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Digital Spy Tech

If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed I now write for Digital Spy Tech, the tech division of the popular entertainment and celebrity website. I’ve been told the home page gets more than 24 million visitors per month, making it one of the biggest websites I’ve written for.

So now I spend part of my day writing a mixture of reviews and features on a range of topics as befitting my title of ‘features editor’. So far I’ve taken BMW iDrive for a spin, got snap-happy with the Sony Alpha A7 and explained everything you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S5. Suffice to say, it’s been a blast.

I’m extremely lucky to say I’ve scribbled for a number of awesome publications, but I still get a tremendous buzz out of expanding my horizons and heading into previously uncharted territories. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Guinness World Records 2014 Gamer’s Edition

I spent many a Christmas reading the Guinness World Records and I know I’m not alone. Just a mention of the book will inevitably cause somebody to mention the world’s longest fingernail record, quickly followed by the longest beards and something else equally obscure. It’s a book that fascinates, regardless of age.

Although I’ve not been measuring bodily hair or growing it in ridiculous quantities, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write about MMOs for the Guinness World Records 2014 Gamer’s Edition. For the less video game-minded, it’s a book that focusses on gaming achievements and MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online. Eve Online, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 – that sort of thing.

Suffice to say, I’m really chuffed to be a part of its creation and I hope it sells by the bucket load, not because I’m paid in royalties (I’m not) but because the world would be much poorer without it.

We mean business cards

From the outside, it seems like making a business card is just a case of squeezing your details onto a lifeless piece of paper. And, of course, the details are essential. But there’s a lot more to it than just churning out any piece of dog-eared rubbish.

For one thing, first impressions are key and if you hand a potential customer something that looks like it was designed in the 1980s, it won’t inspire confidence. Unless you own an 80s club, that is. While your business might not be design-oriented, aesthetics are incredibly important no matter whether you’re a builder or copywriter.

If anything, a well-designed business card helps you stick in the mind and it says something positive about you. The former point is especially important because a potential client may have to sift through lots of business cards – not just yours – before deciding who to contact. While a boring design will be ignored, something a bit clever will stand out and may just secure you the business.

Knowing the importance of a business card for my own business, I decided to look at 25 business card designs on the internet for inspiration, which I blogged about here. Hopefully you’ll find something in there you can use for your own designs.

New MySpace: Clutter? What clutter

Contrary to what the designers of Facebook seem to think, simple is cool. Simple means everyone can join in, something is easy to learn and it’s effective in getting a message across. As the famous graphic designer Abram Grames so aptly put it, “maximum meaning, minimum means”.

In that exact context, Grames meant his posters were designed to convey the most meaning in the most economical way, but economical isn’t far from simple. If you are economical with the truth, you are holding something back. Economical happens to mean sparing, not wasteful or extravagant; the power of a simple message prevailing against a wall of waffle.

In terms of my work, I try to approach with a similar mindset. I could use long words to satisfy my ego and look more intelligent than I actually am. But keeping it simple makes a great deal more sense because it means more people can read and understand what I write and, more often than not, less is actually more. A ‘Stop!’ sign, for instance, is more effective than one that suggests you ‘come to a halt at the designated line’.

That’s why the License to Quill website is relatively simple and minimal. It has big pictures to look at and each one can be clicked if they are of interest. At the top, there are only a few options to choose from so you can get to what you want to know with what I hope is the least effort.

This is not because I think everyone is incredibly lazy but because the best design is something you shouldn’t notice. When I eat with a knife and fork, I’m not reminded how incredibly well designed each item of apparatus is. I don’t marvel at my oven every time something comes out cooked, although it’s a small miracle if the item of food in question isn’t black. These items get the job done so well that you take them for granted, making you forget about them.

License to Quill isn’t the epitome of simplicity, I’m well aware of that and would not be so stupid as to suggest it, but the point is this: whatever you do, try and keep it simple. A common bit of business advice is that you should be able to explain what you do in once sentence. If you can’t, something is amiss. Simple sticks in the mind and that means whoever you are talking to, be it a potential customer or friend, will listen and hopefully remember your message. The result is more business for less effort, taking us back to Grames’ ethos.

