In this episode we discussed Feedly:
The Das Keyboard 4:
ManageWP Safe Updates:
Google Maps location sharing
I follow a lot of blogs, a lot, like 500 or so every day. I’ve tried to get my co-workers to do the same over the years with minimal success, but a new feature from Feedly finally starting to change that.
Before we get into that though, this is A Brighter Web, episode number one, brought to you by the folks at GreenMellen, which includes me, Mickey Mellen and some of my awesome co-workers and friends that are here in future episodes.
Our goal with this podcast is to share new, products, and ideas with you, so we can all make the web a brighter place to be. These might be actual web tips, talking about strategy, WordPress plugins and UX, or might be productivity ideas to help you get more done and free up your time to do great things.
Today we’re gonna talk about Feedly, we’ll talk about a crazy new keyboard I’m using, a big update to Woo Commerce, a feature I’m super excited about from ManageWP, and a great new tool for families on Google Maps. Let’s dive in.
I’ve used Feedly a lot, ever since Google Reader went away. Feedly, if you’re not familiar with it, is a RSS aggregator, which means I can take a bunch of blogs, in my case, like 500 of them and have every new post show up in this one place. This means if a blog is super quiet and doesn’t post for a while, I don’t waste my time going to check on it. If they’re active, they all come into one place. It’s just a good way not to miss any posts.
Google Reader did an awesome job with RSS aggregation, but eventually they shut that down. Feedly has been the best replacement to come along. I’ve been trying to get my team to use it and now we’re finally getting more onboard, thanks to two new features they have that are called “Team Feeds” and “Team Boards”.
Team feeds are kind of what it sounds, where we can have a group of feeds that we all see together. We have some for UX and some for designs, some for development and our team can subscribe to those clumps of feeds, those groups of websites, without having to go and subscribe to each one individually. If there’s a section they don’t want to subscribe to, for example Ali wouldn’t care about the development ones. She doesn’t have to subscribe to that. This keeps us all on the same page, keeps us all adding new ones all the time, does a great job.
The other new feature are boards, which is kind of like Pinterest. When you see a post come through from a feed that you like, you can pin it to a board. You have personal boards. I have one for this podcast, when I see things relevant to it. You can have team boards, where you can share things together that might be of note to other team members. Really works great.
The free version of Feedly, it’s completely free. You get as many feeds as you want and three boards. You can pay Pro to get unlimited stuff for five dollars a month and then for 18 dollars a month per team member, you get all the team features. $18 a month for team members seems a bit high, but we’re willing to pay it, so it must be a pretty fair price.
I recently did kind of a crazy thing. Before I tell you about that, let me explain my computer set up to you, cause it’s different than most. At home, I have a Windows machine that has three big monitors and a pretty nice setup and I have a virtually identical set up at work. I have a Windows laptop I carry between and a variety of Chromebooks and stuff to use. Really, most of my work is done with one of the Windows machines I have set up, either at home or the office with three screens.
Something that was bugging me about a year ago though, was that my two keyboards I had weren’t quite identical. They were very similar, both 104 key keyboards, but things were in different places for home and back and end. Some of that stuff was in different places, so my muscle memory would get thrown off.
A year ago I bought a couple cheap, identical keyboards for the two different desktops I had and it was great. Really made a big difference. My muscle memory improved and I was able to do things faster and faster without looking. Then I decided to get kind of crazy. I did some reading about mechanical keyboards, which are the clicky kind of keyboards you hear that are awesome to use, but a bit loud. I got interested in maybe switching to those.
As I dug in, I learned a whole lot about mechanical keyboards, the least of which is that there are different kinds of switches inside of ’em. The Cherry MX switches tend to be the most popular. When I was looking at the DAS Keyboard 4 Professional, very well known, highly respected keyboard, it came with brown and blue switches. The blue ones being super clicky and super popular, but I went with the brown switches that were a little quieter, for the sake of people in the house and more importantly, people in the office, so it wouldn’t be quite as loud.
Then I did something even better. They have the DAS Keyboard 4 Professional. That’s DAS, D,A,S, if you wanna look it up. They also have the DAS Keyboard 4 Ultimate, which is the exact same keyboard, but with completely blank keys.
My keyboard in front of me here has 104 key, just like you’re used to, but with no labels on any of ’em. Wasn’t really sure how that would work out, and I’ve been surprised how well it’s gone. Certainly I struggle from time to time, hitting certain symbols, but I’m getting those down pretty quick. And really I was amazed how quickly I was already able to get ampersands and carets, and all those other symbols without looking.
I think if you tried it yourself, you’d be surprised how many you can get too. The keyboard, while it’s blank, in terms of labels, does have little bumps on the J and F keys, and then on the 5 key on the number pad, so you’re not completely in the dark, trying to use it. It really works well. Even if you don’t wan to go that route, I’d certainly encourage you to check out the DAS Keyboard, line of keyboards, cause they are very nice. Even just a small percentage into your productivity typing can make a big difference over the course of a year.
