Category Archives: How-tos

Adding a Twitter feed

It’s easier than you think :)

Go to your Twitter account, and click on the Settings menu (looks like a gear wheel), then ‘Widgets’ to get to twitter.com/settings/widgets

Click on the ‘Create new’ button and you should then be at a configuration page, with your Twitter user name etc. Make sure ‘exclude replies’ (so your site doesn’t start advertising clients and others!) and ‘opt-out…’ are ticked, then click on ‘save changes’.

Some HTML will be displayed, copy it. It will look like:

<a class=”twitter-timeline” data-dnt=”true” href=”https://twitter.com/YourEscortSite” data-widget-id=”0000000000000000″>Tweets by @YourEscortSite .. etc etc .. </script>

.. except with a different number and username :)

Probably the best place to display them is in a side bar ‘widget’ on your site. Log in to it with your administrator account, and go to the Appearance / Widgets menu.

You’ll note that on the right, there’s ‘main sidebar’ area, which probably has a couple of things there already (typically including ‘Recent posts’ for your latest blog posts), and in the middle there’s an array of possible widgets to put there.

Click and drag the ‘Text’ one to the main sidebar area. If it is not already showing the space for the title and content, expand it, by clicking on the little triangle.

Give it a title like ‘My Tweets’, and paste the HTML in the currently empty big box. Click ‘save’. Done!

You can also add the code to any page or post but you must use the text mode of editing rather than the visual one to do so, otherwise WordPress will ‘cleverly’ convert the < characters into ‘&lt;’ (they’re special characters to browsers) and it won’t work.

The advantage of doing it this way is that when Twitter next change their routines, they will need to make it work with their own way of doing things, but can and do happily stuff third party ways of doing it.

You need to know that however you do it, some adblockers count it as an ad, and so not every visitor will see it…

Since WordPress 3.5, you can also put a tweet’s URL on a line by its own and it will be treated specially:

Caching

Short version: if you’ve changed a page, but it still looks the same when you or someone else visits the site, press the ‘Clear Cache’ button on the top of your site’s admin pages, if it’s there.

Longer version: A cache, pronounced ‘cash’, is a store of something you’re going to want to come back to later*.

If you think about phone numbers, you could ring up directory enquiries every time you wanted to call someone, but that would take time and cost money, so you have a local phonebook, written down or in your phone. When you want to call them, you look it up in the local copy. The problem comes when they change numbers without telling you – your local copy will be out of date, and you’ll call the wrong number.

Computers use lots of caches because some things they can do are really, really fast, and some things, while still quick in comparison to a human, are a lot slower.

Each time someone visits a YES site that uses WordPress software (i.e. almost all of them), the web server program has to go ‘Oh, they want that page… OK, other program, give me something to show them.’ That program has to go ‘OK, let’s see, right, what are the words on the page, third program?’ Then that third program has to look up what text is on that page amongst other things. Each bit doesn’t take long, but it all adds up. And it will be repeated the next time someone else looks at that same page even though it probably hasn’t changed.

So one thing that’s installed on most sites is a cache plugin. When a page is shown to someone for the first time, a copy of the final result is made and that copy is shown to other visitors to the same page.

Now, there are several cache plugins to choose from, and they all have advantages and disadvantages. But they all have the issue that if the page changes, they have to notice and update their copy, and it looks like the one most commonly used, Quick Cache, doesn’t always do this. Fortunately there is a button on the WordPress admin panel to ‘Clear Cache’ which ensures that it happens. Because Quick Cache does not cache pages for logged in users, just anonymous visitors, you may need to log out (or use another browser / the private browsing facility of your browser) to check that all is well..

.. Probably! There are other caches in the process. It’s not as common as it used to be, but Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can cache sites to cut down on their costs and to try to be ‘the fastest’. Browsers certainly try to, as again it helps in the race to be ‘the fastest’, to the point that they can load data from pages before you’ve clicked on the link to go there and then not always bother to check that it is up to date when you do**.

