Categories
Fun Internet

Goats, Gangnam and the Harlem Shake

For some reason, many of us internet folk seem obsessed with internet memes.

What are internet memes?

Okay, if you don’t know what an internet meme is, then my opening line probably didn’t mean that much to you. Who better to ask than Mr Oxford? A meme is “an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means” – basically something which becomes a phenomenon, usually in a very short space of time.

Recent examples of internet phenomena include music video Gangnam Style, the Harlem Shake dance (and its parodies) and all those songs that have been given the goat treatment.

Probably the most well known historical internet meme is Rickrolling. In April 2008 the BBC reported how “an estimated 13 million internet users have been tricked into watching the video for Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up” in the space of just a few weeks. The number of users online and the size of the internet has grown significantly since then, so when put into perspective, 13 million is a lot of people!

Rickrolling

Rickrolling is when you go to click a link, believing it is going to a certain resource, website etc. when in reality you are diverted to a video of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. Basically, rickrolling is a simple bait-and-switch, which is (usually) just harmless fun.

Rickrolling
Rick Astley dancing in his ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ music video.

If you find yourself on Rick Astley’s video, (when you didn’t intend to visit it) then you are said to have been rickrolled.

It isn’t thought that Rick Astley attempted to create the internet meme, or in any way endorsed it, however some argue that it the meme played a large part in reviving his musical career!

Some rickrolls were just done in a humorous style, with no harm intended, whilst others would cause more havoc, some making it very difficult for users to turn the video off, and others even using it as a way of installing malicious software on users computers.

Probably the most high profile rickroll was in 2011, when The White House rickrolled followers, adding a link to the video in a reply tweet.

%CODETWEETRICKASTLEY1%

YouTube hits 1 billion active users

I recently tweeted via @TechBloggers how YouTube now has over a billion monthly users.

%CODETWEETTB1%

This is an amazing achievement for the social network/video sharing site. Earlier in the month I reported how PayPal has around 110 million active users, which seemed like quite a lot, but it’s only 11% of YouTube’s figure!

YouTube is [arguably] the biggest beneficiary from internet memes, as more often that not, the memes are video based.

Probably the most famous internet meme that didn’t really involve YouTube was planking. Planking involves taking pictures of people lying face down in unusual places. Flickr and Tumblr benefited from planking much more than YouTube. Planking has a slightly more sinister history than many internet memes however, as there were deaths caused by people planking in dangerous locations.

It is a goat?

Last year Jonny wrote about mistaken identity, and how when something is adopted by the press, or the internet and becomes widespread, then it is hard to stop, even if it is wrong.

One of the current internet phenomenon is giving songs the ‘goat’ treatment. As I am sure you already know, this involves replacing parts of a song with a screaming goat. One of the first songs to be given the goat treatment was Taylor Swifts ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’. Have a watch.

%CODEYOUTUBETAYLORSWIFT%

Humorous right? You can see why there is a goat based internet meme! 🙂 But it isn’t a goat!

The goat treatment
The screaming sheep which features in the videos which have been given the ‘goat treatment’

The animal in Taylor Swifts video – and many of the other videos in the phenomena – is a sheep! One person posts a video, calling it a goat, and everyone else blindly copies. I too was a victim of this mistaken identity, and would talk to people about the goat video, that is until I was corrected by a Animal Behaviour Studies student!

The funny thing is, the original upload of the screaming sheep was named exactly that, ‘The Screaming Sheep (Original Upload)’.

Gangnam Style, the Harlem Shake, The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger, The New Old Spice Guy ads and LOLcat pics are also all internet memes.

So, what do you think about internet memes. Do they have a purpose? Should we all endorse them as we do? Your thoughts below 🙂

Categories
Blogging How To Guides Internet

How to find images for your website

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a DIY approach to building your website. If you choose the right tools *cough* WordPress *cough* you can produce something that looks very professional without having to know web design in an out.

As with Creative Commons images, always check the usage rights of every image cautiously. You might be required to credit the photographer, or use may be forbidden in some situations.

Creative Commons Logo

Purchase cheap stock photography

It is all well and good looking for free pictures, but it’s often easier to invest a small amount of cash than to spend hours finding the right totally free image.

That is where websites like iStock Photo and ShutterStock come in. These vast repositories include thousands of pictures, most of which you can buy for just a few pounds. Sure, they can be frustratingly clichéd at times, but a bit of experimentation with what you search for can generally get outcomes. Expect to pay from £1 upwards for each image.

Ask permission

This is most likely your best option if you are looking for an image of a current occasion or specific individual to use with an article or blog post on your web site. Amateur photographers are often pleased to let their photos be utilised at no charge – if you ask nicely.

