It’s probably way overkill, but my hosting provider for this blog offers a free SSL cert for one subdomain, so I made the switch and put this site on a secure server. Not that you’re putting any information into this site… but I am. A lot. And though I’ve got three layers of security keeping the never-ending barrage of hacker attempts at bay, and they haven’t even breached the first layer, this plugs a few holes for my efforts. I only mention it because a lot of this site has been hand-coded across many years and you’re bound to stumble across something that doesn’t quite load right because I missed updating it. A font or a script or an image. Feel free to ignore it or let me know. Whatever. It’ll get cleaned up either way in the coming weeks.
I don’t particularly want to wade into this US election debate (I really do) but something has been driving me nuts for weeks & any time anyone brings up the whole “Clinton email scandal” bullshit. Knowing what I know about the technical architecture of email servers, blah-blah-blah, the whole question of who-had-private what-and-what is really the wrong question. I see it more one of three realistic scenarios: (a) the emails were encrypted, which they should have been because email is literally the least secure of all internet protocols and no one should ever send anything over any email that you wouldn’t write on the back of a postcard and send through snailmail, and this whole thing is complete MOOT and shut up about it or (b) the US government is IGNORANTLY using non-encrypted email to send classified information, in which case they should all be fired for gross incompetence and Clinton should more be likely lauded for (accidentally) using a private server that was probably and statistically MORE secure due simply to security-by-obscurity or (c) the emails were STRATEGICALLY non-encrypted, in which case Trump is a dumb-ass for shining a light on a tool that was probably acting as a false information channel as part of a vastly more complex security operation… and by the way, smooth move dip-shit. Go read about Alan Turing and the Enigma code dilemma to save me writing a whole essay about meta-information. Either way, if you’re angry about it, you’re almost certainly angry for the wrong reasons, so can we stop talking about it now?
Managing a blog is so much more complicated than writing posts. For the last couple weeks it seems that I’ve been listed in a bot-net of some kind and have been bombarded with attempts by someone (or more likely, something) trying to sneak in through the backdoor of this blog. Lots of IP addresses from Latvia are showing up in my logs as failed login attempts –and since I’m not in Latvia, well, you do the math. As far as hack attempts go, they’re going to to need to have a horseshoe up their butt to break my password, but I took the extra security measure last night, and added two-factor authentication to my WordPress login. What’s two-factor authentimagobbledeegook, you ask? It’s what everyone should have on every account that has any personal or important information stored inside: your email, your dropbox, your paypal account… whatever. Yes, it means one tiny extra step when you log in –like typing in a code that is SMS’d to your phone, or using a token app to generate a rolling key code– but pause for one minute and consider how inconvenient your life would become if someone could suddenly –secretly– access your email account. Is an extra ten seconds to log in really that bad? Look it up. It’s one of those things that, yes, I will help you set up if you want –and I won’t even grumble too much about it.
Oh, the lengths one must go to when running a blog. A few weeks ago when the servers were having trouble I was digging through the log files and noticed that a few of my blogs –yes, there are more than this one– were getting pounded by brute force attacks trying to hack into the back end. There is an administrative section (which is password protected, of course) that if someone were to break into they could cause a $#!%load of damage. I installed a plugin, hoping that would slow them down. Three weeks later, this blog alone has had over 200 “lockouts” due to excessive failed logins. So, I’ve cranked the security yet again: I’ve server-side password protected all the administrative files. In other words, you need a server password to even try to access the WordPress password. Double-layer… BAM! That said, if you are a legitimate reader and suddenly get asked for a password, let me know and I’ll see if it’s something I can fix.
Another instalment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about holidays, blog-post-writing, and being a pro-active holiday blogger: because ’tis nearly the season for oodles and oodles of words about how we spent our holiday hours.
Last year, for example, the day following Halloween I wrote a post detailing my pumpkin project, a re-creation of a Minecraft-style gourd using a print-out template I found on the web. I posted some progress photos, rambled on about the experience, and hit publish. Not quite a year later (and as of today) that post has over thirteen-hundred views and is the twelfth most visited page on this site… all mostly thanks to search traffic.
What does that tell us? People are either reading holiday-esque content more frequently than other content, or I somehow hit on a magic keyword formula. (Or more likely, a bit of both.) And either way, it does put me in mind to comment a little bit on either (a) advice for folks actually hoping to generate traffic or (b) caution for those just concerned about a higher volume of random strangers reading what they write, and offer up:
6 Ways to Holiday-Proof Your Blogging
[ 1 ] Tackling the Two-Week Lead
Whether you are actually hoping to get more eyes on your content or not, think along a timeline of roughly two weeks: two weeks is a solid window of time in which to (1) write and post, (2) be crawled and indexed, and (3) correctly steep your links through the various social networks. (If you are writing for and/or running a site more popular than the average site and two weeks seems more like an eternity to you… well, why are you reading my gibberish.) This is a time-frame for those average bloggers out there with a sporadically indexed site and average back-linking. Anything you write and post will, on average, be as high-profile as it’s going to get (without additional promotion) at roughly two weeks from when you conceived it. Writing a costume-idea list for All Soul’s Day? Think mid-October. Pondering an article on New Years party planning? Think about interrupting your last-minute Saturnalia shopping to get it on-line by December 15th. Simply remember: Two weeks of lead is what you need.
