MailChimp: Data mining your subscriber lists.

MailChimp Logo

To find out more about your MailChimp lists, create a segment.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, (just dumb, I guess..) but MailChimp actually has a pretty good built-in querying ability directly from the management interface.  It involves the segmenting function, where you create subsets of your list.  MailChimp calls these subsets segments, and the classic use for this is to break up a large list so that you can test different segments by using different subject lines, or mailing times.

From a database perspective, it looks like this:

MailChimp vs. Database
create a segment = create a query
segment = query results, aka a “cursor”
segmenting options = query criteria, aka  an SQL WHERE clause
saved segment = saved query results

In SQL, this would be the equivalent of:

SELECT * FROM <my eMail list> WHERE <my criteria> INTO <my segment>;

The available criteria are fixed, but there are a lot of useful ones. You can combine up to five criteria in a single segment request.  For example, let’s say you want to see how your list is performing. You can query how many subscribers opened:

  • all of your last five campaigns
  • one or more of the last campaigns
  • none of your last campaigns

The criteria are chosen from a convenient drop-down list.

Mailchimp Segment Drop-Down

Mailchimp Segment Drop-Down

To see the results of this query,  click on the  “Preview Segment” button at the bottom of the dialog box.

MailChimp - Segment Results

MailChimp – Segment Results

One thing you may note in the listing above, is a field called “Grade Level”.   We include this field on our MailChimp sign-up form. It will be populated only if we acquired the user through that form and if they choose to give us that information. We also ask for zip code.

The “Contact Rating” field, with the stars, rates the quality of the contact based on their campaign activity and the length of time that they have been on the list. Oddly enough, new acquisitions start out with two stars. If they fail to respond to several campaigns, then they are demoted to one star. These stars are the basis of determining how to pare down your list; eventually you might consider removing 1-star contacts altogether, or sending them a “re-engagement” eMail beforehand. This is well documented on the MailChimp web site. To cut to the chase…  4 and 5 star members are engaged, 3 star members either have low activity, or haven’t been on the list long enough to earn a higher rating.

 

HeidiSQL+pLink+putty=Joy

Logo for HeidiSQL, a slick GUI front-end for mySQL

After manually changing a hundred blog posts imported with another theme from “published” to “draft”, I figured it was time to actually look at my WordPress database, since we may wish to do some global link updates,  once we get all of the media imported from another blog.  One of the best tools for this on Windows is the wonderful HeidiSQL program.

My Ubuntu server which hosts mySQL wants an SSL connection to accomplish this, so SSL must be used with HeidiSQL. This is done by using a intermediate program called plink which sits between HeidiSQL and Putty (the terminal program for accessing the Linux command line).

I found an explanation of how to use pLink with HeidiSQL.  However, if you can reach the command line using Putty and an SSL connection on port 22,  then you don’t have to do the first part of the instructions, because you already have the server’s certificate installed on your machine. It was cool to be able to verify this in the Windows registry by looking at the registry key.  And then, I was in.

heidisqlscreen

 

 

odss-and-sods

Odds and Sods: WeTransfer, TeamStation

Transfer Large Files

WeTransfer is a slick application which allows you to send large files to a friend or colleague, and which completely eliminates the process of sharing a file in Google Docs or Dropbox.  The free version allows you to send files up to 2Gb in size. A paid version allows you to send files up to 20GB in size, and you can have a custom download page.

Remote Access

Boss works from home. Boss wants to have access to QuickBooks accounting, running on Windows.  Boss is a Mac person.  So, we have two problems…one of access to the QuickBooks data file, which is running on a dedicated server, and the cross-platform problem of running Quickbooks on a Mac. After talking this through (VPN?,  Shared file on Google Drive?,  Buy dedicated laptop for Boss?),  remote access software comes to the rescue.

I love/loved LogMeIn.  It got pricey though, so I found that TeamViewer does the job for free.

FileMaker Buy 1 Get 1

FileMaker is offering their Buy 1, Get 1 deal through December 20th.  The offer is for desktop versions of FileMaker Pro, or FileMaker Pro Advanced which runs on Mac or Windows.` Buy one at the full or educational price and get a second license for free. In the U.S., this lowers the cost of workstation licenses to $164 each for FileMaker Pro, which is a killer deal.

