Arpeggiator Pedal Selection Guide

18 Oct
arpeggiator-pedals-roundup

Tararira, PitchGrinder, AARP, Arpanoid & More!

Wherein Dan tries to talk himself into buying one via this arpeggiator pedal roundup.

What is an arpeggiator pedal?

An arpeggiator is a sequencer. A sequencer plays a series of sounds based on a source and parameters set by you, the user/musician. In the case of an arpeggiator pedal, the “source” is whatever you plug into it: guitar, bass guitar, synth, toy, etc. The parameters are the pedal knobs and buttons, controlling things like: pitch, tempo, order, steps, scale, key, etc. We’ll leave it at that for now.

Why do I want one?

Keep in mind: My criteria for an arpeggiator are likely different than yours. That said, they’re fun. I recently picked up an Electro-Faustus Drone Thing, and this guy seems to have fun pairing them it with arpeggiators, so…

EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid

First I saw the Earthquaker Arpanoid. (Link immediately above). I wanted it.

Its small size and lack of a zillion knobs and whistles belie its nifty factor. However, it lacks a few things I’m looking for: per-note/step pitch control, CV or midi control. And it doesn’t so much arppegiate as it plays scales. At $225, it’s definitely ‘affordable’ in this lineup.

“But what else is out there?” I wondered.

Cooper FX AARP

I fell hard for the Cooper FX AARP (v1) when I saw that same dude playing with it.

AARP stands for Automatic Arpeggiated Repeating Patterns, which seems redundant, right? Also questionable product naming, what with the AARP being a 38-million-member thing, and all. Regardless, the AARP v1 has almost everything I want: tap tempo, eight pitch knobs, etc.

While looking for one, I learned about the upcoming AARP v2, but I’m not as attracted to its menu-driven interface (vs. all the knobbies on the older version.)

Regardless, both AARPs are currently unavailable, and you have to be on your Instagram game to snag one from the limited supply when v2 is released circa Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. Price unknown, but certainly higher than the v1’s $275 price tag.

Dwarfcraft Devices PitchGrinder

At $350, it’s not the most affordable option, and while I like that it crunches the signal down to 8-bit awesomeness, it lacks some features I want (external control, pattern control diversity, etc.). Another cool bit about the PitchGrinder: Its “Glide” knob acts as a portamento effect, controlling whether the pedal jumps or glides from pitch to pitch.

Hologram Dream Sequence

$425. It’s much more than an arpeggiator, but I’m not looking for more-than-an-arpeggiator, and I don’t want to spend that much. Furthermore, the UI isn’t setup for a great arpeggiating UX, if you know what I mean.

But it has midi in and out, and an assignable expression pedal insert, and it’s feature-rich. So maybe it’s your jam?

Bananana Effects Tararira

$269 + $20 shipping. This one might be my jam. It doesn’t break the bank – at least in this space, and speaking of space, it’s small, which is a plus. Each of the eight steps is knob controllable. …And if we’re grading on quantity of buttons and knobs, the Tararira is the clear winner, scoring a whopping 19 in the controller bells and whistles column.

Other arpeggiator pedals considered:

Eventide H9 – Billed as “a complete pedalboard in one pedal,” I find it way too separated from effect controls. If you want presets, this might be for you, but if you want knobbies, not so much. $399 + you may purchase/download additional algorithms (read:fx) for more $.

Line 6 RollerShifter – Near as I can tell, this is a custom-made Line 6 ToneCore module that was never available to purchase. It earned the nickname “talent simulator” on at least one pedal forum.

That’s it. I hope to get up the nerve to buy one of these toys soon. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s been in hardcore noise-punk band ‘Cat Shit’ for over a year now. Accordingly, he and pals are getting ready to scare trick-or-treaters with noise from: Microbrute, Theremini, Drone Thing, and guitar through sundry fx pedals on Halloween. #LureThemInWithCandy

 

Quick Guide to Meta Titles and Descriptions

8 Sep
fficient_logo-SOLO-128pix

Dan has a new logo. Is it a duck? A vomiting Pac-Man? A bulls-eye?

A quick post answering a common conundrum: What are title and description best practices?

Google already has a guide for this stuff. You should check it out. Seriously. That’s step one.

