Monday, February 28, 2005

Book Titles and Marketing Wisdom


threats don't make good titles Posted by Hello

Some colleagues are writing a book on blogs, and I'm absolutely sure this book will be a Must Read for anyone interested in blogging or marketing.

Their publisher, a fine, highly respected business books firm, thinks the title "Blog or Die" would be terrific. While I have no desire to belittle or anger the authors or the publisher, I felt I could not be silent.

I think titles for books, music recordings, artwork, etc. are often very difficult to invent. Sometimes it seems to be the hardest part of the whole creative process, since so many titles have already been used.

On the authors' blog, I posted a few of my thoughts.


My first post on this issue of their book title:

Please take the following comments in the spirit of friendliness that is intended....

"Blog or Die" is not the best title for this book. As a marketing professional, I feel I need to caution you here. I'm sure [Publisher Name] means well, but consider: do CEOs and business leaders, your primary audience for the book, accept threats or ultimatums?

"Blog or Die", my friend Bennett Theissen in Hollywood, would interpret, in his exile from New York East Village style, as "Agree with me that you need a blog, or I'll kill you". Cynical, but true.

Would you go up to a Mark Cuban or a Bill Gates and say such a thing? "Hey, dude, blog or die!" Somehow this sounds pushy, preachy, and prejudiced. That's my honest opinion.

[Publisher Name] is on the right track, but this title needs a subtle shift to be more appropriate and accurate.

No one's going to "die" if they don't blog. If someone told me "Podcast or die" or "RSS feed or die", I'd think they were daft punk joking or getting a bit cheeky with me.

Also, an email interview is wonderful, not "just an email interview." Actually, I think email is way better than telephone any day. I hate talking on the phone, and I don't like chitchatting in person either, unless I know someone well and we have a few Blue Moons with orange twists.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | February 26, 2005 06:37 PM


Then, after seeing a couple of posts saying the book title "Blog or Die" was fine and dandy, I posted the following:

I just know I would not buy, or take seriously, any book with the title "[Do this] or Die".

There are many other ways to communicate the idea that if you don't use a blog in your public relations or marketing mix of media, you may severely regret it.

Many creative ways to issue the warning that: your competitors who do start a blog could very likely have a distinct advantage.

To respond to the title, "Blog or Die", one must agree with the premise, must think, "You know, he's probably correct. If I don't blog, I probably will die. I don't want to die. Thus, I better buy this book and find out how to gain immortality via blogging."

Quite comical, really.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | February 27, 2005 09:04 PM

P.S. Here are some other books that use the "...or die" phrase in the title:

Innovate or Die--Jack V. Matson
Differentiate or Die--Jack Trout
Plan or Die--Timothy M. Nolan
Evolve or Die--Nesthone Antoine
Evolve or Die--Timothy Labadie
Adapt or Die--Kendra Okonski
Adapt or Die--Bob Betts
Dig or Die--William J. Hyde
Ride or Die--Solomon Jones
Grow or Die--George Land
Escape or Die--Ina R. Friedman
Do or Die--David Robbins
Detox or Die--Gerald H. Bagley
Truth or Die--Diane Hoh
Live Free or Die--Ernest Herbert
Alkalize or Die--Theodore A. Baroody
Detoxify or Die--Sherry A Rogers
Climb or Die--Edward Myers
Read or Die--Kurata
Do or Die--Leon Bing
Do or Die--Darren Coleman
March or Die--Howard Swigglet
March or Die--Philip D. Chinnery
March or Die--Tony Geraghty
Get Out or Die--Jane Finnis
Quit Monks or Die--Maxine Kumin
Go Free or Die--Jeri Ferris
Win, Lose or Die--Diane Hoh
Live or Die--Anne Sexton

The one that makes the most sense to me is "Differentiate or Die" by marketing specialist Jack Trout.

These are just a few of the titles in the ever popular "...or die" series.

Buy Them All Now...or Die.



I like the authors of this book.

I want them to succeed.

I will buy their book, and most likely recommend it to others.

So I felt I should, in a polite, but maybe slightly humorous manner, tell them my honest opinion and express my genuine concern.

According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, two of the smartest marketing writers I know, the name of a company, product, book, recording, what have you, is among the most important aspects, and the name has a huge impact in the marketplace.

I know...Jack Trout used the "...or Die" phrase in the title of his book. But like I said, in this case, it seems a bit more appropriate, because if you don't differentiate your product from all the other competing products, if you don't identify your niche, you will see a steep, "deadly" decline in sales.

"Breathe or Die" could be a good name for a book, but it's common knowledge that if you don't breathe, you'll die.

I guess my main caution for this title "Blog or Die" is that it's combative, confrontational, and confusing. How will a person or a business "die" if they don't operate a blog?

Aren't there some people and businesses who still don't have a web site or any other online presence...yet are still thriving without them? Hyperbole (exaggeration) is not a smart device to use in marketing.

Savvy customers will jump in to contradict you and to expose your swerve from objective truth. You then lose credibility and trust in the marketplace.

Ancient peoples felt that names had almost magical powers, and could even determine, to a large degree, an entity's destiny. Modern marketing firms and gurus agree that name, along with packaging, price, and mental positioning, remain extremely significant.

Something to ponder in your own business and product launches.


UPDATE EDIT Monday, Feb.28, 2005 11:30 AM



I was afraid the authors would be angry with me, due to my triumphalist critique of their book title.

Quite the opposite. They agreed that the title is not being well received and they asked for suggestions.

Here is what I wrote in reply:

For a title for the book, here's one approach: if you were going to write an email to a CEO, business leader, whoever is a prime audience for this book, what would you put on the Subject: line?

Another idea: "The Red Couch: How Businesses are Profiting from Blogs."

The front cover could show an executive actually sitting on a red leather couch, with a laptop on his lap, banging away at the keyboard, a pot of coffee next to him, and a stack of pizza. Maybe he should be in his pajamas, to appease the MSM (morbid stream media).

I do think that "The Red Couch" has become more than a place holder, though I do respect the fact that that is all it was meant to be originally.

I think, I may be mistaken, but I think "The Red Couch" has equity built up in it. It is bookmarked on a lot of PCs. People have been refering to "The Red Couch". I was even a bit envious that you guys had come up with such a unique phrase that was odd, like Monster.com or Amazon.com or Purple Cow, yet it was also, and here's the genius of it, related to high powered corporate offices.

I think of a classy, successful business leader when I imagine a red leather couch. Red symbolizes passion and revolution. Couch symbolizes informality, relaxation, comfort, being approachable, casual, chatty, everything a blog is supposed to be.

"The Red Couch" is indeed a furniture meme that Maryam started. Why kill it now?

Having an "insider" main title bespeaks an expertise, an esoteric, secret, hidden aspect, and people love mystery and unusual terminology.

One business leader to another: "You need to red couch your marketing."

Other business guy/gal: "Huh? What do you mean by red couch? I don't get it."

Business leader: "I can see that. You poor little puppy. You haven't heard about Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's book or their blog about their book? Let me help you understand what's going on..."

Maybe a little fanciful, but the general idea is to start something Astonishing that is also High Quality. This is Seth Godin's idea.

His "Free Prize Inside" is the only marketing text to make it to the Forbes.com's Business Books of the Year 2004.

He is onto something, along with Al Ries and Jack Trout ("Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind" and "Marketing Warfare") saying the name is so super important for marketing and sales.

The Red Couch is a Purple Cow. Ride that red couch into the blogosphere like Al and Jack drove that U.S. Army tank down Madison Avenue as a publicity stunt for "Marketing Warfare".

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | February 28, 2005 10:03 AM



UPDATE EDIT March 2, 2005 10:55PM


The debate continues. After reading more pros and cons of "Blog or Die", I posted a few more comments at The Red Couch blog.

"Again, I suggest: what would you put on the Subject: line of an outgoing email message to a CEO, to whom you wanted to explain your book?

"Blog Or Die" sounds offensive, mean-spirited, trite, hyperbolic (exaggerated), misleading, and unimaginative.

"The Red Couch: How Business Are Reaching Customers With Blogs"

"The Red Couch: Blog Revolution in Corporate America"

"The Red Couch: How To Use Blogs to Gain Loyal Customers"

The business realm seeks Practical, How-To advice, not theory, not history, not philosophy, not scholarly rhetoric, not poetic metaphors.

As for the first chapter, since I'm a writer, I'm very hesitant about telling other writers what to write...

...but okay, you forced me.

Go straight to the heart of what you have to say to readers. Skip the analogies, the history, the coaxing.

Say, "Here's what we have discovered in the CEO offices we visited. Here's what works. Period."

Be as hard-nosed, bottom-line oriented as your audience.

BEGIN with a short but profound anecdote, like many other books on creativity, business psychology, sales, marketing, etc.

Look at how the 30 most successful business books begin. With history and analogy? I doubt it.

