Tag Archives: WordPress

My Phantom Followers – Who Are These People?

There are any number of ways to measure success for those of us who write for the Internet. The number of daily readers seems to be the key criteria most often used as a yardstick.   *

One would expect, that the addition of a substantial number of “followers” (the number of readers following blog posts and post comments), should impact a site’s number of daily reads/visits – in a positive way. I suspect that WordPress had that outcome in mind when, a year or so ago, it introduced a meshed WordPress follow system.

Ostensibly, there are some 8,000+ followers here – at least according to WordPress. And typically, this number bumps up at the rate of 10/12 daily.

Graphic: A slice of the Dash Board from today.

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So happy days, yeah? Maybe not.

The quandary:

Despite the exposure which one would expect should be gained by an additional 8,000+ followers – the number of daily readers here has gone down and, continues on this downward trend. A curious state of affairs, no?

This is a quick post simply to fill in some blank time (a rare commodity around here) – so, I won’t get into the mathematics of this puzzler. Suffice it to say (for the moment), that something stinks here. The real stinker is – are these people real, imaginary, spammers/scammers – or, the real McCoy  – a cybercriminal?

It’s illogical, at least to me, that a significant number of individuals would take the time to subscribe to a site and then, the majority mysteriously vanish – in most cases never to be heard from again. It’s kind of like throwing a party and nobody shows up.   Smile

I should point out that most new followers seem to have a WordPress connection – a blog, or a Gravatar. So, what’s underway here? What’s the scheme – or, is there one?

I’m more curious about this than I am confused. There’s not much to be confused about in terms of the mechanics. But, I’m more than a little confused at the lack of repeat visits from 8,000+ followers.

As Butch Cassidy remarked to the Sundance Kid, as they focused on their pursuers from a cliff top – “Who ARE these people”?

Me? I’m asking the same question.

Update: May 11, 2013.

Good friend (and very smart fellow) Michael Fisher, was kind enough to pass on the following link to an article – Beware the Followers Made of Spam – which proves beyond doubt, that this follower thing is not what it seems. It’s simply a new type of spam. The author has crafted a very funny article and still manages to make his point very cleverly. A highly recommended read.

Thanks Michael.

A quick outtake on numbers:    *

Numbers? Followers? It may surprise you to know that I have little or no interest, in either one. Numbers or followers, don’t make me a better IT professional. My self-esteem is not impacted by activity, or the lack of activity, on this site. I write here because it’s fun – as it should be.

You’ll not be surprised to know, I’m sure, that the pack that I hang with on the Net (almost all bloggers), hold a similar view. Despite a seemingly lack of concern for numbers, these bloggers run some of the most successful one person sites on the Web.

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Filed under blogging, Point of View, Writing

WordPress.com – Tech Thoughts Annual Report

Year end reviews and wrap- ups, bringing us up-to-date on the comings and goings in virtually every area of human endeavor (and then some), seem to pop out of the woodwork every year at this time. Not much of a surprise then, to see WordPress continue to issue an annual Blog summary to all WordPress Bloggers.

Here’s the WordPress summary of what happened on Tech Thoughts this past year. Not entirely accurate but within spitting distance.

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The Blog-Health-o-Meter reads Wow!

Crunchy numbers

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,300,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 23 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

In 2012, there were 521 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 3,205 posts.

The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 6,193 views. The most popular post that day was Aldi Bot – Build A Botnet For $15!

Featured image Featured image  Featured image

Attractions in 2012

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2012. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

How did they find you?

The top 4 referring sites (sites from which users came to your site) in 2012 were:

  1. answers.microsoft.com
  2. mail.yahoo.com
  3. Google Reader
  4. puppylinux.org

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Hey WP! What about Australia – the cobbers (Mal, John W., John M., …………. weren’t far behind.   Smile

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A special “Thank You” to:

Delenn13 (Canada)

John Bent (UK)

Hipockets (USA)

Mal (Australia)

Fred (USA)

If you’re a regular reader here, you have my thanks for making this Blog a fun place to write up my thoughts and opinions.

The truth is – the success of Tech Thoughts is due, almost entirely, to the terrific regular readers here (many of whom have become quite good friends), who forgive my foibles and occasional fractious nature. You are a great bunch of people!

And, to WordPress.com – couldn’t do this without you. Thank you.

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Filed under Personal Perspective

WordPress Password Fiasco

imageFair or not – “You don’t know what you don’t know” is a throwaway phrase, often used to describe a typical Internet users range of knowledge as it applies to security risks. What’s worrisome about relying on the truth of this statement is – it can be applied much more broadly – it doesn’t just apply to casual computer users. It applies equally to you – and, to me.

