WordPress updated to version 4.0

Upon receiving the little notification in the top of my WordPress dashboard letting me know that version 4.0 of the content management system had been made available, I used the auto upgrade feature to get my site up to date with the latest release.

So far there hasn’t really been anything particularly noticeable or amazing about the new version. Of course, this comes from a five-month break from using WordPress, so I’m sure that I don’t really re­member all the nuances of the previous version anyway. Overall, it seems like the look and feel of 4.0 is almost identical to what it used to be (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

I checked out the patch notes for the new version over on WordPress’ website, and according to them, it seems like the biggest differences are in the editing and media panels. Unfortunately, I do all my content creation using the “Text” tab where I write my blog posts in raw source code. So, it seems like I won’t really be taking full advantage of all the media-related stuff that was added in.

 


 

Parkzer Rises Again

On this day five months ago, I made a post stating that I would be taking a break from publishing new con­tent on my website.

Coincidentally (but not really), it happened to be on April Fool’s Day. A lot of people thought that I was joking. But, as time went on, they started realizing that I wasn’t actually playing around.

What I intended to do during that time was publish an entire redesign of my entire website with a lot more features, better graphics, and overall a better way to present all the content I would be posting. Unsurprisingly, that was a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially because I was so occupied with so many other things going on. To jump to the “tl;dr” version of the story, I basically got almost noth­ing done.

I fiddled around with my landing page for a bit, moving some highlights around and sticking some more in, then opened the template editor in WordPress a few times only to get repeatedly overwhelmed and scared away.

So, we’re basically almost back to square one.

Actually, we never actually even left the first square to begin with.

Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.

 


 

Changes coming to Parkzer’s Blog

Hi humans.

I decided to throw a quick post up on my blog to let you guys know that I will be working on some pret­ty large changes to my website within the upcoming months. During this time, I will be making very little to no new content posts.

At the end of this period, I hope for my website to have a completely new design with far greater functionality. I am also attempting to turn my blog into more of my own personal social network feed (this means more posts in general throughout the day, and more different types of content overall).

In the meantime, if you want to keep up with me, I recommend following @Parkzer on Twitter. If there is something urgent or personal, you are welcome to send me an email or use the contact form on my website. If you are one of my close friends, this doesn’t mean I’m disappearing for a few months, it just means I won’t be posting on my blog. I’ll still be around, and nothing will be different about me outside of my website.

If you’re eager to see the changes, I will be publishing them live in segments throughout the next hand­ful of months. Feel free to check back every few weeks or so to see if I’ve made any noticeable progress.

 


 

Tip of the Day: Pay your bills

Hi humans.

If you’re a frequent visitor to my website, you might have noticed that for the past day, my website was down.

Normally, when something goes wrong, I can usually figure out the problem and fix it within a few hours because I have access to the main server, as my friend owns it. However, this time, when I tried to go to the core of the problem to fix it … well I couldn’t. The core was missing.

I went to my friend’s website, which is hosted on the same server as mine, and his website seemed to have disappeared as well. I scratched my head in confusion, then texted my friend.

A few hours later, I get a text back:

“Omg I forgot to pay the bill.”

Yes, he had received a few notifications letting him know that he was supposed to pay his bill, but ap­parently he somehow still forgot. As a result, the company that maintains his physical server cut off his service, and both our websites, as well as the control panel that manages the server, went down.

So here’s your tip of the day: pay your bills. Or else your friend’s website might randomly die for a day.

 


 

In case you’re curious: uptime statistics for 2012

Hi humans.

I got an email report a few days ago from a service I use that tracks my website’s uptime.

Uptime, of course, is the time that my website is up – basically, any time that my website is not down due to some sort of server error. A few years ago, web hosting services emphasized how they have 99.9% uptime rates, but nowadays, it’s not that huge of a deal because near-100% uptime is pretty much expected out of all hosts now.

Either way, I thought the stats were interesting, and decided to post mine here for 2012 for those who were curious.

Yearly uptime: 99.92% Downtime: 5 hour(s) 48 min(s)

Month 2012-12 Uptime: 100.00%
Month 2012-11 Uptime: 100.00% Downtime: 46 sec(s)
Month 2012-10 Uptime: 99.66% Downtime: 2 hour(s) 9 min(s)
Month 2012-09 Uptime: 99.98% Downtime: 5 min(s) 35 sec(s)
Month 2012-08 Uptime: 100.00%
Month 2012-07 Uptime: 99.84% Downtime: 1 hour(s) 2 min(s)
Month 2012-06 Uptime: 99.99% Downtime: 5 min(s) 39 sec(s)
Month 2012-05 Uptime: 99.91% Downtime: 33 min(s) 29 sec(s)
Month 2012-04 Uptime: 99.90% Downtime: 37 min(s) 4 sec(s)
Month 2012-03 Uptime: 100.00%
Month 2012-02 Uptime: 100.00%
Month 2012-01 Uptime: 99.81% Downtime: 1 hour(s) 13 min(s)

Seems like October was my worst month.

