A Sports Bloggers Network

by Bill Ferris on January 17, 2009 · 2 comments

in Blog Groups

For quite some time I’ve wanted a way to connect with other sports bloggers. I was hoping that Baseblogging would be a way to do it, but I’ve never been able to put the time into it. So it was time to try a new tactic, and with that we have the Sports Bloggers Network on Ning.

After proposing the idea of a forum to some of my friends on Twitter, Tim Daloisio suggested Ning. Ning offers the forum functionality I was looking for, but it also offers most of the features you’d find in any social network.

Hopefully this will be a place to meet other like minded bloggers and discuss things that are working or not working on your blogs. If things work out there will be a cadre of bloggers who can answer questions about what software is best, what affiliate programs work for them, how they score interviews and a host of other topics.

So if you’re a sports blogger (and if you’re reading this there’s a decent chance you are), I encourage you to visit the site and check it out.

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My move to VPS

by Bill Ferris on January 2, 2009 · 4 comments

in Blog Software

Last week I made the decision to move my blogs from shared hosting to a virtual private server (VPS). While I’ve had self hosted blogs for a number of years, I still find myself learning new things all the time, and this was especially true when moving VPS. In my case I was only moving WordPress blogs. I can’t speak to the steps for other types of sites.

Why move and why VPS?

I had considerable problems with uptime during the month of December. Even when my traffic wasn’t particularly high, my site was going down. When I’d submit a trouble ticket, my hosting company at the time would inform me that it was my sites bringing down the server. They suggested I move to a more robust and more expensive VPS solution.

Now I’m not going to bash my former host, they were generally good. But when things would break, they would continue to break for several days or weeks. Finding a true fix didn’t seem to be their strong suit. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with their responses to this situation so I also decided to find a new host.

I set about on a search for a new host, and did some Googling. But I found Twitter to be a valuable resource. After posting the question about hosting providers I received a number of responses that helped me narrow down my search to a couple providers.

I ultimately chose LiquidWeb for 3 primary reasons:

  1. They offered a managed VPS solution. I’m not a server admin and didn’t want the responsibility for maintaining my server. That would be a recipe for disaster.
  2. Their support came highly recommended. This was evidenced when I first went to their site and a chat dialogue opened where I could talk with a sales rep about my needs and they could help me in my decision.
  3. They are a Michigan company. I’m based in Michigan, and our state has had a rough go of it lately. Being able to support a local company was definitely a factor for me.

Preparing to Move – Get Your New Service

The timing was fortuitous. If I’m making structural changes to my sites, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is definitely preferable. I’m off work, and so our many other people. So I have time, and not many people are coming to my sites anyways. When stuff goes wrong, I can respond quickly and not as many people notice.

Step one is to sign up for your new service. You’ll need a destination for everything. Things here will probably vary based on the host you choose. In my case I specified a main domain at the time of sign up. Once my server was set up, I then needed to create my other domains on the server. This includes creating the domain, and typically creating accounts for email addresses, FTP access, and SSH access.

Ideally, you don’t have to make DNS changes at this point and you can access your new server via the IP address they provide.

[click to continue…]

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Installing WordPress 2.7

by Bill Ferris on December 14, 2008 · 4 comments

in Blog Software

One of the downsides of being a self hosted WordPress user is having to do manual upgrades when new versions of the software are released. It’s a multi-step process that involves backing up your database (okay, you should be doing this regardless), disabling plugins, uploading the new files, re-activating the plugins one by one, and then hoping everything works. Well if you hate this, then you just have to bite the bullet and install WordPress 2.7.

There are a number of new features in 2.7, including an overhauled admin panel and enhanced comment functionality (threading and pagination). But the the feature I’m most excited about is auto-upgrading. When that next new security release rolls out, no longer do you have to go through all the steps mentioned above. You can now upgrade from within your administration panel.

This same functionality allows you to browse and install plugins without having to download and FTP the files to your server.

So if you haven’t jumped to 2.7 yet, I encourage you to do so. It was one of the smoothest upgrades I’ve made (and I’ve been using WordPress since 1.5). I didn’t even bother to disable plugins first and I had no issues. Proceed with your own caution on this front and please check the compatibility list before doing so.

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Padres seem to get blogging

by Bill Ferris on June 18, 2008 · 0 comments

in Interviews,Mainstream Media

Ducksnorts proprietor Geoff Young recently sat down for a lengthy conversation with San Diego Padres CEO Sandy Alderson. They cover a number of topics in the 3 part series, but of interest here is Alderson’s take on blogging.

