Time for another almost regular look at what’s new on the site, what’s going on in the social world of travel and cruise blogging, and what I’ve been reading or watching recently.
Let’s start with an update on the drama from the last post. There hasn’t been much to report, really; a little bit of back-and-forth between the account exposing the issue and one of the targets but, generally, a lot quieter there. I will disclose here that I did get in touch with the account at the centre of the storm to send a warning following an odd couple of incidents targeted at me and this site, though, for some reason.
Firstly, a Twitter account created in June with a name that references an old Windows exploit, no followers, and itself following 33 accounts connected with the hacking industry tweeted twice – its only tweets – naming first my main Twitter account, then my travel-related Twitter account as being behind the “troll account cruiserato [sic]”. An hour later those tweets were deleted. An hour after that the account was deleted. The tweets contained alleged proof on a link hidden behind a URL shortener. Knowing it wasn’t me I didn’t need to check this out but suspecting this might be a phishing attempt to unmask whoever was behind it I warned the Twitter account in question.
Any encounter with hacker types gets my paranoid juices flowing so I downloaded full site and database backups from the website (stored in two separate, offline locations as all backups should be), ran some scans, updated browsers, the usual things. I then noticed a spike in web traffic coming from Facebook and Instagram. No way to identify the sources from referral summaries as the originating URL is hidden but I could see the destination pages so I thought I’d take a look at the raw access logs to see if I could get a clue there as to who was linking here and why. That’s when the second incident occurred. I spotted a very concerted attempt to find backup files of the website through brute force name-guessing of URLs. Luckily, they were doomed to failure as that’s not how backups are generated on my host. Anyway, that might all be coincidental but the timing with the odd Twitter behaviour and a few people mentioning hacking in the recent drama situation was unsettling to say the least.
Even More Drama!
Okay, this isn’t that huge on the scale of dramatic things happening but I started asking around about the Facebook and Instagram traffic coming in, being a nosey old sod interested in whether what was being said was nice or not (always assume it’s something bitter and nasty and you’ll never be disappointed is one of my many mottoes). That’s when I discovered that one of the people who’d apparently mentioned my page or originated a link had blocked my travel account on Twitter (we had previously been following one another).
Odd, I thought, but maybe a mistake. I’ve accidentally blocked people before by clicking the wrong thing, after all. And then I checked the person’s Instagram page.
Maybe they’ve deleted their page, I thought. But no. Logging out shows I can still see all the content from that person (reminder, people: if your account is public then blocking does not do an awful lot of good). This is most definitely a deliberate block. I have not a clue as to what I might have done and as I’m not a member of the private Facebook account that linked to my page I can’t say whether it was disclosed there.
Ultimately, people can block any content they don’t want to see; this is their social media as much as anyone else’s, they’re in charge of what they view and who views what of theirs (to some extent). I’m curious as to what I did to warrant this treatment but not enough to press the issue; I’ll just resort to a mild, public lamentation and move on. Ho hum.
Social Media Purge
In related news I like to keep my Twitter streams to a manageable level. Even though I use Tweetdeck so can manage lists there’s a limit to how much you’re going to be able to process and when I see people following thousands of people with even more followers I suspect there’s very little socialness to the relationship and more an egotistic broadcasting. I also see real-time activity updates from people and boy, some of you like an awful lot of stuff and follow an awful lot of accounts very rapidly (almost as if you care more for people checking you out in return than actually looking at what you’re liking or following but… no, it couldn’t possibly be that). Anyway, as I say, I like to keep my Twitter stream to a manageable level so a recent purge of people I’m following who show a little too much of the broadcast mentality and little too nothing of the interaction mentality has taken place. For people who were following me who I’ve decided to unfollow I’ve used the block/unblock trick to let them unfollow me too as a) chances are they couldn’t care less about my content anyway, and b) I’d hate to be accused of playing the follow/unfollow game unfairly or not. There is the risk that these people will follow back at a later date as part of their mass following exercises they undertake in search of ego-stroking but such is life.
Only the one technical change to speak of and that’s the fixing of the RSS feed so that it’s not limited to just the blog posts. I use two different post types on this site: blogs for general chat (like this post) and portfolio items to cover the specifics of the travelling we do. Sadly, out of the box, WordPress doesn’t have a way to include both types of post in its aggregated feed and so I’d taken to setting the default feed in the site header to being just the portfolio items. What I’d noticed, though, when looking at those raw access logs was that there were still hits to the default feed URL which wouldn’t have included any of the main travel posts. That bugged me. Fortunately, there was a pretty easy code tweak to alter that and now the main feed includes both blog posts and travel posts and the main RSS URL has been restored to the default for this CMS. Lovely.
What I’ve still yet to work out is how to reproduce the email that’s generated to subscribers when a blog post is published when a custom post type is published too. I think I know how to do it but sending emails is an area that is important to get right; you never want to expose email addresses to other subscribers and you don’t want to bombard people with crap either. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.
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The latest Flickr photos page now also includes an embedded Instagram widget so it’s been renamed to Latest Photos accordingly; all keeps that content updating regularly(ish) and fresh. Also ish.
On The Internet
And now for some of the cruise or travel articles I’ve been reading or watching since the last update.
Not a place in Spain I’d heard of (which is probably true of a lot of places in Spain if I’m brutally honest) but Ronda in Andalucia looks spectacularly pretty and sounds like a must-see location in these photos and write-up from Flo in Explore Ronda in 3 Days: A Hidden Gem in Andalucia, Southern Spain. Looks to be a pain to get to and to explore around without a car but otherwise gorgeous and that bridge! Wow!
Not directly travel-related but this article on Bloomberg – Plastic Straws Aren’t The Problem – does connect in some way to a number of the cruise lines who have announced recently they’ll be banning plastic straws on their ships. Any reduction in single-use plastic where equal or better alternatives exist is to be applauded, of course, but the statistics and reality of the situation show that as a means to protect the oceans, which is where this all came from, it’s about as useful as coughing near a forest fire and hoping it goes out.
While P&O are a very British cruise line with a very British passenger list it is just about possible to get aboard if you’re from elsewhere. In An American on P&O Cruises (a guest post featuring on the Brits On A Ship site) you can read how an American couple found cruising to the Norwegian Fjords on Azura.
In 12 Awesome Things To Do In Exotic Marrakech you won’t be surprised to learn you can read about a dozen things you can do in the Moroccan city. I’ve seen posts like this before and Morocco as a destination has a lot of appeal (I’ve been before but my wife hasn’t and it was a very long time ago) but the photographs are very nice indeed and there are some suggestions I’d not read elsewhere.
North Korea is a place we’d love to visit if only for the architecture (but there’s more to it than that) and someone I follow who did the trip a few years ago is Fred Zalokar. On his site Fred recounts the 2014 Pyongyang Marathon he undertook along with his wife (they’re runners, obviously, and we’re very much not). It’s a fascinating read and must have been an incredible experience.
Finally, here’s a video which I discovered while looking for old cruise videos for the last blog post. It features one of the ships of the Orient Line, one of the precursors to P&O before there was a split off to form P&O Cruises (as you probably know, we’ve cruised with them a bit). I posted this on the P&O Cruises – UK Fan Page run by some friends on Twitter to general approval. The second part of the video is here: Part 2.
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Featured image is from inside the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. These days you think of hackers and you think of Russia.