Archive for March, 2010

WordPress plugins, hacks and SEO

Mar
31

When mandrill asked me to share my WordPress hacking wisdom I replied that I would do a blog post on it, as well as on what plugins and search engine optimization I have applied.

Search Engine Optimization

Following the WordPress SEO guide ranked highest in Google (proof the advice works?) I applied the following changes:

  • Permalinks are now created as http://ghostfestival.net/myrhial/%postname%/. To avoid stupidly long url’s the SEO slugs plugin throws out all stop words. When writing or editing a post you’re still presented with the opportunity to make edits to this so you can tweak it to perfection. I did not need the Redirection plugin as it seems WordPress does this automatically but it might prove useful for users of older versions who do not have the ability or knowledge to upgrade.
  • Headspace 2 optimizes page titles, something of which I’ve noticed the results on my old Blogspot blog. When writing or editing a post you can edit what you’ve configured as default should you wish to. What wasn’t immediately clear to me there is that when you click “page title” or “description” in front of the input fields it automatically makes a suggestion for you. Headspace is also able to insert code for Google Analytics and various other webmaster tools, which made it my all-in-one solution replacing several other plugins that did this for me.
  • Writing good descriptions and alt texts have been drilled in during my education, and having had the experience of working with a blind student who relied on a screen reader made it all too clear how unusable the web can be. While an EVE Online blog might not be visited by this target group a search engine indexer pretty much works the same way. And then there are mobile users, who might opt to block images to save bandwidth. That last group however you can do a big favor by optimizing your images for the web so they can enjoy your blog in all its glory.
  • Breadcrumbs are more than a web fashion trend. They are one of the biggest investments in user-friendliness you can do, and help indexers make sense of it all.
  • Caching is your friend when set up properly. WP Super Cache works like a charm for this. It has a LOT of options but was pretty much configured right for my tastes out of the box. I’ve noticed the speed increase already, and despite enjoying the luxuries of unlimited hosting its still nice when you don’t go and hog all resources!
  • If you want more speed I recommend the YSlow and  Google Page Speed Firebug plugins and following their best practices.
  • The rest of the guide I’ve pretty much skipped or was implemented already. I’d like to add though that I do not agree on removing links to other blogs as a SEO solution. Keep your list trimmed and up to date, with an archive page is a good idea since an overdose of links might be seen as spamdexing, but if you need to take such measures to keep your readers on site you should consider other solutions like better and more interesting content.
  • There’s information floating around the web that adding rel=”nofollow” to all links means higher page ranking. This is not true. Nofollow should only be added to links of which you cannot guarantee the quality, or are paid advertising. Pagerank sculpting — adding nofollow to everything except a few preferred links — is something I personally frown upon. If I wanted I could add the attribute to all blogs except those belonging to Naraka members to boost their rankings, and ask them to do the same, but where would that lead us? Imagine the whole EVE blogging community starting to apply this. I cannot see it having any positive long-term effect.

Plugins

All of these are available under “Plugins > Add New” in your WordPress admin control panel.

  • Akismet: Comes standard with WordPress and is catching spam like it ain’t pretty. Getting a lot of the sneaky spam, vague comments with a link to some site on posts from ages back. Do not want! As pointed out in the SEO section this spam can be very harmful for your blog as without nofollow attribute search engines will downrank you for it. Don’t let it happen.
  • FD Feedburner Plugin: I highly recommend feedburner if only to keep track of who’s subscribing to you and how, and with lots of options to get the most out of your feed it sets you apart from the rest. Once you have it this plugin redirects all RSS to there, with options to also use feedburner for your comment and category feeds.
  • Google XML maps: Bit of a misleading name since Google, Bing and Yahoo all have webmaster tools with sitemap support. While an RSS feed can work just as well (not when run through feedburner) this plugin alerts these services of updates and allows for customizations to sitemap.
  • IntenseDebate: Makes commenting a lot more interactive and syncs with the classic WordPress commenting system so you don’t lose your comments when you uninstall the plugin. Had it on Blogspot too, but it cost me blood, sweat and tears to get the Blogspot exporter plugin to work. My workaround? Save your exported comments xml file on your own host to get around the password protection of the IntenseDebate site. Any kind of comments and post titles with quotes or other odd signs are going to be skipped and I found nothing faster than to manually add them to the database.
  • RSS footer: Inactive now, but might see future use to advertise new pages or other things not viewable through RSS.
  • Twitter tools: Tweets whenever I publish a new post, and has a nice sidebar widget. If I wanted I could even enable it to let me tweet right from my blog.
  • Yet another related posts plugin (YARPP): Adds related posts at the end of posts both on site and on RSS. Especially nice to bring the attention to previous installments of the Blog Banter and Friday Flash Fiction.

Hacks

Just one really, which I couldn’t find a plugin for, and what seems to be standard functionality on WordPress.com hosted blogs but not in the standalone version (why?!). I wanted to display categories and tags at the end of a post when read through RSS so confusion is avoided between in character and out of character writing.

