The Idea Dude


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The year of small biz ads

According to Businessweek, this may well be the year of small biz ads. It's always a challenge for small businesses to launch online advertising campaigns because they lack both the expertise and money to get the maximum bang for their buck. With large retailers with deep pockets buying up popular words and search phrases, it is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming to find the niche words that are cheap and effective. Often it takes weeks if not months to fine tune your ad strategy which goes beyond just buying a couple of words. It's finding which words are condusive to click-throughs and when users do click what do they do on your site. No question, it's an art and many marketing/advertising companies make their living doing this. Again, small business can neither afford such services nor have the time to figure out what sticks and what doesn't.

Smacks of the long tail emerging in the ad space. As a technology becomes popular, the biggest and the richest are able to exploit it better than others creating imbalances and disparities in usage and benefits. Google and eBay (with their Skype acquisition) are starting to look at exploiting the long tail of small businesses through a relatively new and emerging twist called click-to-call. Instead of clicking through to a website that many small businesses cannot afford or have no time to maintain, the click makes a direct call to the business. The benefits are to both the consumer and the business. For the consumer, it means getting answers quickly without having to search and read numerous webpages. For the business, it is a direct engagement with the consumer. Couple this with location-aware advertising, you could end up calling your grocery store down the road about a special you just saw or use the coupon that's just been offered.

Given that 5-10% of the any long tail usually accounts for 50% of product (whether it is traffic, revenue, etc), saturation of the top minority means that the other 50% becomes more attractive. However the key is controlling cost and scaling because as the paradigm suggests, the long tail is traditionally extremely thin and inefficient.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Your Valentine killer line...

My son, Nick, wants to be a philospher when he grows up. I didn't think much of it until I saw his IM handle (kids don't put their names anymore, it's the cool saying of the day). He was inspired by something and authored the following byline. (Note: if you want to impress someone on Valentine's Day, this is what you should put on your card.)

"I wanna be your tear drop... born in your eyes... live on your cheek... and die on your lips"


I never expected so much sensitivity from a 14 year old boy. Methinks, he's going to break more than a few hearts when he grows up. Way to go Nick!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quite brilliant

I was over at Uninstalled (isn't that such a cool name for a blog? ok that was the geek within speaking) who commented on Seth Godin and Jean-Yves Stervinou's idea of making money out of "captchas". What are captchas? They are those images that contain fuzzy characters that you have to type in before submitting a form to deter bots from behaving like humans.

Their idea? replace the image of random characters with an image of a brand name like "Drink Coke". This is probably the first ad oriented idea I've seen that not only makes you look but reinforces the brand by making you type the byline or product name. Whether visitors are willing to do this or find this so offensive, the jury is still out. Nevertheless as a different idea in a mass of web conformity, it is simply quite brilliant.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Out of sight, out of mind

Heard on the radio this week, that a survey taken revealed that 61% of people who telecommute regularly are negatively impacted when considered for promotions. It's a chilling fact for software developers, many (if not the majority) tend to be cut from the reclusive cloth i.e. they enjoy their own company and are quite happy to potter around the computer without any apparent need for physical human interaction. My observation happened to coincide with a conversation with an day trader who spent 8 hours a day looking at stock markets. He mentioned he missed the social aspect of working with people or on a team even though he did speak to other people during the day. I remember a while back someone undertook the experiment of staying at home and out of touch with the world for a whole month. Beyond greeting the grocery deliveryman at the door and the pizza guy, he was removed from all human contact. The result... it is absolutely possible to exist in isolation, it was also very evident that at the end of the experiment, he craved one thing more than anything else, social interaction.

I wondered if this was the fundamental driver behind Web 2.0 and the emergence of social networks as a natural reaction to a clinical internet highway. Email and IM while important, did not satisfy our need to connect at different levels, especially on an informal basis. The attraction of a cluttered MySpace homepage made it all the more human and in fact there is an opinion circulated that your blog and website should not look too clean and professional because it is perceived as uninviting and impersonal.