Usually, I suspect, with a bold assertion and an amazing, memorable anecdote. The kind that makes you drop the book and go tell your girlfriend, buddy, or dad about.

That's how to begin a book. Fast, sharp, explosive. Memorable, pithy, astonishing. (Thanks again to my mentor Seth Godin)."

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | March 2, 2005 03:21 AM



The controvery continues. After a few pro-"Blog or Die" comments, I felt it was time to jump in again and advance my point of view:

I don't think the objection to "Blog or Die" is a matter of wake up calls or watering down the original idea.

It's a matter of hard nosed business thinking vs. exaggerated commercialized hype that CEOs and other business leaders will frown upon and not trust.

Robert and Shel need to protect and promote their credibility, and using hyperbole, "Blog or End Up in the Morgue", is not going to help gain the trust of business leaders.

You could tell average dumbed down public to "Overcome Obesity or Die" or "Stop Smoking or Die", but I don't think I'd feel comfortable and confident telling highly educated business professionals that they must "Blog or Die". IMHO, that's nonsense and a turn off.

Funny how this proposed title has stirred controversy. Yet I believe that names are vital and, although some products with stupid names have succeeded, still, a name or title must be selected with great care and consideration.

And my honest, spontaneous reaction to "Blog or Die" was that my heart sank and I felt it was a shame to put that title on this book. I understand what Wiley is trying to accomplish, and they are close, but this is not the best title for this book.

I tend to like my earlier suggestion of "The Red Couch: Blog Revolution in Corporate America".

I can see a CEO or business leader intrigued by "red couch", then wondering how a blog could start a revolution, then wondering why blogs are causing a big fuss in corporate offices.

If there is a "revolution" going on in Corporate America, it seems most CEOs, business leaders, and marketing types would want to know all about it.

Just my 2 pesos.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | March 2, 2005 08:37 PM

Before I shut my big fat mouth, let me also state another reason why Robert's wife is a genius:

The "couch" in "The Red Couch" also creates a conceptual association with the psychiatrist's couch. This is good, due to the psychoanalystic Fundamental Rule of word association, saying, blurting out whatever comes to mind, a spontaneity and candor that is the essence of the blog.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | March 2, 2005 08:45 PM


Man, this thing just won't die or retire in dignity. Here we go again.

Debbie Weil also thought "Blog or Die" was hyperbole (exaggeration) and not a good title. She wisely recommended a more truthful, though prosaic, mundane title, like her book Beginners Guide to Business Blogging which she said is a download favorite on Seth Godin's Change This site.

So, while I agree with Debbie Weil in the main, I felt recklessly compelled to chime in once again, as follows.

I tend to think that Red Couch is like Purple Cow, Amazon.com, Monster.com, Yahoo!, Google...

...a weird word or phrase that induces curiosity.

Why name a bookseller Amazon? Totally inappropriate. Why not Books For Sale.com? Yet look at how it's a houshold word now.

Why name an employment site Monster? Why not The Hiring Post.com? Or Jobs-R-Us.com? Yet look at the acceptance.

I do believe if you have something unique to say, you ought to have a unique name to say it with. That's why I like the name The Beatles much better than The Band, though I like Bob Dylan way more than John Lennon. Dylan Thomas vs. Vladimir Lenin.

Anyway, Debbie has a point, and often a "prosaic" title works great.

But then again what the heck is a Cluetrain? Robot Wisdom? Photo Matt? Boing Boing? Ideavirus? Eminem? What do Stars and Bucks have to do with caffeine? Why would anyone, except a Catholic, buy music from someone named "Madonna"? What is an iPod? One of those alien things from Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Unusual names can trigger bemusement, capture attention, create an esoterica that business leaders like. Think of how many strange buzzwords enter business speech.

You need to red couch your online presence, Chief.

...and use a captcha for comment posts.

Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate | March 9, 2005 07:03 AM

Friday, February 25, 2005

Hypertext Link Pollution: My Second Attack Against IntelliTXT


user expectation deviation Posted by Hello


The Many Varieties of
Communication Contamination



It figures. Eventually someone would conceive of a way to muddy yet another positive aspect of the web.

Someone discovered a way to spam our email boxes. Now Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) or "spam" greatly reduce the overall value and credibility of email. Email is no longer a trusted medium of personal communication.

Of course, junk mail contaminated the postal system, and telemarketing invaded our homes. Now, when the phone rings, we feel annoyed in anticipation. It may well be just "another telemarketer" selling something we don't want.

Comment functions on blogs have reduced some blogs and online discussion forums to garbage dumps.

Loaded with "buy [male you-know-what enhancement product]" or "domain names for sale" or "cheap [you-know-what pharmaceutical pain-relieving products]" comment spam, the blog comment pages are deprived of consistently relevant user-generated content.

Instead of informative comments, we are submitted to long strings of con artist promotions and URLs for sites that may eagerly await your presence, so spyware can be attached to your computer.

Thus, the malicious or dubious sites promoted by comment spam causes the otherwise high quality blog to decrease in overall value.

And now comes the degradation of editorial content and the hypertext links embedded within it.


IntelliTXT from Vibrant Media: bad news for relevant content.


IntelliTXT not only interrupts the flow of information, it also fosters the further blurring of the line between objective reporting and paid advertising. It is the spawn of the "infomercial" or "advertorial" mindset.

In an earlier post, in November of last year, I issued warnings about this content hypertext spam junk:

http://vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com/2004/11/
content-hypertext-spam.html

I have seen IntelliTXT in operation in the most negative manner, which made me decide to never return to the web site that utilized it.

I was profoundly dismayed and angered at my first encounter with this insidious [sly, crafty, more dangerous than is immediately obvious] phenomenon.

What happened was this: I was reading an article, then a certain word was underlined and in blue type, as opposed to the black type of the rest of the editorial text.

Thinking that if I clicked on that highlighted word, I'd link to some support material that would further my understanding of the word and the topic it represents, I clicked on this word.

Then a pop-up box appeared above the word, like a tool-tip, and it was an advertisement with a text link at the bottom, which then took me to a commercial web site, selling me a product that was now totally unrelated to the topic of the article.

The product was only very distantly related to the word in the editorial text. And I had no interest at all in the product or the company being advertised in this sneaky, unexpected manner.

It was quite a jolt to my sensibilities. I have to tell you: I was repulsed and disgusted to have been tricked like this.

So the IntelliTXT removed me from the context of the article, and also put me into an aggressive sales environment I neither anticipated nor enjoyed. I was on an information quest, not a product search. This was a troubling and annoying state of affairs.

CyberJournalist.net Against IntelliTXT


Jonathan Dube, over at CyberJournalist.net discusses how Forbes.com conducted a "ridiculous experiment" with IntelliTXT, then decided to abandon it.

Forbes.com has finally dropped its ridiculous experiment linking words in news stories to ads.

In August it became the first major new site to incorporate Vibrant Media's IntelliTxt technology, which puts double blue underlines on paid hyperlinks and pops up ad text when users hover over them.

Jim Spanfeller, the president and CEO of Forbes.com, told AP the company stopped using the sponsored links following concerns from his staff, who felt that the links might blur the lines between paid advertisements and staff-written copy.

"There was a lack of comfort," Spanfeller said. "And since we are an editorially-driven company, it wasn't worth having our editors feel uncomfortable, so we decided to step aside."

CyberJournalist.net
"Forbes drops in-story ad links"
by Jonathan Dube, Publisher
December 5, 2004
http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001749.php


John Battelle sees a possibly constructive usage of IntelliTXT. Although I have to respectfully swerve from the point of view he espouses, he does make a suggestion that would provide a more benign and less dubious role for this advertising practice.

In effect, John recommends divorcing the IntelliTXT from the editorial content.

Here are some of his concluding remarks about this hypertext link deviation :

"...I think both readers and journalists are not ready for the context-jarring concept of ads directly in editorial text. It crosses a line that should be respected.

But what if it were possible to break out keywords for a given article in a separate box, for example, and run that box at the end or to the side of the article? This addresses the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup problem (your advertising peanut butter is in my editorial chocolate....) but retains the power and reader service of the system."


John Battelle's Searchblog
"IntelliTXT: Your Advertising Peanut Butter
is in My Editorial Chocolate..."
April 9, 2004
http://battellemedia.com/
archives/000560.php



We already have a lot of problems on the web related to a widespread lack of online information credibility, easy site navigation, reputable site linking, and citing of trustworthy sources.

We also have too much spamming of email inboxes, blog comment pages, RSS feeds, trackback functions, and other interactivity tools.

So this dreadful violation of linking conventions and user expectations must be greeted, in my opinion, with outrage, boycotts, and warnings.

To do any less, to remain silent and compliant, is not an option, at least for this blogger and consumer-advocate.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Blogging Is Good For You


Blogging Increases Intelligence and Skills. Posted by Hello
*****

It may be a hunch, with no serious scientific studies to back it up.

