Google’s Very Rough Transition Thursday, Dec 18 2014 

Nick Carlson

Nicholas Carlson

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/googles-very-rough-transition-nicholas

Chief Correspondent at Business Insider

Google’s stock price hit a 52-week low yesterday.

This is not surprising news.

This has been a year of major change for Google, and it hasn’t always been pretty.

CEO Larry Page, frustrated with the pace of innovation at the company, took a big step back from day-to-day operations, turning over control to Sundar Pichai.

Google’s core business, search advertising, is looking shakier than it has in years. The problem is the rise of mobile. Search advertising is the best way to make money on the web. But people aren’t using the web as much on their mobile phones as they did on their desktops. Last quarter, Google’s advertising business grew at its slowest rate in six years.

People are searching for products on Amazon, rather than using Google. The only reason search makes money for Google is that people use it to search for products they would like to buy on the internet, and Google shows ads for those products. Increasingly, however, people are going straight to Amazon to search for products. Desktop search queries on Amazon increased 47% between September 2013 and September 2014, according to ComScore.

The executive in charge of running the moneymaking side of Google, Nikesh Arora, quit for a new job at Softbank. Internally, Arora’s departure has been the source of some tension and disappointment. Before he left, Arora was planning to throw a huge conference for Google sales employees in Las Vegas. Now that Arora is gone, the event has been canceled in favor of more regional meetings, and we’ve heard some Googlers are bummed. These same Googlers are under the impression that the whole company is in the middle of a hiring freeze. After speaking to several more sources, we’re pretty sure there is not actually a hiring freeze at Google. But it is interesting that some people inside the company think there is. Clearly, there are pockets of pessimism.

Google is getting knocked around overseas. Google just pulled its engineers out of Russia. It shut down its news aggregator in Spain. The EU wants to break up the company. The situation isn’t looking great in Brazil, either.

Facebook has decided to compete with YouTube for video-advertising dollars, and Facebook may win. Facebook is working on bringing YouTube-like video to its News Feed. It’s also rolling out video ads. Many in the industry believe that Facebook is in a better position than YouTube to eat into the advertising dollars that are leaving TV. Anmuth writes, “Facebook appears better positioned to capture new dollars coming online given its 21% share of mobile time spent, strong leverage to news feed ads, and nascent opportunities in video and Instagram.”

Add it all together, and there are some serious worries about Google in the industry.

Says a former Googler: “I think 2015 is going to be disastrous.”

“Mobile has been eating away [at them] for years, but they’ve been able to pull rabbits out of the hat to increase revenue.”

“[That] has to end somewhere.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/googles-very-rough-transition-nicholas

Nicholas Carlson is the author of “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!” available for pre-order now.

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Autonomous Cars Will Require a Totally New Kind of Map Monday, Dec 15 2014 

Map Lab

Autonomous Cars Will Require a Totally New Kind of Map

High-definition-map-for-autonomous-driving

As the vehicle navigated the labyrinthine streets of London and headed for the countryside of Surrey with uncommon speed, the passengers must have felt a bit unnerved. Having selected their destination, they’d relinquished control. They had no communication with the driver, but they could check their progress on a map.

The map must have been reassuring, says Peter Skillman, lead designer for Nokia HERE, the maps division the Finnish communications company. Skillman visited WIRED’s San Francisco office recently to talk about HERE’s efforts to build high definition maps for autonomous vehicles. But the passengers he was talking about weren’t zipping through London in a sleek Audi prototype. They were riding in a stagecoach circa 1720. Skillman had taken a slight detour to show off a map he’d bought recently at an antiquarian map shop in London. Then as now, Skillman said, maps can smooth the transition to a new technology.

‘THE KEY TO MAKING AUTONOMOUS DRIVING WORK IS TO NOT FORGET ABOUT THE DRIVER.’

Autonomous cars will require maps that differ in several important ways from the maps we use today for turn-by-turn directions. They need to be hi-def. Meter-resolution maps may be good enough for GPS-based navigation, but autonomous cars will need maps that can tell them where the curb is within a few centimeters. They also need to be live, updated second by second with information about accidents, traffic backups, and lane closures. Finally, and this was the point Skillman was trying to make with the 1720 road atlas, they’ll need to take human psychology into account and win the trust of their passengers. “The key to making autonomous driving work is to not forget about the driver,” Skillman said.

