Posts Tagged ‘autoblogging’

Yaab 1.2 and WordPress 2.7 not the best of friends yet

Monday, January 5th, 2009

The main test site that I have used for Yaab Autoblogger to date is using WordPress version 2.6. It’s all working pretty sweetly (with the occasional apparent double-posting that I have yet to investigate properly, and suspect is my fault or a problem with the feed).

I was keen to try out the new version (1.2) of Yaab, and continue to provide some feedback to its tireless author. As it happened, I’d just bought a new domain on which I’m intending to try out some experiments with autoblogging, autolinking and crosslinking on various subdomains, so I had the opportunity to carry out a fresh install.

Having set up a blog on one subdomain, using WordPress 2.7, I installed the latest version of the Yaab plugin.
Now, 2.7 represents a major change of interface for WordPress, and Yaab was clearly designed to fit in with the previous interface. However, anyone thinking about installing the plugin with 2.7 should be warned that you will not be seeing it at its best!

It will still function, but the interface changes to 2.7 have messed up the attractive interface of Yaab somewhat. I’m sure that this is something that Satheesh will be looking to tidy up (once he has finished his exams), as I think that the latest version of WordPress is likely to be very popular.

Now, I’ve broken a golden rule of experimentation by changing two elements at the same time. Fortunately I still have a live blog running 2.6, and I will try installing Yaab 1.2 there in order to give proper feedback on its new features. I might also have a go at installing the earlier version of Yaab on a 2.7 blog somewhere, if I get time for that as well.

Yaab 1.1 release addresses issues

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

The amazing Satheesh is at it again – perhaps encouraged by some feedback, he has already released an updated version of his autoblogging WordPress plugin Yaab.

I think that there may have been a misunderstanding previously about “duplication” – I have never seen the same item twice in one blog post – that would only happen, as Satheesh points out in a comment, where there was already duplication in a feed. 

My concern was that the plugin would publish the last X items (X is configurable) whether or not there were any new items available.

However, it seems that this problem has been resolved in the latest release. The relevant part of my log file is as follows (the most recent item appears first):

2008-12-21-08:45: BBC Main News 2 is fetched automatically. No posts published
2008-12-21-08:33: BBC Main News 2 is fetched automatically. 1 posts published

This is great. Yaab now checks in, and if it finds nothing new in the feed, it leaves it alone…

There are some other welcome new elements in the release, which I will assess in a future post, but it is all looking good.

Yaab autoblogging test results

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

And the results are in:

1) Duplication of content: I set up an autoblogger using the BBC news main feed, with an interval of 10 minutes. It published four separate posts, all with identical content. So, Yaab does not check for new content before publishing a new post. To be fair, the author doesn’t claim that it does – but this goes on the wishlist for the future. The perfect autoblogging tool would be something that you could leave alone entirely, without having to make guesstimates about how often the sources were likely to be updated.

2) The SEO Smart Links plugin works fine with Yaab. I have set it to publish only on individual posts and not the main page. I will post separately about this plugin, which is itself a fine piece of work.

3) The plugin worked beautifully with an RSS feed from Flickr, displaying pictures from the feed along with links and credits.

4) Multiple feed URLs worked well: although differently sourced RSS content displays differently. In particular, the content from a Google News RSS feed looks different. This may just be a feature of those feeds, but I think such issues could be ironed out with greater configurability of the data coming in from the feeds, as already suggested by another early adopter in his useful feedback post on Yaab, all of which I would agree with.

5) Adsense content units have gone on to the individual blog posts: they are mostly showing generic ads at present, but there is an advertisement for some sort of Goth/Emo dating site on the aggregated “glam rock” entry, so it seems that Google is picking up the content (as I would have expected). In time I am sure that I’ll see more relevant ads on all pages.

So, pretty impressive so far!

Yaab – next steps

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

As mentioned in a comment to an earlier post, following the author’s advice I have now been able to get the Yaab Autoblogger to work successfully with a Yahoo Pipes feed, by substituting the “feed” prefix with “http”, which is great.

