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As you can tell, I’m not really posting much around here any more. The best place to catch me is either on Twitter or on Posterous. I’ll update this page the next time I take an awesome trip or something else big happens. Thanks for visiting!

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6 Excellent Chrome Extensions

A coworker recently switched from Firefox to Google Chrome. I made several suggestions for the first extensions that she should install. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Trash Can-Remembers and lets you reopen previously closed tabs. Nice if click the close button one too many times.
  • Forecastfox Weather-View current conditions, 7-day forecast, maps and severe weather alerts in an easily readable format. No need to install an extra program in the taskbar.
  • Google Mail Checker-Displays the number of unread messages in your Google Mail inbox. You can also click the button to open your inbox.
  • Chrome Gestures-Very fast way to navigate and control your browser.
  • FlashBlock-Stops Flash from playing by default. Block them all, or be selective with the embedded whitelist manager. Very at keeping embedded media players from starting automatically.
  • IE Tab-Display web pages using IE in a tab. One less button to press to get a new browser when one of Chrome’s quirks pops up.

Hope you find them useful!

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11 Essential WordPress Plugins

I’ve recently updated several of my WordPress sites. I took this opportunity to check my plugin lists and see if there are any new or updated plugins that I had to have for every WordPress installation. Here is a list that I’ll probably add to about 90% of my new WordPress installs in no particular order:

  • Simple Facebook Connect/Twitter Tools-This one-two punch makes it much easier to notify your social media network whenever you update your site.
  • Sociable-Tons of ways to add those little buttons that let your visitors syndicate your content over several dozen different social media type sites and get your content out.
  • WPtouch iPhone Theme-I recently got an iPhone and love it when I visit sites with this plugin.
  • Contact Form 7-I used cforms II for a long time but it I couldn’t use the one click upgrade with all versions. This plugin is simpler to configure than cforms II and is still pretty flexible.
  • Google Analyticator-Lots of ways to track activity (admin pages, outbound links, etc.) on your site using Google Analytics
  • FD Feedburner Plugin-I was using Feedburner’s WordPress plugin but can’t seem to find it anymore on their site. This plugin gives you an easy way to redirect WordPress’ standard feed to your Feedbuner feed where you have access to all sorts of neat tricks and stats.
  • Subscribe2- My mom will never, never, never use an RSS feed but does read email. For those people who don’t subscribe using RSS, this plugin will let them learn of changes to your site the old fashioned way via email.
  • Google XML Sitemaps-Automatically builds a special site map for Google that helps them index the content of your site.
  • WP Super Cache-Speeds up your WordPress site by serving static HTML pages rather than dynamic PHP pages. Good for sites that run on shared hosts.
  • All in One SEO Pack-A little more automated than other SEO plugins, but still allows you to fine tune everything.
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Quick and Dirty Traffic Research Using bit.ly Links

We’ve all seen bit.ly links in a million Tweets before, but they have more uses than just saving you a few characters in your posts. Bit.ly provides good click through reporting that can show you how many of your followers clicked on your link and when they clicked it. Additionally, if you’ve shortened a URL that someone else has already shortened, you’ll see the total number of clicks from all sources. This last feature can be used to see the popularity of links that other people have in their social media posts without having access to their web stats package.

Here is how it works. First, get the long version of the bit.ly link using unshort.me Next, login to your bit.ly account and create your own bit.ly link using the long web address. A new entry will now appear in your history. For the new entry you’ll see something like “0 Out of 5″. The first number is how many people have clicked on the bit.ly link you’ve made (since you haven’t published it, it will be 0). The second number is the total number of people who have ever clicked on that shortened link and the overall popularity of that link.

Why would you want to do this? One simple use is to help you focus your online efforts. As a simple (and contrived) example, imagine that you are on Coke’s social media marketing team working on the RiteAid account. You have enough time and resources to work with only one blogger/website on an upcoming campaign. Who do you choose? All things being equal, you’d work with the site that has the largest reach.

To determine this, you first go to search.twitter.com and type in the search string “coke riteaid bit.ly”. You get back two results that reference links to a recent Coke promotion at RiteAid using bit.ly’s link shortening service. At this point, there is only one bit.ly link pointing to each of these web pages describing the promotions. Follow the above steps to get results similar to these in your bit.ly stats:
bitly_example

As you can see, the first link has more total hits on its link than the second. If there are no other factors in your campaign, you should contact the owner of the first site and work with them on your campaign.

Another use of this method is for competitive research. If your competition is using bit.ly links, you can use this method to compare the number of click throughs they’re getting to the traffic that you’re getting for your links. If they’re getting more traffic, they might be working with a more popular/authoritative website or emphasizing a particular feature of their product that appeals more to the target audience.

The manual method described above works well for a small number of links but can be cumbersome if you want to monitor a lot of links. Both bit.ly and Twitter have APIs that should help you process and report on many links with a little programming.

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Germany Vacation July 16 – Lake Titisee

Just to get it out of the way, yes, you do say it that way, and no you can’t do it there.

The Black Forest is well known for its tourism. One of the more popular places near Freiburg to visit is Lake Titisee. We had absolutely gorgeous weather that day, and the region has had a lot of rain this year so everything was green, lush, and beautiful. You could hardly take a picture without it being good enough to appear on a postcard. On the north shore of the lake, there are many tourist attractions such as restaurants, hotels, gift shops (without a kitchy t-shirt in sight), a cuckoo clock shop, and ice cream stands.

The highlight of the day was taking the kids swimming. We did most of our swimming in a swimming pool and the kids had a great time there. After about an hour they got bored of the pool and wanted to get out. After they got out, they wanted to get back in. Instead of going back to the pool, we headed down to the lake which was about 4 degrees colder than the pool. The kids had more fun there because there were more “toys” in the lake. Sophia found a stick and we went “fishing”. I┬áhad her give her fish call “Neeemoooo!” and sure enough, we saw some pretty good sized fish swim by (man she’s good!). When the fish were close enough, Sophia would smack the water with her stick. We didn’t catch anything though. Liam picked up just about every rock he could get his hands on. He would throw them to make the biggest splashes he could make and giggle maniacally every time and do it again.

Since our kids are young and Asian, they have what is called Mongolian Spots, which are deposits of extra pigment along their backs. However, if you don’t know what they are, look like bruises and are visible when wearing swimsuits. Usually, we carry around descriptions of what they are in English and German but about halfway through our swim, we realized we forgot to bring them with us. Thankfully, the kids looked like they were having a good time and were loved, so no one reported us for child abuse.

After cleaning up from swimming, we had some Gelato which is everywhere (Heidelberen or blueberry for me), and met back up with Horst, Baerbel, Gramma, and Pop Pop. We took a boat ride around the lake and the kids promptly passed out. On the far side of the lake is another scenic hotel and a huge camping area that was filled up with vacationers.

If you’re ever vacationing in the Black Forest, definitely make sure that you visit Lake Titisee and bring your bathing suit.

As usual, you can see pictures in my Flickr photostream. Let me know if you need access to the friends and family pictures.

Next post, more family, more food (kinda like here).

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