How To Collect Responses With A Google Form

While working on my Zero To Launch course work, I reached out to some friends and family members to try and find out what I’m good at.

Here’s the form I sent out:
http://goo.gl/qY6q8Z

Some folks asked for help making their own Google Form, so here it is.

All you need is a Gmail account, so that you can access Google Drive (formerly Docs).

1. Log in to Google Drive

From your Gmail account you access Drive in a couple of clicks. Click on the dots near the top right corner and then select ‘Drive’
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2. Create a new form

Once you’re inside your Google Drive, click on the ‘Create’ button and then select Form
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3. Give your form a name and select your template

The templates aren’t great, but at least it’s not all plain black and white 🙂
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4. Open up your form to the public (for Google Apps users)

If you’re a Google Apps user, you’ll have the option to keep this form private to users of your domain. Since we want the whole world to be able to submit a response, uncheck this option.
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5. Add your questions

This is the obvious part. Just ask people what you want to know. On my form I included some examples as well. Try and keep these as short and direct as possible to elicit honest answers.Google offers you a couple of different question types, ranging from simple text to multiple choice and even dates.

 

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6. Set up Responses in a spreadsheet

After you’ve sent out your form, Google Forms will begin collecting the responses you receive. You’ll be asked to choose how you’d like to store these responses. (Note: You can make this choice at any time while editing your form by clicking the Choose response destination button in the toolbar.)

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7. Create a shortlink (optional)

Google Drive links are long and ugly by default, so I use Goo.gl and bit.ly to make the link a little friendlier to share via email and IM<

“Every article must do something” or How I Psyched Myself Out Of Writing.

I haven’t written anything in a long time. Let alone anything real or worth reading. For the most part it’s been music I enjoy or faux gadget reviews (I’m terrible at reviews).

And I think I’ve finally figured out why. After reading post after post about what makes ‘good’ online writing, I forgot the whole reason for writing in the first place. I also got it in my head that “Online Writing” was somehow vastly different to just regular “Writing.”

For the last few years, I’ve been stuck with an assumption that anything I write online should ‘do’ something. Instead of just being, there was now an additional pressure for the words to be active and do. Like they were in the circus.

Initially I tried to convince myself that this added ‘direction’ would give me a target to write at, and make it easier to focus. In practice it did the opposite. It rendered me paralysed and inert, because I couldn’t meet all of the goals I had set (to help me write). Simile slipped away. Metaphor melted into keyword density and wit gave way to article structure. Ok, to be fair there wasn’t much wit to start with.

All of which resulted in me not writing anything at all.

Here are some of the things I convinced myself that every piece had to do.

  • highlight me as an expert in the field of X
  • boost my social profile
  • showcase my knowledge on the topic of Y
  • be targeted to search engines
  • be built to get more page views
  • make people want to share it
  • encourage the reader to leave a comment.

Since I started reading Medium a few months back, and seeing writing for the sake of expression and merely for the sake of itself, I feel like I have some more perspective now.

This little blog is not the New York Times, nor Pitchfork nor Engadget. Yet for some reason I was trying to write as if it was. Or not write, as it were.

So here’s to the meaningless rambles, uninformed opinions and idiotic things I’m bound to say. And typos. Probably lots of typos.

How the internet lets me stay awake 24 hours a day. Sort of.

Right now, I am asleep. And it’s not even today. Right now, it’s actually last week, which is when I wrote this post.

You see, this is a scheduled post, which means I wrote it, set a posting date and then went along my business (probably writing another post). But what about the Facebook post and the Tweet I sent out about this post? Also scheduled, so that they would go out after the article was published. I was, in fact having a sandwhich at the time.

How does it work?

I run my blog on WordPress, which I consider one of the best bloggin platforms around. Whenever I write my blog posts (usually on Sundays) I schedule them to be posted at different times and dates using the built in scheduling option. There’s not much to it, and anyone can learn how to schedule wordpress posts in just three steps

How To Schedule WordPress Posts

how to schedule a wordpress post

  1. Write your post
  2. Click on the Publish date and set it to whatever you want
  3. Click ‘Publish’ et voila.

You will receive a confirmation message above the post editor that let’s you know when your post will be published.