The next thing that is really great is that setting the interval for fetching new content and posting it also works a treat. In my impatience to see it working, I set the timer for only 20 minutes, and it produced another post right on time. 

Now, 20 minutes is probably not the best time to set, unless you are referring to feeds that are updated extremely often! What happened in this instance was that it fetched exactly the same items that it had got 20 minutes earlier, and created an identical post (which I have now deleted to avoid duplication). What would be a really great feature for this plugin would be if it were to check whether there were any new items since the last time it fetched the feed, and only create a post if there were any such items.

However, I should probably test this properly: I made some other changes to the feed (the name of the post in particular) and it may be that it would have handled the duplication better had I not done so. 

So that becomes the first task on my Yaab testing to-do list, which follows:

Testing to-do list

1) Create a new autoblogger on the test blog that updates frequently and let it run without making any other changes; assess how the autoblogger handles non-updated material

2) Install the SEO Smart Links plugin and see whether and how this works with Yaab – the ability to add in my own predefined links on certain words/phrases is a feature that I liked in WP-o-Matic, and has obvious potential SEO benefits. Satheesh mentions this as a future upgrade to his plugin also.

3) Test the plugin with an images RSS feed.

4) Try the plugin with multiple feed URLs

5) Test the output blog posts with Adsense to get some insight into how Google treats the output content

Yaab Autoblogger – first impressions

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I am probably taking a risk by uploading a plugin recommended to me by the author and downloadable only from their blog, but following an earlier comment on this blog I was moved to install the Yaab Autoblogger plugin.

So far it hasn’t stolen my identity, crashed my computer or created any other kind of unexpected havoc, so while I can’t give any guarantees, so far it looks as though I was right to trust the instinct that told me that Satheesh (the author) was not the malicious type…

Download and extraction was fine, installation was fine, and the plugin works. There are some friendly cartoons in the settings to let you know where you are, and although the language used is a slight variant from the English that I use, I could clearly follow what was going on.

I have to say that the principal inspiration for downloading this plugin to give it a spin was the hope that it might be able to cope with a wider range of RSS feeds than WP-o-Matic, which had trouble with certain feed variants.

Now, I do need to give the major caveats that I am (1) not very patient and (2) not terribly systematic, but what I found was that Yaab gave me feed URL errors with quite a wide range of feeds. The main news feed for the BBC news website – feed://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/front_page/rss.xml – produced an error, as did a customised feed from the BBC: feed://newsapi.bbc.co.uk/feeds/search/news+sport/glam%20rock

A particular disappointment was the apparent inability of the plugin to recognise RSS output from Yahoo Pipes, for example feed://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.run?_id=ivS59KeM3RGF_9CarbQIDg&_render=rss&textinput1=glam+rock

I did get it to recognise the general feed from the Guardian newspaper:http://www.guardian.co.uk/rssfeed/0,,12,00.xml.

However, I’ll do a little more playing around with it and see what I can come up with! I might even dig around in the code a bit to see if I can work out what is going on in the validation stage.

WP-o-Matic – early experiences

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

I’ve been having some fun playing around some more today with this plugin. The first thing that I should say is thank you Guillermo, as it really has been enjoyable. 

I’ve successfully managed to do what I suggested would be possible earlier, which was to take a specific RSS feed – I created a BBC news feed based on the phrase “Barack Obama”, and as the news items arrived, I set the plugin to find the full names of Obama, McCain and Palin, to change them into some stupid words/phrases, and to make each one of them a link to another site. 

You can see an example blog post here. As you can see, this could very easily be abused. The beauty of swapping out names and nouns is that with minimal effort you can ensure that you are sufficiently different to avoid duplicate content penalties, but also, because the original content is likely to make good semantic sense, the variant version will also look like proper English to a machine, even if it might look odd to a real person.

What could you do with this?

Here’s an example. Say you decided, on the basis of this old data, that you wanted to pick up some of the traffic that might be attributable to the most popular misspelling of “Britney Spears”.

