Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/22/2014

WordPress – Blogging, CMS and more

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

So, my “Tools for Tuesday” posts are getting a bit more challenging for me time-wise and quality-wise.

That’s why I missed last week, actually.  I was just too busy to get a good review post done and shared in time.  And, I think maybe it’s time I start scaling that feature back, just a bit, to one post every other week.  I hope it will let me maintain both the quality and quantity of “Tools for Tuesday” posts.

And, now that bit of house-keeping is out of the way, on with the big show!WordPressThreePointNine-2
Or, at least the main post.  This week, I’m sharing something that is probably familiar to many, if not most, of my readers; WordPress.  WordPress is the blogging software that I use to run this blog, not to mention my other old blog at Fantasist.net, as well as the entire site at JKHoffman.com and my wife’s site at OrganizingDecorator.com.  It will also be what I use to run two other projects that I’m working on developing, Find My Photographer and Find My Decorator.
As you fellow devotees know, this past week saw the release of WordPress 3.9, but I’ve been using this free, open source software since version 1.2!  Before that, I used MovableType like many early bloggers, but with their “great license debacle”, many of us jumped ship and found our way to WordPress.  I know one reason I, personally, chose to go that route was because the lead developer of the project is Matt Mullenweg, who happens to hail from Houston, where I live currently.  I liked the idea that I might run into him at one of the local computer groups that were around at the time.  I never did, but I did go to DEF*CON with someone he used to play in a band with back in 2012.

In any case, I’ve used WordPress for a long time, especially in “internet years”.
Back in the day, it was really only a blogging platform, but it was super easy to setup and maintain.  And, perhaps more importantly to me, especially back then, it was easy to extend.  I haven’t written any plugins lately, but WordPress is so easy to use and code for that even I could write add-ons for it.  I’ve even done some pretty significant modification of themes, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m about as far from a designer as you can get.
WordPressThreePointNineSince those early days, though, WordPress has really grown up!  Now, not only can it handle simple blogging, but it can run your whole site.  There are detractors, of course, who say that it’s not really a full-featured content management system, but they’re wrong.  WordPress has built-in features that make running an entire site easy, like the ability to set a static home page and super-simple page management.  Add to that a completely customizable appearance through themeing, limited only by the designer’s vision and ability and you can see why WordPress runs about 19% of the internet and has been downloaded at least 46 million times.  But, what’s even better is that there are so many people doing add-on development in one for or another that there is a theme, widget or plug-in that will pretty much do anything else you could want that’s not already rolled in.  And that’s really saying something because WordPress “ships” with a pretty robust gallery and media management system already rolled into it.  Other important features include good, reasonably secure user management, a commenting system and an easy to use interface.  Granted, the interface is always being worked on and improved, so it’s always changing, but it’s never been a distraction for me.

WordPressFourPointZeroOther features include autosave, spell check, automatic upgrading, built-in plugin installation, sticky posts, comment threading/paging/replies, bulk management of posts and comments, image editing, a Trash/Undo feature, bulk plugin and theme updating, a multi-site option allowing multiple custom blogs to be run from the same installation, it comes in at least 70 languages and it’s even pretty optimized for search engines!  But, it think what matters most to me is that WordPress has a huge community around it, supporting it going forward, developing for it and making it better, even though it’s free.  I can download the latest version of this beauty any time I want, install it on the webserver of my choosing, and make my voice heard on the internet.  I can build with it or I can build on it to make it do whatever I need or want and anything I create with it is all mine.  No one owns a piece of it and, as long as I write my own posts and pages, I keep and maintain all rights to all the data that I shove into it.  That’s pretty incredible when you think about it.

And, yes, it really is easy to install and use, so if you’re thinking about starting a website, I highly recommend using WordPress to do it.  Don’t listen to the nay-sayers that claim WordPress isn’t up to the task either, because a lot of really incredible websites use WordPress.  You can check some out at the WordPress Showcase.  You might be surprised at some of the high-profile sites that you have already been to that use WordPress!  All that power can be yours, too, if you just take the time to download, install and use WordPress!

10/19/2011

A Word On Writing Well

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, a bit more than a word…

“Content is king”, they used to say. The idea was if you wrote enough compelling material for your blog or website, then the readers, and search engines, couldn’t help but find you and rank you well. Sounds like a great idea, right? Then why do so many people write such bad content?

