October 25, 2007

What’s the Score on the Latest Google PR Crunch?

If you’ve been reading up on the blogosphere lately, then you would probably be aware of the latest Google PageRank drops that several high-profile sites and blogs have been experiencing since the past couple of days. For one, the Blog Herald itself among a few of our other sites had been badly hit–from a PR 6 to a PR4. Hey, that’s lower than my own personal blog, and for that matter a lot of other blogs out there, including MFA and spam blogs, to be frank.

Other sites–notably high-profile blogs–have been hit, too. And these are not only the blogs, but also popular mainstream media sites, with several very trustworty newspaper sites included. Does that mean Google now deems them–and us–less trustworthy?

What’s the score with this latest PageRank crunch? Are we being penalized for monetizing links? Are we being penalized for bad inter-linking practices? These are the speculations as to what is most likely the reason behind the PR drops.

Andy Beard says these “favorites” have likely been slapped by Google for either (or both) selling links or extensive interlinking within one’s network.

Many of the reputable sources that have received a penalty are part of extensive blog networks, and they have one factor in common. They have massive interlinking between their network sites.

They may also sell links or advertising that passes PageRank on some of their less visible properties, but those properties benefit from the high pagerank sites that link to them, with sitewide links.

It is also being argued whether this is a PageRank update in general, or if Google is just penalizing a few, select sites for going against the Google guideline against artificially jacking up rankings through paid link schemes or link exchanges.

Some blog networks have been affected, while some have not. Those that exercise extensive intra-linking in their blogrolls, like b5media (via Technosailor), 9rules (via Scrivs) and Weblogs, Inc. were highly affected. Others that weren’t much into this practice were left mostly unscathed (if at all affected), such as Bloggy Network.

Whether it’s one thing or the other (as I’m not sure if anyone has actually confirmed the root cause as of this writing), one thing is for sure. Google has just shaken up the online economy. And I say this both as an economist and as a manager of a new media network.

Fact is that around the behemoth search and advertising company Google is built a secondary economy. Blogs and websites use PageRank as one primary metric for reputation and trustworthiness. Many site owners bank on their sites’ or domains’ PageRank, and use these to command or negotiate advertising rates.

It’s like the gold standard applied online. And with this mass PR drop, Google has just devalued the webmasters’ gold. In effect, Google has just caused the value of this thriving industry to fall in a single day. What was a thriving economy is being rendered worth less (while not worthless, of course).

But then again, we can argue that this economy is artificial in the first place–with people putting too much premium on PageRank, and especially with people putting a price tag on PR. But in that case, wouldn’t Google still be morally (and legally?) liable for killing off its competition? Do keep in mind that Google runs its own advertising program and is at the top of its game.

Other new media networks that were affected have expressed they are keeping their heads up high and will continue to cope and thrive. Likewise we at Splashpress Media admit it won’t be easy to overcome this challenge, but we know we will survive and move on and forward. It would take a little shift in strategies and priorities, sure. We live in a changing world. And with the fast-changing nature of new media, we should also know how to adapt well and keep in tune with the times.

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Getting Back To Basics: Blog Decluttering

When Web 2.0 first began with Google and Craigslist, one of the “innovations” was simplicity itself – empty, uncluttered designs that allowed users to get what needed to be done with a minimum of design elements.

I feel this basic concept has been forgotten recently, what with widgets, ads, videos, monetization, polls, spam, and splogs. Some blogs are so obscured with extra stuff that the content – the post itself – is nearly impossible to find.

It may be time to get back to basics. This week, I noticed several articles about clutter reduction, enough to say that excesses may be reversing and we’re entering a “clutter-reduction equals increased productivity” trend:

  • Blain at Stock Trading To Go did a guest post at Zenhabits called Getting Productive, and a Clean Desk. He has some good suggestions, namely a daily task list (in order to avoid distractions), waking up earlier, and discipline to avoid procrastination.
  • An article from The Consumerist suggests one way to feel richer is to remove clutter, suggesting that “unnecessary objects steal energy and attention”. This could be a reference to the wasted time cleaning, things, looking for things, or maintaining things – all time that could be spent being productive. Now imagine how visiting a cluttered blog is like entering a cluttered room.
  • Newsweek: The Latte-Era Grinds Down: A sagging economy is goading people to refocus their lifestyles toward the essentials.

Since upgrading to WordPress 2.3 I’ve been on a quest to “declutter” my blog: cleaning it up for the specific purposes of increasing readability, removing distractions, and improving load time. Here’s a short list of what I’ve achieved so far:

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Does Your Blog Still Offer Popup Comments?

I have to admit that I’m still a little stunned, and frustrated, when I can’t find the comments on a blog post, even though the comment counter says 11 comments. I want to leave a comment, so I click on the comment link and, boom, a popup comment window blasts in my face.

Is your blog still offering popup or hidden comments?

Blogger is the most notorious for this uncomfortable method of comment handling. Some of the blogs don’t show the comments unless you click the comment’s link, and then they are shown in a separate popup window or the page reloads so you can see the comments. Some Blogger blogs now include comments posted on the same page as the post, which does make it easier for responding to the comments when they are all connected to the post, but most still require the long wait for the popup window to load so you can leave a comment. SIGH.

The default Themes for WordPress also offer an option to use the popup comments form, though few bloggers and Theme designers choose that option.

Which makes me want to ask those who are still using popup comments on their blogs: why and is it working for you?

Are Popup Comment Windows Working for Your Blog?

I’m a firm believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. So if popup comment windows are working for your blog, why? How are they working? How do they help?

Are they helping? Or have you just gotten used to them? Or do you not know how to change them?

