Saturday, December 8, 2007

Relatively Unimportant, but Urgent

I spent about half the day, getting a Knights of Columbus bulletin ready for mailing. Well, maybe not half the day: but counting those bulletins, filling out the postal forms, and getting the carefully-sorted mess to the Post Office took time. So did waiting while the new fellow behind the counter worked his way through a relatively complicated and unfamiliar procedure.

Then, I had errands to run for the family.

This evening, I'm trying to catch up on what my business requires: which is creative work today. I'm not going to get as far along as I wanted to.

Next, I work on the family's Christmas letter.

Without a family, and a few community responsibilities, I could concentrate on business. But without the family - and, I suppose, the community - what would be the point of a business, or much of anything else?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Getting Sick is Not a Good Idea

My wife took the two at-home kids to the clinic yesterday morning. They've got strep. My wife's coming down with it, and that might explain the way I've been feeling lately. Although it's more likely that what's been slowing me down is a warm-up act. I'll probably come down with Streptococcal sore throat later on.

I wrote more about this family's experience in another post, Tuesday: Due to Lack of Interest, Monday was Cancelled this Week"

The effect that all this has had on the Brian H. Gill company is the same as if the entire staff of a larger company came down with a mild pip. In my case, no amount of positive thinking or rugged determination will raise my efficiency when I get caught between bugs snuggled up among my cells, and my immune system.

The only way I know of to avoid getting minor illnesses is to live in isolation from other people.

I'm not likely to sequester myself in central Alaska, or some equally isolated place So, I'll have to continue accepting those times when my depths of imperfection become more profound than usual.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Of Selling Furniture Online, Marketing,
and a Linkback Contest

This is a good idea I probably won't be using soon. Unless I can think of a valuable and desirable prize that costs me nothing.

However, Barn Furniture's Linkback Contest looks like a good idea for marketing.

The webmaster of Barn Furniture, an online furniture retailer, left a comment on one of my posts on another blog, "Thursday: More Family Stuff." Barn Furniture has a blog linkback contest and, more to the point for this blog, the company has a pretty good website, and an attractive line of furniture.

I checked out their Home Office Furniture section: wishful thinking on my part: I've got a home office, but no budget for new furniture. Barn Furniture also has quite a decent display of Bedroom Furniture, Amish Furniture, and other breakouts of their selection on their website.

I also checked out their domain registration. For me, this isn't anything unusual. Before I send my name and a valid email address, I like to know who I'm dealing with. Besides, these days research like this is fast and easy.

The addresses on Network Solutions' WHOIS Search, Barn Furniture's website, and Google maps all match: plus, a few clicks over, Google even had a photo of the storefront that more-or-less matched Barn Furniture's 'here's our store' photo.

Selling furniture online? Furniture?!

It's not as far-out an idea as it sounds. A few years ago, I heard a small business conference speaker tell how he turned a billiard table retail store around by marketing and selling the things online. He found out that people were willing to pay shipping charges, if they found something they liked. So, selling furniture online can work.

Studying the Barn Furniture website didn't convince me that I should be selling furniture. On the other hand, what I saw helped me get more specific about an idea or two that have been sloshing around in my head. If anything comes of that, it'll show up here.

Friday, November 30, 2007

"Office Vocabulary" Found on a Few Old Cards

While clearing out the house my father has lived in for many years, we found a half-dozen business-card-sized pieces of card stock, each labeled "office vocabulary." There's no indication what company printed them, or when, but my guess is that they're upwards of 35 years old.

Here's what was on one:

UNDER CONSIDERATION
Never heard of it

UNDER ACTIVE CONSIDERATION
We're looking in the files for it.

Family, Business, and Focus

I've been distracted lately. Distractible would be a better way to put it.

My father is almost exactly thirty years older than I am. That puts him in his mid-eighties. He's taken good care of himself, but a decade or so of smoking (he quit after health problems with tobacco became known in the late fifties), a childhood lung ailment, and a much more recent infection finally caught up with him.

With the exception of some trouble with short-term memory, his brain's working as well as ever. But, he's having the dickens of a time getting oxygen in, past a damaged set of lungs.

He, me, my wife, and our kids, are dealing with a set of transitions now. We're helping him move out of the house he's been in for some time. Our second-oldest daughter is taking care of much of that, since she currently lives only an hour away from him.

He's as logical and practical as ever, and realizes that he's going to have to move into town, into an assisted living facility: but that doesn't mean that he likes it. He also recognizes, as I do, that his life expectancy is now much less than what it was before the most recent infection.

On the other hand, a few years ago he told me that he'd been to one of those websites that calculate life expectancy (I assume, from the questions asked, that they use data from actuarial tables). He keyed in the data, and, if my memory serves, found out that he'd died about ten years previously. Or, rather, that he should have.

I've got a good, close, relationship with my father, thank God. I know that people have a limited time to live, and that death is one of the few things we can count on happening to us.

Just the same, the prospect of not having my father's experience and wisdom to fall back on is disturbing.

And, it's playing hob with my ability to focus on what needs to get done. Not that my focusability factor was ever very high.

What's the point of all this, as far as a small business is concerned?

This is obvious, but I'll say it anyway: having a family, in fact any human connection, is going to interfere with doing business.

The trick is to achieve a working balance. And, in my opinion, keep in mind the observation that nobody, facing death, ever said "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." That's not just my opinion, I see. The advice to "get a life" is in a "Forbes article: so it should make business sense.

After all, one of the reasons I'm trying to set up a sort of online publishing business is that I want to be around my family.

Granted, another reason is that I got laid off in my mid-fifties, have discovered that I can't do the lift-and-carry jobs that I could manage a quarter century ago, and that central Minnesota, delightful as it is, doesn't have much demand for someone with my qualifications.

Oh, well: this is a great opportunity for me to get creative in a new, and largely untested, kind of business.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Day, Another Discovery

Not a big one, but a discovery.

One of my blogs, " Another War-on-Terror Blog," had an unusual amount of traffic in the last 48 hours. It's still below the numbers I need, but there was a distinct spike.

A look at the logs showed what had happened: People were Googling for Gilliam Gibbons and Bill Krisoff. Those people are the British school teacher who's been accused, and now convicted, of attacking Islam by letting her class of seven year olds name a teddy bear Mohammed (you can't make this stuff up!); and a man who enlisted in the Navy, at the age of 61, to honor the death of his son, an American Marine.

Lesson learned: people are interested in people. Nothing new here, but it's something to remember.

I'll be Back Tomorrow

I hope to be back to this blog tomorrow. Make that today. I just now looked at the clock.

As the cartoon caption said:

"I am sorry, the person to whom you are speaking has been temporarily disconnected...."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Coffee Break Stuff: Procrastination Flow Chart

"Procrastination Flow Chart" may not be significant, but it's funny. And, parts are entirely too familiar.

Four-Day Weekend Coming Up

I still don't have that schedule worked out. I did, however, make a graphic for Thanksgiving. Which is something. Specifically, it's a task completed.

I'll try to be back with something more significant, later in the week. Meanwhile, here's that graphic. Maybe next year some city will try to top Seattle's 'Thanksgiving: day of mourning' school project with 'Turkeys of the World, Unite!'

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Good Advice About Time Management

"How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week" assumes that the reader works in an office: and gives good advice about meetings.

The seven-point list is worthwhile reading for people who are their own bosses, too. It's the same touch-papers-once, sort of advice I've read for decades, with the possible exception of Michael Hyatt's advice about unfocused Web surfing.

What makes this list helpful is that

  • It's manageably short (seven items)
  • Recognizes human needs and limitations ("make appointments with yourself")
  • includes a review/revise step
I'm not convinced that it'll open up ten hours a week, but I've been wrong before.

("How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week" is Friday's post in "From Where I Sit / Musings on My Life, Thomas Nelson and the World of Publishing" - Michael Hyatt, President and CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Spend an Entire Day, Getting Nothing Done:
Here's How

Yesterday was not a red-letter day for me.

I rely on one computer for most of my 'heavy' work, including graphics and web publishing. The latter doesn't take that much power, but it's easier to have everything on one unit, instead of trying to set up a network.

Easier for me, anyway.

