GlassWire | Free App For Windows Let’s You See What’s Happening Behind The Scenes With Network Usage

What is GlassWire?

GlassWire is a free Windows application that I learned about from one of my kids.  He’s much more technically ‘savvy’ than I am, and he ran across it in mid – 2014.  He sent me a link to the forum discussion where he’d heard about it and I researched things a bit more, then I decided to download it and give it a try.  At that point in time Glasswire was still being beta-tested, but I was convinced that the developers and their ideas were both credible and unique.

The Most “Up-to-Date” Version as of March 2017 is 1.2.96

GlassWire Logo

Why I Wanted To Try It Out

Several years ago, my family’s home network was hacked.  This led to an almost 2 year battle to regain control.  This was a huge learning curve for me, but this was also the reason that I’m here today writing about tech topics I love and about how to use mobile technology.

Our experience, while not common, wasn’t something entirely out of the either.  In the end we figured out that our network was being used in a Botnet, probably (in our case) to send huge amounts of Spam.

Slowly I got myself up to speed  with Windows (first XP, then 7 & 8) and then networking.  The end result was that eventually I gained the knowledge and skill I needed to keep our network safe and virus, malware and hacker free.

Unfortunately, the learning curve was huge!  But I also had a lot of help along the way…from my kids, from my family and friends, and from several computer consultants who we hired on an adhoc basis to either troubleshoot some aspect, install our new hardware firewall, tweak our local settings to keep everything running really fast, etc…

Although I became well versed with Windows and we hired a service company to maintain our firewall, I still needed to monitor real-time activity on our network.  

This is where GlassWire excels!!!

GlassWire offers Internet Security

GlassWire Lets Me See What’s Occurring On My Computer & Our Network…All Activity Is Shown In Real-Time…

The technical details of networks are extremely complicated, and constantly changing.  I realized that while it’s interesting for me to know about things like packets and sniffers, it isn’t really practical knowledge that I can utilize on a day to day basis for monitoring my network.  What is useful however,  is knowing exactly what my computer is doing as it communicates with the outside world.  But that information is only useful if I understand it.

Fortunately, GlassWire Makes It Easy To See All My Network Activity With One Quick Glance…

GlassWire appeals to me aesthetically, because the user interface is so simple yet it’s simply beautiful too.  It’s appeals to my easily distractable  nature by providing me with snapshots that are useful and informative.  If I need more information I can get more detail in several ways from right within the app.  But that doesn’t take me long to accomplish either.  If there’s information that the application displays that isn’t understandable to me, or complete enough, the user forum is easy to access, simple to navigate and so far I’ve found answers to all my questions almost immediately.

GlassWire's visual network monitoring feature

Glasswire Provides Four Modes To View Network Information

Graph Mode

Graph mode lets me see how my network bandwidth is being used.  Primarily bandwidth used by my PC, but everything within the graphs is clickable so that oftentimes I see network activity from other devices on my network too.  I haven’t explored this a lot, because I’m not usually worried about activity within my network, and bandwidth in general isn’t a big issue for me using a desktop PC at home.

But what is really cool about the graph is that it provides data for the last 5 minutes, the last 3 hours, the last 24 hours, or the last week.  By entering one of these time modes, you can click anywhere on the graph and see what exactly occurred then.

Here are 2 examples of the last five minutes on my computer as I’m writing this article on WordPress.
GlassWire displays last 5 mins activity by application

GlassWire displays the last 5 mins of activity by application

GlassWire display of all network activity in the last 5 minutes

GlassWire display of all network activity in the last 5 minutes

Firewall Mode

Firewall mode is more useful for my purposes. I’ve had situations where some action I took while online, or an odd site or message that’s popped up has concerned me. If anything even mildly concerning occurs…I immediately shutoff my internet connection by closing down the browser I’m using.

But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t still happening behind the scene!

Viruses could be downloading and installing, Cryptolocking malware could be encrypting my data. There are a lot of dangerous things that could potentially be happening that are very troublesome.

Since I’ve begun using GlassWire, I’ve encountered maybe 3 or 4 unusual situations that arose.  I’ve learned enough about Windows to really understand how to use the Task Manager (remember the old CTRL+ALT+DEL key combination from early Windows’ days?)  By using that information along with the data that GlassWire gives me about active connections I feel I have enough information to be confident that everything is OK.   Usually I can arrive at this in a very short span of time too.  Without having to run virus scans, malware scans, etc.