When looking at an out of date version of a page on your site, before assuming that it is a problem with your site, try holding down the ‘shift’ key when clicking on the ‘refresh’/’reload’ button or pressing the F5 key (usually a shortcut to clicking on that button). That tells the browser that it should ignore any local caches and ask for the page from the web server directly.

* Polar explorers cached food and other supplies on their route, so they wouldn’t have to carry every tin of beans all the way to the North or South Pole and back. Robert Falcon Scott and the remainder of his party died in 1912 because they couldn’t quite reach the next cache, eleven miles away, on the way back to their base. It was originally intended to be located thirty miles closer to the South Pole. Had it been, most of them would have survived and you probably wouldn’t have heard of them in the same way that you probably don’t know who was in the second group to reach the summit of Mount Everest. (I’d have to look it up!)

** Much that I otherwise love it as a browser, Firefox can be particularly annoying in its caching policies, especially when setting up a new YES site for someone: it can insist a site doesn’t exist, because it didn’t when it looked it up some time before it was asked to go there, and no pressing of shift-F5 will convince it otherwise. Grrr.

Banners and ad blockers

Any decent web browser* has the ability to install additional features. One example feature is an ‘ad blocker’: something that looks at each page and removes things it thinks are ads so that the user doesn’t see them. As this greatly improves the user’s experience – when I have to use a browser without one, I am horrified by what some sites look like with ads – it is a very common thing to do.

Because there is currently no easy way for the ad blocker to determine whether something is an unwanted ad or wanted content by looking at an image itself**, they go by the URL of the item.

Some are easy: you probably don’t want anything at all from doubleclick.com or from a directory called /ads/, for example. Others are harder, but the name of the file can also be a clue.

A YES client recently wondered why some people couldn’t see her banners on another site. It turned out that name of the banner ad image file contained the string ‘468×60’. As 468 pixels*** wide by 60 pixels high is a very popular size for banner ads, the filters that one very common ad blocker uses includes looking for this string and, if it finds it, the ad blocker ensures that the user doesn’t see the file. Oops. As soon as it was renamed, all was fine…

.. on that site, anyway. It turns out that a popular escort directory shows the banner ads that people have paid £££s for in a way that leads the lot of them being blocked by any decent filter. Oops.

Moral: install an ad blocker – ‘AdBlock Plus’ is the most popular – and see what’s happening to your ads.

* This may well exclude even modern versions of Internet Explorer. Certainly all the versions I have aren’t. Think Firefox / Iceweasel, Chrome / Chromium, Opera, or I think Safari as included in ‘decent’.

** This is why people who demand that internet companies block everything they don’t personally like are technically illiterate. Blocking text stuff is one thing, even if people who want to get around the block will just start using other words, but trying to automatically categorise pictures and videos is Very Hard.

*** A pixel is the smallest element that makes up a picture or video, a dot of colour (only one at any one time). Normally, they appear so small on the screen that you can’t notice them individually. Vendors love to sell cameras on how many the pictures have, but this actually one of the less important things to look for when buying one.

Using Yahoo! for mail?

There’s yet another rash of emails from hacked Yahoo! accounts today. What happens is that the hackers build up a stock of passwords for accounts over a month or two, then spend a day or two using them to spam people with assorted crap. They typically CC random names from your contact list to cut down on the number of emails necessary to spam everyone.

So if you don’t want to bother people, including outing clients / contacts to each other, change the password now, and ideally every month or so. You may also want to consider where you access your webmail from. Computers in libraries are usually ok because the terminals are reset between users (but they typically block escort-related sites) whereas random web access points may not be.

The same applies if you’re using Hotmail / Live /Outlook /whatever Microsoft are calling it this month. Interestingly, it is much rarer with Gmail and their optional two-stage authorisation can eliminate it entirely*.

* Whenever your Gmail account is accessed from a new device, you get a text on your phone with a code. Without the code, you – or anyone else – doesn’t get in. It can be a pain if you’re just having a quick email check on someone’s laptop, but that may be the one that’s reporting every key press to someone nasty.

