Countdown to Facebook’s New Likebox Social Widget

Commonly seen on blogs and commercial sites, the Facebook Like Box is a feed-based widget that enables site owners to feature posts from their Facebook page onto their site. Easy to implement and a great way to build traffic to your site and awareness of your Facebook page, this widget is ideal for any site owner. Given the new release of the Graph API (v2.3), the new Like Box plugin will go into effect as of June 23, 2015. This means the old Like Box widget will stop working after this date.

This is what the new widget looks like:

What’s different about it?

The new one works with responsive, fluid and static layouts, so it will scale according to the layout and device. Like the original one, you can customize the display, so that it displays followers, post images, header image and more. In contrast to the current Like Box, the width of the widget can NOT be adjusted, so if you have it in a sidebar, make sure that you have the bare minimum width of 280px. Another thing to keep in mind is the widget has a dedicated tag for blockquote, so if you are using the same style name in your stylesheet, it will render the widget as a blockquote. The solution is simple – either rename your style for blockquotes or add the javascript embed code in your theme. Again, the deadline is June 25, so if you have the original widget on your site, make sure you update it before this cutoff date.

For more details and customization options for this plugin, follow this link: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/page-plugin

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/countdown-to-facebooks-new-likebox-social-widget/

New Ways to Use Your iPod Classic

Last year, Apple made the decision to discontinue the iconic iPod Classic line, mainly due to the lack of demand, as well as the associated production costs to keep this player on the shipod_originalelves at retail stores. It was a logical progression, especially since the iPhone has become the all-in-one media solution – all with newer features and a slimmer design.

Given all that, I’m sure most of you have an iPod Classic sitting on a shelf or tucked in a drawer with a tangled pair of earbuds somewhere in your home. I recently found my 80GB iPod Classic, and it was a like discovering a time capsule of music. From artists that ranged from Miles Davis, Tito Puente to John Coltrane and Counting Crows (remember them?).  While that music is still all good, many thoughts came to mind of ways to use this iPod. I also got a new car, so the timing to resurrect this old iPod was perfect.

Here’s my short list of some options for your iPod Classic: 

iPod Classic can be paired with the uConnect system. You can also stream music from other media services.

1) Get Mobile: Most cars have the ability to pair all media players, including the iPod Classic, making it a great solution for storing music and playing your favorite tunes on the go. The uConnect system has a great user interface for managing your music library. Another big plus with the iPod is the capacity, so even a 80GB model can hold over 13,000 tunes, providing much music on the open highway.

2) Back it up / Music on the Go: You can use the iPod Classic as a swap or backup drive for your music collection, serving as a good way to have a backup of your tunes on the go.

3) Hook it Up: You can also use the iPod Classic as a solution to play your favorite tunes on your sound system. Most systems support the ability to dock or mount an iPod Classic or you can simply just hook it up via the headphones jack with a simple adapter.

4) Photo / Video Swap Drive:  Along the lines of backing up music (#2), you can also use it to offload photos and videos to your iPod with Media Reader, making it a great swap drive for storing additional media.

5) Video: Granted, the screen is quite small, but it could provide a little dose of entertainment for the kids, as it supports video. This is especially true given the storage capacity and you can optimize the movies for that screen size (320 x 240 px is a good starting point).

6) See the Light: For those who use their iPhone to find those missing keys in the dark, there is another solution with the iPod Classic. Similar to the Flashlight app, Griffin’s iBeam can be used as flashlight or even as a laser pointer (great for presentations).

I’m sure there are other methods and uses for the iPod Classic, so feel free to share your tips or suggestions.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/ipod-classic-was-just-a-click-away/

Arthur C. Clarke Predicted the Internet in 1974

By nature, Science Fiction writers have always been ahead of the curve, casting predictions of the future and life in modern society. Famed author, Arthur C. Clarke was no exception with his bold predictions and his vision of the future. On the heels of his classic novel “2001: Space Odyssey” he conducted an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and predicted that every household by the year 2001 would have a computer with full connectivity to other computers around the world. In essence, he was predicting the Internet and the home computer, as well as the impact on society.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/arthur-c-clarke-predicted-the-internet-in-1974/

Every Photosphere Tells a Good Story

Heard of photospheres? While the term may be new to you, you’ve probably seen them in Google Street views. They are basically 360 degree views, comprised of images that are stitched together (known as “photostitching”) enabling users to freely look up, down and all around to view the entire scene. Ideal for outdoor captures, photospheres have changed the way we interact with images, while giving the user a full digital immersion into the scene. For the past few months, I have been capturing photospheres using my HTC One phone, and I compiled some key tips to keep in mind while doing them:

1) Get the right app: there are many Android-based mobile apps out there to capture photospheres, and it really comes to trying them out to find the one that meets your needs. I have found the Google Camera app to be the best one to use.

