WordCamp Indonesia, 2010

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WordCampID – January 30, 2010WordCamp Indonesia. The event was very well organized, with a core team (the same group from last year) involved in putting together all the logistics, handling media, organizing speakers etc. They handled things very well, despite a few problems which were out of their control (like bad name-tag printing and their stickers/WordPress buttons not making it in the mail!) and the day seemed to be a success for everyone.

Below are the slides and notes from my presentation, which covered the current state of WordPress, what’s coming up in the next release and some of the related projects. You can also get the slides on SlideShare. Click the link below the slides to expand my full outline/notes.

  1. Beau Lebens
    1. Developing on the web for over 10 years
    2. Working with WordPress for around 4 years
    3. Worked with Automattic since January last year
    4. Work mostly on IntenseDebate
      1. A community commenting platform for WordPress and other websites
    5. Contributed some core patches and active in developer meetups
    6. Run the SF WordPress Meetup
  2. WordPress
    1. Started as a fork of b2/cafelog in 2003
    2. Developed into the most widely used self-install blogging platform
    3. Focus on usability, simplicity, extensibility (plugins/themes)
    4. Evolving into a complete CMS solution
    5. Includes everything you need to manage a website
  3. WordPress 2.9
    1. Trash feature
      1. Posts
      2. Pages
      4. Media (Disabled/removed)
    2. Image editor
      1. Crop
      2. Rotate
      3. Flip
      4. Scale (resize)
    3. oEmbed
      1. Embed media in your posts with nothing but a URL
      2. Simple “plugin” system for adding more providers to this whitelist
    4. rel=”canonical”
      1. Hint to search engines
      2. Avoid duplicate content
      3. Improved SEO
    5. wp_commentmeta
      1. Store arbitrary meta data against each comment
      2. Currently stores “trashed” status in core
      3. Great for plugins like IntenseDebate!
        1. Will store information about where this comment is stored remotely
  4. WordPress 3.0
    1. Just another number
    2. The Merge
      1. WP + WPMU projects
        1. WPMU providing ability to host a network of sites via one install of WP
        2. e.g. http://wordpress.com, http://blogs.nytimes.com, http://metblogs.com
        3. Now this functionality will be a part of the core WP
      2. Completely hidden if you don’t enable it
      3. Upgrade available via Tools > Network
      4. Ready for testing — Please test trunk now!
    3. post_types
      1. New post_types added via plugin (or functions.php in your theme?)
      2. Basic menus created automatically or create your own manually
      3. Easy UI creation/registration via selection of “metaboxes” (from core options, or create your own)
      4. Shared edit/create UI framework with Posts/Pages (now combined)
    4. Menu Manager
      1. Design menus
      2. Include Pages, Posts, Categories, etc
      3. Use menus in themes via simple code
    5. 2010
      1. Twenty Ten
      2. Kubrick been in WP since 1.5
      3. Inspired by Cutline, based on Kirby, by Ian Stewart
        1. http://themeshaper.com
      4. Matt Mullenweg and Matt Thomas working on it
      5. Clean, beautiful
      6. Fixed width, 2-column, right-hand sidebar,widgets
      7. Custom header (a la Kubrick), upload your own background image
      8. Child-theme friendly
      9. Best practices/exemplar implementation for Themers to learn from
    6. Schedule
      1. Feb 15: Feature freeze
      2. March 1: Public beta
      3. April 13: Release
  5. Community
    1. Mobile
      1. iPhone
        1. 2.2 awaiting approval from Apple
        2. Comment editing, reply to comments from within the App
        3. Better comment moderation (and highlight in list view)
        4. Should be iPad compatible
      2. BlackBerry
        1. 1.0 release as soon as it’s approved
        2. Write & Edit Posts and Pages
        3. Edit Custom Fields
        4. Full comment management
        5. Portrait & Landscape on devices that support it
        6. Photos + Video
        7. Video posting directly to VideoPress (WordPress.com)
      3. VideoPress now supports 3GP and 3G2 uploads
      4. Working on other major platforms
    2. New Committers
      1. dd32 (Dion Hulse, Australia)
        1. Filesystem stuff
        2. Upgrader
        3. HTTP
      2. wpmuguru (Ron Rennick, Canadian)