Plugin policy

If you log into your site with your admin account* you will see that there’s a menu item called ‘Plugins’. These are small programs that add functionality to a WordPress site.

Some do it behind the scenes (like the one which is installed to help stop your site being hacked by limiting the number of times anyone can get your password wrong without being prevented from accessing your site for several days) and some are more visible, providing assorted superwhizzo features (but like much other shiny stuff, you almost always don’t actually need them!)

Or at least that’s the promise. In practice, some of them are a complete pain: plugins installed by some of the people who have used YES have..

  o   Deleted all their pictures (something that promised to help optimise them)

  o   Slowed their site to a crawl (it was continually trying to back it up)

  o   Completely locked them – and us – out of their site entirely (an overzealous security plugin). Update: this has now happened twice.

Some plugins also carry a nasty payload: plugins can do almost anything, including turn your site into a toxic mess. Ones you install via your site come from a WordPress-run resource that means they should be ok in that regard, but people still make mistakes and one of the basic rules of computing is ‘never be one of the first people on your block to try a new program’ – let other people find out it’s a buggy pile of crap!

So we suggest** that you talk to us before installing any of them, especially if the authors want you to pay for them.

Now that two people have been screwed over by it, we recommend*** that you do not install the plugin ‘Better WP Security’.

It may be a good time to remind people of one of the aspects of the YES support policy: if you mess things up, it may cost you money to have it sorted out. Specifically people who ignore the above recommendation will be charged****.

Update: A rather neat trick means that you won’t be able to install Better WP Security now, even if you try :)

Update2: The same applies to WordFence, a similar ‘security’ plugin which looks just as dangerous if you don’t know the implications of what it does.

* Which obviously isn’t called ‘admin’ – that’s the one 95% of hackers try when looking to break in!

** Remember, this is consultancy speak for ‘Have a very good reason for not doing it this way’ :)

*** .. similarly, this means ‘Do it this way or else!’

**** Told you.

Members areas

Members-only password protected areas can sound like a good idea. You can sell access to ‘premium’* content, for example. They’re certainly doable on our sites. The problem is that you’ve got a choice: put a password on material which is the same for everyone (and so if it gets posted somewhere else, everyone can access it) or give / sell people accounts on your site.

The latter can be limited in what they can do (such as only see stuff that non-members cannot) but WordPress has an unfortunate history of allowing such accounts to gain, through various dubious means, total control over the site. Currently, there are no known ways to do that, but there’s been at least one or so a year in the nine years since the WordPress project started and I would not want to bet that there will not be another one.

So if you’ve got content to sell, I suggest** that you hold your nose and use AW. In any case, my recommendation*** is that you do not go down the ‘accounts on your site’ route.

* Marketing speak for ‘expensive’ :)

** Consultant speak for ‘have a very good reason for not doing it this way’ :)

*** Consultant speak for ‘do it this way or else’ :)

Who is stealing your content?

Stealing other people’s pictures has long been annoyingly common – we can advice on ‘watermarking’ photos so that your site or other info appears on them. Services like Tineye help detect this: you upload a picture and they tell you where it can find copies or very similar images online.

People also steal text. It’s worth using a search engine to look for particular but uncommon phrases from your site and look for other ‘hits’. Sometimes other uses are coincidence or compliments (one sign a campaign is working is when people start quoting its messages at you, without necessarily realising the source), but other times, people are stealing your marketing effort.

Now, it’s becoming more common for people to use programs to steal text, altering it just enough to avoid simple detection. The results are like translating something from English to French and back again, but what is actually being done is certain words and phrases are recognised and substitutions found from a thesaurus.

Sometimes, it’s done to show ads to people attracted via search engines. Here’s the (Australian) Daily Telegraph’s original story on the acquittal of an escort agency owner:

A SYDNEY woman who owned an upmarket London escort agency was found not guilty of controlling prostitution for her profit.

Larissa Miesnieks, 39, who was born in Paddington, Sydney, and lived in Kensington, west London, faced up to two years in prison on charges of controlling prostitution and acquiring criminal property.