But many blogging pros are saying that operating a blog makes them smarter.

They say that forcing themselves to write something for their blog every day, or every few days, or even just once a week, helps them improve their thinking, their research skills, and their writing style.

For example, consider what Biz Stone says in his book Who Let the Blogs Out? (2004, St. Martin's Griffin, NY):

"With a seemingly infinite supply of information on the Internet, a blogger is forced to choose wisely when offering up a link. Then that blogger is tasked with adding succinct commentary to explain why that link is blogworthy. This in and of itself is not so hard, but doing it everyday exercises the analytical mind because it forces us not only to choose what we think is interesting, but also to pinpoint why we think it is. Then, we convey those thoughts in a short, descriptive paragraph.

Blogging is an information-saturated lifestyle filled with contemplation and expression." (p. 115-116)

"People who become consumed by details are natural bloggers. Not just because they are more likely to blog...but also because they like to tweak, change, edit, redesign, add, remove, and fiddle around with their archives, profile, settings, template, etc." (p. 118)


Bloggers say they can go into their blog archives, read older posts, and see themselves improving as they continued to blog.

Bloggers say you should keep posting to your blog, even if you receive few comments, and even if other blogs fail to notice or mention you. Keep at it, they say, and someday a client or book publisher or some other benefactor will discover you.

Here are some reasons why, I believe, blog readers will not leave a comment:

1. Shyness: not comfortable drawing attention to themselves.

2. Fear of "flaming": can't emotionally handle being harshly criticized by other blog readers.

3. Inarticulate: could be smart, but just not good at expressing their thoughts in writing.

4. Slow reaction: can't think at that precise moment of what to say, but might think of a brilliant comment later, yet not return to post it.

5. Lurking: wants to just quietly read and get a feel for the blog environment before adding their comments to the conversation.

6. Diplomatic: disagrees with a post or comment, but is not in the mood for debate, or is not the type that enjoys expressing a contrary opinion, prefers to keep silent.

7. Temporarily unfit for combat: disagrees with a post or comment, but can't think of the facts or URLs of resources to back up the disagreement.

8. Overwhelmed: is so awe-struck by what you've said, they feel that any added comment would just seem trivial compared with the majesty and grandeur of your post. (I have this problem all the time with my blogs--heh heh. Just joking :^)


Biz Stone also says "don't blog drunk" and if bloggers heed his advice, then there will be more sober people on the planet. That's not a bad development, either.

So, when you feel disappointed about your blog, if it seems obscure and underwhelmed with comments, if no one links to you or mentions your blog, remember: blogging is good for you.

Self-expression is nice, but even more valuable is the sharing of relevant, practical information. Learn facts about something important, then blog about it.

Keep working at your blog. Try to make it astonishing in some way.

Then trust that both you and the blogosphere are better off because of your blogging efforts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Good Quotes on Web Issues

*****


GQOWI art copyright 2005 by Steven Streight Posted by Hello

For a few seconds, I'm going to relax and appreciate some positive things.

Are you ready to shift gears and go good?

Okay, then. Me too. So let's look at...


Good Quotes on Web Issues

NICK USBORNE: "...the internet was built on and thrives on the strong voices of its participants. Online you need to have a strong character in order to stand out from the crowd. The net is a vast community of voices--articulate, witty, ridiculous, and loud. So character counts for something.

Being blah guarantees that you'll never be heard." (Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy, p. 40)

[My comment: it was this quote that prompted me to aka myself as "Vaspers the Grate"]

BIZ STONE: "...link back to somebody if you found something weird or cool from them. You're better off doing that because links are the currency of the blogosphere. Crediting your sources makes you look more legit and builds a better network of information."

(Who Let the Blogs Out?, p.73)

JOHN HAGEL III & ARTHUR G. ARMSTRONG: "...the content attractiveness dynamic loop...reflects that...member-generated content is a key source of content attractiveness and that content attractiveness in turn drives members to join and stay in a virtual community....

So this loop is self-reinforcing: the more members a community has, the more member-generated content it is likely to accumulate, and therefore, the more members it will attract."

(Net Gain, p. 49-50)

STEPHEN SPAINHOUR & ROBERT ECKSTEIN: "We're less interested in the hype of the Web than we are in what makes it actually tick. We'll leave it to the pundits to predict the future of the Web or to declare today's technology already outdated. Too much analysis makes our heads spin; we just want to get our web sites online."

(Webmaster in a Nutshell, p. 1)

THOM WHALEN (1995): "A number of people, such as myself, who are building natural language question-answering systems, are not trying to create programs which understand natural language.

My goal is to simply make a program that is easier to use. Not - 'that computer is intelligent and understands what I'm typing. Maybe there's a person hiding inside.' But - 'I found the information I was looking for. If I have another question, I'm pretty sure I can go back and find an answer to it, too.'"

(As quoted in Bots: The Origin of a New Species, by Andrew Leonard)

SETH GODIN: "If any unrelated expert could change your product or service, who would it be? What would they do?"

(Free Prize Inside, p. 170)

[My comment: What concepts or discoveries in chemistry could somehow, by analogy, benefit your web site or blog? Astronomy? Gardening? Packaging? Railroads? Oceanography? Archaeology? Theology? Microbiology?

Problem solvers in one field can learn from fellow problem solvers in a different field. Principles in unrelated fields can sometimes transfer into what you're doing, if you ponder them and see a similarity.]

JAKOB NIELSEN & MARIE TAHIR: "Some of our comments might seem picky; we have tried to comment on everything big and small....Most of these minor problems will not prevent a determined user from using the site, so they are not true usability catastrophes like the ones we often find when we study people trying to complete an entire task on the web.

Even so, the smaller usability problems are worth highlighting and they are worth fixing....Users do notice small things: inconsistencies and weaknesses impact trust and lower your company's reputation in the user's eyes.

Users may simply think your company is sloppy....Even a typo can make it harder to understand the available choices."

(Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, p.55)


Take the Blog Pro Survey. (Digital art copyright 2005 by Steven Streight) Posted by Hello


PABLO PICASSO: "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

(As quoted in Computer Confluence, by Beekman, Brent & Rathswohl, p. 434)

THOMAS A. POWELL: "...users bring the site into their world--they don't visit the universe of your web site.

Your site is just a speck in an overall universe of web sites....therefore, make sure that your site follows any conventions and meets expectations set up by other sites...

Forcing the user to learn a new idea could also cause a negative feeling. Do not stray from the common interface conventions established by heavily used sites."

(Web Design: The Complete Reference, p. 48, 50)

CONSTANCE HALE & JESSIE SCANLON: "If you are a writer intending to use emails for publication, identify yourself as a writer and tell your source you wish to use the email--especially since your source can't see you with your notebook or tape recorder.

At the very least, go back to the source later for permission to quote an email."

(Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age, p. 184)

MARKETING SHERPA: "The internet is a search and communication medium, and not the broadcast medium that many marketing planners would like it to be."

GERRY McGOVERN: "The essence of a web site is self-service. Convenience is task-achievement with minimum effort." (www.gerrymcgovern.com)

SCOTT BERKUN
: "People who make things happen do so through the credibility they earn over time. Be patient. Be smart. Be helpful.

Listen to ideas from other people, and show them that you appreciate their help, and consider what they say."

(www.uiweb.com)

GERRY McGOVERN: "People read on the web like they read highway signs. They are moving at high speed. There is precious little time to focus, so the message must be clear.

They [prior to web usage experience] have received help [in previous experiences] from someone to complete a task. Now [at the web site] they are on their own. They don't like that.

Make your web site far more convenient to use. I would say that most web sites would struggle to achieve 40% on [a web site convenience meter].

That's understandable. The web is only ten years old."

(New Thinking newsletter, 4-12-2004)

JAKOB NIELSEN: "There has to be complete simplicity of the entire user experience. Each individual element [of a low-usability web design] may not actually be so bad.

But you compound them all together, and you actually do get this very confusing user experience....

The usability field is a happy field to work in, because there is no real conflict in making companies succeed and making customers succeed."

("Why Usability Matters", Consumer WebWatch Summit, 4-24-2003)

WILLIAM W. SCHERKENBACH: "You cannot give useful advice unless you listen to what your customers are saying.

You should not be giving the answers; you should be asking the questions and then questioning the answers...rephrase what you thought you heard."

(Deming's Road to Continual Improvement, p. 119)

HARVEY MACKAY: "Our challenge...is to make others see the advantage to themselves in responding to our proposal. Understanding our subjects' personalities is vital. Let them shine. Our own personalities are subordinate....

The key is knowing your customer, not just marching in and offering an objectively attractive deal."

(Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, p. 58, 59)

JAY LEVINSON & SETH GODIN: "The single most important marketing tool for most businesses is word of mouth.