Alderson comments on Paul Depodesta’s blog and how it is another avenue to communicate with the fans

The blogosphere creates another opportunity to communicate, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Paul — in his ability to write, in his ability to self-edit if that’s necessary — to be as straightforward as possible under the circumstances. We ran it internally for, I don’t know, a month or something like that and decided… let’s go ahead. I’m not sure what we get back in the form of commentary is terribly useful because it tends to be — not a fringe element, but I wouldn’t say it’s [laughs] an accurate poll of public opinion.

And perhaps more interesting for those of us bloggers who aren’t members of front offices, they are considering bloggers in the press box.

The other thing we’ve been toying around with is allowing people like yourself into the press box. I know there’s a lot of controversy about that among mainstream media and so forth, but our attitude is, the more access, the better. In Paul’s case, it’s a chance for him to express himself on an unflitered basis. He doesn’t get interpreted by [radio host] Philly Billy [Werndl] or [newspaper columnist] Tim Sullivan or somebody else. It’s an unvarnished line of communication.

Geoff does a great job with the interview and I encourage you to peruse all 3 parts. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

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WordPress hacked

by Bill Ferris on June 7, 2008 · 16 comments

in Blog Software

For those of you using WordPress to power your blogs you need to be on the look out for some hacking which appears to be widespread.

If you’re looking at your site you won’t notice it, but if you look at your stats you may notice a dip in referral traffic. The hack redirects visitors to your site coming from Yahoo and Google to a site called anyresults.net.

Not being a techie I can’t fully explain what is going on, but somehow the hacker gets access to upload a file and register it as a plug-in. Fixing it is a pain, and there may be other solutions, but here is what I did:

  1. Look in the wp_options table for the record with active-plugins. If you look at the list of active plugins you’ll see a number of familiar names as well as other characters. But there will also be an image file (jpeg, png) that has a name similar to an image somewhere on your site. That file isn’t actually an image, but a file with a bunch of garbage in it. Note the name and location of the file.
  2. Using your FTP client find the malicious file and delete it.
  3. Going back into MySQL check the users table. I noticed that in each instance there was another user created that doesn’t show up when you go in through your blogs control panel. Delete the record for that user.
  4. Reinstall WordPress. And don’t just do an overwrite, but delete all the files and reload them.
  5. Change your passwords.

This doesn’t seem to discriminate as to the version of WordPress you’re using. I was already at the latest, 2.5.1, and still got hit. I also doubt that these changes will persist so you may have to go through the exercise again – at least until WordPress offers a security update.

The wordpress support thread can be found here.

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Bob Costas joins ranks of ignorant MSM

by Bill Ferris on March 14, 2008 · 4 comments

in Mainstream Media

Add Bob Costas to the list of mainstream media who feel that all bloggers work from their parents basements. In an illogically constructed rant oozing with ignorance Costas lashes out against those who enjoy debating sports.

Costas questioned why fans would take part in an ESPN.com poll. He questions why anyone would care about what the common fan with a computer thinks.

”Today, I saw on ESPN a poll about which Western Conference teams would not make the playoffs,” Costas said. “Well, 46 percent said the Denver Nuggets, which has zero percent influence on anything. No reasonable person who cares about the NBA should care about that. Who has the time or the inclination to do this, even if you’re sitting on your computer? Why would you weigh in on it?”

It’s kind of a strange stance for someone who makes millions of dollars because of people’s interest in sports. Or is it that fans should sit quietly by and accept whatever broadcasters and reporters tell them while not forming and voicing their own opinions? It kind of looks that way:

”I understand with newspapers struggling and hoping to hold on to, or possibly expand their audiences, I understand why they do what they do,” Costas said. ‘But it’s one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother’s basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they’re a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard’s column or Bernie Miklasz’ column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.”

Aside from the general ignorance of what constitutes a blog or a blogger (leaving a comment on a newspaper article or course constitutes neither), it’s more vitriol for fans – or Costas’s primary audience.

Costas doesn’t understand that the forum is proportional the quality of the content. Only the good stuff gets a big audience. And by good stuff I mean the stuff that bubbles to the top either in uniqueness, quality of writing, humor, etc.