 

 

a993d-vb_logo

Install Ubuntu 16.04 on VirtualBox

The following is a step-by-step run through for installing Ubuntu 16.04 server as a virtual machine running under a Windows 10 host.  Two prerequisites:

Prepare the VirtualBox VM:

Click on “New” to create a new virtual machine: You’ll get this initial screen to choose the operating system you wish to install and choose a name for the your VM.

Ubuntu Install1.jpg

The next screen asks what you want to RAM memory. The recommended memory size is 768MB,  but I’ve had decent luck by boosting this to 4 gigs, (on my 8 gig Windows 10 workstation.).

UbuntuInstallMemory.jpg

Accept the next suggestion to create a virtual hard disk. The default 8GB is fine, because VirtualBox will expand this if necessary.

UbuntuHD.jpg

Accept the default next screen, to choose the file type.

VirtualHardDisk.jpg

… and accept the default “dynamically allocated”

DiskFixedSize.jpg

 

Finally you can choose the file size:

FileSize.jpg

In this case,  I chose 16 gigabytes.

Once you have completed the screens above, you need to change two other parameters before starting the actual installation:

Under Settings,  change the networking connection to “bridged adapter”

NetworkSettings.jpg

Under storage, point the little CD image to your .iso file.

StorageSettins.jpg

 

Install Ubuntu 16.04

At this point you are ready to start the VM, and go through installing Ubuntu from the .iso file.  This is the standard Ubuntu installation from here on out… run from a  console command line interface. Terminal.jpg

After making your keyboard and language selections, there are several prompts for additional information:

Choose a HostName: UBSandbox

Choose an initial account: larryk

Choose a login name for this account: larryk

Choose a password: mypassword

Encrypt your  home directory?  No

Set your time zone. Setup will suggest your local timezone and then ask
Is this time zone correct?   Yes

Partitioning Method:  Choose “Use Entire Disk”,  don’t worry about LVN

Select Disk to partition…. choose the defaults.

Write changes to disk? Yes

At this point the files are copied to the disk, and the installation continues ore or less on its own for five minutes or so,  then you’ll see a question about the use of an http proxy. This relates to the configuration for the package manager which is used to update the operating system. You can probably ignore this unless you know you are in a corporate environment that uses an http proxy server.

Proxy.jpg

The next screen asks you about updating. I would answer this with the default “no automatic updates”. .

Updates.jpg

Finally there is a screen that allows you to select additional software packages to be installed. I would include the LAMP server, and the OpenSSH server.  LAMP will be the usual Linux+Apache web server + PHP + mySQL

install.jpg

But wait! There’s more!   You will be asked for a password for the  mySQL database. Ignore this at your peril…and choose the same password as you used for your user account at the beginning of your installation.

mysqlpassword.jpg

At this point the installation will run for a few minutes and then …

Will this ever end?   Accept the default ‘Yes” to install the GRUB boot loader.

grubboot.jpg

And then….  we’re done.

alldone.jpg

At this point, you should have a working web server that is running an IP address on your network.  To figure out that address. run ifconfig from the VM console.  In our case we’re at 192.168.219.213

ifconfig.jpg

Looks promising.  Now,  we can open a web browser from our Windows workstation (or any other machine on the network, and we should see the Apache web server home screen.

Screenshot_111816_125839_PM.jpg

We’re ready install WordPress.  Before doing that however, you might create a snapshot* of the current state of the VM.  This means we will always have a backup of the current machine that we can fall back to as we’re experimenting with installing things. If you haven’t already installed Ubuntu three or four times, you can always delete the whole VM and reinstall if you want to start from square 1.

 

*I know….this is for a future blog post.

Install WordPress Using VirtualBox Part 2

Because WordPress is such a popular program, there are tons of resources available. After searching for installing WordPress on Ubuntu Server … I found this page.  I followed all of the instructions, with the two exceptions:

  • I did not configure a static IP address for the sandbox server.
  • I prefaced all commands with sudo.