        1. The Merge
      3. jjj (John James Jacoby)
        1. BuddyPress
    3. Trac Workflow
      1. Where you go to submit bug reports + help out with development
      2. Daunting for newcomers, easy to file bad tickets
      3. Hard for developers to keep track of everything
      4. Better documentation/process outline
      5. More active “gardening” of tickets
      6. New reports
        1. Denis de-Bernardy
    4. http://wpdevel.wordpress.com
      1. “Live” updates on the development process
      2. Summaries of “This Week in Bugs”
      3. Core team IRC meetup summaries + agenda discussion
    5. Core Plugins
      1. Provide major “chunks” of functionality that a lot of people want
      2. Teams of developers on each plugin
      3. Independent release cycles
        1. Don’t need to sync up with WordPress release
      4. 2 pilot plugins
        1. WP Health Check
          1. Confirm requirements
          2. Check capabilities of web host
        2. Post by Email
          1. Removed from core for 3.0
      5. Infrastructure
        1. Mailing lists
        2. SVN
        3. #wordpress-core-plugins on freenode
    6. Ideas Forum
      1. http://wordpress.org/extend/ideas/
      2. Closed ideas stuck around, poor voting algorithm, generally hard to manage
      3. Big upgrades this week
      4. Ability to classify/respond to ideas
      5. Better rankings/algorithm
      6. Much better at floating good ideas to the top and removing “closed” ideas
    7. Redesign of wordpress.org coming soon
      1. Educate people who are new to WordPress
      2. Introduce to the community + who’s involved
      3. Get you up and running much faster
      4. Jane Wells heading it up
      5. New UI/UX group
        1. http://lists.automattic.com/mailman/listinfo/wp-ui
  6. Inspired
    1. BuddyPress
      1. Set of plugins to turn a WP or WPMU installation into a complete social network
        1. Facebook in a box
      2. Now works on single-install WP
      3. Will work on WP 3.0
      4. New committer: John James Jacoby (jjj)
      5. 1.2 beta released this week
      6. http://bpdevel.wordpress.com/
    2. bbPress
      1. Simple, lightweight forum or bulletin board, based on WordPress principles
      2. Shares a lot of codebase + concepts
        1. Plugin architecture
      3. Matt M involved directly now
      4. “Revitalizing” the community to get back on track
      5. Considering future as Core Plugin
      6. 1.1 on the way
      7. New committers and active participants on blog etc
    3. GlotPress
      1. Provides a multi-user, web-based translation environment for localizing web applications (or anything that uses PO/MO)
      2. Based on “industry-standard” gettext tools
      3. Integrates with Google Translate for suggestions
      4. Installed and operating on http://translate.wordpress.com/
      5. Coming soon to http://wordpress.org
        1. Ability to translate plugins via web-based interface
      6. Testing on After the Deadline plugin po file
      7. Available for download/testing from http://glotpress.org
    4. BackPress
      1. Library of code, use it in your own project
      2. NOT an “install and use” application
      3. Extracted from WordPress during development of bbPress
      4. Perfect if you’re used to developing for WordPress
      5. Now used in…
        1. WordPress! (kinda)
        2. bbPress
        3. GlotPress
        4. SupportPress (internal project at Automattic)
        5. wp-trac-bot (on IRC)
        6. Some other personal projects, including one of my own
      6. Got a website!
        1. http://backpress.org
      7. Needs more documentation/tutorials on getting up and running
    5. CodePoet.com
      1. Automattic gets asked to recommend developers
      2. People are looking for professional support for their WP needs
      3. Directory of WordPress professionals
        1. Might cover other projects in the future
      4. Created/managed by Automattic
      5. Need samples of work and references
      6. Very basic right now, but lots more coming soon
  7. Q & A

I’d also like to send out a special thanks to the organizers who treated me to a tasty, spicy, Indonesian dinner at a restaurant after WordCamp. I know you were all exhausted from keeping everything running so smoothly during the day (I know I was tired, and all I had to do was get up and speak for a little while!), so I appreciate you shuttling me around and showing me some of Jakarta. Here are a few of the pictures I took during my trip, you can see the rest on Flickr.

