Friday, December 3, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: YouTube Woes and Vimeo

Before anyone has a stroke: I don't have an opinion on YouTube's actions, regarding WatchReport. Like the fellow said, "I only know what I read in the papers." Or, in this case, online:

"YouTube's Community Police Blow Up Another Innocent Victim"
John Biggs, TechCrunch (December 3, 2010)

"Call me cynical, but after experiencing a YouTube shutdown firsthand, I've come to realize that it is near impossible to build a stable brand or presence on YouTube. The gatekeepers are far too antsy with the big red ban button and, after facing this problem once when CrunchGear's entire video archive was shut down I'm loathe to recommend the service to those trying to post anything other than the occasional video of baby ducklings being blown over.

"WatchReport, a watch website I used to frequent, started posting watch reviews on YouTube in 2005. Over the past five years they racked up two million views and 2000 subscribers on 50 reviews. Then all of the videos were gone.

"On November 23 the account was locked 'due to multiple or severe violations of our Community Guidelines,' which would presumably include 'no sex, nudity, hate speech, shock videos, illegal acts, threats, impersonation, or copyright violation.' These were watch videos and the former owner of WatchReport, Christian, definitely didn't impersonate anyone in the nude...."

"...The lesson? Depend on someone like Vimeo for hosting important stuff. Otherwise it could be taken away at a moment's notice...."
I can tell that Mr. Biggs is disappointed: and regards Vimeo as preferable to YouTube.

This account got me curious about YouTube's TOS: Which weren't all that hard to find. ( The Community Guidelines were linked in that page's sidebar. ( Maybe someone thought WatchReport was too spammy.

But, like I said: I really don't know the facts in this case.

On the other hand, I now know the name of another YouTube wannabe. Or maybe I should say "analog."

Related posts:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pretty Good Advice and Observations About Online Advertising


"Recommendations for Optimizing AdSense Earnings"
Dragon Blogger (March 16, possibly 2010)

"Ben over at not only left me a comment about my article on how I am experimenting with AdSense but followed up with his own blog post on recommendations that I should follow to improve and optimize my AdSense on my website. The tips for maximizing AdSense Earnings were very thorough and detailed and Ben states that he makes more than $300 per month AdSense from his blogs and has less traffic to his blogs than I do and is able to achieve these results.

"I visited and extensively reviewed and can see how it is heavily Optimized for AdSense, it takes full advantage of 1 Skyscraper ad blog, and 2 350×200 ad blocks inside every post. In addition there are 3 AdSense Link Units and a Google Search Bar inside the site. I appreciate the feedback and recommendations given and will look to implement some of them in the near future while I am still testing out others...."
The rest of the post is more of the same: common-sense advice and a few useful anecdotes. Also links to relevant posts elsewhere, and an online tool.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why Your Boss Doesn't Understand the Information Age

I was born during the Truman administration, was a teen in the sixties, and earned my first college degree in the seventies. If I'd followed a conventional 'success' career track, I'd probably be in an upper-level management or an executive position by now.

Even from an old-school career-track mindset, considering what happened to the Big Three automakers: that's probably just as well. (December 12, 2008)

Important Executives and a Changing World

Here's a story of two people. It's fiction: the people aren't real; but the situation they were in is, I think, not all that uncommon.

Mr. Jones Wasn't Stupid

First, M. J. Jones. He was born around 1910, was a marginally adequate student in elementary school and dropped out in his mid-teens, to help with the family business. After the Great Depression, Mr. Jones applied for - and got - a sales position with a major corporation. He was very good at it, and his supervisor decided to see how Mr. Jones would do, coordinating a few other salesmen.

Mr. Jones, it turned out, was a brilliant manager. He kept his team motivated, increased sales - and got promoted.

Mr. Jones got a reputation for being a very loyal boss. He supported members of his team, occasionally taking key people with him during promotions. He brought the secretary he'd worked with in his first management post along with him, all the way to the corner office with "Vice President for Sales and Marketing" on the door.

In his autobiography, co-authored with his secretary and published after his retirement, a little secret came out.

Mr. Jones could barely read.