It also made me think whether people actually looked for facts when in fact what they desired was opinion. For example, when shopping for car, you could get all the details from the manufacturer but more often than not what you wanted was the opinion of current or past owners and the problems they experienced. And should the opinion come from a seemingly trusted or well-followed blog, all the better, it absolves us from having to take what may be risky decision. The adage, "no-one was fired for buying IBM" is perhaps indicative of a common human trait of being risk averse and should something go wrong, we can always point to someone else and say, "he made me do it."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The devil's in the details

It's true, never more so in software. Brainstorm concept (30 mins over noodles), prototype (1 day), getting to release (5+ days). It's not a new concept, Tealeaf and I live it everyday. It's the tiny details that take 80% of the sweat, it could be getting the look and feel of a new page right, the regular expression that won't co-operate, that elusive piece of open source code that doesn't make any sense, the compiler error that defies explanation and before you know it, the sun is down and it's another day. We've just added comments to our blog and opened up our forums, seemingly simply things to do but still took us a good couple of days to do it right, like making sure the pictures of our members are displayed prominently next to their comments and forum replies. Try it, I think you'll like it.

Despite the many books on software planning and management, shipping on time is still an art simply because 1+1 is never 2. You can't always blame it on poor skillsets, ineffective teams or bad estimates. The problem again and again is the one dagger that strikes just before you ship. The elusive bug that cannot be reliably reproduced, the performance figures that can't be improved, all these anomalies are due to complexity. Unless it's a 'hello world' program, most software projects have far more degrees of freedom than we realize. Complexity is what drives uncertainty and too many managers fail to understand that despite best efforts there are things that no human can foresee or control.

For small companies, using as much open source is a must, not because it is cheap, but because it has been tested and twisted more ways that you can imagine, security holes are discovered quickly and fixed and most importantly, if you have a question to ask, probably 10 other people have asked the same question before and 20 others have answered with various alternatives. It's a hard model to beat. So instead of spending your budget (both time and money) writing infrastructure, supporting modules, you can focus on building the layer that counts, the business layer.

And when all is said and done, to get that rave review from your fans...priceless.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kid in a candy store

Sometimes, we're overwhelmed by our own agility. Unlike bigger companies who have set agendas for at least 1-2 quarters, ours is a daily regime. I wouldn't want it any other way. The downside is I feel like a kid in a candy store, every feature out there looks cool. So we put out a request on our official blog reaching out to bloggers asking what makes them tick. In the end, as a small team, we have to have the discipline of doing what supports our vision which is to build a business that promotes bloggers. We'd love to hear from them, I eagerly await their responses.

For this quarter, our focus is on the brand of the blogger. I think we've done a great job at promoting content through our TGB network but after 6 months of complete immersion in the blogosphere, I believe the issue is not about traffic. Many will attest to the bump that a Digg event can do to their statistics, but pretty soon, they do subside to original totals which says to me, it's like passing out fliers at Vegas. It's not clear how many readers are 'return customers'. Bloggers too often believe that their content is their brand, but content is a commodity. While many will subscribe to your feed because they think you have something great to say, the ones that really comment and promote you to others do it because they feel some kind of connection or online relationship. The Mom blogs taught me that. Anecdotally, on average, I've seen more comments per Mom blogs entry than any other category. The marketing blogs taught me that if you want to have a brand, you have to create one, it doesn't magically appear.

We need to give bloggers a medium and a reason to collaborate, i.e. we need to jumpstart conversations rather than let it happen organically and when it does, help stitch together the conversation across blogs. Every party has a conversation catalyst, the guy who starts off a topic that everyone proceeds to extend and embellish. Too many conversations are like hubs, started by an A-lister or B-lister and everyone refers to it. Yet conversations should be networks, not hubs, not trees. Our tagcloud should us these conversations do exist but they are like tiny flames that are need to fanned into raging dialogue.

We also need to give bloggers a way to add commentary in a very simple and informal way. Too often bloggers feel like that they have to have something worthwhile to say and spend too long between posts. They need to feel it's ok to say, "I'm having a great day!" or "I just saw the most amazing play". Sometimes the concept of the blog, it's power and reach stops us from expressing these real-world moments because we feel they are too short and have no literary value to our readers. But in fact, it is these thoughts that make us human, make us laugh and cry because it is real. Exploring MySpace makes you realize that conversation comes first and blogging second.