WordCamp ID Press Conference WordCamp ID Press Conference WordCamp ID, 2010 WordCamp ID, 2010WordCamp ID, 2010 WordCamp ID, 2010

I’m in here for another day or two, so I’m catching up with an old friend from Australia, getting a bit of work done, then jumping on a plane back to San Francisco.

January 31st 2010 wordpress

Cracking the Google Algorithm, and Understanding Search Patents with Ted “tedster” Ulle

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Ted Ulle aka "Tedster" surpassed a mind-blowing 26,000 posts at Webmasterworld where he has been an adminstrator for years as one of the unsung heros of SEO as a gracious contributor to one of the web’s most comprehensive and informative SEO forums. Tedster was credited with discovering the possible cause of the Google’s 950 penalty, among a multitude of other discoveries and assertions that have helped to shape the thinking of the community over the last decade.

I’m really excited to announce a video that I got a chance to record with Ted, an good friend from WebmasterWorld.com for years who I refer to as "my google oracle". The video has been dubbed "Cracking the Google Algorithm", and deals with the the influential search patents the search engines have released. If you don’t know Tedster, you better get to know Ted Ulle, because there are few folks around that understand search algos at such a high level, and can create actionable strategy from this understanding. I was really thrilled with how both this and the video came out. Ted is in a very elite group of people who I hold in the highest regard with regards to their opinions on search algos.

What were the top 5 most significant algorithm changes in the last 5 years?

    1. The Jagger Update and the Big Daddy infrastructure that it prepared the way for was a major watershed. When this happened near the end of 2005, everflux began to show in the SERPs. Rather than once a month ranking updates, the ranking shuffle became continual.

      Monthly Google History: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3801699.htm

    2. Google’s war on paid links that began as far back as 2005 raised quite a ruckus. At first Google’s negative actions were taken manually and then algorithmically. Algorithmic false positives began to confuse things even more, and I wish they would have just stopped with showing false PageRank on the toolbar.
    3. Phrase-based indexing, as described in the 2006 patents, brought a deeper level of semantic intelligence to the search results. This power continues to grow today. One big effect – it makes over-emphasis on keywords, especially in anchor text, a problem when it used to be an asset. But there was a major advantage for the content writer who could now throw off the rigidity to major degree and vary their vocabulary in a more natural way.

      reference: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3247207.htm

    4. Geo-located results began to create different rankings even for various areas of the same US and UK city somewhere around 2005 or so. Anyone who was still chasing raw rankings as their only metric should have quickly learned that the time for a change was long overdue.
    5. Google’s user "intention engine" has had a major effect, and that rolled out in a big way in 2009. This was coupled with a kind of automated taxonomy of query terms. Now, sometimes a certain kind of site will just never rank for a certain keyword, no matter what they try. The site’s taxonomy has to line up with the taxonomy of the query term.

      reference: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3980481.htm

  1. Which will be the top 5 changes in the next 5 years?

    1. Google will improve their algorithm that tries to identify "bad", or manipulative, links. They can already nullify links at the level of the site, the page, or even the individual link, and the heuristics will get more precise going forward. It’s also hard for webmasters to reverse engineer this approach, because there is no major symptom that stands out, like there is with a penalty.
    2. So "bad" link nullification becomes a kind of stealth action for Google. Many have noticed that PR on the whole seems to be harder to get. Sites that used to have a home page PR 8 may now be a PR 6, for instance. This is partly due to the bad-link wipeout that Google is already rolling with.
    3. The beginnings of sentiment analysis may begin to show up in the next few years. I expect to see it first on the level of rating for where content falls on a fact-to-opinion spectrum. Full sentiment analysis (rating content on a "favorable-to-critical" opinion spectrum) is already in use for some social media monitoring, but that is probably too big a technical challenge to expect Google to go with it in the general search results. For example, how can an algorithm recognize irony, where the author is writing words with the opposite of their true meaning?

