Friday, October 29, 2004

Comment Spammers: internet pigs and how they feed


internet pigs and how they feed Posted by Hello


ABSTRACT (SUMMARY): Comment spam is irrelevant, unethical, offensive, or unwanted, typically commercial, message propagation on comment posting pages of blogs and web sites.

Comment spam is invading every interactive and community building functionality on the internet.

Here's what you need to do to protect yourself, and to help stop this unprecedented attack by these "internet pigs."

PERSONAL AGENDA: Comment spammers killed one of the best blog directories, Blizg, which enabled bloggers to paste meta-tags into their templates.

Comment spammers are killing my favorite art magazine discussion forum. It's time to launch a savage techno/psychological assault on these depraved idiots.

*****

If you operate or regularly visit internet discussion forms hosted by online magazines or professional organizations, I'm sure you've seen this foul predator.

If you operate or regularly visit blogs, I'm sure you've encountered this disgusting fiend.

Comment spam!

You know--you're interested in a question, issue, or idea being discussed online. You click on (select) the "thread" (topic) and begin to read. You enjoy good user-generated content, which enriches the value of this web site.

Fascinating.

Informative.

Funny.

Smart.

Useful.

Challenging.

(Then....) What??????

STUPID. (or) MEANINGLESS.
(or) PERVERTED. (or) IRRELEVANT.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have the distinct honor to introduce to you all the Next Big Thing in internet garbage, your new and relentlessly ruthless Enemy: COMMENT SPAM.

COMMENT SPAM:

(1.) automatic irrelevant drivel generated by spambots (program code strings), generally signed "buy levitra" or some other dubious commercial crap, and usually accompanied by URLS

(2.) human created drivel, or too brief, generic, stilted comments ("Hello. This is my first time here. I read almost the whole article. Nice work on an interesting topic. Will return to read more later. (etc.)"), usually accompanied by URLs

(3.) lengthy irrelevant lists of domain names for sale, pornographic sites, municipal law codes, literary reviews, news items, etc.

(4.) comments that are extremely offensive or irrelevant and Off Topic (OT).

I'm not refering to just plain dumb and dumber comments.

I'm talking about nonsense, confusion, insincerity, gibberish, or cut and paste editorial that is totally irrelevant, if not X-rated sexual crap, race hatred, or partisan political frenzy lunacy.

I call these spurious commentors Internet Pigs.

The comment spammer Internet Pigs seethe with rage and loathing for people like me, who expose them and teach others how to identify, throttle, thwart, and harm them.

THE GOAL OF COMMENT SPAMMING

Usually this comment spam will have URLs (web addresses, starting with http://www.) attached at the bottom or embedded in the text.

This is done to get readers to click on (select) them and thus boost the comment spammers Search Engine Ranking to drive user traffic to their site, or the site of some company they are promoting.

Just posting these URLs will boost Search Engine ranking for the spammers.

Sometimes the destinations of the URLs, the web or blog entry addresses, are legitimate.

But the comment spam is not legitimate, not ethical, and will soon become totally ILLEGAL.

Some people whine and moan and wave their "freedom of expression" flags in the air like we have to salute them, no matter how ridiculous or offensive that expression may be.

No.

Discussion forums and blogs are not dedicated to editorial anarachy or "freedom of expression" at the cost of integrity, decency, intelligence, and relevance to the topic thread.

Comment spammers use "copy and paste" (copy text from anywhere on the web, then paste it in a comment posting area) and "random text generators" (meaningless, garbled word salad, strings of words that may almost make sense, but go nowhere fast) to do their dirty work.

If you've ever accidentally opened a spam email, you've probably seen some random text: (EXAMPLE) "She shopped near the tree crumb bloat factory bread as many unseen fingernails succumbed to ill noticed color dimension airplane meanderings in the smoke flush dawn bleak report."

This nonsense wording is used to sound somewhat literate, thus fooling the spam and virus filters on your email program. The same thing occurs on comment posting pages of web sites.

Spambots and human comment spammers will use philosophy quotes, quotes from Hollywood stars, song lyrics, anything innocent sounding, to trick filters into thinking the comment is real, relevant user-generated content.