 Once this was accomplished,  I ended up with the default installation page at:

192.168.219.212/wordpress/

wordpress_install

The first page that comes up is a page which asks for information which will will be written to the wp-config file.   Note that all of the parameters are identical to the ones that were used when setting up the mySQL database in the initial step.

wpsetup

The next page asks for the WordPress site name, and a login password.

wpinstall2

About 30 seconds later, you should see a message that WordPress was installed, and that you can now log in with the name and password that you just created in the last screen.  Do that and the familiar WordPress dashboard will come up.  Hooray!

wpdashboard

Install WordPress Using VirtualBox Part 1

Now that we’re WordPress experts,  I’m looking to get an instance of WordPress up and running to be able to experiment.  I’ve been trying this using VirtualBox on Windows 10.  I wanted to create a virtual web server using the latest Ubuntu server 16.04.

  1. Download the .iso file from Ubuntu
  2. Create a new virtual machine, “Ubuntu Server 16.04” within VirtuaBox. I gave it 4 gigs of RAM (half of the physical RAM in my workstation), and excepted all defaults for disk size, etc. The only difference afterwards is to change the Network Adapter from NAT to Bridged.virtualbox1

    3. Install Ubuntu. 
    During the Ubuntu installation, choose the option to install a LAMP server. This includes mySQL, the Apache web server, and the PHP language.

linux_install

4. Once Ubuntu is installed, the server will reboot. You will probably see that there are updates available.  So, to get these run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

5. Figure out your local IP address:

ifconfig

If this address isn’t on your own subnet, then you can change the network specifications for the VM in VirtualBox from NAT to Bridged Adapter, then reboot the VM.

If all is well so far, you should see the Apache default home page when you type in the ip address into your browser.

apachedefault

At this point, we have a working web server running on our virtual machine.  Now we can actually install WordPress.  My first instinct for this was to use the apt-get method to install the files.

sudo apt-get install wordpress

This appeared to work but didn’t yield a running installation. So after searching I used these instructions to get to get a running WordPress installation.

 

Donation Processing with Stripe

Our site is based on WordPress.  We had a link to a PayPal donation page that we used for awhile. On recommendation by another organization we created an account at Stripe and are converting our online payment processing to Stripe.

We have a WordPress plugin called “Full Stripe” which handles the transactions.We went ahead and paid for the “pro” version of the plugin.

The Full Stripe plugin hosts the donation form. This is placed on a  regular WordPress page (i.e., not a post.).  stripeform

Once the form is filled out, and the credit card is successfully charged, the form will automatically take the user to a thank-you page.

The plugin generates a thank-you email which is sent to the email address that the donor puts into the form.  This email can be customized using regular html.  Right now there isn’t a very elegant way of editing or testing within  the email so  I did all the editing in Notepad++ and then pasted the resulting html into the plugin’s eMail form.

After some fiddling we got the form, the thank-you page, and the thank-you eMail all set.

YAPI (Yet Another Plugin)

For the plugin to be able to email donor receipts, it has to be able to access an SMTP server. In our case, we’re using Google Apps for Work, so that we installed a GMail plugin that overrides the PHP mail code inherent in WordPress.  The receipts are sent from a gmail account on our domain.  This took just a few minutes to set up and has a form for testing.

Review

So,  let’s review all of the bits and pieces necessary for the full solution:

  • Stripe – an account with Stripe connected to your bank account.
  • The WordPress Full Stripe plugin.  We purchased Full Stripe, and have been pleased with the enhanced capability over the free version as well as prompt and knowledgeable tech support. (Actually, we love the developer’s company name….Mammothology  Software…. we’d purchase anything from them.  🙂 )
  • The donation form.  This form is defined using parameters that are set by the Full Stripe plugin.  Right now the options are fairly modest in terms of formatting and fields, but the appearance is attractive and clean.
  • The donation page.  This is a WordPress page  that contains a WordPress shortcode pointing to the donation form defined in the Full Stripe Plugin.
  • The Thank-You Page.  This is another WordPress page that serves as a landing page after the donor successfully fills in the form and completes their transaction.
  • The Gmail plugin.  — Needed to send email from our Google Apps for Work domain.
  • The Thank-You email.   This is a personalized email sent to the donor.  The html code for this is defined within the plugin.  As noted,  I tested this with code written in Notepad++ (on Windows) and TextWrangler on the Mac.
  • The Stripe Thank-You email.   This is a second email that comes from Stripe which shows the last 4 digits of the credit card, and that fact that the card was successfully charged.