Fully autonomous cars will be ready to hit the road as soon as 2017 (according to Sergey Brin), or perhaps sometime in the 2020s (according to more conservative forecasts), or maybe never (according to naysayers). The timing may be uncertain, but cars are already becoming more autonomous, creeping across a spectrum from current models with adaptive cruise control and assisted parallel parking to future vehicles that can navigate from A to B while you take a nap or make a sandwich. Much of the attention has focused on the sensors and other technology inside the cars and on the legal questions they raise (if an autonomous car causes an accident, who’s to blame? what if the car was hacked?), but there’s another crucial element: maps.nokia-probe-LA

Like typical digital maps HERE is using satellite and aerial imagery as a starting point for its HD maps. The maps also incorporate anonymized “probe data” from GPS devices inside fleet vehicles owned by trucking companies and other partners. This data, which HERE collects at a rate of 100 billion points per month, contains information about the direction and speed of traffic on roads and highways. But the most detailed information being fed into the maps comes from hundreds of cars outfitted with GPS, cameras, and lidar, a laser-based method for measuring distances.

This fleet is coordinated from a nondescript building two blocks from the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The sensors on the cars were developed by John Ristevski, a 38-year-old Australian native. Ristevski is HERE’s head of reality capture, a job title reminiscent of the famous story by Jorge Luis Borges about a 1:1 scale map that is exactly as big as the area it covers. The map Ristevski and his colleagues are creating has similar aspirations.

When the car is in motion, the lidar system—a cylinder about the size of a soda can—spins around, shooting out 32 laser beams and analyzing the light that bounces back. It collects 700,000 points per second, Ristevski says. An inertial sensor tracks the pitch, roll, and yaw of the car so that the lidar data can be corrected for the position of the car and used to create a 3-D model of the roads it has traveled. The lidar instrument’s range tops out about 10-15 stories above the street. At street level, its resolution is just a few centimeters.

here-car

A HERE car outfitted with GPS, LIDAR, and cameras. Nokia HERE

Lane markers and street signs stand out in the lidar imagery because they’re coated with reflective paint. HERE uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and manual labor to extract this information and check it against imagery from the cars’ cameras (much like Google extracts similar information from its Street View imagery.)

HERE has outfitted roughly 200 cars with the sensor system Ristevski designed, and the company has a similar number of cars with an older generation of equipment. In Berkeley, Ristevski and I took a quick spin with driver Luke Pulaski in a bright blue Volkswagon Jetta wagon with the sensor equipment mounted on a Thule roof rack. A battery pack and custom Linux box with a terabyte hard drive occupied the space where the legs of a front seat passenger would go. Pulaski logged on to the system with a few taps on a tablet mounted just to his right, and icons turned green to indicate that the cameras and other sensors were working. Turn-by-turn directions appeared, calculated to provide the most efficient route to cover every street in the area to be mapped. “For the most part, the driving is actually boring,” Ristevski said. “It’s designed to be.”

All told, HERE has driven 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) in 30 countries on 6 continents, all in the last 15 months. Google, HERE’s main competitor in the race to build maps for autonomous cars, has focused its efforts close to home,reportedly mapping 2,000 miles around its headquarters in Mountain View. (The US road network, for comparison, covers 4 million miles). A live map in HERE’s Berkeley office shows which cars are active. The afternoon I visited, a green tags indicated cars actively mapping roads on the west coast and a couple tags indicated that drivers in Australia were off to an early start. The tags in Europe and the east coast were grayed out, done driving for the day.

HD maps will tell an autonomous car what to expect along its route, Ristevski says. “If you just have a bunch of sensors on the car that detect things in real time and no a priori information about what exists, the problem becomes a lot harder,” he said. “The maps are essential.”

 

Of course, road conditions can change quickly, and another challenge for mapmakers is how to detect things like accidents and lane closures and update their maps in as close to real time as possible. Sensors on future autonomous cars could feed information over cellular data networks to HERE’s map in the cloud, but that might not be fast enough to avoid an accident. According to Peter Skillman, it could take several seconds for a car in San Francisco to beam its data to a data center in, say, North Carolina, and get a response. Getting response times down to tens of milliseconds—fast enough for a car to switch lanes to avoid some debris in the road spotted by another car ahead of it—will require applications that live inside the LTE networks and can be accessed locally, Skillman says.