Or you'll see weird little hash marks, umlauts, or accent marks hovering over letters. Another method for tricking rhetoric/syntax/vocabulary based filters.

If a comment is repulsive, misleading, hate-mongering, trolling, baiting, stupid, or just plain off topic (OT)...it will, or should, be deleted forever.

Some comment spammers cry about "strange" comments being possibly innocent "art". Or simply innocent blog/web site promotion tactics.

Who are they trying to fool? You shouldn't promote anything, without at least contributing an intelligent, informative comment that adds to the overall thread conversation.

Comments are content. Not an opportunity to blabber stupidly or unethically.

My reply to this, from an actual comment I made on a art discussion forum:

"Comment spam has been defined and so has freedom of speech.

If you don't know the difference between spam and legitimate comments, between search engine ranking techniques and bonafide conversation--how charming and quaint your hicktown aesthetics are, so unspoilt by technical considerations.

A forum is not a chat room, nor a page rank booster, nor a free advertising arena."


I got lots of hostile, obscene, foul-mouthed, spam-comment replies to that announcement in the art discussion forum. Which proves how sick these spam perpetrators are.

Sometimes a blog commenter will post a comment with a alleged link to an article he wrote on a web site, but when you foolishly follow the link, you're taken to some page of the site that has nothing to do with the alleged article.

This too is comment spam.

Blog commentors: get your act together, please quit commenting sloppily--or you'll likely be considered an Internet Pig comment spammer.

According to Adam Kalsey, CTO of Pheedo, comment spam began at Usenet, migrated to Email, and now is viciously attacking Blogs and Discussion Forums.

Spammers are hitting Trackbacks, Blogrolls, Email This Article To A Friend, RSS Feeds, Guestbooks, any interactive functionality they can exploit to their greedy advantage.

Elise Bauer at the MT tutorial site www.elise.com has a good explanation of these different spamming methods and site vulnerabilities. She also has a great policy statement on deleting any comments she considers OT (Off Topic), ignorant, or simply insubstantial in regard to the topic being discussed. Hooray for lovely Elise!

The Internet Pig Comment Spammers must really dread having to flip burgers at McDonalds, selling appliances at Sears, or going to college to learn a skill.

I rank the skanky Internet Pigs almost as low as crack whores/pimps or pharmaceutical companies anxious to dope teenage Johnny for just being a normal, active, authority-questioning male.

Joi Ito asks in his blog: are blogs "parties" anyone can attend...or publications that may be strictly edited? Depends on the blog, but most are both to some degree.

But his blog article discussing comment spam has spam in comments #27 to #32, which I complained about in a comment posted to the discussion. I must await his approval before seeing my comment posted. Good for him! That's one good way to combat the Internet Pigs.

Photo Matt blog states in "Weeds in the Garden":

"...is a good read. Now scroll down to the comments. Dozens and dozens of spam comments. I see this over and over again on MT and s9y sites. What’s terrible is these pages are just as dangerous as dedicated spam blogs. Think about it: I shouldn’t even be linking to it now."

Blogging expert and pioneer Dave Winer thinks that comment posting in blogs is not vital. As far as I understand, blogs were originally just lists of URLs of interest, not random drivel about boring personal feelings and activities.

Mark Pilgrim of Dive Into Mark blog compares the two possible comment spam riddance solutions to The Club or Lojack approaches to prevent or punish car theft. It's a very good, heavily-linked (full of linked external resources) read for all you intellectuals out there.

Amy Gahran, sort of a protege of Jakob Nielsen, discusses comment spam in her Contentious blog.

Jay Allen, Jeremy Zawodny, WIRED magazine, Steven Berlin Johnson, Jeffrey Zeldman, Google bloggers, Sun Microsystems bloggers, and many of the major web design and developer experts have recently been posting warnings and manifestos of war against comment spammers.

There are ways to hurt the comment spammers and deprive them of their sources of income, but you have to be fairly geeky to do it.

It includes reporting them to their hosting providers, telling ISPs what their connections are being used for, and complaining to the product manufacturers the spammers supposedly represent.