He recognized words like "rest room," "exit," and "stop," and could with great effort work his way through something written at about a 5th grade reading level: but that was it.

He wasn't stupid. At all. He had remembered details of every report that crossed his desk and kept track of a staff the size of a small town. But he'd never learned to read.

From the start, he insisted that reports be read aloud to him: saying that if you couldn't say something in five minutes or less, you didn't have anything worth reading. He also claimed, with some reason, that a sales staff who couldn't speak clearly and coherently should have other jobs.

He'd confided in his secretary on the first day of that first managerial job. She'd worked for management types with bad handwriting: and appreciated a boss who didn't give her illegible memos.

Not Everybody Can Read

Unrealistic? Hardly.

When I was growing up, folks in America were beginning to realize that some of us simply aren't wired for reading. Dyslexia is one of the better-known situations of that sort.

And some folks, like Mr. Jones, lived in a time and under circumstances which didn't encourage expending the sort of time and effort it takes to develop reading skills.

These days, in America at least, it's less likely that someone will go through school without a reading deficit going undetected.

On the other hand, you may know someone like this fellow:

N. O. Jones isn't Lazy

N. O. Jones, M. J. Jones' nephew, can read pretty well, although he doesn't have much time for 'unproductive' reading. Before he graduated from high school, N. O. decided that he wanted to work in a corner office and have a company car, like his uncle.

N. O. studied hard, worked his way through college, and graduated with an MBA. After that, his career track was fairly similar to his uncle's. Today, N. O. Jones reads reports in a corner office overlooking Lake Michigan.

There's a computer on his desk, but N. O. only uses it when he absolutely has to.

While he was in high school, assignments that absolutely had to be typed were done by N.O.'s younger brother, from N.O's handwritten copy.

In college, N. O.'s girlfriend typed his reports.

On the job, N. O.'s hunt-and-peck typing method kept him going until his position warranted access to a clerical pool - and later a secretary.

Unlike his uncle, N. O. Jones' lack of keyboard competence was fairly well-known. And, if anything, increased his status: as someone who was too important to have 'merely clerical' skills.

N. O. Jones had heard about computers while growing up: but didn't pay much attention to science fiction stuff like that. His nerdy younger brother - but that's another story.

Back in the 90s, N. O. read something about a "World Wide Web" in a report from one of his area's regional offices. He made a note to tell his younger brother about it, and went back to the serious business of managing his department.

Around the turn of the millennium, N. O. had his secretary circulate a memo that all reports and memos must be printed on paper and filed in accordance with department policy. He'd heard that his staff had been communicating with each other with something called "electronic mail."

He prided himself on being broad-minded about office chatter: but company business had to be done in a business-like fashion. No nerdy toys for his department!

Eight years ago, after several key staff members quit over the issue, N. O. Jones carefully studied various proposals, and finally allowed his department to use "electronic mail."

N. O. Jones isn't Stupid

The younger Jones, like his uncle, isn't stupid.

He's specialized.

N. O. Jones decided, in his teens, that he wanted to pursue the conventional management-executive career track with a major American corporation. And he succeeded.

That sort of career takes many qualities, including a sort of discipline which often doesn't leave room for learning "useless" skills.

Like being able to type.

Typewriters, Technology, Skills, and Me

After a less-than-adequate experience with a high school typing class, I enrolled in a summer program at a business college and learned touch-typing. After I passed, my speed was around 50 to 60 words per minute: which was adequate for the clerical jobs I've had from time to time.

Time passed. I learned a good-enough way to deliver plants across town, how to be a radio disk jockey, and what was called "desktop publishing" at that time. I was working for a small publishing company when the Web emerged: and was one of two people on the staff who was even marginally comfortable when working with a computer.

I wound up being "the computer guy," among other things.

I'm not a 'techy.' My son knows more about what's now and wow in information technology than I do. But I do try to keep up with the times.

Back in my youth, someone who didn't think a business needed a telephone might have been right. Some outfits with a strictly local, walk-in clientele still don't need the added expense of a telephone. But they're few and far between.