A self-driving car that swerves to avoid debris may be a marvel of technology, but it’s also a scary car to be in if you don’t know what’s going on. And this gets back to Skillman’s point about maps as mediators between human psychology and a potentially frightening new technology. A recent survey found that 88 percent of Americans were worried about riding in a driverless car. The key to getting people to trust autonomous cars, Skillman says, is having the experience match their expectations. If the car signals ahead of time that it’s about to change lanes to avoid some debris, and then does exactly that, it will start to gain the trust of its passengers, he says.

Skillman pulled up a few examples on his laptop, short clips that showed the kind of map you’d see in the console of a car with an onboard navigation system. In one, an animated arrow popped up on a map to indicate an impending lane change. In another, yellow brackets and an exclamation point highlighted a man walking near the side of the road—thereby alerting passengers to the possibility of a sudden move to avoid him.

Skillman played another animation, a short 3-D clip of a route through the streets of Chicago. Played at the start of a trip, this sort of overview could help put passengers at ease by showing them where they are and where they’re going, he says. It’s the same purpose his 18th century road atlas served. Passengers would be able to see that there’s a right turn coming up and understand why. Cartographers will have to keep inventing these kinds of solutions as they design maps for autonomous cars, Skillman says. “We need to develop a whole new visual language so you know what the car’s intentions are.”

1720-road-map

Link: What to do on a long trip with a self driving car:    http://wp.me/p2YCFN-us

Meditation Is Even More Powerful Than We Originally Thought Friday, Dec 12 2014 

n-MEDITATION-BEACH-HAND-large570

 | By

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/11/meditation-reduces-stress-harvard-study_n_6109404.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

With our stress levels creeping higher than ever before, we could all stand to reap the benefits of this mindful practice.

A recent study from Harvard University and the University of Sienna found that the powers of meditation move beyond the cultivation of self-awareness, improvement of concentration and protection of the heart and immune system — it can actually alter the physiology of the human brain. Consistent practice can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who often need it most.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists selected 24 subjects who had never meditated before and guided them through an 8-week meditation course. Each participant completed a two-and-a-half hour session each week, where they learned about various components and styles of a meditation practice. Outside of the weekly session, they each meditated for 45 minutes daily.

Data gathered from the MRIs conducted before and after the meditation program, along with psychological evaluations, revealed that the subjects experienced a thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception. Such changes strengthen the body’s physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.

For the increasing number of us struggling with the overwhelming demands of our lives, reserving a little time each day to tune into ourselves might not be such a bad idea. It takes a little prioritizing in an already-busy schedule, but the proven benefits can be well worth the effort.

How To Hide The Fact That Your Website Runs On WordPress Monday, Dec 8 2014 

Posted by KeriLynn Engel on Dec 07, 2014 09:00 am

Security is always top concern when you’re running a website.

hide-wordpress1

But… sometimes all the hubbub over hacking seems a little over the top. All the scary stories about big businesses like eBay, Target, Adobe, Steam, and others who have suffered big data breaches can feel like fear-mongering. Surely hackers won’t go after your website when they have such big fish to fry?

The post How To Hide The Fact That Your Website Runs On WordPress appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

The data, unfortunately, tells us otherwise. Smaller websites are hacked just as frequently as big ones, with almost half of small businesses reporting being hacked, their resultant costs averaging $8,700.

And those are only the businesses who are willing to report being hacked. It’s probable that others keep their vulnerability a secret, not wanting their users to lose their trust in their ability to keep private data safe and secure.

Even if you only take into account reported instances, tens of thousands of websitesare hacked every day, and many of them don’t even know they’ve been hacked and that their websites are being used to spread malicious code.

As a WordPress user, you’re using one of the most secure content management systems available. But no CMS is 100% invulnerable, and hackers are evolving their methods just as fast as developers can patch vulnerabilities.

You may have heard that hiding WordPress is the best way to keep your site secure from hackers and bots.