So, early this week, an odd little bit of malware showed up on a routine scan. It seems to show up, every time my eleven-year-old son uses this thing.

"Seems to," because I don't have enough data yet to make a case. We could be looking at statistical hiccups here.

Anyway, I'm concerned and/or worried about something having gotten into the works. "Concerned" being the rational, logical, part of the process, "worried" being the emotional side that: but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, I spend quite a bit of time chasing ghosts in the machine. No luck. I still don't know where that 'Fraud.ProtectionBar' came from.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday was more of the same, plus frustration with a digital camera.

(Note to self: next time, think a little longer. Buying the rock-bottom cheapest, made-in-China model may not be the most prudent and Promethean path.)

So, after supper on Thursday, I get back to working on Wednesday evening's Sauk Centre Journal post. There's a nifty Christmas yard display up, here in Sauk Centre, involving flashing lights. I was trying to create an animated GIF file to display it.

Simple? To someone else, no doubt. To me, not so much.

About 10:30 or so, I decided that I was getting somewhere, and that it wouldn't make sense to stop 'at our moment of victory.' I glanced at the clock a short while later, and it was 2 in the morning.

Subjective time sense and objective reality aren't always on speaking terms, I've found.

Some shred of common sense allowed me to abandon what I was doing, and get some sleep. Not much: just enough to remind me that I am no longer twenty, and that I can't get away with all-nighters the way I used to.

So, best-case scenario: I write off yesterday as a learning experience.

Wondering about that schedule I was starting last week? So far, it's not working out too well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mostly Technical Stuff, Today

I was my company's technical staff for most of today.

The only thing I've got to show for it, so far, is the label cloud on this blog. It's the phydeaux3 label cloud: I've found it satisfactory on other blogs.

The day wasn't a complete wash, though. I gathered some equipment I'd stored, bought a little more (mostly an inexpensive extension cord from Wal-Mart), and discovered a number of limitations that my new stuff has.

The idea is for me to have a web cam updating still images to a Web page. Simple, basic stuff: but I've never done it before.

I also did a little business-related reading, and had manager-me talk with employee-me. I think we came to an agreement about how I've been using time. More about that later. Tomorrow, I think.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Equipment, Maintenance, and Backup

I spent part of this afternoon get getting my 'main' digital camerIa back. It had been 'in the shop' in Alexandria (Computer Specialists: where my last computer was built,and where I take devices for repair).

Good news: it seems to be in working order.

Not-so-good news: video I took, of a lesson one of my daughters gave, is probably unrecoverable.

I learned something from the experience, though. The video probably got corrupted because I made a continuous recording, over a half hour long. That's very likely too long for the storage technology I'm using.

Live and learn.

I plan to use the (corrupted?) files as practice pieces for recovering video data.

While I was in Alexandria (the nearest larger town - about 8,000 people: about 20 miles down the road), I got a "4-port hub" for a USB port. I'm planning to enhance a Web page. More about that later.

Faced with no usable camera for a few days, I stared thinking about how sensible it might be to have backup equipment on hand.

On the one hand, with redundant equipment, I'd be able to keep projects, and updates, going without interruption.

On the other hand, that redundant equipment costs money: which is a scarce commodity here.

Looks like I'll be repairing and replacing equipment on an as-needed basis.

Monday, November 12, 2007

No Wonder Managers Make More

One of the advantages of working in a large business, and being under the supervision of someone else, is that you can blame your boss for bad management. As a sole proprietor of a tiny business, you can do the same thing, but it's like throwing mud in the air: it comes right back at you.

This morning, I looked over the first (partial) week of my new time schedule.

I came to the conclusion that, in terms of planning and execution, it could have been worse.

The biggest issue seems to be dealing with unexpected events, with keeping an eye on myself running a close second.

I'm making a few revisions of the schedule, filling last week's sheet, and getting on with a new unexpected issue.

The digital camera I have in the shop for a dataectomy is in worse shape than I figured. The technician is, currently, using some sort of data-recovery program in an effort to scoop the video files out.

I'm thinking about getting another camera.

Great: more money going the wrong way.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Managing Yourself as a Small Business Owner:
Trying, Anyway

Despite what the "Dilbert" comic strip shows, managers need to think.

Since management is an important, no, make that vital, part of what you do in a sole proprietorship, I try to think. "At least once a week, whether I need it or not." I think I read that in a Pogo comic strip.

I thought a bit, and read a bit, today. The thinking was mostly about the schedule I'm developing. I see that the items on the schedule are more goals than tasks. Today, I spent some time working out the specific tasks involved.

That's a pretty vague statement, I know. When/if I get something worth showing, I'll post it.

Aside from task-defining, I thought through what I should be working on next.

Veteran's Day is tomorrow: that's going to be number one.

The reading I did was mostly something moderately technical about coding Web pages. I dozed off while doing that. More about that tomorrow, I think.

Friday, November 9, 2007

One Schedule: Kaput for the Day

That schedule I put together went 'pop' today, for the most part.

The digital camera I use to make photos for my 'flagship' website's journal ("Sauk Centre This Season / Sauk Centre Journal") is 'at the shop.'

I made my longest video recording yet with it, last weekend. And learned that I can't get the video out of the camera and into my computer. I think it's too large - or that it's so large that it takes too long for the system to handle.

So, I drove 20 miles to the nearest business that handles technical issues to my satisfaction. The technician who would handle the job had today off, so I left the camera there. I'm hoping that the files will be out of the camera and on a dvd Monday.

Or, since Monday is the day after Veteran's Day here in America, it may be Tuesday before I see the camera again.

That trip took almost two hours out of the day.

Down side, lots of time spent.

Up side, I had time to think while on the Interstate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This Week, I Gotta Get Organized

Toward the end of October, my wife said I should start keeping track of what I do with my time. After more than a quarter-century of marriage, I've learned to listen when she speaks.

She was right, as usual.

Two days of tracking confirmed what I'd guessed before. I was spending by far too much time on a particular blog. It had shown promise at first, but the early growth hadn't continued.

That's been the case with all blogs. I've been working at them long enough now to see that either there are limits to the number of viewers I'll get: or that I've been doing poor marketing. Maybe both.

Aside from blogs, I've been spending (maybe wasting) time on creative tasks that are fun, and eventually may be worthwhile. But, for now, they've been keeping me from getting more immediately useful things done.

The first part of this week, I evaluated what I've been doing, what I've got, and what I want to get done. Then, I put together a generic weekly schedule that may help me get to the short-term goals.

Enough for today.

Friday, September 28, 2007

When Opportunity Knocks, Use the Peephole

I'm looking for a few good ideas for monetizing the blogs and websites I have now, so that I can make money while developing another website or three.

Right now, Google's AdSense is working pretty well, but my traffic is nowhere near high enough for the ads to pay for the hosting costs and, more to the point, my time.

I've already found, and rejected, an attractive affiliate plan. It looked great: I use my existing artwork, add a little promotional copy, a banner and a link to the company, and I'd be good to go.

Just one problem: I wouldn't get money, I'd get credit for that company's products. I'll probably use the program, but now it's a lower-priority project. That affiliate program is legitimate: its only disadvantage is that it pays in credits toward purchases, not cash.

Several years ago, I looked into one of those work-at-home offers. When I saw how much equipment I'd need to buy, I stopped looking.

The point is, when something knocks, look through the peephole to make sure it's opportunity.

The five-dollar phrase is "due diligence." The economy-priced version is "common sense."

This is where I either put together a monograph on how to separate scams from opportunities, or give you a short list of resources that do the same thing.

A list is easier:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Crazy Judge Wins Partial Victory
Chungs Close Custom Cleaners

The Chungs, South Korean immigrants who made the mistake of opening their dry cleaning establishments in Washington, D.C.

The trouble started when Judge Roy L. Pearson said that Soo Chung and her husband, Jin Nam Chung, had lost his pants.

Those pants were worth $67,000,000 to Judge Pearson. He lowered his demand to $54,000,000 later, and dragged the Chungs through court for the next two years.

The administrative judge claimed that the Chung's "Satisfaction Guaranteed" and "Same Day Service" signs were misleading and fraudulent.

The Chungs' Custom Cleaners is closing now. They had three businesses when the lawsuit started. Now they've closed two.