Two hours and 9 minutes out of 31 days? That’s pretty rough.

 


 

Comments have returned … for now

Hi humans.

As of a few days ago, the commenting system has returned to my website.

I initially took out my commenting system a few years ago because it was more of a hassle to me to monitor them. My audience has historically not been very conversational or discussion-oriented (either that, or everything I’ve ever written is usually not conducive to provoking discussion), and a majority of my comments have either been spam, or comments letting me know I have a typo or misspelled a word.

However, I’ve decided to bring back commenting for now to test out a new feature provided by Disqus called Discovery. Basically, I rent Disqus some space on my website and it will place some related and promoted links near where the comments are. If someone finds any of these pages as interesting and clicks on the links, I get paid advertising revenue.

I have yet to see the Discovery feature actually working on my website, but I’m assuming that, just like most other advertising campaigns, it needs a bit of time to search for relevant keywords on my page and index my website into a directory where it can form associations with relevant websites.

Also, if I do end up being able to encourage my readers to be more inclined to have discussions, that will overall raise the popularity of my website, so I figured that it could potentially be a win-win sit­uation in the future.

Again, everything is still in testing phase, and I might scrap the idea in the near future, but just men­tioning that it’s available for now.

 


 

AdSense Account Disabled?!

Hi humans.

I was recently notified by Google that my AdSense account was temporarily disabled for invalid activity on my website.

Hello,

With our advertising programs, we strive to create an online ecosystem that benefits publishers, advertisers and users. For this reason, we sometimes have to take action against accounts that demonstrate behavior toward users or advertisers that may negatively impact how the ecosystem is perceived. In your case, we have detected invalid activity on your site and your account has been disabled.

We’re limited in the amount of information we can provide about your specific violation. We understand this can be frustrating for you, but we’ve taken these precautionary measures because intentional violators can use this information to circumvent our detection systems.

In some cases, publishers can make significant changes to correct the violation and are willing to comply with the AdSense program policies (google.com/adsense/policies). For this reason, we offer an appeals process as an opportunity to work with you to resolve the issue. To help you with the process, we’ve created a list of the top reasons for account closure for you to review before submission at http://support.google.com/adsense/bin/answer.py?answer=2660562. Please be sure to provide a thorough analysis in your appeal, which you can submit at [link removed] and we will follow up accordingly.

Thanks for your understanding,

The Google AdSense Team

I did file an appeal, as suggested in the email, because I obviously have no idea what this invalid activity is, and I have never before artificially created activity on my website that would be considered dishonest through the Google AdSense terms of service. After filing my appeal, I got this automated response:

Hello,

This message confirms that we’ve received your appeal submission.

We’ll get to your appeal as soon as we can, though due to the high volume of emails we receive, it may take us up to a week or more to process it. If you’ve previously submitted an appeal for this account, you might not receive a response to this or future appeals.

Also, please be aware that appealing the disabling of your AdSense account does not guarantee that it will be reinstated.

If you have any questions or concerns about accounts disabled for invalid activity, please visit https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

And now I’m waiting for a response back from the Google AdSense team.

I’m sharing this with the readers of my website because this has immediate consequences to my website, and if the appeal is denied, it will have drastic consequences to how I produce content on the Internet overall.

First of all, I have a temporary contract with another advertising company so I can keep serving advertisements while Google is reviewing my appeal, which will supposedly take about a week. Fortunately, the minimum payout for this company is $5 (and not $100 like Google), so if my account were to be reinstated, I could easily cash out from this temporary advertising company and go back to Google AdSense.

If my AdSense account were not to be reinstated, I would take a temporary break from content production as I start making more personal contracts with companies and other people to ensure that I can continue earning as much as I did before, but through different means. I can pretty much guarantee that nothing on my actual website will change, because I am confident that I can strike some deals to continue earning a good amount from my website.

Unfortunately, that is not going to be the case for my videos. As of right now, the only website I know of that provides reliable advertising for videos with good payout is YouTube. Once your AdSense account is disabled, there is no way to make money off your YouTube videos. As a result, my primary motivation for making YouTube videos will essentially be completely eliminated, as I will get absolutely no compensation for the time invested in filming and producing videos. Thus, the amount of videos released on my YouTube channel will shrink to near-zero. This does not mean, however, that I am going to completely stop video production all together – I will still take roles as contributing producers in various other people’s videos like I have been in the past.