HOW BLOGS AND FORUMS CAN
COMBAT COMMENT SPAM:


Mark Glaser at Online Journalism Review, provides these tips (my paraphrase, plus I add one or two to his list):

1. Turn off comments. Users and spammers both are unable to post remarks.

2. Turn off comment posting on older posts (spammers love them).

3. Don't allow URL links in comments.

4. Use a blacklisting (forbidden domains, email addresses, etc.) service.

5. Use a whitelisting (allowable domains, email addresses, etc.) service.

6. Redirect all links from your blog comments (no boost in Search Engine rank).

7. Require user registration prior to comment posting.

8. Require users to preview comments prior to posting.

9. Use a "captcha" device (numbers or letters contained in a graphic image that users must enter in a box, or an easy math problem users must enter the answer to).

10. Email verification of comment (users must reply to an email asking if they actually authored the comment).

11. Moderate the comments, imposing an indefinite delay on posting.

12. Issue legal warnings about criminality of comment spam.


WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
(MARCHING ORDERS):


Comment Spam is a hot topic right now. You should educate yourself on this.

USERS: Write emails to editors, administrators, and operators of blogs and online forums and demand that they either moderate the comments, add bot blockers like captchas, or install some type of anti-spam software.

BLOGS & FORUMS: Quit whining. Manual deleting of comments is not impossibly hard. Generally, it's just clicking. Even if it's 200 per day, so what? Hire a retired person do it for you, or a give a high school kid free pizza and soda for doing it. Find a solution.

USERS: Don't have a hissy fit if a blog or forum asks you to register, preview, or email verify before your precious comment will appear on a site. You can't wait for your comment to be posted? Comment posting is a privilege, not an inherent right granted by God to you.

EVERYBODY: Thanks for getting off your butt and helping to fight the comment spamming Internet Pigs.

Declare all out war on Comment Spam, before this blight forces us all to no longer allow comments anywhere, thus reducing the interactive quality of the entire web.

Remember: irrelevant spambot content decreases the value, usability, and credibility of your online information service, blog, forum, whatever.

And a rampant disabling of all interactive/community building functionalities is doomsday for the internet.

I urge you: pay attention to comments posted on your blogs and forums. Delete all comment spam immediately, then take appropriate measures to ensure they will not return to pollute.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Blogs That Are More Than Random Chatter


Posted by Hello
*****

Blogs began as simple web sites that owners used to post URLS of benefit to others in a given field of interest.

They were "web logs": [we]b logs, collections of continuously updated links, with brief commentary.

Then, with improved "personal publishing software" from WordPress, Blogger, and others, blogs began to be used by teenagers as a way to express themselves.

They were "plogs": p [ersonal b] logs, web journals, digital diaries, internet notebooks, cyber-confessionals.

Next came the "J-blogs": j [ournalist] blogs, in which reporters with laptop computers could post breaking news or personal opinions, with lightning speed.

Political party convention blogging by J-bloggers really boosted the public's awareness that blogs were important communication tools.

(Rathergate, the scandal involving CBS, Dan Rather, sloppy mainstream media investigative reporting, and forged documents purported to be President Bush's National Guard records, also caused a blog-inspired commotion.)


Now here are four more types of blogs I find interesting:


1. CEO Blogs: in which corporate CEOS loosen their ties and speak frankly to customers and the public. They see blogs as inexpensive, intimate vehicles to express their professional concerns, personal qualities, and even private details, to present themselves as real, warm personalities.

Examples:

Jonathan's Blog by the President/CEO of Sun Microsystems

ELand by Elliott Noss, CEO of Tucows, domain seller

Sifryby David Sifry, CEO of Technorati (good articles on business blog stats).



2. Corporate Employee Blogs: in which company personnel are allowed, within certain guidelines or restrictions, to speak about what it's like working at a particular company. These blogs enable the company to display a non-authoritarian culture in which employees are encouraged to be productive in individualistic ways. Job applicants gain insight into a specific corporate culture by reading these blogs.

Example:

Ongoing by Tim Bray, an employee of Sun Microsystems

Also see:

CEO Bloggers' Club from PR Planet (articles about rules corporate bloggers must follow).


3. Job Applicant Blogs: Not necessarily geared to job seeking (especially if currently employed), but exhibiting an individual's talent, expertise, insight, interests, activities, opinions. Employers can learn more about a prospective employee by reading the person's blog, than by traditional resumes and interviews. Personal blogs are usually more in-depth, spontaneous, and honest.