Today, I think some of the clueless online behavior we see - particularly for the larger, well-established companies - may be credited to important executives: who have been too busy and too important as the decades passed to notice that the world has changed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Engage Others Online - Without Annoying Them

"highly recommended."
Tweeted by danielsnyder1, on Twitter (July 29, 2010)

I was one of five people mentioned in that Tweet. (Thanks, BTW!)

A link in that Tweet leads to "Twitter: Follow Friday recommendations for July 30," Information Carnivore (July 30, 2010).

What struck me about the list - apart from my being on in - was the criteria that Daniel Snyder used to select his 10 Twitterers for this week. It's not number of followers, or the kind of bot we used to spam other folks. It was "tweeting regular and valuable content."

Here's part of his post's introduction, and the reasons he gave for including each person:

"...These ten people come with my stamp of approval (That's right endorsed by Daniel Snyder), so you can be certain they are tweeting regular and valuable content. Here we go, in no particular order...."
"...tweets valuable content, he is quick to engage, and regularly invites users to participate in a random word poetry game. He's also a fantastic blogger who is genuine and open, and quick to share advice, tips and his experiences. If you are learning to blog, Dragon Blogger will be candid and helpful, pay attention to his blog and his tweets...."

" a great engager, and faithful retweeter, he's also been good to me by giving feedback on my posts along with the retweets, which always sparks conversation...."

" a blogger, who tweets some really interesting stuff, she also engages in conversation which as you can tell always earns points with me...."

" new to blogging and someone who is super friendly on twitter. I recommend we follow him, and encourage him on his way...."

"...has an amazing knack for digging up the latest scoops and interesting stories and sharing them with all of us. Interested in info sec? She is a must follow. Jovi is also super friendly, and a friendly retweeter...."

"...Has breaking info sec scoops and valuable tweets on a regular basis. Absolutely a great follow, and will keep you in the loop...."

" a blogger, and friendly twitter guy. He is an advocate for my posts, and promotes me (so hopefully you too…)..."

" an excellent blogger who is very social on the web, she is quick to engage on twitter, and interact on other social networks
as well. Tweets valuable and interesting content....

" a wealth of information and good tweets, she is educated and tweets valuable info sec. content, she also has a blog called Tek Blog for which she writes...."

" a friendly twitter guy, who retweets and comments on valuable content. He is also very intelligent and has a great blog worth reading...."
(Daniel Snyder/Information Carnivore)

Who is Worth Following?

What I took away from that list, in terms of what makes a person well worth following on Twitter (or anywhere else) was this:
  • Create "valuable and interesting" content
  • Be friendly
  • Help people
    • Respond with constructive criticism when they ask for it
    • Promote them
      • When that promotion is "valuable and interesting" content for your readers
  • Engage with others on social networks

"Engage" Online - Soon to be an Overused Buzzword

Considering some of what I've seen online, maybe I'd better explain what I mean by "engage."
What Engaging is Not
Fist, what it's not. From my point of view, "engaging" others on a social network isn't:
  • Sending them direct messages with links to your advertisers
  • Telling them that you're buying dental floss
  • Doing anything that you wouldn't do to a friend you met at a bus stop, coffee shop, or wherever
What Engaging is
"Engaging" others on a social network is pretty simple:
  • Assume that the folks you "engage" are people
  • Treat them the way you'd like a friend or acquaintance to treat you
  • Be interested in something besides yourself
Funny, how when you boil down acres or erudite prose on how to deal with people online, it often boils down to "play nice."
A tip of the hat to danielsnyder1, for including me on that list.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Advertising, Income, and Time


The first article shows what looks like a not-ideal trend in what content providers get from Google's AdSense. After showing what seems to be happening, Brett Prince writes this:
"...This isn't the greatest news, but it's meant to inform people of what's going on with the AdSense program rather than scare people off...."
(Brett Prince (June 25, 2010))
He suggests that folks with focused blogs or websites could consider making deals directly with advertisers. What he doesn't discuss, as far as I saw, was the additional effort - and time - it would take to manage advertising accounts.

Interesting, though.
A tip of the hat to BrettPrince, on Twitter, for the heads-up on his articles.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sense of Touch Affects Decision-Making? Maybe Not a Crazy Idea

When I read this article's headline and first paragraph, I was ready to dismiss the whole thing as silly science: the sort of thing that folks with letters after their name do sometimes, to increase their own status or push some political preference. Or maybe because they don't know any better.