I don’t know either.
What I do know is that everyone and their brother have an idea about how to write good, compelling content for your blog or website. Take SEO Book, for instance, who ran a post about writing better blog posts back in December of 2008. They, in turn, referenced Seth Godin and a book titled On Writing Well.
Now, I’ll grant you, I tend to share links to other resources, offering an opinion about them usually, but not as much original content as I’d like.  But, still, I think that even those posts are written reasonably well.  And, I think it’s worth taking the time, even on a blog, to write well.  Not to improve my rankings in search engines, but because writing well, communicating clearly, is a worthy pursuit.  It may not always be obvious here, but I actually worked quite hard to become a competent writer well beyond things like English class in high school.  One way or another, I’ve written for years and take pride in my ability to write clearly, concisely and in an entertaining manner.

You see, the thing is, as much as we love video and photos and graphics and the like, in the end, we use words to actually communicate.
The next time you’re driving down the street in whatever town you live, notice how many signs have writing on them.  Or, better yet, notice how many signs are, in fact, themselves, writing.  Words, and writing, is still the medium we use to express ourselves, even on the web.  How we write is an expression of how we think.  Writing well is an essential skill that displays our intelligence and our education.  Writing poorly, with sloppy grammar and with “text message” abbreviations, subtly tells people that we are not as smart as we claim to be, and not to be trusted or believed.  Writing well, on the other hand, assures our reader that we are smart, trustworthy and competent enough to be relied upon.  Our writing, especially on the internet, can be, as they say at Google and Wikipedia, considered “authoritative”.
I have argued with people via e-mail and comments who, when they found themselves in metaphorical quicksand, insisted that they would argue circles around me in person.  I questioned how that would be possible if they couldn’t write sufficiently to defend their position when they had all the time they needed to consider the argument at hand and edit their work before replying.

Which brings me to the real point of this little screed; editing and revision.
I know the web is a fast and furious place and that fresh content is the most important thing, but, I do think we have the time to edit and revise articles, even short ones, before making them public.  And, we can all use spellcheck now.  In fact, the version of WordPress that I’m currently running has spellcheck and grammar check built into it.  I would think more people would take advantage of this feature, as well as the ability to save posts in a draft format for later review before posting.
Granted, not every post is going to garner that sort of care and attention, but shouldn’t more of them get it rather than less?  If we are our words on the internet, shouldn’t we care more how we sound and what we say?  I think so.

I think it’s worth writing fewer words, or even writing fewer entire posts, so that a certain minimal attention may be paid to the content and style.
In short, I think if it’s worth saying, then it’s worth saying well.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The weakness of men is their facade of strength; the strength of women is their facade of weakness."
   --Warren Farrell

6/3/2010

Finding Jobs with SEO

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Search engine marketing for job search?

Sure, why not?
I mean, that is why I started this blog ten years ago.  I guess I’m a little ahead of the curve, though, because Channel Insider just recently ran a story listing 17 tips for using SEO and social media to get the IT job you really want.  Mostly, they’re good tips, too, though for anyone who’s internet savvy at all, they’re also mostly common sense.  In fact, I think most real, good search engine optimization is just plain common sense.  Granted, I may be biased because of what I do and how I spend my free time, but, still, it’s not rocket science, you know?

I’ll grant you, this blog has wandered away from my original purpose a bit, but I still talk about technology and some of the things I do at work.  Initially, I started do this so I could drop buzzwords on my page, like “networking” and Certified Novell Engineer”, with normal language to lure in the search engines.  It was easy, really, all I had to do was bore people with detailed descriptions of the IT stuff I did all week long.  Then, because that gets boring fast, I started to occasionally pepper those entries with more colorful personal anecdotes.  Not too colorful, though!

One of the best tips is, to me, one of the most obvious, too.
Be careful what you post.  People seem to quickly forget that the search engines find everything.  Every drunken picture you post or every off-color joke or skeevy thing you share on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else eventually will get traced back to you.  Count on it.  So, be careful to share only the important information and just the details that relate to the image you want to project to get that job.  Treat the whole exercise as an extended digital job interview and put your best foot forward.

Oh, also?  Be honest.  Don’t over-share, but don’t lie either.  The other thing you can count on is that every lie you tell on-line will eventually be found out.