  1. In your blog’s root folder browse down to wp-includes and open all files starting with “feed-”. These are the layouts of the various methods of RSS your blog supports. Skip the ones for comments.
  2. Locate the line looking like <![CDATA[<?php the_content_feed('something') ?> or  <?php do_action('rss_item'); ?> and add the following right behind: <p>Posted in <?php the_category(', ') ?></p><?php the_tags('<p>Tags: ', ', ', '</p>'); ?>]]>. Should be a </content> tag right behind it.

And you’re done! Wasn’t that simple? If you wanted you could add the post meta data instead. Does not include tags however so that bit you’d have to take from the short version I used.

Friday Flash Fiction 12: CSAA

Mar
30

Friday Flash Fiction is an EVE Flash Fiction initiative hosted by Casiella Truza from Ecliptic Rift. Each Friday a prompt is presented, and the next Tuesday links to all stories are added to the original post. This week’s prompt is Capital Ship Assembly Array.


It all started with minerals. Lots of minerals. So many minerals that jump freighters were sent to the Empire’s market hubs to pick up what the mining team could not provide for. And then the work started. Capital ship construction involves such large pieces that a hull cannot be made directly. Instead pieces — some of them large enough to compete with frigate and cruiser hulls in size — were built and brought up to the capital ship assembly array.

It is an extraordinary sight, to see a capital ship being built. From high up enough it looked like you were watching regular construction, if you counted out you could not see any humans, or even some of the heavy equipment they used, as it was simply too small to be perceived.

And when the hull was finally ready, and glided slowly into the void where its new owner waited eagerly to inspect his newest asset, feelings of joy and sadness were felt alike by all who helped create this masterpiece. Would it be well taken care off, perhaps even do good deeds, or be thrown on the line in the conquest for more space? But there was little time to dwell on these thoughts, as another order was waiting, and the cycle started again. Once more jump freighters will be sent out to the Empire’s market hubs to pick up what the mining team could not provide for.

Future Proof

Mar
28

Kale Ryoko and Kyoko Sakoda have just released their latest EVE movie, a machinima called Future Proof. Combining EVE Online, the Unreal 3 engine and large quantities of caffeine results in a stunning 12 minutes of internet spaceships, explosions and voice acting. You’ll have to watch it yourself to see what it is about, even though the title gives it away a little. Biased as I might be I was impressed by the storytelling and the atmosphere. I should probably warn in advance certain bits will have the hairs on your arms rise up. This one can right into the list of recommended watches together with their previous work, and well-known pieces such as Clear Skies.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (in EVE)

Mar
22

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is one of my favorite self-help books because it has helped me a lot both in my professional life as for self-management. For being a good CEO in EVE, or pinpointing where and how I could do better, this book has also been a tremendous aid. That is why I felt inspired to write this blog post where I will illustrate how it can help you get the most out of the game, both in a leadership position and outside of it. This is by far not a complete guide, and I’ve not covered everything that falls under each habit as it would get far too detailed. Consider it an extended summary touching upon what I found most important. Should you want more information I recommend buying the book or borrow a copy from your local library.

Habit one: Be pro-active

There are two mindsets you can live by whenever anything happens, or how you view your current situation: Reactive and pro-active.

The reactive mindset we find in people who say things like “I wish I had a lot of ISK”, “I am a terrible PVPer”, “Can-flippers make me so angry I want to quit”, “I need to rat” and “I can’t do fleet command”.

The pro-active mindset believes that we decide what we do and feel, and will work actively on reaching goals. Pro-active people will look into methods of earning ISK and try them, will read a lot on pvp and go out to learn, will realize that letting a can-flipper spoil you game is silly and take measures to counter the practice, will rat because they want to and not because they are told to do so, and will realize that everyone can be a great fleet commander if you want to learn.

EVE is a sandbox where you can do whatever you want, as long as you are prepared to do what it takes to reach your goals. So throw out all those negative thoughts because they are only in the way of success. You choose how you react to stimulus. Don’t sit around and wait, nothing good has ever come of that. Everyone, from the lowest to the highest rank within a corporation, can make a change. Yes, certain things are simply out of our control but even then you decide how you cope with them.

Habit two: Begin with the End in Mind

Everything starts with a vision. Maybe you want to fly capital ships someday, or maybe you want to teach new players about a certain aspect of the game. To succeed in whatever it is we want to do we need a mission statement, which is based upon our personal principles. You might find it important for example that you do not end up sinking too much time into the game because you have a family to look after.

Once you know what it is you want you begin with translating this to long-term goals. To fly capital ships for example you need to buy certain skillbooks. How will you fund these skillbooks? Keep splitting up each goal into steps until you reach what you can start doing today.

Habit three: Put First Things First

Now you have your mission statement, goals and steps to achieve those goals it is time to start working on them. But where do we start?

There are four quadrants in the time-management matrix:

  1. Important and urgent
  2. Important and not urgent
  3. Not important and urgent
  4. Not important and not urgent

Quadrant one should become as small as possible, and this is where you start. These are things that are a problem right now, or have a deadline. If you leave these things they are bound to create more problems and cause stress and you absolutely do not want that.