      However, Google will be rolling with sentiment analysis in some areas. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it employed in Adwords Quality Scores at some point within five years.

    4. Another place Google might experiment with sentiment analysis is in their experimental "real time" search – Twitter integration and so on. However, the pitfall with sentiment analysis is that Google would also begin to INFLUENCE opinions, rather than just making them findable. In areas like politics this could be a very slippery slope.
    5. Finally, there’s one area where Google may legally need to integrate some sentiment analysis, and that’s in the Search Suggestions that tempt the search user with ideas as they type. Google lost a court case in France in 2010 and they were required to remove the word "scam" from on brand’s search suggestions.

      Those search suggestions are easily spammed, especially on brand names, and Google needs to find a good algorithm to limit their exposure for slander and libel. Sentiment Analysis could be at least part of the answer.
      reference: http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/live/articles/google-scam-suggestion-condemned-by-high-court.asp/6680/

    6. Additionally, site speed will be included as a factor over this coming year, and will be refined going forward. This might give a ranking advantage to sites that can afford a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

      However, you don’t have to fork over the big bucks for Akamai and the like any more, just to gain a speed advantage and overcome latency on the web. There are a number of solid peer-to-peer CDN options these days. In fact, the CDN industry may be a strong growth area as this new ranking factor takes root. Google has a vision for what the web SHOULD be like, and they are pushing it quite actively.

      Caffeine will have a major effect in the speed of processing updates to the rankings. A lot of the factors that Google has been mentioning in patents, such as Historical Factors or Phrase Based Indexing, sound good but don’t seem to be very active right now. With new and speedy Caffeine infrastructure, a lot of those become computationally more feasible, and will be updated more frequently.

      The wild card for me is HTML 5. Google is leading that charge, and how they will treat early adopters will be very interesting to watch. There are many features of HTML 5 that will allow a web author to send VERY clear signals about the page, what’s the content, what’s the menu, what’s just auxiliary information, and so on.

      reference: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/06/html-5-cheat-sheet-pdf/

Which penalties, filters, or bannings are most pervasive?

Keyword stuffed anchor text (internal and external) and backlink manipulation penalties are the most common. Links have long been Google’s ticklish underbelly, and if you mess around too much in there, they will scratch you right back.

What are 4 caveats to tripping filters or incurring penalties?

  • Watch your backlink profile. If you’re not gaining natural backlinks, then don’t try to prop up your lack of natural citations with a lot of manipulation. Instead, put on your thinking cap and understand why no one wants to link to you – and fix that.

  • Beware of overdoing any single keyword. You no longer need to yell at Google to get the point across – and if you do, they’re likely to shout you down. So vary that vocabulary in a natural way. The information retrieval concept to understand is "keyword co-occurrence".
  • reference: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3336435.htm

  • Focus more on your visitors than you do on the latest SEO methods. Nothing avoids penalties like building for your visitors rather than Google.
  • Beware of duplicating content on the same type of TLD. If you can access the content on one international TLD (com, net, org, etc) then that’s enough. But don’t worry about duplicates across country-code TLDs, since they don’t compete with each other.
  • What are some filters that can be easily identified and overcome and how?

    Backlink manipulations, whether paid links or merely strategic alliances, usually result in very obvious ranking drops. This jumps out for a site owner because page 1 rankings fall to page 5 overnight. The cure is to back out of it, and submit a reconsideration request where you come clean.