A good method to find pictures is through Flickr. For example, there are many David Cameron and Tom Cruise pictures to select from. As soon as you’ve found a photo you like, just use Flickr’s contact choice to send the photographer a message asking their permission.

Do be wary using photos of well-known individuals – whilst generally it’s okay to use them alongside news stories and other editorial, you will get in difficulty if it looks like they’re endorsing your item or service.

Take your own photos

With even cheap mobile phones able to create reasonable-quality pictures, you don’t have to be a pro to capture photos that are good enough for the web.

Even though the company is in all sorts of difficulty, you will find some good suggestions for taking better photos on the Kodak website.

Assuming you already own a camera, this method is practically free – and it holds other benefits more than stock pictures. For example, do you think website visitors would prefer to determine a generic image of someone on the telephone, or an actual member of your sales team at function in your workplace?

How do you discover photos for your website? Leave a comment to let us know.

Categories
Computers Internet

Online data backup using cloud computing technology

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Bulldog Backup. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

In the past I have written about cloud computing and how cloud data storage is the future, and at the moment it is playing a key part in backup technologies, as it is now easier than ever before to backup your data online.

One firm that offer online backup services are the Glasgow based Bulldog Backup, they were founded in 2010 and offer backup solutions for both domestic and business users.

I read a statistic the other day that almost 50% of businesses reported a loss of important data in the last two years, probably why more and more firms are investing in online data backup systems!

The good thing is, online backup solutions are getting easier and easier to use, another reason why more and more people are using them. For example, with Bulldog Backup, all you need to is select the package you want to buy, you will then be emailed with your login credentials, then all you need do is login and download the relevant backup client – either Windows or Mac.

When you install your backup software you are asked what you want to backed up, you can choose your entire hard disk, or just a few files – say pictures and music for instance.

Now you may be thinking that online backup storage is a great idea for most people, but you are on a connection which has a limited monthly allowance – say 40 gigabytes, you can’t afford to run the backup system, in fear of going over your allowance.

There is a solution to this too. With most good backup systems nowadays, you can configure how much bandwidth is used for backups, therefore you never go over your limit. You can also choose which files the software should prioritise the backing up of – e.g. give pictures and documents high priority, whilst don’t worry so much about music.

Select how much bandwidth online backup can use
Select how much of your bandwidth Bulldog Backup can use

The best thing is, once you have backed up your files, you can easily access them from anywhere, using your own personal web portal. Bulldog Backup’s portal has a clean layout and is designed to make listening to audio files and viewing images as easy as possible, all as standard. Therefore you can access all your albums whilst out and about, how cool is that! You can also install mobile apps for both iOS and Android, making it even easier for you to access your files on the move.

If you want to go up a level Bulldog Backup offer a ‘Pro’ account which has all of the standard features, with the addition of a ‘SmartDrive’ allowing you to sync files across multiple computers. A SmartDrive is basically a drive that appears like any other hard disk on your computer, only anything you store in it is automatically uploaded to the cloud – a pretty cool bit of tech don’t you think?

A screenshot of a SmartDrive
A screenshot of what the Bulldog Backup SmartDrive looks like – just another hard disk

Okay, so you like the idea of online backup, you can see the potential and benefits, but, what about the costs? Well you may be pleasantly surprised, you can start backing up online with Bulldog Backup from only £2.95 a month ($4.63) with a 1 Terabyte Protect account.

Think that is a good price? I have managed to get a discount promo code which makes the same account cost just £1.25 ($1.96) a month, and that price is fixed for 5 years! Visit the site bulldogbackup.com and use the promo code ‘bullbonanza00’ at the checkout before the 29th of February (this year) to take get started at that rock bottom price 🙂

What do you think about online backup? Will you be investing in it in the near future?

Categories
How To Guides Social Media

Pinterest Shares Photos and Attracts Blog Visitors

Pinterest's Logo

I have not had a lot of experience with Pinterest yet, but one night last week, I put up a bulletin board with photos from recipes on my quinoa blog, and I was impressed with the initial response. I received about a dozen email notifications within minutes. New people were following me or my quinoa recipe board; pinners were repinning my photos.
Referal traffic down to PinterestThe next day, my analytics showed nineteen new visitors to my blog from Pinterest. Mind you, all I did was “pin” the photos, I didn’t go out looking for followers or asking for people to like me.

I haven’t figured out how to fully exploit this yet. Pinterest is a very photo-oriented social media sharing site, where each photo is also a link back to an original blog post or web page.