So was it the chocolate truffle or or the hazelnut praline? I can't decide...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

10 things to build corporate culture

I read Ben's post on Do you make happy with your co-workers?. I especially loved the comments. There are clearly people who go out of their way to help create better workplaces and be happiness catalyts. However, my legacy over the last decade has been to be thrust into pretty tough situations, to turn leaderless, demotivated tech teams around. I fared better in some situations than others, but I always learnt from each experience of what it takes to be a better colleague, mentor, manager, leader and employee.

The concept of happiness in the workplace as a topic bothered me not because it is a bad or unimportant topic but I don't believe it is the goal of a company to make employees happy. (At which point I'll probably get a thousand angry comments). And yes there is a subtle difference between this and Ben's post of 'making happy with your co-workers'. My point is if you do the right stuff that builds a great culture in a company, most of your employees will be happy (as a by-product) most of the time. Those who aren't perhaps shouldn't be there in the first place. Culture is a way of doing business, treating employees. It is pervasive and doesn't require a certain individual to be around before good things happen. Ergo, happiness isn't the responsibility of one person in a company because it removes the responsibility from each person on the team. Making people happy isn't the end-game either because it is the single biggest reason young and weak managers make wrong business decisions that in the end makes everyone a loser.

Building great cultures is part of the responsibility of the leadership in any company. Here are some that I try to do most of the time (I say most because like most mortals, I too forget or do the wrong thing under stress). Building culture is the process of getting everyone to buy into the same value system and make the necessary positive emotional investment into something that occupies 1/3 or more of their daily lives.

  • 1. Communicate: Lack of communication is the #1 culture killer. Keeping people in the dark is a no-no. Employees and team members want to know what you're thinking, where is the vision, how well we are doing, what are your challenges are. Communication is the key to transparency. For people to make emotional investments into your company, they must possess sufficient knowledge to cross that chasm.
  • 2. Engage: Communication isn't a one-way thing. It follows that it is important to engage your team by listening. Ensuring a constant dialog means that you have important feedback from people who do care about your company. Dialog also implies a constant two-way flow of ideas. The collective IQ is indeed greater than the sum of the individual employees and also of any single individual. Like Napoleon, practice the habit of eating with the troops, you'll learn more about your company in an informal context than at any company meeting.
  • 3. Respect: Be genuine about the input of each employee. You may not agree but they should know that their input and feedback is valued and seriously considered. In turn, they should respect your decision which may not be in line with their opinion because that's where the buck stops. Treat each person as a peer regardless of station or position. Respect also means that people will feel comfortable in sharing bad news or difficulties before it is too late. Working with integrity and being fair goes a long way in garnering respect.
  • 4. Recognize: Recognition is one of the most neglected activities. We fail to recognize achievement either because we are too busy, we feel it takes the limelight away from us or it make us vulnerable by letting an employee know they are important to our business. While, most people will say that they leave because of a better paying job, the deep-rooted, honest reasons are often because no-one recognized them as value-add contributors who made a difference. Offer genuine praise liberally where it is due. And it doesn't have to be an annual bonus or an announcement in a company letter, often a simple thank you in an email or comment in the hallway is more personal and has more impact. This is a practice that should not be relegated to management but practiced by all.
  • 5. Mentor - challenge, inspire, motivate: A source of unhappiness is malaise, especially amongst intelligent people. Their own happiness whether they know it or not is from achievement. Challenge people to exceed their own expectations. Help them identify and articulate goals that are consistent with corporate goals for a win-win situation. Help people understand that it is as important for them to grow as individuals.
  • 7. Trust: Learn to delegate and trust. Trust is based on several things, you hired well, you are aware of the team skills and limitations and communicate well what the company value system and goals are. The goals are important so that right decisions are made to achieve them, the value system is important because it reflects how decisions are made and how those goals are achieved.
  • 8. Love: Sweat the little things to let people know you care. Be the one that unexpectedly brings in the donuts and coffee for an important meeting. Pitch up at 10pm with snacks during that late night burn. Give people a day off for working on the weekend. Or the personalized rose and chocolates to all the female employees on Valentine's Day. Be careful about doing the same thing with regularity, what was a wonderful surprise becomes an entitlement.
    Tough love comes when you sometimes have to let someone go because even in their own unhappiness they do not have the courage to make that difficult decision choosing rather to remain and poison the minds of those around them. As I said, happiness is a personal choice, you can only create condusive environments and opportunities that encourage it.
  • 9. Environment: Pay attention to where and how people work. The convenience of a coffee machine, clean washrooms, (even the classic foosball table soon to be replace by the Nintendo Wii), ample workspace. Encourage family photos, fluffy toys, superhero figurines. i.e. let people define a space they feel is theirs and they are happy to live in 8 hours a day. It should be their home away from home.
  • 10. Smile: Probably the most important catalyst of all. It is your secret weapon. Being upbeat, hopeful and determined regardless of circumstance. Each person has the enormous power of defining the mood of the company. That smile, seemingly insignificant, could mean the difference between a good or bad day for someone else.