The proponents of classical marketing theory spend too little time on this critical element; they worry about annual budgets, nationwide advertising campaigns, and effective coupon distribution....

You [as a home-based business entrepreneur] can turn the size of your competitors against them, using your flexibility, personal touch, and high-quality products to establish the one-to-one relationships with your customers that they simply cannot match [as a huge corporation]."

(Guerilla Marketing for the Home-Based Business, p. 2)

TOM PETERS: "...small can turn out to be big...the accumulation of small innovations is the premier source of big innovations.

The objective is to create history fast--the rapid transformation of every product and service....research concludes that most landmark products (called "technological guideposts" in engineering, and science-based firms) do not involve breakthroughs.

Instead, they are the culmination of many changes, each small, which eventually lead to wholesale user adoption of the product...'Have innovation on the mind' and 'act fast everywhere' are the underlying imperatives..."

(Thriving On Chaos, p. 328, 329)


RICHARD CARLSON, PhD.: "The first saving grace I realized about demanding [type] people is that, generally speaking, they are demanding to everyone.

In other words, it's not personal....the most demanding people are often the ones who push you out of your comfort zone and help you rise to a new level of competence....

As I look back on my career, I now realize that it was often the case that demanding people were the ones who brought out the best in me.

Everything--from my writing style, to my ability to use a computer and adjust to technology, to my ability to speak in public--was greatly enhanced by my connection to demanding, even abrasive people....

Because I'm so much less adversarial and defensive than I used to be, the 'demanding' people I meet and work with seem to be a lot easier to be around. I now realize that my overreaction to demanding people had a lot to do with how difficult they were for me to deal with.

Ai is so often the case, as I have grown and have been willing to to open my mind to my own contributions to my problems, I have been rewarded with as easier life.

I'm not advocating demanding behavior, as I still see it as a negative and abrasive personality trait.

However, I have learned to take it in stride and see it as 'small stuff'. Perhaps the same can happen to you."

(Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, p. 41-43)

Blogs That Pollute the Blogosphere

*****


hedonism, cause of dementia-from "the causes of suffering" tathagata series: copyright 2004 by steven streight Posted by Hello

NOTE: I almost *never* curse, or storm in a hateful rage about anything, though I do speak bluntly. But this is so vile, I've nearly lost all sense of decorum. If you don't know why I'm so outraged, you don't know much about the following topic, or its ill effects. Learn.


This one is painful to post, following hard on the heels of my Blog Blotching post.

I'm this[]close to listing on my blog and other, more high-traffic places, the blogs to which I now refer.

I'm even thinking of starting a Consumer Blog Watch site to alert people to blogs that pose a threat to their well-being.

This would be a list of blogs that engage in comment spam toleration, make money from sleazy "sponsored links", and other dubious and malicious activities.

I've been in a flurry of activity, visiting blogs for the "Secrets of the Blogging Pros" book and "Blogging Pros Survey".

I see great blogs, and in fact, most blogs are cool in some way.

But some bloggers are allowing laziness or greed to corrupt them, and destroy whatever value their blog ever had or claimed to have.


craving, cause of misery-from "the causes of suffering" tathagata series: copyright 2004 by steven streight Posted by Hello


There are some "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" blogs that are indeed extremely crappy.

Not talking about design.

Not talking about blog voice.

Not talking about subject matter.

So what is it?

Comment spam
that sits there, grinning disgustingly at every user who lands on the blog.

You know, where under "Recent Comments" sidebar subhead, you see:

* "pharmacy said..."

* "online casino gambling said..."

* "home mortgage loans said..."

* "credit card debt consolidation said..."

* "domain names for sale said..."

Or, when you click/select "Comments", anxious to read rich, relevant, reliable user-generated content, you see some like that, then a series of ugly, worthless comment spam.

Those who are new to the internet may not know that these "links" are mostly, if not entirely, taking users to sites that are rip-offs, and that may attach spyware to their computers.

Comment spam is just another form of abusing an interactive function of the web and making money with con artist techniques.

If bloggers would take measures to prevent or rapidly delete comment spam, the spammers would not make money.

But as has been said, "All it takes for evil to spread, is for good people to do nothing."

If I see comment spam continually appearing on a blog, and remaining there long after I have alerted the blogger, I'll automatically consider the blog to be unworthy of anyone's attention.

I may email the blog operator or webmaster, or post a comment about the comment spam, and its dangers to users. I'll politely request that the comment spam be removed immediately.

I've just deleted a blog that was on my blogroll due to their gross negligence in not dealing with comment spam. And I'm about to start deleting more blogs.

This won't harm or purify those blogs, but I have to protect my own blog's reputation, which depends partly on what I link to.

You have to be a total loser, wanker, amateur, poser, pseudo blogger to allow comment spam to sit in your freakin' comment zone, polluting your site, misleading users, and enabling the sleaze bags to boost their search engine results ranking.

It's not hard to monitor a blog for abusive, unfair, or spammy comments. Blogger, for example, my software and hosting provider, sends me an email any time anyone posts a comment to any of my blogs.

So Blogger monitors my blogs for me, as far as alerting me to comments, and all I have to do is read and delete the spam or abuse comments.

There are many ways to prevent or reduce comment spam. While a blog may have problems arriving at an ideal solution to thwart comment spammers, there is no reason to tolerate it, or to ignore pleas from users to delete it.

Some bloggers may go on vacation, or get tied up in other matters, which prevents them from quick action on such things. I understand.

But to habitually allow comment spam to stick and to pile up on your blog: this is inexcusable, utter incompetence, and apparent collusion with the perpetrators.

Any blog that has comment spam sitting there for more than 7 days, I will consider an "Abandoned Blog" that someone was to stupid or lazy to delete in its entirety.


clinging, cause of deception-from "the causes of suffering" tathagata series: copyright 2004 by steven streight Posted by Hello


You don't care about comment spam piling up on your blog?

You have sold ad space to sleazy vendors of dubious online gambling, viagra type products, vicodin and other pharmaceuticals, etc., resulting in scumbag "sponsored links" on your blog?

Don't pollute the blogosphere with your skanky presence.

Hear me? Shut down your stupid, ignorant blog and go clean sewers as a hobby.

You ain't no "blogger"--you're a menace to users and to the blogosphere.

If you're so rank as to let comment spam sit in your blog, you're contributing to the pollution of the blogosphere. Dumb ass jerk.

You're supposed to routinely monitor your blog and immediately delete any instance of comment spam.

But you apparently, through your inaction on this issue, revel in mediocrity and sloth.

You refuse to monitor and cleanse your blog.

You are a disgrace to the blogosphere.

Your negligence endangers users.

Your apathy opens the door to more sinister activity.

NOTE: I've sent some of you direct emails about the comment spam, and I've posted comments pleading with you to regain your sense of decency and credibility, by deleting this garbage from your blog...but weeks later, when I re-visit your blog, the comment spam sits there.

What? Did you die or become paralyzed? Or...are you in on the scam, with the comment spammers and sleazy sponsored link crowd?

This is like a neighbor who allows cockroaches, rats, and termites to multiply in his house and property. Who lets the smelly, rotten garbage fester and attract vermin.

Every blog is connected with all other blogs, in what we call a world wide web of communication networks.

So a blog operator who is negligent, uncaring, or deliberately enabling comment spammers and sleazy sponsored links perpetrators...

...that blogger is a stain and a stench on the inter-connected blogospheric realm.

Try to have a nice day, loser.


dispersion of ignorance: copyright 2004 by steven streight Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Blogs: the New Ham Radio?

*****


quiet evening at homme Posted by Hello


Blogs: the New Ham Radio?


Junk Blogs: "Blogging Just To Blog"

Like junk mail, junk television, junk food, junk music, and plain junk (worthless, broken garbage), there are also what can be called "junk blogs."

Junk blogs are blogs where someone with nothing to say takes forever to finish saying it.

In other words, junk blogs are (often self-proclaimed) "random, inessential chatter about frivolous aspects and trivial events of my mundane life."

People who have nothing to say, but Just Like To Talk.

They're "blogging just to blog."

Like maybe they have nothing better to do, but have plenty of idle time on their hands.

Or perhaps they have troubling thoughts--that they ward off by engaging in any kind of nervous activity, especially unbridled, ill-considered "self-expression."

(But an empty self yields empty expression that is irrelevant and not helpful to others.)

I've never understood this concept. Friends who phone you "just to talk"--very annoying. I prefer email to all other forms of communication, even personal presence conversation.

However, there is indeed a Joy of Self-Expression and Communication.

The positive side of this reminds me of amateur, or ham, radio.

Ham radio, you know, where a guy has a shortwave radio setup in the basement, and talks to other ham radio operators. This can be an exciting, fulfilling, and beneficial activity.

Ham radio is a very interesting culture of its own, a special society of dedicated folks who tend to be very kind-hearted, intelligent, and quick to help in any way they can. Plus, it's very technically oriented.