So, the result of this temporary account disable are still up in the air. I’ll post another update on my website when I get a response from Google.

 


 

Update on WordPress Migration

Hi humans.

I realize that it’s been a while since I started the migration of my website, and it’s also been a while since the date I had hoped to finish migrating everything. So, I decided to give a quick up date as to how much progress I’ve made, what I still have left to do, and how long I expect it to take.

As of today, everything on my website is migrated except for all blog posts written in 2011. That wording makes it seem like I’m very close to finishing, seeing as I have content from all the way back from early 2009, but unfortunately, I decided to do a blog-everyday-in-2011 challenge (and succeeded), so I still have 365 more pages to go.

What’s making blog posts more difficult and time-consuming to transfer than other pages is that I have to go through and remove manually-entered navigation code from the bottom of every blog post. What’s even more time-consuming about blog posts in 2011 is that I have to go through the old RSS feed and find out what I titled each blog post, so I can transfer the title as well – there is unfortunately no pre-made connection between the titles and the blog posts, so I have to put those in manually.

I would love to say that this will be done within the next week, but I don’t think that is going to happen, seeing as I’m about to start summer classes soon as well and will have even less time than I did before. Realistically, I could do about one month per day and still not get completely frustrated and exhausted by the transfer process. I will probably forget to, choose not to, or not have time to do a month a day once in a while. Seeing as there are 12 months remaining to transfer, I am going to say that the anticipated date for completion is the end of June.

As for the people who have offered to help me in the transfer process, although I really appreciate your offers, I am going to reject them. I’d rather finish this up myself because, first of all, that’s just the type of person I am, and also, I want to make sure that everything is done exactly how I want it to be done.

I will probably be posting another update when everything is finished, so keep your eyes out in late June for that. Meanwhile, if you think there are other things about my new website design and function that could be improved, feel free to use the contact form to let me know.

 


 

It’s About That Time Again … Parkzer.com is Being Migrated

Hi humans.

Those who have been keeping up with me and my website since the beginning (which, I’m pretty sure there are very few of you) know that once in a while, I decide to do a massive overhaul of my website. After my huge redesign back in May of 2010, I was pretty satisfied with my what I made, and my website’s physical appearance has changed minimally throughout the past two years. There have been some significant back-end changes, but the front-end essentially looked the same except for the occasional new module and different background.

I felt that now would be a good time to do another huge change to my website for a handful of reasons. The main reason for this timing is that I’m on summer break now from university, and have not yet started my summer transfer courses at college. This gives me a relatively larger amount of free time to get everything done as quickly as possible. On top of that, I’ve been doing a lot of discouraging and frustrating programming work for the Badger Herald, which is my university-related work, and I needed a break from that to program something fun for my own website.

As for the actual motivation for this change, I’ve been wanting to make a change like this to my website for a long time now because the way I had my website set up before before was not very dynamic and efficient, and it was time-consuming to make changes.

So by now you’re probably wondering, what exactly is the change? Previously, my website was made out of pure PHP, HTML, CSS, and Javascript code. If I wanted to edit a page or post a new article or blog entry, I would use a template and code it up, then upload it to my website. Then, I would have to manually update the RSS feed and the XML sitemap. This sounds like a hassle, but I had my coding environment set up so it could be done relatively quickly.

The bad part about this set-up was that it was too localized within articles. If I wanted to make a universal change, it would be nearly impossible, and I would either have to go through each page individually, or at the very least, I would have to go through each section or category individually. Thus, even if I wanted to add new features (such as previous and next buttons), I wouldn’t be able to easily put it into effect for my entire website.

After this update, I’ll be able to do what I couldn’t before relatively easily, because I am now using a pre-made content management system called WordPress. It probably sounds familiar to a lot of you, because WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms. The difference between other WordPress blogs you might see and my installation of WordPress is that it’s hosted on my own server (my friend’s, if you want to get technical, but it’s on my hosting account on his server), and it’s extremely customized.

Before initiating the change, I already finished coding up the design, which is why the finalized aesthetic version of Parkzer.com got released so soon. It’s almost the same as it was before, but with a few differences related to the functioning of WordPress.

Now that the core of the conversion is done, I have to transfer all of the individual pages manually over to WordPress. There are an estimated 800 unique pages that I have to hand-transfer by copying and pasting content and trimming out unnecessary pre- and post-scripts.