[ 2 ] Writing Advice, Ideas, and Insights
You have roughly three seconds to grab the attention of a new reader before they click away.
If you are hoping to generate traffic then then this bit of advice and insight is for you: some of the most popular posts on-line are posts that offer step-by-step instructions, itemized lists, or clever and well-defined insights into a topic. If you are trying explicitly to generate page views for your words and pictures, don’t just ramble — no matter how eloquently you might do so — on an unfocussed, unfiltered emotion or feeling about the holidays: define your scope, rough out a plan, itemize your thoughts, and write a careful, easy-to-follow collection of steps, ideas, options, points, notes, or nuggets of information. You have roughly three seconds to grab the attention of a new reader before they click away.
[ 3 ] Planning for New Readers and More Traffic
Straying into serious holiday writing means you are going to get a whole stack of new readers. There is nothing unique about this. Any time you stray from your standard content, new people will search and find what you wrote. But many bloggers don’t stop to consider that writing about holiday-themed topics is… yes, really… straying from your standard content. We merrily wax poetic on holiday meal preparation, Solstice sacrifice techniques, or proper care and cleaning of your Boxing Day camp-out-in-line equipment, never stopping to think that these words — literally, keywords read by a search engine — are significantly different than the standard fare of lamenting self-indulgent trivia we produce the other eleven months of the year. New people will find your site so ask yourself: have you (a) written a proper “about page” or (b) turned on the spam-filtering software in your comments, or even (c) ensured your blogging software, plugins and other tools are up-to-date and able to handle the faster load-times and increased security needs that come along with more traffic? Look into it: there are far better sites than this to investigate these topics.
We all get a little bit gift-giving (or receiving) giddy as the holidays approach. But we bloggers with our grand public outlet of chaotic random writing have a subtle but important trap to avoid: see, extolling our grand thoughts about what we want to buy, receive or otherwise yearn to share over the holidays is a fun way to add what seems to be a personalized opinion to our writing, and maybe grab some referral links in the process. The mine-field appears, however, because not everyone is playing the consumerism game on equal footing: there are money interests, perceptions of shilling, perceptions of politicking, appearances of wanting too much or too little, hints of expectations and illusions of faux-esque high-mindedness that tend to irk otherwise quiet readers into flat-out giving you what’s for… or walking away and never coming back. Modern consumerism is the vast, un-level playing field that skirted with careless abandon will piss. people. off. period. You can dive in deliberately and openly and play the game, but you shouldn’t touch that metaphorical ball unless you’re looking to jump onto the field for regulation time. Sort of like sports metaphors… just don’t do it unless you know the rules.
[ 5 ] Keeping Things Just Private Enough
…could easily leave you sleepless on Christmas Eve at your in-law\’s house for reasons outside the scope of Santa.
Blogging about the holidays has generally had an interesting side effect from my own experience: more random eyes on my content. I don’t mind. Regular readers may get the impression or generally think I’m being really open or candid about things, but ninety-nine-point-nine times out of a hundred I hit publish only when I’m fairly certain there is nothing overtly or explicitly private in my content: I call it keeping things “just private enough.” See, it’s a balancing game: I could be really guarded and private and never disclose anything…. but then what would be the point or interest here? The tactic is more of a general alluding to private things while never giving away an abundance of incriminating information or details that could compromise my security. For example: exposing details about out-of-town travel during the holidays is that obvious bit of personal information that, coupled with a larger readership on your site thanks to high-interest content, could easily leave you sleepless on Christmas Eve at your in-law’s house for reasons outside the scope of Santa. I don’t have hard-and-fast rules: but you should at least bear this thought in mind when you’re writing and publishing this season.
[ 6 ] Resolutions Gone Awry
Another way we go overboard as bloggers over the holidays — and I am terribly guilty of this myself, so I’m not judging but rather lamentfully warning — is by buying into the commitment mentality that creeps in over every one of us during the holiday season. As a blogger it is doubly-treacherous territory because, while everyone makes New Years resolutions and grand statements about the life-changes we are about to undertake as of January first, we bloggers tend to write those commitments down. I’m not claiming that writing down goals is necessarily a bad thing. But I am noting that public commitment is a double-edged sword of metaphorical peril for anyone accountable to an audience. Pay careful attention to what you gleefully promise in your late-December posts, unless you want to start a new late-January series titled “why I failed my New Years resolutions…” Just saying…
The author has learned the lessons of holiday blogging the hard way, burning out his own holiday ambitions with epic waves of regret-filled posts and a whole other category of random content that has taken on a life of it’s own. Do you plan to live-blog the Festivus fun? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below: