Times when the mountain never lets up on you.

“Death is lighter than a feather, but Duty is heavier than a mountain.”

― Robert Jordan, To the Blight

Sometimes, it feels like The Pick and Roll is exactly that. Obviously, I knew it the moment I made the decision to start it, but it’s been an incredibly fulfilling, educational, and at the same time, one of the most exhaustive things I’ve ever done. There is no off day, no offwhateveritis. I’m deeply thankful to #TeamPnR for being there and helping out with various aspects of the site. From writing articles to promoting them. Posting entertaining content to keep the fans coming back for more. Committing to our advertisers and keeping the ship afloat. Endless discussions with the core. Too many to name, and if any of you are reading this: never forget that The Pick and Roll would not be what it is right now, without you. And for that, I’m just glad to have a group of enthusiastic folks share in what seemed like an idea born out of frustration, supreme self-confidence that we could pull it off somehow, and of course, like Terry put it – naivety.

At this point though, I’m just chugging along with a stubborn unwillingness to not make it happen – I’ll do every and any task required to take it to the next level, even if it means burning the candle at both ends and losing more sleep. Just hanging on for the ride!

None of this would have happened of course, without the immense (and sometimes seemingly insane) amount of time and energy I’ve invested. And how did that happen? Only with the unfailing support of my family, have I been able to work at this with 100% focus; safe in the knowledge that my mum, my brother, and my wife would be there to help with everything else. Of course, the reality check inevitably comes, and decisions have to be made.

Life never stops grinding, and it’s all about rolling with the changes that happen, and making adjustments. Whoever said it would be easy? But hell, that’s exactly what I signed up for. One way or another, rest assured in the fact that The Pick and Roll is going to grow.

Disabling Open Graph from Facebook’s official WordPress plugin

I was looking for a way to remove the OG meta because Facebook’s OG Object Debugger tool kept throwing this really annoying error to do with multiple og:url values. Something like this:

Object at URL ‘http://website.com/test-article/’ of type ‘article’ is invalid because it specifies multiple ‘og:url’ values:

I checked my source code multiple times, it was clean but it just refused to quit unless I disabled the Facebook plugin. The catch here was that I really wanted to have Facebook comments integrated and none of the other third-party plugins made it an easy job, so I had to have the Facebook plugin back regardless.

Then I found this thread, but saying “If you want to remove the Open Graph protocol content output by the Facebook plugin for WordPress you should unhook the Facebook_Open_Graph_Protocol::add_og_protocol function from the wp_head WordPress action.” isn’t very helpful to someone who’s been shamefully remiss with his WP-fu skills.

It took a lot of searching to get this snippet, so if you’re looking for a way to disable the built-in OG (or Open Graph) data that Facebook’s official WordPress plugin spews, here you go.  Courtesy of aendrew from the WordPress forums.

* OpenGraph stuff is now handled by Yoast or whatever.
* This removes Facebook's broken use of its own technology.
add_action('wp_head', 'remove_fb_og_stuff', 0);
function remove_fb_og_stuff() {
remove_action( 'wp_head', 'Facebook_Open_Graph_Protocol::add_og_protocol' );

Good luck and if you found this useful, feel free to share this with someone else who needs it.

Update: Disabling the action inside Facebook’s plugin seems to work better. The above code killed every possible OG being output by all plugins for some reason.

Comment the below line from facebook.php inside the Facebook plugin’s directory. It’s on line 465 if you’re using the same version. I then used Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags for WordPress to output the OG meta tags I needed.

// add_action( 'wp_head', array( 'Facebook_Open_Graph_Protocol', 'add_og_protocol' ) );

Facebook Pages – much, much better for the marketer now.

I used to dislike posting content on Facebook pages, because my eyes would be invariably be drawn to the Reach figure at the bottom of every post. I knew it by heart – videos would be best, text-only updates good, link shares and images would be shit. It felt like I was forced to post videos all the time to increase engagement. Granted videos are great and all, but shouldn’t the sharing of articles be something people would like too?

The recent Facebook algorithm adjustent however, has left me pretty impressed. Images and shared links used to get pretty shit visibility, something to the tune of 5% on average. Nowadays though, links and images function perfectly well, being able to draw engagement and visibility comparable to videos at times. Of course, it all depends on the quality of your content, but I like it. It gives an emphasis on putting content through the way they should be, instead of trying to game the system. For example, sharing a video with a link to an article to increase exposure. Or sharing an article as a text-only update by removing the link preview, which actually increased the reach. The previous formula was totally illogical and encouraged emphasis of certain content formats over others, all in the name of increasing reach.

The penalty on like-baiting, recirculation of the same old content and so on are metrics I like. It encourages the marketer to seek out fresh content, which can only be good for the user.

For what it’s worth, I like the Facebook Ads system as well. Very well-designed, and engagement rate was very solid bang for the buck when it came to boosting posts. The only problem was, targeted ads didn’t seem to work as well. I had it set for a male 21-40 Australian non-fan demographic with interests in various NBA teams and players, and the strike rate was horrible. It’s not a surprising fact though, seeing as I haven’t clicked on Facebook ads in a very long time, which probably means they aren’t attractive enough sitting on the sidebar. The ones that pop up on the feed though, are well displayed and likely to attract clicks.

Be interesting to see how Facebook develops – it’s never a dull ride, that’s for sure.

It’s the little touches that count.

Made some little adjustments to the PnR site over the week, that I thought was long overdue. It turned out to be a lot of sleep lost, and a lot of work being done. Much thanks to the family for allowing me to have the time and space to focus.

  • For starters, a favicon! I thought I’d done that eons ago, but apparently not. Easy enough however.
  • Customising the login page. This doesn’t make a real difference, but I thought it’s a nice touch in making the site look more professional. Yes, even the backend counts.
  • Killing the damn hardwood background. It’s annoyed me sufficiently to warrant a vanishing act, no small thanks to Open Graph’s insistence on including it as a featured image. NO! GO AWAY! Besides, the site looks cleaner without it.
  • Disabled a ton of Open Graph plugins, figured out the best way to make OG work, hit the FB debug tool a gazillion times in frustration. Not perfect, but better now.
  • Removed footer columns – unnecessary fluff for the most part. Definitely helps in loading speed.
  • Removed recent comments from the sidebar.
  • Updated the tagline on the site banner – bet no one even noticed that!
  • A major cleanup on inactive plugins – never leave stuff lying around, as always. Never know when the next vulnerability is going to bite you in the ass.
  • Making Jetpack work – apparently the new Sucuri WAF (web application firewall) was stopping XML-RPC calls from Jetpack.
  • Getting the new WAF to play nice with CloudFlare – thanks to Daniel Cid for his assistance with this.
  • Using the new Related Posts function from Jetpack instead of plugins.
  • Removed the clunky call to action at the end of posts.
  • Went back to the usual social sharing icons in an attempt to make things look more streamlined.
  • Setting up scheduled database backups

The pitch about WordPress is always about how easy it is to use, but writing this post makes me feel like administering a WP site is far from something the average user could do comfortably. And I haven’t even gotten around to optimising the site from Yoast’s site review yet.

Technology, you SOB.

From process to goal.

It’s taken a long time, but I find my perspective slowly shifting over the years.

As an engineer, we often pride ourselves on being process-oriented. This means not only knowing how to do things, but do them the right way. Think of it as the difference between doing a job, and doing a good job. Of course, this occupational trait often sends me into mental convulsions whenever I see other people do things in a manner that either defies logic or process. This habit has sadly persisted over the years, and many’s the time ZM and I have swapped stories and shake our heads in mutually understood suffering.

These days though, I’m trying to forget my own perspective, and focus on getting the thing done. What can I do to get this done the quickest way possible? What exactly is the desired outcome? What do I need to know or ask to make this happen? Being goal-oriented makes us forget the “right” way and adjust to a service perspective, where it’s more about delivering results more than fussing over how straight a line is.

Stupidity still makes me feel like barfing though. GET OUTTA MY FACE!