One-Minute Book Reviews

February 21, 2009

You Be the Delete Key Awards Judge — First-Ever One-Minute Book Reviews Visitors Poll — What Is the Worst Line in Denis Leary’s ‘Why We Suck’?

Filed under: Delete Key Awards — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:06 pm
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Update at Sunday 9:15 p.m. Eastern Time: Right now it’s a dead heat between two of the quotes below. Although other posts will follow, the poll will remain open until 5 p.m. Wednesday. The results will appear Thursday, Feb. 26, when the 2009 Delete Key Awards shortlist is announced. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan

On Thursday I’ll post the shortlist for the Third Annual Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books, and this year I wanted to let you choose one of the finalists. This sounded easy, because WordPress has added a polling tool called PollDaddy. And the obvious choice was to let you pick a line from Why We Suck, a collection of rants by Rescue Me star Denis Leary, because that one abounded with candidates for deletion.

But trying to get PollDaddy working was more stressful than the time I was trapped on a Manhattan subway while the police searched for a gunman on the tracks, because in that case the cops found the guy pretty quickly and the train started moving again. My attempt to get the poll working went on for days and involved a) visits to the WordPress Support Pages; b) e-mail to support@wordpress.com; and b) using the PollDaddy page on WordPress TV.

When I finally got the poll going, I saw that PollDaddy doesn’t provide enough space for the full fourth quote below which you can read here. Given all this, I’m not sure when I’ll do another survey, so if you want to tamper with the Delete Key Awards jury, this is your chance. Results of the poll will appear Thursday.

(c) 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

December 30, 2008

A Review of ‘WordPress for Dummies’ — A ‘Certified WordPress Evangelist’ Tells How to Use the World’s Most Popular Blogging Software

Filed under: How to — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:21 am
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Is it worth it for WordPress.com bloggers to pay $25 for a book that has 50 pages for them when, at the same 50 cents-a-page rate, you’d pay $250 for John Grisham’s The Appeal?

WordPress for Dummies: First Edition. By Lisa Sabin-Wilson. Foreword by Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress. Wiley, 384 pp., $24.99, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

It’s no secret: The CIA uses WordPress. So do the New York Times, CNN and millions of other people and groups, who have made WordPress the world’s most popular blogging platform.

Spies and reporters can turn to in-house webmasters when they have trouble writing or publishing their posts. But the rest of us have to rely on the online support forums or erratic e-mail help provided by WordPress. If those don’t do the trick, there’s WordPress for Dummies, written by a blog designer who has used the software since its inception in 2003.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson notes upfront that WordPress comes in three versions or, as she calls them, “flavors”:

“Vanilla” — the free WordPress.com blogs, hosted by WordPress, that don’t require you to download software.
“Chocolate” — the free WordPress.org blogs, hosted by others, that do require you to download software.
“Neapolitan” — the WordPress MU blogs, designed for and paid for by corporations or organizations that want to have a network of blogs with same domain on one server.

These distinctions matter in part because WordPress for Dummies has about 50 pages for WordPress.com bloggers and more than 300 for WordPress.org or WordPress MU users. If you use WordPress.com and buy this book for $25, you’ll pay about 50 cents a page for the material written specifically for you, much of it unnecessary because you’ll know, say, how to log in. (At that rate, you’ pay about $250 for John Grisham’s 496-page The Appeal.) You’ll also get a book published in November 2007 and based on WordPress 2.3. Many of its facts went out of date with the launch of 2.7 and new features such as polling and a revised dashboard or changes in other functions.

You can’t blame Sabin-Wilson for the WordPress upgrades, many of which will appear in the second edition of the book due out in February 2009. But she calls herself a “Certified WordPress Evangelist,” and you’d better believe her: Sabin-Wilson earns part of her living “providing design solutions for WordPress clients.” And she’s so bullish that her book is less objective than some — maybe most — in the “For Dummies” series: At times, it reads like a public relations vehicle for WordPress. Sabin-Wilson offers only one timid criticism in her WordPress.com section: The software has redundant categories widgets, a point so trivial you could blog for years and never notice it.