Examples:
Vaspers The Grate (this blog)

Mentally Correct Marketing, Steven Streight's other business blog.

These blogs are being used by me to display my expertise, strategic thinking, and writing skills.

Potential clients can view it to learn more about my services, philosophy, and methodology.

Current clients, and others interested in web usability issues, can visit this blog to stay up to date on this field.


4. Artist Blogs: Sadly, many of these are dominated by the typical blabberings, but some are being used as online galleries, which I vastly prefer.

Examples:

Incurable Art by Elenyte Paulauskas-Poelker

Conception and development of this Blog painting by Juan Miguel Giralt

My Life as an Artist by Ivan Pope

Milo Photoblog by Milo Vermeulen


NEXT BIG THING AFTER BLOGS:

Just to unsettle the smug, blogs are the Now Big Thing, but what is the Next Big Thing beyond conventional, static web sites?

Wikis.

Wikis are collaborative web sites that allow users to actually generate content, to add, alter, and delete material. This goes beyond simple comment posting. Administrative viewing and sorting tools enable site owners to restore the original content, publish multiple versions of content, and prevent abusive chaos.

Wikis enable users, such as teams working on a project, to pool their ideas and work, and watch the content evolve.

A recent article in The Economist, entitled "Blogging goes to work" is actually more about wikis than blogs, and even confuses the two terms to a certain extent.

Oh well.

Gotta go.

Need to work on what will be the New Next Big Thing beyond wikis!



Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Derrida on reading


Posted by Hello

***

"...German philosophers do not read
my texts directly, but refer instead
to secondary, often American
interpretations.

...I demand that one be careful with
the mediations, more critical regarding
the translations and the detours through
contexts that very often are quite
far from mine."

All quotes from FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE:
Two Sources of "religion" within
the limit of Pure Reason


by Jacques Derrida

in a German interview

cited at Derrida Online

What does all this have to do
with Web Usability Analysis?

We must remember that users
often misunderstand, they
misinterpret what we say,
they are rapidly racing
through web sites, seeking
relevant content.

What they read on our sites,
they may mis-quote, and
they often will form
opinions about your company
or your products, based on
second hand information,
"hearsay", what others say.

They will combine the mediations,
the voices that come in between
them and your own marketing, with
what you attempt to communicate.

This weird hybrid becomes their
monolithic, settled opinion.

Thus: make sure your web text
is clear, simple, free from
too many buzzwords, easy to
quickly skim and scan.

Because no matter how good
your web text is, they will
combine what you say with
the mediations, what others
tell, or have told, them.

Jacques Derrida 1930-2004


Posted by Hello

One of the saddest months of my life.

I deleted two blogs I had created,
one for a client and one of my own.

An organization for which I created
created a blog proved itself to be
unworthy of the effort and technology.

The organization ended up rejecting
the internet, computers & email.
I guess they want to return to
a more primitive condition.
That's entirely their choice,
and I respect it.

The other blog was deleted forever
because I wanted to re-orient
my positions on a certain issue.

(The re-orientation resulted in the new blog:
Art Test Explosion).

Then I heard the news that my hero,
Jacques Derrida, the gifted genius,
my favorite contemporary philosopher,
author, and literary analyst,
had died in a Paris hospital.

I didn't agree with everything he wrote.

But I was challenged and amazed by all
his thoughts and his analytic methodology.

I have read and recommend the following
books by Jacques Derrida:

Writing & Difference

Margins of Philosophy

The Truth in Painting

The Postcard

Disseminations

Acts of Literature

Of Grammatology

The Archaeology of the Frivolous--
Reading Condillac

Speech & Phenomenon and Other Essays
on Husserl's Theory of Signs

Of Spirit: Heidegger & the Question

Farewell, dear friend and companion,
whom I enjoyed through his books, who
comforted me with his intelligence,
and delighted me with his questioning.

No one is anywhere near his quality.
He opened up a whole new world of wonder.

Web usability analysis, and all other
analysis, is deeply indebted to J.D.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Beheading Videos: Poor Usability


Terrorist "marketing" strategy is off target. Posted by Hello
***

I think it's time someone stood up
and proclaimed the Triumphant Truth:

Beheading is not
what it's cracked up to be.

