Stopping fake Google and Lifehacker links

Google AnalyticsIf you pay close attention to your Google Analytics stats, you may have recently been excited to see that you’re getting some traffic from sites such as lifehacĸ and ɢ Before you celebrate too much, take a closer look at those addresses; do you notice anything strange about the “k” in Lifehacker or the first “G” in Google? As explained by The Next Web, they’re using strange Unicode Latin letters to look very similar to those popular sites while actually being something very different.

What makes this problem so unique and worrysome is that those sites actually work (but please don’t visit them). If you put them in your browser, you’ll actually end up on the spammer’s site and run the risk of infecting your computer.

The solution

Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions to this:

Ignore them
The easiest thing to do is simply ignore those shady links. They’re annoying, but can only hurt you if you click on them.

Block them in Analytics
For many of us, though, those sites are showing up in Google Analytics hundreds of times, throwing off your stats. We wrote a WordPress plugin a while back to combat “referral spam” such as this, and it’s been updated to block these new guys. You can download the plugin here.

After you spend the time to install and activate that plugin, you’d be wise to work on blocking the “ghost referrals” as well, as explained for you here.

Moving to the Google Pixel and Project Fi

When I switched our family to T-Mobile earlier in the year, I did so with the intention of purchasing the latest Galaxy Note when it came out later in the year, as it was rumored to have amazing specs. When it came out, it absolutely did — every review of the phone was glowing and I was thrilled to be using it. As most of you know, however, many of them were catching fire and Samsung had to do a full recall of the device.

google-pixelAround that time, Google unveiled their new Pixel phone. It was missing some of the extra features that the Note 7 had (such as the s-pen), but had some amazing new aspects to it.

When it comes down to it, the review of this phone is fairly simple. I won’t get into the nuances between Android and iPhone (I’ve covered that in the past and certainly will in the future), but more the differences between this phone and other Android devices.

The bad

While I love this phone, there are a few strange things about it:

  1. It’s not waterproof. While that’s not a major factor for me, most new phones (including the Note 7 and the iPhone 7) are waterproof, so it’s odd that the Pixel isn’t.
  2. The design is uninspired. I’m not really a design snob when it comes to phone, but the huge (useless) chin on the bottom is quite odd.

The good

  1. It’s fast. Very fast. Not only does it have a faster chip than the Note 7, but having it stripped down to pure Android without all of the Samsung “extras” make it fly.
  2. The camera is awesome. According to DxOMark, it’s the best smartphone camera ever made. We’re at the point where most every cell phone camera is amazing, but this one is the best you can get.
  3. The Google Assistant is a big step forward. It will be on many other phones (including older ones) at some point, but this is the first to have it. Google voice search has always been great, but this is a big step forward. Marques Brownlee has a great video comparing the new Assistant to Siri, which you can watch here:

At the end of the day, this is an amazing phone. If you’re an Android user, there is almost no doubt you should get this phone. If you’re an iPhone user, you should at least give it a close look.

Project Fi

When moving to the Pixel, I also decided to move away from T-Mobile and onto Google’s “Project Fi”. This is a mobile phone service that you sign up for that is run by Google, but with some neat features:

  1. The best is the network. Project Fi uses T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular, and your phone automatically switches to whichever network has a stronger signal at the time. T-Mobile is awesome around our area, and now I’ll have Sprint to help fill in the gaps between cities.
  2. The pricing is cheap and simple. $20 for unlimited talk and text, and $10/GB for data. If you don’t use all of your data in a given month, you automatically get a refund for whatever is left. Data overages are charged at the same $10/GB as well.

The catches

I absolutely love Project Fi, but there are two big caveats to be aware of:

  1. It only works with the Pixel and last year’s Nexus devices. No other Android devices, no iPhones.
  2. While the pricing is fair and cheap, they count every bit of data you use. In the case of T-Mobile, our daughters can go wild; most music and video sites don’t count against the cap, and they automatically throttle data speeds when you get high. With Project Fi, every site counts against it and it’ll keep allowing full-speed data forever (running up your bill).

At the end, I’m the only one from our family currently on Fi. My wife needs her iPhone, and the kids need the data bonuses that T-Mobile provides. However, if the Pixel looks like a good phone for you, then Project Fi might be worth checking out.

Wrapping up WordCamp US 2016

We’re at the airport about to fly back to ATL after WordCamp US in Philadelphia, so I thought I’d share a few of my takeaways.


Of the dozen or so sessions that we attended, I have four main things that I’m coming away with.

We’re doing a lot of things right

In listing to search engine sessions from Joost de Valk of Yoast and Maile Ohye of Google, the SEO work that we do at GreenMellen is on point.

