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July 15, 2008

WordPress 2.6 Released Early

This is something you don’t see every day, an early release of a blogging platform. WordPress 2.6 is out, almost a month ahead of schedule, which is just smashing, isn’t it? Among the news you’ll find Google Gears support, image captioning, a revamped Press This! bookmarklet, wiki-like revisioning of posts, and so on. This video gives a brief overview:

Grab WordPress 2.6 from the download page. As always, we encourage you to update, if nothing else but to keep your blog safe.

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July 11, 2008

WordPress for iPhone App Due Soon

Automattic is releasing an open source application for the iPhone, called WordPress for iPhone. Matt Mullenweg reckons it is the first open source application being made available in the iTunes App Store. The application is due soon, and supports both self-hosted blogs (version 2.5.1 and higher), and WordPress.com blogs.

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July 4, 2008

ScribeFire 2.2.8 Released

ScribeFire is a popular desktop blogging application hosted in a Firefox extension. Version 2.2.8 includes fixes and some brush-ups. The extension is free to download from Mozilla Add-ons, and works with both Firefox 2 and 3.

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July 3, 2008

WordPress.com Enables Support for Google Gears

WordPress.com have added a Turbo button in the admin area. This is to enable Google Gears, if your browser supports it, and speed up things using it. For instance, Google Gears is used for offline access to web apps like Google Docs, but how can it benefit WordPress.com?

On WordPress.com it is used to store all images and other web page components from the admin area to the user’s PC, speeding up access and reducing unnecessary web traffic.

That’s from the launch post.

Upcoming WordPress 2.6, now in beta 2, will have the same kind of support for Google Gears.

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June 30, 2008

Legal Issues with Choosing a Host

Finding a new host is never easy.

First, one has to choose the kind of hosting and the plan that they need, something that is almost impossible with a new site. Second, they have to find a quality host at a reasonable price, which is also difficult because nearly all hosts have at least some negative reviews and some devout fans.

However, one area that often gets overlooked when picking a new host is the legal side of the relationship. Hosts and their clients have a complicated and somewhat delicate legal arrangement between and now two companies approach it exactly the same way.

Though no one enjoys reading the lengthy agreements we have to sign, there is actually some very important information in there, including the following items.

Country of Origin

One of the first things to look at when considering a host is the country it is located in as it determines the laws that it operates under.

Typically speaking, it is best to locate a host that is within your own country as the laws will be more familiar to you, they will be able to provide support in your native language and they will be the easiest to get in contact with.

If that is not practical (IE: There are no acceptable hosts within your country or most of your audience is oversears), selecting a host within the U.S. or EU are good choices as the legal climate there has been stable for a few years now and the rules are fairly standard.

However, more important than the actual country is being sure that you understand what you are getting into and that involves reading through the terms of service and acceptable use policies to be sure that nothing you are going to do will run afoul of their guidelines and result in your site being taken offline against your will.

Things to Look For

When you are going through these terms, be sure to look up these following items:

  1. Billing: Billing is one of the most common issues people have with their host. It is important to understand how much will you be charged? When will you be charged it? Is there a setup fee? How will you pay it? Is it automatic or invoiced? Understanding these issues will go a long to ensuring a good relationship with a host.
  2. Server Restrictions: In addition to understanding how much space and bandwidth you get, make a note of other restrictions on server use. For example, most shared hosts do not allow “always running” scripts such as chatrooms. Take special note for under what conditions your host can suspend your account, very useful for when you are experiencing a Digg or similar traffic rush.
  3. Content Restrictions: I typically try to avoid hosts that do not allow adult material. Though I have no intention of publishing pornography on any of my sites, the definition of adult content is subjective, even within the courtroom, and some articles I’ve written could be mistaken for pornography at first glance. Typically, it is best to have as few content restrictions as legally possible.
  4. Copyright/Trademark: Though laws such as the DMCA and the EDEC have largely standardized copyright enforcement by hosts, many still have their own policies and it is best to understand what they are and how they might impact you. Take special note of counter-notice procedures.
  5. How Responsibilities: Different hosts and even different accounts on the same host often have disparate responsibilities. Understand what your host is required to support, referring to how “managed” or “unmanaged” your service is. Also, see if there is an uptime guarantee and what happens if it is not met. Also, some hosts offer a guarantee for hardware swap-out times, see if the one you are considering does as well and what the penalty is for them not meeting the advertised time frame.
  6. Cancellation: At some point you will probably want to leave. How do you cancel your account? How much notice do you have to give? What happens if you cancel before your contract is up? Every host is different and many make it artificially hard to cancel. It is best to look at this closely before signing up.

