Blogging Dates!

You’ve probably read all about “cheap date ideas” – but we’ve gone full circle and are going on dates that pay us! 


We try to go on blogging dates every weekend. We take ours at the coffee shop but you could go anywhere with internet access. It’s fun to go out somewhere instead of doing this at home.

Sure each date costs 4$ in coffee, but we write so much on these dates that they pay for themselves in just 2 weeks – then for years after we will keep seeing benefits!

I’ve found that blogging dates are a great way to encourage ourselves to get out and write. It’s too easy at home to get tied up watching YouTube videos so we try to change up the environment and it really helps our motivation.

I use blogging dates to write my daily blog post and catch up on maintenance operations which I tend to put off. Today I spent it setting up the W3 Super Cache plugin which is something I should have done ages ago. Before I set it up my main website was performing better than only 42% of sites on the net. Afterwords, I was testing better than 99% of sites!

My fiance uses blogging dates to mass produce content for her beauty blog. She has a jobby career so she writes between 3 and 5 posts on our weekend dates and schedules them throughout the week.

I’d really like to involve more people on our weekly blogging dates – we just gotta find some people in our town who will commit to them! Maybe we can rename them to “blogging meetups” or something…

Yet Another Way to Sneak Google+ Into Everything

Google is desperate to get people using Google+. They covet that priceless metadata that right now only Facebook has, called the “Facebook Like.” Many of the end-of-year bonuses now at Google are directly tied to how much Google+ product you can push on the mostly unwilling crowds of internet users.

The latest of hundreds of attempts to get real people using Google+ is present in the brand new Adsense scorecard, which made its debut right around Adsense’s 10 year anniversary this past week.

It’s actually slightly useful – lets you know opportunities you’ve missed and what you can do better. I’ve already made a couple of changes based on the scorecard, and will probably installing a site caching plugin to address page speed performance as well. Of course right there at the end, they stick “Add a Google+ Button” – as if that’s going to actually help with earnings from Adsense?

I’m sick to tears of Google+ already, and I don’t even use the program.


Adding a Banner Ad


Today I finally added a third ad to my main website.

Adsense only allows 3 ads per page, and I’ve been running just 2 on 98% of my pages for the past few months.fgi-new

I put the ad up based on another of Google Adsense’s recommendations and a recommendation from another adsense publisher who gives mostly simplistic advice, but some good stuff.

I like my old design better. I think I’ll like my new design if I get rid of the like button.

Here’s what it used to look like.

fgi-oldThis test shouldn’t interfere with my other ongoing test with rich media ads, which already shows about a 30% increase in revenues per ad view compared with text only ads. This top banner ad should affect both ad rotations exactly equally.


Web Server Hacked! … and fixed | $zend_framework hack

Relying solely on WordPress is getting more and more risky as it becomes more and more ubiquitous. It’s the same reason why in the early 2000’s windows became the Typhoid Mary of operating systems. Everyone was using it so it became the hacking target with the highest ROI for hackers.

My sites have been hacked before but never to this extent. Every single piece of PHP code on my second server had a long piece of encrypted code added to the beginning. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it weren’t for the enormous slowdown I saw on all my websites hosted on that server.


It took me 48 hours before I realized what was going on – it was actually my hosting company that pointed out the malicious code – and another 5 or 6 hours of work to clear it all up. It would have taken much longer were it not for the excellent work by Oomta, who wrote a piece of PHP code that you can run from your website’s root that will automatically clear out your entire install.

Right Click, and save as this link to download the full code in txt format. To use the code, change it from a txt into a php by renaming the file extension, then upload to your server. Then run the script by navigating in your browser to

I had about 8 wordpress installations on this server, so I had to run the script 8 times. The hack also seemed to add 2 additional backdoor scripts within the installations which I found using the (free) WordFence security plugin, and an additional administrative user with a black name and email address. Check for both of those things as well if you have been hit with the $zend hack. There could be more nasty little things they’ve added that I haven’t found yet.

I’m hoping to keep these sites going until wordpress can release some sort of update to prevent this from happening again. I’ll be watching like a hawk.

For my rich media ad A/B testing project, I’ll just have to throw out yet more data from the last few days. Today seems to be back up to normal, but I’m throwing out data from at least the past 3 days.


What to Do with too much Free Time?

I find myself poking around on job boards just to see what’s out there. If the right thing comes along I apply for it.

I’ve written crazy alternative resumes before, just to gauge response. Since I’m comfortable in the blog format, that’s usually what they look like. Imagine getting sent a blog post in PDF format for a job opening. Side note, is “PDF Format” redundant? I have yet to hear back from someone who was unlucky enough to be sent one of my hipster resumes.

Too much free time is certainly a first world problem. You have to know how to keep yourself happy. That’s never been a problem for me personally, but I know certain humans who aren’t happy unless they’re working their asses off. I know a lot of people like that actually.

