Twitter Analytics Now Available to Everyone

Twitter Analytics Graph

As a fan of Twitter, and of data, today is a good day.  Twitter’s analytics tool, which had previously only shown some data to regular (read: not advertisers) users of it’s service, has opened it’s full set of reports up.

In addition to statistics about your followers, which has been available for some time, you now get access to analytics for every tweet you’ve sent, including:

  • The number of times your tweet as appeared in someone’s Twitter feed.
  • The number of engagements (opens, favorites, replies, hashtag tickets, retweets, etc.) that the tweet has received
  • The engagement rate (as a percentage) of the tweet

Screenshot from Twitter Analytics showing impression and engagement rates on every tweet.

You also get a summary of the engagement that all of your tweets has had over the past 28 days, compared to the previous 28-day period.

Twitter Analytics 28-Day Summary

If you want to get started looking at your stats, visit:

https://analytics.twitter.com/

The Happiness Bar

Volunteers sitting at a table with laptops assisting WordCamp attendees

I’ve just returned from WordCamp Montreal 2014, a two day gathering of WordPress users, designers, developers and practitioners in fields related to the incredibly popular publishing platform. (Did you know that WordPress now powers 22% of all websites?)

Aside from the informative sessions, the abundance of networking sessions, and some great meals too one of the highlights of a WordCamp for me is something called The Happiness Bar.

The Happiness Bar doesn’t serve up your favourite alcoholic beverage, but it does quench your thirst for knowledge. Staffed by volunteers (actually, everything at WordCamp is volunteer), the Happiness Bar is a place to drop in an ask any questions you might have about WordPress.

There are a couple of great reasons to volunteer at the Happiness Bar:

  1. You get to help. I volunteered for two one-hour shifts at the bar on the weekend, and was able to help a food blogger migrate her website from wordpress.com to a self-hosted solution, giving her the flexibility to do more with her site. I was also able to teach an aspiring developer a few tricks to writing cleaner code.
  2. You get to see some of the great projects that people in the community are working on.
  3. You end up learning some great tips and tricks from your fellow Happiness Bar volunteers.

If you’re attending your local WordCamp, I suggest you take the time to visit the Happiness Bar – either to ask a question, or to lend a hand.

SOLUTION: Moving NeatWorks NeatReceipts data directory

I recently purchased a new computer with a solid-state hard drive as the operating system/applications drive.   It isn’t a great idea to store your data on these drives, so with each application install, I make sure that it stores its data to my secondary (SATA) hard drive.  When I got to configuring my NeatWorks NeatReceipts scanner software, it turns out there is no way to change the default data directory through the application’s preferences.  (Rumours have it that version 5 of the NeatWorks will allow this).

I’ve found a workaround to this problem.  You can create a directory junction (type of symbolic link) in Windows that will make the Neat software look in its default location (C:ProgramDataThe Neat CompanyNeatWorks) but access files in a new location.  Please note that this fix will only work on Windows Vista, Windows 2008, or Windows 7 and newer. Older version of the operating system did not include this functionality.

To set this up:

  1. Move your NeatWorks data folder to it’s new location (for this example, I’m moving ito to D:NeatWorks)
  2. Go to your command prompt (Start Button, Run…, “cmd”)
  3. Change Directories to The Neat Company folder:

    cd "C:ProgramDataThe Neat Company"

  4. Create the symbolic link to your new data location:

    mklink /J "NeatWorks" "D:NeatWorks"

Start NeatWorks and you should see all your data.

The Dark Side of Domain Name Expiration

A client recently decided to let an old domain name of theirs expire.  It was not the domain name they were using on the e-mail, print materiel, etc. any longer, and saw no reason to keep paying the registration fee.

A few weeks later, this decision would turn out to be a big mistake.  Their old domain name was purchased by a company selling adult products

When a domain name expires, there is a 30 day grace period during which nobody can register the domain, except for the original registrant (just in case you forgot to renew!)  Your domain name will stop resolving (it can’t be used), but you can still renew the domain through your registrar.

After this period, the domain name is made available for registration by anyone who wants it.  In the case of .ca domains, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) posts a list in advance of “to be released domains”, making the discovery of these soon to be available gems even easier.  There are also many services online to discover expired domains.

In my client’s case, there were many websites out there containing links to their old website, which now, embarrassingly, took visitors to this adult content.

What To Do?!

There are several things that you should do before letting an old domain name expire that can help avoid embarrassment like this, or potential loss of business if, for example, a competitor were to register your old domain!

