Archive for the 'Tutorials' Category

Hacking Your WordPress.com Stats

For those who host their blog on worpress.com one of the advantages is the included statistics tracking program. For a free blogging platform it is nice to have a built in stat tracking apparatus that doesn’t require any additional effort to get up and running. Checking the metrics for your site is a great way to evaluate which blog content has been previously popular in order to create similar content in the future and grow your blog.

The downside to wordpress.com is that users are limited to the included stat tracking features by the inability to fully install other web metrics programs. Site Meter is a great web metrics tool however on wordpress.com you are limited to the non-javascript version which, among other shortcomings, fails to record referring sites. Google Analytics is completely unavailable on wordpress.com blogs.

However there is a way to hack the built in wordpress.com metrics tools in order to gain more information. This is the due to the use of php strings in the URL.

I’ll show you what I mean.

How to Hack the Summary Page

By default wordpress.com gives you the ability to summarize which posts have received the most hits over the last 30 days.

summary1.gif

By editing the php string in the URL you can broaden the range for this data.

The 30 days summary URL for my website looks like this (click to enlarge):

url30.gif

Notice the php string “&numdays” is currently set to “30”. (&numdays=30)

By typing a “9” over top of the “3” in the address bar I can change the string to:

url90.gif

Which returns this page summarizing my last 90 days of statistics:

summary2.gif

you can see that in the last 30 days my resume page has been the most popular post however in the last 90 days my rob bell post has been the most popular. I use this method to track which posts have been most popular over the life of my blog to manually update my all time top posts.

How to Hack Other Pages

The php string “&numdays” is editable on any of the wordpress.com metrics pages including:

  • Referrers
  • Top Posts
  • Search Engine Terms
  • Clicks

By default these pages show data for the last 7 days. However you can modify the rage to including any number of days you want with the ability to track stats over a much longer period of time. Simply type a new number into your address bar to create a new data set. (ie “&numdays=7” returns the last 7 days and “&numdays=30” returns the last 30 days.)

Note: Choosing a large range of dates will truncate your data. Apparently there’s a limit to how much data can be included on one page. For example if you view your “Search Engine Terms” for the last 7 days it will show you all of the terms used to reach your site even if that term was used only once. If you extend the range to 30 days it will show you only search terms that were used 2 or more times to reach your site.

How to Hack Daily Logs

You can go back to the “snapshot” page for any day in the life of your blog by adding the php string “&day” in the address bar to the end of the URL.

This page displays all the data for that day (including search terms or clicks that only occurred once.)

For example adding “&day=2007-07-23” will take me to the snapshot page for July 23, 2007.

statsday7.gif

You can edit the “&day” string to go to any day your blog has been in existence. (ie “&day=2007-06-16” goes to June 16, 2007 and “&day=2006-11-05” goes to November 5, 2006.)

Summary

By typing directly into the address bar of your browser you can edit the php string that is part of the page URL in order to access statistical tracking metrics from a broader range of time than is offered by the default wordpress.com statistics program. Both “&day” and “&numdays” are editable strings.

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Magic Techinque to Increase Your Vocal Range

I had lunch today with my friend Sam Lynn. Sam has a baby due in the next 2 weeks and his schedule is insane. It was a sacrifice for him to fit me in and I greatly appreciated it.

Sam and I talked about all the things you’d expect: what his life looks like with a kid on the way and what my life looks like in the job hunt mode. I talked to Sam specifically about the challenges I’ve experienced with my voice and after listening to where I’m struggling he said,

You want to increase your vocal range.

Yes! I know every tip and trick about breath support and opening your throat (I’ve been doing tons of research lately), but what’s the secret magic technique to give myself a better vocal range? Sam offered me the following:

Excellent Advice for Improving Vocal Range:

If you wanted to slam dunk a basketball you’d need to work to condition your muscles and increase your skill level over time. Your voice also works by using muscles and the only way to make it stronger is through practice.

Now what would happen if everyday you just went out and tried to dunk? You’d fail and get frustrated. But if you practice jumping just a little bit higher each day, you’ll improve.

If you vocalize on a scale regularly you will improve your voice and increase your range. It takes time to get better, but you will get there bit by bit.

The Short Answer:

There is no magic technique. A lot about singing, like tone quality and pitch control, can be improved with proper technique, but vocal range can only be increased through good old-fashioned effort.

This was very encouraging to me. It meant I’ve already been doing what it takes: practicing regularly and building my vocal muscles.

Sam, thank you for the tips and tricks. We are praying for your family and your schedule.

Bonus Tip:

Drew offered up a great vocal tip in my comments.

