‘Retiring’ teblog from Typepad to WordPress

Every post older than this one is taken from teblog – my blog that ran on Typepad from 2005 to 2015. The explanation for the move is in the topmost ‘Goodbye’ post.

While the transfer was reasonably straightforward (it was only 530 posts), WordPress didn’t like certain characters. In fact, it wouldn’t even allow me to edit any posts with those characters in. (They showed up in the public posts as black diamonds with question marks in.) The characters I’ve found thus far are the pound sign, the ellipsis (three dots), angled brackets, forward slashes and angled double quotes. If you need to do this, use these abbreviations – pound, hellip, lt, gt, frasl and quot respectively. Precede each one with an ampersand (&) and finish with a semi-colon (;).

[Later: It’s not happy with accents either. I found it most reliable to use codes like #232 and #233 for grave and accute accents on an e. You still have to start and end with an ampersand and a semi-colon.   Here’s a decent collection of character codes. Mouse over each character to see all the possible codes for it. I found the last one on each list worked fine in WordPress. ] Here’s my set of dodgy characters (there were 286 in the blog altogether:

Dodgy chars

[ Just discovered that WordPress has trouble with the em dash as well. I used #8195 with the ampersand and semi-colon as before. ]

Since Typepad exports a text file, it’s a relatively simple (although tedious) task to go through searching and replacing the offending characters. Which is what I’m doing right now.

Once the offending posts and comments are deleted from WordPress, it should be a simple matter to re-import the cleaned up Typepad file. WordPress ignores duplicates of what it already has. Tip: Empty the ‘Trash’ of your faulty posts and comments before you start otherwise WordPress will skip them.

[ Later: Darn it – I didn’t change cross-links to other posts – they still go to Typepad. I should be able to fix them inside the WordPress posts. I pointed TextPad’s ‘search in files’ at the exported file to list them. I copied and pasted the results list to a text file for a permanent record.]

[ Later still: It was a bit tedious – yet only 57 posts and comments had cross-links in them. You have to find the linked-to post to get its  URL then paste this in to replace the cross-link. If you have loads, you might prefer not to do a manual conversion and use an automated service like TP2WP. This currently costs $49. It’s probably worth mentioning that its security certificate expired on 7 Dec 2015 and you may be denied access to the service. It does, however, come highly recommended, so I assume it does all this donkey work for you. I’ve asked one of the co-authors about both things. Will report back here. ]

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Make your website multiplatform in less than a day

Common sense (and Google) suggests our web pages should be accessible on all devices, from smartphones upwards. As the proprietor of a desktop-centric website, I decided to look for the quickest way to become ‘multi-platform’.

After many false starts – I won’t bore you with them – I found the quickest was to adapt a free template of a site that already worked. You need to feel comfortable about tweaking HTML (it’s only text editing) but you don’t have to be an expert by any means.

I also found it best to plan for mobile rather than start with a desktop system. This led me to a single-page main site with a menu bar that jumped (mainly) to internal parts of the same page. (Okay, I added my YouTube channel to the menu as well, but this really wasn’t difficult.)

The free one-page template I chose, called Urbanic, came from template.mo Download at http://www.templatemo.com/download/templatemo_395_urbanic

I could have just used a text editor to twiddle around with the code but I actually used Microsoft’s free Expression Web 4. Download at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36179 This lets you look at and tweak any of the files in your downloaded template folder.

Open the index.html file and (I would recommend) save it as something personal to you. I called mine newtebbo.com. This will save you heartache later on when you try it out on your live site. Instead of overwriting your existing root page – index.html – you can test it to death under its pseudonym. Only when you’re completely happy do you need to rename it to index.html. (I would strongly recommend that you first rename your existing index page to oldindex or similar. That way you can always revert if need be.)

Apart from three early lines at the top of the <head> section (title, keywords and description) your changes will all be in the <body> section of the web page. The source code is laid out neatly in divisions which start and end with <div> and </div>. These are followed and preceded by a note of the section you’re in. Just chop out any entire sections that aren’t relevant to your design.