Wow, it wasn't meant to be a long post but I guess I cared more about it than I thought. Some companies err in that they emotionally abuse their employees by being cold, calculating and uncaring while others fail because they perhaps they cared too much, making poor business decisions that would ultimately everyone anyway.

People get up and go to work because it is a combination of renumeration, respect, fulfillment, fun and achievement. Building the right value system and culture ensures that it is never left to one individual but it is the collective effort of all who choose to participate. Those who don't should leave the building.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where is new media going?

Anyone who's seriously thinking about where the Internet is going should make Haydn Shaughnessy and Ian Delaney a regular part of their reading diet. You won't find news about the latest iPhone or what Mark Cuban is saying. What you will find are two people who ask a lot of questions about where traditional and new media is going. I found their daily commentary relevant because they do impact our thinking and direction for TheGoodBlogs.

Haydn's comment recently on content being no longer king because it is subsumed by connectivity was interesting. If you look at the recent acquisition of MyBlogLog by Yahoo, many pundits believe it was for the social connectivity they provided and not their statistical prowess which was their initial business premise. We've seen a similar trend here at TheGoodBlogs, while we are responsible for driving traffic amongst our members, what they generally gush over is their ability to discover new blogs. "I found you through TheGoodBlogs" is becoming a regular mantra. Before long, I see the same faces on MyBlogLog visitor rolls and in the comment sections on many blogs. Haydn was right, bloggers who succeed (from a readership point of view) are those who spend time connecting to their fellow bloggers. A prime example is Ben Yoskovitz who should be an inspiration to others. If you spend time reading Ben's blog, you never leave with an impression that it is Ben's blog but rather Ben's platform to showcase others. In my book, he is first and foremost a consummate 'connector' in the Gladwell's Tipping Point paradigm and secondly a great 'salesman' with over 300 links to his blog. But his own experience makes him a credible 'maven' as well.

Ian Delaney in one of his previous posts mentions where you can leave a short message pretty much about nothing. An interesting concept, because today's hustle and bustle, most have little time but read the first 256 characters that come from your keyboard. I can't help but believe that one day we'll have a mash up of blog meets wiki and adopts IM. To be sure, the line is going to be blurred and why not, is that not how our lives are? Not surprisingly, reality TV is on the rise in popularity. Amazing how many people will pay attention and make much ado about nothing...

So where do you think new media is going?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is that your iPhone or are you just pleased to see me?

Judging by our tagcloud at TheGoodBlogs, the world is abuzz with the iPhone offering from Apple. Who can blame them, Apple once again introduces another object of desire. With a 3.5 inch wide screen, it is more like a PocketPC than a phone. If it were anyone else, they would be the laughing stock of the industry. As manufacturers like Nokia, Motorola fight over who has the smallest and thinnest phone, Steve Jobs makes you salivate over a gadget that would probably not fit most pockets. But then if you can afford it, you can afford a new shirt.

The legend goes that when Sony first introduced the Walkman, they were too big and bulky to put into your top pocket. The marketing geniuses manufactured larger shirts for their sales folk so that the device would fit. I can imagine all the phone manufacturers and Apple stores issuing custom shirts and trousers... a preview for this spring's fashion trend. Perhaps, iBags will be the next big accessory. The factories in Asia must be so excited at the new opportunities.