“Post scheduled for: Jun 22, 2012 @ 6:00”

That really is all there is to it

Tip #1 – WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin.

Sometimes looking at all your upcoming posts in list view can be a little disorientating – you don’t get a clear sense of what is posted when. To solve this problem, I use a plugin called WordPress Editorial Calendar to show me exactly when my posts will be sent out.

Have a look – each of these is scheduled to be posted at around 2-3pm South African time, which is when I get the best response to content I post.

Wordpress Editorial Calendar Plugin
You can download the plugin here

Tip #2 – Posting to Facebook and Twitter in the Future

To help me schedule my Status updates and Tweets I use Buffer. It works by allowing you to set a time window for your content to be published. Most of the traffic to this blog comes from South Africa, which is why my posts are set to go out between 10am and 4pm SA time. That’s 2am to 8am my time. And I’m still fast asleep.

Buffer App for Social Media

Status updates and Tweets are intentionally scheduled to go out later than blog posts and not at the same time. I learned the hard way that it’s better to give it a little while (caching, daylight savings time, whatever).

buffer-time-setting

You can create a free Buffer account here

Using these two simple tools, I’m able to post content, comments,status updates and tweets pretty much around the clock. Which in my opinion is pretty cool.

Go ahead, try it for yourself – it’s easier than you think and people will think that you are somehow magically awake all the time.

Img Src: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootcoot/4802606550/in/faves-joeshlabotnik/

My 52 challenge.

I know that a lot of people undertake 365 challenges. A challenge where they commit to doing something everyday for a year.

This week I’ve decided to start my own version – a 52 challenge. A 52 week challenge to be a little more specific, where I do something every week. The something in question is to post at least one comment on a blog I like. To engage with the creators of the content I enjoy.

Sometimes I feel as though most of us exist in a sort of digital vacuum. We suck up all this great content delivered every day, but we never stop to actively engage with the content creators, because there is always more content to consume. Always more.

So, now the hunt is one to find great posts on great blogs so that I can start engaging with more people online and ultimately, learn more things.

Lester

P.S.If you have a blog with interesting content, I’d love to read it and interact with you! Please post your URL in the comments below or send me the link on my Contact page. Thanks!

 

Feedly – How To Stay on Top Of Your World With RSS feeds

A lot of people ask me how I manage to stay current and up to date with things going on in the world. With so much happening every second of every day, it’s hard to stay up to date. In the past I would subscribe to dozens of email newsletters, but that soon became a nightmare. Later, I started using RSS feeds, but even that became too hard to handle (I know now that it was down the way Google made me read the feeds – very hard)

My secret weapon is the way I use my RSS feeds now – with Feedly.

www.feedly.com

I subscribe to about 100 or so blogs via RSS and they generate a ton of new content. Trying to keep up with all of this in Google Reader is impossible.

Good Reader looks overwhelming

 

Feedly displays the content I love in an easy read manner – it makes it look like a magazie. Great design, cool themes and a nice layout make the content instantly easier to consume. The fact that I only see a few articles at a time also means that I don’t feel overwhelmed and compelled to close it down because it’s all just too much.

My favourite Feedly feature is the fact that it is available on Mac and PC (as a Chrome extension), on Android and iOs. So I can read anywhere I am. And when I mark an article as read in one place, it’s marked as read everywhere.

Feedly for Chrome
Feedly for Firefox
Feedly for Android
Feedly for iOS

Feedly allows me to categorise my feeds into groups, so when I feel like reading about Gadgets, I click the Gadget category. This kind of organization also helps me decide what to read. I always read my Alerts first, then my Marketing feeds, etc.

If you need to monitor lots of content or just want to make your existing feeds nicer to look at, try Feedly.

Video Thumbnails Plugin

I often write blog posts that only have a little bit of text and a cool video that I’ve found somewhere online. This is all good and well, except for the fact that my blog theme automatically generates a thumbnail (for the featured image) using the first pic I have in the post. In the past, if I didn’t have an image in the post, I wouldn’t have a featured image, or I would need to go and manually find one to display on the home page. Like so:

lesterhein.com

 

Enter the Video Thumnails Plugin. It does pretty much what it says on the box, creates thumbnails using the videos in your blog posts. And it works like a charm 🙂 I’ve tested it with YouTube and Vimeo and it’s worked without a hitch using both of these services.