If you have a keen interest in blogging, ham radio, electronic music, computers, gardening, book collecting, or whatever your hobby, profession, or recreational activity may be, there is surely no harm in talking about it.

In fact, others may stand to benefit greatly from your expertise...and be delightfully inspired by your enthusiasm.


Unfair Attack in TIME Magazine
on Blogs and Ham Radio


Time Magazine, in the December 31, 2004 issue, ran an article by Lev Grossman, in which he attacked blogs by comparing them to ham radio. Ham (amateur, non-commercial) radio enthusiasts reacted quite harshly to this MSM (Main Stream Media) person's bad-mouthing them.

Lev Grossman's quote: "Before this year [2004], blogs were a curiosity, a cult phenomenon, a faintly embarrassing hobby on the order of ham radio and stamp collecting."

My opinion is that blogging, ham radio operating, and stamp collecting involve some degree of thinking and human communication, and in the case of stamp collecting, artistic sensibility and foreign culture appreciation.

Which potentially make all three of them vastly superior (in my opinion) to obsessive gambling, violent movies, pornography, and other unseemly or dubious activities as hobbies.

Blogging and ham radio have been helpful in the 2005 Indonesian/Asian Tsunami disaster and other emergencies.

In "The Most Popular Topic in the Blogosphere" article in The Wayward Weblog of Matt Warren, software design engineer at Microsoft, C# compiler team, Matt states that he's tired of blogs that blog about blogging and RSS.

The post contains a user-generated comment: "It's just the old Ham Radio Effect...all they [ham radio enthusiasts] talk about is ham radio."

I don't know much about ham radio. So I decided to learn a little about it.


What Ham Radio Operators Do

According to eHam.Net's "What Hams Do" page, ham radio operators engage in the following:

1. Talking with other ham radio operator friends locally.

2. DX -- which means Distant Communicating, having the equipment and licensing to communicate with ham radio operators all over the world.

3. Emergency and disaster communications.

4. Technical experimentation.

5. Contact contests (held on weekends).

6. Communicate with astronauts.

7. Digital ham radio communication over the internet.


The "Glog": Grandfather of the Blog

In fact, ham radio gave us one of the precursors to blogs. It was called the "glog" or "cyborg-log". In the wikipedia definition of weblogs, it is stated that "in the early 1980s ham radio had logs, called "glogs", which were personal diaries made using wearable computers."

Here's how Wikipedia defines the "glog":

"A CyborgLog (often abbreviated to 'glog) is a first-person recording of an activity, in which the person doing the recording is a participant in the activity. Examples of cyborglogs include recordings made by assistive technologies such as a visual memory prosthetic, or a seeing aid that links to remote computational or human elements. Although cyborglogs have a 30 year history dating back to wearable computers in the 1970s, modern technologies like cameraphones make it much easier to create cyborglogs in everyday life." [excerpt from more lengthy definition]


Broadband Over Electrical Power Lines

As an somewhat OT (Off Topic) sidenote, I stumbled upon a reference to a threat to ham radio: Broadband Power Line (BPL). I wrote about internet connections coming through electrical powerlines about a year ago in Geek.Com.

At Mr. Barrett.com, in the post "Ham Radio and BPL" of March 10, 2004, broadband over [electrical] power lines is described as being heavily promoted by the FCC, while it actually may render useless ham radio, Voice of America, FEMA communications, and air traffic control transmissions.


So...Are Blogs the New [Frivolous Variety] Ham Radio?

Well, I've had a little glimpse into some beneficial, non-frivolous activities of ham [amateur, non-commercial] radio. I've seen how some Main Stream Media people attack blogs and ham radio and stamp collecting.

And I've seen how "frivolous" variety ham radio may exist, but charitable and emergency ham radio does a lot of good for this world.

Remember CB radios, the walkie-talkies of truckers?

Operators used code names, which they called "handles" and they developed an esoteric, insider language that was trendy for a while.

This was back in the 1970s, while much of rock music rapidly lost its innovation and creativity, as reflected in the fact that FM radio stations played songs like "Free Bird", "More Than a Feeling", and "Cold as Ice" fifteen million times a day. Local bands began to shunned in favor of mass market artists.

At any rate, communications technology, it seems to me, goes through distinct and rather predictable phases.

Technically-inclined innovators develop a new form of communication. It's an underground phenomenon for a while. Since the operation of these new tools requires specialized knowledge and skills, when the general public becomes aware of those who have this training, the public often teases or even mocks this"inside group" of specialists.

But if and when the new technology becomes simpler, more affordable, and more accessible to the mainstream, it may also become trendy. People want to jump on the bandwagon, because "everybody's doing it."

Eventually, the trend peaks, and the public loses interest in the activity in favor of some new trend.

Then the activity reverts back to the specialists and hardcore, deeply committed devotees again, or takes its place in the common experience of everyday life.

Some are, in greater or less degree, supplanted by better technologies, e.g. pony express vs. air mail, or telegraph vs. telephone.

We'll have to wait to see if email supplants postal mail as far as letters are concerned.

People who like to "Talk Just To Hear Themselves Talk" will clutter and clog every new form of communication for a while.

Then, at some point, they'll abandon it and go off jabbering through some newer communication tool.

But, then again, they probably aren't hurting anyone or anything by jabbering on and on.

So let's appreciate the good things that are accomplished by bloggers, CB, and ham radio operators. Let's dig around and discover the ways they have helped in emergencies, disasters, and other human suffering.

KB6NU

For more information about ham radio, and for a terrific example of a good, well designed blog, visit the KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog at:

http://blurty.com/~kb6nu

Dan ("KB6NU")responded to my email discussion list announcement (see how techie he is? he's all over the technological map, what a guy!) about my Blog Pro Survey.

He promptly and kindly (what did I tell you about how kind ham radio operators tend to be?) completed my survey, and now I plan to include his ham radio blog in my book tentatively entitled: "Secrets of the Blogging Pros."

To learn more about the book and the survey, visit:

http://www.blogpros.blogspot.com

Dan also runs a cool online bookstore called Quality Technical Books, for "QEs, EEs, and Amateur Radio Operators" at:

http://www.qtb.com

Be sure to check out both of Dan's sites today.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blog Blotching

*****


selfishness, cause of emptiness (from "the causes of suffering" tathagata series, copyright 2004 by steven streight) Posted by Hello

BLOG BLOTCHING

With millions of blog sites available to view, we must all become skilled at detecting Blog Blotching.

Blog Blotching is about as polite as I can describe the untrustworthy, inept, self-serving, and outright malicious blogs that haunt the web.

"blotch" = 1. a discolored patch or eruption on the skin. 2. any large, irregular blot or stain. (Webster's New World Dictionary)

Blog Blotching means the blog author has "stained, smudged, polluted" the blog by commiting a blatant violation of usability, courtesy, or credibility.

No blog is perfect.

All blogs have limitations imposed by the author's technical expertise, the host site, and the blogging software being used, among other factors.

I'm not saying all blogs must please me.

I'm not saying all blogs must be have the same features, or that all blogs must slavishly follow all my guidelines.

Blog Blotching refers to what seems to be deliberate malpractice or willful negligence(third paragraph under "Revolutionary Nanotech Products" subhead). The "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" or "ship shoddy now, improve it later" approach advocated by Guy Kawasaki in Rules for Revolutionaries.

If you think I'm joking or over-reacting, think again.

See my "Lightning Strikers Manifesto" at:

http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com/
2005/02/lightning-strikers-manifesto.html

Check out some of the mediocre blogs that now exist.

It almost seems, in some cases, like sleazy con artists and spammers have decided to start blogs. Blotched Blogs, that is,

It's not hard to find these Blotched Blogs. But I won't tell you how to quickly get to them, because I don't want to drive traffic to these sites. That would just encourage them.


Some Common Varieties
of Blog Blotching:



1. No "About Me" page.


What are they hiding? If you don't know who is the author or founder of the blog, why visit it?

No one is willing to take responsibility for the contents. The blog is anonymous, cold, alien, a mysterious stranger lurking in the cyber-shadows. No specific name is provided as the author. Therefore, it has no credibility.

A nameless blog is creepy. It's similar to getting an unsigned letter. Or a phone message on your answering machine, from an unnamed voice that you don't recognize.

2. "About Me" page is out of sync with blog contents.

The "About Me" page is impressive. You respect the firms where this person has had grand titles and responsiblities. He has been a keynote speaker at many prestigious events. All his ducks are in a row. Everything seems fantastic. Great accomplishments. Big names dropped here and there.

But...the blog is loaded with amateurish graphics, poorly written content, merely linking to other resources with little commentary, or other things seem out of whack. Something doesn't add up here.