Recipe Blogs on Pinterest

For a cooking blog, it is a no brainer. Pin a photo of each recipe and your board looks like this. (You can click on the photo to see how this looks on the site.)

An example of an online pinboardNotice that each photo bears the domain name, great for branding.

I imagine any blog could benefit from setting up a board for its blog posts. You could even create category boards if you wanted to.

Pinning is very easy. You can click and drag a Pin It icon to put in your bookmarks toolbar.

When you see a post you want to pin:

  • Highlight and copy the text you will associate with the photo.
  • Then click Pin It icon in your bookmark toolbar.

In the window that pops up:

  • Choose the exact image you want;
  • Choose the correct board;
  • Verify text is already auto-filled with the text you copied. If not you will have to fill it in.

I set up my board in about fifteen minutes. Now that it is in place, I can add pinning to the list of promotional tasks I will do for each new blog post.

Pinterest is still in beta and requires an invitation to join. If you would like to test it for organizing your favorite visuals on the web or promoting your blog, please feel to ask in the comments. I will send a Pinterest invite to the email you use to comment.

If you have experience using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog, please comment below and let us know whether you feel it adds value.

Categories
Internet Technology

Understanding iCloud

The latest release in the cloud computing world, and the replacement for Apple’s old MobileMe service is Apple iCloud. The new software is designed to work seamlessly between various apple hardware such as iPods, Apple laptops and desktops, and the iPad. There are several applications available with the iCloud software, ranging from ‘Find my Device’, which allows an internet connected device such as the iPhone to be remotely tracked, to Photo Stream, which makes ‘streamed’ photos available on any connected device.

The first, Find My Device, was initially a MobileMe application, which has been migrated to the iCloud software package. Using the service, a user can view the rough location of their device over-layed on a scalable map of the area, as well as a circle indicating the margin of error on the tracking. Along with remote tracking, the program also allows the user to change the password, display a message on the device, or play a sound (even if it is set to silent). A final feature of the program makes use of the cloud storage technology and allows the user to temporarily delete the contents of the device, storing them to the cloud server until told to return to their original location.

Computing from the cloud
Not quite cloud computing!

Photo Stream directly utilizes the cloud storage technology to share pictures between devices. When a picture is taken from an iphone with Photo Stream enabled, the picture will automatically be uploaded to the cloud server, where it will be available to any of the user’s other Photo Stream enabled machines. According to Apple, the service will soon be integrated with their Apple TV box, which would allow users to view any pictures in icloud on TVs connected to Apple TV.

While only currently available in the US, iTunes Match is one of the most popular uses for the virtual computing abilities of the iCloud software. iTunes Match allows users to ‘scan’ their music in any compatible device (even if the music is not purchased from iTunes), and upload it to the iCloud virtual servers, ready to be downloaded to any of the user’s other Apple products in a DRM free format.

‘Back To My Mac’ and iOS Backup are two more erstwhile MobileMe program migrated to the iCloud package. The first is essentially a remote access program, allowing the user to remotely log into any device with the same Apple ID and the program active. The second is a backup program, which allows the user to back up the data and settings on their device to the virtual servers, and restore the device or access the data remotely as needed.

While the iCloud software is very slim as far as system resources, it requires a fairly current OS to run properly. Creating an account requires iOS 5 or later, or for desktops, OSX Lion. For PCs, Windows Vista or later is required to properly sync. iCloud can also sync to Outlook 7 or later for calendars and contact info.

The cost of the iCloud software varies with the amount of services the user chooses to sign up for. Data storage starts at 5 gigabytes free, and added storage can be purchased in increments of ten gigabytes, for $20 per ten gigabytes per year. At the moment, the maximum storage amount available is 50 gigabytes, however Apple has said it is possible for that to go up in the future. Apart from storage costs, the iTunes Match service is a yearly fee of $25.

With the iCloud software, Apple has taken full advantage of the evolving cloud storage technology to bring a wide variety of programs to Apple users, and an increased connectivity between Apple hardware.

Categories
Gadgets How To Guides Technology

How to choose the right iPhone 4S for you

Buying an iPhone 4S is more complex than brain surgery! There’s a mind boggling 6 options to choose from if you count the black and white colour variants. Next you’ve got to make the dare devil decision as to how much memory you’ll need (or rather how much memory you can afford!).

A brain showing the decisions that need to be made when choosing a new phoneAfter all that it’s a question of whether you buy SIM free, pay as you go or on contract. Choose to get the iPhone 4S on contract and you’ll walk into yet another wall of confusion.”Help!” you say! If you’re thinking of getting your paws on Apple’s latest must-have, then the following guide should point you in the right direction.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white!