1. Read what Google has to say about writing good titles and descriptions.

2. Step two: Did you watch the video on that page? If not, watch it!

3. Step three: Some guy on the internet (me) has this to add:

Be mindful of your keywords while crafting titles and descriptions. Use a verbatim or synonym keyword instance or two when appropriate, but don’t keyword stuff or use keywords unrelated to the content. Some titles and descrips will NOT have keywords.

Meta descriptions are ideally between 120 and 156 characters including spaces. They can be longer (but should not be shorter) from time to time as long as the “important” stuff occurs in the beginning. Use regular old sentences most of the time in a description.

Titles should be 30 to 65 characters including spaces. They can be longer (but should not be shorter) from time to time as long as the “important” stuff occurs in the beginning. Try to get closer to the top end of characters. Use Title/Headline Case for Titles.

Remember, a description has two audiences:

  • Googlebot: we want Google to rank us well!
  • Humans: who see it in the SERP, where it might very-subtly influence them to click on the listing.

I’m not suggesting you should directly instruct people to click; you should write something engaging. …without telling them to “click”.
“Learn” – “discover” – “find out how…” – are okay, but writing something interesting w/out a CTA is okay, too. If you’re not a fan of click-baity titles, (I loathe them,) avoid that :/

Your Company Name in Titles / Descriptions?

Unless your site doesn’t rank well for your brand name, you should almost never use the client/website name in descriptions or titles, because it would be a redundant waste of precious SEO space. As much as you should omit the website/client name from almost all titles/descriptions, if a page is about a person or a thing, you should probably mention the person or thing in the description. The only other reason to stuff your brand in every title: the brand manual mandates it. (Consider rewriting the manual!)

P.S. New logo for my consulting biz is above. I’m going to do a lengthy post on the logo process soon. …This postscript is mostly to force me to write it up.
I’m not a prolific blogger.

SEO Intralinking Strategy for Blogging

10 Aug

So, your SEO maven hooked you up with optimized landing pages, but they’re relatively orphaned. (Nobody’s linking to them much, not even you, from your own site.) Should you link to them from your other site pages, like from your blog? Yes. …And no.

Intralinking Case Study (Hypothetical)

Keyword: blue widget

SEO Landing page: …/blue-widget/

Obviously, you mention “blue widget” on other pages too. (If you don’t, get on that. You’ll never rank for a keyword if you only mention it on one page; Google can quickly suss that you’re trying to game the system by optimizing a single page for a keyword.)

Are you selling widgets? Presumably, you have one or more “blue widget” product pages, too, whether or not you’ve opted to make them text-rich pages. (Content is king. Your product pages should be troves of information, but unfortunately some brand identities don’t allow for that.)

So you blog.

You should blog. Be an expert in your field, publicly, often.

You mention blue widgets in a blog. …Hell, you write a blog post about blue widgets. You’ve used several variations on your core “blue widget” keyword in that blog. How can you best use those keyword iterations as link anchor text to other content on your site?

Head to Google.com.

Type this in the Google search field:

site:[yoursite.com] [the keyword you’re trying to boost]

…Swapping for your domain and your keyword for the [bits in brackets].

Screenshot_2Hit Enter on your keyboard.

Screenshot_1Or click “Google Search”

Or the little magnifying glass icon.

e.g. site:dandreifort.com SEO
gets you a list Google’s favorite SEO themed pages on this site, in order. (Top is best!)

If your blue widget SEO landing page is new, it probably won’t be toward the top of that list yet. You should then definitely link to that blue widget landing page! But what if your landing page is #4 on the list, and a few of your product pages take the top three spots?

Keep it Natural

Sometimes, link to the blue widget landing page. Sometimes link to one of the product pages. We want to tell Google that our whole stinking site (or at least considerable chunks of it) are good pages for them to consider for blue widget Google search results.

So, I should link to several pages from my blog?

Maybe a couple. Sometimes just one. With rare exceptions, I highly recommend against linking to a single resource multiple times from a single page. But similarly, don’t pack your blog post full of links to every related product and page.

Why?

It’s hamfisted. If your content is overstuffed with links, people can quickly see that; they’ll likely feel like they’re being “advertised at” so to speak. …Google’s even more keen at that assessment; Google knows when you’re stuffing all of your content with links. Keep it natural. (Somewhere between zero links and ‘too many’ links, on average—that’s your goal.)