"Gruesome" is not the word for it.

"Pathetic"/"Misguided"/"Cowardly"/
"Ridiculously Underwhelming"
are much more appropriate words for
this desperate attempt by terrorists
to gain attention.

All beheading accomplishes is loathing,
and longing for more "shock and awe"
bombing of all nations that harbor
such timid and ineffectual villains.

DISCLAIMER #1: I have not
viewed any terrorist beheading videos, nor
will I ever do so.

However, I will, from a usability
perspective, engage in a critique
of this concept: beheading a person,
videotaping the process, releasing
the video to the public via web sites
and media coverage, and making
unreasonable demands based on
such vain nonsense.

DISCLAIMER #2: I mean no offense
to the families and friends of the victims of
terrorist beheadings.

I sympathize with their suffering and grief.

This analysis is my way of supporting them.

This analysis rightfully mocks the
ineffectiveness and futility of such
terrorist activity, which merely angers
us, and does not "shock" or "terrify"
us at all, in spite of what mainline
establishment journalists announce.


Why Beheading Videos have poor usability:


Usability has a dual nature.
For a promotional or public
relations effort to be useful,
in a comprehensive sense,
it must accomplish two goals:

1. Influence the audience (the supposedly
"terrorized") to be sympathetic toward
(or frightened into groveling acceptance
of) the sponsoring organization's
(the "terrorists") goals, and decide
to support these goals, or
exert pressure on those who can.

2. Enable the sponsoring organization (the
"terrorists") to communicate an accurate,
motivational message to the audience about
the sponsoring organization (the "terrorists"),
to the end that this message is clearly
understood and endorsed by the audience.


How Terrorist Beheading Videos fail
to fulfill usability goals:



1. Negative Message About the Terrorists:

The terrorists display themselves as cowards
with their faces covered up.

Like bullies on a school playground,
they represent themselves
as picking on weak, easy prey,
unarmed and unguarded civilians.

These civilians are then executed by way of
beheading, which is a relatively quick and
painless death (compared to many cancers
and other diseases and fatal injuries).

Civilians expiring in such manner should be
awarded Congressional Medals of Honor and be
celebrated as noble, involuntary martyrs for
freedom of thought and freedom of religion.

2. Undesired Response from Audience:

The results of terrorist beheading videos are:

(a) governments become more stubborn about their
refusal to negotiate with terrorists,

(b) the families of the victims hate the
terrorists and their cause,

(c) the general public is disgusted
with the terrorist tactics and
condemns their cause.

3. Wrong Tactic by Terrorists:

While it may be shameful to admit this point,
it must nevertheless be stated:
Americans in particular have
no strong aversion to gratuitous
violence, suffering, or gore.

Sorry, terrorists.

A beheading simply is not "gruesome" or
"repulsive" when considered in the context
of the standard entertainment fare of average
American teenagers or college age males.

The act itself is morally reprehensible,
and the terrorists are to be condemned for
such an act, but its effect is greatly
diminished in Western culture.

We avidly flock to R-rated, ultra-violent films.

We abundantly produce and purchase sadistic,
ultra-violent video games.

We gleefully watch the gross
"Fear Factor" reality TV program.

4. Wrong User Interface:

The people who are most affected by a terrorist
beheading video are the friends and families of
the unfortunate victims. But the video provides
no means for this segment of the public to
interact with the demands of the terrorists.

Individuals have very little influence on
governments or national policy makers.
Even the companies the individuals work for
are in no strong position to assist the
terrorists or influence their governments.

CONCLUSION
Message to Mainstream News Media
and Journalists:


Get with it. Terrorist beheading videos, and
news reports glamorizing or sensationalizing
such acts, are not influencing us at all.

The beheadings are not "gruesome" or
"alarming." For jaded American audiences,
they're not even "disturbing."

Quit trying to impress us with video
productions made by our enemies.

Quit subtly promoting such things
for their supposed "news value."

Genocide in the Sudan, North Korean nuclear
weapons development, partisan bias in
mainstream journalism--now these are
truly upsetting and horrific.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Buzzwords vs. Benefits


beware of bogus BS web sites Posted by Hello

***

Explain what you do, and what you offer, in customer-benefit oriented language, not cloaked in loosely or dimly understood "buzzwords."