Firewall Mode interacts with Windows Firewall.  It’s actually really cool to see the amount of fine-grained data that you can glean from it so quickly!

Usage Mode

Usage mode is intended for monitoring everything related to bandwidth.  What I think is so amazing about it is I can double click on any entry and have my antivirus software do any immediate scan of any data that was downloaded for viruses.  I use this a lot when something suspicious occurs.


Usage mode show how much bandwidth was used by application and what the application was doing

 

Alerts Mode

In this view you can see any alert that GlassWire generated.  The alerts are user defined and controlled, and not annoying at all.  By going into settings you can define what you want to be alerted about.  You can also setup monitoring for when your computer is idle.  I’ve only scratched the surface exploring the amount of information to be gleaned from these alerts.  But so far, what I’ve learned has been so helpful.

GlassWire isn’t Only For Tech-Oriented People…

Because the software displays data to you in a ‘simple to understand’ format, this makes it extremely useful for the average computer user who doesn’t want or need to learn all the little details about networks and data exchange.  Most people just want to explore the world wide web and to remain safe while doing so.

Personally I think of GlassWire as a learning tool too, and for me, it’s a great one.  It’s precisely because the user interface is so simple, and the user forum is so readily accessible, that it’s the perfect tool for both learning about networking and keeping your data safe.

As an example of how well Glasswire is able to translate complicated data into actionable steps that everyone can follow, here’s a link to what they advise you to do if you suspect you may have just exposed your computer to a virus.

It’s a Truly Unique Approach To A Complicated Process

A short time after I published this the folks at GlassWire released several new versions that are available for a onetime fee for purchase. GlassWire continues to update their free version as well as they continue to enhance and add features for higher level versions, so I’m including links to both the paid and the free options below.

Glasswire’s Paid Premium Version & Mac Availability

As of March 2017 Glasswire is not yet available for Mac computers, but this is something they say they are working on and should have available soon.  When I first started using a Glasswire it was in a beta version, but since then they’ve really developed the app and added a lot of new features which may or may not be useful to some users. So, thye’ve broken out some of the features that don’t impair the core functionality of the app and made them available as addons, I’m assuming to be able to keep offering their product for free to their larger user base. 

Here’s a link to their Paid plans and below is a screenshot which shows you the features available.

Glasswire's Premium Versions
Some Links to GlassWire:

A Few More Screenshots

I still haven’t explored every aspect of GlassWire in a great amount of detail.  But I don’t need to, to be able to use it meaningfully…that’s what I love about it!  But because it is so easy to use right from the start, I suspect that I’m forgetting to mention some of the features, that may be of real value to others.  So here are a few more screenshots with more information.  But I encourage you to use the links above to find out more too!

Some of the alerts you can setup

Some of the alerts you can setup

You can also use GlassWire to monitor computers remotely

You can also use GlassWire to monitor computers remotely

Please leave a comment if you have any helpful information to add about GlassWire or any other great tools for monitoring network activity.

Posted in Computers, General Technology Articles, Glasswire | Free App For Windows Lets You See Whats Happening Behind the Scenes with Network Usage, Network Tools, Security, Tech Topics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pikachu Turned 21! Pokémon Go News & Pokémon GO Plus Tips for 2017

If You Didn’t Catch Pikachu With a Christmas Hat…

                                                                 never fear…

You Have New Opportunities to Catch Him Wearing a

Birthday Hat Right Now…

Pikachu Turned 21 on Feb. 27th, 2017

Pikachu’s Birthday Celebration Began February 26th and goes until March 6th

What this means for Pokémon GO fans is that you can capture Pikachu wearing a Birthday Hat until March 6th. Here’s a link to Niantic’s  announcement, with the full details.

Capture Pikachu with his birthday hat

Here are all the details on capturing Pikachu with his Birthday Hat.

Not only that, but you can watch the very first Pokémon movie for free…and several other popular Pokémon movies as well at Pokémon’s main website here. Incidentally, while this isn’t Pokémon GO news exactly, it may interest Pokémon fans in general. Pokémon.com also has several apps for viewing all of their Pokémon related media here if you use an Android, ios or Amazon Fire device.

On February 27th, aka Pikachu’s Birthday, Gamestop reported that the PokémonGo mobile app has surpassed 650 million downloads!