You’ve gotta use HTTPS for your website

This has been growing, but this weekend was the tipping point for me. While we’ve used HTTPS for sites when needed (ecommerce, etc), it’s time to start putting it on all of our sites. I’ll be putting it on this one soon, too.

I really need to be blogging more

chris-lemaAs evidenced by the rebirth of this blog, I really want to get writing again. I went to Chris Lema’s session hoping to gain inspiration, and I certainly did. Some tips from Sal Ferrarello’s session helped take it even further. If you’re reading this post, it’s the first real post on this blog; the older ones were moved over from other blogs I had written in the past. I’m hoping that splitting this blog off from the main GreenMellen blog will allow me the freedom to write about more topics and keep me interested in writing more frequently.

WordPress is as strong as ever

Being at a convention with 2000 other WordPress fans will help show you just how popular the platform is. It now powers over 27% of the internet and that number continues to grow. With the huge number of amazing designers and developers that I met at WordCamp, that number will only continue to rise.

While we didn’t have a lot of spare time in Philly, we were able to see some of the sights. The WordCamp “after party” was held at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where we had free reign of the entire museum, filled with food and dinosaurs.


Our hotel was rather close to the Liberty Bell, so we took a few minutes this morning to check that out. Very impressive!


WordCamp US 2017

WordCamp US moves around every few years, and 2017 is coming to Nashville. That’s much closer to us and we certainly plan on attending. In the meantime, we need to get back to work on getting WordCamp Atlanta ready — March 18 is coming soon!

The Galaxy Note 7 “Glance” feature is very underrated

I’m loving the new Galaxy Note 7 and still getting used to it, but I’ve found a few great uses for the new S-Pen “Glance” feature and I’ll share one with you here.

This morning at church I fired up the trusty YouVersion Bible app, as seen here:


With most phones, you could then click back and forth using the recent apps icon, but the Glance feature does it a bit better. Once the app is open, pull out the S-Pen and you’ll get the following menu:


Choose “Glance” near the bottom, and it’ll tuck your current app (in this case, the Bible app) into a very small window in the corner of your screen. You can drag it to any other corner of your screen if you prefer. Once it’s down there, you can tap the S-Pen actions again and choose “Create note” and you’ll be looking at something like this:


Here where it gets awesome. You can use the Notes feature to take notes with the pen, no problem. If you simply hover your pen over the Glanced application in the corner, it becomes full screen for as long as you keep your pen pointed toward the screen. As soon as you move your pen away, it tucks itself back into the corner and the Notes become the main app again.

It sounds a bit confusing, but in practice it was great. I could take notes for whatever I needed, and when a scripture was referenced I could hover over the Bible, find the reference and read/bookmark it, then simply point the pen away and instantly be back in the Note I was working on.l

Of course, you don’t need to use the Notes and Bible apps to get this to work; it should work well with any two apps that you throw at it. Maybe “Glance” a chart from a co-worker as you are typing up a reply. Or perhaps you could “Glance” at ESPN data while your fantasy football draft is happening in the main window. Or you could “Glance” your music app so you could quickly hop in there to change tracks while working on something else. There are a lot of great possibilities with this.

The Note 7 is amazing device and this is just a small part of it, but certainly something you should take care not to overlook.

What is your favorite Note 7 feature?

Whole 30, day zero

My wife and I are tackling Whole30 starting tomorrow, and it should be interesting. The concept is pretty brilliant, but will be painful.

In short, you need to consume no added sugar of any kind (real or fake), no alcohol, no grains, no legumes and no dairy. Wow! After the 30 days are over, you’re encouraged to slowly reintroduce those items into your diet, one at a time, and see how your body reacts. People that successfully make it 30 days say they feel amazing, and it becomes easy to see which foods slow them down.

While caffeine is allowed, my normal intake methods are not. Diet Mountain Dew has plenty of fake sugar, and my morning coffee has sugar and dairy. There are ways to make “approved” creamer, but I’ve never been a huge coffee fan anyhow. So, out with the caffeine!

Daily caffeine intake for 12/24/15–1/2/16

Daily caffeine intake for 12/24/15–1/2/16

The above is my caffeine intake for the past 10 days, finally hitting zero yesterday. The y axis on the chat is caffeine in mg; for a point of reference, a cup of coffee is 90mg and Diet Mountain Dew is 4.5mg/oz (so 54mg in a 12 ounce can). I started on a relatively low day (117) and worked down from there. Certainly had some headaches along the way, but it’s nice to have that out of the way before Whole30 begins.

Here we go…