Happily, the Chungs have been able to pay their $100,000 in legal expenses, thanks to fund raisers and donations.

The problem wasn't so much the monetary drain of the trials. The ordeal drained the Chungs emotionally. And, more to the point, they lost customers and revenue.

I don't know what other business owners can learn from this.

"Don't accept insane judges as customers" is not a practical policy.

Advocating some sort of control over frivolous lawsuits may be a reasonable long-term objective. We'll always have people in positions of power and influence whose heads are a giant economy size bag of mixed nuts. But in principle, it should be able to contain the damage they do.

I could be wrong about the next point, but it's worth repeating in this post. The city in which the Chungs had their business was heavily dominated by the same ethnic group as Judge Pearson's. The Chungs, as Koreans, were very much not of the same ethnic group.

The point has been studiously ignored, for the most part, but I wonder if a lesson to be learned here is: don't set up a business where your ethnicity makes you stand out. I hope I'm wrong about that.

Previous posts about the dry cleaners' legal difficulties on this blog:

And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

Friday, September 14, 2007

If Content is King, Voice is the Ambassador

You've heard that "content is king." It's a cliché by now, but true: on a website, or a blog, if there isn't content, it's not likely that there will be visitors. The "content" is facts. Information of some sort - text, visuals, or sound - that informs or entertains.

There's something else that's important, too.

I recently read that "any blogger can beat Wikipedia" by improving writing style, being opinionated, and staying up-to-date.

Today, I'm going to argue that the first point, writing style, is very important.

"Style," in this sense, goes beyond correct spelling and coherent syntax. It's a matter of putting 'personality' in your writing.

Dashiell Hammett and Charles Dickens are both accomplished writers. Although some academic purists might dispute my assertion, I'm basing my statement on the fact that they both sold quite a few commercially successful books.

However, their writing style was very different. Dashiell Hammett's style was "raw, unadorned, 'hard-boiled.' Charles Dickens style was the sort of 19th century semi-poetic saunter that led someone to quip that he must have been paid by the word.

"Voice" is the way writing 'sounds' when it's read. Voice is one of the reasons people kept buying books by Dickens and Hammett.

And an individual, appealing voice is a reason that people come back to one website or blog, and not to another, when both have similar content.

Voice can be entertaining by itself. More importantly, it creates a tone and and helps interpret content for the reader.

So, content may be king, but voice is the ambassador.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Content Isn't King?

"The 4 Ways of Building Traffic to a Blog and Why Most Bloggers Pick the Wrong Method" is much less incoherent than many 'advice' posts. And, there are some good ideas there.

The basic point is that content is important, but so is making your blog search-engine-friendly, talking up your blog and encouraging others to do so, cooperating with other bloggers to boost each other's traffic, and sometimes pay for advertising.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why Start a Home Business?

Good question. It was raised by a member of an online community.

I'll defer my answer until I've thought a bit, and taken time to boil what I've got to a readable length.

Meanwhile, Here's a good discussion of the topic: "Home Business 101: It’s not about the money."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Misspelling for Success?

I've seen alternative domain names chosen with common misspellings of the main domain name in mind. It's a good idea: allowing for visitor errors, redirecting them to the main site when the make a typing mistake.

"Do you optimize for misspellings?" is a new idea for me: misspelling as an SEO technique.

I wouldn't do it myself, because I'd rather have a page that seems to be written by someone who knows how to spell. But then, that's the sort of visitor I expect.

For bloggers and webmasters who are trying to attract a more literacy-challenged demographic, this might be a good idea.

Optimizing for Heavy Clickers? Think First

More traffic is better, right?

And the more clicks on your ads, the better, right/

Not necessarily.

"Outing The Heavy Clickers" shows that you should look at who creates the hot ad traffic, before you optimize for them.

Not to give the whole post away, but the people who click the most ads are the same ones who "tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers."

If that select minority of Web users is what you want, go ahead and optimize for them. But take a look at who they are first.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big Image Plus Tiny Company Equals Credibility Gap

"On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" was the caption of a cartoon published in a 1993 New Yorker magazine.

It's funny, and is a reminder that the Internet and the Web let people and businesses disguise themselves. To a point. An anecdote in the September, 2007, Reader's Digest (p. 161) showed what will eventually happen to an Intenet poser.

The writer hadn't received her purchase, and hadn't gotten a response from her e-mail. Later, her phone rang. a teenager at the other end apologised for the delay, and explained what the problem was. "...I can't get on my computer right now because my mother's vacuuming and this room only has one socket."

I've known people who were CEO, Director of Marketing, janitor and the office girl of the company, and whose website used phrases like "we provide quality service" and gave other indications of having at least some staff.

I understand how tempting it is to project the image of a substantial company, with a:

  • Luxurious office suite
  • Warehouse
  • Loading dock and
  • Parking lot
when all you've got is a corner of a room that you share with
  • Several kids
  • Your wife
  • A music keyboard
  • An electric guitar, and
  • A chair buried under a pile of clothes
The problem, as I see it, of inflating your online image is that, sooner or later, somebody's going to notice. Then, you've got a credibility problem. If you were deceptive, or at least alternatively truthful, about the size of your company, what else have you been hiding?

I'd rather not have that sort of explaining to do.

Since many of my online projects make use of my personality, it's easier for me to be a one-man show than it would be for someone who was trying to run an online store or repair service.

Even so, I suspect that in the long run it's better to be more open about how many of you there actually are.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sorry about that!

This blog was unavailable for at least an hour this morning.

Since you're reading this, you've come back to try accessing it again: thank you for your patience!

Google seems to have been doing some maintenance: and about time! My service has been a bit 'iffy' for some time.

I'll be back with a 'real' post as soon as I can.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

A New Gym in Town, and My Mind Starts Wandering

This is a bit off-topic, but I'll try to drag Sauk Centre's new exercise place into this blog's sphere of interest.

A Snap Fitness gym opened in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, today. We've had Curves for Women and Fitness Guru in town for quite a while, quietly staying in business. Now we've got three exercise outfits, in a town of about 4,000.

Maybe there's enough differentiation to give each a different set of customers. Curves for Women, obviously, has a particular demographic in mind for its customers. Fitness Guru, where I go, has a sort of neighborhood feel to it. I've run into people I know there fairly often, and I appreciate the way that the proprietors and others who work there know me. Also the practical advice they can give about exercise and the equipment.

Snap Fitness has a very visible location on Main Street, and offers low cost, no contracts, and 24/7 access.

I hope the the new place knows what it's doing. When I moved here, there were three hardware stores in town. I shopped at all three, at one time or another, and couldn't figure out how they all stayed in business. Business was far from brisk and any.

Now, we don't have any.

Now, I'll try to drag this into the area of online business.

How much is too much? Can a market be saturated online?

Just how important is finding a unique niche?

As midnight draws near in my time zone, I haven't a clue.

Maybe I'll have answers later. Right now, all I've got here are questions.

More Advertising Advice: Read the TOS

I read through 15 Common Mistakes that Violate Google Adsense TOS (May 24, 2005) because I use contextual ads, and want to continue that arrangement.

The count is up from 15 to 18 now, and they generally boil down to common sense and following the TOS. Although I learned that I'll have to be careful about my inclination to get behind the screen and tweak code.

Keeping Your Advertising Revenue: Follow the Rules

"What to do when your [Google contextual ads] account is disabled" is a pretty good resource for people who seek online advertising revenue. The post focuses on Google's contextual ads, but I think the advice and observations have wider application.

Maybe the best advice is toward the end of the post, is to not make enemies. At least one online advertising service is susceptible to abuse by a 3rd party.

Friday, August 17, 2007

For Smart Employees, and Bosses

"4 Simple Tips For The Smart Employee."

The title is the post's best description. Nothing new here: just common sense, well-presented.

A good read for bosses who want to keep good employees, too.

Online Publicity and Marketing

Online, it's a different world. Eventually, there may be tried-and-true, traditional ways of drawing traffic to your site.

Today, we're in a much more exciting era of experiment and (occasionally crazy) new ideas.

