The New York Times on Quest for Land

I just ran across this story by Seth Mydans on the New York Times Lens blog about John Vink’s excellent app Quest for Land.

“One goal stayed in my mind throughout,” he said in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh. “The mechanisms of an injustice hitting thousands of people in Cambodia had to be told. That’s what it is about.”

He has produced an intimate, passionate, almost palpable documentation of their lives — a decade of photographs, tens of thousands of images, the vast majority of which have never been published or exhibited.

He has become so immersed in his work, he said, that it has been hard to find a point at which to pause and pull it all together. “When living in a country instead of popping in and out, the flow of events is immersive,” he said. “You can’t escape it.”

Looking for a home for some of his 3,500 edited images, he has turned to the most modern of technology, creating an iPad app called Quest for Land, available through iTunes. In 20 themed chapters containing more than 700 photographs, he invites a viewer to join him in his immersion.

John spoke to the photographer Erik Kim about the project, and the interview provides some interesting insights into the process behind building the app. Of course, this is all a bit old news. The app was released in 2012, when iOS was in version four. But it’s not every day that your work gets discussed in The Times, so you have to grab the opportunities when you can.


The Teamviewer hack

This is not good.

For more than a month, users of the remote login service TeamViewer have taken to Internet forums to report their computers have been ransacked by attackers who somehow gained access to their accounts. In many of the cases, the online burglars reportedly drained PayPal or bank accounts. No one outside of TeamViewer knows precisely how many accounts have been hacked, but there’s no denying the breaches are widespread.

TeamViewer denies it has been hacked. The company has instead blamed weak passwords and password reuse for user’s woes. Regardless, if you have TeamViewer installed on your computer you should probably change your password. Or better yet, delete the program all together.

Hide Buddypress member pages from non-logged-in users and search engines

Sometimes you need to restrict Buddypress member pages from search engines and/or users who are not logged in. There are a few ways to solve this, but the easiest method is to require users to be logged in to view member pages. To do that, just drop this code into your functions.php file.

function k4media_buddypress_member_pages_login_check() {
	if( bp_is_user() && ! is_user_logged_in() ) {
add_action( 'template_redirect', 'k4media_buddypress_member_pages_login_check' ); 

The code is pretty simple. The function bp_is_user() checks to see if the user is viewing a Buddypress member page. The function is_user_logged_in() checks to see if, well, it’s pretty obvious what it checks for, right? The exclamation point means “not”. In human-friendly terms, the line of code reads like this: if the user is viewing a Buddypress member page and the user is not logged in, then auth_redirect(), which is a built-in WordPress function that sends users to the login page.

Top 10 design factors that influence credibility

A poorly designed web site undermines your credibility. The research is clear.

Three studies were conducted to ascertain how quickly people form an opinion about web page visual appeal. In the first study, participants twice rated the visual appeal of web homepages presented for 500 ms each. The second study replicated the first, but participants also rated each web page on seven specific design dimensions. Visual appeal was found to be closely related to most of these. Study 3 again replicated the 500 ms condition as well as adding a 50 ms condition using the same stimuli to determine whether the first impression may be interpreted as a ‘mere exposure effect’ (Zajonc 1980). Throughout, visual appeal ratings were highly correlated from one phase to the next as were the correlations between the 50 ms and 500 ms conditions. Thus, visual appeal can be assessed within 50 ms, suggesting that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression.

50 milliseconds. That’s it. You literally have an instant to make a good first impression. But how do you make a good first impression?

The Standford University Web Credibility Project spent three years and interviewed 4,500 people to find out. The project offers a Top 10 List of design factors that influence credibility.

  1. Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
  2. Show that there’s a real organization behind your site.
  3. Highlight the expertise in your organization and in the content and services you provide.
  4. Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
  5. Make it easy to contact you.
  6. Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
  7. Make your site easy to use — and useful.
  8. Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).
  9. Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).
  10. Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.

Only two — items 6 and 7 — are specifically related to visual design. But we know these two factors have an outsized influence because users tend to base their initial impressions on what they see. Fifty milliseconds is not nearly enough time to read. Quite simply, bad design (like bad photos) makes you look bad. You’re better off with nothing.

Book binding in Phnom Penh

Book binding. It really is an art form.

Good commercial printers in Phnom Penh are everywhere. None of them, however, specialize in book binding, and high-quality book binding work is rare. A few printers I’ve visited just looked sheepishly at the floor and acknowledged that, while they can print books, they are not very good at it. A quick glance at the spines of sample books made the point all too clear. A few others did decent, if not great, work. And while print quality was generally pretty good everywhere, paper stock was narrow.

WordPress security: 3 plugins to get your site hacked

Wordpress security

Getting a solid grip on WordPress security can seem a full-time task. The web currently comprises more than a billion web sites. And as the digital universe continues to grow, it continues to attract more and more black hats prowling the web’s digital back alleys looking for an easy mark.

According to a recent report from Sucuri, the new numbers are disheartening.

As of March 2016, Google reports that over 50 million website users have been greeted with some form of warning that websites visited were either trying to steal information or install malicious software. In March 2015, that number was 17 million. Google currently blacklists close to ~20,000 websites a week for malware and another ~50,000 a week for phishing. PhishTank alone flags over 2,000 websites a week for phishing. These numbers reflect only those infections that have an immediate adverse effect on the visitor (i.e., Drive by Download, Phishing) and do not include websites infected with Spam SEO and other tactics not detected by these companies.