More Exciting News for People Who’ve Grown Bored with the Pokémon GO Game

If you’ve grown bored with Pokémon GO and quit playing the game, then you’ll want to know that Niantic’s recently made some major upgrades to the game…I know, you’ve heard this all before right?

But this time I’m serious…this is major news!

On February 15th Niantic’s posted the news that 80 new Pokémon from the Johoto region were going to be released into the wild later that week. You can read more about that and watch their video here. Just to be clear, both links in the last sentence go to  versions of the same information, but one is for Android users and the other for ios.


In that same post they told us that there would be new evolution items found at Pokestops for Pokémon from the Kanto region that in their current form couldn’t be evolved. The new evolutions would turn them into Pokémon from the Johoto region. But from all reports these new evolution items are extremely rare and hard to find.

There are also two new berries with some new twists to them. The original Razz berry helps players catch high CP Pokémon by sort of taming them, making them easier to catch. Now added to the mix are Nanab berries which help to slow down fast Pokémon and Pinab berries which will double the amount of candy you earn when you catch a Pokémon.

Keep Up With Pokémon GO News on Facebook 

News About Tracking Pokémon in the Game

In late November Niantic finally fixed, or actually added a completely new tracking mechanism back into the game. This had been a source of frustration for players for a very long time. What’s also been a source of frustration is that user experiences playing the Pokémon GO game vary drastically depending upon whether or not you live in an urban area or a more rural one. The two topics are closely intertwined.

The Controversy Surrounding Urban Players’ Advantages Over Rural Players

Sadly, controversy regarding the new tracking mechanism in Pókemon GO has grown even more with the new version. One reason is because it’s made the urban versus rural disparity even greater…which doesn’t seem like what the game developer’s had intended.  This may appear to be an insignificant issue, but trust me it’s not! That’s because the way Niantic has oriented the tracking now has ended up impacting a much larger user base than one would think. Basically anyone who lives in a newer suburb of a major city will typically fall into the ‘rural’ category!

I speak from experience. I live in a huge suburb of a very large city…but according to Pókemon GO’s tracking system…I’m in an area too rural to be allowed to use it!

There are many theories about why Niantic developed the tracking system in this manner. Among them one early conjecture that’s come to fruition is explained well in this Forbe’s article…the answer appears to be profit motivated.

Pikachu toy my kids made

A Pikachu toy my (now adult) kids made about 21 years ago!

Kotaku.com also wrote a really insightful article about these ‘rural versus urban’ differences as they relate to the new tracking mechanism here. Embedded in this article is a video by the popular YouTuber Nick creator of Trainer Tips. The video is pretty long, and there are parts that can be fast forwarded through…like when they are driving…but his insights into Niantic’s motivation behind their new tracking system as well as his other great insights, make this one long video worth watching imo.

There are even more disparities in the game than just those. To make up for some of these inequalities a lot of app developer’s created tracking apps for finding Pokémon in the wild (also in part because the game’s tracking feature was nonfunctional for such a long period of time.) When Niantic’s finally brought back functionality for tracking in the app in late November, they went on a bit of a rampage against these developers demanding that most of those apps be taken down.

Kotaku.com’s more recent article highlights for players some of the apps that still remained functioning after that rampage.

Pokémon GO Plus

A new device came out in the fall that also addresses the tracking issue. It was created by Nintendo, and it’s called Pokémon GO Plus. It’s a standalone device about the size of a quarter (but thicker,) that aids in both tracking and capturing wild Pokémon. It’s also quite adept at gathering items and hatching eggs.

Nintendo and Niantic began hyping Pokémon GO Plus around the same time that the Go game went live. They promised a delivery date months before it finally really was available. Apparently there were a lot of manufacturing delays. Once it did become available it seemed like Japan, Pokémon’s home country, had many more units available than the United States market did. To my knowledge, Gamestop had been designated as the only ‘official’ retailer in the U.S. For several months Gamestop only sold the Plus in stores…not online. But finding one available at a Gamestop was extraordinarily difficult.

Which is why many Americans, myself included, went the route of buying one at a higher price from an Amazon third-party seller. This alternative was beset with problems and controversy. Some sellers were, and a few still are scalping the Plus at ridiculously high prices. In general now most sellers from both Japan and the U.S. appear to be selling it with about a $10 markup. But today, even that is unnecessary. While writing this I decided to check out current availability again and was surprised to find that the Plus is now available much more readily than even a month and a half ago.