Anchor Text Variation

Mix it up. Don’t always use “blue widget” verbatim to anchor the link to your other “blue widget” content. “Our blue-tinted widgets…” is fine anchor text. Do you use a synonym for “widget”? (whatever your ‘widget’ is!) Using that synonym as part of anchor text is a great idea! Not everybody searches the same way, and the more ways you’re able to describe your products, the better.

In short:

  1. Be aware of your keywords when you’re blogging.
  2. Note that not every blog needs to link to your own content, but if you’re a brand-strong blog, and that works for you, (lucky,) you can err on the side of always linking to your own supporting content.
  3. site:yoursite your keyword – is the syntax to find out what pages Google likes already. Don’t fight Google, just nudge them.
  4. Don’t always link to the same page; pick a few to regularly reinforce.
  5. Mix up the anchor text, too, if it makes sense.

 

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and UX. He also likes making noise with other musicians.

WWII, Australia, Paintings, Families, Rocks

29 Jun

I found this story under a rock a while ago.

(figuratively speaking)

…Which is fitting, because it’s a tale of things hidden under a rock.

(figuratively speaking)

It starts on a farm

My Granddaddy John grew up on a farm in Virginia.  It was a big farm.  It is possible that his family owned slaves before the Civil War – I don’t know when they acquired the property.  Anyhoo.  He grew up in the country doing a lot of physical work and hunting and so on.  He graduated from UVA when he was something like 17, so they made him wait a couple years before attending their medical school.  After medical school he moved to Chicago and met my Grandmother, Jennie, who was from a posh family.  She was considered fun but not bright.  The closest thing her brothers did to work was playing polo.  So they got married and bought a house, had 3 kids, then WWII started.

So, John enlisted and was sent to the east coast of Australia to train as an army doctor in the Pacific Theater.  While he was there, he fell in love with Australia.  He loved the kangaroo hunting and the strong, outdoorsy people.  He felt very at home there.  And, he fell in love with a nurse. I don’t know if she was a fellow American or an Australian nurse.

When training was over, John went into the Pacific Theater and endured the horrors of sewing up young soldiers until eventually he contracted such a bad case of malaria that they sent him back to Australia to recover and discharged him, or the war ended – more facts I’m unsure of.  At that point, he decided that he was not leaving Australia and planned to start a new life with this nurse.  But his older brother wrote him a letter, reminding him that it was his duty to return to his wife and children in Chicago, and basically shamed him into returning.

John was a very strict father.  He returned to find Jennie and the children (my mother was the youngest) living with her parents.  The children had a live in nanny.  John thought they were spoiled and made them work outside while the other children in the neighborhood were playing.  Also, he loved the opera before the war, but never attended again when he came home.  He drank too much whiskey.  Jennie loved parties, but stopped entertaining because John became embarrassingly drunk.  He was a mean drunk, and his children did not cross him.

By the time I came along, he had mellowed out.  He spent most of his time in his favorite red chair.  My entire life, he had two watercolors hanging on the wall next to his chair.  I always assumed they were landscapes of Virginia, but once he died, and my grandmother died, and my mother died, and my father died, they came into my possession. Then, I looked up the artist and discovered that they were landscapes by an Australian painter which he brought back with him. My entire life, while he sat in his favorite chair, he was looking at Australia.

 

Seriously Beware of Collectibles with Causes / Works of Life

30 Jan

Somebody claiming to be Cameron Arballo from Works of Life called both my wife’s and sister’s places of employment and left threatening messages saying that he knows where she/we/I live, amongst other creepy things.

I’ve never said anything about Mr Arballo. I’d only heard of him in comments other people left in response to the 2+ year old blog post about my less than smooth experience with Works of Life / Collectibles with Causes. There you’ll find other peoples’ tales and accusations, not mine. My story summarizes sketchy communication problems and delays I dealt with. Nothing more.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you don’t have a great experience with one of Cameron’s many charities, don’t say anything about it or he (or somebody claiming to be him) will threaten your family.

EDIT:
If you’ve had bad dealings with him or his charity, this guy is looking for evidence and would appreciate your help.

Ken Marrero
Investigator
Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports, and Gaming
Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 8th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Office 615-253-4575 Fax 615-253-5173

CheapoDrugs.com Database Hacked?

