September 24, 2007

How To Prevent Ad Blocking — Some Sensible Strategies

When fringe political author Danny Carlton decided to block the Firefox browser from visiting his site, he sparked a firestorm of controversy.

According to Carlton, the issue is a popular Firefox plugin known as Adblock Plus (ABP), which enables users to filter out advertisements on the sites they visit. Since there was, at that time, no means of detecting ABP, Carlton blocked all Firefox users to prevent what he called an “infringement of the rights of web site owners and developers.”

Most Webmasters and bloggers have no desire to take this issue to the extremes Carlton has. The majority, in fact, have no real interest in it at all. Even the major players, right now, have taken no interest in these applications as they just aren’t popular enough to warrant fighting.

However, as spam blogs and misguided Webmasters make advertising more prominent and annoying, the popularity of these tools can only grow. A large-scale clash in the courtroom may be inevitable, but in the meantime regular bloggers are left with few reasonable options. Even if ad blocking is illegal, enforcing it will only be an option for larger players such as Google and Myspace, who have millions potentially at stake.

The question becomes, how can a Webmaster keep their revenue stream intact, even if some of their viewers are blocking ads.

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“Anonymous” Nintendo employee fired over personal blog

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A Nintendo employee was sacked on 31st August as a direct result of personal blogging activities at Inexcusable Behavior.

The blog, written semi-anonymously under a pen name, was apparently discovered by bosses at Nintendo, who took a dim view over some of its contents.

Though the employee claims that she was never informed of any formal policy about personal blogs, a spokeswoman for Nintendo, Perrin Kaplin, said that she “was expressly discouraged from doing what she did. I’ve seen everything that she’s written and it’s really not work appropriate.” read more

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Newsletter-to-Blog: Converting Old Newsletters and The Benefits of Conversion

In the last of this series on converting a newsletter into a blog, designed for small businesses, individuals, and small group newsletter publishers who want to streamline their efforts and minimize costs, as well as modernize, here are the last lessons and discoveries that came up during the conversion process with the business women’s group I worked with.

Converting Old Newsletters

After much debate about whether or not to include the old newsletters, the newsletter team decided that they wanted to publish pertinent articles from past issues, but not the whole issue. These articles they wanted available to the public.

They copied, cleaned, and pasted the content into the blog as posts, but their review of the past newsletters found a lot of value that they wanted online and available to the members for reference. Now what?
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Bloggers: Watch Your Health

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A recent post on Performancing reminds us bloggers to watch our health. Ryan Caldwell gives 27 simple health tips for bloggers. These include getting enough sleep, exercise, computer breaks, and plenty of water. One great thing about Ryan’s tips is that it includes sex. Yes, sex is supposedly good for your physical health and mental stability!

The good news is that I can personally attest to the fact that respecting and committing time to the health of your own body can pay huge dividends. Your mind will be clearer. Your motivation to act and be productive will get stronger. Your ability to interact with and enjoy other people will increase.

Staying in front of the computer all day can be taxing to one’s physical and mental health. I, for one, have been feeling symptoms of RSI, and I’m constantly at a lack of sleep. And it’s not only bloggers that should keep these tips in mind. Any person whose work, business or pastime involves staying in front of the computer for extended times during the day also need to watch his or her health closely.

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September 21, 2007

List Links: Can’t I Google For These Myself?

Recently, after posting a long series of helpful links and excerpts on my blog, a commenter asked:

This is nice, but can’t I Google for these myself?

If the answer is yes, then why do bloggers spend so much of their time putting together such lists?

If the answer is no, then what’s wrong with their perception of the list?

Where’s the Value in Your List of Links

Why do you put these lists together?

What’s the answer? Is it because these are sites you found interesting and want to share with your readers?

Is it because the list consolidates scattered information resources into a single place holder?

Is it because the list of links connects the dots between bits of information that need collating?

Or just because you think it will bring in traffic?

Really explore why you are putting a specific list of links together. After all, anyone could go searching for the same information on Google or other search engines themselves. Why should they bother with your list?

Because your list is a unique collection.