Current Pokémon GO Plus Availability in the United States

GameStop now sells it online for the standard retail price of $34.99

I was surprised to see that it’s also available at Walmart for the same price.

If you have problems finding it there’s this pretty cool website called NowInStock which some brilliant person created as a way to earn affiliate commissions while providing a much-needed service too. It’s a truly brilliant concept! I have no idea how they manage to keep all of the products that they track up-to-date. You can check availability of many different products here, saving yourself a lot of time. If you go to one of their sources and purchase something, the site creator will earn a very tiny (we’re talking cents here) commission (which in no way impacts the price you pay.)

Read the Review Linked to Below If You Want an Extremely Thorough & Concise Overview of Pókemon GO Plus

Gaming.fit wrote an excellent review of the Plus on Amazon. It gives the most concise overview, from start to finish, for using it. This review highlights one specific scenario where using the Plus presents a clear advantage. I’ve modified and reworded that portion somewhat below.

The Pokémon GO Plus is Especially Helpful if You Live or Work Right At a PokéStop

If you happen to live or work right on top of a PokeStop, you can quietly collect Pokémon and items all day long without anyone being the wiser.

It also works great with lures in this situation. The instant a new Pokémon appears or the PókeStop is ready to give you more items, your device will vibrate to let you know. (Citation: Gaming.fit’s Amazon review)

Features of PokemonGo Plus

You can read even more about the Plus with this link to the QuickStart Guide and by reading the FAQ section.

Overall I think the PokémonGo Plus is really a neat device! If you end up getting one you may benefit from watching my YouTube video which demonstrates how to attach it to the included wristband.

The Best Reasons to Use the PokémonGo Plus

Probably the single most useful aspect of using the Pokémon GO Plus is that it preserves your phone battery. That’s because you can lock your phone or use other apps and still not miss out on nearby Pokémon, or Pokéstops (all while accruing mileage too!)  While the Plus isn’t great for actually capturing Pokémon, it is excellent at notifying you when new Pokémon appear. Many people report that the Plus provides earlier notifications for new Pokémon appearances than the cell phone apps do. I concur.

Combine that with the added flexibility of playing the game so unobtrusively that someone standing right next to you need never know that you’re playing…makes this device a clear winner in my book!

PokemonGo’s Video Introducing the 80 New Pokémon

How the Plus Compares to Apple Watch

I know that Apple Watch is supposed to do all of the same things…and that is true, sort of. I have both alternatives available but I prefer the Plus for 2 main reasons. 

First, I have the Series 1 Watch. Overtime my Watch battery life has degraded. I rely on my watch to tell time and to give me important notifications, so I don’t usually want to run down the battery with Pokémon GO. Currently, without playing the game or using it to track a work out, my battery only lasts 3/4’s of a the day.

Second is the fact that the Plus is better than the Watch is at recognizing new appearances of Pokémon. It also seems to me to be more accurate recording my mileage, which results in hatching eggs and finding new Buddy candy faster.

Watch does offer one significant advantage. It has a screen. So you can actually see what’s occurring just like you would if you were using the phone app! But with that advantage comes the same speed limitations. Overall the Plus allows game play at a slightly faster speed, which can sometimes make a difference. Until you become familiar with the somewhat complex series of colored light and vibration signals, I’ve been successful using this simpler strategy: When in doubt just to tap on the button. I can immediately see the effect of my action by waking up my phone. If I can’t right then, then later I can go into my game journal and see what transpired.

PokemonGo Plus Connected to my iPad

Contrary to all the information I could find online, my PokémonGo Plus also showed up as connected to my iPad…without my even trying to connect it! Well, I had tried…but that was months earlier!

More Interesting Information & News

I have a few more items I want to include before I go.

If you’re interested in learning more about the chronology of event and history of the Pokémon franchise, Comic Books Now has written a short, but interesting article.

Apparently when the latest version of the game was released…the one in which all the new Pokémon appear…many players began experiencing a major glitch with the game…similar to the dreaded  ‘blue screen of death’  Window’s user’s fear. Here’s BGR’s advice and one solution.

A writer at Forbes has written a compelling piece on why Niantic should consider getting rid of Stardust completely. I sort of agree with him.

Happy Belated Birthday to my Pikachu!

