Two of the slickest aspects of using the…

Two of the slickest aspects of using the P2 theme are 1) it gives me the option to write simple posts directly from the homepage (twitter-style) and 2) it updates comments and posts without any need to “reload” the page. To give you an idea of how cool this is, while I was writing my last post, two new comments were being left on the previous post and I got to see the comments in real time as they were being made… It’s pretty slick technology for a wordpress blog… and I’m totally lov’n it!

I spent the evening playing with this si…

I spent the evening playing with this site… and I’m finally at a spot where I feel like I can take a break. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for the night. 🙂

The inspiration for changing things up was pretty simple. I really wanted to play with the power of the P2 theme in terms of real-time updates. In order to really take advantage of the way this theme treats comments, I’m positive I’ll also need to start blogging a bit more, which is a darn good incentive…

I also had some specific functionality I wanted with my P2 install… I wanted a WP plugin that 1) authenticates using either Twitter or FB & 2) allows sending of comments to either Twitter or FB.

My main problem is that the few plugins that could do such a thing (like IntenseDebate) came with their own set of baggage or simply didn’t work within the P2 theme (which I’m extremely fond of playing with!)

The end result was that I installed two plugins that appear to play “well enough” together. The first was Twit Connect and the second was Sociable’s Facebook Connect Plugin.

This way, users *can* use either service to “login” before leaving a comment (as well as no service at all!). And while I never could get the “send to twitter” option from Twit Connect working, you’all will be able to send your comments to Facebook should you choose to.

Anyway, there’s lots more I could talk about… including why I’m so fond of the P2 theme… but I’m going to leave this post somewhat simple… and leave my P2 thoughts until I’ve played around a bit more. If you have any thoughts on the changes (or just want to see how the comments update on-screen in real-time), feel free to leave a comment!

4realz Gets a Makeover…

RCG-ideaInspired by my desire to redo the RCG theme, I recently gave 4realz.net a makeover… If you want to see what I did and why, check out my post on Rain City Guide:

And no doubt about it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the redesign!

Heading to WordCamp SF in style!

For a short-week, it’s been ridiculously busy… and haven’t had much chance to catch my breath! In addition to the background noise of actual consulting work, I attended another great MOTM event last night, have been preparing for another RE:RnD radio show for tomorrow (featuring Jonathan Miller!), and preparing for a weekend road trip to San Francisco for WordCamp.

This WordCamp trip is going to be something special… Some folks from Ford reached out to me to see if I’d test drive on of their cars, and I couldn’t resist looking for a reason to turn a simple test drive into an “event” by organizing a roadtrip this weekend!

The plan is to head to SF on Friday morning, play in SF for the weekend and then head down the Big Sur coast early next week… and for this journey, I’ve got two great traveling companions: Jonathan Dingman and Ricardo Bueno. Jonathan’s fresh off his recent roadtwip (and a a great photographer!) so my expectations are pretty darn high that this trip is going to be well documented!

ford-marinerIt’s kinda crazy that Ford is giving me a car to test-drive because I’m really *not* a car-fanatic. There was a time in high-school when I could take apart (and almost put back together) my ’77 Camero, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done much mechanical work on my car beyond changing the windshield wipers.

My request for the car was that it was a hybrid and it be big so I could bring some friends along… and the people at Ford stepped up to the plate. They’re dropping a Mariner off at my house tomorrow morning. (I’m feeling kinda like Steve Ballmer except the CEO ain’t dropping the car off and I don’t get to keep it!)

Such a crazy week and the fun has barely begun!

4realz is now Facebook Connnected

I don’t know about you, but the idea of adding Google Friend Connect to my blogs never really enticed me…. It seemed like just another MyBlogLog.

However, I’m kind of a Facebook Junkie, and so when I had a few minutes, I decided to look into Facebook Connect.  It’s pretty darn similar to Google Connect in that users (you!) can “join” a blog and it will display “recent” visitors.   However, the one HUGE benefit is that when configured correctly (there’s a bit more to this than I expected), users can push “comments” to their news feeds… and I’m pretty sure there’ll be other ways of integrating content created on the blog into Facebook in the near future.

With that in mind I installed and configured the facebook connect plugin from sociable.es.