Anyway: here's that headline, a link, a citation, and a few excerpts from that article

"Sense of Touch Shapes Snap Judgments"
Wired Science (June 25, 2010)

"Sitting in a hard chair can literally turn someone into a hardass. Holding a heavy clipboard leads to weighty decisions. Rubbing rough surfaces makes us prickly. So found researchers studying the interaction between physical touch and social cognition.

"The experiments included would-be car buyers who, when seated in a cushy chair, were less likely to drive a stiff bargain. The findings don't just suggest tricks for salesman, but may illuminate how our brains develop.

" 'The way people understand the world is through physical experiences. The first sense they develop is touch,' said study co-author Josh Ackerman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist. As they grow up, those physical experiences shape how people conceptualize abstract, social experience, he said. 'Later on, you can do what we did - trigger different physical experiences, and produce changes in people's thoughts.'..."

"...Other research shows that the brain doesn't always have different structures for different functions, but often uses the same systems in a variety of ways. And given the importance of touch, it's easy for developing brains to use tactile associations - heaviness requires effort, roughness leads to friction, hard objects are inflexible - in understanding social situations.

" 'Those connections that people have, between physical experience and mental understanding, don't ever disappear,' said Ackerman...."

"...For those fearing exploitation by marketers, Ackerman noted that tactile suggestion's effects diminish when people pay attention. 'It's when you're distracted, thinking in a shallow fashion, that you get hit by these cues,' he said...."
The sort of research described in the article is in a relatively new field called embodied cognition.

The parts I left out describe - briefly - how the experiments were done. It seems to me that if the researchers were careful about procedures and crunching statistics - they're probably on to something here.

I was particularly impressed that they had a working hypothesis to explain the apparent link between our sense of touch, and how we're inclined to interpret social data.

Apart from the practical business angles - like 'no hard chairs for the clients' - there's some really interesting science going on here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Twitter's Fail Whale: Here's a Cake

Another morning, and I see that Twitter is moving along with business-as-usual, pouring resources into interesting new features; and alienating their users by failing to maintain their boring old infrastructure.

I don't have a window into the Twitter offices, but my guess is that it'll be fun while it lasts.

Let's face it, fixing an existing system, or doing due diligence for acquiring new servers or other infrastructure isn't all that much fun. In fact, it can be downright dull.

Which may explain Twitter's decision to keep the Fail Whale appearing so often.

Twitter's Fail Whale: Good News, Bad News

The Fail Whale's regular appearances isn't all bad news, though. Someone memorialized Twitter's inadequate service: by baking a cake.

(from, via Webuser, used w/o permission)

I don't see, in the two sources I read, that anyone's thought of marketing Fail Whale Cake - but if Twitter keeps ignoring its system and its users, I think there's a business opportunity here.

Think about it: Fail Whale parties, Fail Whale novelties.

It's got possibilities: as long as Twitter keeps shooting itself in the foot.

Related posts:More:
  • "Twitter Fail Whale cake tempts hungry Tweeters"
    Webuser (June 23, 2010)
    • "With the England v Slovenia game prompting a huge flood of tweets, the Twitter Fail Whale seems to have taken up permanent residence this afternoon...."
  • "Fail Whale Cake for Twitter Fans" (June 22, 2010)
    • "...The Twitter Fail Whale cake is created by Mariana Pugliese, a cake designer from Buenos Aires. From the images, we can see the famous whale designed by Yiying Lu a Chinese illustrator...."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Twitter is Over Capacity: Decisions?

"Twitter is over capacity." No big surprise there. I've been seeing the 'fail whale' quite a lot in recent weeks.

I've posted about this before.

I also try to give people and companies the benefit of the doubt. And Twitter has been growing a lot lately.

Just the same: I wish that someone in Twitter would decide to put more effort and resources into making their service work - and less into creating and introducing new, spiffy, nifty-keen features.

I use Twitter to communicate with other people. Groovy gadgets are tubular - or whatever - but useless, unless the basic service WORKS!