29 Jan
cheapodrugs-blog

Not all companies care about privacy

Update: 7/1/2017
If you use CheapoDrugs.com, stop. If you put any faith in the CIPA, stop. Neither of these organizations seem to take cybersecurity seriously. I don’t consider them good stewards of your personal information. Neither organization will address evidence of a breach. …The CIPA at least gave me lip service for a while, before blowing me off.

Is CIPA legit? If CIPA doesn’t hold its members accountable, it’s worthless and you should ignore its recommendations and “certifications”.  Check out the Wikipedia entry for more evidence. Malarkey.

Original post follows

For almost 20 years, because I’m a big nerd, I’ve been using unique email addresses for every single website. e.g. the email address I give VictoriasSecret.com is different than the one I use to sign in to Fredericks.com.

When I start getting spam at an email address, I can quickly turn off that one address.

Problem solved. No more spam.

For those of you thinking, “That multi-address thing sounds like an ongoing hassle!” All addresses come into a single inbox. It’s easy. …It wasn’t necessarily easy to setup, but that was forever ago. Who even remembers that? 😉

Canary in an internet coal mine

Anyhow, if I start getting spam to an address, and its content is unrelated to the site/business where I used the address, something is amiss. If it’s a biz/site I don’t care about, I just kill that address. However, when it’s a biz I care about, I let them know. I’m a canary in a coal mine. But much larger, and figuratively in email databases instead of literally in a coal mine. I also lack feathers.

Most of the time these businesses are thankful when I have an opportunity to act as an email canary. They listen. I tell them, “I don’t know how it happened, but somebody got into your database. I don’t know what they didn’t get, (credit cards? social security number?) but I can tell you that they for sure have your email list.”

How did somebody get our database?

There are three likely routes:

  • One of your employees or contractors grabbed it and sold it or is using it themselves.
  • Somebody hacked into your system and stole it.
  • A computer/laptop with your db and/or email list got infected with malware, which then sent the list to its devious hacker makers.

There are other options, but those three methods account for the vast majority of email leak incidents.

Why oh why is he blogging about this?

Cheapodrugs.com. I used ’em. …And while I still sometimes use Canadian pharmacies for my sweet, sweet drugs, I haven’t used Cheapo Drugs in a few years.

How strange then, that a little over a week ago I started receiving emails to the address I only gave to Cheapo Drugs. Within these emails I’m encouraged to use a coupon code to save on drugs at safemedspills by clicking on a tinyurl.com link. Nope. Not. Clicking. That.

What’s worse, the email contained evidence that the spammers also have access to other Cheapo Drugs’ clients’ information. (Full name, address, etc.)

I emailed Cheapo Drugs and let them know what had happened and shared with them the three possibilities (see above). In their reply, Cheapo Drugs confirmed that, shocker, they had not sent me the spam emails. The only other substance in their missive was, “We guarantee our patients that we do not sell their information to any phishing websites.” …I never said that you sold your address list. Idiots.

I went back and forth with Cheapo Drugs customer support a few more times trying to help them understand, but was met with a stonewall of non-customer-service. I even called and talked to somebody. I’ll spare you the frustrating details and summarize: Cheapo Drugs does not take proof of a database leak seriously. What to do?

Reporting a pharmacy to CIPA

I contacted CIPA, the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Let’s see if CIPA takes this more seriously than Cheapo Drugs. …It would be hard not to. I’ll report back.

Sidenote: Now that Gmail’s spam filtering is so on fleek, I’ve considered using my gmail address more, in lieu of the system above. However, doing so isn’t as secure as using a different address for every site. Especially if you use the same password for multiple websites. Natch, I use unique passwords for each site, too. hashtag: nerd.

#DumpDrumpf

7 May

Here’s the thing. The Drumpf movement is just making fun of somebody’s name that changed when they immigrated to the United States. I have many friends with “weird” names, or whose Americanized/Anglicized names aren’t the names their ancestors had a few generations ago. Should we make fun of their names? Are they worth less because of their idiotic names?

It was suggested to me that the Drumpf movement had something to do with illustrating how crappy Trump’s stance on immigration is. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that subtext until yesterday while trying to defend “the movement”. …And the connection certainly never came up in the original John Oliver segment.