A jury of nine men and three women took less than 40 minutes to reach their verdict at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

Leaving court last night, Ms Miesnieks said she felt “amazing” and added that she needed a drink to help process the result.

“The worst time in my life has just become the best moment of my life,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

Her friend, who wished not to be named, said Ms Miesnieks had “held it together” during the 18 months of the case.

“She’s been meditating, doing yoga, she’s been doing really well until this week.,” she said.

Using the pseudonym ‘Lisa’, Ms Miesnieks ran the escort websites Atlantic Companions and Pure Brit, targeting rich city bankers in their lunchtimes.

Between January 2006 and June 2010, Ms Miesnieks, who was also an escort and took 30 per cent commission from the girls on her books, made about 300,000 pounds (AUS $442,800), the court heard.

In evidence presented during to court, Ms Miesnieks was accused of laundering money into a bank account in Dubai, where she claimed she was preparing to relocate.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Lawrence Aiolfi told the jury Ms Miesnieks was in a “position of influence and power” over the escorts.

In a document titled ‘Information for New Girls’, Ms Miesnieks indicated the type of underwear the girls on her books should wear and instructed them to call her within 10 minutes to inform her that money had been taken from a client, Mr Aiolfi said.

However Ms Miesnieks argued that she “cared for her girls” and was not controlling their prostitution for her profit.

The defence barrister Mark Seymour said his client denied the charges and had started her agency as a “co-operative”, operating it “for the girls” and giving them control over what jobs they took.

On a trip to Sydney, Ms Miesnieks once sent flowers to one of her escorts and would go to drinks and coffee with them, he said.

“She generally cares for them and is looking out for them and wants to help them,” he said.

“When you look at all of it, it is the complete opposite to power and control.”

Sitting in the dock, Ms Miesnieks often became emotional.

She told the court her prostitution ring had been her “little secret” and she did not want her family to find out.

Prostitution and operating an escort agency are legal in the UK, but it is illegal to control prostitution and gain from that control.

And here is TheNewsInLondon.co.uk’s version, with changes in bold:

A SYDNEY lady who owned an upmarket London chaperon group was found not guilty of determining harlotry for her profit.

Larissa Miesnieks, 39, who was innate in Paddington, Sydney, and lived in Kensington, west London, faced adult to dual years in jail on charges of determining harlotry and appropriation rapist property.

A jury of 9 group and 3 women took reduction than 40 mins to strech their outcome during London’s Southwark Crown Court.

Leaving justice final night, Ms Miesnieks pronounced she felt “amazing” and combined that she indispensable a splash to assistance routine a result.

“The misfortune time in my life has only turn a best impulse of my life,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

Her friend, who wished not to be named, pronounced Ms Miesnieks had “held it together” during a 18 months of a case.

“She’s been meditating, doing yoga, she’s been doing unequivocally good until this week.,” she said.

Using a pseudonym ‘Lisa’, Ms Miesnieks ran a chaperon websites Atlantic Companions and Pure Brit, targeting abounding city bankers in their lunchtimes.

Between Jan 2006 and Jun 2010, Ms Miesnieks, who was also an chaperon and took 30 per cent elect from a girls on her books, done about 300,000 pounds (AUS $442,800), a justice heard.

In justification presented during to court, Ms Miesnieks was indicted of laundering income into a bank comment in Dubai, where she claimed she was scheming to relocate.

In his shutting argument, prosecutor Lawrence Aiolfi told a jury Ms Miesnieks was in a “position of change and power” over a escorts.

In a request patrician ‘Information for New Girls’, Ms Miesnieks indicated a form of underwear a girls on her books should wear and educated them to call her within 10 mins to surprise her that income had been taken from a client, Mr Aiolfi said.

However Ms Miesnieks argued that she “cared for her girls” and was not determining their harlotry for her profit.

The counterclaim attorney Mark Seymour pronounced his customer denied a charges and had started her group as a “co-operative”, handling it “for a girls” and giving them control over what jobs they took.

