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Baby Name Vote FAQ

1. What does the money go toward?

For every $1 donated, Save the Children can provide one complete polio vaccination course for a child.   Save the Children is an international children’s charity that works in many countries around the world, and we asked them to create a campaign for early childhood medical care.  I think this is a really great cause to support because it is one of the most efficient ways to help with the amount of money we are able to give.  My wife is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has seen how important early childhood medical care is, first hand.

Our Family

2. So, no matter what happens, you are going to use the top-voted name for your son?

I have been on the Internet waaaay too long to make a promise like that.  We’re not going to burden our son with a name like Mr. Splashy Pants or Marblecake.  We will definitely use the votes to narrow down our choices, and I am a big geek so I will be doing a bunch of statistical analysis too.

3. What’s the timeline?

The poll launched April 7th, we’ll be keeping it open for a couple of weeks.  The baby is due May 19th.

4. What are the names?

You’ll have to go to the poll and vote to see them :)

5. How does my vote become a donation?

All you have to do is vote, and we’ll take care of it.  Between my wife and I, a group of generous Googlers, and Google’s amazing employee matching program, we have pledges to donate up to $14,000.   If we don’t get enough votes to “use up” all the pledges, I’ll let the Googlers who pledged above the vote amount decide if they’d like to still donate.  You can also go to this OneToday campaign and contribute $1 of your own.

6. Are you crazy?

Actually, this worked surprisingly well last time.  It blew up into a big sensation mostly by accident and overall the response was very positive.  I’m an Anti-abuse Engineer at Google, so I was ready for a fair amount of spamming and abuse.  It ended up being less than I expected – most people thought it was fun to vote and suggest names.  I don’t know exactly how things will go once we launch, but I’m somewhere between “reasonably optimistic” and “uncomfortably excited.”  I’m also really hopeful that many voters will decide to join us with a small donation of their own, so we can raise as much money to help children as possible.

7. What name won last time?

Olivia got the most votes, but we ended up naming our daughter Athena.  Why?  As we got 1000s of votes, I noticed that the order of names in our poll was becoming very similar to the order just by popularity in the previous year.  That’s not very interesting, so I did a linear regression to find the names that were voted for more in my poll than could be explained by popularity in the U.S.

Spring Cleaning – 4 Steps to Rehab Your Old WordPress Blog

I’m thinking about doing a bit more writing, and to be honest I have left this blog pretty unloved since my last redesign in… hmmm… 2008? Much has chanced since then – for example, a huge percentage of visitors these days are on tablets and mobile devices. Your old WordPress theme might not look very nice on an iPhone or Nexus 5 (I know mine didn’t).

I spent a couple of hours shaking the cobwebs off my old WordPress site, taking it from this:

The old WordPress default theme with minor tweaks

To what you’re looking at now. I also made a few small changes to speed up my blog.

Step 1: Update your theme

This used to be a huge pain, requiring you to download files, customize the HTML and CSS, and upload it to your server. The WordPress theme system is a lot friendlier now. I just went to to Appearance -> Themes and clicked the “Add New” button. This gives you search box, but I found the “Featured” link was the best place to start. I chose TwentyThirteen, it allows me to set a nice big header image and it looks good on different screen sizes. The current header is a photo of the Sierras from Lone Pine, CA.

Step 2: Clear out old widgets and code

I used to have a bunch of extra widgets in my blog, but many of them were never really useful for my readers or now pointed to defunct services (I still miss you, Google Reader!). I cleared out a Feedburner widget, an old version of the Google Translate widget, and a few other things. You might be surprised how much you can improve your site’s loading time just by deleting some inefficient Javascript.

Step 3: Speed it up

Speaking of loading time, my site was abysmally slow. Not slow enough that I noticed on my fast connection at home, but faster sites make users and search engines happier. One of the best tools to find bottlenecks is Google PageSpeed. You can have Google analyze your site and get a detailed report of the problems or install a Chrome or Firefox extension to check from your browser.