Here are the major features that are enabled now (and I highly recommend you test them out!):

1) Connect with the site

  • that’s as simple as clicking on the bottom at the top of the right panel)

2) Push a comment to your Facebook Feed

  • That’s as simple as leaving a comment once you’re logged in & following the prompt that asks if you really want to push your comment to your profile
  • Interestingly, if you’re connected to FB, then the tool will override the “gravatar” avatar with your profile photo from FB

3) Invite others

  • Why not go ahead and spread some luv, 4realz-style!
  • If you’re looking for permission, then I hearby give you permission to invite people to read 4realz.  😉

4) Update your profile

  • If you want your comments to link back to your blog/website, then you’ll need to update your profile on the site (look for the “edit profile” text once you are logged in on the top right panel)

That’s all for now.   I thought I’d test it out on 4realz for a few days and if everything works well, then this is definitely something I’ll push to Rain City Guide soon.

Moving to a Self Hosting Platform from WordPress.com

So, it’s been a half-day since the big move and everything appeared to have gone pretty smoothly.   While I followed my steps pretty darn closely, there were a few adjustments.   So here are the steps I used to move from a hosted wordpress.com account to a self-hosted environment:

  1. Export posts/comments/categories/etc XML file to hard-drive
  2. Save a copy of the blogroll’s OPML file
  3. Copy the header graphic to hard-drive
  4. Set up new database with the host and configure wp-config.php file to point to new servers.
  5. Upload, but don’t activate, wordpress files to the new host servers *
  6. Publish posts on your existing blog saying changes are on the way  (Here’s my example) 🙂
  7. Change DNS settings using your domain registrar to point to your new host.
  8. Ask new host to recognize 4realz.net as the new primary domain (this step probably really depends on the host)
  9. When your host recognizes 4realz.net as the primary domain, configure MX settings.
  10. Wait for DNS settings to take effect and begin redirecting traffic to the new site!
  11. When your local ISP recognizes the new site, then run the WordPress 5 min install
  12. Import blog posts from XML file.  After uploading the initial file, be sure to confirm you want to batch in multimedia.**
  13. Configure theme, activate plugins, import blogroll, etc.

* Note I actually ran threw a test where I completed steps 1 through 4 AND activated the WP blog using the dummy domain I had set up with the host just to make sure I would have no problems installing WP on their backend. I then deleted everything and started over for the “official” move because it seems more intuitive to me to wait to “activate” the WP blog until after it’s going to be configured to the correct domain.

** At this state, I had to change the “php.ini to allow for uploads greater than 2MB. Not hard, but also not self-evident. And a great reason to do a the test I mentioned in the first note.

Step 6: Changes are on the way!

This means that for a little while, 4realz.net will be in a strange state where comments you make will quite likely NOT be saved.

In addition, because my email is configured through the same wordpress.com backend as 4realz.net, I may never see emails sent to dustin@4realz.net if you send them tonight.

Much better to call me 805-624-6086 or find me on twitter: http://twitter.com/tyr

However, when I come back, I’ll quickly be adding a new tool that I can’t wait to share with you’all.

And if you’re wondering why I’m switching, I can tell you that it is with great reluctance.  I really love having the fine folks at WordPress.com manage the backend of my site.  Their tools and service have been most excellent.   However, I kinda outgrew the WP.com hosting in that I need a bit of functionality that they simply can’t provide. 🙂

By the way, here are the notes I’ve taken for myself in terms of the steps I should follow in order to move 4realz.net hosting from a WP.com backend to a self-hosting environment.   I searched for a list like this, but didn’t find one, so maybe this will help someone else out down the road.  But you should really wait to find out if I’m successful first!  😉

[UPDATE: After I completed the move, I wrote a more complete list based on my experience… as oppose to the “plan” that is listed before!  Check out that post on moving from a hosted wordpress.com domain to a self-hosted environment]

Steps to move from wordpress.com to a self-hosted environment:

  1. Export out posts/comments XML file to hard-drive
  2. Save a copy of the blogroll’s OPML file
  3. Copy the header graphic to hard-drive
  4. Set up new database with the host and configure wp-config.php file to point to new servers.
  5. Upload, but don’t activate, wordpress files to the new host servers *
  6. Publish posts saying changes are on the way  (THAT’S THIS POST!) 🙂
  7. Change DNS settings on my domain registrar to point 4realz.net to the new host.
  8. Ask new host to recognize 4realz.net as the new primary domain
  9. When recognizes 4realz.net as the primary domain, then run the WordPress 5 min install
  10. Import blog posts from XML file  (make sure to check the option that batches in all multimedia!)
  11. Configure MX settings to get Google Apps working with new host
  12. Wait for DNS settings to take effect and begin redirecting traffic to the new site!