I'm not abandoning Twitter yet: but at this rate, I may have to. I simply don't have the time to wait around until the 'fail whale' goes away for a while.

That's not the sort of decision a service company wants to force its customers into.

Sort-0f-related posts:

"Gold Rush in the Gulf:" a Guest Post

Get the oil back and boost the economy of affected regions at the same time. Advertise an all hands on deck approach to the American people, enlist their help, and create a "gold rush in the gulf". BP has an opportunity to turn its stocks around, retain customer loyalty, and be a driving force in economic recovery in a time of devastation.

It's my humble understanding that it doesn't take a lot of talent to pick up oil. And there seems to be economical solutions for doing so. The problem with many of the solutions is that it takes an army of people to make a difference. Recruit an army, and pay them commission on each barrel of oil they collect.

With a bounty plan it would inspire entrepreneurs to set up EPA licensed distribution centers for collection materials. Those who want to collect must go through a training process for the specific area they will clean. Hotels would be booked solid, the tourist industry would be temporarily replaced with oil workers, and entire industries would pop up over night, thus restoring the real-estate market to a more manageable level.

No plan is a perfect plan but a plan that empowers people to help and gives them hope creates a win situation for everyone. It might be a sticky situation but let's not make it a hopeless one.

Aaron McWilliams
Executive Producer Oasis Productions

Related post:


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: Disclosure Policies for Bloggers

I'm a blogger: obviously. I've never been paid to write a review of some product or service, but that could happen. In fact, I've been looking into how to set a paid-review situation up.

On the other hand, I couldn't be paid to write favorably - or unfavorably - about something.

That's where "disclosure" comes in.

As far as I know, "disclosure" like that isn't required in America yet: but there's a chance that it will. Either way, I think it's a good idea.

You have the Right to Remain Scuzzy

Outside of parts of the entertainment industry and some political subcultures, there doesn't seem to be much room for sleazy people. Not at the 'success' end of the pool, anyway. Anyway, I don't want to be the sort of disreputable person who'd take a few bucks to say good things about a shoddy product.

Part of that disinclination is what I suppose you could call my self-esteem. Part of it's simple self-interest. I plan to be around a few years from now, with folks reading what I write - and that's not going to happen if I earn a bad reputation.

So, even if it's legal (for now), I'm looking at developing a disclosure policy.

'I Read About it Online'

I found what appears to be a pretty good guide to developing a disclosure policy after reading a Tweet on Twitter, which led me to a blog post, which - - - the links in that chain are at the bottom of this post.

Here's a pretty good rationale for doing "disclosure:"
"...By disclosing the purpose of a blog, bloggers are letting readers know more about the information they'll be reviewing. Bloggers retain the freedom to write original content, as well as select which advertisers they will represent in exchange for gifts or money. Any ethical concerns will remain where they've always been - on the individual level. Because it is a blogger's freedom to select which topics will bring them payment, he/she remains responsible for his/her own reputation...."
Works for me. has a simple, one-size-didn't-fit-me, easy-to-use set of forms for generating a disclosure policy. Here's what I got, after filling it out:
This is not my disclosure policy!

It's a sample. Not a real policy.
This policy is valid from 19 June 2010

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact Brian H. Gill at P.O Box 93, Sauk Centre, Minnesota 56378.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

This blog does contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content may not always be identified. We are employed by or consult with: Oasis Productions. We blog about people to whom we are related. The most interesting such people are: Aaron McWilliams, Executive Producer at Oasis Productions. We have a financial interest in the following that are relevant to our blogging: quite a few businesses operating in the United States and around the world.

To get your own policy, go to has this good advice:
"We suggest that you place a text link marked 'Disclosure Policy' for your readers on the side or bottom bar of your blog in an area that can be easily located by your readers. This link should link to your disclosure policy on a separate page of your blog/site in a fashion similar to a privacy policy link."
Looks like pretty good advice. That boilerplate copy from their form has to be tweaked a bit, but it's a good starting point.