3. Blogroll is restricted.


The blogroll, I mean, that list of "Blogs I'm Reading" or "External Resources", the collection of other blogs, usually running down the left or right side column, that blogroll is restricted.

In other words, if this is a Blogitup.com blog (I just made up a hypothetical company name), all the blogroll blogs are also and exclusively Blogitup.com blogs. This makes me think the blogger is a partner with the Blogitup.com company and doesn't want anyone going to any other blogs.

A restricted blogroll is a violation of the purpose of linking. Links are to direct users to reliable relevant content, not to your friends who also link to you (reciprocal linking) or only to blogs in which you have a financial interest.

4. Sleazy "Sponsored Links."

This is about as bad as it gets.

Everything seems fine, until you suddenly notice that the blog is crawling with sleazy Sponsored Links. At first, it looked like a new form of spam: Sponsored Link Spam.

Here are some the dubious, inappropriate "Sponsored Links" that were found in the right hand column of an alleged "new journalism" type blog, that contains stories on media events and news:

* Casino Games
* Best Online Casinos
* Poker Online
* Payday Loan
* Online Bingo
* Home Equity Loans
* Prescription Drugs
* Sports Handicapping
* Consolidate Credit Card Debt
* Party Poker Bonus Code
* Texas Holdem
* Fast Cash Loans
* No Download Casino Gambling
* Online Payday Loans Cash Advance

...and more.

So here we have a person who has apparently legitimate content on his blog, then turns around and loads it up with questionable, detrimental, or undignified "make a quick buck" type links.


5. No email address is listed, and site contact form is broken.

Maybe they had recurring avalanches of spam email, so they refuse to publish their email address. But no worry--there's a "Contact Us" page, you click/select it, and are greeted with a "hidden email" web contact form. The "From:" text entry box really wants your email address, but you don't know that, and type in your name. Rejected. You go back to the contact form, which is blank now. You re-type your message, type in your email address in the "From:" box, and press Submit button.

Later, when you check your email, you see an "Undeliverable" message regarding the contact form mail you sent.

Result? The blog is "uncontactable" and thus, loses all credibility and value.


6. No monitoring of comment spam.


You read a blog post. You enjoy it. You feel like adding your own comment to the post. But when you click/select "Comments", you're greeted with a few legitimate user comments, and a long series of what is obviously blog comment spam, probably deposited by a non-human string of code "spambot".

Result? Since the blog author has no concern for the quality and legitimacy of user-generated content (comments), the relevance and value of the site decreases, along with its credibility and appearance of professionalism.

Comment spam boosts results page ranking on search engines, for the spammer.

Comment spam pollutes a blog's content.

A professional, serious blog will delete comment spam immediately and routinely.


7. Isolated Island Blog: No blogroll. No hypertext links in the content. No commenting enabled.

When a blog has no blogroll, it ought to make you wonder: why do they not recommend resources for further exploration?

When a blog has no hypertext links in the content (articles, posts), it ought to make you wonder: why does the author ramble on without providing any substantiating evidence or examples or references? (Hypertext links are a blog's "footnotes".)

When a blog has no user comment posting function, it may mean the author had a lot of trouble with comment spam, and in frustrated resignation, just withdrew that function.

I can't think of any other reason why a blog author would not want to allow users to add comments. If there were too many irrelevant comments? Too many flame wars of users attacking each other? Too many abusive comments, filthy language, unfair assertions?

But when a blog seems to be cold, detached from user comments and the blogosphere itself, when it seems to be an isolated island, this could be a symptom of arrogance or apathy toward users.


8. Chat Room Abbreviation/Teen Talk Blogs.

If teenagers start these to talk secretly with friends, I'm not going to go on the warpath against them and raise a hundred kinds of hell.

But I thought I'd mention them as "blotchy" because rather than being merely private code talk, they may indicate the author really can't spell or speak correctly.

You know you've landed on a Chat Room Abbreviation/Teen Talk Blog when the content is written with such conventions as:

TEEN TALK

"sumtink" = something
"sowie" = sorry
"tomolo" = tomorrow
"fwenz" = friends
"skewl" = school
"gd nyd" = good night
"aite" = all right
"bin" = been
"tt" = that
"tts" = that's
"dae" = day
"cuzin" = cousin
"lub" = love
"juz" = just
"wif" = with
"n" = and
"gd" = god, good

CHAT ABBREVIATIONS

ADN any day now
AFAIK as far as I know
AS another subject
ATSL along the same line
AYOR at your own risk
BTW by the way
OT off topic
WOT way off topic
WOTAM waste of time and money
ESAD eat sh** and die
HHIS hanging head in shame
IBTD I beg to differ
FWIW for what it's worth

...and so on, LALOT (loads and loads of them).

Plus you can make them up as you go along, if you want to be mysterious, and share them only with your "fwenz".

For an example of this type of "blotching" (from my POV, but teens may love it), see:

Shazie's Blog

http://www.shazana.blogspot.com

A real problem with this blog, besides the language, vacuity, and falling snowflakes ("innocent tears" from Blogskins), is the insidious manner in which the cursor of my browser is disabled.

When I try to mouse click such functions at the top, like "Blogger.com", "Start Your Own Blog" or "Next Blog", nothing happens. I've tried clicking at every angle, every slightly askew position on the links, but nope, nothing.

Shazana is attempting to make her blog a "mouse trap": one from which there is no escape, she doesn't want visitors to leave, which any right-minded web surfer will want to do within 1.17 seconds.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blog Success Tips 1 - 10

*****


"lissome"Posted by Hello


Tips 1 - 10

(1.) CONTENT: Distinctive, frequently updated, relevant, credible, well written, idiosyncratic (your unique "voice"), practical, funny, bold, profound, unusual.

(In accordance with your target audience, industry, specialty, and personal style.)

Ignore the prevailing wisdom about "hurried, spontaneous, faulty grammar, poorly written" posts. Correct all typos, misspellings, mangled URLs, and other errors. Revise. Update. Edit. Polish. Make your blog posts as perfect as possible.

For 18 vital aspects of web (or blog) content, please see:

http://vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com/
2005/01/characteristics-of-web-site-content.html

Try to keep sentences and paragraphs *short*.

When you read your posts, don't be shy or timid about revising them, chop those dense, unscannable paragraphs into mental bite-sized chunks.

Go ahead and use ALL CAPS once in a while, especially if you have no easy way to make some text bold or emphasized.

Sometimes you have a right to SHOUT from the rooftops. Sometimes all caps is a good way to signify a sub-head, warning, or important key statement. If you do use all caps, keep it for one, two, or three word subheads.

All Caps Sentences are ridiculous, very hard and tiring to read, and basically ineffective: never do that. I've seen entire long paragraphs, mostly in blog comments or online discussion forums, that were all caps. Looks really stupid.

Then again, the prefered use of *asterisks* seems clunky and weird to me, though I use them now and then.

Blog about what you know, and, especially in business blogs, go easy on the private, exhibitionistic, confessional, excruciatingly intimate and mundane details of your life. A little personal revelation goes a long way.

I don't go to a business blog wondering, "What does this marketing expert like to eat? What movies does he love the most?"

I go to a business blog wondering, "How can I increase traffic to my client's web site? How can I write more effective emails, especially the Subject: lines? How can I acquire more clients for my services?" and so forth.

Mentioning your hobby, favorite music, preferences in food, etc. is okay once in a while. But I've seen business, marketing, and software blogs where personal details overwhelm the blog, and thus, I derive almost no practical insight into matters of true professional importance. So please don't go gushing your guts out all the time in a business-oriented blog. Thanks.

Write like you talk, but a little better. Writing gives you the chance to edit, revise, improve, which is not really done much when speaking. Imagine someone constantly correcting, erasing, respeaking his or her spoken statements.

Be yourself and a little bit of someone else: the mentor you admire, the teacher who got you started, the pundit you enjoy the most. Great writers were heavily influenced by other great writers, their contemporaries or those who came before them.

"Yourself" is NOT enough. Go beyond the limitations of your puny ego. Expand, explore, evaluate, assimilate. Do not imitate, but emulate and promulgate.

(2.) BLOGOSPHERE: Link to and interact with other bloggers.

Read other blogs.

Write posts on your blog about posts you've read on other blogs (Jennifer Rice at "What's Your Brand Mantra?" blog) reminded me of this important, but overlooked, technique.)

Leave intelligent, relevant, interesting, funny, appreciative, radical, shocking, affirmative, diplomatic comments at other blogs.

Increase the value of other blogs by adding rich user-generated content to them. Be altruistic.

Avoid leaving your own blog post URLS (links to specific articles on your blog), even when relevant. It looks spammy and desperate. Do it once in a while, but very seldom.

Most blogs enable you to embed your blog URL in your name with your comment post. Let that be sufficient most of the time.