" [Google contextual ads] $100 Movement Train," a post on "Hin's Photo Blog," introduces the reader to what I think is a good marketing/promotion idea for blogs. It is not a link exchange, except by a wild extension of the term: at least in my opinion. We'll see if I get in trouble with [Google contextual ads], over cooperating with an effort to get qualified visitors to blogs.

With each blog's link having a brief description of the blog, it's a pretty good way of finding new blogs: and somewhat similar to my "Apathetic Lemming of the North" blog: which is enjoying pretty good traffic. At least, compared to some of my other efforts.

(update, August 18, 2007)

I've substituted [Google contextual ads] for the name of the search giant's advertising program. I did this out of an abundance of caution, after a doing a little research. The experience of one of our fellow-bloggers, who was dropped from the program, has made me more cautious.

I'll be posting on that, later.

Now, about the "[Google contextual ads] $100 Movement Train" - unhappily, at this time, I'm not able to participate. Nobody's making me, I just have a set of rules that I make for myself, and 'no link trains' is one of them.

The reason for this self-imposed ban is that I'm very new to blogging, and haven't thoroughly researched the rules and culture of the blogosphere. Traffic-boosters like link trains are dubious points in some quarters, and until I know more, I'm leaving them alone.

That doesn't mean that you can't participate in Hin's plan, though. Not everyone is as cautious as I am.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

When Flashes of Inspiration Meet Flashes of Lightning

Actually, it wasn't so much "inspiration" as post-work on a rendering of a 3d graphic that's ready for posting to an online art community. I'm developing a reputation of sorts there, and prefer to post just before their weekly prime time: weekends.

I'd blocked out time Friday night to get the work done. I'd heard rumbling, but thought it might be heavy machinery or trucks in the area. A bright flash of light outside could have been headlights of a vehicle turning the corner. Fast.

The second bright flash was definitely lightning.

After a few more flashes, I decided that it was my cue to shut down, and disconnect, the computer and the laptop. I can afford to lose neither the data on them, or replace the equipment.

I was still working with the laptop when the power went out for about a minute. Not particularly good timing on my part.

I stayed up past the time I'd allotted for the post-work task, since the National Weather Service had a severe thunderstorm watch for this area. Several of them, actually. Then the warnings started.

More about that at Through One Dad's Eye.

Even though I didn't get the post-work done, I'm not considering getting a system to provide backup power through situations like this. Something like that would be expensive to buy and maintain: much more, I think, than whatever I might gain from being able to work through these infrequent storms.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

ROI: Reality / Optimistic Interpretation

I know that's not what ROI really means!

But when looking at the immediate ROI of my blogging, I realized that I had to decide whether to keep being hopeful, or look at the flattening rate of traffic growth.

Not a hard choice, really. The six blogs I started have enough material now to give a rough idea of which attract attention and which don't.

I've also noticed that the dramatic growth in the first two weeks has leveled off. Dramatically.

Finally, although I haven't had this much fun in a long time, It's time to spend a whole lot less time on blogging, and more on developing the sites I have, and publicizing them.

Not that I'm finished blogging!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Monetizing Websites: What's Your opinion?

I'm trying out this blogging service's new poll function, and gather information about monetizing at the same time. Opinions, anyway.

If you've got more than a poll checkoff to share, please leave a comment on this post.

And, let me know what you think of polls like this.

Thanks!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Monday Broke Out With Unusual Severity

Of all the tasks on my to-do list today, the only item done was my blogging.

Which is business-related. Eventually, when traffic builds up, I expect more revenue from those ads in the column to your right: and the ones between news items at the bottom.

Family matters got in the way. My wife and one of the kids were out of town for most of the day, partly to pick up my oldest daughter's laptop. That left me with an 11-year-old itching to get a laptop that's become too buggy for my oldest to use, my oldest who is tense because she hasn't been able to work on her projects while her laptop was in the shop, and another daughter who's getting over a non-serious but very irksome super-cold.

Oh, well: I got a chance to reflect. I don't what the latest thing in psychological theory is, but my experience has been that my brain acts as if there's automatic machinery, or perhaps subroutines would be a better term, that keep running when I'm not using the circuits for something else.

Whether or not that's a valid model for how the mind and brain works, keeping most of my head in idle for the day may have something to do with the mental images of banners, and a few other graphics that dropped onto the front desk this evening.

They might even be worth something.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sleep and Down Time are Important, Too

One of the things I decided yesterday was that I needed at least a little sleep.

That meant more delay with those two tasks, but it's not such a great loss.

Unless there's something very pressing, I don't work on Sunday, so there wasn't much done today. Except for blogging. For me, that's not work: It's fun.

And, because it's fun, I'll have to be very careful not to let blogging take up more time than it's worth.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Organizing, Schedules, Impulse, and Making Decisions Without Agonizing

I haven't gotten to the two tasks on today's list yet. I still hope to, but I'm running out of 'today.'

There's a bit of an excuse: going through an online community discussion thread this morning, I found a lead to two other online communities of bloggers: from a source I've learned to trust.

I'm trying to develop a fairly large footprint of places where my blogs can get noticed, so I spent quite a bit of today setting up a presence in one of them. We'll see if that was good use of, or a total waste of, time. Or maybe something in between.

Impulsive? Yes. Foolish? I'm not sure. On the whole, I think that increasing visibility of six blogs that exist, and have potentially revenue-producing advertising, is more urgent than putting a couple of gizmos on an existing website.

One thing for sure: I'm not going to spend much more time thinking about that decision. That would be a total waste of time for sure!

Feedback, or lack thereof, from the new online community will give me an answer with almost no effort on my part.

I think the lesson here is 'decide. Then move on.'

Friday, August 3, 2007

Getting Organized Without Angst

I'm 20 minutes past the end of my time slot for blogging today, but I'm not going to worry about it. I hit a promising set of posts, and checked them out while they were on the browser.

Overall, I think I've saved some time by doing this now, rather than shutting down and setting up again.

Now I'm 25 minutes past the end of that time slot.

Time to wrap up.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Eager Google Bots + Clueless Hosting Company = Lost Traffic

Eager robots and a hosting company with really bad customer relations cost a webmaster several weeks' traffic. And income.

"If Your Website Can’t be Googled……does your business still exist?" describes what happened, and gives a four-point list of how to keep it happening to you.

If you're trying to make money online, you could do much worse than spend a few minutes reading this post.

Getting Organized: Not the Best Start

It could have been worse.

Instead of working on my Sauk Centre Journal the first part of this morning, working my blogs, and then graphics for another website, I monitored the 35W bridge disaster while working blogs.

I suspect that most of my readers were more concerned with I-35W's bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, than about my midweek update about life in small town America.

However, I'm getting at the S. C. Journal entry now, and then I'll be back on schedule.

Tomorrow I Gotta Get Organized

And I probably will.

I got an inexpensive 18-month planner, scribbled the top projects for tomorrow into appropriate time slots, and set it aside for reference tomorrow morning.

And I just remembered a detail that I missed. That's what these notes are for: jotting down things that would be forgotten or ignored.

There. Got that written down: the non-trivial, time-dependent item that I left out of tomorrow's to-do list.

This system should work: it's simple, and avoids the sort of self-micro-management nuttiness I've tried before.

Time will tell. And so will this blog.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Remember: It Could be Worse

Everyone has a bad day now and then.

Even entrepreneurs with small, startup businesses in an unproven field.

Not that I'm having a bad day. In fact, it's been a pretty good one.

But, if a bad day comes, I can remind myself that it could be worse. I could be back in college. If you don't remember just what college was like, check out College finals from Hell.

Facts have Hard, Sharp Corners

Just a thought for the day:

Facts are good, but they tend to be hard, and often have sharp corners. I think that may be why they're not as popular as they could be. It's too easy to get hurt, running into them.

(from a BlogCatalog discussion thread, Why don’t we stop trading links and actually earn them?. The words are mine, but are a paraphrase of at least one quote from one of Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels. One source is "Facts, Bunter, must have facts. When I was a small boy, I always hated facts. Thought they were nasty, hard things, all nobs." ("Clouds of Witness", referencing a 1972 video of the novel))

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stay Focused: But on What?

It's been several days since I posted on this blog.

In that time, I took video of the Stearns County Fair and put together one three "Realreels" about the fair that I plan to put online.