Replace your chosen template’s text with your own. Add images you want to use to the images folder and edit the references. (You will need to add all the template’s folder contents to your existing folder contents. If a template folder doesn’t exist in your existing site, simply copy the template one across. I suggest doing it this way so it’s easy to revert to your old site if you need to.)

You’re probably best off changing only things you’re confident of. Leave the CSS and other folders well alone  – unless you take deep exception to some of the colour schemes or section layouts. (My recommendation would be to stick with your template’s design for a while, it might grow on you.)

If you want to see what I did to the Urbanic template (assuming you downloaded it) – just right click and View Page Source of www.tebbo.com/index.html

[You probably don’t need this but I use Firefox’s right click/inspect element useful when fiddling around with the more techie aspects – you roll your mouse over the left panel and it highlights the part of the page you’re on and gives you all sorts of information about the CSS elements that support the section you’ve chosen.]

Best to just ‘have a go’ and keep it simple to start.

Good luck. It took me less than a day.

A treasure trove for writers and communicators?

A slightly belated Happy New Year to you all.

It occured to me that you might be interested in a lot of links that I’ve either created or found useful in my writing and training activities. The current list is on my main tebbo.com website.

In the videos – either two of around 20 minutes each, or two sets of eight mini-videos – Alison O’Leary (PR and coaching wizard) asks me pointed questions about business writing and handling traditional media. I answer from the heart and hopefully provide food for thought.

The other links are mainly to material that I’ve read that inspires me. Although, in one case, it irritated me at the same time.

There are no catches – I don’t ask for contact details or fire ads at you.

Enjoy.

Here’s an extract:

Writing links:

George Orwell, Why I write

Publisher, writer and poet, Felix Dennis, on Journalism or Churnalism? (PDF download)

(Felix died on June 22, 2014. A great loss, and a personal one too. My wife and I were lucky enough to spend nine days as Felix’s guests in his Mustique hideaway in early 2014. I blogged about his passing here.)

The Inverted Pyramid of writing from the Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO)

 

Writing books:

Writing Tools, by Roy Peter Clark

Grammar & Style, by Michael Dummett

Essential English, by Harold Evans

Lost for Words, by John Humphrys. It’s a bit of a rant.

Writing that Works, by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson

 

Other useful links:

Inspiration from Tom Foremski – how every company is becoming a media company.

How to handle the media – an interactive reminder of how to handle journalists (and others)

YouTube videos (me and Alison O’Leary) on business writing and media skills

 

Another giant: cocoate.com

A final thank you (not really belated, I found them after the previous post) to cocoate.com

A flaw in my HTML mark-up was causing some screen elements to misalign on a few devices. Nothing really serious, it was just that the third column on the people page dropped on some of the less popular browsers.

cocoate's explanation of the 960-grid mechanisms was wonderfully clear.

Thank you folks. Or should I say "Merci bien mes amis"?

telescope or epocselet? Which way are you looking?

How often do you glaze over when someone enthuses about a product or service because you don’t “get it”?

They blast off without the faintest idea about your circumstances, your needs or your desires. Result, a baffled story-teller and a semi-comatose listener.

In extremis, it’s the religious zealots who knock on your door. But milder forms exist – the Facebook enthusiasts who are always trying to shove some dodgy philosophy down your throat – usually through pictures or video links. (Recommendation: ‘unfollow’ them – they stay in your friends list but you’re spared the distraction.)

AquaChartImageSadly, these zealots exist in business too. Some organisations are so wrapped up in their own inventions that all their publicity and promotional activities are inward-looking. Self-obsessed, if you like. And this goes for the company spokespeople too. Anyone who says ‘we’ more than ‘you’ is likely to be guilty of this.(By the way, you can get a chart of where you stand, by doing this quick assessment – it takes just a couple of minutes.)