Virtually on a daily basis, another previously unknown (or, undisclosed), vulnerability in an application, operating system, website, cloud service, or in an Internet protocol is discovered by “security researchers”. Here’s today’s, from my Daily Net News column.

Improper SSL Implementations Leave Sites Wide Open to Attack – Security researchers are buzzing about the flaws in the Secure Sockets Layer system and the fact that a significant portion of the Internet is vulnerable to attack.

I’ll venture a guess and suggest – you didn’t know about this. Nor, did I. More to the point perhaps, what needs to be asked is – did cyber criminals know?

What about this one from two days ago?

 Kaspersky: 12 different vulnerabilities detected on every PC – Researchers from Kaspersky have sampled their customer base, and found out that on average, every PC has 12 different vulnerabilities.

The vulnerabilities described are not self inflicted – instead, they are specified, or unspecified, vulnerabilities in Flash, Adobe Reader, Java, and Adobe Shockwave. There’s no need to wonder if cyber criminals are aware of these vulnerabilities – they most assuredly are.

WordPress Password – I didn’t know, that I didn’t know.

More than once, I’ve made the point here, there are certain companies which put forward unrealistic assertions that their Web operations are inviolate – they can’t be hacked. One of those companies is WordPress.com.

So, I was hardly taken by surprise when I received the following email from WordPress, yesterday. Not surprised – but, pretty pissed at the approach taken by WordPress to describe a potentially devastating circumstance for WordPress bloggers who run popular sites.

Hello Bill Mullins,

We recently found and fixed a mistake that we’d like to tell you about. Passwords on WordPress.com are saved in a way that makes them extremely secure, such that even our own employees are unable to see your actual password – the one you enter to login to your WordPress.com account.

However, between July 2007 and April 2008, and September 2010 and July 2011, a mistake in one of our systems used to find and correct bugs on WordPress.com accidentally logged some users’ passwords in a less secure format during registration.

We’ve updated our systems to prevent passwords from being logged this way in the future, so this will not happen again. We don’t have any evidence that this data has been accessed maliciously or misused, but to be on the safe side we are resetting your password since your account is among those affected.

Please change your password using this link or copy and paste the URL below into your web browser:

https://wordpress.com/wp-login (I have removed certain parameters here)

If the password you used when you registered on WordPress.com was one you use elsewhere, you should change it there, too. In the future, remember that it’s good practice to always use unique passwords for different services.

We are terribly sorry about this mistake. No one likes having to create new passwords and we’d like to include a 15% off coupon to say we’re sorry. The coupon can be used for a custom domain, a design upgrade, VideoPress, or a storage space increase. Just use the code below on any of the upgrades on the WordPress.com Store:

pc21d064ae

If you have any questions, please reply to this email and one of our Happiness Engineers will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you,
The WordPress.com Team

Some salient points:

Why on earth would WordPress send an email that has all the hallmarks of a phishing scam – quote: “to be on the safe side we are resetting your password since your account is among those affected”. Huh – you’re going to reset my password? So there was zero chance of me clicking on the password reset link. The only secure method was a password reset from this blog’s Dashboard.

“A mistake in one of our systems” – At the desk I’m sitting at, I tend to call this type of “mistake” a vulnerability.

“In the future, remember that it’s good practice to always use unique passwords for different services.” Yeah, sure WordPress is just about the last organization I’d take advice from in terms of password control!

Offering a 15% discount on WordPress products “to say we’re sorry”, is ill advised and inappropriate. This “bad news” – “good news” approach, is out of bounds.

Finally, referring to support staff as “Happiness Engineers”, makes me wonder what these people smoke after breakfast. It’s a little late for ‘60s terminology, it seems to me.

I titled this article “WordPress Password Fiasco”, not because WordPress found itself in an unknown vulnerable position, which by extension applies to me as well – but because the manner in which a serious situation was handled, is appalling. At a minimum, WordPress has an obligation to disseminate news of this potential breach widely on the Internet. This is not business as usual.

Consider the number of serious breaches that occurred in the last year, which initially were classified by the victimized organization as inconsequential. Until, that is, information slowly leaked, that in many cases, the penetrations were disastrous. Think Sony.

I’m hopeful, that months from now, I won’t have to replace “Think Sony” with -“Think WordPress”. But, then again – “I don’t know what I don’t know”.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Email, Internet Security Alerts, Opinion, Password Control, Point of View, Tech Net News, WordPress

Your Website Traffic Log – The Trap Door To Spread Viruses?

Checking your Website traffic stats is not without some risk, as guest writer Bruno Deshayes explains in this thought provoking article.

imageYou get pleasantly surprised to notice an unknown website apparently sending traffic to you. When you click on the link not only do you find that the page does not mention your site at all but at best security essentials blocks the threat or at worst your browser locks up and it is anybody’s guess what the pirate is doing under the hood.