A few things worth checking:

  1. Are you compressing your files? You can set up Gzip compression on your server or use a plugin like WP Super Cache.
  2. Are you telling browsers when they can use their own cache? Instead of sending a page or image to a user, you can let them know they can use their cached version with a 304 Not Modified HTTP status code. WP Super Cache also has a setting for this.
  3. Are you hosting your own copies of common libraries like jQuery? I’m using a plugin called Use Google Libraries that points to widely-cached copies of these files on Google’s servers.
  4. Are you regenerating pages from PHP and MySQL every time someone visits? If your pages don’t change very often, use WP Super Cache.

Step 4: Actually start writing again

This is the hard one. I feel like between work, family, and posting small things to social networks, I’ve lost the time and energy to write longer-form articles. I have a fun project coming up that will definitely prompt some posting, and this article itself is a start, right?

If you have any other tips for cleaning up a WordPress blog or getting back into writing, let me know in the comments.

How to Post from Google Plus to Twitter and Facebook

From More Around Mystic, CT

I have a problem: some people are following me on Twitter, some friends and family are only on Facebook, and others are using Google+. Personally, I like using Google+ most – I like the UI and using my Circles to share certain things with just family, and G+ ties into Picasa really well. I’m also probably a little biased.

I just don’t have time to manually post everything I want to share with all of these people in all three places. So I decided to write all my inane ramblings into Google+, and from there automatically update Twitter and Facebook.

Before I start, I feel like I have to add a disclaimer: Please don’t spam Twitter and FB by shoveling all sorts of autogenerated content into your feed, with no intention fo actually interacting with people. No one wants that, you will lose all your friends, and even your dog will stop loving you. Be judicious.

Here’s how you can automatically post from Google+ to Twitter:

Step 1: Get an RSS feed of your public Google+ posts.

Many sites offer RSS feeds, usually you just have to look for the little orange icon, or a link that says “subscribe”. Google+, at this point, does not – but it does offer an API, so it’s not too hard to write a Python or PHP script to convert. Actually, many developers have stepped in to offer RSS feed services – I found a good list of them here.

A word of caution: these services may be unreliable, they may come and go, developers may run out of money or go crazy and post weird stuff on everyone’s feeds. If you don’t want to take the risk, you should probably write your own code using the Google+ API or wait for Google+ to support RSS.

Step 2: Take your RSS feed and add it to FeedBurner.

FeedBurner is a feed management system run by Google. It lets you do all sorts of fun things with your RSS feeds, including posting to Twitter (Step 3). First, go to http://feedburner.google.com/, there should be a text area titles “Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here:”. Do that. FeedBurner will walk you through a couple of simple steps.

Step 3: Set up FeedBurner to post to Twitter.

Click the “Publicize” tab and look for the “Socialize” option in the menu. There you’ll see an option to add your Twitter account. Click the button, authorize FeedBurner in Twitter, and you are ready to go.

By the way, FeedBurner also offers some interesting analytics options so you can see how many people click through from Twitter, Facebook, or wherever else they might see your feed.

How to update Facebook too:

Actually, I already had Twitter updating Facebook – that’s easy to do, simply go to http://twitter.com/settings/profile and connect your Facebook account. This has a drawback, though, in that it squeezes my G+ posts through the 140-character wringer of Twitter before passing it on to Facebook.

Facebook does have a few apps that are able to publish an RSS feed directly to your wall. RSS Graffiti looks like a likely candidate, with lots of positive reviews, but I haven’t actually tried it. The list of permissions the app demands scared me away.

Hopefully this is useful and I’m not annoying my friends with too many reposts. If you feel the need to stop following me on Twitter since you’ve already seen my hilarious anecdotes on G+ (or vice versa), I’ll understand. I should also add that I’ll read any comments and probably reply in all three systems – I don’t want to force everyone to use G+ to talk to me.

One big drawback to this setup is that I can’t share privately across the three social networks. If I post pictures of my kid playing at the park to just my Friends and Family circles, I don’t have a way to post that to my network in Facebook. Drop me a note if you’ve figured that one out.