A couple behind-the-scenes Web site changes

Alas, it’s winter and the Mustang is in storage. While many of you work on your cars in preparation for the next show season, I work on this web site. In the last week I have performed a couple web site changes you probably would never notice but, I feel, are important enough to bear mentioning. And, to let you know that, I’m still here, behind the scenes, keeping things working, trying to make things better and planning for the future.

Item #1: Installed ThinkUp in order to better manage TWF’s social presence

I  started first using Twitter to connect and then, in 2011, added a Facebook presence for TWF. Honestly, I am still trying how to figure out how best to use them relative to their strengths and weaknesses. When I have something to say it still feels like I have to think too hard about whether it should be a blog post, forum post, tweet or a Facebook entry. I hope that it starts to feel more natural soon.

Regardless of the avenue chosen, I really like to be in charge of my own data. Using Twitter and Facebook for the site has meant giving some of my data over to a 3rd party. It has been useful for building a following but I worry that I might lose it somehow, someday

I have been aware that there are tools to get the data out of these networks. I just never took action about it. I listen regularly to the TWiT series of Podcasts including This Week in Google so I often hear about a project called ThinkUp. It is a tool not only to take ownership of your social data but to get meaningful metrics back out about the effectiveness of your usage of the medium.

It is the kind of solution that most users of Facebook wouldn’t choose, though. You need your own server or at least to know someone who has one to share. It’s less service and more solution.

The TWiT network’s “Triangulation” series recently interviewed Gina Tripani, who is the brains behind ThinkUp. On the show, she conveyed that its architecture might limit ThinkUps adoption but it was, in fact, perfect for me. I have a server on which this site runs and, being a modern PHP/MySQL install, it met almost all of the requirements for ThinkUp!

The install process for ThinkUp verified the server setup and the only thing I needed to add was a package called cURL. The cURL install literally only required two command lines to be executed

apt-get install php5-curl
/etc/init.d/apache2 restart 

before I was up and running. And, I’m no Linux guru. Otherwise, it was as simple as any WordPress install I have done and much simpler than the Drupal install.

The only glitch I have with it is that I have two Facebook profiles under the name ‘John Jones’ (I know, I know, multiple profiles is a big no-no) . One is related to my TWF page and the other is my personal one for family. They are indistinguishable in ThinkUp.

And, it not just me that can’t tell them apart, ThinkUp can’t differentiate which one I want when I choose from the list and always directs me to the one related to this site rather than my personal one. I hope that gets straightened out in a future release. It is really a minor annoyance, though.

Bottom line, ThinkUp is now harvesting all of the social data from Twitter and Facebook into a database on my own server. I can feel confident that this data is still my own.

Item #2: Changed domain registrar from GoDaddy to Hover

I only mention this next one because it went so seamlessly. I was petrified that there would be a glitch during this process and my site would be down for some period of time. I had previously migrated foxfeaturecars.com over but that was easy – it is just a pointer to this site that no one really knows about.

For a little background, I had been using GoDaddy since 2003 back when they were just about the most affordable registrar. I had no problems with them really. A lot of what they are criticized for just didn’t impact me.

My main concern was domain privacy where my contact information was public. Sure, they offer privacy controls, but it costs an extra $10/year. With Hover, it’s included. The transfer went very smooth and I bet no one even noticed the brief time the transfer occurred and the site may have been unavailable.

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