There’s no difference whatsoever between the white and the black iPhone 4S. The white option is slightly more prone to finger marks as the black is to dust gathering. Whether you choose virgin white or classic black is down to taste. For whatever reason, the white iPhone 4S does sell on eBay for a touch over what the black fetches – so if you’re concerned about re-sale value, white is right for you.

Don’t forget your memory!

The difference in price between the 16GB and 64GB versions is around £200, so you best think carefully about how much storage you’ll actually need. With the A5 chip from the iPad on board, the iPhone 4S is capable of delivering a gaming experience like never before, but as such we can expect the games themselves to grow in size considerably (the current version of FIFA 12 for the iPhone is already more than 1.5GB). Download more than 10 games of this size and you can kiss your 16GB goodbye (let alone any music, films, pictures, videos and email attachments you want to store on your device).

Own an iPhone already? Check to see how many MB’s you’ve munched and then add 15% on top – if this adds up to more than 16GB, splash out the extra and go for 32GB option. On the hole, the 64GB monster should be reserved for the rich or super-geeky – but if you’re not the one stumping up the cash, then why not?

SIM free, Pay As You Go, or Contract?

OK, so as you might expect, there’s no definitive right answer here. There’s plenty of reasons that you might choose any of these options – it’s just a case of figuring out which is best for you.

A SIM free iPhone 4S will suit those who don’t want to be ‘tied in’ to a particular network. Perhaps you move regularly between two locations where signal is only available on a certain network, or maybe you’re moving abroad imminently.

Choosing Pay As You go for regular use will always work out more expensive than contracts, but if you want total control over your bills it’s worth investigating further. Remember that if you buy the iPhone 4S on Pay As You Go, it’ll be locked to the network that you bought it with.

Although SIM free deals are marginally more expensive than Pay As You Go, if you’re planning on switching networks, unlocking your iPhone 4S might be more hassle than finding an extra tenner for the SIM free option.

If you make a lot of calls (by a lot I mean more than 300 minutes worth per month) an iPhone 4S contract will work out far cheaper than Pay As You Go, plus you won’t have the hassle of ‘topping up’ regularly.

Another advantage of choosing an iPhone 4S on contract is the inclusive data. Unless you’re going to be using your 4S for phone calls alone, it’s likely you’ll need to connect to the internet. Email, apps, social media and of course web browsing will all use ‘cellular data’. Most contracts will come with a monthly data allowance of between 250MB and 1GB (stay away from contracts that don’t!).

Finding the best iPhone 4S contract for you

Finding the most suitable contract is largely a case of matching what you’ll use with what’s on offer, then finding the best price. If you’e already on contract then finding out how many minutes, texts and how much data your using is simple. Just give your network a call and ask!

Most of the UK networks now have login areas of their websites where you can view your latest bills. Take a look at your usage from the past 3 months and note down how many minutes of calls you’ve made, how many texts you’ve sent and the number of MB’s you’ve downloaded.

Now you know roughly what you’ll use in a month, the quickest way to find the best iPhone 4S deals is to compare contracts using a specialist mobile phone contract comparison site. These sites make it really easy to pick and choose your options and see all the tariffs available without the need to visit every network’s website. Buying your iPhone 4S online also means you avoid commission thirsty ‘assistants’ you seem to find in every high street mobile phone shop.

When you make your contract comparison, you’ll notice that the shorter the tariff length, the more expensive the monthly cost tends to be. 12 month contracts are the most expensive and although networks must offer 1 year deals by law, they more than make up for it with excessive monthly charges. Most will find that a 24 month contract works out cheapest with 18 month tariffs falling somewhere in between.

So that’s about it! I hope you enjoyed my first post on Technology Bloggers, please comment below and I’ll do my best to answer questions.

Categories
Computers How To Guides Internet

How to choose the right laptop for you

After my recent post on how to be a smart online buyer, I thought why just help people get a good priced product, as a good price doesn’t always mean good value.

As a laptop is something most people probably buy online, and as it is also something that often costs a lot of money, I thought why not help people choose which is best for them. Maybe in the future I will do the same for mobile phones, digital cameras and who knows what else!

What is it going to be used for?

The main thing you have to work out is what is the laptop going to be used for? Do you need something that can cope with 3D HD gaming, or are we just looking at text editing, emails and the web?

The more you want to be able to do with your laptop, the greater ability it will need to have, meaning that it is more likely to need a higher spec, and therefore probably a more costly speck.