Comments

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3 Super Easy Ways to Save Webpages as PDF Documents on iPad & iPhone 2017

3 Easy Methods for Creating PDF Documents

Anything that you can view in Safari on an iPad (or an iPhone, or iPod Touch…but I’ll just use the term iPad for simplicity,) can be converted into a document quickly and easily. Even the results of a Google search!

In the past one popular method was to create and use a bookmarklet…but these newer methods are so much easier. There’s  a surprisingly large number of ways to go about this. I’ll focus on the 3 methods that I think are so easy that anyone can master it readily.

iPad & iPhone

My Favorite Method

My favorite method uses Safari’s built-in Print command. I’ll call this Method 1. I’ve made a Step-by-Step Guide showing you how to create a PDF document using the Print Command. The other 2 methods I describe below are equally easy, but each have some drawbacks, which is why the Print Command Method has become my favorite. So I’ll discuss how to use each of those methods too and then describe what their drawbacks are.

The main reason I’m showing you more than one method is because the document that’s generated by each one can differ a little bit. So, if you try one method and you don’t like the results, you can try a different one, which will generally produce a slightly different result.

Method 1 Using Safari’s Print Command

This method is super fast, easy, and free…which is why it’s my favorite method. Everyone has the built in tools at their disposal too. In the screenshots below I demonstrate, step-by-step, how to go about it.

Don’t let the number of steps involved worry you.The whole process can be done in less than a minute. It just looks like a lot of steps because I wanted to cover every single detail, so that there’s no confusion.

The Steps for Method 1

You need to think about what you want to do with the document first. Will you save it or email it? If you save it, where will you save it? One of the easiest places is Apple Notes. If that’s what you decide, I’d suggest beginning a note first…beforehand…basically by giving a new note a title. That’s what the screenshot below depicts.

It’s not mandatory to create the note title beforehand…I just think it’s easier in the long run because sometimes it can be hard to add a title to the beginning of a note after the PDF has been placed there.

The Steps Begin here:

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

img_4793-1

Step 7

Step 7

Step 8

Step 8

Step 9

Step 9

The PDF Result Using Method 1

Page 1

PDF Result Method 1 Page 1

Page 2

PDF Result Method 1 Page 2

Another Example of a PDF Made Using Method 1

Comparison Example Method 1

I’ve included a 2nd example that I produced a PDF of using each of the 3 methods, so that you can see the differences between them.

Page 1

Comparison Example Method 1 Page 1

Pages 2 & 3

Comparison Example Method 1 Page 2 & 3

Method 2 Using iBooks

For many years iBooks has been another one of the standard methods most ios users have relied on to create and save PDF documents. I did too for a very long time. But there is one huge drawback to using iBooks. If you save the document in iBooks I can pretty much guarantee it will disappear at some point in the future. The iBooks app is notorious for wiping out user’s complete libraries of their own work. This oftentimes occurs when a newer version of ios is released…after the update all your documents are gone. The actual content that you purchased from Apple will remain…but your own files, that you created are just wiped out. It is sometimes possible to find them again if you were syncing your device to a computer they may be in a backup file somewhere…but this is time-consuming and unreliable.


So, if you decide to use the iBook method, make sure to move your document somewhere else immediately! Sadly, that’s not very easy to accomplish either. The only method Apple provides users with to export content from iBooks is email. So you’ll need to find somewhere you can email it too. I use Evernote and I’m a huge fan of the service. One reason is because it’s so easy to get information into it. Emailing data into Evernote is one method they offer, so that’s what I usually do. Once my PDF Document is in Evernote, I’m in good shape, because from there I can export it to a ton of different places, just like Method 1 above, or Method 3 below.

As you are probably beginning to realize, Apple’s tried and true method for creating and saving PDF documents is less than desirable. You can’t rely in the safety of storing your document and it’s cumbersome trying to get it anywhere else! So, I’ll skip the steps involved, which are essentially the same as both other methods I do describe…you just pick iBooks instead of ‘Print‘or ‘Convert to PDF.’ But I am including an example of the PDF using the iBooks method produces for comparison purposes.

Comparison Example Method 2

Page 1

Pages 2 & 3

Comparison Example Method 2 Page 2 & 3

Method 3 Using an App called PDF Converter by Readdle

So, the main drawback to method 3 is that it requires the use of a paid app. The app is called PDF Converter and it presently sells for $4.99 in the App Store. It’s made by Readdle, a really great app developer who’s created a complete set of office suite of apps that work beautifully either as stand-alones or together to create an iPad friendly office suite that compares favorably to Microsoft Office for Windows.