There’s actually quite a bit of debate among developers and security experts about this practice.

I’ll go over the pros and cons of both sides and the reasoning behind them, and leave it up to you to decide if hiding your CMS is right for your website.

Then we’ll talk about how you can obscure your implementation of WordPress.

Let’s get started!

Isn’t WordPress Secure Enough Already?

WordPress is known for being a very secure content management system (CMS). Security issues are a top concern of WordPress core developers, and the software is patched and updated regularly to address any vulnerabilities that arise.

The security of WordPress is one of the reasons for its popularity. WordPress is now one of the most popular content management systems on the web, used for tens of millions of websites around the world. Even big websites like CNN, The New York Times, eBay, and Mashable use WordPress for their blogs.

But just the fact that you’re using WordPress for your website doesn’t make your website invulnerable to hackers.

In fact, its very popularity is what makes it a popular target.

Hackers know that millions of websites that are using WordPress aren’t using the best security measures to keep their sites secure. Many of those sites are using weak passwords, outdated versions of WordPress with known vulnerabilities, or old and insecure plugins and themes. Hackers know there they’ll have plenty of targets out there once they discover those vulnerabilities and create a way to exploit them.

The most common ways that hackers attack WordPress sites are with brute force attacks or HTTP requests.

Brute-force hackers use software to try to gain access to your website by guessing at your password until they get lucky and break in. Often, simple countermeasures like requiring CAPTCHA or 2-step verification on login can easily stop brute force login attempts in their tracks.

Another common category of hacker attacks are specially-crafted HTTP requests sent to your server. These requests are designed to exploit specific vulnerabilities which are often caused by outdated or insecure software, themes, or plugins. Anything contained in your wp-content directory, whether active or inactive, can potentially introduce security vulnerabilities to your website that knowledgeable hackers can exploit to disable or gain access to your blog.

Why Hide WordPress?

Here’s where the debate comes in.

But first, let’s get our terminology straight: Sometimes people mean different things when they say they’re hiding WordPress.

What’s usually meant by “hiding WordPress” is that you’re attempting to obscure the fact that your site runs on WordPress from any person or bot that attempts to identify the CMS.

But hiding WordPress could also mean just trying to hide which version number of WordPress you’re using, or changing permalinks, file names, subdirectories, etc. to hide them from bots.

Is hiding WordPress worth the effort? Depends on who you ask.

The fact is, there’s no way to completely obscure the fact that your website runs on WordPress. A tech-savvy person who knows enough about WordPress will be able to detect your CMS using any number of means.

Even if you’re just trying to hide your WordPress version number, there are a multitude of ways to discover what WordPress version you’re using just by being familiar with the differences between versions.

And security experts warn that security through obscurity is a discouraged practice, since it can encourage laxness in addressing vulnerabilities if you think no one can find them: “The security of a system should depend on its key, not on its design remaining obscure,” security engineer Ross Anderson wrote.

Does that mean it’s a waste of time to hide WordPress?

Maybe, maybe not. It won’t help you to foil a dedicated hacker that’s targeting you specifically.

But the majority of hacking attempts are made by bots, and you may be able to foil hacker bots by obscuring your WordPress installation. Just by changing some default permalinks, you may be able to protect your website against things like brute-force attacks, SQL-injection, and requests to your PHP files.

Other WordPress Security Measures

Hiding WordPress by obscuring a few permalinks and files can be a good security measure, but it’s not your only option, and it shouldn’t be the only action you take to protect your site.

There are some basic WordPress security tips you can easily follow to keep your site more safe from hackers, without hiding WordPress:

  • Always use strong passwords.
  • Always keep your WordPress core updated to the latest version.
  • Keep all your themes and plugins updated, delete inactive themes and plugins, and stop using any themes and plugins that are no longer being updated.
  • Consider protecting your login page from brute force attacks by requiringCAPTCHA and/or 2 factor authentication.
  • Consider installing an all-in-one security plugin like iThemes Security or Bullet Proof Security.

(If your website’s already been hacked, check out this great guide by Nathan B. Weller here on ElegantThemes to find out how to fix it: “Oh Sh*#! What to Do When Your WordPress Website Has Been Hacked.”)