You can find it here

http://sutherlandboswell.com/2010/11/wordpress-video-thumbnails/

How to enable multi sites using sub directories in WordPress 3

Using Multi sites in WordPress 3One of the coolest features of WordPress 3.x is the ability to add multiple sites to any domain. This means that you can control multiple sites on your domain all from one place – very cool. I spent a lot of time banging my head against the keyboard trying to get this to work, so discovering multi sites was a real blessing.

Recently I needed to add a blog section to http://stereotyperecords.co.za so that individual users could update and post their thoughts in addition to the content that appears on the main site. One of the challenges is that the new sites need to use sub-directories and not sub-domains, which is what WordPress forces it to do at first.

Here’s how it goes down.

First, backups. Make copies of your wp-config.php file as well as your .htaccess file. You’ll need FTP access to get to your .htaccess file.

Next, you’ll need to disable all of your active plugins in order to complete the installation. Not all plugins are multi-site compatible, so take care here. From what  I can see Google XML site maps and Flickr Photo Albums are not compatible, so if you rely heavily on these – think about it…

Now add the following line to your wp-config.php file:

define('WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true);

Once you’ve added this line, in your WordPress dashboard you have to visit Tools -> Network and set up the network. (source)

Follow the instructions provided and you’ll be on your way to getting multi sites enabled.

During the activation of Multi Site a few lines of code need to be added to wp-confg.php. One of those lines states:

define( 'SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL', true );

That line tells WordPress to use subdomain addon sites.

Change it to

define( 'SUBDOMAIN_INSTALL', false );

and you will now be able to create subdirectory sites.

The problem now is that WordPress will force an addition to your slug in the form of siteurl/blog/newsite

To get around this, you need to remove the /blog/ with a slight change to the .htaccess rules you added earlier. Replace the code WordPress give you:

# BEGIN WordPress
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index.php$ - [L]

# uploaded files
RewriteRule ^files/(.+) wp-includes/ms-files.php?file=$1 [L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^ - [L]
RewriteRule . index.php [L]

# END WordPress

With this code:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index.php$ - [L]

# uploaded files
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?files/(.+)  wp-includes/ms-files.php?file=$2 [L]

# add a trailing slash to /wp-admin
RewriteRule ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?wp-admin$ $1wp-admin/ [R=301,L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^ - [L]
RewriteRule  ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(wp-(content|admin|includes).*) $2 [L]
RewriteRule  ^([_0-9a-zA-Z-]+/)?(.*.php)$ $2 [L]
RewriteRule . index.php [L]

(source)

You will now be able to create multi sites without the /blog/ inserted into your slug.

If you nee some more visual assistance, check out this video tutorial on how to implement WordPress multi sites:

How To Use WordPress Shortcodes Anywhere In Your Theme

I was editing the StereoType Records website and wanted to call a WordPress shortcode for a plugin from directly in the theme  – useful if you want to add things in places they weren’t to go, like a Flickr Gallery in a pop up or a music player in your header. Whatever you need to call from a shortcode, it’s really easy to accomplish with just one line of code:

echo do_shortcode('[myshortcode]');

(source: http://wpengineer.com/2051/use-wordpress-shortcodes-outside-the-editor/

Now you can pop your favourite shortcodes anywhere you like. I used it to call the Flickr Gallery shortcode on a custom page template here:

http://stereotyperecords.co.za/gallery/

How to display code in your WordPress blog posts like Smashing Magazine

I encountered this problem while doing a post on how to add a Facebook like button to your WordPress blog. Everytime I entered code into a blog post, WP would strip it out and there would be nothing to see in the post. Since the whole post was about a couple of lines of code, this was clearly not a good thing…

I was trying to get the cool code wrappers that Smashing Magazine uses, and I finally found a plugin that allows to me to do just that. The plugin is called Google Syntax Highlighter For WordPress and you can find it here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-syntax-highlighter/

Once you install the plugin, all you need to do is preface the code you want to display in your post with a pre tag and define the correct class. You can see all the different class aliases for different languages here: http://code.google.com/p/syntaxhighlighter/wiki/Usage

The end result looks something like this:

How To Add A Like Button to your wordpress blog

(view this post)

WordPress Hassles with file size uploads

For the last week or so I’ve been working on the beta version of the new StereoType Records website, but I’ve been hitting file size limitations at every turn.
After a number of calls to my host I decided that I was going to try and fix it myself. One of the error messages I received was while importing data from the current install:

“File upload failed. This error could also be caused by uploads being disabled in your php.ini or by post_max_size being defined as smaller than upload_max_filesize in php.ini.”