Once you start putting your prospect first (in the same way that all good journalists put their readers first) your story will emerge as something your prospect wants to hear or read. Something that promises to, and will, deliver a desired value. This will lead them to your physical or digital door and, if you continue to play your cards right, you’ll have a new customer.

Common sense? Yes. But, in decades of dialogue with vendors of all kinds, I’ve discovered that many actually fail to make that bridge. They pay lip-service to the principle, but their words let them down. When consulting (often with Martin Banks and, more recently, with Dr. Bill Nichols), we’ve found ourselves using the term ‘looking through the wrong end of the telescope’ to describe this inward-looking approach.

We’ve even created a website called epocselet.com (that’s ‘telescope’ backwards) as an umbrella for our disparate but aligned services. Our focus is firmly on executive management and we’d be delighted to act as guides or sounding boards in the discovery, articulation and sharing of your stories. Use us as little or as much of us as you like.

The journalist’s mantra ‘know your audience’ can be applied equally in business. Change ‘audience’ to ‘prospect’ if you want, but the principle applies to anyone trying to influence anyone else, whether a prospect or an intermediary. If you’re in business, you may have multiple audiences but, at heart, you’re trying to move the same stories through to the ultimate audience, your prospect. You may be trying to influence internal staff, analysts, bloggers, journalists and the many social media cascades. In every case you need to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”, in order to refine the basic story to best effect.

Written baldly like that, it seems like common sense. But sometimes it’s hard to change your perspective without independent and objective help. It’s not my place to tell you where to go for this. Anyone intelligent who understands communication skills, your marketplace and who has no axe to grind will be able to help you.

But I have to mention that Bill, Martin and I – solo or in various permutations would be more than happy to help you if you’re interested. You’ll find more about us and our services at epocselet.com

 

Something for would-be writers and spokespeople

Videos

Tebbo's Tips

All the above are free.They help you get started with handling the media or with business writing.

I created them because organisations need to influence their prospects, customers and other stakeholders either indirectly through the media or directly through their own efforts, whether they're self-published (company website/blog) or through submission to a media company. (See Tom Foremski's EC=MC: Every Company is a Media Company if you want to read more.)

The top image links to two videos, each broken down (if you want) into eight mini-videos of approximately two to five minutes duration. The bottom two link to downloadable pocket-sized memory-joggers. (They're actually A4 and come with printing and folding instructions.) If you prefer, just go to tebbo.com which also includes some useful links.

I offer all of this free of charge. In one respect it's me 'giving back' and sharing my knowledge. In another, I hope they reflect favourably on me and my work and attract people who'd like me to work with them. They're all Creative Commons – share by all means, but please don't alter them.

The videos are hosted on YouTube and the memory joggers are hosted on Google Drive. I had some fun writing the delivery script for the Tebbo's Tips memory-joggers, but that's another story.

I hope you enjoy what you see. I showed a few of my more critical friends and they've been very kind.

I'm enormously grateful to Alison O'Leary for agreeing to work out some questions and grill me for the videos. And, of course, to all those customers, friends and colleagues that have helped me throughout a most enjoyable career. Which, incidentally, I hope is far from over.

Buying in store vs online: advice for stores from Graham Charlton

If I'm buying a commodity that I'm familiar with (or have had recommended), I usually get it from Amazon. If I'm in a tearing hurry, I get if from a shop. Rarely do I look at something in a shop and then buy it online. And, recently, the price differences/hassle factor often combine in the store's favour anyway.

A recent example is a mattress: next day free delivery and they took the old one away. And the company – Jones & Tomlin - had a brilliant website and price matched anyway. What wasn't to like?

But many retailers – and I know John Lewis suffers (suffered?) from this – are plagued by the 'touch and feel' and 'advice-seeking' brigades who then, having found what they want, go home and order from Amazon.

Graham Charlton, who I don't know, but who seems to talk a lot of sense on this subject has blogged about various strategies stores can adopt in his post, "13 ways for retailers to deal with the threat of showrooming".

Thought you might be interested. Lord knows what it has to do with my blog theme though.