New Privacy Features in WordPress 4.9.6 for GDPR Compliance

With the EU’s GDPR deadline looming large in everyone’s mind, WordPress has released Version 4.9.6, which includes several new privacy-related features to help WordPress site owners comply with GDPR regulations. Here’s a rundown of the new features:

Comments

Man on Laptop - GDPR

WordPress has always had the ability for users to leave comments (assuming that the site allows for it), and the ability for them to leave their information (name and email address) behind so that the site owners can contact them.

Previously, WordPress stored this value in a cookie in the commenter’s browser automatically, but now they’ve added a checkbox where a user must opt in to this functionality so that cookies are not stored unless the user consents to it.

Privacy Policy

WordPress now includes the ability to designate a page on your site as your Privacy Policy, which it will then include on your login and registration pages. However, it will not include it anywhere on the other pages of your site, so you’ll want to add a link to it somewhere, most likely in the footer of your website.

More importantly, it includes the ability to generate a template Privacy Policy that includes information about how WordPress uses cookies and stores information natively, and includes some empty sections that you can fill in yourself, as a starter template. We’ve created a version of this so you can see what this looks like here.

WordPress has also created a section of their plugin developer handbook that deals with privacy. They’ve added methods for plugin developers to add content to the Privacy Policy page to inform users of how their specific plugins collect and use information.

Data Handling Tools

In addition to the tools WordPress has added to inform users about privacy concerns, they’ve added tools for site owners to manage user data to comply with GDPR regulations. This includes two separate tools: Data Export and Data Erasure.

The Data Export tool allows site owners to export all of the data about a specific user by entering their email address into the admin interface in WordPress. When the site owner or manager does this, it will send the user an email confirming their request. Once they’ve confirmed the request, administrators can go back to this interface to send the user their data. You can also see past requests, and remove them if you’d like to do so. In the WordPress interface, you can find this tool in the left navigation menu as Tools » Export Personal Data.

The Data Erasure tool works in a similar fashion to the Data Export tool, where an administrator inputs an email address and an email is sent to the user. Once it’s confirmed, the administrator can then use the interface to erase all data about the user. You can find this tool in the left navigation as Tools » Erase Personal Data.

It’s very important to note that these tools will only affect core WordPress data unless plugins are updated to use the WordPress tools that export or erase personal data. Typically plugins update quickly, but as the owner of the website and data controller, it is your responsibility to make sure the plugins aren’t retaining data that isn’t being handled by this tool.

Summary

Overall, WordPress has included some very useful tools for both site owners and developers to help with the management of their GDPR burden. However, like anything GDPR-related, it’s going to take some extra effort to make sure you’re utilizing them to fully comply with new regulations.

Katie Holmes

Content Manager and Tester

Mother’s Day Gift Guide for the Techie Mom

Moms love tech. Not sure what to get mom for mother’s day? Flowers are always nice, so are candles and perfume. However, moms want those cool tech gadgets that streamline their hectic, schedule driven lives. Here are my recommendations:

(And if you’re curious as to why I’m an expert, my almost three year old is proof that I’ve earned my mom card….)