Fortunately, after I transfer everything over, all my website’s content will be in a nice, parsed format stored in a database rather than in 800 individual text files, so I will never have to do a mass migration of this scale ever again. Meanwhile, I still have to get through a lot of content. My hopeful completion date is within the next week or so, but at the rate that I’m going, I don’t think that will be a viable deadline. I am literally taking every opportunity I can to transfer pages, so hopefully I will be able to get everything tidied up before the end of the month.

During the migration process, you might notice an abnormally high number of 404 errors, which are page not found errors. That most likely means that I haven’t gotten around to transferring that file yet. The order in which I am transferring files is based off popularity as stated by Google Analytics; my most frequently visited pages will be transferred first, and my least frequently visited pages will be transferred last.

 


 

Plus One Button

The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here – Google’s +1 button has arrived!

Just kidding, most of you probably had no idea what the +1 button was going to be, and still don’t know what it is. For the less informed, the +1 button is Google’s version of Facebook’s Like button. If you’ve been keeping up with Google lately, you know that they’ve been trying really hard to get into social networking. They tried Google Wave and Google Buzz, but they weren’t very successful. Google Wave was a self-proclaimed failure; Google was planning on getting rid of it completely, but they decided to extend its life to the end of the year. Google Buzz was a bit more successful, but nowhere near as popular as what they had anticipated.

Their next attempt at social networking is the +1 button. Basically, you click the +1 button if you like the page you’re on. You’re probably thinking by now, “What’s the point if you can just use the Facebook Like button?” The reason the +1 button isn’t useless is because the +1 button can affect your search results. For example, if your friend searched for the same keywords that you’re searching for now and (s)he found a page that (s)he likes, (s)he can click the +1 button to advance it higher up on the search results. Basically, you are relying on your friends who may have similar interests as you to find good search results for you, then let you know which ones they like.

I heard about Google’s plans to release the +1 button a while back and signed up for the mailing list. I received an email earlier today letting me know that the +1 button is now available, so I went ahead and implemented it into my website.

For starters, all my blog posts, including all existing ones, have the +1 button on the top right corner of the main content area right next to the Tweet button. I think it’ll be a little unrealistic to go back to all my previously written articles and add in the button, because my articles are published differently than blog posts and need to be updated individually and manually. However, all articles written from now on will include a +1 button.

While I was adding in the +1 button, I also decided to give the Facebook Like button a try as well. If you know me, you probably know that I don’t really like Facebook that much, and that I haven’t been regularly using it for over a year. But, just because I don’t like Facebook obviously doesn’t mean nobody else does. Facebook is undeniably one of the best ways to reach out to a wide audience, so I threw in a Facebook Like button on my website as well for those who wish to share any page on my website with their Facebook friends.

Most of the other updates are efficiency, compatibility, and usability updates.

One thing a lot of people have mentioned to me in a complaint-like manner is the fact that I have a huge legal notice at the bottom of every page of my website. I’ve had that there since I created this site design, but I finally decided to modify the footer so it isn’t excessive. The last two lines involved a disclaimer about changing content and a notice to contact me if there’s any unintended copyright infringement on my website; I thought those were the two least important lines of my five-line notice, so I decided to get rid of them.

You may have noticed that the background no longer dynamically changes. It used to be a lightning bolt that randomly changed color, but now it’s back to my classic neon background (which is the same background I’m using for my Twitter profile). The lightning bolts weren’t very high-quality anyway because I was trying to save bandwidth, so they weren’t really that appealing. I decided to get rid of them because it was just increasing page loading times and wasn’t really that aesthetically pleasing. You can think of the neon corner background as a temporary background – I have an idea for a better background that I found on a different well-designed website.

Similarly, I no longer have dynamic header banners for articles with the same topic. I selected one header that best represents the topic, and made it a static banner. Once again, this will save bandwidth and reduce loading time because once the static banner is downloaded, it’s stored in cache and doesn’t have to be redownloaded each time a reader refreshes the page or goes to a different article of the same topic. This update isn’t completely implemented yet, but I’ll be finishing it up within the next handful of days.

Finally, if you have used my contact form in the past, you may have noticed that it was a little bit difficult to correct your message if you decided to change it around a bit. The reason for that is because my website is built to ward off copyright infringers to begin with. If you have ever tried to highlight any of my text to copy or right-click to view my source code, you will have noticed that both of those features are disabled. Of course, there are other ways to copy my text or view my source code, but that takes a bit more background knowledge and fewer people are able to do so. A side effect of this was that my contact form was difficult to use. I rewrote a small portion of my contact form so you will be able to highlight text within the contact form itself. Not only will this make it easier for you to fix any mistakes in messages, but it also patched up a spam threat that a handful of people already discovered and abused.