A great segway to the picture I created for today's post. At first glance, the iPhone looked vaguely familiar like an old friend. Then the aha moment came, my trusty Dell Axim, had curves not unlike the new phone. At this moment I'm probably going to risk the wrath of all the Apple fans, comparing the new generation phone to an old computing device. But check out the picture and tell me there isn't some similarity both in looks and format. The question I then asked was smartphones like the iPaq hosting Windows Mobile has been around for quite some time. So the iPhone in essence is not new in concept. But Steve and his creative geniuses at Apple have taken what is essentially a known concept, no doubt made it infinitely more user-friendly, gave it designer curves and woven a aura of "I want that!" around the iPhone. Time magazine picture of the year should show Bill Gates exchanging gifts with Steve Jobs at CES, your Zune for my iPhone.

Now if only my fairy godmother could turn my Dell into an iPhone.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Where is the equity in Web 2.0?

The acquisition of MyBlogLog by Yahoo yesterday coincided with our own thinking for 2007 of our own venture at TheGoodBlogs. First of all, for me there are always good feelings when startups succeed because so many fall along the wayside. MyBlogLog started January 2005, self-funded with 5 people. So a 2 year effort yielding $12 million is certainly a win in my book. The stats I heard were 45,000 members and $1 million views per day. At $3 per month or $25 per year and say 1 in 10 were premium members, the yield would be around $100k revenue from subscriptions. Not bad but certainly not what Yahoo was buying. The equity I believe was having statistics for 45,000 blogs and the ability to feed that information into the rest of the Yahoo search and e-commerce network.

So the question regarding Web 2.0 equity is still an enigma to me, especially when most services are free and only a tiny fraction would pay for premium services. Fighting for ad dollars seems to be upward battle with the amount of noise and choice out there. Is building a Web 2.0 business an oxymoron or is Web 2.0 build to flip a better description? So often technology is cyclical so is the current phase a reflection of the early days of the Internet when 'eyeballs' was the equity? In which case are we heading for business-2-business (B2B, if you remember that phrase, you probably have scars to prove it) in social networking? At least, in the business world, there are things called IT budgets, and companies are willing to pay a premium for quality and service. What do you think?

As they say in the movies... show me the money!

Monday, January 08, 2007

It's my blog and I'll post when I want to...

I read Rohan's interesting post this evening on blogging infrequently is actually a feature. It follows another post by another great blog I follow, Haydn Shaughnessy who lamented perhaps that after 700 posts, he felt the blogging was rather like acts of little consequence, which to me sounded like a bout of blogging fatigue (my interpretation, not his).

It reminded me of advice I used to give new team members that I would hire. It was simply before you walk through the door make sure you understand why you took the job. Be very clear because along the way, life throws many curves, the promotion you didn't get, the long coding hours, managers you can't get on with, team members who steal the limelight. At the end of the day, only you should decide what drives you and makes you do what you do every day. As long as you're still doing it for the right reasons (your reasons) then stay, if not, then run like a bat out of hell.

I guess as humans, many (if not most of us), unconsciously measure our own worth and success relative to others around us. If we go to the gym, we want to run as fast the person next to us or be as slim as that young personal trainer. In the Internet age, it's about page rank or your Technorati ranking, how much traffic we got and how many subscribers I have to my feed. We start to lose sight of why we started in the first place. Physicians will tell you that many patients who survive heart attacks subsequently have a couple of months during which they exercise and watch their diet only to fall back to their original ways. The initial impetus, driven by fear, quickly wanes. Why? because unless you derive happiness and joy from doing something, you are unlikely to continue doing it in the long term.

So go ahead and blog, but blog like you mean it...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Five blog memes

Mike Sansone commented on his good friend Mike Wagner's Five Things meme. It was thought-provoking enough for me to add my own opinions.