Clearly a book called WordPress for Dummies is going to attract a lot of people who are just getting started with WordPress.com blogs. And what’s the first thing most beginners want to know about? All together now: Support, a subject that gets a barebones discussion made worse by a flawed index (usually compiled by someone other than the writer).

Look under “Support” in the index, and you’ll find listings only for support for WordPress.org and WordPress MU, leaving the misimpression that none exists for WordPress.com. Look under “WordPress.com,” and you’ll find a listing for “Support” that refers you to a page that mentions support for problems with widgets only. Look under “Help” and you’ll finally find the correct section. But you get no explanation for why WordPress calls support for WordPress.org “support” for and support for WordPress.com “help.” And the pages that deal with WordPress.com “help” have only a skimpy table that refers you first and inadequately to the WordPress.com Forums (which make you choose from a list topics that can seem impenetrable if you have no idea which technical terms apply to your problem).

If all of this seems confusing, that’s the point. Imagine going through this search process when you can’t publish a post or think you’ve lost a big chunk of vital text. At the very least, this book needs more advice how to search the WordPress forums. Better still, there should be a smaller-sized (and lower-priced) guide just for WordPress.com bloggers so you don’t have to pay for all the advice you can’t use.

Given all of this, why would you pick up WordPress for Dummies at all? First, it was more useful than the older and more profusely illustrated WordPress 2: Visual Quick Start Guide (Peachpit, 2006). As outdated and cheerleader-ish as much of it is, WordPress for Dummies has a lot of material that’s still current and helpful. Until now I’ve never filled in the title-and-description bar that appears when you upload images to a post: Why bother if it takes time and people can’t see it? This book gave me a reason to start: It helps with search engine optimization.

WordPress for Dummies also corrected a few misimpressions I’ve had almost since starting One-Minute Book Reviews. Early on, I learned that if you want to convert a URL to a hyperlink, you add the prefix http:// and a slash for a suffix. So if I wanted to link to my site for my novels, I would type http://www.janiceharayda.com into a post, select that address, and paste http://www.janiceharayda.com/ into the link box, which would create a highlighted hyperlink that looked like this www.janiceharayda.com. This technique got you to the right place but led to many long links.

From WordPress for Dummies I learned that you can just select a word or phrase and paste a link to it into the link box on the toolbar. This will put the HTML tag around the text that will create a highlighted hyperlink to a URL. So instead of writing out the address for my other site, I can select my name and paste the address into link box so you can click on Janice Harayda instead of www.janiceharayda.com. This tip will make my life easier — and my site cleaner — every day and might alone have justified time I spent with the book. It also suggests why, in a sense, World Press for Dummies is just like WordPress: When it’s not driving you up a cyberwall, it’s great.

Best line: “If you don’t want to share a picture of yourself in fear of shattering computer monitors worldwide, you can choose not to upload any picture at all or upload a picture of something that reflects the essence of you.”

Worst line: All of the lines that are outdated or that buy heavily in WordPress jargon, such as WordPress.com is a “hosted solution”; WordPress.org is “self-hosted solution” and WordPress MU is a “multiuser solution.” Whatever happened to the words “option” or “service”?

Published: November 2007. Second edition due out in February 2009.

Furthermore: Gung-ho as it is, this book oddly ignores some of great WordPress.com tools that apparently far surpass those of Blogger, Typepad and other platforms. Among them: stats are updated every three minutes.

About the author: Sabin-Wilson’s personal blog is Just a Girl in the World. Mullenweg’s is Ma.tt.

Janice Harayda is an award-winning critic who has written the One-Minute Book Review blog on WordPress.com since October 2006. She was named one of Virtual Woman’s Day’s 25 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2008. One-Minute Book Reviews has ranked among the top 10 growing Blogs of the Day on Word Press and appears on Best of the Web’s list of best book-review sites. It has received praise from around the world, most recently in the print and online editions of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper on Nov.17, 2008.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

October 12, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – Video on All Wikipedia Pages Next Year?