After about an hour’s diggin and sifting, I cam across a php.ini ‘template’ that seems to fit my needs, and most importantly, it resolved my file permissions and upload limit issue.

Here is the code: (found here)

register_globals = off
allow_url_fopen = off

expose_php = Off
max_input_time = 600
variables_order = “EGPCS”
extension_dir = ./
upload_tmp_dir = /tmp
precision = 12
memory_limit = 64M
post_max_size = 64M
file_uploads = On
upload_max_filesize = 64M

Man am I glad that’s over.  Now, on to the next hiccup we go…

How to embed a video in your blog post

Even though it’s one of the easiest things to do on your blog, I get asked this one quite a bit. Here’s a very quick guide on how to insert a video from YouTube or Vimeo into your WordPress blog.

How to insert a video in to a page or post on your WordPress blog from Lester Hein on Vimeo.

(if you’re reading this on facebook, go here to watch the video)

Lester

Using NextGen image gallery on WordPress

In this short video I’ll cover how to use the NextGen image gallery on your WordPress blog, how to add images to your new gallery and how to embed your gallery on a WordPress page or post.

I have the Flickr  image gallery on this blog linked to my Flickr account, but I recently came across an instance where the Flickr Gallery was causing a conflict and I had to use the NextGen gallery.

Using the NextGen image gallery on your WordPress blog from Lester Hein on Vimeo.

(if you’re reading this on Facebook, click here to watch the video)

Custom dashboards in WordPress

For the last few weeks I’ve been quietly working on the revamped marketing plan for the next year here at StereoType Records.

Now, the StereoType Records website runs on WordPress, which is a great platform, but one that can take a bit of time to get your head around.
One of the things that I need to do is do present registered users with a branded, customized dashboard. The default one is a little confusing if you’re a new user and our brand is badly represented.
So far, I’ve managed to customize the registration page as well as the registration email that is sent to new users, but all of that is almost pointless if the user lands on a boring, unbranded Dashboard.
I’m sure that all it’s going to take is a bit of time until I can figure out how to do this, but in the mean time, have you tried this before? Did it work for you?
Please let me know how you managed to style and brand your WordPress dashboard for different user roles.
And yes, I do realize the irony of blogging about WordPress customization on a bloger blog.

Six Things You Should Probably Do That Might Eventually Get Your Blog A Little Traffic

A question that I get asked quite a lot is “How do I get more traffic to my blog?” Now, I’m not social media expert/rock star/ ninja/monkey but I reckon that I’ve learned a thing or two over the last while and since I’m mostly a nice guy, I’ll share. Something that really irks me are “experts” dishing out posts with titles like “10 Ways Guaranteed to Get You More Traffic.” I figure that the only guarantee of traffic is by taking out a stop street in the city centre. With everything else you’re just sorta hoping it works.

 

With this in mind, I’ve decided to title this segment as follows:

Six Things You Should Probably Do That Might Eventually Get Your Blog A Little Traffic

I think it’s pretty catchy 😉

1. Create Good Quality Content (You’ve gotta have the good sh*t)


There’s a saying that goes “Content is King” and I happen to agree 100% with this old platitude. The thing is, so do lots of people. For every person who bitches about the fact that the internet is populated with useless junk there are 5 more creating great, readable and valuable content. It used to be true that if you created good content, you would get traffic because the good stuff was few and far between. With self publication now easier than ever there are more people creating more content about more topics. This means that while the adage still holds true, it is no longer the be all and end all of your blogging strategy. Creating good content is now the bare minimum requirement for getting a bit of traffic to your blog. If you don’t think you’re posting the good stuff, you should probably stop here and go think about ways to do just that.