If you run an eCommerce store, there’s a good chance you use WooCommerce to power that. It’s by far the most popular plugin for WordPress out there and really the most popular solution among eCommerce stores in general. They had a huge update come out a few weeks ago, to version 3.0. Has a new product gallery with zoom features, and lots of speed improvements, lots of great things.
With lots of big changes come the potential for lots of big trouble. I’ve encouraged folks for a couple weeks, not to upgrade yet, just until the bugs got ironed out and more importantly, till the extensions you use inside of WooCommerce get ironed out. If you’ve not used WooCommerce much, the product itself is free, but you end up paying for a handful of extensions for your site to hook into UPS for shipping costs, or hooking to Stripe for payments, or things of that nature. You need to make sure all those are updated first.
Now that WooCommerce is on version 3.0.7, they’ve already had seven little maintenance updates to it. The bugs are pretty much cleared out and most of your extensions should work fine. I would encourage you to update your extensions first, then update WooCommerce and see how things go, and of course back everything up, before you do that, just in case something goes sideways.
Speaking of backups, my favorite backup tool is ManageWP. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s meant for companies like ours that manage a bunch of sites. We have 140 sites in there, but really can work well, even if you have one, two, three, just a handful of sites. Does a great job with helping you with WordPress updates, with plugin updates, with security scanning, but their backups are probably my favorite feature, just because they work so well. Their features are free to use from ManageWP, and then you pay a little bit for some of the extra features, like backups. Backups are two dollars a month for daily backups that will work on pretty much any host and it’s awesome.
They’ve added a new feature that is just awesome to help you in updating plugins to help do it in a way that’s safer and less risk of things going down, called “safe updates”. Normally when you update a plugin in ManageWP, you click the update button and it tells you whether it succeeded or failed. You take action from there.
With the “safe updates” though, it does things a whole different way. When you tell it you wanna do a safe backup, first it goes through and backs up your site, just to make sure you have a backup of everything. Then it takes a screen shot of your home page. Then it does the update. Then it does a test to make sure your server’s still responding properly. Then it takes a second screen shot and then it gives you a little slider to compare the two. It’ll say, “Hey. We think we succeeded. Here’s your old screen shot. Here’s your new screen shot.” You have a little slider right in the middle to compare, to see if things changed at all, see if something broke. Maybe it was an expected improvement, something like that.
And then, from there you can say, “No. No. Go back to how it was. I have a problem.” Or you can say, “Great. It looks exactly how I expected.” Just a much safer way to do things. The one catch with something like this, especially when talking about WooCommerce, is it only takes a picture of your home page, not of other pages. When you update WooCommerce, it can be a product that goes broken, or category, or something else. So something people have been asking for, they should be adding soon is the ability to take multiple screen shots and say, “Hey. Take a screen shot of my home page. Sure. Also, take one of this product, and of this category and of this other special feature, and kind of get a few different screen shots in there.” When you update the plugin, you really know if everything is safe or not.
This new product from ManageWP is free, if you’re already paying the two dollars a month for daily backups. If you do the math, of course, you’ll say, “Two dollars a month is pretty good, but hey you guys manage 140 sites. That’s at least 280 a month, plus the other stuff.“ But if you dig into the pricing, they have bulk pricing to reduce the cost if you have a lot of sites in there, and really it’s very fair and it’s a phenomenal solution. You can read more about that at ManageWP.com.
The last thing I wanna share with you today is a great new feature from Google Maps, called “location sharing”. This is kind of like the features Apple has to find other people in your family on a map, but lets you do it across platforms.
My wife and one daughter have iPhones, while my other daughter and myself are Android. This feature works across all of them. You simply go into Google maps and say, “Share my location.” And, choose who you wanna share it with. When you do it, you can say, “I wanna share it for the next 60 minutes, or, I want to share it unlimited.” Or pick any number of minutes in between that you’d like.
Our family, we’ve all gone in and shared it unlimited with one another, so we can keep an eye on where the kids are, whether they’re on the bus, if they’re traveling. Whatever is going on, we know where they are. It’s a great new feature, works very well on Android. It does work on iPhone. Has a few issues with keeping things current. A lot of times it’ll say, “Hey. It was last updated 30 minutes ago.” Cause, iPhone doesn’t let that kind of process run in the background quite as well.
It’s a great feature, completely free. I encourage you to check that out, especially if you have kids that have phone. You wanna keep a closer eye on what’s going on or where they are, or if they lose it, you can help track it down, that much faster too. Great new feature in Google Maps. Just click the little setting icon inside of Google Maps on desktop, or on your phone. There will be a location sharing option in there for you.
So, that’s it for today. You can find me on Twitter @Mickmel. m,i,c,k,m,e,l. Learn more about us at GreenMellenMedia.com. For more info about the podcast, including show notes and links. We also have tutorials and a Facebook group and all kinds of great resources to help you with WordPress. Check us out at abrighterweb.com. Thanks for listening.