(3.) LITERATURE: Read good, classic literature: Proust, Dickens, Twain, White, Hawthorne, Borges, Goethe, Kerouac, Pynchon, O. Henry, Poe, Rilke, Rimbaud, etc. Read difficult material to stretch your brain.

Read good business books, especially leadership and marketing titles. Seth Godin, Tom Peters, W. Edwards Deming, Peter Drucker, Harvey MacKay, etc.

(4.) COMMENTS FUNCTION: Enable comments, at least for relatively recent posts. Jump into the comment threads and comment on the comments. This will make your blog seem more personal and interactive.

Monitor your blog. Quickly catch and delete every whiff of irrelevant, trite, insincere, URL mongering, page rank boosting, con job promoting, credibility-reducing instances of comment spam.

Consider ways to combat and prevent Comment Spam: moderation and delayed posting of comments, captchas, closing comments on older posts, required registration, etc.

(5.) BLOG SPAM: Watch out for RSS feed spam, Trackback spam, "email this article to a friend" spam, guestbook spam, etc.

(6.) MORE POSTING: Post comments on discussion lists, bulletin boards, online forums, web sites, etc.: mainly those online resources that are about your specialty, interest, or expertise.

Post good information and relevant links on them. Answer questions, mention brief anecdotes, or pose thoughtful challenges to prevailing wisdom.

(7.) URL UBIQUITY: Put your blog title and URL on everything.

On all promotional, advertising, marketing, and corporate material: tee shirts, coffee mugs, pens, calendars, ball caps, television commercials, print ads, email signatures, letterhead, packaging, owner's/instruction manuals, every blasted thing. Even posters and morale booster trinkets in the office.

(8.) SELF-EDUCATION: Keep improving your knowledge of blogs, blogging software, computer security, writing, blogosphere, emerging tech trends, marketing, business, whatever your specialty or expertise is.

This will help ensure that you'll have something interesting to say and be able to post frequently on your blog and on other online resources.

(9.) BLOGROLL LOGISTICS: People may judge your blog by who is on your blogroll.

If you have no blogroll, your blog might seem claustrophobic, closed in on itself, self-centered, afraid of visitors leaving and finding a better blog to become loyal to, or arrogant and self-impressed, even out of touch with the rest of the blogosphere.

Consider adding relevant blogs, plus blogs that may be irrelevant, but fun or enlightening.

Monitor these blogs, make sure you still endorse them, check for link rot (URL no longer leading to blog, blog deleted, etc.).

Too many blogs makes a blogroll seem like reciprocity out of control ("I'll blogroll your blog if you'll blogroll my blog") and possibly just a ploy of little value. Users cannot go to 50 blogs every day.

Too few blogs makes a blogroll seem inadequate, restricted to a clique (blogs of friends only, no outsiders), or simply out of touch with the blogosphere.

I also think it's a good idea to give a brief, one to four word description of blogs that others may not be familiar with, so users can quickly get some idea of what each blog is about, and whether they might want to check it out.

Blogrolls with lots of names only, never any descriptions, seem like a laundry list that I don't have time to check one by one.

(10.) HYPERTEXT LINKING: Make some words or phrases hot links that users can click/select to travel to other pages of your blog, or to other, external internet resources.

Not having any hypertext links in any posts may communicate to users that you are not willing or able to do research and document your statements. Blogs are part of the web which is a network of hypertext linked documents, graphics, and interactive functionalities. No blog should appear to be an isolated island.

Do not use IntelliTXT hypertext content spam, where a "text link", when clicked/selected, causes a pop-up window or tool tip to appear, with an advertisement in it, and leads users to a paid sponsor.

This IntelliTXT type of hypertext content spam is a counter-productive violation of objective, credible information practices on the web. It will surprise, confuse, and probably offend many users.

The convention of hypertext linking is to link to good, relevant, reputable, safe, non-spyware attaching, non-spoofed sites.

Including paid hypertext links to sponsor sites will downgrade the entire realm of hypertext systems, thus causing damage to the integrity and true usefulness of the web as a whole.


(11.) to (257.) ... [sorry, top secret, for clients only, pull out your wallet]

For Whom the Blog Tolls: Death of MSM

*****


you understand what's happening, but you don't know what's going on Posted by Hello

[See UPDATE EDIT 2-13-2005 at bottom of this post for info on resignation of Eason Jordan of CNN and the role of bloggers.]


It's becoming clearer every passing day.

The Main Stream Media (MSM) is dying, and it's death spasms are hideously grotesque.

Not all Main Stream Media outlets are diseased and decomposing. But it's painfully obvious which ones have collapsed through sheer weight of deception, incompetence, and negative points of view.


DECEPTION
: Manufacturing news stories where none exist...or where the truth is contrary to their bias.

For example:
Early reports on the Iraq elections by CNN, showing old footage of insurgent attacks, blood and bombings, with people grieving in the streets. Wishful thinking? This was total untruth, while there was some disruption by insurgents, CNN had to create a gruesome fairy tale of blood and gore where none existed.

Don't tell me they felt compelled to "report on what has happened and might happen again."They must hate peace, harmony, courage, and success in anything that runs contrary to their POV. Screw them, I say. I don't care what they think: CNN stinks.

INCOMPETENCE: Rathergate. Need I say more?

Malcolm Muggeridge once said, "News is old things happening to new people."

I would re-state that as: "Main Stream Media news is [often enough] bad things happening that aren't bad and aren't happening."

Someone else said, I seem to recall it was on C-SPAN, one of the outlets that is vigorously healthy from incorporating left, right, middle, and non-partisan perspectives:

"If you hear negative news reports about a situation somewhere in the world, then silence, no reports at all, you can safely assume that things are going well, the problem was successfully solved, the situation is stable and pacified. Hence, the Main Stream Media refuse to report on it. They abhor good news."


NEGATIVE POINTS OF VIEW: Now we're back to the early coverage of the Iraq elections, and you can add basically any news story you wish.

You can even see grim consternation on the faces of television news reporters when something actually goes well somewhere in the world, and they have to cover it.

Watch how desperately they search for negative needles in the haystack of good news.

Listen to them pathetically attempt to throw cold water on any enthusiasm for positive reporting: "...but observers state that things may not continue so well, since [blah blah blah]." It's formulaic, applied to all news reports.

Anti-Blog Bias

And now we have Michael Standaert in a Los Angeles Times book review, dated February 11, 2005.

http://www.latimes.com

His review, entitled "Less Reformation, more refraction," in discussing Hugh Hewitt's book BLOG, states this ridiculuously biased and false report:

Though at times Hewitt makes important points about how blogs have kept scandals such as Rathergate and Sen. Trent Lott's flub over Strom Thurmond's segregationist past in the public eye, his fanatical fervor leads him down the path of triumphalist bombast.

Without traditional media to feed off of, there would be little for most political bloggers to link to and comment on. Certainly the emergence of blogs and blogging as public watchdogs of media is beneficial to correcting inconsistencies, fabrications and outright lies. But Lott's and Rather's own miscues and ethical lapses were what ultimately brought them down — not bloggers. It was up to USA Today, part of that liberal mainstream media, to uncover the scandal that journalist Armstrong Williams was being paid by the Department of Education to talk up the federal "No Child Left Behind" program — not bloggers.

The other fallacy is that blogging will supplant mainstream media and that the emergence of blogs will be similar to the outcome the invention of the printing press had on furthering the Reformation by giving common folk access to the Bible in their own languages. There are cases to be made about how the blogging revolution will change mainstream media habits and dissemination, but unfortunately Hewitt's "independent" position advocates right-wing, corporate or advertisement blogging and not independence as such.


Er...has the honorable illuminary, saint Michael Standaert ever actually visited any political or journalist blogs, on the right or the left?

I want to make it clear, I do not give a flying fig about politics. I think politics is for people who are scared of psychology. They seek to discuss society at large, due to habitual avoidance of individual psychopathology.

Anyway, bloggers are discussing the demise of the Main Stream Media a lot LESS than the narcissistic media zombies think. The focus is not on them. There are actual large-scale problems the right and left political-journalist bloggers are addressing.

It's unfair to right, left, and middle political spectrum bloggers to say they link to and comment on, primarily, the foibles of the "traditional media".

I'm so accustomed to reading blogs, I was actually startled that after reading dumb ass Michael Standaert's ignorant assessment of Hugh Hewitt's book, I discovered I could not make a comment on the review.

"Where's the Post a Comment on This Story function?!?!" I mumbled to myself in an irritated tone of mental voice.

"Oh, I forgot, the Main Stream Media doesn't like interaction or input from readers, unless it's a paltry letter or two, carefully snipped and controlled."

To not be able to voice my opinion seemed arrogant of the online version of this newspaper.

Adios, MSM.

Bob Dylan never had many compliments for traditional media.

Check out this lyric from song "Idiot Wind" in LP recording BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (copyright 1974 CBS, Inc.):

Idiot Wind
blowing every time
you move your mouth,
blowing down the back roads
heading south.

