Simple Image Link Plugin Update

October 25th, 2008

The Simple Image Link has been updated to allow the image to be displayed based on the user’s role.

This replaces the ‘Display image’ checkbox in earlier versions.

This is useful for WordPress, including MU, installations which allows users to login.

This functionality was inspired by Praveen‘s comment and initial code.

Thanks for all the feedbackon the plugin to date.

User Rights and the Social Web

October 12th, 2008

While the recent Digg bans have caused much online controversy, little attention has been given to the larger issue affecting users of social sites, namely user rights.

Last year, Mike Arrington, Robert Scoble, Joseph Smarr and Marc Canter wrote a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web. The document asserts that all users of the social Web are entitled to certain fundamental rights when it comes to ownership of their information.

Our question is: what rights do the banned diggers have?

While their submissions and Diggs remain on the site, their profile information is simply wiped out; they vanish, as if they never existed.

Digg argues that by not disclosing the reasons for individual bans – but for breaking the TOU – they are abiding by their privacy policy, and thus protecting the user.  We argue that they’re hiding behind their privacy policy; the banning process should be transparent and open, particularly with users who want their voices heard.

Surely it’s a conflict of interest if the operating company, whose goal is to make money [now or in the future], can be the same body that determines which users can have access to the site and which can not?

Users should be offered a formal appeal process, be it public or private, and be given an opportunity for further recourse through a third party arbitrator if no resolution can be agreed on.

Additionally, while Digg certainly should remove any inappropriate content, any users that have had an account suspended or terminated should still be able to login, and their account should remain functional so that they can review or transfer their content.

Thoughts?

Update: Neal Rodriguez put together a five minute video with some excellent points; check out Dear Kevin and Jay

Google’s Conflict of Interest

October 6th, 2008

<rant>

Let me tell you a story…

Lid does a number of things around the Web, and sometimes I even find it hard to keep up. So I have a Google alert on her, so I can see what she is doing and what people are saying about her. That’s my excuse anyways.

Last Friday I got an alert from Google with 3 references:

The references are:

  1. Lid’s ReadWriteWeb post about Social Media and who is doing it well from the Social Media Marketing Summit in San Francisco.
  2. A post by Laurena about delicious and tagging which discusses and references Lid’s article -just what the Web is intended for.
  3. A post by ‘Oggi’ which looks remarkable like Lid’s – it starts with the same 20 words – and even references her by name.

So who or what is Oggi’s blog? Here is a screen shot.

Here is a breakdown of Oggi’s blog:

  1. 3 separate groups of Google advertising – two text based, and the third image based.
  2. The title of the post which is the same as Lid’s.
  3. The content of the post is the same initial 20 words of Lid’s post, then followed by “Original post by Lidija Davis” with Lid’s name linked to her post on ReadWriteWeb.

Now the link on Lid’s post is interesting in that it is not a direct link to the post on ReadWriteWeb, but rather an indirect link via Google’s FeedBurner service. Here is the link:

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/readwriteweb/~3/nS1e6RgCjbw/social_media_for_business_who_is_doing_it.php

So what about the other posts on this blog? Surprise, surprise, they all reference other people’s posts in exactly the same way. The same title is used, same first 20 words, and a link to the original post via FeedBurner.

Just to prove to myself that Google is still in fact indexing Oggi’s blog, I did a site search for Lidija, and found two previous ReadWriteWeb posts.

So what is the point of Oggi’s blog?

To hi-hack anyone who is searching for the title of noteworthy posts, so that if they click on the links, they will invoke 3 separate Google blocks of ads, with the user clicking through to the original article.

Now, who wins out of this?

  1. Oggi – for the princely sum of a few fractions of a cent.
  2. Google – for recording and charging the lucky advertisers for appearing on Oggi’s blog – this too would be minimal; however, it is still money on the bottom line.

The individual amount of money changing hands is minimal; however, multiply this by the number of hapless visitors and it could get into the hundreds for Oggi, and multiply this by the number of Oggi clones out there and now you are getting into the thousands for Google. I must state that I have absolutely no clue as to the actual numbers, but I think I have underestimated both sets of numbers here.

So who loses?

  1. The users of the Web for being distracted by useless profiteering …
  2. The advertiser.
  3. The Web in general for being littered with content which has absolutely zero value.

So to recap:

  1. I was sent an e-mail by Google alerting me to the existence of Oggi’s blog, of which I was blissfully ignorant until then.
  2. I visit Oggi’s blog and find that I am reading a post of zero value to me, has zero content, well actually 29 words copied from elsewhere, and which is surrounded by 3 block’s of Google advertisements.
  3. The link to the original post is via Google’s FeedBurner service.

The only thing which is not Google’s is the blogging software, which is WordPress in this case. Otherwise, we would have had a clean sweep. Digressing a bit, we had a bit of fun last April fool’s with this post on Google acquiring WordPress (remember this is not serious).

Now what Oggi is doing is cookie cutter stuff, so I can’t see how Google cannot detect that the intent is none other than injecting a post in between the user and what they actually want to view and benefiting courtesy of Google ads.

But then the conspiracy person within me has a theory, and we all have one, just the degree varies (checkout ReadWriteWeb’s very own post on Chrome)…

Why aren’t Google proactively purging such sites from their index, and thus alerts?

If they did then they loose money since ads are not being triggered.

I certainly hope this is not the case. I would expect that purging 100% of such sites from the index is actually impossible, but I think that low hanging fruit such as Oggi are simple enough for a group of 2-3 Googlers to solve – a few, ok, many, 20% days perhaps.