    Overdoing it on internal anchor text is another dramatic re-ranking. You can fall from page 1 to deep in the SERPs overnight. Again, the fix is just to back off, but in this case you don’t need to submit the request. As soon as the threshold violations are recalculated you should pop out of trouble. The phrase-based patents, again, detail the way these thresholds are calculated.
    Sometimes a ranking loss is just a gradual slide because you’re not getting any new, fresh link juice. If that’s the case, put on your marketing hat and let the world know what you’ve got.

    What factors most impact sitelinks?

    Today, I’d say the single biggest factor is traffic. In the beginning sitelinks had more to do with your menu structure and internal linking. But now we see Google surfacing the popular sections of the site into sitelinks, whether they are on the main menu or not.

    For some sites, a steady flow of fresh content into a section also seems to be a factor. But it’s hard to isolate the freshness factor from the influence of traffic — the two just go together.


    Which people at WebmasterWorld (or elsewhere) were the most influential in you becoming the Google prognosticator and successful consultant that you have become today?

    It’s difficult to single anyone out – because really it’s been the whole community. I was influenced early on by people like Brett Tabke, Dave Naylor, Greg Boser (webguerilla), Shakil Khan, Todd Friesen, and Bob Jordan – but there are many others.

    It was Nick Wilson, for instance, who kicked my butt into learning CSS. Since then, using source ordered content has been a big, long-term win for me. Edward Lewis (pageoneresults) got me serious about taming the IIS server. Without that knowledge, I would be unable to work with many major corporate clients.

    In terms of consulting, I really owe Neil Marshall in a big way, because he set me straight early on about valuing my knowledge and being willing to put an appropriate price tag on it.


    If you could tell every webmaster one thing they shouldn’t miss out on doing for their site, what would it be?  

    Build an Information Architecture that supports your marketing objectives. That is, build the site template from your market’s point of view rather than your company’s internal point of view. And having done that market research and gained a solid understanding, then be sure your site architecture makes it clear and easy for the visitor to take the actions you most want to see.

    Said another way, conversions start with the page template – and there’s a great deal of accumulated wisdom out there to tap into. Having taken your best shot at launch, then you can refine it with A/B or multivariate testing. And from there your off into analytics land. It’s a long and happy trip, but it all starts with the IA.

    Thanks Ted for taking the time, and being so wonderfully open and helpful, and for doing such great things at Webmasterworld. You are the type of person in this community that makes me proud to be a part of the search optimizer and webmaster community. For more great insights from Ted, check out the google forum at WebmasterWorld (the awesome community where I learned so much of what I know), or the full video interview on "Cracking the Google Algorithm" here.

    January 29th 2010 News

    Clip Watch

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    I’ve been thinking about a watch I can put on my coat or bag, which tells me time when I need to know because when it’s cold, my watch is under the thick coat and is hard to take out.

    By making it look like a button, it may go well with many kinds of outer wears.

    Click the face once and it displays the time and date on the glass face for a few seconds. (I figure we usually don’t need to stare at a watch for a long time.)

    Solar battery panels charges electricity for the display.

    Creative Commons License

    This work is licensed under a
    Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

    January 28th 2010 Design

    By: bala

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    if i have uploaded a video, is it possible to check the name of person who is viewing my videos? what is get from above is just a summary. i am uable to get details click wise.

    January 28th 2010 Uncategorized

    Announcing Link Insight Beta Program Invitation

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    Today I am proud to announce Link Insight and the Link Insight Beta Program, offered exclusively through search intelligence firm AdGooroo.For many years I have wanted to find a way to take what I have learned over the course of 14+ years of link building and link marketing, and turn it into a diagnostic and strategic tool that can help web sites better understand links and the link building

    January 28th 2010 Google, Tools

    Web Service Authentication APIs

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    For a project I’m working on, I’ve been looking at a lot of web service authentication/verification APIs lately. I thought folks might be interested in the results. Here are the methods available for a variety of web services/applications online, with links to their appropriate docs:

    Web Application Authentication Method
    Bebo Custom token
    Blogger.com AuthSub
    Delicious OAuth (and HTTP Basic)
    Digg OAuth
    Dopplr AuthSub
    Facebook Custom token (Facebook Connect)
    Flickr Custom token
    FriendFeed OAuth
    Google Profiles AuthSub
    Last.fm Custom token
    LinkedIn OAuth
    Mixx OAuth
    MySpace OAuth
    Picasa AuthSub
    Posterous HTTP Basic
    Reddit Custom token (modhash)
    Tumblr HTTP POST (plaintext password)
    Twitter OAuth
    Vimeo OAuth
    Yahoo OAuth
    YouTube AuthSub and OAuth

    Interesting stats:

    • 21 web services analyzed
    • 10 (48%) are using OAuth (including YouTube)
    • 5 (24%) are using AuthSub (also including YouTube)
    • Dopplr is the only non-Google property using AuthSub
    • Tumblr is the only property using plaintext passwords, although Posterous is using HTTP Basic, which is basically plaintext

    Looks like OAuth is gaining some real traction, and in fact if Google switched over to using it, it’d have a real hold on the authentication space. That would probably be a good thing. Next up in my adventure will be seeing how truly conformant/compatible all these OAuth implementations are, and how portable my code be able to be in accessing them all.

    If you’d like to add any others that you know about, please throw them in the comments and I’ll add them to the table above so everyone can find them.

    January 24th 2010 Facebook, Google, Twitter, yahoo, YouTube

    By: Ida Cheinman

    Comments Off on By: Ida Cheinman

    Took a ton of notes at the conference, but turns out still missed some points. Was good to revisit. Thanks for posting.

    January 24th 2010 Uncategorized

    MIX Judging

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    I was recently honored to be asked to be a judge for the MIX 10k Smart Coding Challenge, running in conjunction with Microsoft’s MIX conference. The idea is to create a really great web application that totals no more than 10KB in its unzipped state.

    Why did I agree to participate? As much as I’d like to say “fat sacks of cash“, that wasn’t it at all. (Mostly due to the distinct lack of cash, sacked or otherwise. Sad face.) The contest’s entry requirements actually say it for me. In excerpted form:

    • The entry MUST use one or more of the following technologies: Silverlight, Gestalt or HTML5…
    • The entry MUST function in 3 or more of the following browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or Chrome…
    • The entry MAY use any of the following additional technology components…
      • CSS
      • JavaScript
      • XAML/XML
      • Ruby
      • Python
      • Text, Zip and Image files (e.g. png, jpg or gif)

    Dig that: not only is the contest open to HTML 5 submissions, but it has to be cross-browser compatible. Okay, technically it only has to be three-out-of-five compatible, but still, that’s a great contest requirement. Also note that while IE is one of the five, it is not a required one of the five.

    I imagine there will be a fair number of Silverlight and Gestalt entries, and I might look at them, but I’m really there—was really asked—because of the HTML 5 entries. By which I mean the open web entries, since any HTML 5 entry is also going to use CSS, JavaScript, and so on.

    The downside here is that the contest ends in just one week, at 3pm U.S. Pacific time on 29 January. I know that time is tight, but if you’ve got a cool HTML 5-based application running around in your head, this just might be the time to let it out.

    January 23rd 2010 browsers, html5

    A Thank You to our “Sponsors”

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    This is a post to say thank you to all the people who made our trip to Chile special, fun or interesting in any way. I may have forgotten someone, but here’s a list of specific people who we met/knew/hung out with while we were there and how they helped make our trip better (in no particular order):