Filed under: Late Night With Jan Harayda,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:19 pm
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More notes from WordPress’s Oct. 5 New York WordCamp 2008 …

After lunch we heard an interesting talk by Shay David, co-founder of Kaltura corp.kaltura.com/, the first free open-source platform for video creation. David said that Kaltura has joined forces with Wikipedia and that, next year, we’ll see video on every Wikipedia page. Kaltura had announced the partnership with Wikipedia in January, and Craig Rubens reported then on NewTeeVee:

“Following Wikipedia’s original idea of having the world co-edit the most comprehensive encyclopedia, Kaltura will move those textually two-dimensional pages into the video-enhanced age of rich social media. In other words, the wisdom of the masses just got a webcam and everyone gets final cut
newteevee.com/2008/01/17/wikipedia-to-get-its-video-on/.”

Rubens added that you’ll be able to contribute to Wikipedia by clicking on “edit this video” or “add to this video,” and nothing in David’s WordCamp speech contradicted this earlier report. You can download Kaltura for free now corp.kaltura.com/download.

Kaltura is also working with the New York Public Library to make available the library’s database of more than 600,000 historical images corp.kaltura.com/press/the-new-york-public-library-and-kaltura-team-to-enhance-online-collaborative-rich-media.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

October 8, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – The Most Important Thing Every Blogger Needs to Know (Quote of the Day / Aaron Brazell)

Filed under: News,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:29 am
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Tonight I was going to wrap up my report on WordPress’s New York WordCamp 2008 by writing about what the speakers said about marketing your blog and using video on WordPress. But in going over my notes, I realized that I had too much material about these for one post, so I’m going to save some of it for later this week or early next week.

For now I’ll just quote perhaps the most memorable line of the Sunday meeting, which came from Aaron Brazell, the editor of the popular Technosailor www.technosailor.com, in his talk on “Making It Into the Big Leagues”:

“Remember that readers don’t care about you – they care about what you can give them.”

Brazell didn’t say that is the important thing every blogger needs to know – only that it’s vital to moving beyond the long tail — but what point comes close to this one? (Does anybody care what the creators of I Can Has Cheezeburger? think about the bailout en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Can_Has_Cheezburger%3F?) Thanks for the reminder, Aaron.

You’ll find more WordCamp New York at wordcamp.info/2008/10/05/october-2008-upcoming-wordcamps/ and on the New York WordPress Meetup at wordpress.meetup.com/169/calendar/8858860/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 4, 2008

My Post on How to Fight Sploggers Has Been Stolen by a Splogger

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 10:27 pm
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My Sept. 4 post on how to fight sploggers has been stolen by a splogger. It did not last 24 hours on WordPress before getting pinched. The new thief isn’t the representative of the great country of Poland who has stolen all the other posts. The latest con artist is apparently an American. And unlike the Polish splogger – who covered his or her tracks well enough that I would have missed the scam if I hadn’t checked Technorati – this nut linked to my site to show me that he had plagiarized 100 percent of the contents of my post.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Warning to WordPress Book Bloggers: A Splogger May Be Stealing Your Posts – A Victim’s Tale, or My Fight to Keep My Site From Turning Into a Really Bad Polish Joke

How to protect yourself from a spam blogger targeting WordPress literary sites

If you write about books or literary topics on a WordPress.com blog, watch out for sploggers who may be stealing your posts. Sploggers are spam bloggers, people who “scrape” posts off your site (typically using the RSS feed) and post them on their own. They may then sell advertising against your posts, so they earn money from your work.

Worse, sploggers keep people from reaching your posts through search engines, because their URL appears on your posts instead of yours with no link. If this happens, you pay a double price: Your work is stolen and you lose the traffic you would have had if your work had appeared under its own URL on a search engine.

Any blogger can become the victim of splogger – the risk isn’t limited to literary or WordPress bloggers. But if you are both of those, you have a reason for extra caution right now.

Since August 12, my posts on One-Minute Book Reviews have been aggressively scraped by a Poland-based blog that claims to offer “books and reviews from all over wordpress.com.” The splogger appears also to be lifting text without linking from many WordPress blogs besides mine, including Stuff White People Like, which recently earned a widely publicized book contract for its creator.