How to Hide the Fact You’re Using WordPress

So you’ve decided you still want to try to hide the fact that you’re using WordPress from your visitors as well as potential hackers and bots.

How exactly do you go about it?

There are plenty of tutorials out there for hiding just your WordPress version number, but I’m not going to rehash those for a few reasons:

  • If security is really your goal, you should always be updating to the latest version anyway.
  • The WordPress version number shows up in a multitude of places in various files, so it can be difficult and time-consuming to obscure them all, and not worth the effort, because…
  • Even if you do manage to erase every mention of your WordPress version number, there are still plenty of ways someone can find out what version of WordPress you’re using.
  • Obscuring your version number won’t protect you from bots, either. Bots don’t generally check to see what version of WordPress you’re using; they just go straight for the vulnerability they’re targeting. If you keep your WordPress core updated, they won’t find it. And if you’re using an old version of WordPress, theywill find it regardless of how well you try to hide your version number.

Still determined to hide the fact you use WordPress? It could be that you have a client demanding you hide WordPress for them, or maybe you think that your business looks unprofessional using blogging software to run your website.

In that case, I recommend a premium plugin called Hide My WP, available on Code Canyon. It works well as a general security plugin, and will hide the fact that you’re using WordPress by changing your permalinks without making changes to the actual locations of your files.

Hide My WP has a number of features that improve your WordPress security:

  • Changes permalinks of files (like wp-admin) to obscure them from bots
  • Removes meta info (like version number) from your headers and feeds
  • Controls access to your PHP files
  • Changes the default subdirectories of vulnerable folders like wp-content
  • Changes query URLs to protect from SQL injections
  • Hides files that can give hackers information about your WordPress installation (like readme.html or license.txt)
  • Gives you the option to disable specific archives, categories, tags, pages, posts
  • Notifies you of security risks with the new “Intrusion Detection System”

Hide My WP is also compatible with many other popular WordPress security plugins. It’s rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Code Canyon, and the plugin author is very timely to respond to support requests.

Are You Hiding Your WordPress Installation?

Back to you!

After reading the pros and cons, are you determined to hide the fact that your website is powered by WordPress? What steps have you taken to obscure your CMS, and how well have they worked for you? Share in the comments below!

KeriLynn EngelBy KeriLynn Engel

KeriLynn Engel is a freelance business writer and professional blogger with a passion for WordPress and all things Internet. She writes about technology, women’s history, and other topics for a variety of websites & businesses.

What Is The ROI Of Social Media? Thursday, Dec 4 2014 

social-media-roi

There is little doubt of the value of social media. You can gain a lot of readers and expand your brand. All of these efforts take a lot of time, so how do you know that what you’re getting back from your efforts is worth your time? What is your return on investment? Does its gain outweigh its cost? How valuable are social media shares?

http://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/tips-tricks/what-is-the-roi-of-social-media?utm_source=Elegant+Themes&utm_campaign=dc862b0193-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c886a2fc0a-dc862b0193-50512893

5 Trends That Will Change How You Use Social Media in 2015 Thursday, Dec 4 2014 

BY RYAN HOLMES | 3 DAYS AGO | STRATEGY |

http://blog.hootsuite.com/5-social-media-trends-2015/
This post originally appeared in Time.

Big changes are afoot for the likes of Twitter, Facebook and others.

This year started with a death sentence for Facebook. In January, a research company called Global Web Index published a study showing that Facebook had lost nearly one-third of its U.S. teen users in the last year. Headlines pronounced the network “dead and buried.”

Fast forward to the present and Facebook is reporting record growth. The company earned $2.96 billion in ad revenue in the third quarter of 2013, up 64 percent from just a year ago. More impressively, the network has added more than 100 million monthly active users in the last year.

All of which goes to show how difficult it can be to predict the future of social media. With that caveat in mind, here’s a look into the crystal ball at five ways social media will (likely) evolve in 2015.

Your social network wants to be your wallet

Hacks released in October show a hidden payment feature deep inside Facebook’s popular Messenger app. If activated by the company, it will allow the app’s 200 million users to send money to each other using just debit card information, free of charge. Meanwhile, the network has also already rolled out a new Autofill feature (a kind of Facebook Connect for credit cards), which allows users who save their credit card info on Facebook to check out with 450,000 e-commerce merchants across the web.