When John Oliver dug up Drumpf, he was looking for laughs, and a way to debase Donald Trump. There are so many better ways to poke at that asshole. It’s akin to birthers “making fun” of Barack Obama because of his name. Is that the best they’ve got?!

I will not defend Donald Trump’s words or stances, but we Trump detractors can do better than Drumpf.

It’s in the last three minutes of this segment. The previous 20 minutes are great.

The ABCs of SEO for 2016

28 Mar

I’ve seen a few articles titled ‘The ABCs of SEO’, but most of them either continue on to the DEFs and trudge all the way through Z, or ditch the metaphor altogether after the headline. Dear SEO reader, that’s not me; I won’t do that to you.

My understanding of “The ABCs” gels with the definition:

plural noun:
the rudiments of a subject.
“the ABCs of emergency heart-lung resuscitation”

One might add to the summary-fun by sticking to three topics starting with letters A, B, and C. …Which also lends itself to “legs of the SEO stool” and various “triangles are the strongest shapes” and “3 is the magic number” tropes, too. Sure, let’s do it!

  • A is for Algorithm
    Yes, this starts us off on a weird foot, but you have to start with “A” and Google’s algorithmic whims rule the roost. Ignore seemingly silly phrases like “Penguin update” & “Panda update” at your SEO’s peril. …We’ll stick some of SEO’s other technical bits in this category, too. CMS platforms, hosting, microdata, valid code, etc. They, and many other elements, play a part in the Google algorithm.
  • B is for Backlinks
    A website can’t thrive in a vacuum. Googlebot is a web crawler. Crawlers follow links. If nobody’s linking to you, Google knows. Similarly, when many authoritative sites link to yours, Google knows. Oh, and Google cares! Social Networking and other engagement fits nicely here, too. It’s all about the connections. …Well the B-section is all about connections. But shouldn’t that fall under “C“? No. Don’t get confused.
  • C is for Content
    Content is king. Let’s type it again. Content is king. (That first link is better, though.) A client once wanted me to optimize their site without changing or adding any text. That relationship didn’t last long. Fresh, interesting, relevant content–unless you’re lucky enough to find a weird niche–SEO can’t thrive without it. Keyword research falls under this “C” umbrella, too. You can’t have good SEO content without appropriate keywords.

SEO ABCs Epilogue

There is no D in the ABCs of SEO

D is for Design

Haute designers usually loathe SEO best practices because SEO cares little about bleeding edge design, and design best practices often spit in the face of SEO efforts. Sometimes, emphasis on design goes hand-in-hand with the sentiment that “lots of text doesn’t look good.” That’s not un-true; optimized content usually isn’t sexy. …But it helps us rank better.

I wrote this post today because I whipped up a small section thereof in response to a first look at a client’s new site mockup. It’s pretty, and they’re paying a lot for it, from a big name. …Which is why I fear they’ll make my SEO work harder in the near future. No matter. SEO gets harder every year with or without their “help” 😉 I advise. We carry on.

It’s a dance. Pick your priorities and get good advice. Start with the ABCs of search engine optimization.

 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He accepts no more than six new clients per year. His client waiting list is mercifully short right now, but for some reason, he doesn’t make it really easy to contact him.

I am white privilege

16 Jan

What is white privilege?

I was born in 1973. With a bachelor’s degree, I am the least educated person in my immediate family. My parents had a computer in the house before most people knew that personal computing was a thing.

pics-from-slider-201203 032

Our author’s great bangs

I was sent to “enrichment camp” five days a week the summers after third and fourth grade where I learned to code in three languages, how to write poetry, speak French, and other smartypants stuff.

When I was 11, my maternal grandparents, both immigrants, died and left my mom about $60,000. We moved to a new home in a better school district. The high school had a planetarium. I never finished my junior year of high school.

I got my GED and applied to and was accepted by two colleges.  In college, I met other geeky, white people and helped start an Internet service provider where I worked for ten years.

Now I work from home, staring at palm trees from my sit/stand desk, helping companies with esoteric niche digital marketing concerns.

I am white privilege.

2015 in review

31 Dec

2015 was dismal for dandreifort.com blogging. The report’s well done though! If you’re a fan of data visualization, you’ll like it! Enjoy, and happy new year.  -DD

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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