  1. Keep the domain nameDomain name registrations are (usually) cheap – anywhere from about $5 a year, to $30 a year, depending on your registrar.  Some TLDs for foreign countries charge higher fees, the price range quoted here is for domains in Canada or the US.   An expense of $150 over 5 years to keep your rights to an old domain may be worth it!
  2. Configure your domain to redirect users properly

    If you’re planning on no longer using a domain name because you’re replacing it with a new one (maybe your company changed names?) then make sure users visiting the old domain are redirected to the new domain!There are tools that scan websites looking for links that don’t work, or that have changed.  This is done by automatically visiting each link on the page and checking for the HTTP Response Code that comes back. There are many types of responses, but the important ones for this discussion are:

    200 – OK.  This link works, and it returned
    301 – Permanent Redirect
    404 – File Not Found

    If you simply add your new domain name to your web server’s configuration, and don’t setup your old website to redirect to the new address (Response Code 301), tools that check links will see a response code of 200, everything OK.  The owners of the sites will never be altered that they should update their links.

    You could also notify users of your website that the address has changed so that they can update their bookmarks (favorites) in their browser.

  3. Use Google’s link: search to find websites that link to your domainThere’s a little known feature in the Google search engine that allows you to find web pages that link to your domain name.  Simply Google for “link:<your domain>” to get the list.

    Click here for a list of sites that link to my blog’s domain
    .

    With this list, you can then work on contacting the owner of each website to request they update their links with the new domain name.

  4. Update content within your own siteHow many documents on your own website contain links to the old domain name?  Don’t forget to check in files such as PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, Word Documents, etc.   These could be links to web pages, to staff e-mail addresses, etc.
  5. E-Mail SignaturesMake sure the staff in your organization have updated their e-mail signature files to include the new link, and new e-mail addresses if appropriate. The same would be true for their business cards!

As you can see, there are steps you can take to help minimize the risk while changing domain names and letting the original one expire.  It just requires a little planning beforehand.

If your domain name does get taken, the other possible route you could go is to dispute the domain name registration with the governing body for the domain name in question.   For .com, .net and .org domain names, this would be the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  For .ca domain names, this would be the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).  They both have domain name dispute resolution policies.   I have never tried fighting a registration using these policies, but it may be worth a try.  The policies can be found here:

Best of luck!

Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Disney's Vero Beach Resort

Image courtesy of @karenhooper

A few weeks ago my wife, my parents and I had the opportunity to stay at Disney’s Vero Beach resort in Vero Beach, Florida.  It is located approximately two hours from the Orlando International Airport.

This is the first time that we’d stayed at a Disney Vacation Club property that was not located at one of the Disney Theme Parks.

The rooms:

The rooms (we had studio rooms) at the resort are quite nice.  The had a double bed, a pull out sofa, and a small kitchen area with a coffee maker, microwave, and fridge.

Being a bit of a geek, two other very nice amenities in these rooms are that they have Wi-Fi (free for DVC members) and that the alarm clocks in the rooms are iPod docking stations!

There is no room service available in these rooms – although we were able to order a pizza to the resort without any problems.

Amenities:

There are LOTS of activities to take part in at Vero Beach.  If you’re there with children, you may have wanted to go to the bonfire sing-a-long they were hosting (with smores!!). We elected to spend our evening relaxing in the hot tub instead.  The pool area is very nice, and being the beginning of November, was fairly quiet as well.

Restaurants:

There are two restaurants on site (one a little pricier than the other).  They’re quite good.  Our only criticism is that the air conditioning was way too cold – although we’ve found this to be the case with the southern United States in general.

Tip: If you’re a DVC member, you get a discount in the restaurants.

Service:

The customer service at the resort was excellent, which was not a surprise given the property is in the Disney family.  The check-in process was identical to checking in at the Walt Disney World theme park.  Same room key cards, same “celebration” pins (we got our 1st visit pins for this resort), same friendly smiles.

Golf:

If golf is your sport, I recommend checking out the Sandridge Golf Course, located only a few minutes from the resort.  We played 9 holes of each of their two courses during our stay and had a great time.

Overall Rating: 4/5  – This is a great place to go if you need a few days to relax after the constant “go, go, go” of being at the theme parks.

Oscar’s Music

Oscar Peterson Statue outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa

Oscar Peterson Statue outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa I was walking by the National Arts Centre with a friend at lunch today, and noticed that there’s a new (or at least I’d never noticed it before) addition to the tribute to Canadian Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.  Above the statue of Oscar at the piano are two speakers quietly playing his music onto Elgin Street. There also appears to be two small spotlights, I can only assume the statue is lit at night.

Has anyone seen this at night?

I thought that was a unique addition to this tribute.

Canopy Tour at Hacienda Guachipelin (Adventure Tours) in Rincon de La Vieja National Park, Costa Rica

The following is one of several posts I’m writing about the two week honeymoon my wife and I took to Walt Disney World in Florida and to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

On the fourth day of the Costa Rican leg of our trip, we decided to go for a “canopy tour”, or zip-lining as we refer to it at home. One of the employees had recommended that we go to Hacienda Guachipelin – Adventure Tours in Rincon de La Vieja National Park rather than going on one of the tour packages offered at our resort.  They used to work there, and said we’d have a better time there.