On a outing to Sydney, Ms Miesnieks once sent flowers to one of her escorts and would go to drinks and coffee with them, he said.

“She generally cares for them and is looking out for them and wants to assistance them,” he said.

“When we demeanour during all of it, it is a finish conflicting to energy and control.”

Sitting in a dock, Ms Miesnieks mostly became emotional.

She told a justice her harlotry ring had been her “little secret” and she did not wish her family to find out.

Prostitution and handling an chaperon group are authorised in a UK, though it is bootleg to control harlotry and benefit from that control.

Some of the automated changes are simple (‘nine’ to ‘9’), some it shows words taken in the wrong context (bank ‘account’ to ‘comment’), but some of it is just weird: ‘document’ to ‘request patrician’?? The result is unlikely to be found by a search for any of the distinctive phrases in the original (it came up for me when looking for her name).

Here’s a word for The News in London’s automated thesaurus: plagiarism.

Cookies

Short version: YES site owners needn’t worry about the ‘web cookie law’.

Longer version, starting with ‘what are cookies anyway??’

In this context, it’s not the biscuits (triple chocolate, please) but the computer variety.

These are small bits of text that are sent by many websites to visitors’ computers and which are stored on them for anything between ‘until the web browser is closed down’ to ‘many years into the future’.

The reason for them is that, by design, web browsing is normally ‘stateless’. When you talk to someone, you know what’s been said between you earlier in the conversation – that’s the ‘state’ before each thing you say. Without that, it would be like talking to someone with a bad case of Alzheimer’s:

‘Hello Your Escort Site, I’d like to buy a really great escort website.’

‘Yes, we do those!’

‘Do you do them in red?’

‘Do what in red?’

For web servers, this can work very well (and it certainly makes writing web servers easier) but sometimes you need to know more than just what was the latest thing said.

There are other ways around this problem, but what has worked best is to arrange for the website to send the browser a small bit of text which the browser then sends to the website every time it looks at that site again. Computer programmers being what they are, it got given the name ‘cookie’.

The equivalent conversation then becomes something like:

Hello Your Escort Site, I’d like to buy a really great escort website.

Yes, we do those! Have this bit of paper saying you’re looking for a really great escort website.

Do you do them in red? Here’s the paper you gave me earlier.

(Reads paper.) Ah, yes, really great escort websites! Yes, you can have them in any colour you like!

When using a web discussion forum like the one on SAAFE.info, cookies enable the website to know that it’s the person who gave the password to the account that’s now posting the helpful comment: when they logged in, their browser was sent a cookie to say ‘I’m this user, and here’s continuing proof of that.’ Similarly, shopping sites use them to maintain your shopping basket (this was their original use).

That’s the good side of cookies. Of course, there’s also a dark side.

Advertisers love them, because ‘third party cookies’ mean an ad provider with ads on multiple sites can detect which of them you’ve visited. Browsers can be set to not accept these and, because virtually every site will work properly without them, it’s a recommended setting which, annoyingly, is not the default in any major browser.

But in the context of escorting, it’s the way that cookies leave evidence about what sites have been visited that can be the most problematic. Do your clients want it to be discovered (quite easily by anyone with access to their browser) that they’ve been to prostitution sites? Do you want any queries wondering why someone’s been looking at your site? In either case, probably not.

In any case, a European Union regulation adopted into UK law last year mean that each visitor’s consent is required to set cookies on their browser that are not strictly necessary (because of being used to implement a shopping cart, for example).

So you’ll be glad to know that, as set up, websites created by YourEscortSite do not set any cookies for visitors. (It does use them with you, when you log into your site.)

Note: this site uses cookies – if you look in your browser’s collection (see its help for how, because it varies from version to version, never mind between browsers) you will see some from here.

We use them to get information about how visitors move around the site. They don’t collect information that identifies a visitor and it is only used to improve how the site works. If you’d like to opt out of having them, then every major browser enables you to delete cookies and/or to decline to have any from any particular site. (Again, you need to see your browser’s help to see how.) You can also go to yourescortsite.com/piwik/index.php?module=CoreAdminHome&action=optOut&language=en – this will send a cookie that says ‘please ignore visits from this browser’.