2) Know your position / Keep it vertical: photospheres are best when captured outside, and you have at least a 30-foot diameter around your body. That is why most of them are of large land masses, such as beaches, canyons and open fields. Also, keep the camera steady and close to your body and I found keeping the camera vertical works best.

3) Rotating: All apps capture each photo stitch in blocks, requiring you to rotate the camera slowly. Keep a steady hand and follow the screen prompts (usually dots) to capture them.

During a recent work-related trip to Quito, Ecuador, I captured several photospheres, including this one of a community garden. I really love this one as it highlights the many greens in the garden. Check it out:

Once your photosphere is done, you can submit it to Google Views. From there, you can embed them on your site with the provided embed code and the process is similar to embedding a YouTube video. For more details on the submission process, follow this link: https://support.google.com/maps/answer/3538641

For info on how to create and use photospheres, panorama metadata and other details of particular interest to developers, visit the Google Developers Photo Sphere site. In addition, this video is a good introduction to capturing photospheres.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/every-photo-sphere-tells-a-good-story/

Fix Broken Thumbnails on Facebook

Some time ago, I tried to post a link on Facebook and noticed that the thumbnail did not display in the post. After a little digging, I discovered a neat little debugger tool that worked. Simply visit http://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug and enter your URL of your link and hit the ‘Debug” button.
debug

This forces Facebook to spider the page and scrape the associated thumbnail. Once it has been indexed, you can test it on Facebook and you’re good to go. This applies to all links, including YouTube videos or external links. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/fix-broken-thumbnails-on-facebook/

Ready for your 5-second Masterpiece? YouTube’s Fan Finder can get you fans for free

Looking to give your YouTube channel a boost for free? YouTube has answered the call with their latest advertising platform, aptly titled Fan Finder. Basically, owners upload their videos to their channel and can transform their video into a TrueVideo ad, the 5-second overlay ad on the video. From there, the viewer has the option to either skip the ad or jump directly to your channel.

“Fan Finder takes into account the interactions that viewers have with millions of YouTube channels in order to reach the people who are most likely to engage with your channel.”

Based on YouTube’s algorithm, the system weighs user behavior and interests with the hopes of connecting users with your channel. It’s also apparent that Google is treating Fan Finder as one big experiment that might lead to a more robust advertising model, which means it may cost you to get this free service. According to YouTube, “Fan Finder takes into account the interactions that viewers have with millions of YouTube channels in order to reach the people who are most likely to engage with your channel.”

To help you get started, YouTube offers some great tips for creating your Fan Finder ad:

Timing / Keep it short: Since you only have 5 seconds to work with, you need to keep your channel ad short and engaging: Introduce the viewer to your content; don’t assume they have heard of you or your channel before. Remember, your channel ad will run as a TrueView ad which the viewer can skip after 5 seconds, so get to the point.

Keep it entertaining: Show what your channel is about, don’t tell. If you have a comedy channel, make sure your ad is funny. If you have a music channel, make sure your ad has music. Avoid any time sensitive information that could feel dated quickly as you want a longer shelf life for your ad.

Aim for a strong message: Keep the ad focused on your channel and why users should subscribe or check it out. Include your call to action in the script and annotation and be sure to explain what it means to subscribe in case the viewer doesn’t know (example: want to see more content? subscribe here).

Showcase your brand: Make sure your branding is clear and repeat it throughout the ad so viewers remember your channel.

Are you ready to create your 5-second masterpiece? Give Fan Finder a try and share your thoughts.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/ready-for-your-5-second-masterpiece-youtubes-fan-finder-can-get-you-fans-for-free/

Hshtags.com Gets an A for Effort

We all know about hashtags, as they have become an integral part of every touch point with users. From TV commercials and print ads to social campaigns and sporting events, they are everywhere and continue to evolve.

For most users, the process of finding the right hashtag for the right initiative can sometimes be a challenge. While Hashtags.org is a good resource for identifying hashtag trends, it falls a little short when it comes to seeing how hashtags are used across all social channels.

Although it’s missing an “a” in the URL, I recently discovered a site that gets an A for answering this call and it’s definitely worth exploring. hshtags.com, a new site is a powerful search engine for hashtags, across the popular search engines. Using a very minimalist design, you can enter the tag and it will tell you how it’s used.

hashtag

Some key highlights:

1) Search hashtags across all of the hashtag-driven social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest.

2) Filter results by media type and social channel, so if you’re looking for all images with a particular hashtag on Twitter, it’s just a click away.