So why does Facebook want to handle your money in 2015? Right now, some of tech’s biggest players are battling it out in the mobile payments space, including Apple with its new Apple Pay app, upstarts like Square and Stripe and even online payments veterans like PayPal. The endgame at this stage isn’t exactly clear. Facebook may eventually charge for its money transfer services, leverage customer purchasing data to pull in more advertisers or even try to rival traditional credit cards like Visa and Mastercard (which make billions on fees). One thing’s for sure: You can expect to see major social networks jockeying more aggressively to handle your transactions in 2015.

New networks proliferate, but will they last?

2014 saw the rise of a number of niche social networks, many built specifically in response to the perceived failings of the big boys: the lack of privacy, the collection of demographic and psychographic data, the increasingly pervasive advertising. Newcomers range from Ello, which launched in March with promises to never sell user data, to Yik Yak, which allows users to exchange fully anonymous posts with people who are physically nearby, and tsu, which has promised to share ad revenue with users based on the popularity of their posts.

Will these networks grow and stick around? New social platforms that try to replicate the Facebook experience while promising, for instance, fewer ads or more privacy, have the odds seriously stacked against them. The biggest challenge – one that even Google+ has struggled with – is attracting a sufficient userbase so the network doesn’t feel like a ghost town compared to Facebook’s thriving 1.3-billion-user global community.

On the other hand, new networks that map onto strong existing communities or interests (interest-based networks, as opposed to Facebook-style people-based networks) have a much better chance. In fact, thousands of these networks are already thriving below the radar, from dedicated sites for cooks and chefs like Foodie to sites for fitness junkies like Fitocracy.

Shopping finally comes to social media

Earlier this year, both Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allows users to make purchases with just a click or two, without ever leaving the network. Expect e-commerce and social media integrations to deepen in 2015. In fact, it’s a little surprising it’s taken so long.

For starters, this approach eliminates one key dilemma all merchants face – how to get customers in the door (or to your website). On Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already got a receptive audience, happily chatting with friends, browsing the latest trends, sharing photos and videos, etc. Once their payment details are on file, purchases are a tap or two away. Then it’s back to cat GIFs and updates on weekend plans.

In addition, since Facebook and especially Twitter are real-time media, they’re perfect for short-term deals tied in with fleeting trends. With time-sensitive offers literally streaming by, consumers may well be inclined to act quickly and seal the deal, forgoing the obsessive comparison shopping that characterizes lots of Internet transactions.

Finally, there are major benefits to advertisers. Connecting individual Tweets and Facebook posts with actual purchases has thus far proved a huge analytical challenge. But with the advent of buy buttons, concrete revenue figures can be attached to specific social media messages in a way that hasn’t been possible until now.

 

Smart devices get more social

Cheap sensors have led to an explosion of smart devices. Everything from home appliances like thermostats, bathroom scales and refrigerators towearables like fitness bracelets and smart watches are now collecting data and zapping it off wirelessly to the Internet. Lots of these devices are also pushing notifications to Facebook, Twitter and other networks, a trend that will continue in 2015. The question is: Is that a good thing? The prospect of growing legions of washing machines, smoke alarms and Nike FuelBands spitting out Facebook posts isn’t exactly something to get excited about.

The challenge in 2015 becomes how to more intelligently integrate the fast-growing Internet of Things with social media. In short, smart devices need to improve their social intelligence. This might start with tapping users’ social graph – their unique network of friends and followers – in better ways. A very simple example: a smart fridge that tracks your Facebook Events, sees you’re planning a party and how many people have RSVP’d and alerts you to make a beer run. By listening to social media in more sophisticated ways – tracking users’ activities and interactions with friends and followers, then responding accordingly – smart devices stand to get even smarter in the year ahead.

The illusion of social media privacy gives way to the real thing

2014 saw a number of anonymous and ephemeral social networks – Snapchat, Secret, Whisper, Yik Yak and Telegram, to name a few – surge in popularity. Not everyone wants every conversation over social media broadcast to the world, after all. At the same time, savvy users are increasingly aware – and concerned – about ways personal data is being collected and later sold to advertisers, manipulated in tests or accessed by government agencies.