Other than that, though, the real secret is to just provide good content that people want to read.  That, by its very nature, will include all the SEO keywords that you’ll need and give you all the right kinds of links, and, most importantly of all, the right kinds of readers.
Trust me.  I’m telling you this as a guy who once got a call from another city from someone looking for a Novell consultant and was hoping I could help.  Why?  Because I was the number one hit for CNE on Google and they could get to me, but they couldn’t find similar help from Novell themselves.  So, yeah, I do know what I’m talking about and it really does work.  Just do the foot-work, and be patient while the rest happens.  It will.
Trust me.

5/5/2010

10 Year Anniversary

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,News and Current Events,Novell,PERL,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:08 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Yesterday marked this blog’s ten year anniversary.

In ten years, I’ve made more than 1,700 posts and had more than 1,900 comments, many of those from years when I blogged almost every day.  But, it was ten years ago when I uploaded my first entry. I edited it in a text editor of some kind, probably Notepad, and used FTP to push it up to the server. That was back in the days before blogging software and when most of us still called them journals or diaries. I started doing it to try and game the search engines. Mostly, it worked, I think, since the majority of my readers have found me via a search of some kind.

Since that first entry, a lot has changed.
I’ve been through two different kinds of blogging software. After months of doing it by hand, I converted to Moveable Type. I used that for several years, until the Time of the Troubles, when there was a big fuss over how Moveable Type was going to charge for previously free software, even after promising to keep it free forever. Like most converts, I changed over to WordPress, which I still use today. Moveable Type does have a free version, but, frankly, after learning how easy it was to style and customize WordPress, I can’t imagine moving back. Not to mention how much easier it is to make plugins for WordPress. Frankly, I love it.
Ten years ago, I did quite a few entries from the road via my old Palm IIIc with a folding keyboard. I typed them up and then synced that with my PC and pushed the entries from there. That old IIIc doesn’t hold a charge too well any more, but I’m still using the same PC I was ten years ago. Of course, I’ve added a much newer laptop, several other machines, and an iPhone to my technological stable since then. In fact, I was a beta tester for the new iPhone WordPress app!

A lot of other things have changed, too.
For one thing, I married and subsequently divorced the woman I was living with at the time. I’ve changed jobs, count it, five times, finally staying at my current company for about five years. I survived cancer. But, ironically, after several ups and downs with weight, I’m probably in better shape now than I was ten years ago!
Sure, I’d have liked to had a few more dates in the past ten years, but, I think I’ve done okay considering the divorce, not to mention the less than stellar marriage and, you know, the cheating death and all.  You’d be surprised how tired you get dodging the Grim Reaper!

I’ve upgraded my Novell certification at least once in that time as well as added a Linux certification.  My original plan of using this blog to boost my rankings in the search engines has largely paid off, as I’m consistently the number one or number two hit on Google for the search term “network geek”.
In that time, I’ve taught myself Perl, which is a scripting/programming language that’s been called the “duct tape of the Internet”.  In fact, as of this post, I’m a Level 8 PerlMonk.  (It’s a geek thing.) I’ve also gotten reasonably proficient at PHP, since that’s the technology which makes WordPress go.  At least, I’ve gotten good enough to write a few simple plugins and even a rough theme.  Frankly, I hope to do more of that soon, too.

I’ve taken up photography since starting this blog, too, and I think I’ve gotten fairly good at it.  Naturally, there’s room for improvement, as I’ve only been doing it for about two years, but, still, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.  I’m not very artistically skilled, but photography lets me tap into that in a less intimidating way.  I suppose, in a way, so does my obsession with blog themes and logo design.

And, of course, I’ve started several other blogs or websites in the ten years that I’ve had this blog.  But, don’t worry, those sites have been languishing just as badly as this one has the past several months.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, or even had things to write about, but I’ve just been too busy to sit down and do it.
Though, I do have to admit, part of that sort of writer’s block has been about my audience.  I mean, if you hit that search function over in the sidebar, you can get pretty interesting access to my life for the past ten years.  Oh, sure, not everything makes it into the blog, but I’ve been pretty candid posting here.  I try to keep it clean, mostly, and nothing that would embarrass my mother, but, I have been honest enough to shock a few friends.  So, if there’s something you want to know about me, just search for it.  You may be surprised what you find here!