That’s the key to creating value in lists of links. The collection of links is unique. If it isn’t, then why bother. Find a way of making the list of links find value in their uniqueness.

Uniqueness is a wide open description. The list of links can be unique because “you” brought them together in one place, with your unique perspective on the subject matter. Or they can be unique because no one has put together this particular combination in this fashion before.

Or they are unique because they have a common theme, a thread that connects all of them together, gathering information spread across the web into one place, making life easier for those searching for information on this subject.

If your list is no better than what others can find on Google, don’t bother. Make your link lists count. Make them matter. Make them have value. Make them unique, so we all benefit from your hard work.

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Do Blogs Sell?

It’s established now that blogs are a great way to attract attention, to publish your thoughts, even create community, but how well do they do for selling stuff?

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The Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Bloggers

First off, let’s define success. What is success to you? For me, success means being able to do things that I wouldn’t have believed possible at one time in my life. It means challenging myself to achieve professional and personal accomplishments and gaining the confidence to try things that I would have not thought possible even just one year ago.

We all have different needs, aspirations and talents so the meaning of success differs for each one of us. If you’re like most people, you’re reading this post because you want to discover the secrets of success. Well, a little bit of research will uncover what skills and strategies worked for others. The real trick is to make those work for you and your blog.

As with everything in life, we get out of it what we put in – it will be no surprise to you to find out that it takes determination and hard work. And there is definitely an ultimate secret sauce, the ingredient that you must have above all — you. We’ll come back to that in a moment. So what are the seven secrets of successful bloggers?

Secret 1. Highly successful bloggers seek out a mentor or advocate at each step of their development. Someone who can guide them through the growth spurts they will undergo. Nothing new here, successful people have done this for years. The great advantage that blogs afford is that the person you pick does not need to be someone who takes you by the hand through it. All you need to do in some cases is read their material and interact with their audience.

Secret 2. Highly successful bloggers know how to increase their visibility. Whether that is by putting themselves at the crossroads of a popular and highly trafficked blog written by a mentor, or choosing thoughtful and insightful comments on other blogs, the important teaching in this is to pick a strategy that fits your brand. My personal blog is Conversation Agent so engaging in conversations with readers of my blog and in other blogs is part of my modus operandi (MO) and brand. What is yours?

Secret 3. Highly successful bloggers know how to develop an effective network. Maybe this is intuitive, it is definitely important. The blogosphere is a very large community with pockets of interest – what I jokingly call my neck of the ‘sphere. Who’s in yours? Do you read people who help you stretch and think differently? Are you part of a group of self publishers who will support each other on topic development, lending expertise, or even being keen on helping you gain exposure on good stories and events?

Secret 4. Highly successful bloggers have learned to communicate effectively. Read it again, as it may not be as easy as it seems. The meaning of communication is the response it elicits, not the intention. The word communication has the Latin root in communicatio as well as in commercium – it means exchange between people. If you’re curious about my definition of conversation and its parts, you will find more information here.

Secret 5. Highly successful bloggers can balance blogging with life. Especially in the early days, when we crave recognition and readership, it is easy to sign up to guest blog somewhere else, or try and write every single day, maybe even multiple posts per day. Before you accept filling in for someone else, or writing that extra post, think about what’s involved. Consider how much time it will take you and if it will fulfill your interests and needs at that stage. It’s also important to build life experiences into your routine. You will take a much-deserved brake, and fill with new ideas while you play.

Secret 6. Highly successful bloggers know when to take smart risks. Once you feel comfortable with a regular flow of publishing and blog optimization, it’s time to take some small risks to stretch a little and grow. What have you been dying to try and never got around to? There is another very important reason why doing this is a smart idea – it’s something that has not been done, that’s why it’s a risk. Maybe it’s a way of looking at a story from a different angle – I’ve done a couple of those and let me tell you, the adrenaline until that first comment is rushing like crazy. Or it could be breaking a story, broaching a new topic — you name it.