3) Jump directly to the post with the queried hashtag with the ability to share that post on your social channel of choice.

Above all, the true beauty of this platform is the simplicity and intuitive design – you enter the hashtag and it gives you everything you need to know about that tag.

Hailed by Digital Trends as the “Google” of social media, Hshtags.com is a great resource and I highly recommend checking it out.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/hshtags-com-gets-an-a-for-effort/

Should I update WordPress? 5 Things You Should Do Before Hitting that Update Button

wp updateDepending on the context, the word “update” has many meanings in different spaces. For some, it represents a newer and improved version, while for others it means progress and things are moving forward in the right direction. When it comes to WordPress, they will issue updates about 8-10 times a year, leaving many wondering if it’s worth it to hit that ‘Please update now’ button for the latest release.

Shortly after updating a client’s site to WordPress 3.6, I had an issue with the latest version of NextGen Art Gallery, a popular plugin for image galleries and slideshows. It basically reduced the site to a single page with numerous errors – a total mess. While I was able to restore the site from a backup, it was clear I was not alone. As noted on this WordPress forum, many other WordPress users were struggling with this latest release of NextGen and Wordpdress 3.6 – all looking for answers and just venting their frustration.

So, I have outlined some key steps and areas to keep in mind, before hitting the update button:

1) Backup: I have stressed this enough, but it’s key that you have a redundant backup system in place. I would recommend a copy of all files on your system (you can drag and drop using your FTP program) as well as a database backup. Here are some options for backup applications. Bottom line: do not update unless you have a working backup in place. Also, most hosting providers have backup applications with a hosting package, so it’s worth exploring. You can restore by date and designated folders.

2) Review compatibility issues: Documentation on WordPress has always been top notch, and I would recommend reviewing the release notes on all plugin pages as well as review the forums for any compatibility issues. Pay special attention to frequency of plugin updates and developer notes. Users have the best and strongest voice on forums, so if many people are complaining about the same bugs, it’s probably true. In the case of NextGen, you did not have to look much further than this thread to know there were compatibility issues at hand.

3) Wait it out: Jumping into the latest version of WordPress without doing your homework is like plunging into a lake of cloudy water blindfolded. You don’t know what’s lies underneath until you break into the water. It could be fine or filled with a pool of snapping turtles. 🙂

So, don’t rush to update and pay close attention to activity around the updates, especially on forums and developer sites. I like to wait until a release has been out for a while before exploring that option to update.

4) Know your Plugins / Play in the Sandbox: Let’s face it – plugins are great as they give the user a little more control over their space and how their site functions. In essence, plugins are like virtual toys for an adult sandbox. However, plugins are usually the source of many compatibility issues, so it’s key that you know what plugins are used and you should only use the ones that are well supported. Community-based plugins are often well documented and supported by a group of developers. Along the lines of item # 2 above, make sure that you have a good understanding of how the plugin works and pay special attention to compatibility issues, especially with other plugins and versions of WordPress. Also, the 5 star user rating is a helpful way to identify the problematic plugins at first glance. However, you should also look at the user feedback behind the negative reviews. In addition, always have a staging or sandbox build to test compatibility of the latest version of WordPress and any plugins. Once you know everything is working properly, you can then push it live.

5) Automatic or Manual Update: A common question as users have the option to manually update their version of WordPress or it can be done automatically. I think this WordPress guide sums it up quite well. Basically, if you have made changes to a standard WordPress theme (Twenty Twelve, etc.), you should not use the automatic upgrade, as it will overwrite your changes – you should use a manual update instead. However, if you have a custom theme, check with your developer or software group BEFORE updating it. In some instances, they might have compatibility issues with the theme and the latest version of WordPress. Above all, you should know your theme inside and out.

That’s it – hope you’re more prepared for the next update! Feel free to share your thoughts on updating WordPress or contact me with any questions.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/should-i-update-wordpress-5-things-you-should-do-before-hitting-that-update-button/

iPhone Not Starting Up: CPR for a Dead iPhone

In a panic, my son informed me that his iPhone 4S was dead after many failed attempts to start it. This was followed by a reference to replacing it w/ the latest model. Before making that journey to the Apple store for a new phone, we decided to run some additional diagnostics. From this experience, I quickly discovered that there is always hope as we were able to restore it.

So, I decided to turn this incident into a blog post for future reference and for those who are struggling to find that infamous silver Apple logo on their iPhone, here are some steps to bring your iPhone back to life.

1) Pray: Why not? it’s a great way to clear your mind of bad energy.