So, wow.
It’s been an interesting experience blogging for the past ten years.  I started before the trend was as huge as it was and kept on even when the shine had worn off for many.  I can say for sure that I didn’t anticipate many of the twists and turns this blog took over the past ten years, much less my life, but it has been an interesting ride.  Many of you have been with me for quite some time now and I appreciate you reading along with me here.
I don’t know what the next ten years will bring here, or elsewhere in life, but I do hope you’d come along for the ride.  I’m sure it will be as big a surprise to me as it is to you!

4/3/2009

30 Tips for Bloggers

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

But, just two links.

Okay, so I’m kind of cheating with this, but, still, if it gets some of this in front of people who can use it, I think it’s worth gaming the system a bit.
First, I have a link to the Search Engine Journal post on Link Baiting, or How to Build Links in ANY Niche. For those of you in a hurry, I’ll summarize: write really, really killer content, if possible with tie-ins to other major blogs. (But, to read the article anyway.)
Secondly, the other 29 tips and whatnot are all at ProBlogger. Sure, the post title is 29 Tips, Tutorials and Resources for New Bloggers, but there’s plenty there for old-timers, too. (I keep meaning to read the ProBlogger book, too, but, it’s hiding under an exercise book, so I haven’t gotten to it yet.)

Okay, and yes, I’m hoping that the search engines will find this post and jostle me up a bit in the rankings. I am Googlerank whore. There, I said it. Happy now?

1/31/2008

No, Thank You, Mr. Spammer

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

As a result of my ranking in Google, I occasionally get silly spam.

This morning, for instance, I got this e-mail:

Let me know if you’re looking to get a higher listing with search engines. I can send you the details first, just let me know how you would like to communicate.
Sincerely,
(insert marketer’s name here.)

I responded with:

Higher than what? I’m already the number one hit on Google for Network Geek. After all, how was it that you found me to try and sell to me?

No, thank you, but I enjoy doing it myself.

Sincerely,
Jim Hoffman

I mean, really, half the fun of having this site and doing this blog is that I use it to manipulate one of the biggest search engines ever!  Ah, well, maybe if he’d actually read my blog, he’d know that I made most of the money I paid my divorce lawyer back optimizing his site for the search engines and getting him connected with an URL submission service.

Silly spammers.

10/10/2007

Internet Marketing Services?

Filed under: Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Red Herrings,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:39 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Hmm, maybe I could have a second job…

So, I saw a guy adverstising on the web for “Internet Marketing Services”, specifically, “Business Blog Services” and “Social Marketing Services”. Sounds simple enough to me. Frankly, I’ve done plenty of blog work for folks and I can’t imagine adding a business component to it would be that much extra work. But, this guy was asking for $600 to set up a blog! With WordPress, I’d be done in about 30 minutes, including upload time and configuration. $600 for less than an hour worth of work… Oh, and then, if you want his “daily blogging” service, wherein he will make a blog entry for you, seven days a week, that’s $500 per MONTH! And, if you want him to optimize your blog for the search engines, that’s another one-time fee of $500.
But, what got me was the ad copy for what he called “Social Media Optimization“. That service, his site claimed, includes “Search Engine Reputation Management, Social Marketing Team Launch & Management”. “Search engine reputation management”? Are you kidding me?! For not submitting your page to the search engines too often and making some minimal effort to make sure you don’t get black-balled by Google, he’s going to actually negotiate a fee? What’s more, it’s a variable fee, no doubt based on how much you know about search engines and the web. I have a feeling that the less a customer knows, the higher the fee.

Wow, I could make a bundle at this kind of thing. If only I didn’t have ethics and the last vestige of a conscience…

(And, if you haven’t voted yet, check out the pictures from two posts ago and vote!!)

7/12/2007

Microsoft Advertising

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Red Herrings,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:11 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Microsoft has a new advertising campaign.

“People drive business” is their theme and they’re trying to get bloggers to include specific text in their blogs that include that “people ready business” message, along with links to the Microsoft marketing website, of course. Here’s the text they seem to have wanted people to include:

People drive business success. Human imagination creates the ideas that move business forward. Human conversations and human effort shape those ideas into products and services for the market. The unique ability of people to listen, respond, persuade, and think for themselves enables companies to sell effectively, serve their customers, and work together with their business partners in rich, satisfying ways that create lasting, high-value relationships.In an era where some see technology as a force that promises to make people subservient to highly structured or automated processes, Microsoft sees a better way to unlock the potential of every person. Systems can only create efficiency: It is people who create value. And the more people can do in their roles, the more value they can create. When Microsoft looks ahead, we see a world where organizations succeed by empowering people to harness information, expertise and the possibilities of complex networks with tools that give them insight, reach and opportunities.