  1. The Tile Mate – WE CAN NEVER FIND OUR KEYS. This little Tile Mate is an affordable gift for any mom. If you can’t find the item, the bluetooth connection will alert you to it item’s location. It’s like deep-sea fishing radar. Just think of the entertainment (read: extra work) you can convince your children to do by playing, “who can find where the noise is coming from???” If only I could strap this to my Sunglasses, or my patience.
  2. PopSockets – Show me a mother, and I’ll show you a family photographer. The PopSocket allows you to hold your phone easily and securely while you take 58 photos of your child’s silly lunchtime faces, or their last homecoming game. They come in a number of styles, and won’t break the piggy bank either.
  3. Echo Dot – While I have some issues with this device, mostly Orwellian dystopian fiction induced issues, people swear by these little hockey pucks. Order paper towels, set timers, some up with answers for “why the sky is blue” and play Sufjan Stevens all with a gentle, “Hey Alexa…” Anything that makes life easier, eh?
  4. https://www.borrowlenses.com – So you bought a DSLR when your wife was pregnant with your first child, and haven’t upgraded from the stock lense? This service within the Shutterfly, tinyprints, and wedding paper divas umbrella allows your to rent different lenses to try out before you make a hefty purchase. While this isn’t exactly a techy gadget gift, it’s a pretty great resource to have around. Going on a romantic vacation to Montreal? (You know, the poor man’s Paris?) This site gives you the tools to allow Mom to get her full Ansel Adams on.
  5. Spotify.com – Just go ahead and bite the bullet. Give her a year of music. You’ve been listening to Frozen for four years now. Let her drive around blasting 90’s Hip Hop, remembering the times she thought she knew exactly what she was doing with her life. Nothing cooler than arriving to school pick up while listening to A Tribe Called Quest.
  6. Hydroponic Herbs – No not that kind. We don’t have the time to keep anything else alive, but we need mint for our much deserved mojitos. Two words my friend: self watering
  7. Philips Somneo – Who are we kidding, if we didn’t set the alarm, no one in the home would wake up to make the school bus in the morning. With built-in white noise, we can all sleep a little deeper and awake a little more refreshed to the simulated sunrise happening on our night stand.
  8. FRENDS Headphone –While I cannot attest to the speaker quality, or to the longevity of these, THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL. When in doubt, choose rose gold for an on trend look. She’ll walk the dog in style with these luxury headphones. There are several styles, and colors as well. There are additional plates for purchase if she wants to coordinate looks. Feel free to email me if you need help deciding. (If my husband is reading this, I want the ones make in partnership with Dolce & Gabbana. I want to wear the headphone equivalent of a crown! Our daughter doesn’t need to go to college… )
  9. Wireless Photo and Video Printer – Have you noticed how your image never comes out the way you thought it was when you use the pharmacy photo printing app? This printer takes all that guesswork out of the equation. Using some kind of Apple magic, you can print your photos from anywhere, like directly from your vacation in Bora Bora, or your bathroom when you remember that that birthday card needs to go in the mail today and you should include a picture of the kids in it.
  10. ANYTHING SHE ASKED FOR IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS – The best gift is the gift she’s asked for. Does she need a night out with her girlfriends? Does she need a spa day? Does she just want you to replace your bald tires before you have a blowout on the interstate? Listen to her, she’s either been dropping hints, or has explicitly told you what she wants.

If the mother you’re honoring is no longer with us, we acknowledge that this might be a tough day for you. Perhaps donating to an organization that supports mothers in conflict areas would be a great way to participate in the holiday. Organizations like Nurture Project International who provide maternal care in places like Syria, Iraq, and Bangladesh,  Save the Children who help families in the US and abroad or the International Rescue Committee who helps to serve and resettle refugees fleeing war and famine.

I hope this little guide helps steer you in a direction. It might not be the right one depending on your circumstances but I thought I would get the ball rolling for you, because forgetting to acknowledge the work, sacrifice, and love mothers give every day is worse than getting the wrong gift.

Any other fun ideas you have for the mother(s) in your life? I’d love to hear!

Janna Marks

Web Producer

9 Tips for Holding a Successful Training Session

Holding a training session can be tough. You have to give your audience all of the information they need in a limited time frame, without overwhelming them or, let’s be honest, putting them to sleep. It can be quite the task and balancing act.

At Matrix Group, we conduct a lot of training. Over the years I’ve held hundreds of trainings and MatrixMaxx product demos. While my sessions aren’t always 100% flawless, I like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at holding a successful training session.

Recently, I gave some of our staff a training session on giving training sessions. Here are the 9 top tips that I shared with the Matrix Group staff on how to make your training sessions successful:

  1. Know your material – This one may seem obvious, but be well prepared and don’t try to wing it. Make a quick bulleted list for yourself of the key points that you want to cover, and, if you do the same training regularly, it might be worth your time to create a standard presentation template that gets customized for each individual training.
  2. Know the audience’s goals – Ask yourself: What are they trying to get out of this training or demo? What information is the most important and useful to them? Do they want an overview, or a deep dive into one or two areas?
  3. Learn about the organization(s) you are talking to – Ask them questions about how they currently do certain things ahead of time, so you can better prepare. Also, be sure to know about any unique customizations the client(s) may have in place when holding a software training.
  4. Prepare sample data – It often goes a long way for the client to see data like their own. Note a couple of examples that illustrate your points, and populate some sample data where necessary.
  5. Slow down – Don’t be afraid of a little silence and don’t rush through the material. You may know the information like the back of your hand, but your audience doesn’t, so make sure you are giving them enough time to let things sink in.
  6. Practice – A little practice makes a big impact, especially if you are conducting a training on or using new material. Formulate a plan for what information you are going to cover, go over your examples and illustrations and think about what you are going to say for each one, then practice, practice, practice.
  7. Speak clearly – Try to avoid “ums” and “ahs”. The previous two tips will also help you to do this. Also, if you are giving a training remotely, keep in mind that conference phone lines tend to muddle things, so take extra care to enunciate.
  8. Periodically prompt for questions – Before changing topics, ask if there are any questions. This gives the more shy audience members an opportunity to ask questions.
  9. Be clear on who will be taking notes – It can be hard to take notes while also conducting a training, without breaking the flow of your presentation. If you have someone else from your organization helping out with the training, be clear about who will be responsible for note taking ahead of time.