I only really use the internet

If most of the stuff you do is online, then you probably don’t need a very high spec laptop – just a good internet connection. If you laptop is mainly used for blogging using an online system like WordPress, Blogger or TypePad, playing your favourite online games, typing emails using an online webmail service, and socialising using Facebook and Twitter (I should point out other social media sites are available ;-)) then you might want to look into Chromebooks – or low spec laptops.

The Google Chrome LogoGoogle says that Chromebooks are ‘nothing but the web.’ They run a 100% cloud based operating system, meaning that all your data, settings etc. are stored online, safe and secure in the cloud. This means they only take secconds (literally 8 or 9) to boot up, meaning you are off and working/playing in an instant.

Here is how Google describes Chromebooks:

“Chromebooks are built and optimised for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So, you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.”

Chromebooks are very fast as they need no virus protection, have no background processes slowing them down, neither does it need updates, since all of that happens in the cloud, basically everything runs from the browser.

If you don’t want a Chromebook, you probably only need a really low spec laptop, so that could be very cheap. Regarding operating system, if you like pretty styles, then go for Windows7, as that it stable and also ‘looks good’ avoid Vista, especially on low spec laptops, as it can really slow them down – XP and 2000 are also good.

It’s going to be a family laptop

If you are looking for a typical family laptop, where some of the kids will want to play flash games, but they will also need to do their homework, and the adults want to be able to check their emails and social profiles for updates, then you are probably going to be looking for a pretty standard PC.

To make sure it is quick and doesn’t slow down you would probably benefit from a dual-core processor. Dual-core means that the computer possess more than one CPU. Extra CPU’s means that you can process data faster, therefore your laptop will run quicker.

In order for your extra CPU’s to be effective, it would be a good idea to have at least 1 gigabyte (gb) of RAM, and preferably 2.

Windows7 would be perfect for family usage, as would XP. 2000 may look and feel a little dated, and Vista is likely to cause you a lot of grief!

I edit photos and run games and watch online media

If you like to have a lot open, and often are found editing photos, playing CPU intensive games, and watching HD videos, then you probably need a pretty powerful processor, along with a decent sized hard disk, a good amount of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card. Screen display resolution is also likely to be important, as if you like HD, but have only a standard screen, you can’t display HD.

Intel make a type of processor called i3 and another called i5. These are very well designed processors and run very well. If you see i3 or i5 on a PC, it is probably going to be a good one. Photo editing and gaming can be very hard disk space hungry tasks, so I would recommend getting at least a 250gb (preferably a 360gb) hard disk. With a laptop, short of getting an external hard drive, there is no easy way of expanding the amount of space you have.

This type of user would benefit best from 4gb of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card – this basically means that the graphics card is a separate component within the PC, which has it’s only memory and processing unit.

I do all of the above and more, and I do it all at the same time!

If you can never seem to find a laptop that is powerful enough for you there are a few options available to you – sadly, they area all rather expensive ones!

The first would be to get a powerful MacBook. MacBooks are notorious for their high specs, stable operating systems and therefore lack of time spent loading.

The second would to be to buy a quad-core i7 spec laptop. Most MacBooks run off core i5 and i7 processors anyway, however Windows also performs very well when being run on a core i7 machine.

The intel Core i7 proccessor badgeA dedicated graphics card is a must for this type of user, and 4-8 gig of RAM is recommended. Depending on how long you want to keep your laptop will determine how big your hard disk will need to be. My advice would be that if you are likely to want to keep the same laptop for any more that 4 or 5 years, get a terabyte hard disk.

Another option would be to have a custom built laptop. These can sometimes work out cheaper, but you need to be cautious, as if you, or whoever is building the laptop aren’t 100% sure of what’s what, then you could face compatibility issues.

Certain processors work better with certain types of RAM, certain operating systems require certain types of graphics cards, and certain hard disks are needed in order to be compatible with the rest of the machine. Basically certain part of the laptop will naturally work well together, however if you custom build your laptop, you might have 8gb of RAM, but the problem is, your processor finds it hard to deal with that type of RAM.

Other things to consider

When choosing a laptop, it is also important to consider things like who it’s made by. Different firms have different reputations for the quality of their laptops, but also consider the quality of their customer service. If their automated calling systems drive you mad, then it may be wise not to buy one of their laptops.

Furthermore, consider your other devices like cameras and phones when buying a new laptop. Some devices may not be compatible with your operating system, or you may need to get some new camera cables if your current devices can’t plug in to your new laptop.

Connectivity is another important factor: does your laptop have inbuilt Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared? If you are forever connecting to mobile Wi-Fi, or your phone to download pictures, then it would be useful to have such functions inbuilt.

An inbuilt webcam and microphone can be very handy if you are often using programmes like Skype to talk to friends on the internet.