    • Emily and Rodolfo (and Lola!) — I met Emily randomly at a tech party here in San Francisco almost 2 years ago. She and Rodolfo (her fiacé) were excellent fun to hang out with and we really enjoyed getting to know them. Rodolfo was also our wonderful tour-guide when we went riding with La Biciclete Verde. Thank you for introducing us to Handball, and also melon con vino! I hope you enjoyed the Vodka Watermelon ;) I’ll have to forgive Emily for keeping her blog on BlogSpot and not WordPress.com I guess ;) Lola is their super-cute dog who is an adopted stray. She’s awesome, and Rodolfo has taught her some cool tricks as well.
    • Jorge and friends — I was connected up with Jorge because he’s one of the organizers for WordCamp Chile. Something in common is a great start, and we got along really well. We ended up spending a bunch of time with Jorge and also got to meet his friends Paloma and Felipe who were great as well. Paloma in particular is gorgeous and a lot of fun! Jorge shared a delicious bottle of wine with us on our roof-top, and then an even more delicious one in his apartment on the night of Piñera’s victory as the new Chilean President. He also was generous enough to drop us off at the airport on our last day in Chile.
    • Juan — Juan is the other organizer of WordCamp Chile, who I was also connected up to through Automattic. He took us on a bit of a walking tour of central Santiago, and also for a wonderful, authentic dinner at Doña Tina. We didn’t get too much chance to hang out with him later in the trip, but it was great to meet him and learn a lot more about Chile from him.
    • Ann — I think I figured that I (personally) was a 5th-step removed introduction to Ann, but she was still super-friendly and welcoming to us both. She is a friend of a friend of Robin’s cousin’s girlfriend :) We only got to see her once, but it was a fun night at the California Sports Cantina (pub). I think she’s back here in the US now, trying to sort out another job in South America somewhere, so best of luck Ann!
    • Laura and friends — Robin met Laura in her Spanish classes, and we got to spend a couple of nights out with her and a few of her friends. The night we spent in Bellavista was particularly fun, despite the creepy guy who was obsessed with Robin (and the street dog who protected us from him!). I hope their travels continue to treat them well!
    • Pastor — Our tour guide for 2 day-trips, Pastor was quite the character. He was a really nice guy who seemed to be genuinely passionate about what he does, which is all too rare these days. I wish him the best of luck with his endeavors, both business and personal.
    • Sophie — I met Sophie on our trip to the Andes, but Robin knew her from her Spanish classes. It was fun to meet another Aussie (she’s from Alice Springs) and it sounded like she was having quite a trip. She’s down in Valdivia (I think) now, working at a hostel, so I hope things are going well for her (and that her Spanish is coming along!).
    • Fay — Fay was the the only other person on the bicycle tour we did with Rodolfo/La Biciclete Verde. She was a lovely English woman, and joined us for lunch at Tio Willy’s. We were supposed to meet up again later but then I got sidetracked on our emails and forgot to reply, so it didn’t happen. Sorry Fay!
    • Max and family/friends — We met Max and his mother, grandmother and Aunt on our New Year’s Eve trip to Valpo/Viña. We caught up with Max again to spend the afternoon drinking beers and snacking at Patio Bellavista, then the evening drinking more beer at the Bierfest. It was a great time! We tried to connect up again one more time for dinner, but our schedules didn’t work out so it never happened. Hopefully Max will make it over to the US at some point and we’ll meet up again!
    • Aida and Simon — The Swedes! Simon and Aida were on our wine tour in Colchagua and were the only other English-speakers there, so we hung out and chatted all day. We also exchanged numbers and met up for dinner and drinks later which was good fun. Simon used to be a UN soldier, but has now moved on from that. Aida’s parents are Chilean but live in Sweden (which is where they met, obviously). We got to meet some of Aida’s friends who were also there, studying the same course as her. Unfortunately they got food poisoning while they were up North so we didn’t get to see them again before they (and we) left Chile.
    • Jeff and Philip — We met both of these guys (not traveling together, just putting them together here because we met them at the same time) on our day trip to Valpo with Pastor, and both were really interesting characters with interesting stories. Jeff was traveling around South America, while Philip was a Dutch journalist, living in Brasil. Thanks for making the day even more interesting!
    January 22nd 2010 personal

    Valparaiso Day Tour

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    Even though we’d already been there (twice, actually), Robin really wanted to go to Valparaiso again. The opportunity popped up when Pastor let us know that he was taking a day-tour from Santiago to Valparaiso on our last weekend in Chile.

