  Z had this same problem, so now, we tend to use the context menu (aka right-click menu) to open or close my various split browser panes. However, one of the beautiful things about this extension is that it can be so easily customized to work how you would like it to, instead of you having to adapt to the way the extension writer prefers to do things.

Although I first started using the Split Browser extension to make blogging quicker and easier I’ve now found myself using it constantly for all kinds of browsing tasks. When using Google Image Search I no longer have to open multiple tabs, but instead load interesting results in a series of bottom panes. When someone links to an interesting YouTube video I can now open it in a split browser pane on the right and continue to read the original page while it loads and plays. While chatting with my ex-wife about scheduling visitation with my daughter I can keep my calendar page visible in an upper split broswer pane in order to save time flipping back and forth. Best of all, when I’m trying to keep my eye on an eBay auction that is in its final minutes I can open it in a split browser to keep an eye out for snipers all the while continuing to check my email or continue working elsewhere on the web.

Aug 182008
 

As parents, there are millions of things we want to teach our children in a relatively short period of time.  As a divorced father who missed the first 9 years of his daughters life there are just as many things, but a much more compressed time frame.  Not only have I missed many, many years all together, but even the time I have is limited by visitation.  So it amazes me a bit that it took me so long  to start combining these lessons.

Some of the biggest parenting goals I’ve had are to teach Z personal responsibility, economic sense, personal worth, and that work will eventually pay off.  Last month I finally figured out a way to bring these goals together.  Instead of giving Z an allowance simply because she’s managed to keep breathing for another week I’ve instead decided to pay her to blog.

I’m finally starting to make some decent monthly cash through blogging and I thought it was time to share the wealth a bit.  Instead of simply thrusting her into the world of blog monetization, I’m actually paying her for every post she makes (based on a minimum of four posts per week).  So far it seems to be working fairly well.  She has earned around $50 in the last four weeks writing primarily on her personal blog she’s dubbed the Butterfly Diaries.  More importantly, as a result of her consistent posting she’s getting indexed almost immediately by Google and starting to generate revenue through Adsense and a few affiliate programs as well.

Actually, let me withdraw the qualifier on that last sentence and try again.  Most importantly she’s learning to earn her own money (if at a slightly inflated scale), learning how to communicate better, and developing critical thinking skills at the same time.  Meanwhile it helps us grow closer as she better understands the trials, tribulations and victories that I experience on a daily basis while trying to eek out a living online.