Also don’t forget the battery. If you barely use your laptop when you are away from a plug, then the battery is probably not of much importance to you, however if your laptop battery is important to you, you may want to avoid second hand laptops. Laptop batteries from second hand machines can often be less powerful and last less time than a normal battery would.

The right laptop for you

Getting the right laptop for you can be crucial in making sure that you get value for money, as a laptop with spare capacity is a waste of money, as is a laptop that cannot perform to the standard you need.

If you need any more help in choosing the right laptop for you, drop a comment below 🙂

Categories
Blogging WordPress

Must have WordPress plugins

Many blogs like to publish a list of their favourite plugins. This often helps readers find new, exciting plugins that they too can use. Therefore I have decided that I should do the same on behalf of Technology Bloggers. Here is my (Christopher Roberts) list of ‘must have’ WordPress plugins 🙂

User Role Editor

In no particular order, my first must have WordPress plugin is User Role Editor. This is a very useful plugin if you run a blog with multiple users, as it allows you to change account type (e.g. contributor, author etc.) privileges, and even create whole new types of account.

A great example of when I have used this plugin is when Matt has been helping me with some ‘behind the scenes’ coding. I needed help to fix some bugs, so I created a new user account type called ‘Matt’. I then changed Matt’s account from ‘contributor’ status to ‘Matt’ status. Matt was then able to fiddle around with the plugins and blog code, whilst not being able to change any comments, posts or pages. When he was finished, I changed his privileges back to ‘contributor’.

You could also use this plugin to give users extra abilities, for example you could let them moderate comments, or upload media. All contributors by default WordPress settings can’t upload media, a real issue for a blog like ours. A quick user role edit later and everyone can now add pictures, video and music to their posts. 🙂


CommentLuv

CommentLuv is a really great plugin which enables you to give a little bit extra back to your commenters, by giving them a link back to one of their most recent posts at the end of each comment.The CommentLuv LogoI have written about CommentLuv before, so I don’t intend to go into any depth about it here. If you want to know more check out my post on why you should use CommentLuv.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (GASP)

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (or as it is also know, GASP) is one of the very best plugins you can use to combat spam.

Here at Technology Bloggers we get hundreds of comments every month, but I am sure that we would get thousands more if we didn’t have such a good spam filter. Of the comments that we get I would estimate that around 10% are spam. If Technology Bloggers stopped using Akismet and and GASP, then I think we would see our comments double, but the extra ones would all be spam.

GASP places the tickbox (or checkbox for my American friends) that you see underneath the comment box. Logged in users need not worry about this, but users who are not logged in will need to make sure that they tick this box (and they will be prompted if they don’t) in order to make sure that their comment is approved.

Akismet then helps us out by throwing any user written/generated potentially spammy comments into the spam folder. We can review these and it is then much easier to sift through and fish out any good comments which may have got caught up.

Akismet is good, and very useful, but if you really want to stop spam, I would always make sure you have GASP.

ReplyMe

I have written an article about ReplyMe before, giving an explanation of what it does, who uses it and why it is useful. To briefly sum it up it is a plugin which sends commenters an email when someone replies to their comment, helping to improve the blog’s community. For more information please check out our ReplyMe article.

The ReplyMe (Plugin) LogoPrettier Trackbacks

Some themes present trackbacks just the way you want them to, other themes unfortunately don’t. The way I like trackbacks is the post title linked to the article that sits amongst the comments. Our current theme shows some text from the article too, which can look good, but often doesn’t.

Prettier Trackbacks displays trackbacks the way I like them, and with a bit of editing/tweaking, you can make it show them just about anyway you want!

Move WordPress Comments

The next plugin on my list is Move WordPress Comments. Have you ever had someone comment in reply to someone else, but they forgot to hit the reply button, or have you ever done it yourself? If the answer is yes, then this plugin is a very useful one indeed!

What the Move WordPress Comments plugin does is put a few extra details an options below comments in the dashboard and on the blog. These details are the comment’s number, the post number and the parent comment’s number.

If the commenter has published their comment on the wrong post, just simply change the post number and click ‘move’ and the comment will shoot off to the correct post.

If the commenter has published the comment in reply to someone, but hasn’t joined the comment to the parent comment, then all you need to do is scroll up to the parent comment and find out what number it is. You then take the parent comment’s number, put it in the reply/child comment’s ‘parent comment’ box and click move.

Confused? Check out the images below 🙂

A comment isn't threaded onto it's parent
The second comment is in reply to the first, however it is not threaded - to solve this just take the parent comment's number and then put it in the 'Parent Comment' box on the reply comment and click 'Move'
A threaded comment
Et voilà! The reply comment is now threaded under the parent comment!

Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a really great plugin if you like to make your blog ‘social media friendly’! At the top of every article Technology Bloggers displays Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook buttons, so that you can easily share our content.

Technology Bloggers Digg Digg Social Media Share Buttons
Technology Bloggers social media share buttons, as provided by Digg Digg

This is all thanks to Digg Digg which gives you more social media buttons and options than you could shake a stick at! If you want to create a social media friendly blog, Digg Digg is one of the best plugins out there!

Top Commentators Widget

WordPress’s Top Commentators Widget is definitely one of the best plugins I have ever installed. It gives you the ability to thank your commenters by adding a widget to the sidebar (or in our case the footer navigation) of your blog, which displays your site’s top commenters, however you like!

Top Commenters Screenshot - as it appeared on the 17th October 2011It has loads of easy to customise options. You can choose how many commenters get shown, how long names can be before they are replaced with an ellipsis. You can also choose if names are hyperlinked, show the individuals Gravatar, how big that avatar is, whether an award icon is shown by commenters with more than a certain number of comments, how often the list refreshes, etc.

There are more!

Listed above are some of the very best plugins I have ever used. Despite this, there are many other great plugins that I haven’t included, for fear of making this article university paper length! Lets save them for another time.

So, what plugins do you use? Why do you like them? Are you going to try any of the plugins above? Do any of them look interesting/useful?

Talk to me below 🙂

Categories
Blogging WordPress

Must have WordPress plugins

Many blogs like to publish a list of their favourite plugins. This often helps readers find new, exciting plugins that they too can use. Therefore I have decided that I should do the same on behalf of Technology Bloggers. Here is my (Christopher Roberts) list of ‘must have’ WordPress plugins 🙂

User Role Editor

In no particular order, my first must have WordPress plugin is User Role Editor. This is a very useful plugin if you run a blog with multiple users, as it allows you to change account type (e.g. contributor, author etc.) privileges, and even create whole new types of account.

A great example of when I have used this plugin is when Matt has been helping me with some ‘behind the scenes’ coding. I needed help to fix some bugs, so I created a new user account type called ‘Matt’. I then changed Matt’s account from ‘contributor’ status to ‘Matt’ status. Matt was then able to fiddle around with the plugins and blog code, whilst not being able to change any comments, posts or pages. When he was finished, I changed his privileges back to ‘contributor’.

You could also use this plugin to give users extra abilities, for example you could let them moderate comments, or upload media. All contributors by default WordPress settings can’t upload media, a real issue for a blog like ours. A quick user role edit later and everyone can now add pictures, video and music to their posts. 🙂


CommentLuv

CommentLuv is a really great plugin which enables you to give a little bit extra back to your commenters, by giving them a link back to one of their most recent posts at the end of each comment.The CommentLuv LogoI have written about CommentLuv before, so I don’t intend to go into any depth about it here. If you want to know more check out my post on why you should use CommentLuv.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (GASP)

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (or as it is also know, GASP) is one of the very best plugins you can use to combat spam.

Here at Technology Bloggers we get hundreds of comments every month, but I am sure that we would get thousands more if we didn’t have such a good spam filter. Of the comments that we get I would estimate that around 10% are spam. If Technology Bloggers stopped using Akismet and and GASP, then I think we would see our comments double, but the extra ones would all be spam.

GASP places the tickbox (or checkbox for my American friends) that you see underneath the comment box. Logged in users need not worry about this, but users who are not logged in will need to make sure that they tick this box (and they will be prompted if they don’t) in order to make sure that their comment is approved.

Akismet then helps us out by throwing any user written/generated potentially spammy comments into the spam folder. We can review these and it is then much easier to sift through and fish out any good comments which may have got caught up.

Akismet is good, and very useful, but if you really want to stop spam, I would always make sure you have GASP.

ReplyMe

I have written an article about ReplyMe before, giving an explanation of what it does, who uses it and why it is useful. To briefly sum it up it is a plugin which sends commenters an email when someone replies to their comment, helping to improve the blog’s community. For more information please check out our ReplyMe article.

The ReplyMe (Plugin) LogoPrettier Trackbacks

Some themes present trackbacks just the way you want them to, other themes unfortunately don’t. The way I like trackbacks is the post title linked to the article that sits amongst the comments. Our current theme shows some text from the article too, which can look good, but often doesn’t.

Prettier Trackbacks displays trackbacks the way I like them, and with a bit of editing/tweaking, you can make it show them just about anyway you want!