Buddhist monks don’t give a shit. They’ll meditate for decades at a time. Some stand in the same place so long they start to sink into the hardwood floor. Do they ever get bored? I assume not, otherwise they would just leave and do something else, wouldn’t they?



I find time harder to fill out here in the far-flung prairies than I did in the thriving coastal metropolis we lived in before. In Vancouver, you’d take visiting a coffee shop for granted. Here we have to plan cafe visits, it’s a once a week at most affair that requires shifting 2 tons of pickup truck down a highway far too busy for a city this size.

Fortunately even in tar sands country, the internet is always on. So that’s how I’ve been filling all this free time for these past 6 months. It’s the cheapest entertainment, education, and business incubator mankind has ever come up with – thanks Al Gore!

I read a lot of these early retirement websites like ERE and MMM – and I guess this site is just a slightly different angle on the same subject. My experience has been that you don’t need to accumulate even the lowball quarter million that EREman saved up before he quit his job – I quit my job 3 years ago with a net savings of just a few thousand, and have more today than I did then. That’s another thing I love to spend all this free time doing. Finding ways to make more money than I spend, month after month after month. It’s a fun challenge and it gets easier and easier.

So here’s my one-item list of stuff you can do with more free time:

  • Do what you like to do now, but more of it.

I’m not a gym bunny, but if you like going to the gym, you can go more often. Cyclists can go on longer bike rides, even multi-day if you care to. If you like raising kids, well then, go whole hog and join a homeschooling circle.

Hey, it’s a crappy answer I know, but I know nothing about your life and what charges up your batteries. Go on a vision quest or something.

Should I allow Adsense Image ads?

In summary – yes and no. You want to try both ad types at the same time and see which one does better over a 30 day or longer trial period. Then eliminate the underperformer. 

I’m using this post as a very extended annotation in google analytics because for some reason it only allows 160 characters. What is this, 1995?

Anyway yesterday (June 4 2013) Google asked me to allow images as well as text ads on my highest paying slot, a 336×280 at the top of a certain website about buckets.  They came to me promising up to 30% increase in weekly earnings, which is the same as a 30% increase in monthly earnings actually, if you do the math.

The unit was making about 10$ a day. For comparison, rent costs about 13$ a day, so this is a fairly important ad.

This is the 3rd or so time they’ve come to me begging me to allow those image ads. I’ve always clicked no but I figured – why the heck not – and clicked yes this time.

Day 1 of Rich Media Adsense Ads

The next day was depressing. Ad revenue for the entire site actually dropped by half.

I looked to the internet for some advice – and wouldn’t you know it I found some.

Apparently image ads used to have not such a great reputation back a few years ago, but more recent experience seems to indicate that they DO improve earnings. They may actually attract less clicks but since a single image ad may be buying out 4 smaller text ads, the payout per click can be much greater.

But the people who know better than me advised, each site is different. Which is true. Some sites get better responses to images and some text. Google’s algorithm is only as good as the average.

There’s a simple solution – test both at the same time for an extended period of time to get some hard numbers.

A/B Split Testing

I’m using 2 easy to use, free tools that any adsense site should already have set up.

  • Adsense Ad Channels
  • The ad rotation feature in my wordpress Ad Injection plugin.

Instead of just serving one ad in this spot, it’ll be a randomized test between ad A and ad B.

  • Ad unit A: text ads
  • Ad unit B: text or image ads

These will run either-or for 4 to 6 weeks, and after the end of the period we’ll see which one pays off better.

Adsense Ad Channels

I have 2 ad units that are set to serve 50/50 to each visitor. My new one is text only (same as before) and my “upgraded” old unit is now text and image ads. Both ads are the same in all other ways, including placement and size.

I’ve set up 3 ad channels. One for each of these ad units, and a third that adds the 2 together.

ad channels


Based on the reports from other people who have taken Google’s suggestion to allow media ads, I expect new relevant advertisers with image ads to trickle in over the next month. This test will allow me to get those hard numbers that I can confidently go forward with. I’ll be able to calculate a percentage and see how close I came to the alleged 30% claimed. Right now I’m at -50%, so we’ve got a ways to go.

However I expect that the rich media slot will earn more than the text slot by the end of the 30 day test. But there’s no way to know without doing the test right.

Results will be posted in a separate post. If I remember.


I have a few concerns that could muddy the data.

This new ad unit has no experience, it’s like a level 1 warrior on final fantasy. The older ad unit has been running for 6-8 months. I don’t know if the new ad unit will perform at the same level quickly enough to be a good data point. I don’t know enough about how ad units work within the Adsense system to know how quickly my level 1 ad will reach level 6-8. It could be a day, it could be another 6 months. There’s no way to know unless I can gather data from a much longer period of time.

This is the kind of problem that would eat at Taran. It’s at this point I get lazy and just let things slide. I may not have the patience for science.

Notes to Self:

Throw out data from June 5 and before. June 6 2013 and forward is good data.