Adding extra social sharing services to WordPress with JetPack (ShareDaddy)

Last night, as part of the rebuild of this site, I reinstated the social sharing links for each post. In the old site they had been implemented as bespoke code using each social network’s recommended approach (e.g. Twitter or Facebook‘s official button codes) but presentation becomes problematic, with each button having a slightly different format and needing some CSS trickery to get it right.

I looked into a variety of plugins but they all had issues – either with formatting or functionality – until I stumbled across reference to WordPress.com’s social sharing capabilities.  If only I could have that functionality on a self-hosted (WordPress.org) site…

…As it happens, I can – WordPress.com’s social sharing is based on the ShareDaddy plugin, which is part of a collection called JetPack. ShareDaddy is also available as a freestanding plugin but now I have JetPack installed I’m finding some of the other functionality it gives me useful (and it’s not possible to activate ShareDaddy if you have JetPack installed).

I need to make some changes (like working out how to hack the code and turn off the count next to my Tweet/Like/+1 buttons – it’s embarrassing when the number is small!) but I’m happy enough with the result for now.  One thing I did need to do though was to add some services that are not yet in the JetPack version of the plugin (one of the major advantages of ShareDaddy is how simple it is to do this).

Rebuilding my site: please excuse the appearance

Regular readers may have noticed that this site is looking a little… different… right now.

Unfortunately, my hosting provider told me last night that they had a disk failure on the server. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem (that’s why servers have redundant components right? Like RAID on the disks?) but it seems this “server” is just a big PC. I can’t get too mad though… the MySQL database backup scripts have been failing for a month and it was my sloppyness that didn’t chase that up, and it was me who hadn’t made sure I had a recent copy of the file system…

So, as things stand:

  • I think I have restored all posts from 2004 until almost the end of August 2011;
  • I need to restore the later posts and comments (using copies from FeedBlitz, Google Reader, etc.);
  • There are no plugins (so things look odd); Some of the plugins have been reinstalled (but things may still look odd);
  • There are no graphics (they were hosted outside WordPress) I’ve restored all most of the graphics and other external media but there are still some I need to track down;
  • I have not restored the theme (so I’m using the WordPress defaults and there is no mobile theme);
  • The theme I’m using does not specify UTF-8 encoding so lots of  characters; Still some spurious characters appearing on some pages…
  • There are no fewer ads (which you might be happy about, but I do still need to pay the bills).

Please bear with me whilst I get things back… it may take some time as it needs to fit in between other activities but it might also be a good thing (new theme has been long overdue and I might even get smarter about my backups…).

And, if you spot another problem, please let me know.

[Updated at various points as the site has been restored]

Attempting to track RSS subscribers on a WordPress blog

As well as my own website (which has precious little content these days due to my current workload), I also manage the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog. Part of that role includes keeping an eye on a number of metrics to make sure that people are actually interested in what we have to say (thankfully, they seem to be…). Recently though, I realised that, whilst I’m tracking visitors to the blog, I’m missing hits on the RSS feed (because it’s not actually a page with the tracking script included) - and that’s a problem.

There are ways around this (I use Google Feedburner on my own blog, or it’s possible to put a dummy page with a meta refresh in front of the feed to pick up some metrics) but they have their own issues (for example the meta refresh methods breaks autodiscovery for some RSS readers) and will only help with new subscribers going forwards, not with my legacy issue of how many subscribers do I have right now.

There is another approach though: using a popular web-based RSS subscription service like Google Reader to see how many subscribers it tracks for our feed (the same metrics are available from Google’s Webmaster Tools).  The trouble is, that’s not all of the subscribers (for example, a good chunk of people use Outlook to manage their feeds, or other third-party RSS readers). If I use my own blog as an example, Google Reader shows that I have 247 subscribers but Feedburner says I have 855.  Those subscribers come from all manner of feed readers and aggregators, email subscription services and web browsers (Firefox accounts for almost 20% of them) so it’s clear that I’m not getting the whole picture from Google’s statistics. 