Seth Godin, who is probably the smartest bald person I know of, has a great list of things you can do to get more traffic to your blog, many of which have to do with the type of content you’re putting out. You should read it.

2. Make Sure Your Audience Can Find Your Content (Don’t Hide Your Stash Homie)

When I started blogging one of the things I struggled with the most was trying to figure out how to get Google to find me. Wearing brightly coloured clothing didn’t work. Neither did typing the title of my blog post 500 times in the alt text. Instead, what I found was that if I invested a little time to find out the basics about SEO and blog layout, slowly the Big G started sending some love my way. Search Engine Optimization ,or SEO, was at one time also held to be the be all and end all of blog traffic strategies (like Content is King) , but it too now has a lower emphasis value and should be part of your strategy, not the whole thing.And here’s the real thing about SEO – the basics are just common sense. Take some time to understand it and you can adapt your writing style to get the most out of it. If you’re looking for somewhere to learn the ropes, try the Quirk eMarketing Text Book. It’s easy to read, was written by a funny red head and it’s free. What more do you need?

3. But first, pick an audience (Whisky drinkers stick together)

Picture the scene – a guy walks in to a bar and starts talking to absolutely everyone in the room. He’s talking to everyone about the same thing, but only a few of the people are listening. The rest are wondering whether or not the pool cue will shatter if it meets up with his head. If you want to successfully and consistently get the attention of an audience you need to decide what you’re going to write about. Most of the time, being niche is better and easier to do. You know what you’re talking about and the type of person you’re (probably) talking to. Now, I’m not saying that you should be boring or only write about West Indian cactus plants, but try not to be too sporadic. If I’m used to finding a certain type of content on a blog, I keep going back there with the expectation that I’ll find more of the same. The beer guys stick with the beer guys and the whisky guys all hang out together. Make sense?

4. Consistency is crucial (Keep On Keepin’ On)

This is the one that I have the most trouble with. In order to maintain a semi decent readership, you need to be constantly creating good stuff. If someone finds something good and clean and fresh every time they visit you, chances are they’ll keep coming back to look for more. Good content, look most good things, is addictive. If it’s the same old stale content, they’ll probably just move on to someone else who IS consistently writing good content. My buddy Dave introduced me to the concept of the attention economy and the 5 second rule – in today’s time, the new scarce resource is not money, but rather attention and on average you have about 5 seconds (or less) to grab that attention once someone lands on your blog. But, like I said – if you’re style is stale, you can kiss that reader good bye. Keep it fresh, homie.

5. Find a like minded community and attract readers from there (Sneak in to the club and take someone home).

Building a community is hard work. It takes time, patience and skill. And if you’re still asking the traffic question, chances are that like me you’re not ready to build your own community yet. Instead, it’s easier to find and become active in an existing community where your audience hangs out. Think about it – you find club where the members are already in to what you’re writing about, so it will be easier to get the readers there than from some other random group of people. Don’t sell weed to crack heads, it just won’t work. Once you’re more comfortable with your skills, the first prize is of course to build your on community that will sustain itself and introduce new readers to your content on your behalf. For a great example of a self made and sustained community, check out Imod.

6. Offer something of value (try before you buy)

We’ve all seen the magazine’s packed with free stuff on the cover.. In fact, we’ve all bought the magazine’s packed with free stuff. The reason we do is because people like to get free stuff. So if you’re writing about music, go find some musicians and break twist their arms in to letting you offer your readers a free sample of their music. Your valuable item could also be your intellectual property – create white papers and offer them as downloads from your blog. Design some cool wallpapers and make them available in your gallery, create some wicked WordPress or Blogger themes. The thing is, creativity is a renewable resource, so you’re not giving something finite away. You can create more wallpapers and write more white papers. Only next time there will be more people to talk to 😉

One thing to remember is that your opinion and expertise are both valuable commodities. If you make it available, peeps will become dependent on it and will keep coming back to get high on your supply. So, if you’re not an expert on something yet, you’d better start working on that. The more you put out, the more you get back.

Now like I said, I’m not promising that these steps will bring you lots of traffic or any at all. What I do now is this – if you’re not doing the basic you don’t have a snow ball’s chance of getting any traffic at all, so you may as well start somewhere.

Till next time, keep on blogging.

Lester