As with anything, practice really does make perfect. But hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to knock any training session out of the park, whether it’s your first or your 50th.

Have any other tips for how to ensure that your training sessions are successful? I’m all ears!

Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

Our Favorite Video Editing Tools: Final Cut Pro & iMovie

It’s no secret that video is one of the hottest marketing trends and tools right now. If you haven’t taken the leap into video creation for your organization, now is certainly the time!

Video creation can seem like an overwhelming task at first thought, but good news! If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) and the right video editing software, you can create pretty great video content. Sure, your videos may not be super bowl ad worthy, but you’ll be surprised at the quality of content you can produce with the right tools.

Two of our favorite editing tools are iMovie and Final Cut Pro, which are both Apple products. While they are a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison – one is a more basic, budget friendly option and the other is more full-featured and an investment – they are both great tools to get the job done, depending on your needs.

Here’s a little background on each editor, and the advantages of each:

iMovie

This is a great program for beginner video editors to use to learn the ropes. We love it for it’s ease of use and basic editing features – it has enough tools to get the job done, but none of the more complex editing options that often intimidate beginners. Since it’s an Apple product, you can seamlessly bring in different Apple programs to the application such as iTunes, Garageband, Photos, etc.

We also love that it:

  • Makes it easy to jump back and forth between scenes
  • Is very simple to change the audio over a video clip
  • Gives you the ability to fix shaky/unsteady video
  • Is available on all Apple devices, so you can make edits on your video from anywhere

The biggest advantage of iMovie is that it’s free! A great way to get some exposure to video editing, without an initial investment.

Final Cut Pro

This is a signature video editing software, and includes more advanced features and capabilities. With a modern and sleek design, Final Cut also makes the experience for the editor more exciting while remaining pretty easy to use.

Some of our favorite features include:

  • The magnetic timeline, which makes it easier to produce your project. It automatically snaps multiple clips into place and gives you the ability to move the clips around the timeline quickly and easily.
  • Multi-Channel Audio that allows use different audio channels to make the sound of the video high-quality.
  • Compound clips option, that keeps you from worrying about gaps when you add videos together, and it transitions the video smoothly.

There is a cost associated with Final Cut Pro – right now it’s priced at $299 – but we believe it’s one of the best video editors on the market and worth every penny.

For most of our video editing needs here at Matrix Group, such as the Matrix Minute video series, we use Final Cut Pro. But we also love using iMovie to quickly edit and post videos to social media that are more timely.

There are many other video editing programs out there, but these are by far our favorites. And remember, if you ever need any video help, we’re here for you!

Have to dabbled in video editing? What’s your platform of choice?

Dave Hoernig

Director of Software Engineering

What is a Canonical URL and Why Should I Care?

A canonical URL or “canonical link” is an HTML element that helps search engines avoid the appearance of duplicate content. It does this by identifying a preferred version of a web page. Using canonical URLs improves your site’s SEO and makes searching the site easier for your visitors. The canonical link appears in the head section of a web page and looks like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yoursite.com/page-path/page-title/” />

How it works

Imagine you’re throwing a party at your home and you provide directions to your guests. (I recognize that nowadays people will just plug your address into their navigator, but my father refuses to use such technology and still prefers written directions and paper maps.) Knowing that your guests will be coming from different starting points, you provide a different set of directions whether they are coming from the north, east, south, or west. Each set of directions presents a differt route, but each ends up at your house.

Now consider that you publish a news story to your website, and your website allows your visitors different paths to get to news stories. One path may be to navigate to a menu choice “News” and click the link to your story. Another might be to click a link from a section titled “Latest News” on your home page. A third might be that your visitor navigated to some other page and saw the link to your news story in a side bar of related content. This could result in three different URLs:

No matter how visitors navigate to your news story, they will end up reading the same content, even if the URL and the appearance of the web page around the storyare different based on how they got there. Likewise, the different directions you offer your party guests will result in them all arriving at your home regardless of which route they took. The directions you provided your guests are like your web pages and your home address is like the canonical URL! There are different ways to get there, but only one home. Following through with the news story example, each of the pages above should have the same canonical URL. It might look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yoursite.com/news/archives/story-title/” />

Search engines crawl through links on your site just like humans only [very much] faster. That means that Google will find all three paths to your news story just as visitors will. Should it show all three results? No, instead when it sees the canonical URL – common to all three pages – Google presents that one. In doing so, Google avoids the appearance of duplicate content and your website visitors are not confused by multiple links to the same story. That’s why canonical URLs are important.

Historical footnote

The canonical link element was introduced in 2009 by consensus among the major search engines Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It was formally added as an HTML standard in 2012 and is now an expected feature of all modern content management systems.