Better close down your PC altogether and run a virus check. If you run a laptop even turning the machine off will achieve nothing – you have to physically turn the laptop over and remove the battery for a forced shutdown! How many files could get infected by the time you finally do it?

I find those fake referral urls showing up in cPanel | AWStats but also in blogspot | stats | traffic sources.

The old trick of course was to send you an email loaded with some html data rather than plain text. Viewing the thing in outlook would automatically launch the browser and – too late – the malicious website is already loaded and doing its nasty work unbeknown to you.

I used to handle that one by always checking suspicious emails this way: While having emails preview disabled: right mouse click and choose properties in the floating menu. Then choose details and message source to view the raw email text.

If they send me some base64 encoded attachment and nothing else you know it is a nasty payload. I have used Gmail for some time and still read it in outlook because I don’t like the ads or the heavy JavaScript used on the Gmail website. When I go there occasionally I am amazed at all the spam that got filtered out!

The internet in the last 10 years has become a very mature market with every man (woman?) and their dog blogging and every hacker from India, Russia and China trying to make a quid in broken English or else trying to rort the system.

The spread of botnets silently programmed to check every security loophole and delegating their activity to hundred of infected machines has come to the attention of the main stake holders. Microsoft who used to hide behind a whole industry of virus scanners is now taking the lead with effective and free maintenance tools. Well, their future depends on it. If Windows is crippled by security issues it makes Apple the alternative of choice. But behind the glitz the Steve Jobs camp is now having to face the music and made to understand that not everything can be fixed by the same marketing spin.

The worrisome factor is that in a global economy there isn’t a single entity to police the internet. If you look on the bright side the plague of email spam has been brought down to a fair extend. Interpol has nabbed pedophiles networks. The nofollow tag has tamed blog comments link spammers and even WordPress has come up with an advanced tool to keep comment interaction within its community alive and buzzing.

Bruno Deshayes is a writer, designer and developer who runs a portfolio of online services. He can be politically incorrect for the sake of stirring things up and engaging his readers.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Blogging Tips, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, Guest Writers, Opinion, Viruses, WordPress

Boosting Your WordPress Blog Site’s SEO And Traffic Tips

imageIt can take some time before you get a large amount of views on your blog, but there are ways to increase the chances of internet users finding your site. You can’t just rely on referrals and traffic links – your blog needs to be optimized.

This article looks at some of the easy and basic steps you can take to improve your site’s SEO and visibility.

WordPress is by far the best site to host your blog. Even if you have a blog on your own site, you can still boost your own site with another blog on WordPress. All you need to do is create links to your original site and all your work on your WordPress blog will be working for your main business website. In this way, you are creating crucial inbound links for your website – all on your own.

So the question arises, how do you make your WordPress blog rank higher? Luckily, there are a number of plug-ins and tools you can use to boost your blog.

Here’s a look at some simple techniques related to search engine optimization that will greatly improve your blog visitor numbers.

  • Use Your Own Domain Name. Domain names actually can have a lot of influence on the way your blog will come up in a search. Purchasing your own domain name and setting it for your WP blog is very easy. You want to make sure you know how to choose the right name. Do some research before you commit.
  • SEO Tools. There is a range of plug-ins to improve your blog’s onsite search engine optimization. Some plug-ins allow you to track the rank of the keywords you are focusing on, while other sites will improve the way your whole blog is viewed by Google.
  • Video. Videos on Google’s YouTube are a great way to get rapid results and rank high in searches. By posting your videos on YouTube, and linking your blog as a part of your video description, your chances of ranking higher are greatly increased. Always embed your own YouTube videos on your own blog, and make sure you have plenty of content with crucial keywords for Google around your website.
  • Social Media.WP makes it very easy for your blog posting to interact with your social media. Add each of these functions so that you are automatically sharing your posts on your main social media profiles. Adding buttons on each of your blog pages is very simple and will make it very easy for others to share.
  • Commenting On Other Blogs. By commenting on other blogs and leaving your link, you are showing interest in other people’s work, and showing a way for them to see yours. You will find that there will be many comments and links on your own site before too long. Be careful you do not start following the practice of many on WordPress, which essentially equates to spam. Spending the time to create quality relationships is essential.
  • Keep it Regular. Regular posting and interactivity is essential. A new visitor will view the validity of your site by how regular you post. If you have not posted in a while, users may assume you are not there any more. Current content gives validity to your older content. If you don’t have current content, it is easy for users to assume all of your content is no longer valid.
  • Submit to Blog Directories. There is a huge array of blog directories, which allows internet users to see a list of blogs on a particular topic. Constantly keep listing your blog with all and any directories you can find. The more directories you are listed with will mean a higher chance of being found.