I created a 3d landscape, ostensibly as a sort of comic-relief for a business website that I'm developing for myself. Actually, it's an opportunity for me to learn how to handle 3d authoring software for use in a publishing project that might, maybe, get off the ground next year.

I kept up to date with an online community or two, where I meet people, learn more about the blogosphere and how it's perceived, and (I hope) develop a contact or two, and create interest in my blogs and websites.

I updated blogs; noticed that I'd gotten seriously off-topic on one, and made a course correction; launched a blog on outdoor grilling that I hope will help feed a website about outdoor grilling - and vice-versa.

I put the outdoor grilling website further toward the front in my priorities. I won't say that it's a disaster, but it is about as exciting as a telephone directory as it is.

What was the title of this post? That's right: it had something to do with focus.

An issue that I've noticed, at least with me, is that I tend to spend more time than I should on projects that most engage my talents and interests. Those aren't necessarily the ones that should get the most attention, though.

Without a supervisor to keep track of me, I have to keep an eye on me, myself.

Easy? Fun? No, but that's not the point. All the jobs need doing, even management.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Home Business Opportunities: Earn a Fortune Working Part-Time?

Not likely.

  • Wisdom prevents mistakes
  • Wisdom comes from experience
  • Experience comes from mistakes
That's how I remember a cycling bank sign's contribution to humanity's store of sagacious sayings.

Sooner or later, I figure I'll have made enough mistakes to be wise.

If you haven't seen "business offers" promising thousands of dollars a week through working part-time, a steady income from the privacy of your own home, or financial independence through envelope-stuffing, you haven't been looking very hard.

Envelope Stuffing

I took a look at an envelope-stuffing "opportunity" about a quarter-century back. The newspaper ad seemed promising, and the sales packet they sent was impressive. It also had several square inches of text that described exactly what was involved. If that description hadn't been there, I'd have tossed the packet.

I'm one of those annoying people who likes to look at how much time something is likely to take, how much money it'll bring in, and how often it can be done. I tossed the packet.

The other two "opportunities" worth mentioning involved a business-software company and a craft item distributor.

Business Opportunities and computer sales

The software business had a very well-designed marketing strategy. The company's owner was either among the most likable people I've encountered, or had very good writers. He offered not only software, but computers and peripherals as well.

His sales literature stressed how successful someone could be, using his own experience rather often. Taking a closer look, I decided that his success lay in his ability to sell computers at a bit above the going rate, and that his customers' success stories had involved similar businesses.

Nothing illegal or particularly unethical about the offer, but I declined.

Craft Items

Someone I know tried making money by buying parts, assembling then into a draft doodad, and selling lots of the things back to the parts provider. The numbers looked good, the company was legit, but the person involved isn't the best at making craft items.

The good news is that very little money was lost.

Instead of adding the way I decide whether or not an

The lesson? Some business opportunities are what they claim to be but aren't suited to the person pursuing them, some are a sort of share-the-wealth procedure, and a few actually benefit all parties.

I could describe how I decide which is which, but here's a better idea: Check out How to evaluate a home business opportunity,, eight points that the author calls "a short list of how to evaluate a home business."

The points are basic common sense: a quick review of what to do, and not to do, doesn't hurt now and again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogging Tips: Free, and Worth Every Cent

I ran into an interesting article, "10 Things To Do When You Have Nothing Else To Blog About."

The advice is pretty good, from "Find a great story you found on Digg and write about it." to "Brainstorm what you're going to blog about for the next few days."

What does this have to do with starting a small business? Among other things, I'm trying my hand at generating traffic and advertising revenue through blogging. I've got five blogs at this point, and will probably leave it at that.

The what-to-write-about issue doesn't often apply to me: I've got too many interests and opinions. Let's leave it at that.

However, I've hit dry spots, and something like this list-of-10 can be a real help.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

$54 Million Pants Dry Cleaners Get Support, Judge Pearson Not Done

The Chungs almost got into the news again. They're the Korean family who allegedly lost a judge's 54-million-dollar pants. Supporters of the Chungs have a fundraiser today.

Anyone who owns a business should be aware of the what a screwball lawsuit brought by a determined lunatic can do: Particularly, in my opinion, when operating in an area where you're an ethnic minority.

Quoting from a website dedicated to supporting the Chungs, "Fundraising event on Tuesday, July 24th, 6:00-7:30pm, co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association. If unable to attend, you can still support the Chungs." (www.chungfundraiser.com)

The Washington Post has been very quietly covering this case of an american citizen's attempt to destroy the business and finances of an immigrant, ethnic-minority, family. Not in the news so much as in a blog.

The most recent post was Pants Update: Cuffed Again! (July 16, 2007), with a few lines of discussion in a later entry, Washington's Hour of Talk Power (July 19, 2007). In this post, someone asserted that Pearson is out of money, and so not able to reimburse the Chungs' legal expenses even if he felt like it. If so, where he's getting the money to continue his jihad, I've no idea.

As of the Washington Post's July 16 post, Judge Pearson's most recent effort to re-start his suit was refused. With the dogged persistence of a deranged chihuahua, he seems determined to return with yet another legal appeal. I know that it's important for the judicial system to allow appeals, but it would be nice if lunatics weren't allowed to ruin productive families through judicial harrasment.

This judicial farce is not a total disaster. Judging from feedback in the Washington Post blogs, many of that newspaper's readers strongly support the Chungs. More to the point, individuals and corporations seem to be putting their money where their mouth is, by contributing to the Chung's defense.

It's a little late for the Chung fundraiser, but the Custom Cleaners Defense Fund is still around, and able to take donations by PayPal.

Previous posts about the dry cleaners' legal difficulties on this blog:

And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Free Market of Ideas: Net Neutrality Activists

Unless you have a production and distribution budget the size of Universal Studios', and plan to never use the Internet, you should be concerned about this.

Ever since it became the latest biggest thing in mass media since movable type, powers that be have been trying to rein in the Internet.

I became concerned about this a few years ago when both liberal and conservative activists teamed up to "protect" the masses from the Wild, Wicked Web. And no, although they seemed to perceive the online world that way, they did not call it that.

I'm no fan of a great deal of what's online, and this family has measures in place to shield our kids from inappropriate content. Even so, my belief is:

A free and open Internet is dangerous only to those who fear the open exchange of ideas.

There are quite a few organizations and people who are also concerned. This is a short, and none-too-well-selected list:

Save The Internet

Save The Internet: the YouTube video

Net Neutrality: 21 days left to save the Internet on ghosts in the machine.

It's a little late, now, for ghosts in the machine's petition, but the same site has an update: What's next for net neutrality?. I sincerely hope that, as the article says, the "FCC will advocate the hands-off approach supported by the recent FTC report.... Stay tuned…"

For what it's worth, what follows is the text of a letter I contributed to Save The Internet. If you write a letter on this yourself, please - re-write this - use your own words - do not just cut and paste the text. The effectiveness of written pleas approaches zero when they're palpably copies of someone else's thoughts.

I am extremely concerned about the issue of "net neutrality" which has been discussed by many of my friends and acquaintances.

The Internet has been a wonderful opportunity for people, all people, to get involved in public debates: to share ideas, thoughts, and information, whether it passes approval of editors, studio executives, and others who control traditional mass media.

I beg of you, "please vote for enforceable network neutrality and keep tollbooths, gatekeepers, and discrimination off my Internet."

A free and open Internet is dangerous only to those who fear the open exchange of ideas.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Scheduling, Organization, and Less

The group that I edit a bulletin for was part of the Sinclair Lewis Days parade today: an annual event.

As their wagon passed, they chanted "where's our bulletin?!" It's at the printers, and will (I hope and trust) be ready Monday, and in the mail a few hours after that.

How they'll react when they discover that I had to use last year's information, I don't know.

As part of several weeks of highly deficient organization, I lost updated information for a major fund raising event. As I predicted in the "mea culpa" article I wrote to explain what happened, the information in question showed up quite shortly after the bulletin went to the printer.

Nertz.

Search Engine Optimization: a Discussion

At this moment, there's a pretty good discussion of Search Engine Optimization going on at BlogCatalog: Question for SEO gurus...?