PDF Converter App by Readdle
Many people who use primarily Window’s computers really love Readdle’s apps. In the early days of iPads, when they were building their line of apps, most of them had free versions too. But now that they’ve refined and polished them and made a name for themselves in the Enterprise world, their apps, if purchased individually are on the upper end of the price spectrum for apps. But they’ve created a lot of app bundles that group together some of their most popular apps, and if purchased that way you get decent price breaks. Plus that, would you really think of $4.99 as expensive in any other realm other than the App Store? This is a great app that’s very user friendly and so simple to use that it might be appealing to either people who don’t want to have to remember the Print Method or who want the maximum amount of flexibility when it comes to converting content into PDF documents.

When I first began using an iPad, I was coming from a Window’s environment too. I loved Readdle and they still have a large user base in the corporate world. Overtime I adapted and grew more comfortable in the Apple universe…so now I use primarily Apple products. But I still keep several Readdle apps on hand for functions that Apple hasn’t created tools for yet. PDF Converter is one of those apps I keep on all my iPads (I have a lot of them because I do all my work on them,)  because it still comes in handy and does some conversions I can’t accomplish using the other methods on an iPad.

Below are screenshots of the PDF Converter app, their Document 5 app, which is their word processor (including some reviews) and the full suite of their iPhone and iPad apps.

Readdle Office Suite Apps

Method 3 Steps

To use PDF Converter just tap on the same Share Extension shown in Step 1 then tap on ‘Convert to PDF‘ shown in the screenshot below. The app will begin to generate the PDF for you, displaying a blue spinning circle in the middle of your screen that says…’One Moment Please…Converting.’ When it’s done it will ask you if you want to see the file and if you do it will then open the app and show it to you. At this point you can rename it (many times the name it auto-generates is fine) and then either move it to their iCloud folders or send it somewhere else. The options at this point are numerous! You can email it, save it in a ton of different places like Evernote, Good Reader, Drop Box, Google Drive etc.

The iBooks or Convert to PDF icons

The Result Using Method 3

Comparison Example Method 3

Page 1

Comparison Example Method 3 Page 1

Pages 2 & 3

Comparison Example Method 3 Pages 2 & 3

Comments

I really love getting feedback from my readers! 

Therefore I try to make it as easy as possible for readers by not requiring you to add your email address, unlike most comment sections you’ll encounter on blogs. I’ve gone a step further though because you don’t even need to include your real name. You do need a name of some kind…but that can be whatever you want it to be.

I’ve done it this way because it’s your actual feedback that’s really important to me. I’m not really interested in collecting readers’ email addresses which is usually done for the purpose of creating a subscription mailing list.

Posted in Apple Devices, ios, iPad, iPhone | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Invite Readers to Follow You & Your Blog 

How I Arrived at WordPress.com

Joining the WordPress community in April 2014 was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Although I should preface that with the fact that I didn’t immediately pick up on what many of those advantages actually were. My joining the WordPress.com community occurred at a time when I was engulfed in a curious kind of tunnel vision. That vision instilled in me the uncanny sense that I was somewhat like America’s early settlers…like those who picked up, left everything behind and moved Westward.

I know that this sounds kind of weird…but I was striking out in my own for the first time, so, like the early pioneers, I imagined myself to be a trailblazer. The only difference was that nothing I was doing was remotely unique or groundbreaking. But for reasons I can’t really put words to yet, that’s exactly how I felt.

My PC's Standing up Monitor

I began using this standing desk right around the time I joined WordPress

I was so intent upon the ‘striking out my own with my very own website’ part that I completely failed to recognize WordPress.com’s social and community aspects. You can read more about my journey leading up to joining WordPress.com here. 

Maybe it’s because I was leaving a platform which was known for its strong community element. Or maybe it was because I didn’t yet really understand the broad range of characteristics that have come to define what a blog is today. I had never really considered blogs to be much more than personal journals…which was something I had no interest in. Nor could I imagine a set of circumstances under which that opinion would waver. Mine was to be a website filled with helpful information…not a journal of my hopes and dreams, or feelings and opinions, or even one in which I shared my artistic talents and growth to a larger audience.

vsatips was to be a website filled with information which solved problems and improved people’s productivity, and which sometimes shared exciting technology news too.