Google Reader Subscribers

Google Feedburner Subscribers

Does anyone have any better ideas for getting some subscriber stats for RSS feeds on a WordPress blog using Google Analytics? Or maybe from the server logs?

Google Analytics: Honing in on the visits that count

Every week I create a report that looks at a variety of social media metrics, including visits to the Fujitsu UK and Ireland CTO Blog.  It’s developing over time – I’m also working on a parallel activity with some of my marketing colleagues to create a social media listening dashboard – but my Excel spreadsheet with metrics cobbled together from a variety of sources and measuring against some defined KPIs seems to be doing the trick for now.

One thing that’s been frustrating me is that I know a percentage of our visits are from employees and, frankly, I don’t care about their visits to our blog.  Nor for that matter do I want my own visits (mostly administrative) to show in the stats that I take from Google Analytics.

I knew it should be possible to filter internal users and, earlier this week, I had a major breakthrough.

I created an advanced segment that checked the page (to filter out one blog from the rest of the content on the site) and the source (to filter anyone whose referral source contained certain keywords – for example our company name!).  I then tested the segment and, hey presto – I can see how many results apply to each of the queries and the overall result – now I can concentrate on those visits that really matter.

Google Analytics advanced segment settings to remove internal referrals

Of course, this only relates to referrals, so it doesn’t help me where internal users access the content from an email link (even if I could successfully filter out all the traffic via the company proxy servers, which I haven’t managed so far, some users access the content directly whilst working from home), but it’s a start.

The other change was one I made a few months ago, by defining a number of filters to adjust the reporting:

Unfortunately filters do not apply retrospectively, so it’s worth defining these early in the life of a website.

London Bloggers Meetup (#LBM): January 2011 – 10 lessons and tips for blogging

A couple of nights ago, I went along to the London Blogger’s Meetup – which is basically a big social event for bloggers! It’s wierd, most of the bloggers I meet normally are in tech but I’m never stopped to think that an event like this doesn’t just attract geeks like me (duh!).  I’m a bit shy at these things, but I did meet some great people – as well as lusting after the Dell Vostro V130 laptop that was given away.

The highlight of the evening though was Andy Bargery’s short presentation giving 10 lessons and tips for blogging.  Andy has shared the Prezi and I’ve embedded it below:

Blog Recap: 2010 in review

A couple of days ago, SQL Server MVP, Brent Ozar took a look back at what he’d been posting on his blog in 2010. I thought that was a good idea, so I’m shamelessly stealing his idea to highlight some of the key posts from the last twelve months on this blog. There were many more, technically-focused, ones but these are a good summary of the year’s events:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

  • Move along folks, nothing to see here (well, there were a couple of posts, but nothing really worth shouting about)…

August

September

October

November

December

  • Tumbleweed (and some geekery) – although there are plenty of posts in the pipeline for next year.

Even though 2010 was a quiet year on the blog (120 posts this year is a record low – especially when considering I averaged almost one a day in 2008!), I did win a Computer Weekly Blog Award, and I have been busy elsewhere:

As for 2011, well, expect this blog to remain one of my main online activities but, as I spend less time working directly with technology and more working on strategic IT issues, the focus is changing.  Indeed, some people think blogging is dead (it’s not) – others say it is now more about content marketing! Whatever the semantics, I’ll be here for a while yet. Thanks to everyone who reads my “stuff” and engages with me – whether it’s as a blog comment, an e-mail or a tweet – and have a happy and prosperous 2011.

Does this make me an award winning blogger?

Absolutely amazed.

Actually, there’s another word that fits in the middle of that sentence, but I don’t swear on the blog.

Absolutely [redacted] amazed.