Also, you might check out

Referenced in the same discussion, SEO for FireFox, a FireFox tool. (According to seobook.com, "SEO for Firefox pulls in many useful marketing data points"). I haven't researched or tested it myself.

I understand that there's a Search Engine Optimization: Tip #3 coming.

Here's another site: BloggingMix - "A blog dedicated to helping bloggers improve in their blogging!"

Friday, July 20, 2007

Good Writing and Brevity

I've been exposed to a little more than the usual level of overblown, inappropriately focused writing today, and was going to vent my frustration.

Instead, I'm going to post a link to one of the best and briefest how-to-write pieces I've run into in a very long time: "More Writing Advice."

It's advice written by a novelist, adapted by a professor for students writing academic papers. But the advice is good for anyone trying to communicate in this medium.

Next Week I Gotta Get Organized

It happened again.

It took me all evening, and part of the next morning (it's not quite 1 in the morning as I write this), to finish five videos, ranging from about five to fifteen minutes long, for a website I run.

About an hour ago, I realized that I had a bulletin to finish by the seventeenth of July. Not August: July.

That's a little awkward, since it's now 55 minutes into the 20th of July in this time zone. Make that 56 minutes.

If there ever was a time when I could keep a half-dozen or so unrelated schedules juggled in my head, I can't do it now. Besides that, my wife reminded me that I can't pull all-nighters, sleep a few hours, and spring forth the next morning with a clear head.

It's time to get some sort of formal scheduling process started.

Not entirely unrelated to what I've written so far: I also discovered that I can't stand for well over an hour under a bright Minnesota summer sun without a hat, without turning the acreage on top of my head a rather attractive shade of red.

My wife, noting the condition of my scalp, turned to our second daughter and told her to "get the oil, and do his head."

And so, while I continued with my video production, my daughter oiled my head.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Organ Donation and the People at BlogCatalog

And now, something completely different.

BlogCatalog.com, an online community that I recently joined, has been encouraged to make today the day for their "BlogCatalog Community Organ Donor Awareness Campaign."

The subject is a bit off-topic, but organ donation is an important issue. Think of this as a PSA (Public Service Announcement).

Organ transplants can save lives. The medical procedures for swapping out damaged organs for ones that work have been around for years.

One of the problems has been that there aren't enough organs available to meet the demand. And this has led to abuses that remind me of Larry Niven's "organlegger" stories. The problem is, this is real. There have been articles about this problem in Fox News and Slate Magazine. (The Slate article is much more dramatic.)

Black market or not, people's lives can be saved through organ donation. On the other hand, people's lives can be ended if critical organs are extracted.

As a Catholic, I needed to see what the rules are. In the current Catechism, paragraph 2296 says:

  • Organ transplants are not morally acceptable if the donor or those who legitimately speak for him have not given their informed consent.
  • Organ transplants conform with the moral law and can be meritorious if the physical an psychological dangers and risks incurred by the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient.
  • It is morally inadmissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of other persons.
(From Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, English translation. Bullets added for clarity.)

So far, so good: as long as I know what I'm doing, and don't kill myself in the process, it's okay for me to donate organs.

Not that I'm terribly keen at the prospect.

However, I've made arrangements for me to be broken down for parts when I die. Assuming that anyone wants them, of course.

So: think about it. As for me, I think and believe that organ donation is a good idea.

The following is an excerpt from a blog post at blogcatalog.com. I have not checked any of the links, and am presenting them "as is," with no idea as to how reliable any of them are

Organ donation is a gift of life. On July 18, let's all come together again and raise awareness about organ donation and the good it can do. If everyone blogs about organ donation, no matter what country you live in, we can save lives! It's easy and we can also prove that bloggers can do good at the same time!

If you live in the United States, all you have to do is link to
http://www.OrganDonor.gov
http://www.organdonor.gov/donor/index.htm
UNOS http://www.unos.org/ or
http://matchingdonors.com

If your country has an online organ donation site, please add it to this bulletin so BlogCatalog members in your country can promote it too or visit the British Organ Donor Society for known worldwide links http://body.orpheusweb.co.uk/lnks.html

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hotlinking and Intellectual Property Rights

I ran into an informed blog post on this topic: Bloggers Hotlink Images, and Cost Webmasters Money by Rose DesRochers.

Good reading, and makes a good point. I had forgotten how much bandwidth could be eaten up by enthusiastic hotlinkers.

A concern I have about the practice is the lack of reciprocity: unless the hotlinker gives credit for an image's source, the image's poster gets no benefit from use of the image.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Viva Dave Barry

This has been a fairly typical day.

I spent the morning, and part of the afternoon, ferrying a member of the family to St. Cloud (about 45 miles/70 KM down the road) and back. An attache case full of books and writing tablets kept me mildly productive, although getting five hours of sleep last night kept real efficiency at bay.

When my daughter was finished with her business, she found me: elbow on table, supporting my forehead a cubit above piled papers. Contemplating the infinite, absorbed in thought, or napping? I'll let you pick an explanation from that list.

Even with the near-all-nighter last night, I'm still unlikely to have a bit of advertising ready by the end of the week.

I may have mentioned this before: my father-in-law is recovering from double knee replacement. It doesn't have a thing to do with the online publishing project(s) I'm trying to launch, but lending a hand in his recovery is distracting the family. And me.

Let's see. I'm feeling stressed. That's bad for efficiency, and blood pressure. Doesn't do my digestion any favors, either.

  • I could run, screaming, down the street. Nope. I've had both hips replaced, and believe the medicos when they say "no running."

  • I could go down to the corner bar and get plastered. No way. Aside from the expense, that's just adding a hangover to stress, and making more stress when I realize how much time I wasted.

  • I could run away. That's crazy. I'm living in the best place on earth: there's no place to run to.


Now it hits me. This is a job for the Dave Barry column. the Miami Herald has an archive of Dave Barry columns at least far back as 1994. I recommend Shooting carps in Wisconsin and, copying from a previous post, Living under the influence of the Weirdness Magnet.

A word of caution, though: Some may not like the wit and wisdom of Dave Barry as much as I do, just as not everyone likes lutefisk or haggis. Or, for that matter, reading blogs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Justice Goes Back on the Grill: $54 Million Pants Back in Play

All things considered, I prefer living in a country whose legal system that, in theory, allows for people to seek redress for grievances. Sometimes, though, it feels like the legal system in the United States makes it too easy for a rogue or a lunatic to harass others.

The strange case of the Korean dry cleaners, a judge's $54 million pants, and the trouserphilic judge's interpretation of the District of Columbia's consumer protection laws, is back in the news.

Today's Washington Post Metro: The District section posted "Pants Suit Plaintiff Asks Judge to Reconsider" as its third story, after "Greater Southeast Could Get Receiver" and "Rhee Approved as Schools Chief". The online edition of the paper even has a pretty good photo of Judge Roy Pearson, taken June 13, 2007.

Administrative judge Roy Pearson is trying to grab the brass ring again. According to the article, Pearson feels that the judge who heard the case didn't pay enough attention to the "satisfaction guaranteed" sign that Soo and Jin Chung put up in their dry cleaning establishment. The Washington Post says that Pearson filed his latest papers late on the night of July 10, 2007.

Even if Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff refuses to review the case, Judge Pearson can go to D.C. Court of Appeals for a third try.

As someone who's fairly low on the economic food chain and trying to start a business, I'll admit that I'm cheering for the Chungs. Judge Roy Pearson has his position in D.C. society and a compliant legal system on his side. All the Chungs have to defend themselves is good sense.

The Chungs are asking Judge Bartnoff to make Judge Pearson pay $83,000 that they've spent in legal fees so far.

In case Judge Bartnoff doesn't cooperate, or Pearson emulates O. J. Simpson and doesn't pay up, the Chungs have a defense fund set up:

Custom Cleaners Defense Fund

And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Recreation, Relaxation, and Censored Lava Lamps

Sometimes you just have to take time off, or you'll go crazy. Or crazier, as members of my family have claimed is the case with me from time to time.

For me, time off is Sunday. I go to church, grill lunch, spend time with the family, surf the Web in a desultry way, and in general kick back and relax.

Reading jokes and funny stories seemed like a good idea. One article, "Brit fumes over Wikipedia, lava lamps," seemed like a good place to start.