Too many web sites are caught in the Wheel of Webological Unreality: they spew forth froth, not substance. It's corporate speak in its most diseased form.

They suffer from "bipolar buzzwordomania": moving from clear descriptions to obscure fuzziness, back and forth, one moment logical, the next moment undecipherable.

Buzzwords are newly coined (invented) words that can be used to make it sound like you're doing something very complex, leading edge, or technical.

But if you're questioned closely, it can suddenly be discovered that you don't know what you're talking about, or you're using a fancy word to glamorize something that is really very ordinary, old, or simple.

Ever used the phrase "we had trust issues in our relationship" when the full truth was that one of you was unfaithful, no longer interested, even disrespectful and insensitive to the other?

"Trust issues" is a good example of a buzzword phrase. Most people will assume they know what that means, in spite of it being rather ambiguous.

Even just "issues" can be a euphemism (nice way to say something bad) for "anger." Little Johhny is violent and the counselor says Johnny has "issues" with which he must learn to "cope" (control or re-direct in a socially acceptable manner).

Perhaps just saying, "Johnny's a spoiled brat who likes to bully smaller children" is a lot more direct and truthful than glossing over the reality by saying Johnny "has issues."

Buzzwords often enter our vocabulary prematurely, with no clear definition or acceptable range of application.

A nebulous buzzword, since it's not very specific, can be misinterpreted. It can be understood in a negative way that is too cynical.

Maybe the "trust issues" was not refering to infidelity, but to how one person was simply paranoid. Or to how one person wasn't very punctual, would say "10 pm," then arrive at 10:30 pm.

Certain buzzwords were invented to describe a new process, concept, or other "emergent" (new) phenomenon.

These "neologisms" (new words) eventually become the commonly accepted terminology. To not use them might indicate you were not as up to date as you should be in a certain field.

But to overuse them is another story. There is buzzword abuse.

Sometimes ambiguous, fuzzy phrases are used to imply substantiality when there really is nothing there.

Here are some current buzzwords pulled from actual web sites. Please do not conclude that I am indicting or condemning specific organizations for using these terms.

These buzzwords may contain specific meanings in the minds of those who write them, but could seem empty, overused ("played out"), or even maliciously deceptive to some readers:


"business processes" (what in business is not a process? a paper clip?)

"mission critical" (stuff that is "on the same page" as the rest of your stuff? stuff that is compliant with and conducive to your goals?)

"think outside the box" (think independently of television's influence?)

"end-to-end solutions" (are these total, all-encompassing, complete answers to expansive, sprawling problems? or merely solutions that can be lined up next to each other, "interoperatively"?)

"Web-enabled business model" (stuff you could not do, or could not do quite as easily and quickly, without the Internet existing? is the business going to be totally dependent on the web? will there be manual or paper document back-up?)

"customer relationship management" (why not call it client appeasement? or end user coddling? can you have a customer, but not have a relationship with him? are the customer relationships being managed for the benefit of the customer or to save money?)

"data warehousing" (is this the same as stats storage, facts refrigeration, information farming, insight silos, idea iglooing, probe preservation, details domiciling, or concept communes?)

"leverage" (a synonym of use, utilize, realize, potentiate, maximize, or take advantage of?)

"optimization" (how is this different from leveraging, enhancing, bettering, or improving?)

"outsourcing" (how is this different from off-premisesing, freelancing, agent contracting, farming out, or downsizing?)

"procurement" (why not just say purchasing, borrowing, obtaining, or leasing?)

"flexibility" (a euphemism for uncertainty, flip-flopability, mutability, and a modicum of instability?)

"initiatives" (ideas, work assignments, commitments, or plans?)

"actionable" (an idea you can actually do something with or about? Amazing!)

"resource-centric paradigm" (supply and installation dependent orientation?)

"develop, deploy, and integrate" (make, use, and use with?)

"legacy" (past systems and procedures? or the stuff you've heavily invested in and don't want to get rid of until it's completely worn out?)

"enterprise" (company? organization? group that is doing something as a team?)

"configuration" (set-up?)