Naturally, I’ve included all that just to screw with the search engines that will be spidering my website this week. Why? Well, I figure it’s got to make things worse for Microsoft and might actually boost my own rankings with all those highly-priced keywords that the marketing drones are no doubt shelling out for over in Redmond. I could be wrong, but, even if I am, it’s probably not going to do any damage to my Googlerank or my blog.

6/6/2007

Search Engine Optimization Rates

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:36 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Wow, I guess I undervalued my skills to my divorce lawyer.

According to this article on AustralianIT, SEO salaries are really out the roof! I mean, sure, I did search engine optimization as a bit of fun while I was working a banckruptcy back in 2000, but I am highly ranked on Google. And, my lawyer was very pleased with the results I got him by re-optimizing his pages then getting him hooked up with a submission mill. A reasonably priced search engine submission service, that is.
Hmm, maybe, just for the fun of it, I should start a website from scratch and build it up in the search engines.  It might be a fun project.  I mean, I’ve kind of been thinking about redoing some of my web presence.  You know, consolidating websites that are related and getting rid of old, dead sites that I don’t really maintain any more.  That kind of thing.  And, I’ve been thinking about ways to sharpen my IT skills, or at least ways to keep my current skills sharp, so building a site from scratch, including fresh content, then making it a “number one” site might be just the thing.

Well, either way, it surprises me how something I do for fun can be big business.  Who knew?

9/25/2006

Real Estate Investing

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Anybody want to buy land in Costa Rica?

So, the other day, I was talking with this guy from church about his impending divorce. It’ll be his second, so there wasn’t much I could tell him that he didn’t already know. And, since he lives in the River Oaks area, there’s going to be a whole lot more money involved than I’ll probably ever see in my lifetime. Again, not much advice I could give him, except, of course, to remind him why one hires a lawyer for these things. I just reminded him that he didn’t need to roll over simply because he was the man and, traditionally, the woman got the lion’s share of the communal property. They’d earned that money together, each contributing their part and he was entitled to his fair share. Besides, at the moment, she actually makes more money than him, so it’s not like he’d be hurting her financially at all. Mainly, though, I “advised” him to let the lawyers haggle it out when things got ugly about the money. Again, that is why one pays for a personal shark in the first place, right?

Anyway, he was talking about investing in real estate in Central America. Specifically, in Costa Rica. Now, a lot of times when guys start in with this kind of thing, I figure it’s somebody trying to impress me, but not with him. Something about the matter-of-fact way he talks about some of this stuff and his plans for developing some of the land and making a resort just ring too true for me to feel like there’s a scam or an ulterior motive. I’ve been wrong before, of course, but, these days, I’m a fairly hardened, bitter cynic and I tend to trust my instincts when it comes to people. Sadly, when I suspect something untoward, I’m rarely wrong.
But, he knows what I do for a living and for fun. He knows, for instance, that I’ve done web design work for my divorce lawyer. And, as a check was on the way, I mentioned that again this weekend when I saw him. Also, it turns out that when you Google Houston Divorce Lawyer, my lawyer already shows up on the second page of hits. Considering that he didn’t show up in the first 20+ pages of hits before I revamped his website, I’d say we’re doing pretty well. A little more time and he’ll be on that Holy Grail of search engine optimization, the first page of Google results.
In any case, I was joking with him, the guy from church, not the lawyer, about how I was in that very unique position of actually making money back from my divorce lawyer. But, it wasn’t long before he was asking about domain names and websites and optimization. And, yes, I found myself volunteering to do a simple website for him and optimize it for the search engines. And, of course, advise him about how to find an URL submission service that would keep his ranking good and high.

And that’s when he jokingly offered to trade me a hectare of land in Costa Rica for doing a website from scratch and optimizing it for the search engines. At least, I think he was joking. I mean, he was sort of laughing about it, but… But, it would be a pretty damn good deal and I’m thinking about calling him to see if he was serious or not. Because, I’ve been looking around at it a little bit and $750 worth of land now could very quickly and easily be over $75,000 some time in the next five years.

And, I was getting ready to tell him I’d do it for nothing.

So, does anyone know about real estate investing in Costa Rica?

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