    This tour started out the same as our previous one — meeting at 9am at Robin’s language school (Tandem). From there, we headed out towards Valpo/Viña, which took us through the Casablanca valley. Along the way, we stopped to fill up at a gas station and grab some snacks, then made our way to Viñedo Veramonte (a winery).

    At the winery, we had a short tour, including some genuine artifacts from the “old way” of making wine, then went back downstairs to try 3 of their wines. We actually didn’t like these ones too much, although their blend (red combination of 4 different wines) was OK. Back in the van and we were on our way to Valparaiso properly.

    Valparaiso Day Tour

    This time, when coming in to town, we entered through a different approach from the previous two times. We came towards the city from a more southern approach, giving us an impressive view over the ocean/bay/coast-line. We stopped to check things out, and Pastor showed us a ground-cover plant that grew there which had fruits similar to a fig. Apparently they’d be ripe and good to eat in another month or so.

    Valparaiso Day Tour

    As we got into town, we headed to Cerro Artilleria to ride up the Artilleria “funicular” (like a cable car, but up a really steep hill). As luck would have it, this was the same one that we’d ridden up on our previous trip to Valpo, but it was still fun :)

    From there, we went to Plaza Sotomayor to check out The Armada de Chile, the Chilean Navy Building and the Monument of the Heroes and get a bit of history. It’s quite an impressive plaza in the middle of Valparaiso, just near the docks. After we’d checked out the plaza and the statues, we made our way over to the docks and jumped on a small boat for a ride around the bay. We had a guide who told us a bit about what we were seeing, including a bunch of boats, a huge ship being repaired/repainted, a group of Navy ships and another massive cargo ship being loaded up while we watched.

    Valparaiso Day Tour Valparaiso Day Tour

    We then visited Parque Quinta Vergara, which used to be the house of a famous family, but is now a big garden and cultural center. There is also a huge amphitheater (the “ceiling” of which is pictured below) there, which apparently is mainly used for a single event each year: The Viña del Mar International Song Festival (in February).

    Valparaiso Day Tour

    From there we went to Club Union Arabe (a castle of a restaurant, up on a bit of a cliff overlooking the ocean) to have lunch. To be honest, this was the low-point of the day. Despite being quite a fancy restaurant, this place was a disappointment. I think as soon as we walked in, we expected high prices, but good-freaking-lord was it expensive. By the end of the meal (2 entree platters for the table, then a relatively simple meal each, plus 2 bottles of wine), we were up for $26,000 CLP each. That’s around $50 USD and is crazy expensive for a meal in Chile. To put that in perspective, the entire day’s tour cost $35,000 pp. I think most of us would have preferred to double (triple? quadruple?) our tip to Pastor and just go somewhere “local” and authentic. Ah well, at least the food was pretty good, and the conversation/company was also great.

    We then visited the famous Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock), which is a giant clock, with the numbers etc shown in flowers. I had guessed that the seconds hand was actually working double-time, but we timed it and it’s going at normal speed. I guess it just looks like it’s going faster because it’s so big, and we’re used to looking at smaller clock-faces.

    After that we walked along the beach-front where there are all sorts of artisans and smaller booths selling things. Apparently there was no alcohol for sale because of the election that would be held the next day, so as much as we wanted a cerveza in the sun, we couldn’t find one.

    Homer in the sand Valparaiso Day Tour

    Heading towards home, we went out the city the same way we came in, so we got this glorious view (below) of the city in the afternoon sun. Then it was back on the highway and home to Santiago where we jumped on the Metro to get back to our apartment. Another successful day with Pastor (despite the lunch thing).

    Valparaiso Day Tour

    Of the people that we met that day, 2 were particularly interesting. Philip, the South American correspondent for a Dutch newspaper, but who was actually based in Brasil (very cool) and Jeff, a chiropractor who was on month 4 of a South American trip that had covered all sorts of interesting places already, with no end in sight.

    There are some more photos in the Valpo Day Trip set on Flickr.

    January 22nd 2010 personal