Not the best choice. It turns out that Wikipedia had censored an article on Lava Lamps, removing it from their online knowitall collection. The Brit had a reaon for fuming. The Wikipedia Lava Lamps are back, now. I even have an idea I know why the article was banned.

On the other hand, that digital diversion to the other side of the Atlantic led me to If surgery was like Wikipedia..., which was funny, in a grim sort of way.

Still looking for a yuck or two, I checked out "Going Bonkers Business Edition - The Business Magazine with a Sense of Humor"" - only to discover that they expect to be paid for a subscription! That's not funny.

It seems to be an interesting magazine, though. Some of the listed articles were:

  • The Benefits of Kissing
  • Get Off the "Yes" Treadmill
  • Dealing with Life's Unexpected Turns
  • For Parents Only
Then I struck gold. The Miami Herald archived Dave Barry columns at least far back as 1994. I enjoyed Night of the living roach and Living under the influence of the Weirdness Magnet, but personal tastes will vary.

Deadlines are My Friends

This afternoon, the "Gilligan's Island" theme got stuck in my head.

I did what I had to do.

I put a radio on my head, started listening to a classical music station, and got to work on blogs.

All of which may seem to have nothing to do with deadlines.

This blog, and two others, are part of my collection of online income-generators. So far, the blogs have earned exactly nothing, gross or net. But it's early days yet. Not that I expect to ever rely solely on blogs for income. I've read claims about people making thousands of dollars a month with these things, but a quick check shows a catch. The presumably high-income blogs are also high-traffic blogs. And have an extremely tight focus.

Speaking of focus, I've lost mine. Ah, right! Deadlines.

I don't like deadlines. In fact, I barely tolerate them.

But they're important. For a closet perfectionist like me, they're vital.

Without a deadline, I'm capable of letting a project lag, lapse, tarry, and tumble into that oblivion shared by so many promising ideas.

These blogs, for instance, must be updated no more than once a week.

I know: that's an insanely long time between entries in the fidgety online world.

In fact, I update my blogs much more frequently than that. But, it's possible that a week will come, when some fragment of fact or opinion associated with a blog hasn't made its way to my mind's front desk in time. If that happens, I'll take drastic steps and actually work at scraping some write-worthy bit from the week's headlines, or my experiences.

It was a deadline that got my Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers site launched while the Minnesota tourist season was still on. And, it will be a deadline that will keep my current project from becoming an uncomfortable memory.

Deadlines? I may never like them, but I've learned to appreciate them.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Judge Roy Pearson's Pants-Stealing Koreans

I hope that this blog's next entry about Judge Roy Pearson and his efforts to crush the Koreans he says stole his pants will be good news.

I'd like to read that the Chung family got their legal fees paid, and can finally concentrate on running their dry cleaning service.

How likely that outcome is, I've no idea.

Roy Pearson and his jihad against the pants-stealing Koreans may be tricky to follow. This is how today's Washington Post article on the case described the crusading judge: "A lawyer for the poor for much of his career, Pearson represented himself, and in making his case, styled himself as a champion of the little guy, safeguarding consumer protection laws and the rights of ordinary citizens who lacked his legal acumen."

How noble.

Every small business owner, particularly the very small ones, can learn something from the Chung's experience.

Ethnicity counts. If you move into an area where you are an ethnic minority, there is a chance that you'll have trouble. You may even find yourself on the defensive against a deeply entrenched majority who have the numbers, the resources, and the legal connections to imperil your business, and you.

I see that, outside mainstream news, there are quite a few people who have twigged to the ethnic aspect of Judge Roy Pearson's legal attach on the Chungs. A quick Google blog search ("roy pearson" "washington post" korean black) showed several: D.C.'s Black-Korean Dynamic: A Simmering Tension, Roy Pearson is an Idiot, plus one blog that was "archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service" by WorldPress.com, apparently because the blogger cited statistics in reference to the attitude of the majority ethnic group in Washington, D.C., toward Jews. I just hope that my blog doesn't suffer the same fate.

Finally, two points here are important, in my opinion.

  • Judge Roy Pearson is not an idiot. He'd be much less dangerous if he were. It's his beliefs and emotional responses that make him a threat to those who he feels wrong him.
  • The blogs I read were not the hate-filled redneck rants that many of my old college chums and current online acquaintances seem to expect from those who deviate from their approved beliefs.
And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

Friday, July 6, 2007

Legal Jihad and the Pants-Stealing Koreans

To be fair, Judge Roy Pearson had the good sense to drag the Chungs back into court over the Independence Day holiday. I'm a bit of a news nut, and this one would have slipped by me if an online friend hadn't brought Judge Pearson's 'jihad' to my attention.

I don't feel so bad, though, seeing that The $54 Million Pants Suit That Wouldn't Die is an item on the Washington Post's Metro section.

One aspect of the case that has been given, at best, scant attention is the issue of diversity. The Chung family, recent immigrants from Korea, are not only foreigners, but cannot blend into Washington D. C.'s ethnic majority (which made up 60% of the city's population in the 2000 census).

For anyone in business, especially those who aren't corporate giants, this is really bad news. The Chung family didn't have the sort of money it took to finance the first two-year court battle, let alone a second one. I understand that hundreds of Washington Post readers have contributed to a legal defense fund for the Chungs, but the besieged family is going to need more than that.

Much as I respect our legal system, I'm disturbed that an obviously deranged lawsuit like this can't be given a decent burial.

I've heard arguments, usually waving the Dred Scott v. Sanford flag, that courts must hear all cases, no matter how bizarre. The idea seems to be that contemporary mores may need to be changed, and that this change can only come through the courts making fools of themselves.

There's gotta be a better way, though.

And, somehow I doubt that "the best interests of all Washington residents" are being served by protecting them from what Pearson seems to regard as evil, pants-stealing Koreans.

(Lunatic lawsuits seem to be a recurring theme in this blog, so I'm starting a list of related posts.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Troll Poll - Just for Fun

At first glance, trolls have nothing to do with starting and running a business.

After brief consideration, however, business owners have enough stress to deal with, without the help of cybertwits getting in the way of online discussion.

In an effort to relieve stress, and to satisfy my curiosity about the views of others on this Information Age pest, I created a poll last month. Of six responders, one felt that online trolls most nearly resembled gnats, another that they were like coyotes. Two each voted for "horse flies" or "rabid badgers."

If you are a LiveJOURNAL member, I invite you to participate in Troll Poll II: Return of the Troll Poll. It takes only a few seconds to complete. (If you aren't, you might consider joining that online community - particularly if you have artistic or creative interests.)

I hope you have as much fun with this poll as I had, creating it.

I plan to post the results of the poll after (and if) responses accumulate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Computers and Kids: Son of Return of the Sequel

It's almost a week since my kids and I discussed a new way for me to ensure that my software is left alone when I leave it alone.

Bringing the mini-saga up to date, the new process seems to be working. The kids have been paying attention to the okay-to-visit list. Just as good, my son talked to me about another site that was overlooked when we discussed the white list. He has my oral assurance that the site is okay to visit, and play games on: and I'll be updating the printed and posted list shortly.

I suppose that they could be sneaking visits behind my back, but between browser logs and the fact that my kids know that I know about such things, I think they're toeing the line.

Previous posts in this mini-saga:

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers - up and running at last!

It's finally up and running, Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers. My goal had been to get this directory of "Destinations and Diversions in Minnesota" up by June 1. At least there's still a couple months of the summer tourist season left: and this resource will be useful year-round.

I was a bit optimistic about how I'd deal with the set of data I'd collected, but I'm satisfied with the result.

For now, at least.

The next step will be to let folks know about this traveler's resource. That's a job for next week.

After that, I've got the next version of 'Minnesota Web-Wise' to work on, and Easy Griller ("I'm not lazy, I'm efficient!).

Right now, I'd better work on getting some sleep.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Glancing at an Evolving Media Market, and Niche Marketing

If you're interested in the Web as a new and evolving media market, you've probably already read Seeking common factors in the Web 2.0 bubble, by Guy Kewney in The Register®.