It maybe a long bow, but the theoretical dilemma is interesting, and no doubt finer minds than mine have discussed this to death.

I googled Google to see if you can report such blogs so this site is removed from the index, but the only thing I could find on the first page of the results, I am not a patient searcher, was a reference to reporting copyright infringements which requires me to mail in a letter (I kid you not).

I was expecting to find a ‘report abuse’ link one click away from the Google’s home page, in “About Google” specifically.

With search being an integral part of everyone’s online life now, and that given that ‘googled’ is now a verb, it plays a critical component of the Web, in that it potentially can control the pages which are viewed by users, thereby controlling the ads which are displayed, thereby controlling the potential revenue received by Google.

Google currently receives a lot of freedom in what they do, which they have rightly earned, but how can we be sure that this is not abused in the future?

How can we, the citizens of the Web, be assured that there is no conflict of interest between the search/index side of the business and the advertising side within Google?

Is there a common theme here? Checkout Michael Gray’s view on Google’s book search.

</rant>

Social Web Stragegies: Sept. 08 Highlights

October 4th, 2008

Rather than publish a plain old boring list of the posts that caught my eye this month, I thought I’d give Slideshare a go this time. Not as easy to compile, but (fingers crossed) a lot more interesting to look at.

What do you think?

Social Web Strategies
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: blogwell social)

Pimping Your WordPress Widget Titles

October 1st, 2008

With a few lines added to your WordPress theme’s style sheet you can transform boring widget titles into a smorgasbord of colors, small fonts, big fonts, backgrounds, borders – you name it. This post will show you how.

But please no flashing text (i.e. blinking text).

WordPress themes normally apply the same style to all of the widget titles within your sidebars.

With some additional entries to your theme’s style sheet, you can give each widget title its own unique appearance, transforming the (boring) version above to:

How do you add entries to your theme’s style sheet?

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 & 4.

When adding entries to your theme’s style sheet, it is best to add them after the existing content.

The style sheet entries used to achieve the above are:

.widget_recent_entries .widgettitle
{
color: blue !important;
font-size: 1.7em !important;
}
.widget_categories .widgettitle
{
color: white !important;
background-color: blue !important;
font-weight: bold !important;
padding: 10px !important;
}
.widget_pages .widgettitle
{
border-bottom: 2px solid black !important;
}
.widget_calendar .widgettitle
{
font-variant: small-caps !important;
}

So how does this work.

When a widget is rendered to HTML, it is done so using the following format:

<li id="widget-id" class="widget widget-specific-style">
<h2 class="widgettitle">Widget Title Text</h2>
...
</li>

Each widget has its own unique ID and class specific style, as well as the generic ‘widget’ class.

If we look at the recent posts widget, we see:

<li id="recent-posts" class="widget widget_recent_entries">
<h2 class="widgettitle">Recent Posts</h2>
...
</li>

So we can style any ‘widgettitle’ classed item which follows a ‘widget_recent_entries’ classed item as is our want.

So to achieve our pimped version, we added the following:

.widget_recent_entries .widgettitle
{
color: blue !important;
font-size: 1.7em !important;
}

The period character (.) before the names ‘.widget_recent_entries’ and ‘widgettitle’ is critical since this is used to denote a class name.

You will note the use of “!important” which forces that specific setting to be used. If this was not used, then the entry may be overridden due to the rules used to determine the precedence of style sheet entries.

Now consider the categories widget, we see:

<li id="categories-227973261" class="widget widget_categories">
<h2 class="widgettitle">Categories</h2>
...
</li>

So to pimp the categories title we add the following:

.widget_categories .widgettitle
{
color: white !important;
background-color: blue !important;
font-weight: bold !important;
padding: 10px !important;
}

Now the categories HTML is slightly different to the recent posts widget in that the ID is qualified by a number, 227973261 in this case. The recent posts widget can only be used the once in your sidebars, whereas the categories can be used multiple times, and the ID, which is automatically generated by WordPress, uniquely identifies that instance of the widget.

Using the class name within the style sheet will cause all widgets with the same class to be affected. So if we added another Categories widget to the sidebar, its title will be styled the same.

How can you pimp the category titles differently? I’m glad you asked.

If we look at the page source we will see that the categories widgets are rendered as:

<li id="categories-227973261" class="widget widget_categories">
<h2 class="widgettitle">Categories</h2>
...
</li>

<li id="categories-234397751" class="widget widget_categories">
<h2 class="widgettitle">Another Categories</h2>
...
</li>

We target individual category widget instances by using the widget ID instead of its class, so the style sheet entries become:

#categories-227973261 .widgettitle
{
color: white !important;
background-color: blue !important;
font-weight: bold !important;
padding: 10px !important;
}
#categories-234397751 .widgettitle
{
color: white !important;
background-color: red !important;
font-weight: bold !important;
padding: 10px !important;
}

The hash character (#) is used to denote an ID of an item within the page. So, we are styling any item which has a class of ‘widgettitle’ which follows any item with an ID of ‘categories-227973261 or ‘categories-234397751′.

So now our sidebar looks like this:

Whilst the widget appears within your sidebar, the ID will not change. However, if the widget is deleted and then recreated, the ID will change. So any existing ID based style sheet entries will no longer have any affect.

I would save the original theme’s style sheet and also record any changes you make to this file. This will allow you to easily identify what changes you have made and why, so if your theme is updated, which will replace the contents of the style sheet within the theme, you can easily remake your required changes.

Have fun pimping your widget titles!

This post was inspired by a comment posted on our Simple Image Link Plugin page. The original comment is here and my response here.