Move WordPress Comments

The next plugin on my list is Move WordPress Comments. Have you ever had someone comment in reply to someone else, but they forgot to hit the reply button, or have you ever done it yourself? If the answer is yes, then this plugin is a very useful one indeed!

What the Move WordPress Comments plugin does is put a few extra details an options below comments in the dashboard and on the blog. These details are the comment’s number, the post number and the parent comment’s number.

If the commenter has published their comment on the wrong post, just simply change the post number and click ‘move’ and the comment will shoot off to the correct post.

If the commenter has published the comment in reply to someone, but hasn’t joined the comment to the parent comment, then all you need to do is scroll up to the parent comment and find out what number it is. You then take the parent comment’s number, put it in the reply/child comment’s ‘parent comment’ box and click move.

Confused? Check out the images below 🙂

A comment isn't threaded onto it's parent
The second comment is in reply to the first, however it is not threaded - to solve this just take the parent comment's number and then put it in the 'Parent Comment' box on the reply comment and click 'Move'
A threaded comment
Et voilà! The reply comment is now threaded under the parent comment!

Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a really great plugin if you like to make your blog ‘social media friendly’! At the top of every article Technology Bloggers displays Google +, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook buttons, so that you can easily share our content.

Technology Bloggers Digg Digg Social Media Share Buttons
Technology Bloggers social media share buttons, as provided by Digg Digg

This is all thanks to Digg Digg which gives you more social media buttons and options than you could shake a stick at! If you want to create a social media friendly blog, Digg Digg is one of the best plugins out there!

Top Commentators Widget

WordPress’s Top Commentators Widget is definitely one of the best plugins I have ever installed. It gives you the ability to thank your commenters by adding a widget to the sidebar (or in our case the footer navigation) of your blog, which displays your site’s top commenters, however you like!

Top Commenters Screenshot - as it appeared on the 17th October 2011It has loads of easy to customise options. You can choose how many commenters get shown, how long names can be before they are replaced with an ellipsis. You can also choose if names are hyperlinked, show the individuals Gravatar, how big that avatar is, whether an award icon is shown by commenters with more than a certain number of comments, how often the list refreshes, etc.

There are more!

Listed above are some of the very best plugins I have ever used. Despite this, there are many other great plugins that I haven’t included, for fear of making this article university paper length! Lets save them for another time.

So, what plugins do you use? Why do you like them? Are you going to try any of the plugins above? Do any of them look interesting/useful?

Talk to me below 🙂

Categories
News Science Space Technology

The world’s most powerful radio telescope is now functioning!

One of the best places to put a telescope is in the Atacama Desert, which is on the boarder of Chile and Peru – currently there are around 20 telescopes (both radio and optical) functioning in the area.

The Alma telescope

In the last few days, the world’s largest radio telescope, the Alma telescope, has began to function. Currently the telescope is made up of around 20 massive antenna dishes, which work in harmony to produce amazingly detailed pictures of outer space.

The project has input from all around the world, with Europe, North America, East Asia and the Republic of Chile forming a partnership, all doing their bit to add more antenna dishes and improve the telescope.

The ALMA Telescope
The antenna dishes that currently make up the telescope ALMA Telescope

When the project is completed, (hopefully within the next 20 years if all goes to plan) the telescope will have a whopping 66 dishes at its disposal, all of which it can use to gaze at the stars in fantastic detail!

Why the Atacama Desert?

You are probably wondering why the Atacama Desert is such a hotspot for telescope activity. Well there are a number of reasons, but the main ones are that it has clear skies almost all the time, in addition to very dry air – meaning that its hard for humans to breath there due to low oxygen levels, but for the telescopes, that means very little interference from anything in the space above.

Furthermore, the desert has many high flat areas, meaning that telescopes can be closer to the atmosphere, meaning even less interference. In addition to this, because the Atacama is a desert, it has virtually no light pollution. Basically it is an astronomer’s dream location!

Is it working?

The project has only been live for less than a week now, but already some stunning high detailed pictures of space area already beginning to emerge. Below is one of these great pictures:

ALMA Telescope deep space picture
A picture of deep space made possible by the ALMA Telescope

Because the light we can see here on earth is often millions, if not billions of years old, we are able to see into the past when looking up at the sky, using super powerful telescopes like the Alma one.

Scientists believe that we will be able to see events that happened just 400 million years after the big bang, due to the light delay, hence enabling us to understand better than ever before the formation of the early universe.

The Alma telescope is just one small cog in our planets fascinating scientific road of discovery, however one thing’s for sure: this ‘small cog’ should be able to help us understand a lot more about the universe than ever before!