I can’t link to the offending splog, which would send traffic to it. But if you’d like to get a sense of how the scam works, go to Technorati www.technorati.com and search for “Janice Harayda” (not “One-Minute Book Reviews”). Look at the URL for any of my post–Aug. 12 posts, such as those about the children’s books Read All About It! and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. You will see that my URL oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com doesn’t appear on these posts (as on pre-August 12 posts) — the splogger’s URL appears with no link to my site. The splogger’s fake posts have preempted my real posts, so you can’t here from there.

This mess remains unresolved. But in trying to protect my work, I’ve found that you can fight sploggers. Here are some tips based on my experience or on ideas from WordPress Forums or Support:

1. Search for your site on Technorati and other blog search engines at least once a week, ideally every day. Use the “Contact” form on Technorati to report copyright violations or other abuse.

You may also want to:

2. Go to stolen.wordpress.com to report the abuse or learn more. WordPress may be able to provide an e-mail address for the host of the site if there’s no contact information on the splog, as there usually isn’t.

3. Send a “Cease and Desist” letter to the site if you can and, if not, to the host or a search engine that lists it. You can find sample letters for the different parties here: www.plagiarismtoday.com/stock-letters/.

4. See the responses to my cry for help on the WordPress Forums for other helpful ideas: en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/technorati-refusing-to-recognize-valid-wp-url?replies=7

5. Get in touch with support@wordpress.com if you are still having trouble.

6. If the splog has advertising from Google AdSense or another agency, use the contact information the agency’s site to report the abuse. To do this with AdSense, search the site for “Report a Policy Violation” www.google.com/adsense/.

7. Search the Internet for terms such as “fight sploggers” or “protect yourself against sploggers” for more ideas.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 2, 2008

Are Blogs Inferior to Books? (Quote of the Day / Sam Anderson on ‘Ultimate Blogs’)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:38 pm
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Snobs and throwbacks may see blogs as inherently less worthy than even the worst books. But the gifted critic Sam Anderson made a sturdy counterargument in a review of Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks From the Wild Web (Vintage, 368 pp., $14.95, paperback) nymag.com/arts/books/reviews/44480/, an anthology of writing from 27 sites that captured the interest of editor Sarah Boxer. The lesson of Boxer’s book, Anderson said, is this:

“The best blogs set fire to the dry abstractions of official culture — Greek myth, affirmative action, cosmology, presidential politics — with the spark of immediate, personal enthusiasm.”

Anderson added:

“A print anthology of blog writing seems, at first, to be a deeply paradoxical genre — roughly the equivalent of a cave painting about digital photography, an eight-track guide to ripping MP3s, or a Claymation documentary about the high-tech magic of CGI. In a book, hyperlinks are dead on arrival, animation is frozen into grainy stills, emoticons are ruthlessly suppressed, comments are disabled, and updates take years instead of minutes. And yet, for some of us, the combination makes a certain intuitive sense …

“Most of Boxer’s selections don’t read like a new species of writing, but very like close cousins of the once-venerable print genres that have been forced out of public discourse by the shrinkage of major American media: passionate arts criticism, critical theory, colorful polemics, and above, all the personal essay. Sometimes it seems like blogging is just the apotheosis of the personal essay, the logical heir to 500 years of work by proto-bloggers such as Montaigne, Charles Lamb, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Parker, and E. B. White. I see no reason for drawing an artificial line between screen and print.”

Read more about Ultimate Blogs here www.randomhouse.com/vintage/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307278067.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

May 29, 2008

The Best Line in ‘The Last Lecture’ — Randy Pausch’s ‘Deathbed Conversion’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:22 pm
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A review of the bestseller The Last Lecture www.thelastlecture.com will appear soon on One-Minute Book Reviews. In the meantime I’ve been watching the lecture that the author Randy Pausch gave after learning that he had terminal pancreatic cancer, which made him a star on YouTube and led to a book contract. Here’s the best line in the lecture:

“I have experienced a deathbed conversion. I just bought a Macintosh.”

Second best line:

“If you have any herbal supplements or remedies, please stay away from me.”

You can hear the lecture or learn more about the book by clicking on the link in the first line of this post. Pausch gave his lecture, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is a professor.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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