This is why the redesigned new MySpace, which is clearly inspired by Microsoft’s elegant Windows 8 and Zune desktop software, could do to Facebook what Facebook did to it. Facebook was once a simple, useful and enjoyable website to use. But while it’s still useful, frustration is the sort of thing that drives people away and that’s how it makes me feel, frustrated.

It might seem silly, given the huge number of users Facebook has amassed, but once the leaders of the internet masses decide MySpace is once again cool, Facebook may find itself given a healthy dose of its own medicine. And, as they say, getting to the top is much harder than falling from it.

While your business might not be the next Facebook, or even on par with MySpace, the mantra is still useful. Keep it simple and your customers will thank you.

WordPress SEO 1.2.8 fatal error solved

It’s amazing how fragile a website is. One minute it’s working away like a finely tuned machine. The next, it’s broken down, waiting for assistance on the hard-shoulder of the internet highway.

Installing an update to WordPress SEO version 1.2.8 was one such trigger that stopped License to Quill from working at all. Fortunately, I found a way to solve it.

A couple of forum-goers at the WordPress support forum discovered the Fatal Error you get from updating to version 1.2.8 is all down to one rogue letter in the code.

Symptoms of WordPress SEO 1.2.8 fatal error

In my case, the update couldn’t reactivate, I saw the “Fatal Error” warning followed by the location and then I couldn’t get onto the WP-Admin side of my website. License To Quill itself worked fine but I was unable to access the WordPress CMS.

How to solve it?

Apparently you can delete the plugin itself on the FTP side of things under wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo and all will be fine. But this may prove to be a pain if you had specific settings and the plugin may have to go through all your posts again, with your assistance. Worse still,  you may need to re-enter a load of SEO fields.

There is an alternative. Under the FTP client of your website, point your mouse in the direction of wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/admin/class-admin.php. In here, on line 441 of the code is a rogue “S”. So the correct bit of code should read:

update_option() not update_options()

Once you’ve made the small change, save and voila. All should be right as rain. If you aren’t sure how to bring up code numbers, on HostGator there is an option at the top. With other providers, you’ll have to look yourself or use CTRL+F and search update_options to find it. Check there aren’t multiple entries before making a change.

Update: Anyone who hasn’t yet updated WordPress SEO can jump straight to version 1.2.8.1, which removes the rogue ‘S’ without any FTP client faffing.

Change of scenery

Having working at Dennis Publishing on the Know Your Mobile website for more than two years, I have decided on a change of scenery.

This means I am now available for commercial and consumer freelance writing and editing. I will also be offering consultation to smartphone and mobile developers on marketing apps and games, and will happily give a journalistic point of view on press releases to any PR firms that may be interested.

I’ll be throwing out my new contact details via Gorkana and a few other sources, but you can simply check my contact page if you want to get in touch.

On a related note. In my spare time I have been working on a little side project. It’s not quite ready yet but all will be revealed soon.

Getting there

It seems this WordPress theme is pretty easy to use, although, I’ve yet to solve the issue with gallery images that makes them look off-centre. Having looked at LicenseToQuill on my phone, it seems like the problem is only on the admin side so it may just be me who will have to put up with it.

Over the next few days I will be working on putting more content up. At the moment, I have been updating articles on-the-fly, which is only for testing reasons – it won’t be like that in the future. Keep your eyes peeled.

So it begins

Painful experiences with GoDaddy meant the idea of starting up another website was as tempting as running into a glass window, but a quick swap to another host (HostGator, if you were interested) reinvigorated my enthusiasm.

So here it is, an empty shell with only my chosen theme – plus a few test posts – to help me get up to speed. LicenseToQuill isn’t my first WordPress theme but I am a little rusty.

I’ll hopefully be updating it every day with tweaks here and there and, of course, content that you may find interesting. Well, that’s the plan anyway.