The problem is that few of these “private” networks fulfill their mandates.Snapchat has been hacked, repeatedly, with hundreds of thousands of sensitive – supposedly disappearing – user photos posted on the Internet. And in October, it was revealed that the anonymous network Whisper wasactually saving users’ posts and locations and compiling this information in a searchable database. As Venture Beat points out, real anonymity and privacy on the Internet is extremely difficult to achieve. While it’s easy to make promises, it’s nearly impossible to deliver.

But demand for anonymous social media will only get bigger in 2015. In fact, there are signs that even the major players are beginning to acknowledge the issue. In October, Facebook rolled out its new chat app Rooms, which allows users to create chat rooms around shared interests, with no requirement to reveal name or location. Meanwhile in November, Facebook became the first Silicon Valley tech giant to provide official support for Tor, the powerful, open-source anonymizing service – popular among journalists, political dissidents and law enforcement – that allows users to conceal their identity, location and browsing history.

  Ryan Holmes   Ryan HolmesRyan is Hootsuite’s CEO. He is a regular contributor to outlets such as Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and LinkedIn’s Influencer. He writes about social      media, technology trends, and entrepreneurialism.

Automatic WordPress Updates: How to Turn Them On or Off and Decide Which is Right for You Tuesday, Dec 2 2014 

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Posted on December 2 by in Tips & Tricks |

One of the fundamentals of running a WordPress website is knowing how and when to update the core files, plugins, and themes that comprise it. In the past updating WordPress, while still relatively easy, had a bit more guesswork than it does today.

Since WordPress 3.7 was released automatic updates for minor and security releases have become standard. It is also now possible to receive major or core updates without the site admin doing anything. This of course takes the guess work out updating WordPress for many users; an undeniable benefit. However, auto updates for WordPress are not the right solution for everyone.

In today’s post I’m going to weigh the pro’s and con’s of enabling automatic WordPress updates and then show you how to configure them to best suit your needs.

The Pro’s & Con’s of Automatic WordPress Updates

The benefits of automatic updates seem pretty obvious. If they just happen, in a stable and secure way, then that’s one less vital aspect of managing your WordPress site that you have to deal with or worry about. So what about the potential negative scenarios of automatic updates for WordPress? What are they and who do they affect?

Basically, if you fall into one of the following groups, you may want to hold off on automatic updates:

1. If you’ve made customizations to the core of WordPress. Any automatic updates to those core files will override and erase those customizations.

2. If your site depends on third party (non-official WordPress.or) themes/plugins to function properly. You don’t want to run the risk of your site updating beyond the compatibility of your theme and plugins, resulting in those things breaking. This can result in something as mild (but annoying and unprofessional) as features/functions breaking and/or on displaying properly. Or in the worst case, your whole site could go down and that’s not fun for anyone.

Those reservations (significant though they are) aside, there are still a few ways to protect yourself and automate parts of WordPress without opening yourself  up to much (if any) risk. However, it should be noted: whenever you are about to update your site, whether manually or via a plugin or service–you need to back it up. In order to accomplish this with automatic updates you may need to automate your backups too. For more information on WordPress backups check out our post 10 WordPress Backup Plugins You Need to Know About.

Once you’ve figured that out you can feel safe in putting the following automatic update solutions into practice.

How to Disable Automatic Updates for WordPress

So let’s say you fall into one of those two groups and you’d like to disable automatic WordPress updates. To do that you will have to either edit your wpconfig.php file manually or use a plugin. In this section I will cover the manual method and below I’ll cover the plugin options.

To manually disable automatic updates for WordPress all you have to do is add the following line of code to your wp-config.php file:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

While this will disable WordPress automatic updates, you will still be notified when there is a new version available. So you don’t have to worry about it resulting in no updates whatsoever. It’s just on your terms at that point.

How to Enable Automatic Updates for WordPress

vNow let’s say you do not fall into either of the two groups I mentioned above. You have a very basic setup with themes and plugins that are always kept up to date and compatible with the latest version of WordPress. In your case automatic updates, even major ones, are ideal.