The report doesn’t say how many sites Sucuri included in its research, but it does say that vulnerable plugins were the number one means of site compromise. The top 3 offenders?

  1. RevSlider
  2. Gravity Forms
  3. Tim Thumb

Fortunately for WordPress users, there are good security plugins on the market. Each one approaches security a little differently; it’s more than worth the time to read up on each of them and see which one (or two) best fits your needs. Infosec give a good intro to the big 7 here.

At K4 Media, we use two: iThemes Security and Sucuri Security. What do you use?

(Interested in a professional security audit of your WordPress web site? Get in touch.)

Google page speed 100

No one likes to wait for a slow web page. But blinding fast sites don’t just happen.

For those that don’t know, Google PageSpeed is a free tool that assesses the performance and usability of your website for mobile and desktop platforms. It’s extra important because Google uses it in determining key elements of our SEO ranking, i.e. how high we appear in their search results.

On our first pass recently, the K4 Media site scored 86. Not bad. But not great. WordPress doesn’t make it easy, either, with bloated themes and unnecessary plugins. If your aim is Page Speed 100, however, Jeff Reifman at Tutsplus shows you the way.

Making news profitable

Since the dawn of the internet news organisations have been trying to figure out how to make news profitable. The big guns — The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, etc — have often led the way. Those efforts were aimed at generating revenue from online eyeballs, either through subscriptions or advertising. Those efforts have fallen short, and the industry is now teetering.

For a few years now, investors have been pouring money into online news with the kind of fervor that once fueled the minimansion boom. But in the past year, the boarded-up windows have started showing up: The Guardian, which bet heavily on expanding its digital presence in the United States, announced it needed to cut costs by 20 percent. The tech news site Gigaom shut down suddenly, with its founder warning that “it is a very dangerous time” to be in digital media. Mobile-first  Circa put itself on “indefinite hiatus.” Al Jazeera America, once hailed as the hottest thing in bringing together cable news and digital publishing, shut down and laid off hundreds of journalists.


As the New York Times’ John Herrman put it, “in recent weeks, what had been a simmering worry among publishers has turned into borderline panic.” Mashable, which had made a big investment in news and current affairs, laid off dozens of journalists and pivoted to a new, video-heavy strategy. Investor darling BuzzFeed fought reports that it had slashed earnings projections by nearly 50 percent. Salon laid off a string of veteran staffers. Yahoo put its core business, including its news and search features, up for sale.

So what does the future hold? Newspapers as non-profits? Subscription-only journalism? An uninformed populace who doesn’t care about news? It’s terrifying and exciting at the same time.

Working for the G-man

How much does an iPad app cost? Kevin Drum runs us through the numbers.

Sometime in the dim past, the TSA needed a way to randomly assign passengers to the pre-check boarding line. The solution was an iPad app that randomly points left or right when an agent taps the screen. This app, which Kevin Burke says “a beginner could build in a day,” was coded by IBM and cost the taxpayers a cool $47,000.

Great work if you can get it!

WordPress SEO meetup, Phnom Penh

Be Chantra, the indefatigable social networking master, is putting together a WordPress SEO meetup. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn if you are interested in speaking. K4 Media will definitely be attending and taking notes. In the meantime, here’s 5 links to help get your SEO mind ready.

The definitive guide to higher rankings for WordPress sites

If you are using WordPress and concerned with SEO, you are likely using Joost de Valk‘s industry leading plugin Yoast SEO. Like the headline says, this is the “definitive guide.” It’s long. But it covers the fundamentals of SEO, and anyone hoping to wade deeper into the SEO ocean should be comfortable with the ideas here.

WordPress SEO

This Siteground tutorial is basically a light version of the above definitive guide. It’s short and identifies key areas of the WordPress page to target for better SEO, but doesn’t go into great detail.

Beginner WordPress SEO (Part 1): How to Optimize Your Blog Posts

A do-it-yourself guide to SEO. As the article promises: if you focus on these 7 key areas of on-page SEO, you can improve your search engine rankings.

10 WordPress SEO Questions That Took Me 10 Years To Answer!

Trond Lyngbø, a columnist at Search Engine Land, touches on some frequent questions surrounding WordPress and SEO. These questions are not aimed at beginners, and the answers are often a bit technical in nature (ex, Can It Hurt My SEO If I’m Not Using The User’s Native Language? Will Adding A Post To Many WordPress Categories Be Good For My SEO? How Can I Improve My SEO With WordPress Widgets?). But there are worthwhile ideas here that even experienced SEO hands have probably not thought about in a while.

5 crazy SEO mistakes not to make in WordPress

These 5 tips are also a bit technical in nature and presume at least an intermediate level of SEO understanding. But such is the way of the SEO warrior. If you plan on reaching the advanced levels, there is no getting around the technology.

A Google search returns literally millions of articles expounding on the often shadowy world of SEO. You can never know it all. To further complicate matters, SEO techniques are constantly in flux, ebbing and flowing to the algorithms of Google and other search engines. Paid professionals can help, but so can rolling up your sleeves and doing the messy work.

That said, however, remember that SEO is marketing. And before going gung-ho with SEO, I strongly, strongly suggest evaluating the effectiveness of your current marketing strategy.

You have one, right?

Because SEO is not a replacement for a real marketing strategy. And skipping this step will likely end with tears and lots of lost dollars. Caveat emptor.