Well, you could mash up whatever feeds you could find about Britney Spears, change all the instances of Britney to Brittney (or Brittany), pick on some other likely words to occur and change them as well, to try to avoid being seen as a duplicate – so “chanteuse” replaces “singer”, “fling” replaces “marriage” and so on… You could also link all instances of the full misspelling back to your main target page. The possibilities are endless, although one might argue that you would not be adding much to the richness of human experience.

I have had a few issues. Whatever setting I used to control dates (ie whether I gave precedence to the feed’s dates or not) I found that importing my delicious feed put the older posts at the top on the initial load. Once it was in there, and I added a new bookmark, the new story appeared in the correct place at the top as I would have expected.

Feeds from Yahoo Pipes seem not to work yet, which someone has already reported. I’ve also had some problems sorting out automatic updating using Cron, but that’s nothing to do with the plugin.

It’s worth noting that this plugin is currently a release candidate, which means that it still has a few issues to be ironed out. Good luck with getting to a full first release.

Splogging and search

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

I’ve been experimenting with the WordPress plugin WP-o-Matic on another blog of late. In combination with the SimplePie plugin, it allows you to automatically post to blogs using RSS feeds. 

The plugin allows you to create campaigns, into which you can place multiple RSS feeds – or just a single one if you prefer. For each campaign, you allocate a category, and the plug-in will post items from the feed as individual blog posts categorised accordingly. 

You can control how often each campaign checks the feed for new items, although I’ve had some teething problems getting this to work exactly as I would like. Ideally, you would want to organise this so that it published stories on a drip-feed basis pretty close to their publication dates, so you want to set the check time at about the same frequency as new items are published.

Incidentally, I’ve also had some difficulty getting the campaigns to refresh. I think it is something to do with being a bit new to cron jobs. More on that later.

So, why would you want to republish someone else’s RSS feeds as if they were your own blog posts? Isn’t this (a) a rather unethical theft of content and (b) unlikely to do you any good for search optimisation, as it will all be duplicate content?

I’ll leave the ethical questions for another time – for now, let’s just remember that the second S in RSS stands for “syndication”.

So, what possible benefits, including SEO benefits, could flow from republishing this material? The idea of each item in an RSS feed being reproduced as a new, individual post is definitely just dupe content spam, right?

Not really. There are all kinds of possible legitimate uses for this. For example, you might want to do some judicious selection of RSS feeds, perhaps filtered automatically as well, and combine them so that your particular blog carried every story that you thought was going to be of interest to your audience. Provided that the posts have links to the original story, your users could be reading the truncated RSS summary in your blog and then deciding whether to go to the full post.

Another possibility is that you effectively own the RSS feed – for example, it could be something like your del.icio.us feed, which you wanted to turn into a linkblog without doing any more work, but creating a post for each one.

However, from an SEO point of view there are some further uses.

First, although the posts themselves will not be unique, the permutation of them may well be, so that your main page – and in particular your category pages – can contain themed content in a combination that is not to be found elsewhere on the web. If reasonably well-linked, these pages could have a chance of ranking for those terms.

Second, there is a very nice feature in the plug-in that allows you to process the feeds as they come in using a search and replace function.

This is separated into two functions for ease of use: the first is a simple word-swap. The example that the author gives is that you could have the plugin search for “ass” and replace it with “butt”. Incidentally, this kind of auto-bowdlerisation is a risky business – witness the embarrassment of the right-wing Christian site that decided that “gay” was too euphemistic (and happy-sounding) for them, and then ended up publishing a number of stories about the Olypmic sprinter “Tyson Homosexual”.

The second element enables you to automatically place links behind certain specified words/phrases. This is obviously pretty powerful for building lots of links with the right anchor text, quite quickly.

I’m not sure whether the two would work together – I will give it a go – but on the assumption that they do, it would be possible to pick a news feed filtered on say, Barack Obama, and republish all of those stories with the words “digital cameras” automatically replacing “Barack Obama”, and linking to your digital cameras site. You might even avoid some of the duplicate-spotting in this way…

Warning: very much of any of this kind of stuff is pretty likely to get your site banned by Google.