2) Time for a Recharge: I would strongly recommend charging it for at least an hour before doing anything else. Bear in mind, that the iPhone is designed to conserve power for preservation of data and settings, so if the splash screen does not come up, it could still be charging. Also, make sure your cable and charger are working properly. I would also make sure the dock connector is free of any dirt or lint, as that could affect charging your phone. While it’s charging, grab a coffee and take a deep breathe – you’ll appreciate it and feel recharged. 🙂

dead iphone3) Turn it on, but hold it: This might seem like a logical step, but many overlook it. Simply press and hold the Hold button, located in the upper right hand corner of the phone for a few seconds. If it does not respond within the first 10 seconds, proceed to next step.

4) Press the Hold button and the Home button (button located in the center) at the same time for at least 15 seconds. In most instances, this is like CPR for your phone and it usually brings your phone back to life. You should see the silver Apple logo at startup. If not, you may want to go to the final step.

5) Restore it: With a fully charged phone, you might have an issue with your operating system or a conflict with an application. If you have a backup in place, I would move towards the final step of restoring the phone to factory condition. While this will erase everything on your phone, it might work.

To erase your phone, follow these steps:

– Simply plug the provided USB cable for your phone into the dock connector, but do NOT plug into your system.
– Press and hold the phone’s Home button
– Plug the USB cable into your computer and at this point, it should launch iTunes and put the iPhone into recovery mode. From here, you will be prompted to restore your iPhone by to factory default.

For additional steps and diagnostics, follow this link to Apple’s support thread on restoring your phone: http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/assistant/restore/

If none of these above steps bring your iPhone back to life, you might want to bring it in for additional diagnostics.

Finally, make sure that you backup your iPhone to the cloud and system, as that is your safety net, should your iPhone fail to start.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/iphone-not-starting-up-cpr-for-a-dead-phone/

Behind Google’s Knowledge Graph & How it Impacts Your SEO

Have you noticed that neat little sidebar on your search engine results page? This can be attributed to Google’s recent launch of their Knowledge Graph. This has stirred both concern and interest from end users and organizations. It also redefines SEO, and forces organizations to evaluate external sources, such as Wikipedia and Google+, as they are fueling search.

serp6

With over 18 billion facts and more than 570 million objects, this is the foundation for every search in Google. However, it’s more about serving data that is tailored to the user. The three main sources behind this content are Wikipedia, Freebase and the CIA World Factbook.

This video has some highlights of Google’s Knowledge Graph, and how it provides a richer and tailored experience for the user.

Ultimately, that is what is behind the content in the sidebar on the results page. For a high level summary of this, follow this link: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/

What can you do about it?

Update your Wikipedia page:

While you can’t control the content on Freebase or the CIA factbook, you can control the content of our Wikipedia page. As long as you are compliant with Wikipedia’s policy and guidelines for submitting content, it will serve as a key source for the Knowledge Graph, and ultimately, how you appear in organic search.

Get structured:

I would also recommend looking at the data structure of your site – this page has some great insight on this process and you should check out the Data Highlighter tool for proper indexing.

This blog post from Google has some great tips for our Web team to define our data structure, including the use of Data Highlighter. Here are some details on it: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2692911

Heard of G+?

For a platform that was once dismissed as the stepchild of Facebook, it now plays a significant role in SEO and can not be ignored. Again, Google will display activity of indexed G+ pages in the sidebar, so it’s key that you have a page in place. However, this only applies to logged in Google users. If the user is not logged into Google, it will feed content from Wikipedia and Google Local. Above all, I would strongly recommend exploring a Google+ page and if you have one, make sure your content is updated on a regular basis. This is especially true since the most recent posts will be displayed.

What’s next?

As Google continues to be in a constant state of change, it’s key that you do the research and closely monitor progress and new developments. To illustrate the rapid growth, the recent launch of their “Knowledge Graph Carousel” adds more complexity to the search process by displaying a cascade of associated images at the top of the results page. http://searchengineland.com/google-officially-launches-knowledge-graph-carousel-for-local-search-163809

Let me know your thoughts.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/behind-googles-knowledge-graph-how-it-impacts-your-seo/

Visualize the Latest Google Trends

I love Google Trends as it’s a real-time snapshot of the outside world. From sports and entertainment to science and politics, it’s all there. Recently, Google rolled out a new way to illustrate trending searches in real time. It’s a great way to see the top searches on Google. Here it is in action:



What can we do with it?

The only thing missing is embed or sharing functionality, as I could see site owners and organizations using it to showcase patterns and latest trends on their site. This is especially true for news agencies and syndicates as well as select industries, such as entertainment and sports. Think about it – your favorite football team could be streaming trends from other fans. Of course, it would have to have additional filtering. At the time of this post, you can only filter by region (US or international). Click here to learn more about Google Trends.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.carlferrara.com/see-the-latest-google-trends/