The excitement inherent to early exploration was my motivating force then and it continues to be now. What more can I say about that other than that my family always considered me to be kind of odd…I was most definitely and always, the ‘odd man out’ in that dynamic.

My Early Days at WordPress

Why Am I Beginning With My Beginnings at WordPress?

The answer to that question feels eminently important to me…important  for my readers to understand…hopefully my gut is right about this!

I was so excited to finally be in control of my destiny, so to speak, that I missed out on a lot of the very cool features of WordPress.com. I instantly leapt into and became completely immersed in building my site and writing what I believed to be good content, in the hopes that I’d grow a solid readership base of like-minded individuals. Beyond that, my thinking never really ventured. I mean, I never really figured out the ‘why’ behind my goal and what about my goal was so important to me.

The above is what I see at the end of one of my posts.

My Blog Today

Truthfully I still haven’t put a ton of thought into that aspect. I’m still really just focused on the goal…not so much on the ‘why’s’ of it. But, upon reflection, I do think I’ve figured that part out a little bit more.

I realize that amongst my friends and family I’m unique in my interests. No one else even remotely shares my passion for mobile technology simply for technologies sake…if that makes sense. I’m just thrilled and fascinated that we can do everything we can with all kinds of technology today…but especially with mobile technology.

The thought that I can carry around all the information that’s important to me in the whole wide world in one relatively tiny device, my cellphone, simply through the use of a few free apps…most notably iCloud Photos and Evernote…astonishes me! It’s just too cool for words imho!

Using that as a vantage point, hopefully makes it easy to see why my endeavors to make sure that all of this miraculous ingenuity continues to work, seems to me to be, if not an admirable occupation, at the very least a worthwhile one. Being able to share that love with other like-minded people just seems to me to be a natural extension of all that.

Growing a Following on WordPress

That’s one big reason why I continue to work at this almost 24-7. Another reason is because I’m determined to figure out a way to actually make a living doing what I love. While my 2nd goal may still seem to be somewhat intangible right now (or a pipe dream…where does that phrase originate from anyway?)…I’m a believer regardless. I truly believe that if I keep working at it, and keep loving it…only good things will follow…I mean, how can they not?

That’s why I’m so excited to have over 1100 followers in about 2 1/2 years time. Even though most of them are really just my Twitter followers :-)

It’s also why I get super excited when I look at my WordPress Stats and see a large jump in my overall numbers periodically.

My Stats history looks something like this: 

  • mid-2014 when I began       NO DAILY VIEWS
  • Last 6 months of 2014          6 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 1st half of 2015                       12.5 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 2nd half of 2015                     20 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 1st half of 2016                       35 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 3rd Qtr of 2016                       60 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 4th Qtr of 2016                       100 VIEWS PER DAY
  • 1st Qtr of 2017  (so far)         133 VIEWS PER DAY

Interpreting My Stats Importance

I’m not entirely certain why my Stats periodically make these big leaps in numbers of overall viewers. I’m sure it has something to do with how active I am posting new material…I’ve noticed consistent correlations there…although my most recent jumps don’t bear out that supposition. Hopefully, the longer I do this the reasons behind the numbers will start to become more obvious to me.

Because for me, I really believe that these ‘Views’ Stats are the most important factor I have in benchmarking or assessing my primary goal’s success.

Growing my Follower Base

My Early Approach

The main reason I believe my Stats are where I should place my main focus is because roughly 95% of my viewers arrive at my site organically. That’s a cool trendy  word right now that essentially means ‘naturally.’ People arrive at vsatips because they used Google to search for a specific topic that I’ve written about.

It makes complete sense to me that the organic nature of my readership places less emphasis on the ‘follower’ statistic and more on the ‘# of Views’ statistic. Also, it makes sense because most of the topics I write about were the direct result of my own encounter with a problem that I couldn’t find a good answer for when I searched using Google. If I figure out a solution to some problem, my assumption is that other people will encounter that same problem and will use Google for finding an answer.

That also explains why my follower statistics, in the traditional sense, don’t seem to be really relevant for my sites overall success. But too I recognize that my thinking may be short-sighted. That’s what happens in a ‘tunnel vision’ scenario!

Coming  Around to a New & Better Way of Thinking

That’s not too say that I’ve completely ignored my ‘followers’ statistics. I just haven’t really focused on them much. One big reason is because of a mistaken assumption I’ve held onto since the first day I began vsatips.

One Mistake I Made in Understanding Who Could Follow My Blog

I mistakenly believed that regular, everyday people couldn’t follow my blogs by using the email subscription option. I thought that WordPress required a person to have a WordPress account in order to be able to ‘follow’ other WordPress author’s sites. How did I arrive at this erroneous assumption you’re wondering? Shortly after I began my blog my son wanted to follow me in a noble gesture of support. In order to do so, he told me had to join WordPress. I was puzzled by that and so I explored it a little on my own. That was the conclusion I came to as well.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered today that was not correct at all. This happened as I was I researching this topic again for a post I’m writing. But I approached the whole subject from a slightly different angle, and I learned that there really aren’t any restrictions for who can follow a blog. The follow mechanism, which is really just an email subscription readers can sign up for, means that they receive periodic emails based upon their chosen frequency, alerting them to any new content you’ve written.

Anyone Can Follow Your Blog…All They Need is an Email Address!

I read quite a few different WordPress support articles on the subject today. In none of them was it evident to me that the instructions applied equally to those people with and without WordPress accounts. I’m still a little shaken to think that I held such an erroneous assumption for so long! I’m a bit curious too to know if I’m alone in my misunderstanding.

Even more puzzling is the fact that I actually mentioned this whole topic in another post I wrote about the WordPress Reader. And at that time I discussed using a Follow widget for nonWordpress people to use of they wanted to follow your blog. So apparently I wasn’t always unclear about this…I seemed to know at that time that it was possible for bloggers in WordPress.com to have nonWordPress followers. Which actually just confuses me a little more. Why was I so surprised when I discovered this ‘not new’ information today and why did I hold my mistaken assumption for so long? Is it because of the way things are worded in the built-in following mechanism that WordPress provides to us? Do the support articles use ambiguous wording? Or did I just misread them?  I’d really love to know.

There Are 2 Ways You Can Invite Readers to Subscribe to or to Follow Your Blog

Method One

Putting aside my confusion for a moment, one support article that I read today is responsible for helping me recognize my error. It’s an article about using short codes within the body of your post to provide readers with a way to subscribe or follow your work. This is a link to it. An example of how it functions should appear immediately below. Exactly what does appear below will vary based upon the circumstances. If you’ve already subscribed to someone’s blog, you’ll just see a statement telling you that. But if you haven’t, a form will be displayed that will give you the opportunity to sign up.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The form will look something like below.


This is a very easy and convenient method for providing readers with the option to subscribe to your blog. It’s also one I’m going to start incorporating it into all of my blog posts. It’s easy because all you need to do is add this shortcode anywhere in your post or page that you want to invite readers from (making sure that you add it using the HTML editor, not the visual one.)

The Shortcode to add:


Method 2

The second method isn’t quite as easy, but it’s not really difficult either. It involves using a Widget. You can find all the Widgets available to you in the WP Admin Dashboard under Appearance.


Here’s a link to the WordPress support article giving you step-by-step instructions for adding this Widget.

The WordPress Reader

Quite some time ago I wrote a post about how much I like the WordPress Reader. The Reader is an RSS feed aggregator, which in laymen’s terms means that it’s a place people can go to read all of their news in one place. The reason I mention it here is because there is a 3rd way that readers can follow,your blog. That way is by using the reader. It’s a really cool alternative, but it’s limited only to those people who have a WordPress account. If you go to my post on the subject you can find out why I love this method so much and why I think the WordPress Reader is really amazing.

It’s so amazing in fact, that I think people should consider creating a WordPress account just so that they can use the Reader as their news aggregator!

My post about the WordPress Reader

Conclusion

Even though most of my readers are complete strangers and they arrive at my site from Google searches, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances of having a loyal readership base as well. The idea of having a small community of people who love the same kinds of things as me is a really appealing one. Even more appealing is the concept of exchanging ideas and sharing the things we love. So, I’m hoping that by starting to focus on a more personal aspect of my blog, that maybe in time all my readers won’t be complete strangers from Google.

Comments

I really love getting feedback from my readers! 

Therefore I try to make it as easy as possible for readers by not requiring you to add your email address, unlike most comment sections you’ll encounter on blogs. I’ve gone a step further though because you don’t even need to include your real name. You do need a name of some kind…but that can be whatever you want it to be.

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