  • Transparency - Mike maintains there should be a face and a name. Yes it adds credibility and the human side to it. Although, I can understand how some feel more comfortable using their blogs as anonymous channels which gives them more freedom to be expressive and outspoken. For the longest time, this blog was simply TheIdeaDude, being a platform for my ideas was sufficient. However, with the involvement in TheGoodBlogs it has been become necessary to add a persona. It depends whether the blog is a creative outlet, a conversation and network builder and/or a brand builder.
  • Generosity - There are no blogrolls on my site. There are archaic and maintenance-prone. Additionally, it has become a vehicle for link building for many sites. When we first started, we scraped a lot of blogrolls and found that many had up to 40% of dead links. Dead in that the blog the link referred to no longer existed or had been inactive for more than 6 months. That tends to backfire on the credibility of the blog and its author. I created and use TheGoodBlogs exclusively because it promotes the content as well as the blogger, if you don't blog for more than 30 days, you don't get circulated in the widget.
  • Consistency - Agreed 100%. To remain in people's mindshare, you have to have an entry every day if possible, at worst once a week. If people come knocking and you're not home consistency, they stop visiting. Freshness is also an indication of your commitment to the blog community and your readers. Technorati had a stat that said average time between blog entries is between 3-5 days, so don't feel bad if you don't blog everyday. It shouldn't be forced, but it should be disciplined. Unless you're Elvis, people need to know you haven't left the building.
  • Remark-ability - It's tough to write blogs that make people comment unless you're prepared to be controversial. Many comments are often made by people you know or in the case of A-listers, to be seen. So to have more comments, make sure you comment on other blogs.
  • Ads or not - let's face it, unless you're an A-lister, making money on your blog should not be a priority. (I question how many A-listers actually make decent money anyway - enough to be self-sufficient). It's pocket change for the rest of us. So don't put large Google ads in people's faces at the top of the blog. It says to me, that making a dime is more important than getting your idea and thoughts across to your readers.

Friday, January 05, 2007

When trust is lost...

We're out of beta, the sign said, so after months of avoiding the dreaded migration to the new Blogger, I clicked bravely on New Year's Day. A new dawn, I reckoned, I had held off long enough. Alas, I was fooled. If it ain't broke don't fix it, well, I figured they would eventually force everyone to move anyway. So I took that step. Big mistake. Within a day, I received an email from a friend saying he couldn't post a comment. He was correct, the visual verification wasn't working, there was no image so you couldn't see what characters were required. After scanning many posts in the Blogger support forums, I was disappointed that many others experienced the same problem with no fixes insight. Sure if you click often enough, the image would appear but how many visitors to your blog would refresh your comments page 8-10 times until the image would appear.

I was disappointed on four counts, firstly, I couldn't find any reference to the problem on the Blogger site, secondly, there were no replies to the folks who had the problem (either a fix or an acknowledgement), thirdly, after lots of sweat and tears and some more luck, I stumbled upon the page where I could report the problem. I'm not holding my breath for the answer. Finally, this the bold declaration from them, "we're not longer in Beta". For a company with a multi-billion dollar market cap and a boatload of money, the problems they've had moving to the new Blogger is astounding. Especially when you consider Blogger represents a sizeable chunk of the free blog hosting market. The new Blogger has finally caught up with the other blog hosting solutions but by no means exceeded them. To be fair, it seems to be better executed and their custom domain solution that allows your domain to be primary reference to your blog is a killer feature.

Now to figure out why Newsgator no longer puts the entire post in my Outlook email like it used to but now I just get the blog entry title and a link... rendering my archival strategy obsolete for now. Coincidently (I think not), this happened after my move.

This customer is certainly not delighted, in fact, right now I feel like a lemming...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The revenge of the Z-listers

One of the hottest stories around the blogosphere is the circulation of z-lists. Jules has an example on her blog (thanks for the link love, Jules) and others like Instigator Blog have dabbled in it too. What's a z-list? it's all the bloggers in need of a little link love and like the chain letters I grew up with (some things don't change, do they?), these link lists get circulated amongst bloggers and through viral circulation, everybody's technorati ranking goes up. You can be sure, there are a couple of engineers at Technorati and Google trying to figure out how to eliminate these spurious effects.