To manually enable automatic updates for WordPress all you have to do is add the following line of code to your wp-config.php file:

define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true );

This will enable all core updates. However, some people may not want nightly builds and development updates included–just the important security, minor and major changes. To disable those add the following bit of code to your functions.php file and you’re all set.

add_filter( 'allow_dev_auto_core_updates', '__return_false' );

The Automatic Updater for WordPress Plugin

Ok, so the manual solution will no doubt prove to be painless for many of you. However, I realize that not everyone is comfortable editing the files of their WordPress install–even if it’s just pasting in a line of code. Not a problem. One of the contributing WordPress core developers created a great free plugin called Advanced Automatic Updates just for you.

To get the plugin follow the link in the paragraph above, download it, and follow the installation instructions. Once installed, navigate to Settings > Advanced Automatic Updates and you’ll see a screen just like the image below.

Advanced-Automatic-Updates

With a few clicks you can choose to update WordPress Core automatically for major versions or minor versions. You can also choose to update your plugins and themes automatically. However, the theme update feature only works for themes obtained through the official WordPress theme repository at WordPress.org. If you’ve made a third party purchase, you’ll have to update the theme manually.

Other Automatic Update Options for WordPress

As is almost always the case with WordPress solutions, there are many ways to do the same thing. Automatic Updates are no exception. Below are the final three ways that you can arrange for automatic updates if the two primary/individual solutions above are not what you’re looking for.

Managed WordPress Hosting

There are a lot of options out there for managed WordPress hosting. Bluehost, WPEnginge, Flywheel, and others all offer great services for a wide range of WordPress users. The goal of this section is not to highlight each service and compare them, but rather to simply mention that for the vast majority of managed WordPress hosting services automatic updates are part of what you’re paying for. They will make sure that the core of your installation stays up-to-date and secure. Some might update your themes and plugins too, but because those can vary so much that’s probably not standard.

ManageWP

ManageWP is a plugin/service that brings the kind of integration and service features of a managed hosting provider or multi-site install to users who are managing any number of separately hosted WordPress.org sites. With their powerful dashboard you can access and updated anywhere from two to two hundred separate WordPress installs with a single click. Among many other awesome features.

WordPress Management Services

Not long ago I wrote an article here called How to Start a WordPress Management Business in Less than a Day. This post talks about how, using tools like ManageWP, someone with enough WordPress savvy could set up the basic elements required for that business in an extremely short amount of time and be up and running as soon as they could land their first customer.

If that is not you (and you don’t even like the idea of installing a plugin like the one above) then perhaps hiring a WordPress maintenance or management service is a step in the right direction. Any good service of this kind will make sure your site, themes, and plugins are always up-to-date and running properly.

In Conclusion

WordPress updates are such a fundamental part of working with this platform that it’s a good idea to figure out what automatic updating option works best for you. Whether that be major updates, security updates, minor updates, theme or plugin updates knowing that everything is current, secure, and functioning properly can provide a great sense of peace and calm. It will also make sure your site doesn’t break. Which is pretty important, wouldn’t you say?

Speaking of the things you say, we’d love to know what you’ve chosen to do for WordPress updates and which option you recommend. Let us know in the comments below!

Article thumbnail by phoelix / Shutterstock.com

By Nathan B. Weller  Natan B Weller7.thumbnail

Nathan is a professional writer and digital publisher. His work exists at the intersection of cosmology, anthropology, psychology, comparative mythology, storytelling and WordPress. Weird, right? Find him on the interwebs to learn more.

Gas prices to plunge near $2 for the holidays Monday, Dec 1 2014 

Web Producer-Orlando Business Journal
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http://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2014/12/01/gas-prices-to-plunge-near-2-for-the-holidays.html?ana=twt
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While the Thanksgiving weekend welcomed lower gas prices for travelers, motorists can expect pump prices to fall even more as the Christmas holiday season approaches,AAA reports.

Gas prices nationwide have fallen for 67 consecutive days — the longest streak since 2008 — and a handful of gas stations in states in the South and Mid-West could see pump prices fall near the $2 per gallon mark approaching the holidays.

“Drivers in southeastern states, such as Tennessee, may see a select few stations selling gas at or below $2 in the coming weeks,” said Josh Carrasco, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group, in a prepared statement. “The chances of gasoline averaging $2 per gallon are highly unlikely.

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