A lot of bloggers do not know how to change their blogs to stop popup comments or integrate comments back into their blogs. Check with your blog’s guide for how to fix that, or find a willing friend to help.

I know from my years of blogging and asking fellow bloggers what is working and not working on their blogs, they all agree that anything that gets in the way of the blog conversation hurts a blog. This includes CAPTCHAs, torture tests, quizzes, and popup comments.

While the rest of us have learned that they don’t work on our blogs and have stopped using them, I want to hear from those who are continuing to use popup comments.

Please, help us understand why you are using them and how they help your blog.

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October 24, 2007

WordPress.com and the New DashBar

It really should be called DashBar, that top bar that all WordPress.com blogs sport. That includes hosted blogs as well, such as GigaOM, which I’ve used to demo this new feature – and incidentally try out some screencasting as well. Fun stuff. read more

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When Blogs Are Not the Answer

With all the buzz around blogging you could be forgiven for thinking it is a cure-all magic bullet solution to all our web challenges. You don’t need me to tell you this isn’t quite the reality, but what specific tactics can you use when a blog is not the answer for you?

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WordPress Wednesday News: WordCamps in Israel, Argentina, Australia, and Germany, Tons of WordPress Plugin News and Updates, Beta Security Release Announced, and More

There is a ton of news on new and updated WordPress Plugins for WordPress 2.3. A beta release of the upcoming WordPress 2.3.1 is out with a ton of fixes. The first security vulnerability has been found in WordPress 2.3, with an immediate fix. International WordCamps are popping up everywhere in Israel, Argentina, Australia, and Germany leading the pack. Rumors of the sale of Automattic are false. Rumors of Automattic buying Gravatar are true. Lorelle’s in Israel. Matt’s heading to Argentina. And even more WordPress News.

WordPress News

WordPress 2.3.1 Beta 1 Related: Ryan Boren announced the WordPress 2.3.1 Beta 1 Release which fixes over over twenty bugs in the newest release from WordPress. Highlights include tag support for Windows Live Writer, faster taxonomy database queries, and link importer fixes.

WordPress 2.3 Security: After releasing a post about improved security in the latest version of WordPress, Blog Security announced the first WordPress 2.3 security vulnerability has been found associated with the links importer, and was fixed up an updated version released immediately by WordPress. This is an amazingly fast response. Well done all.

WordCamp Israel: WordCamp Israel is filled with a long waiting list for the October 25 day long conference. I’m going to be there, talking about blogging and WordPress, along with some of the best of the best of Israeli bloggers.

WordCamp Argentina:WordCamp Argentina (Upcoming Event Page) is October 31, 2007, and will be featuring Matt Mullenweg along with other popular bloggers and web publishing experts at the Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires.

WordCamp Melbourne: Australia, is the next international spot for WordCamp Melbourne for November 17. There is now an Upcoming Events page which list WordCamp Melbourne will be at the Watermark Bar. They are still setting the schedule of speakers up for the afternoon long conference, but expect to see some fantastic speakers and programs.

WordPress Hamburg News: Blog Yoda writes about the excitement of the upcoming WordCamp Hamburg or WordCamp Germany, as many are calling it. The author also points to the popular wordpress-deutschland.org, which services German speaking WordPress users with helpful articles and tips. I’ll be searching for new reports and news on the upcoming WordCamp event, so please point me in the right direction if you have information on this!
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October 23, 2007

Blogging destination for kids imbee.com gets CARU’s seal of approval

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imbee.com, the first parent-approved social networking and blogging destination specifically designed for kids from ages 8 to 14, announced that it has received the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) Kid’s Privacy Safe Harbor Seal.

CARU was founded in 1974 to promote responsible children’s advertising as part of a strategic alliance with the major advertising trade associations through the National Advertising Review Council. CARU is the children’s arm of the advertising industry’s self-regulation program and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with its Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children’s Advertising and relevant laws.

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Tips for Staying Writely Motivated on Your Blog

Writing has become such a process of self-discovery that I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning. I wanted to know what I was going to say.

Sharon O’Brien

Do you start your morning with that kind of energy? So excited, you race to your computer to write your first blog post before you even hit the shower?

There are some days when my eagerness to see what I’m going to write next shoves my body out of bed in the morning to rush to my computer. There are other days when I wish I could lie in bed and wait for the muse of the moment to slap me awake.

Sometimes, there are so many things to write about, I can’t stop writing. My husband has to peel me off my laptop. Other times, there are so many things to blog about, I’m overwhelmed, staring at the computer screen unable to write a word.

How do you keep motivated to keep producing content on your blog?
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The Ten Commandments of Blog Typography

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Typography can make or break a blog. You presumably are writing your blog so people will read it, so it is important to pay close attention to the typography so that your content is as legible and comfortable to follow as possible. Blog readers expect to be able to scan articles easily, and if you make it too difficult for them to read your content, they will become frustrated, and may move on to read a site that is easier to digest.

Here are some basic guidelines to remember as you consider your site’s typography:

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October 22, 2007

Good News For Splogs! Word Verification (aka CAPTCHA’s) May Become Useless In The Future

Filed as News with 13 comments

In an age where spammers choose to promote themselves by harassing others, many bloggers, social networks, etc. have resorted to using CAPTHA’s as an inexpensive way to keep fake machine comments/user names/purchases from flooding their world.

Unfortunately it seems that the days of funny letters (and numbers) may be coming to an end, as it seems that a company has created software capable of “reading” those funky image phrases.

But before we begin to explain how much of an impact this will make upon the blogosphere, we need to address the background story–starting with Hannah Montana.
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