Essentially, he says to practice with headphones or in-ear monitors and really listen to your voice. You’ll notice what you need to change in a new way than just listening to yourself sing acoustically.

What do you do to sing better?

How to Schedule Effectively

Here are my top 10 tips for better scheduling and time management in a ministry context:

This is my response to Alex McLean’s Just another day in the office.

1. When you think it, ink it.
I use a Palm Zire 72 w/ a voice recorder. I know some people who carry a small notebook. Write down thoughts, ideas and tasks as they come to you and make time to organize/prioritize them later. If you don’t record it, you waste a lot of mental energy trying to remember and often forget.

2. Schedule time to schedule.
Some people say, “I’m so busy I don’t have time to schedule.” The fact is you don’t have time not to schedule. I spend roughly one hour once a week to plan out that week’s agenda. I spend the first and last 15 minutes of each day reviewing my schedule and adjusting it.

3. Don’t fill every minute
I only schedule about 60% of the actual day. Leave room for people who might interrupt your day. Ministry is about people more than tasks. And who knows, you might get everything done and get home early to the family once in a while.

4. Double time needed for mission critical tasks
I block out double the amount of time I think I will need to accomplish a mission critical task. A mission critical task is, “Anything you that will stop your work flow if left unaccomplished.” (In theory this rule would allow me to always finish my Pro Presenter during work time instead of off time, but honesty I fail sometimes too.)

5. Schedule Sabbath and Family time first.
Set hard and fast boundaries for this time and guard it well. Nothing will lead to your failure in ministry faster than neglecting these two areas.

6. If you need to do it, you need to schedule it.
Seriously. Schedule time to brainstorm, dream, journal, research, study, pray, websurf, blog, write songs, be creative, whatever you need to do. Don’t think of your to do list simply in terms of physical tasks to accomplish. “Dream about what a successful worship minstry looks like” is just as valid a task to schedule as “Pick songs for Sunday.” Do your work when you are working and let your mind belong to your kids when you are with them.

7. Learn to say, “No.”
You can do many things mediocre or you can do a few with excellence. Set priorities and say “No.” to anything that isn’t 100% the absolute best use of your time.

A few tips for how to say, “No” gracefully:
1. “Sounds like an excellent idea you should go ahead and do it”
2. “Let me pray about it.” (Make sure to pray)
3. “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” (Make sure to get back)
4. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to help with that but talk to so and so”
5. “I’m sorry my schedule is full right now.”

8. Don’t Multitask.
For me multitasking usually leads to ADD. Set aside time to do something and get it done. This includes grouping similar tasks for better efficiency. Check you email once a day and block off a chuck of your time to deal with all your email at once. This is so much better than keeping your email open all day and having your attention zapped away from your current project each time a new message comes in.

9. Schedule your most difficult tasks for when you are most effective.
Some people are better in the morning some in the afternoon or at night. I’m a night owl. In order to be extra effective and creative I’ve been known to schedule some tasks late in the evening and allow myself to sleep in the next day.

10. Give yourself permission to leave things undone.
Simply because you have made a list of tasks to do does not mean you need to accomplish all of them by the end of the day. If it is getting near the end of your scheduled work time and you aren’t done with everything then make a deal with yourself. Instead of staying late and missing dinner with your family again, look at what you have left to do and reprioritize based on what is most mission critical, your energy level and resources available. Feel good about getting 7 out of 10 things done and leave the rest for later.

PS
I wrote this list for myself as much as everyone else. I’ve yet to follow it perfectly.

Do you use these types of time management tools?

How to Teach Kids Photography: Composition – Part 1

Bad Photo Example

If you, or a child you know, take(s) poor quality photographs don’t worry. Help is on the way. Billy Chia’s How to Teach Kids Photography tutorials are simple, real-life tips and tricks for increasing your photography skills one step at a time in child sized chunks.

Today’s tutorial will cover the following topics:

  • Filling the frame
  • Breaking the frame (Open Composition)
  • Not Breaking the frame (Closed Composition)

Follow the narrative to learn how to take better pictures by incorporating these elements of composition.

Warning: Eve-Marie’s self-portraits may cause you to fall out of your computer chair with laughter.
Continue reading ‘How to Teach Kids Photography: Composition – Part 1’

How to Teach Kids Photography: Perspective – Part 1

Image1
If you, or a child you know, take(s) poor quality photographs don’t worry. Help is on the way. Most people take bad pictures because all their pictures look same. The average person takes a picture by standing about 7-10 feet away from their subject matter and holding the camera at eye level. This results in the same old boring shots. One of the simplest and easiest ways to take more interesting photos is…
Continue reading ‘How to Teach Kids Photography: Perspective – Part 1’


 

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