First Impressions of TweetDeck for Chrome

TweetDeck and Chrome logosMany people are picky about how they interact with Twitter, and I’m plunked down firmly in the center of that camp.

My laptop (where my trusty TweetDeck desktop application is installed) died a couple days ago. I prefer a multi-column Twitter interface, so using the “New” Twitter web interface while I wait for my laptop to get fixed is not an option.

I’m generally not an early adopter, but this was a perfect excuse to try the new TweetDeck extension for Google’s Chrome browser.

My Experience

The installation was straightforward, with a couple of mouse clicks it was up and running. To launch the application, just open a new (empty) browser tab and click the TweetDeck icon. I was a bit surprised that it didn’t even prompt me for a userid or password. I suspect that it recognized my Twitter account because I sometimes use it to log in to other web services.

I didn’t try the Facebook integration, but informal research (OK, I read a tweet about it) indicates that it’s “tight.”

The Good

  • The general compose box functions well. It makes it very easy to update from multiple Twitter accounts.
  • The reply box is embedded in the column above the tweet I’m responding to. Nice touch.
  • Ability to drag columns to reorder is helpful, but this still needs some refinement.
  • The automatic link shortening (using j.mp) is quick and smooth.
  • Detailed profile information is helpful, but lacks the thread view capabilities.
  • It has the same familiar charcoal background with light text. I like this color scheme but it’s not for everyone.
  • The visual notification box is gone. This could be a pro or a con, depending on your preference. The desktop application gave you the ability to change its appearance, location on the screen, or just plain turn it off.

The Not-so Good

Like any new software, it isn’t perfect. I suspect it will get better over time.
  • There is no button to view a conversation thread. I use this ALL THE TIME on the desktop app. This #FAIL may force me to Hootsuite until my laptop is fixed. @ToddWaller did point out that you can see a thread history when you reply to a tweet, but sometimes I just want to lurk.
  • Sometimes the background and screen flash while I’m typing in a compose box. This is quite annoying.
  • I couldn’t find a way to pause or slow the main stream, even when I’m scrolled down. In the short time I used this, I clicked on the wrong link a few times as the target tweet slid out from under the cursor.
  • Where’s the filter? This is another feature I use often on the desktop application.
  • Audible notifications are gone. In the desktop application I set them tell me about new @-mentions and direct messages. Without the pop-up notification window, this is even more important.
  • Customization ability is non-existent. The desktop application allows a lot of configuration options, update speed, accounts, notifications, link shortening, and more.

Conclusion

I’m not shy about admitting that I like TweetDeck. Their first effort at browser integration is a solid start. I’m not ready to switch, but it shows a lot of promise.

Have you used it? Let me know what you think.

Three Tips for WordPress Site Maintenance

Hammer and Toolbox

Photo Credit: Ryan Hyde

As software goes, WordPress is pretty stable and reliable. However, it relies on computers and it runs in a world of people. Things can go wrong. An internet connection could fail during an update, there could be a hardware problem with your server, your site could be hacked, or you could just plain break something while playing with new features (I do this more than I care to admit).

Fortunately, you can improve your security and gain peace of mind. These easy-to-use (and free!) tools and techniques will help.

1. Back Up Your Site

Just as you have an homeowner’s insurance for your house (or renter’s insurance for your apartment), you should have a policy for your website as well. There are two pieces of a WordPress website, and they both need to be backed up: the database and the installation.

The database contains the content (posts, comments, and pages, and information about your site configuration). The installation consists of the WordPress software, themes, uploads (like pictures or mp3 files), and plugins.

A weekly backup is sufficient for many sites, but if you add content often you might want to do it daily. Some large sites with multiple authors and aggressive publishing schedules will back up hourly.

I recommend enabling the email options in the plugins below to give yourself a little extra security. If you don’t want to clutter your inbox, set up a rule or filter to move them into a separate folder. You could also create another email account (gmail is good for this) and direct your backups to that.

Back up the Database

The WP-DB-Backup plugin is a useful tool. In addition to scheduling your database backups, it lets you create a full database backup on demand and download it to your computer.  It also lets you decide whether to include additional tables (that other plugins may install).

Back up the Installation

I like the WordPress Backup tool. It lets you schedule backups on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. It guards your uploads, themes, and plugins by creating separate zip files of  each type of content and storing them in a directory on your site. Again, I suggest turning on option to email a backup to yourself. (If you have a lot of images, your uploads backup file can quickly grow too large for email.)

I always back up a client’s database and installation before I start any work. It’s cheap insurance against the little things that can go wrong.

2. Keep WordPress and Plugins Updated

WordPress is great, but it isn’t perfect. There are bugs, developers keep adding features, and hackers come up with new ways to attack your site. Updates fix bugs, patch holes in security, and add new features.

This became easy with newer versions of WordPress. If you have an older version (before WordPress 2.7) it’s more involved (you should call me, I can help).

I could go into a lot of detail about it, but I’m lazy and Wendy Cholbi just wrote about that (with a video!) last week.

3. Hide Your Dust with Maintenance Mode

Sometimes a store will put up a sign that says “Pardon Our Dust” while they are remodeling. Did you know that you can do just that with WordPress?

Adam Warner goes into detail about Maintenance Mode, a great trick that many WordPress users don’t know about. It lets you “hide” your site to visitors while you work on it. I have used the tool successfully (and probably should more often). If you are new to WordPress, that article is worth a look.

What’s the takeaway? You put a lot of time and energy into your website. These tips can help you protect your investment and reputation.

Panel Discussion: State of the Entrepreneur

The 140 Character Conference came to Detroit in October 2010, and my friend Dave Murray put a panel together to talk about the state of entrepreneurship in Detroit. I was honored to be included in the panel with two people I like and respect Dan Walker (founder of River’s End Consulting), Pat Williams (Realtor and Virtual Assistant).

While the whole twenty minutes is good (I have watched this a few times and taken different things away each time , and I was on the couch!), the highlight starts with Dave’s closing remarks at 14:04. Hilarity ensues about a minute later. (I won’t be offended if you turn the volume down for my answer.)

Enjoy!

Theme Selection Resource

The people at WP Candy have put together a great tool for helping people find WordPress themes. ThemeFinder lets you do a quick visual search by color, layout, and price (free or paid). You simply select filters from the top of the screen and the tool highlights thumbnails that fit your criteria. Click any link to view a larger version of the them at the author’s site.

It’s not an inclusive list by any stretch, but I think they did a good job focusing on quality. They include work from several theme shops that I didn’t know about. It’s a fun tool, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Theme Selection Presentation at WordCamp Detroit

I presented about picking a WordPress theme at WordCamp Detroit in October 2010. The videos from this finally started hitting the web. You can get the slides from the presentation (with a few enhancements) to click along as you watch the presentation below.

Thanks to the great people at Coefficient Media for recording this.

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