Idiot Wind
blowing through
the bowels of the tombs,
blowing through
the curtains in your rooms.

Idiot Wind
blowing every time
you move your teeth.
You're an Idiot Wind.
It's a wonder that
you still know how to breathe.


Hear that bell tolling the death knell?

Wake up Main Stream Media.

You're an Idiot Wind.

It's time for your funeral.



[UPDATE EDIT 2-13-2005]

From CNN.com
CNN Reliable Sources program
"Eason Jordan Resigns"
Aired 2-13-2005 at 11:30 ET

http://transcripts.cnn.com/
TRANSCRIPTS/0502/13/rs.01.html

CNN.com states (in shouting all caps):

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS
FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

I like this though. I often do the same, like I did with this UPDATE EDIT. I often update, revise, correct, add links to my blog posts.


Here's a segment of the transcript, in which the discussion is on the resignation of CNN's Eason Jordan, how he lied about U.S. military troops "targeting" (i.e., shooting with guns and killing) MSM journalists), how bloggers are destroying the MSM, and related issues:

JARVIS: We didn't fire him [Eason Jordan], the bloggers. CNN did. I agree it doesn't fit the crime, because we don't know the crimes that are in CNN's heart here. Something else happened here that we don't know. The story's not over. We have to see that transcript from Davos. There's no reason for that to be hidden still, and CNN has to realize that they have to tell us more of what's going on.

The problem here is that by just asking for the truth, knocking at the doors of the news temple and saying, tell us what's go on, we're being portrayed as a lynch mob. We're not. We're citizens wanting to know the truth. It used to be the job of journalists to report that. So let's get to the truth, let's get to the facts. I think if Jordan had come right out and said, I'm sorry, I blew it, I was wrong, I didn't mean to say that, he wouldn't have made any more friends that he has now, but he still would be at his job.

KURTZ: Bill Press, let me just briefly touch on the substance. Did Eason Jordan have a point but used the wrong words, in the sense that there have been instances of military overzealousness, for example, the U.S. shelling of the Palestine hotel, a known haven for international journalists where two were killed? There have been incidents like that that have certainly been troubling to the people in the media.

PRESS: I believe he simply misspoke. I think what he was trying to say, having come back from Baghdad is, look, this is dangerous territory, there are 63 journalists who have been killed -- either killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or they happened to get caught in the crossfire, or they were mistaken for the enemy.

I do not believe that the United States military targets or would ever target American or any other journalist. At the same time, I have to admit I didn't think we'd ever torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib either.

KURTZ: OK, David Gergen.

GERGEN: I just want to say, I agree with Jeff Jarvis on one fundamental point, and that is the bloggers serve an enormously important purpose as citizens in a town square asking for more accountability from people in power. I think that is a valuable role to play in our society. In this case, I have to say, Jeff, while there were bloggers who were simply getting at the truth, I think there was also a quality of vigilante justice building up among some of the bloggers who wanted his head.

JARVIS: You got a good point there. There were two issues for this with the bloggers. One is CNN's history with covering this war and the military in general. And the second was Jordan's own history here. And yes, there were some who just don't like him and nothing would make them like him. But those of us who wrote -- I wrote about this on my blog as a media story, because it is.

KURTZ: OK. I'm going to...

JARVIS: I think today "The New York Times" is very embarrassed that they didn't write about it beforehand.

KURTZ: I'm going to let you expand on that when we turn to our next part of the discussion.

Another resignation driven by bloggers just this week. Jeff Gannon, an openly conservative reporter writing for two Web sites, TalonNews and the clearly partisan GOPUSA.com, drew fire after asking President Bush this inaccurate and somewhat loaded question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J.D. "JEFF GANNON" GUCKERT, TALON NEWS: Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines, and Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Gannon quit after liberal bloggers revealed his real name and his registration of several sexually provocative online Web addresses that he never turned into Web sites. Gannon, who said he and his family were being harassed, defended his work on CNN's "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."



VTG CONCLUSION:

The Main Stream Media (MSM) is a joke and seems to have a self-immolating death wish.

Arrogant idiots in the MSM keep standing up, proclaiming a blatant lie, drawing attention to themselves as con men, then getting slaughtered by the blogosphere.

Are the MSM journalists suicidal?

Do they want the blogosphere to put them out of their misery?

MSM: wake up and smell the coffin.

Computer Interactions With the External World

*****


two spiritual cowboys in the metaphorical city Posted by Hello

Computer Interactions with the External World


The Next Big Thing, beyond blogs, wikis, podcasting, and "communications" in general?

That's easy.

It's Computer Interactions With the External World.

No, not "ubicomp" or ubiquitous computing, meaning "computers everywhere", where computers are embedded into wallpaper variations, refrigerators, and bathtubs, although that's part of it.

But that usually refers to you interacting with computerized appliances at home or in public. We already have plenty of that.

I mean being able to perform remote operations, like magic, or the exercise of faith. In fact this mimics the operation of faith or positive thinking coming into concretion, but in the cyber realm.

I refer more specifically to selective, strategic impact on the external world, including nature herself, from your personal computer.

Beyond just interacting with users, with visitors to our web sites and blogs and wikis, is the ability to interact with nature, neighbors, friends, relatives, manufacturers, and the medical/health realm.

A negative example of this, to my mind, is virtual hunting. You can now shoot and kill a deer from the comfort of your own home at your Personal Computer.

What would be some positive examples of this?

I'm looking into it and will report later.

As usual, I will also Edit, Update, and Revise this particular post, to the chagrin of blog purists who forbid such fussy activity.

For now, let me just say that "interactivity" was a ball that many web sites dropped. The blogs picked up this ball and enabled users to post comments.

Wikis came along and enabled users to edit, add to, or even delete entire pages of a web site, not just comment on an author's statements. (While wiki administrators retained the right and ability to revert back to original content, if they decide the edit was unwarranted or cyber vandalism.)

And now, the "interactivity" is being focused on a much larger realm than users and online visitors.

Now we are interacting with the environment, nature, humanity in general, perhaps the universe itself.

Put your future glasses on, and get ready to literally change the world and what's in it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Blogs and Free Speech

*****


self portrait 3 Posted by Hello


Blogs and Free Speech


Amy Gahran, in her Contentious blog, alerted her readers to the controversy regarding how free a blogger's speech can or should be...especially when they are employed by a company.

See the article "Circumspect Blogging" for her perspective:
http://blog.contentious.com/
archives/2005/04/circumspect-blogging

The question arises: "Can a blogger be fired for writing something the boss dislikes, on their personal blog, a blog not associated with the company for which they work?"

Or is a personal blog part of the blogger's private life, like his or her sex life or taste in music?

My opinion after thinking about it for a few minutes?

I think personal blogs are part of the public sphere. You have a right to say anything you want, but as with everything else in life, you also have to face the consequences of what you say.

I've probably lost business, when a prospect came to this blog and read something by Vaspers the Grate that really annoyed them, something they violently disagreed with, something that offended them, something that made them feel angry at me.

But that's the risk I'm willing to take.

I allow comments on this blog, to let people express disagreement if they so choose to do so. Maybe I'll learn something and change my mind. It happens. More often than you might think.

To whine about how "the company doesn't own my soul" is not realistic, nor does it seem relevant. The company you work for has a right to be upset if you prance naked downtown every Saturday afternoon waving a Nazi flag in the air.

I contributed comments regarding this interesting topic on a few blogs.

See "Who Owns Your Words, Blogger?" by Dave Taylor at his Intuitive Systems blog:
http://www.intuitive.com/blog/
who_owns_your_words_blogger.html

Also see "Walking the Fine Line When Blogging" by Thomas Duff at his Duffbert's Random Musings blog, which is focused primarily, but not exclusively, on IBM/Lotus Notes and Domino software:
http://hostit1.connectria.com/
twduff/home.nsf/plinks/TDUF-69A6SH

Here's what I posted to Duffy's blog (the first blog I've ever seen that featured a Manual Trackback form!):

[START COMMENT]

Think about how a ruthless competitor could find out which employees at a company have a personal blog (*not* an official corp-employee blogs where blogger blogs as representative of the company)....

...then, when ruthless competitor discovers an inflammatory, controversial, or weird statement, uses that against the company.

Call it "Blog Espionage".

E.g.,Ruthless Competitor to Undecided Potential Customer: "An employee over at XYZ Corporation has a personal blog, and it he repeatedly states that he hates red ants. That's insect racism. Thus, XYZ is full of wackos. You don't want to do business with wackos, do you?"

How about the reverse scenario: the CEO of the company at which you work has a personal, non-corporate blog. In his blog, he writes about how he hates Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, blacks, Hispanics, women, and birds.

You then decide, based on your CEOs personal blogging, that you no longer wish to work for his company and help his business succeed.

[END OF COMMENT]