I was very pleased to be shortlisted in the IT Professional (Male) category for the Computer Weekly Blog Awards but, I was really treating the Awards ceremony this evening as an opportunity to network (and, in some cases to meet people in person that I previously only knew online). When I saw that Microsoft’s Steve Clayton was runner up, I thought it must have been a really big blog that won.  Me, accepting the award for the IT Professional (Male) category in the Computer Weekly Blog Awards 2010Nope, turns out it was little ol’ me (OK, so I’m not so small, but my blog is!). Computer Weekly’s awards may not have the glitz and glamour of some awards ceremonies, but they are at least recognised, and it’s pretty cool to have won an award this year.

So, a massive “thank you” to everyone who voted for me – your support was absolutely vital.  But, more importantly, thanks for continuing to read this blog.  I’m doing less and less technical work and It’s getting harder and harder to find the time to write original content (most of my online contributions come in 140-character busts these days – @markwilsonit); but knowing that people out there find it useful and are willing to support me in things like this is a great comfort.

[Updated 19 November 2010: added photo – copyright Computer Weekly (linked at source)]
[Updated 25 November 2010: added video]

Reminder: Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010

My blog needs you!

The deadline for voting in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards is fast approaching and, even though I don’t seriously expect to win, it’s great to have been shortlisted, and I don’t want to come last either!

It’s sometimes a struggle to balance work and blogging (especially after almost seven years of it) but, please can I ask you to vote for me in the IT Professional (Male) category?

If you’re sick of reading posts that are begging for your support, I’m sorry: this is the last time I’ll ask you and I do have some more tech advice and commentary posts in the pipeline!

Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010

It’s that time of year when Computer Weekly magazine runs its annual IT Blog Awards and, I’m delighted to say that markwilson.it has been shortlisted in the IT Professional (Male) category.  This category is for blogs that detail an individual perspective, not a company line, of life in the IT industry.

Looking back, I’ve produced less content this year than I have done previously – and some of it has been photography related, rather than IT but I’d like to think there’s still some useful and relevant information on this blog – and it would be great to have your vote.

For those viewing this site directly, there’s a badge on the right hand side of the page.  RSS subscribers won’t see that so this is the link to vote and you can vote for a number of blogs in various categories (as well as the best Twitter users – I didn’t enter that category) but you’ll find me in the IT Professional (Male) dropdown.

(And, for everyone who voted earlier in the week after I tweeted about this – thank you!)

New job/full disclosure

For some time now, this site has carried a disclosure notice and I generally avoid talking about my work here (for reasons of confidentiality – but also to prevent potential conflicts of interest).  Today I’m going to make an exception, because it’s the first day of a new job for me.

I’ve been a Senior Customer Solution Architect at Fujitsu since August 2005 and, in that time, I’ve worked on customer-facing project implementations; pre-sales consultancy and bid work; and, more recently, have carried out some internal roles evangelising technology, developing capability within our architect community and leading the technical strategy and direction for client device services, including the adoption of Windows 7 within our desktop managed service offering.  Whilst these roles have been interesting and varied, I was recently presented with an opportunity to join the Office of the CTO as a Strategy Consultant and today is my first day in that new role.

I’m not going to say too much about what I’ll be doing in the new role except that I’ll be promoting Fujitsu brand and opinion on a variety of topics and that’s why I felt it appropriate to write this blog post.  Regardless of my professional activities at Fujitsu, this site will still concentrate on the technology issues that I find interesting and it’s not going to become a marketing channel for my employer!

I’ve spent 6 years and many late nights building up this site, along with another year building a my reputation on Twitter and in other social media outlets – that’s my personal reputation as “Mark Wilson, Technologist” and not “Mark Wilson, Strategy Consultant at Fujitsu”.  So, just to make sure there’s no confusion: this site (markwilson.co.uk/markwilson.it or whatever domain name I might assign to it in the future) is my personal website;  the views and opinions here are personal and are not endorsed by my employer; if you see me commenting elsewhere on behalf of Fujitsu… well, that’s the day job – you know, the one that pays the bills!