Why is it okay for Costas to get a forum while no one else does? I’d guess that his answer would have something to do with earning it over the years. Someone at some point had to think he was good enough to put on the air. The problem is that was a singular decision. It’s something that the vast majority of fans didn’t get a chance to weigh in on. Costas was thrust upon us.

The next step of the argument would be that if he wasn’t well liked he wouldn’t still have a job. But we see all the time instances of broadcast professionals who are awful, and widely held in low regard, continue to work.

With blogging it is a much more democratic process. If you’re not good at something, chances are you won’t get read. So that forum gets “earned” albeit in a different and arguably better way.

There is one point where I do agree with Costas:

“confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess. Just because I can call someone a name doesn’t mean I’m insightful or tough and edgy.

That’s one aspect I’m not a fan of and generally don’t participate in. Of course in the next sentence he refers to those same people as “idiots” and if you remember he also called bloggers “pathetic get-a-life losers” so feast on that irony for a moment.

And to clarify, I have no problem with Costas the broadcaster. I generally like things he’s involved with so there is no personal bias here. It’s just disappointed that Costas views himself as judge and jury for what is and isn’t acceptable.
Sports bloggers weave a tangled web – 03/14/2008 – MiamiHerald.com
Hat tip Inside the Book.

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I promise this blog won’t become the promotional tool for SNY bloggers, but I have to point you to more from Matthew Cerrone and his adventures at spring training.: Opinion: I am more Naive than I thought

In the piece are some valuable lessons for those bloggers who 1) always knock the mainstream media and 2) who aspire to get press credentials. It’s not as easy as it looks. The good news for the rest of us bloggers is that Cerrone by all accounts represented the blogosphere well, not only in his output but in his conduct as well.

Check out Cerrone’s chronicling of his last week on the job, as well as the interview he did with Big League Stew.

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SNY, the sports network in New York is genius. Several months ago they teamed up with Matthew Cerrone and MetsBlog. Now they have added a Yankees blogger to the mix by teaming up with Steve Lombardi and WasWatching.com

In both cases the blogs get to keep doing exactly what they were doing before with the authors retaining full editorial control. The blogs, and bloggers get more exposure and some fantastic opportunities. Cerrone has already been on the channel several times and is now reporting from spring training.

But why is this genius for SNY? They get to move forward in their quest to become the “Online Home of All Things NY Sports.” They’re brining in two established brands. But more than that they are bringing in established voices. People that the fans are already relating to. They don’t have to establish the bloggers credibility, it’s already present in the hundreds of thousands of page views that the sites get.

And by putting those who are most passionate about the subject front and center, they get some amazing coverage such as Cerrone’s recent conversation with Johan Santana about the circle change.

This is clearly a win for everyone involved. So congratulations to Steve Lombardi, and congrats to SNY for recognizing a good thing.

WasWatching.com: WasWatching.com Joins SNY Sports-Blog Network

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Ducksnorts the annual

by Bill Ferris on February 25, 2008 · 2 comments

in Blogs to Books

Geoff Young, the proprietor of Ducksnorts and Knucklecurve, as well as a contributor at The Hardball Times and Baseball Digest Daily, has just released his 2008 edition of the Ducksnorts annual.

I know this is a huge labor of love for Geoff, as well as just a lot of labor. But this is yet another way to monetize a blog, as well as gain exposure. I interviewed Geoff when his first edition came out last year and to learn a little bit about the process, and this is a full time endeavor.

Once again the book was published through Lulu, but this year an electronic version is also available, as are excerpts to help you decide to buy.

Congrats Geoff on your second baby!

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Bleacher Report clarification

by Bill Ferris on February 25, 2008 · 3 comments

in Blog News

Last week when I wrote about Bleacher Report I noted that one downside of the service was that the writer doesn’t own the content. I’ve since been corrected and I’d like to thank Dave Nemetz for clarifying:

One correction I wanted to note is that Bleacher Report writers do own the content, and are often writing through their own blogs that then syndicate to Bleacher Report. The site’s terms of service currently specify that the original writer of each article wholly owns the copyright to their work, but grants a license to Bleacher Report to publish and use the work.

And when I go back and reread the Terms of Service it does say that the writer grants non-exclusive rights to Bleacher Report. The user also grants other rights, like the right to derivative works and for sublicensing. So like with any site you should read the terms of use, instead of just skim them like I did. But it still seems like a terrific opportunity for bloggers looking to get established to both receive feedback and gain exposure.

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