Secret 7. Highly successful bloggers understand the dynamics of the online environment. When you combine visibility, effective networks, and mentors, you have a lot of help in learning the dynamics of the online environment in which you publish. It’s also important to understand your own abilities, interests and limitations within those dynamics. You may think about having a thick skin in some cases – if you stay out there long enough and have opinions you are bound to find someone who will differ from you and make their voice heard. So you need a strategy that you are comfortable with ahead of time. What steps are you going to take to prepare? Chances are your gut will tell you when you’re about to publish something that may raise questions – how you address negative comments should be part of your consideration as you flesh out the topic of the post.

Whenever possible, set the pace. You decide if you’re ready to tackle these activities and which ones speak most to you. The secret sauce it’s not the ingredients as much as the sauce itself – you.

Remember to practice so you can improve what you wish to work on, perform to your best, persevere through setbacks and low energy moments and, most importantly be patient with yourself and any situation where you have no control over the outcome.

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September 20, 2007

Newsletter to Blog: Blogger’s Friend – The Text Editor

Blogging takes time. It consumes energy and thought. Okay, it’s time consuming. Many bloggers struggle for the first few years to find a way to blog more efficiently. They play with del.icio.us, tagging, bookmarking, Google Notebook and other online note storage tools, mash-ups, social bookmarking, social networking…we’ve done them all in a search to make our blogging life easier and faster.

One of the secret weapons a good blogger needs is a way to record notes, thoughts, ideas, and most of all redundant information in one place. A place easy to access and easy to use. As a long time blogger, my blogging best friend is my text editor. Since all most people do in a word processor is type letters, a good text editor with spell check is as simple to use as a word processor. The trick is to get one that does so much more.

So why not use a word processor? I’ve talked about some of the problems that come with converting word processor and desktop publishing programs into blog content, and writing in a text editor removes a lot of those strange character problems. It also runs fast, requires little space for the program, and is ideal for doing all your web work in one place then transferring it to your blogging program.

For a blogger, web writer and publisher, a good text editor can be your best tool, allowing you to take notes, copy links and information, create an outline, keep a to do list, write posts, and store redundant, frequently-used information.

For this newsletter crew, they needed a tool that would allow them to convert heavily coded content into plain text and search and replace easily. They needed to immediately add redundant links to the national offices as well as local and regional sister groups. They needed to compile information and sort it, as they gathered the parts and pieces of information to fill in their Pages such as About, Contact, Events, and such.

I started them out right by introducing them to the power of a good text editor, allowing them to quickly move from clutter and chaos to form and function with their new blog.
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NYTimes.com launches TV Decoder, a blog on TV industry

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NYTimes.com introduced today “TV Decoder,” a new blog covering the television industry. TV Decoder is a guide to what’s on, who’s watching and why it matters — it covers the day’s on-screen and behind-the-scenes developments, with insights into Nielsen ratings and the machinations of the TV industry. Brian Stelter, media reporter, The New York Times, will be the lead contributor.

Mr. Stelter created the TVNewser blog in 2004, which became a must-read among television network presidents, media executives, producers and publicists.

“Our readers are intensely interested in television, because it is an important business and because it both shapes and reflects what is happening in society,” said Lawrence Ingrassia, business editor, The Times. “Along with the rest of the media and entertainment world, television is going through a period of major change, and TV Decoder will highlight the players and companies that are playing a key role in the industry.”

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TMZ Opens Audio Commenting System

According to a report on USA Today, entertainment blog TMZ (for Thirty Mile Zone) has recently started accepting feedback on its articles in the form of audio recordings.

Audio comments are the latest effort by news outlets to boost website traffic and foster more interaction. The new tool comes as the cost of technology continues to fall and as more companies experiment with audio and video delivery of information.

The audio commenting system was first tested in July of 2006, but using a “very primitive tool,” according to TMZ. They have since refined their audio commenting technology, and have launched it as a regular feature. Readers with a microphone-enabled computer can record up to 30 seconds of feedback at a time.

TMZ editors say that the same problems with text-based commenting are also present in this technology. For example, they still spend time moderating comments for obscenity or other offensive material. The fact that it may be more difficult to apply spam filters to audio content adds to the challenge.

TMZ also plans to add video commenting soon, but there is no definite timetable for this.

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