Though it looks like a great deal of information to obtain, it should only take a few minutes to get it. Considering the amount of time it takes to find an acceptable host and the amount of headaches such research can save, it makes sense to take a few extra moments and do the research.

Taking a Pass

Most of the time, the information gleaned is just for one’s own knowledge. However, I’ve encountered many situations where one host’s terms of service make me take a pass on them in favor of someone else.

The important thing is to be honest about what you need and examine what is likely to go wrong in your relationship. Also, look at your site from the perspective of someone who is angry with you and seeking to shut you down through any means available, no matter how petty.

Determine in advance what you need and what your most likely sticking points are. Though no host will be perfect, you can find one that mitigates against most of the potential issues.

This may not help you avoid conflict, but it certainly can help you avoid catastrophe.

Conclusions

Though we like to think that the hosting terms of services and acceptable use policies are cookie-cutter and identical, as someone who reads them regularly, I can tell you for certain that they are not.

It is important to read these closely and understand the rules your hosting account will operate under because those rules don’t just impact you, but potentially all of your visitors.

Such legal issues are one of the least “fun” parts about picking a new host, it is one of the most important. Because even if a host is reliable and fast, your site can still go down due to conflicts with your provider and others on the Web.

It is far better to be prepared and be aware than leave it up to chance.

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June 26, 2008

New On Google’s Blogger: Import-Export Blogs, Ratings And Embeded Comment Forms?

Blogger in Draft

Users of Google’s Blogger (aka BlogSpot) platform will be excited to see three new features being tested on Google’s eternal beta site for Blogger (which can be accessed over at draft.blogger.com).

The first is the ability for BlogSpot users to Import/Export their blogs to/from another server, computer or another blog platform.

(Blogger in Draft) Today’s release brings another long-desired feature to Blogger: Import and Export of blogs. Now you can export all of your posts and comments into a single, Atom-formatted XML file for easy backup. You can then import the posts back into Blogger, either into an existing blog or into a new one. [...]

When you import a blog, all of the posts will get saved in an “imported” state. From there you can publish just a few, or all of them at once.

The interesting thing about this feature is that once a blog is imported, users will be able to select which posts (along with the comments) to publish to their new blog. Also users can import more than one blog to a single blogger weblog, allowing users publishing from different sites to merge all of their articles together.
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June 25, 2008

Shoemoney provides an early look at WordPress 2.6beta1

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Affiliate marketing powerhouse Shoemoney is providing an early look at WordPress 2.6beta1, which is now available for download from the WordPress development servers:

My favorite new feature is the post revisions. I can’t tell you how many times I have had the same post open in multiple windows and accidentally over written a previous post. The only thing worse then doing a job is doing the same job over…

He has screenshots and more available at his blog..

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June 17, 2008

BuddyPress Default Theme Previewed

Filed as Uncategorized with 2 comments

Are you curious about the WordPress MU powered social network platform BuddyPress? Then perhaps you would like to look at the default theme preview, posted by lead developer Andy Peatling. Looks pretty good.

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June 16, 2008

Recovering From Disaster

Thursday June 12, 2008 is a night that will live in infamy around my house. It was when I discovered that my main site, Plagiarism Today, was down due to a storage failure at my host.

As dusk turned into dawn, the situation grew more and more bleak. With the storage failure becoming increasingly serious and backups failing to restore the site, it could have easily been a near-total loss for the site.

Yet despite almost no help from my then-host, I was able to get the site back up and running, almost completely up to date, within a few hours or realizing the magnitude of the situation.

However, the ordeal taught me a great deal about recovering from disasters and how to improve next time something bad happens. Lessons I hope others will not have to learn the hard way.
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June 10, 2008

Comparing WordPress to Drupal

Both WordPress and Drupal have strong followers, and they rarely agree on what platform is more suitable for various projects. If you’re a user of one of these platforms, maybe you should eye the other? Check out the comparison over at Performancing for a great start.

I’ve just done minor work with Drupal, so I don’t know the system very well. I found it somewhat bulky though, not Joomla bulky, but still bulky compared to more focused solutions.

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