Escort SEO

Or, ‘If I were evil, I would be rich’.

We would all love to be on the first page of Google* search results for every conceivable search, but with the default settings, only ten can be. Google won’t let you advertise “websites promoting escort services or related content”** via its AdWords any more either. So this creates a market for ‘search engine optimization’*** or SEO for short. In exchange for your hard earned money, they sort of promise that they’ll do their best to get you a better result. Perhaps.. maybe.. no guarantees..

Some recent posts on the SAAFE message board have highlighted both the cost of these services and what they’ve done for the money. One woman was charged £250 for a year’s SEO service. What that bunch seems to have done is put two lines of possible search terms in her page and add a link to themselves (the more links you have to your site, the better Google likes you). It’s not clear that they made any links to her site anywhere, but their terms and conditions did forbid her from making any changes to it without their written permission. When she wanted to change her domain, they didn’t reply to her.

Another was persuaded by the people who created her website to sign up for a £150 a month SEO service. Although she was soon concerned this was a waste of money (and those concerns looked justified), she was worried that stopping it would lead to them making unauthorised alterations to her site.

Part of the problem is that it is virtually impossible to get (and keep) a front page ranking for searches like ‘London escort’. Even some directories have problems – one of the big ones aimed at the gay market for male escorts has spent years alternating from being in the top half of the front page and nowhere as Google change the rules or effectively ban them for using naughty methods to try to beat their competitors.

The two solutions are getting listed on the directories that do feature people like you (most of them are free) and coming up with content that people like. The multitude of links to them are why the directories dominate the top pages for the basic searches. In the big cities, it will be difficult to match them for the basic searches, but you can do it for something more personal to what you’re offering.

The four things that you want are content, content, content, and links.

Dealing with the first three first, a site that says ‘Hi, I am an escort, I will do these things, I look like this, seeing me will cost that, and you can contact me by…’ is competing for attention with thousands of others. So you need more: write stuff!

You will have a blog for example, use it! Not only does it mean more people link to you, but potential clients can go ‘Oh, they like [something they like] too…’ which makes them much more likely to book you.

Links to your site can come from ‘link swaps’ with other escorts (they link to you, you link to them), or making sure that whenever you are mentioned, there’s a link to your site.

But the SAAFE posts did get me looking at who are the top listings for ‘escort SEO’ at the moment. Do you really want to pay hundreds of pounds to people who write this about building a website with WordPress:

You are going to be glad regarding the word press site, and you will feel too challenging to generate a site, it’s simple to build a internet site with wordpress. All you need to search the tutorials available to develop a internet site with wordpress. Right after that you simply need to follow the required things to develop a site with wordpress. But in complete you should understand you will need c panel to construct a website with wordpress.

(First paragraph of a blog article on Adult SEO Service website, currently in the top Google spot!)

Now I sort of understand what they’re saying – cPanel is a program for controlling a server – but it gets even worse later on: “In case you have several domains of you, you can’t get them within the key search engines”, anyone?) I wonder if it’s automated plagiarism. For more on that, see here.

* Other search engines exist, and if Google keeps trying to be evil, some of them may get more popular, but at the moment, Google still dominates.

** This includes us, annoyingly. It does look like they’ll let you promote porn (‘adult’) website design though.

*** Or ‘search engine optimisation’, depending on your spelling checker settings.

Today’s discovery..

.. is that copying text from a Moonfruit site is a bit of a pain unless you look at it with a browser that doesn’t do Flash.

Normally I browse with a Firefox add-on, FlashBlock, that pretends to be Flash, but doesn’t show anything unless you specifically ask for it. (And most of the time, you don’t want to: it’s ads etc.) That’s not enough, because Moonfruit goes ‘Ooh, you’ve got Flash, let me try to show you the site that way..’ Disable it properly and it will show you real, copyable, easily text.