* Note I actually ran threw a test where I completed steps 1 through 4 AND activated the WP blog using the dummy domain I had set up with the host just to make sure I would have no problems installing WP on their backend. I then deleted everything and started over for the “official” move because it seems more intuitive to me to wait to “activate” the WP blog until after it’s going to be configured to the correct domain.

I hope my notes will work. But if I’m not back online by the morning, you’ll know why!

Danilo apologizes for writing the 2nd post on AG that hammers REALTOR.com…

in two days and it reminded me that I’m about to hammer into REALTOR.com for the 2nd time in a short-while…  but I dont’ expect to appoligize at the end… 😉

Today’s beef?

The realtor.com team managing their blog platform is acting reckless.

Here’s the background: Last week, I let the realtor.com team know that Trace at BrokerScience had found some prett bad spam was filtering into a feed of their main blog: Let’s Talk.   I know they received my message because I received both notes and calls from the team thanking me. (Trace was not so lucky in terms of getting feedback).   Plus, at some point last week, they removed the spam from all their existing posts.  So far, so good.

Then today, I noticed that two recent posts on their feed are still spewing out spam (to sites selling Viagra, vicodin, tramadol, etc.).   Here’s a screenshot from my reader to give you an idea:

spam links from realtor.com\'s feed

This is a BIG deal because it means that even after the realtor.com blog platform learned that their platform was compremised (i.e. someone had hacked into their system), they kept the site up in a compremised mode that allowed those same hackers to return and insert more spam links into their posts.

Here’s some more background on this particular hack.   In the past 6 months, I’ve seen two other blogs have this SAME issue and each time I’ve written a personal note to the host.  Yet, I’ve purposefully never blogged about any of these sites getting hacked because I’m afraid that some people will mistakenly blame the WordPress platform.  The reality is that in every case the host had not upgrade to the latest stable version of the software and when they did upgrade, the problem went away.

I honestly don’t have a problem with a host that is running an old version of the software and gets hacked as a result (Been there and learned from that).  What frustrates me in this case is that the realtor.com team knew their site was hacked, but rather than upgrade to the latest version of the software, they left a compromised site live.   That’s just reckless… especially since there are more than a few ways to automate the process

Inbox: How do I connect my blog with my website?

I got an email this morning with a question I’ve received many times in different formats, so I figured it was worthy of a blog post:

Hello Dustin,
I am just reading the article in the Realtor Mag. I would like to talk with you about blogging. How do you set it up to connect to your web site? Is it easy? Are their any cost?

I broke your question into two parts.

Part 1: How do you set it up to connect to your web site?

As I see it, there are three main options:

1) Your blog is hosted on a different domain than your agent website

  • Link from your blog to your website (and assuming you want to send traffic the other way), then a link from your website to your blog)
  • Use a widget to grab the latest headlines from your blog and add them to your website. I don’t recommend grabbing ALL of the text from the post for duplicate content reasons, but there is nothing wrong with grabbing the headlines and/or a snippet of text

RCG Screenshot

2) Your blog is hosted as a subdomain or subdirectory of your agent website

  • It is a very viable (and not necessarily difficult to implement) to have your blog be part of your website and this has the benefit of concentrating the inbound link benefits that you’ll get from having your real estate site.

3) Your blog is your agent website

  • I got tired of managing a largely ineffective agent website and actually took the site down completely once we started to get so much more traction through Rain City Guide. There’s no reason you couldn’t still have all the typical features of a agent website (about me, testimonials, MLS search, etc.) on a typical agent blog.

Part 2: Is it easy? Are their any cost?

Easy is very relative depending on the outcome you want to see. Setting up a blog is relatively painless (and free) on WordPress.com or Blogger. There are also real estate specific blogging solutions, some of which are free (ActiveRain, Zolve, RealTown, and REALTOR.com) and some of which cost money (Incredible Agent, Ubertor, Real Estate Tomato, RSS Pieces and Realivent). Obviously, when you’re willing to pay, there is often better integration, education and the ability to customize the blog to fit in with your online marketing plan. (Don’t have an online marketing plan? It might be time for a 4realz Education. 🙂 )

I’ve had it in mind to do a bit more research on existing blog platforms specific to real estate (costs, features, etc.). I should have something ready to publish within the next few weeks.