Kewney's piece is partly a digest of a disagreement conducted with bits and bytes between Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur" and blogger Robert Scoble. What's repeated in The Register® reminds me a bit of Twain's "The Literary Offenses of J. Fennimore Cooper."

Kewney also discusses his view of traditional media, what's on the Web, and mass vs niche marketing.

I'm still a fan of niche marketing, but now I'll have to think about it.

Kewney's piece is an interesting, and at a minimum thought-starting, look at this new field of opportunities. If you're still reading this, go back up to that link and follow it. I think you'll find it worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Computers and Kids: Return of the Sequel

This continues the micro-saga of how my 11-year-old son's effect on a 3d render last Monday has helped me learn a few things about how to managing business and family under one roof.

The story to date is in Computers and Kids: the Sequel (June 26) and Computers and Kids: Home-Based Business vs Bionicles (June 25).

There were one or two moments earlier this week when I felt like restricting all access to the 'work' computer, except for vital, by-appointment-only tasks. That wouldn't have been reasonable, though, and would have violated my policy of letting the kids learn by doing. Hair-raising though that may be.

So, I sat down and thought of what was actually needed to maintain a safe working environment for me and the software. I came up with a five-point list, the third point of which was my responsibility to put a prominent written notice up whenever a critical software operation was running without supervision.

Having keyed my five points into a text file, I gathered the kids around the 'work' computer and discussed them. I learned about three sites for the 'white list' of acceptable game and/or video downloads. Looking up ownership of the sites, I decided they were okay, and added them.

The five-point reminder sheet is posted by the computer now, and I'm fairly confident that we've got something better than a temporary solution.

Another Screwball Lawsuit?

You just can't make this sort of thing up.

I ran into a discussion of another screwball lawsuit this morning. Here's a quote from an article about the affair: "Victoria McArthur, of Romero, Mich., is suing Starbursts' parent company, Mars Inc., for more than $25,000 for 'permanent personal injuries' she claims she sustained after biting into one of their yellow candy in 2005."

The discussion, produced by Fox News, included an apparently informed person who pointed out that the relatively small sum involved made the suit more reasonable than the recent case of the fifty-four-million-dollar pants.

Ms. McArthur's lawyer says that three chews of a Starburst® candy gave his client temporal mandibular joint dysfunction.

I hope that whoever hears this case isn't impressed by a medical term, with lots of big words.

Apparently, she wants warning labels on the Starburst® candies.

At this rate, it's only a matter of time before Chester Cheetah® has to stop saying "Dangerously Cheesy®" because the phrase will frighten young children and invalids.

As someone who is growing an online publishing company, maybe I should be taking this more seriously. Sooner or later, someone is going to realize that some company, preferably one with lots of money, can be sued because John Doe or Jane Roe got a headache while viewing that company's website. And, since that headache led to Dementia Paranoidies with Portal Hypertension

And win.

Or, maybe not. Recently, a court ruled in favor of the family enterprise that faced ruin over a $54 million dollar pair of pants. Good news for them, and for the rest of us.

And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Computers and Kids: the Sequel

"What we've got here is failure to communicate," that sixties catchphrase from Cool Hand Luke (1967), seems to be at the root of yesterday's intersection of my kids and my work.

Tomorrow, I plan to have a short list of reminders posted (hardcopy) near the computer. we've got rules for its use, but it looks like it's easy to forget some of them.

One of the reminders is for me. Part of my responsibilities will be to put a note on or very near the computer when there's something running on it that mustn't be disturbed, and I'm away from the thing.

We'll see how well this works.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Computers and Kids: Home-Based Business vs Bionicles

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I was waiting for a long render to end. A 3d landscape was giving me some trouble, and I wanted a closer look at what was happening. A cup of coffee wouldn't be enough this time. I needed to find something to do with the next hour or so, while the software did its work.

That's about as long as I usually spend at an exercise place in town, so I left instructions to leave the computer with one of the kids and left. (Clarification: I don't exercise for an hour. That's how long it takes me to drive there, change, exercise, shower, and return. Not bad, for a guy like me.)

When I got back, the computer was being re-booted.

My son had decided that his program wouldn't cause any problems. I suspect that it was one of those online Bionicle games, but I haven't confirmed that.

He's sharp, and computer-savvy. He's also eleven years old, which leaves him with something less than a mature storehouse of wisdom.

The software I was using seemed to have saved my landscape, which wasn't the option I'd have chosen. In addition to the original problem, it was now decidedly terraced.

I've dealt with the new and degraded landscape. At one point, I noticed that my method of smoothing out the terraces was making the landscape swallow some buildings.

On a positive note, I got a great deal of experience, using features of the 3d modeling software and another graphics program that I hadn't learned about before. At this point, about midnight, I'm waiting for the end of a rendering which will reveal how well my most recent efforts were at salvaging my project.

On the down side, I've got to decide what to do about what the kids can, and can't, do with the computer.

It isn't as easy as forbidding them from using the thing: tempting as that option is. I work at home, and don't have the budget to maintain two sets of hardware. One of the kids relies on word processing software for her writing, and even the mail service we use doesn't seem to work well on the older computer.

I'd like to have a neat solution ready to present at this point, perfectly balancing the needs of my evolving business with my responsibility to prepare our kids for life in the Information Age.

But this blog is a record of how my business develops: and at this point, I don't have the solution. Maybe tomorrow.

The rendering I was waiting for should be ready soon. I'd better see how it looks.

Privacy: Dealing with Quaint Local Beliefs

It doesn't matter what I think and feel, it's what others think and feel that matters: at least when in comes to getting along with customers.

I was reminded of that fact of life in a bit of informed opinion, titled "Behavioral Marketing and Behaviorally Targeted Advertising" by Nikole Gipps. Gipps's post said that this technology might not be a good idea for small businesses.

And said it in the lead paragraph.

That got my attention, since I expect technically sophisticated folks to be gung-ho over new sorts of gadgetry.

Gipps gave several good reasons, including high cost, the need to advertise on a large site or a network of smaller sites, and possible "privacy" worries on the part of visitors.

The only reason that I don't really understand, at least on an experiential level, is the concern over "privacy." Which brings me back to why I'm posting this thing.

Despite having lived in metropolitan areas, I'm basically a small-town guy. I expect people I see, or who see me, to know who I am, and remember when I was there before, and again when I return.

When I go into a store, I'm not surprised when someone recognizes me. It's not a shock when someone with the store remembers that I bought a particular item, looked at another, and asked about a third last week.

And I'm not offended when that person brings some product or service to my attention, based on my previous behavior.

In fact, I like it. At one time it would be called "customer service," not "invasion of privacy."

Why some folks get worried about that sort of information gathering, I don't know. And it doesn't matter.

Contemporary English-speaking cultures place great importance on the sort of anonymity they call "privacy," and anyone operating in such cultures had better pay attention to that concern.

Justice is Served (Medium-Well)

It looks like the owners of Custom Cleaners can stay in business, after all. Administrative law judge Roy L. Pearson wanted compensation for a pair of pants he claimed the cleaners had lost.

If Pearson had gotten what he wanted, Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung would have had to pay $64 million dollars, although he was willing to settle for $54 million. This is more than most of us can afford, and the Chung family is no exception.

Even though he cried in the courtroom, another judge, Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff, didn't buy Pearson's claim. "A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands" was the way she put it, according to a news report.

Judge Bartnoff also told Pearson to pay the court costs of defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung. That's a little over $1,000 for photocopying, filing and similar expenses, the Chungs' attorney said. The Chungs have spent tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, which may be reason for legal action later.

Court costs or legal fees, I'm not convinced that the Chungs will see their money. After the O. J. Simpson civil suit and other judicial debacles, I get the impression that these court-ordered payments depend largely on whether the guilty parties feel like paying.

The "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign that Pearson saw when he started this exercise in madness isn't on display in Custom Cleaners any more.

I'm glad to see evidence that screwball lawsuits don't necessarily succeed.

On the other hand, it would have been nice if something as obviously lunatic as Pearson's tearful plea hadn't been allowed to get past the starting gate.

(Small business isn't the only sort of enterprise with this sort of trouble: see Another Screwball Lawsuit?.)

And, a few other blogs on Judge Roy Pearon's vendetta against the Koreans:

("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

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