Quadrant three is tied to reactivity. It could be other players who interrupt you with a private convo about something really trivial, and you’re bound to spend a lot of time chatting but not really going anywhere. While it is important to keep good relations learn to say no once in a while. If you’re getting distracted you can’t give what your doing, nor the conversation the attention it deserves. Dare to point that out.

Quadrant IV is everything you can do when you are done, or when you’ve worked enough.

Quadrant II is where you want to be. As much as possible from Quadrant I, and everything from Quadrant III that matters should end up in here. Like talking to your friends when you have the time to give them your full attention. Or doing things well in time before they become a problem. Stress will be a thing of the past and you will enjoy doing things because you know they matter.

Habit four: Think Win/Win

Win-win or no deal. There are no other alternatives. Having others lose while you win, or lose and letting the others win are out of the question. The first eliminates future win-win deals, while the latter will make you unhappy as well as eliminate the chance you will want to set up a deal with that party again.

Win-win means that everyone gets something out of a deal. Running an academy corporation for example, where in return for knowledge you gain prospective members. Or even if they move on elsewhere they might still direct people your way or be willing to help you out in the future.

When win-win is not possible then agree on having no deal. An example from my own experience is having a few members under my wing who’d like to see things run differently, to which I could not agree. I could have given in to that resulting in lose-win, or I could have kicked them there and then resulting in win-lose. Instead we agreed to disagree and remained on friendly terms, with them going their own way. While no true win-win the fact that we all remained friends and each are doing what they enjoy still beats any other alternative.

Habit five: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Listening to what others say is not enough. Try to find out why they say it. Let’s say a member complains about a certain rule in the corporation’s code of conduct. Why is he complaining? Maybe he doesn’t understand it and needs some explanation, but it might very well be he sees a future consequence you’ve never thought about.

Put yourself into the other’s shoes rather than reacting from your own experiences. Don’t tell them to follow the rules because over time you’ve found them to be the best possible way to run things, but first listen to why others think they might not work. But listen also when they say they really like certain rules.

The same goes for any type of feedback, directed at you or others. There is as much knowledge in the words we speak as in why we express ourselves like that.

Habit six: Synergize

The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. Through trust and understanding solutions can be found that are even better than what you could have come up by yourself. While someone might go about solving a problem differently than you would, try to find the merit in their ways. Maybe you want to do things very structured and detailed, and disagree with a fast solution that will need fine-tuning in the future because it seems inefficient. While the fast solution addresses the aspect that something has to be done right now to make a start and get others involved.

Synergism is about taking the best of both to create something even better. In this situation the solution might be set short-, mid- and long-term goals and make sure that the consequences of each step are taken into consideration, and where goals help with getting others involved because you can delegate specific tasks.

Habit seven: Sharpen the Saw

Take the time to evaluate how you have applied the six habits and continue to improve. Also apply them on all new things, and continue to improve there also. Find a balance and take everything in moderation. Make sure nobody or nothing gets left out. Upon failure, evaluate what went wrong and learn from those mistakes. Don’t give up, because that’d be a waste of what you’ve done, but know when it is time to start walking a new road.

Operation Longshot

Mar
21

With the recent loss of members, and the want of those who remain active and loyal to ramp up our activities the decision was made to move from Goinard to somewhere closer to nulsec. It has been a long search, during which I came to realize just how ideal our home is, and thus I made the call that instead of looking for a new home we’d go on a nomadic roam and take it from there. A nomadic roam is an extended stay in a target area where pilots take ships of certain classes suited for the work on that location, and frequent supply runs are held to replace lost assets and send spoils off to the market. This roam was named Operation Longshot and will run for about a month, with the possibility to be ended after two weeks, or extension upon success if the membership supports this. Being such a new concept and having a trimmed roster means evaluation is of even greater importance than usual.

Being finally settled here it is not long now until we will venture into nulsec (getting pilots to be available at the same time is hard sometimes!), but of course we haven’t kept still during daily operations. My last two losses having been recons I decided to return to the trusted Arbitrator for a bit, which has proven itself so far in the termination of four targets, two of them also being sent to the clone vat. Our newest member, Sah Phyre, was present for all this and I feel much joy in educating her about the fine art of piracy, not to mention her enthusiasm is very motivational. I have also made an effort to go out by myself during quieter times but so far the few targets I found slipped my grasp.

I hope this operation will have the desired effect of increasing our level of activity again as well as forming the first step into mastering combat in nulsec, so that we can start another recruitment drive soon. A bit of corporate and alliance rebranding is on schedule before that, which hopefully will appeal to more pilots, both combat and industry. We’ll always remain Cartel loyalists however, but sometimes a little more focus on just why you’d want to be on our side is needed, instead of merely presenting who we are and what we ask for. I really think we’ve worked hard enough to be proud of being an alliance with a combat wing with a long history, and an industry wing that is taking large steps into becoming able to do all the in-house production we could wish for. Not to forget our logistical backbone, alliance-wide operations, and close ties with other successful outlaw organizations such as Veto and Hellfleet.