"robust functionality" (it works? does what it's supposed to do?)

"collaborative environment" (vendors cooperate pleasantly with clients?)

"project portfolio" (all your stuff is in a labeled folder or e-file?)

"consulting" (telling you what you should know, but don't, and don't have time to research and figure out on your own?)

Corporate buzzwords are often not benefits or actions that are easy to understand.

Obfuscations have no place in modern business ruminations.

Describe your core competencies in language that is on a 5th grade reading level, and customers will admire your plain speaking.

They'll understand your products and services. And they'll be able to explain to their bosses what's going on, and why they chose you to be their vendor.

IBM, for example, uses a minimum of buzzwords on its consultancy web site.

The text is simple, direct, hard-hitting. Maybe we could all learn something from their example.



[Thanks to "the head lemur" at

http://theheadlemur.typepad.com

for the inspiration for this post.]



UPDATE EDIT: This just in...


EXAMPLE of a company apologizing with buzzwords!

[Buzzwords are identified for you in bold type--my editorial comments in brackets]



"...We at [company] are doing our best to model our deep conviction that the core of privacy is allowing users full control over their data in discovering and leveraging their personal and business networks....

...Unlike other networking sites and services, we don't require you to bombard your friends with multiple invitations (which has led to blogosphere commentary on "social networking spam: or "snam" to have the system work for you.

We didn't want there to be any ambiguity, however, about the fact that proper use of the system would result in some email, including referral requests from people you know, and training mails and service update information from [company name].

We also didn't want the fear of spam to lead people to turn this off before they learned a bit about what is a sophisticated system and thereby have a bad [company name] user experience, which was the prime reason that the box allowed for changes only after the initial registration.

After reflection prompted by your commentary, we see there is another reasonable interpretation of what we have done, and because of that, we are removing entirely the requirement that you leave the box checked to register [the old sleazy "pre-selection" ploy, to trick people into getting something they don't want].

Please note that we separated out and did not pre-permission [once again with the "pre-selection" funny business, depriving users of control] marketing material from [company name] (the second checkbox).

Our goal is to enforce a meaningful distinction between basic service operation and education messages on the one hand and marketing messages on the other.

This line won't ever be perfect, as different individuals will see messages in different ways, but we're dedicated to drawing it the best that we can, and to leadership in personal privacy protection."



Saturday, October 02, 2004

A Basic Guide to Power Blogging


Computer art copyright 2004 Steven Streight. Posted by Hello



Whoever You Are, You Need a Blog!

Everything from teen diaries to U.S. Presidential campaigns are now using the hip, new, effective format of blogs. There are, at last count, about 4 million blogs in existence. Media forecasters quoted by CyberJournalist.Net (API) predict that "by 2012, citizens will produce 50% of the news peer-to-peer."

A revolution is noisily occuring in journalism and in many other spheres. Blogs and bloggers are invading, waving manifestos of fast response, accumulated expertise, no profit motive, and free thinking in the liberated air.

Blogs are the next new thing, beyond conventional web sites. You can't afford to keep thinking, “Blogs? I don't get it. What's the big deal? What's a blog? What good are they?” Look at how marketing expert, Laura Ries, uses a blog (http://ries.typepad.com).

New Technologies are Slowly Appreciated: Alexander Graham Bell had to be persuaded that the telephone would be used for interpersonal communication. He thought the phone would ring, you'd pick it up, and hear news updates and symphonic music concerts! (MTP Music TelePhone?)

WHY blog? It's now almost mandatory for every consultant, corporation, club, candidate, every individual and organization, to have a blog. You can start now, or look foolish playing catch-up later on. Hello...????

Blogs are fresh communication tools. While a few are one-way broadcasting blogs, the vast majority are two-way, interactive, inter-personal blogs that enable users to congregate, learn, debate issues.

You post a sentence, paragraph, URL, or article.

Users respond by posting a comment, or emailing you. Users can also respond to other users, via comment debates.

Blogs act as an outlet for your ideas, and a way to form an online community of shared interests.


8 Easy Steps to Power Blogging:


1. Pick a topic: a product line, club, career field, philosophy, politics, social concern, technical field, hobby, news/current events, recreation, spirituality, whatever you already like to talk about, whatever interests you, professionally or personally.