Above all, be yourself. Keep your topics fresh. If you are interested in something, your posts will reflect that. Write when something is of interest, and keep those posts for later. Forced writing to keep to a schedule may mean you are not writing good content. Online marketing and SEO is something you build over time. The need for patience and consistency cannot be stressed enough.

Guest article from Sachin.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Blogging Tips, Blogging Tools, Free Blogging Platforms, Guest Writers, SEO, Social Blogging, Software, Web Site Design, Website Builders

Blog Basics for Brisbanites: How to Set Up a Blog with Your Own Domain Name

Blogging can be used to support your image professionally, or just like a diary of your life for purely personal reasons. This article looks at setting up your own blog, choosing domain names, and then changing your blog over to your very own web address. Your blog can be up and running in no time, and you will be surprised at how professional it will look.

  • Get Started With WordPress. WordPress is by far the easiest. Go to their main website and set up your account. WordPress has many additional features which you can explore as you get used to manipulating your site. You could host your site yourself with their software but the best way is just to let them handle everything. You will choose the easiest option in the beginning. This will mean the whole thing is for free. The reason why they can do this is because they will get the revenue from any adverts on your page.
  • Getting Your Own URL. After you have set up your account, you will see that the web address of your blog starts with WordPress in the name followed by your account. It is always better to have the URL of your own choice. All you need to do is look for a domain hosting company on the internet. There you can see if the domain name is available that you want. Once you have purchased the domain name, which normally costs around $10-12 a year, you will need to proceed to domain mapping.
  • Mapping to WordPress. WordPress has full instructions, which are not very difficult to follow. Essentially they give you a few lines of text to update your information stored on the servers of your domain name. Your company that supplied you with the domain name will give you a log-in location where you can update your information. Once this has been completed, you return to WordPress.
  • Adding URL in WordPress. Inside your WordPress account, you will see a tab in the settings section of your account. Go to the domain names setting, and enter in your new domain name. This will update instantly and now if you type in your domain name, or your original WordPress domain name, you will see your blog.
  • Take it Step by Step. This is not as complicated as it sounds. Many people get a little lost or confused when they are trying something new on their computer, and the internet, because they don’t stop to read what is on the screen in front of them.
  • If You Are Having Trouble. Never panic, help is only a few minutes away. There are plenty of online IT services Brisbane, that can help you walk through any of these steps. If you think you don’t need that kind of help, you can always start with the help guide on WordPress.

This whole process should take about 15 minutes. Just remember to pay for your domain name and any support service with secure payment systems. Never give any supplier your full credit or debit card details.

Guest article from Sachin.

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Filed under blogging, Blogging Tips, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Social Blogging, WordPress

WordPress.com Hacked (Again)

imageAnytime a users email account, or web site gets hacked, it’s seemingly always the user’s fault – never the service provider’s fault. Or so we’re led to believe – full transparency is rarely a strong point of Internet service providers.

So, I’ll climb on the Kudos bandwagon, (with some reservations), and congratulate WordPress for coming clean on yesterday’s low-level server hack.

From WordPress

Tough note to communicate today: Automattic had a low-level (root) break-in to several of our servers, and potentially anything on those servers could have been revealed.

Our investigation into this matter is ongoing and will take time to complete. As I said above, we’ve taken comprehensive steps to prevent an incident like this from occurring again.

It’s not my intent to castigate WordPress, but they don’t get away entirely free. Looking back to June of last year, following a hack in one of my Gmail accounts, I made the following points.

………………. I am certain of this – ANY website, or service, can be hacked.

What I find very annoying is, Gmail, WordPress, and others, simply refuse to acknowledge, that vulnerabilities exist in their systems – especially WordPress.

Listen up WordPress – if the Pentagon can be hacked, and it has been, frequently, then WordPress is definitely NOT invulnerable to hacking – despite your assurances to the contrary.

If you run a WordPress.com site, here’s Matt Mullenweg’s advice:

Based on what we’ve found, we don’t have any specific suggestions for our users beyond reiterating these security fundamentals:

  • Use a strong password, meaning something random with numbers and punctuation.
  • Use different passwords for different sites.
  • If you have used the same password on different sites, switch it to something more secure.

I’ll throw in my own unvarnished advice: If you use the Internet, expect to be attacked – on all fronts.

In the past, when I’ve taken issue with WordPress (always based on their self declared invincibility to hacking), I’ve dealt with several reader comments which attempted to make the point that perhaps I was an ungrateful cur – after all, WordPress provides a free service. The reality is somewhat different.

My association with WordPress is the very definition of a symbiotic relationship – they provide the service free – I provide good content – they advertise based on my content – they make $$$$$$ – lots of $$$$$$.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under blogging, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Internet Security Alerts, Opinion, Point of View, WordPress