With over 100 million blogs out there (depending on who you get the statistics from, nevertheless, it's a very big number), everyone wants to be heard, and ranking is like getting a bigger soapbox than everyone else. Too many bloggers focus on traffic and ranking as the marks of blogging success. I think that's wrong. We should focus not on the traffic or link number itself but rather what it buys us. It buys us reach. I remember having this conversation in the early days of TheGoodBlogs with a seasoned individual in advertising. I said we were driving more traffic, he said the benefit wasn't traffic, it was reach. I didn't understand that for quite some time because it seemed like the same thing. What he meant was traffic as a number (beyond bragging rights) is meaningless. What it buys you is more reach, i.e. getting more exposure so that you can attract the readers that do appreciate your blog content. That's how blogrolls started and was really meant to be, it was a list of bloggers you promoted because you felt it was important that your readers knew about them. Then it turned into a link exchange. If you focus on the concept of reach, then you realize that increasing traffic is just one of the ways of doing it, visiting other blogs and joining conversations is another way, making sure you blog often gets you more Google hits and allows more people to find you. Of course, joining TheGoodBlogs helps too because your fellow bloggers actively promote you everytime readers visit their blogs.

Seth Godin comments on his blog, "...My intent from the beginning was not to game technorati nor to create a competitive environment for bloggers. It was simple: to provide a platform with traffic that would make it easy for good blogs on marketing and similar topics to get read. I still believe that we need that..." Alas, Seth, driving more traffic didn't mean people actually clicked on the links, it became a game that people put on their blogs so they could increase their ranking. As for making it easy for good blogs on marketing to be reach, try out our marketing community at TheGoodBlogs. There are some pretty awesome conversations going on there. Putting the widget on your blog will probably allow you to promote your peers more than any zlist can.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Do you know where your children are?

We had a new blog sign-up with TheGoodBlogs recently called Family Webwatch. It's dedicated to highlighting the dangers of the web. I think it's an admirable effort by Ken Cooper, the blog author. Working daily with Internet technology, I know how easy it is to turn all this exciting technology into malicious and harmful tools. Having firewalls, anti-virus and parental controls doesn't exonerate parents from understanding the threats that are real and out there. It is so easy to hide behind a pseudonym and an image and often the ability to do so brings the worst out of people.

I was a little perturbed this weekend when I found my daughter and her friends playing a word scramble game on the computer. The game itself was harmless but what was alarming was that they were playing the game on instant messenger, a bot on the other side was communicating with them asking them to descramble words. To her credit, she knew it was a bot, however, it did make me stop and wonder what if the bot was just a ploy to engage players only to be replaced by a human, slowly and surreptitiously asking you your name, then asking to descramble your street, etc. You get the picture. We are lulled into a false sense of security because our children are behind four walls but just as we are as reluctant to let them walk by themselves in the big cities, we should exercise the same caution with the Internet. The key is not to hide the dangers from our children but rather to educate them so they themselves can make a distinction between good and evil.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Food for thought to kick off 2007

I read Mark Evan's New Year post with great amusement. I have a few questions I would love to have answers to.

  • Is Google a great proxy for the demise of modern civilization? Search for an image of a stone (as I had to for my son's project) and you not only get the proverbial pebble but pictures of Sharon Stone on the first results page. The same can be said about the word 'Paris'. Enuf said.
  • I had to learn Shakespeare at school, now my son has to learn Shakespeare at school. William S. is no doubt a great playwright (I loved his plays) but seriously is learning his works really going to make my son any better in the subject of English?
  • On the subject of education, as we debate furiously in the blogs about the future of newspapers, I found myself spending a couple of days working on a project with my daughter creating a hardcopy newspaper. Is that the same as teaching our children to use a rotary dialer on a telephone?
  • During the dotcom age, we used to ask users to pay. In Web 2.0, everything seems to be for free. Given PayPerPost and the like, does that mean we are now in the third generation Web 3.0, i.e new business model, we pay our users to use our services?
  • After 10 years of standards and the brightest brains in the business, why are browsers still incompatible?
  • If Linux is the successor to Windows? Does that make the vi editor the successor to Notepad?
  • If Norton slows down my machine to a crawl, is it a virus?
  • If you change your website everyday, is it a blog?