Getting There

20101005welcome

As we’d rented a car with another couple from our resort for a couple of days, we got GPS directions for the National Park and set out on our own.  If you’re going to drive to Adventure Tours, make sure you have a 4×4 vehicle. Once you get off of the Pan American Highway (Hwy 1) you’re on a very long unpaved road (in fact that’s all our GPS called it, ‘unpaved road’), full of potholes, hills, and the occasional cow wandering down the road.

TIP: When you arrive at the entrance to Rincon de La Vieja National Park, you come to a gate where they ask you to pay a toll to enter the park.  Tell them you’re heading to Adventure Tours and you don’t need to pay!

Upon arrival at Adventure Tours, we each paid our 75 USD, which included lunch at the Hacienda Guachipelín Hotel.  I had a local drink to begin with, followed by Mahi Mahi on a bed of rice with some vegetables, and rice pudding for dessert. I enjoyed the meal, probably more than the food at our resort!

Canopy Tour

After lunch, we headed out to the canopy.  The first thing they do is to get all your equipment fitted. This includes your harness, helmet and gloves.  My wife and I were both quite impressed with the harnesses they provide.  Having done a fair amount of work in the entertainment industry where harnesses are a job requirement, we felt they paid very good attention to the safety of their guests.

We also opted to have the staff photographers take our pictures and video throughout the tour.  The cost was $35 for a CD with all the photos and videos, which is well worth it given that it would be difficult to take pictures of your group while participating.

Next up was a brief introduction to zip-lining.  While still on the ground the showed you how to position your body while on the line, how to keep your balance, slow yourself down, what to do if you stopped in the middle of the line, etc.

After the briefing, it’s time to go flying through Rincon de La Vieja.  We started off with a fairly long line for our first run, which just went through the forest.  A good introductory run.  The second run, probably the longest of them all, goes over a canyon, with an incredible view if you were looking down as you flew overhead!

20101005zipline1

Next, you arrive at the rappelling line. Here your harness is attached to a rope and you’re lowered, head first, straight down along a waterfall.  You then swing across the water to another platform, and climb up at 40m ladder to the next platform.  This part of the canopy tour is optional, as it requires a bit more physical strength than the rest.  If you choose to rappel down, there is no way out other than the ladder climb back up. Only one of our party of 4 partook in this activity.

After another two zip lines, you arrive at the most challenging part of the tour, rock climbing. You have to climb across one rock wall and then down to another platform, with the river running underneath you.  You then do a “tarzan swing’” to a platform on the other side of the canyon. Finally, you have to climb another rock wall straight up to the next zip-line platform. After another short rock climb, there’s a small walk to the final zip-line location.  The staff are very good at guiding you through this section of the tour.  Although I must admit I was a little unsure about my ability to complete it, it felt like a great accomplishment to reach the end!

20101005climb1

20101005tarzan

After all of that, there’s one final zip-line to the end, which you have the option of doing upside down!  We took group photos on the last platform, and then had a short walk back to the Adventure Tours offices where we took off our equipment.

One of the joys of being there at the end of September is that is was pouring rain during many portions of the canopy tour.  In some ways, this added to the experience.  It felt like a bigger accomplishment doing the ziplines and rock climbing in that weather.

Hot Springs

The next part of the day would normally include horseback riding, but given that it was getting a later in the day (we didn’t arrive until almost 1pm) and that it was pouring rain outside, we skipped this and went straight to the hot springs.

The hot springs are located about another 10-15 minute drive up the road from the main Adventure Tours office. They’re not marked very well – but there is a sign about 100m before you get to them.  The entrance is located right at the bottom of a steep hill on the road.  There’s a bridge over the water here, you can park your car on either side of it.

There are change facilities located a short walk into the forest towards the hot springs.  A staff member from Adventure Tours was at the change facilities keeping an eye on everyone’s belongings.  The pools are located just past the change facilities.  There are 3 pools: one hot, one medium, and one cool.  If I had to guess that their temperatures, I would say they were about 107F, 103F and maybe 90F.  The hot pools are fed with water from a nearby volcano. You can see where the hot water is feeding into the pool.

There’s a bridge over the water leading to another cooler pool, but this one was closed on the day we visited because the water levels were too high.

The pools were very relaxing, and felt great on the “new muscles” that we discovered while zip-lining!  The pools were very quite, with only a few other guests showing up while we were there.

Driving Back

It was still light out when we started driving back, although it quickly got dark. As we’d discovered on the rest of our trip, the roads in Costa Rica (even the highways and more urban areas) have very poor street lighting, and no shoulders.  You have to be very attentive to the pedestrians and cyclists in the dark.

Our return trip was also slowed down because we were stuck behind a line of school buses, with no room to pass. It appears students in Costa Rica go to school for a few hours in the morning, and then again later in the afternoon, with a break in the middle when the heat is at its worst.

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Adventure Tours: 5/5 Would recommend this tour to anyone who wants an exciting, adrenaline pumped way to explore the Costa Rican landscape!  (506) 2665-2613 or 1-888-730-3840.

I found some other great reviews of this tour on TripAdvisor’s Hacienda Guachipelin – Adventure Tours page.