EXAMPLE: Amid Rushes and Reeds (www.eleran.blogspot.com)

Here we have a nice poetry blog. The background is evocative. Eleran's poetry is profound and porously opaque. His poems are referenced by first lines. He uses very imaginative labels: “Antecedent” = Previous Posts, “Dictum” = Comments, “Portfolio” = Archives, “Skald” = Profile, “Missives” = Email activation, “Ingress” = Back to Homepage.

2. Create a title and URL: what you want to call your blog, and what will be easy to remember and to type in as a URL (web address).

EXAMPLE: Photo Matt unlucky in cards
(http://photomatt.net)

Matt Mullenweg publishes an extremely popular blog, with an easy to remember title and URL. He's the founding developer of WordPress, the widely used blogging software.

3. Find a host (like www.blogger.com). Blogger, from Google, is FREE, simple to create, easy to maintain, available for posting and reading 24/7, and full of great features.

EXAMPLE: Blogger (www.blogger.com)

4. Choose a template. This is the basic framework, or design, that provides the structure for your blog. You can go into the template and change colors, type sizes, blogroll listings (“Check out these sites”), add copyright post footers, and extra "sidebar" paragraphs.

I currently use templates by Jeffrey Zeldman (A List Apart) and Douglas Bowman (StopDesign). I have modified my blog templates a great deal and have added lots of extra sidebar paragraphs, plus recently, an EServer Technical Communications Library search engine to expedite information foraging for my users.

5. Configure your settings. These include comments enabling, formatting, time/date stamp, archiving, site feed, publishing, email notification of comments posted, and revision of blog name or URL if desired.

Be sure to enable each post to have its own distinct URL, so you can provide people with direct links to specific articles.

EXAMPLE: http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com/2004/09/customer-service-is-profit-center.html

Notice, in the above example, how Blogger.com, who configures my post URLs, left out the word "a" between "is" and "profit center." When giving a specific post URL to someone, be sure to type it correctly, which means possibly slightly different from the exact post title. Long post titles are truncated, i.e., the last few or several words are deleted for the URL.

6. Start posting. Write and publish your articles, opinions, news updates, announcements, member communications, poems, stories, photos, paintings, rantings and ravings, corporate promotions, marketing reports, publicity statements, whatever.

TIP: Your blogging responsibilities can stimulate, challenge, and discipline you to learn something, even one little new detail or factoid, about your topic, industry, specialty, hobby, or cause. Then you put it in your own words, or quote someone, citing your source, and put it up on your blog site.

Your blogging, if you take it seriously and ethically, can actually prod you into expanding and enriching your expertise.

7. Start promoting. Put your blog URL(s) on all outgoing emails via the signature file, on all ads, direct mail, brochures, letterhead, flyers, business cards, web sites, and occasionally (not constantly!!!) with intelligent comments at other blogs (push a specific posted article URL, not just the blog itself).

WARNING: DO NOT spam other blog sites. Blog comment spam or "flyblogging" is suddently rampant. Spam a blog, and you'll be hated and banned from accessing them.

Bloggers are contemplating new, more effective ways to block comment spam.

Comment spam issues forth in such comments as: "Nice post. I read almost the entire thing. Will return to finish it later. I have written an interesting post on the same topic, go check out my article at [URL]."

For some reason this exact wording, or similar, has become a classic blog comment spam. I'm not sure why the "almost read the entire thing" phrase is in there. Probably to ward off any expectation that the comment spam will be relevant to the actual topic.

8. Keep posting. Stay committed to your blog(s). Add fresh content every few days, at least once a week. If you're interested in your field, this shouldn't be a challenge. Make time to get it done.

Maybe just a nice photo and a clever caption for it. Seth Godin often publishes just a few sentences, along with the URL for an article on some other site that he likes. Old last posted posts suggest that a blog may have been abandoned.

FINAL ADVICE: if you can post digital photos, especially your own original work, or art you have created on a paint program, post them. Text-only blogs tend to become a bit dry, while art and photography really enhances them.

If you are really on fire about an issue, a field of knowledge, a hobby, a philosophy, a belief system, a marketing angle, a product line, whatever...you can quickly and easily be the proud operator of a Power Blog!