They've got a nifty couple of badges, too. Here's the smaller one:

A tip of the hat to "dragonblogger, on Twitter, for the heads-up on his post, which led to the rest.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Code for the Easy Griller

I've been (slowly) adding a new sort of ad to my Easy Griller website. No big deal: just using some of the white space at the top of one page, and making use of a couple of new features from AdSense.

That top-center ad will have company on other pages, as I go through the website, cleaning up and improving the pages.

Now that I look at the results, I may have goofed. Oh, well: it was a cosmetic error. No problem with function.

Twitter is Over Capacity: Again; Still

Updated (June 15, 2010)
A new PCWorld link, and a link added near end of this post. under "More:"
That's unfair: I've used Twitter quite often, and on average, it's functional more often than it's not.

However, the latest SNAFU with Twitter is big enough, and is lasting long enough, to make the mainstream news:
"Twitter users muted by maintenance woes"
The Sydney Morning Herald (June 15, 2010)

"Australian microbloggers were uncharacteristically mute on Twitter this afternoon owing to a fault that has taken down the site for almost two hours.

"The site has been displaying only its famous Fail Whale since 1.30 pm AEST after being restored very briefly at about 3 pm. In a status update Twitter said the fault had occurred as a result of maintenance work.

" 'We are experiencing site-wide availability issues due to scheduled maintenance. We're currently working to address the issues, it said.

"The latest outage follows a string of 'networking errors' reported by US news sources last week and includes no timeframe on when the site may be error-free again.

"It does however coincide with the launch of a new features today called Twitter Places that lets users highlight tweets around a given location...."
[emphasis mine]
I highlighted that last paragraph, because I think there's a lesson to be learned here.

If you're running a service business, and have grown to the point where you can't get the basic services to work correctly: THAT IS NOT A GOOD TIME TO ADD SOME FANCY NEW SERVICE.

The fancy new service may be something you like a whole lot, and something that your clients have said they wanted. But they probably want your basic service to work, too.

It Could be Worse

Take a hypothetical diaper cleaning service. It's been growing for several years, and now covers most of a country. The company has a keen new gimmick: lemon-scented 'thank you' notes, personalized with the client's name, with every delivery of fresh diapers.

Just one problem: Dirty diapers haven't been picked up regularly for the last year.

Think about it. What's more important: picking up the dirty diapers and processing them; or introducing lemon-scented, personalized notes to a system that's not working?

Sorry about the rant: I've had a frustrating night.

Vaguely-related posts:More:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gulf Oil Cleanup Idea: A Bounty on Oil

Here's an idea, for how to clean up that oil slick on the Gulf of Mexico. On British Petroleum's dime.

It's not mine, by the way. The idea, I mean.

Put a Bounty on Collected Oil

A whole lot of people live on and near the Gulf coast. Quite a few of them are looking for a way to make some extra money. BP has money.

Why not let BP pay people for petroleum glop that they've collected on the Gulf, and on the Gulf shores, where the stuff has run aground?

BP gets some of their oil back - plus some sand and seaweed; Locals get bounty money, which they spend - stimulating local economies; and we all get a somewhat-cleaner Gulf of Mexico.

Like I said, the idea's not mine: Thank Aaron McWilliams, the executive producer of Oasis Productions. Who 'just happens' to be my son-in-law.

Transparency, like they say these days.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Out on a Limb: Having Opinions That Aren't Approved

I'm coming back with an excerpt from Saturday's post:

Don't be afraid of opinion.

As P.R. says: "...It's my belief ... that one of the big reasons consumers don't trust companies is that companies often strive so hard to be 'PC' that they lose a sense of culture and personality...."

Think before posting something - but when you do post, say something.
(from "Patricio Robles, via Econsultancy (May 27, 2010); micro-reviewed in this blog (May 29, 2010))
Patricio Robles may not have had someone like me in mind when he wrote that. My daughters have told me that it's hard not to tell what I think and feel about something. In person, and in my writing. They're probably right.

My guess is that P. R. was thinking of the common (in America) idea that someone in business should never discuss politics or religion - or pretty much anything else that a potential customer might have an opinion about.

It's not the worst idea, in a way. There's no sense alienating someone who is convinced that the Cubs will win the World Series this year, by opining that the New York Yankees will come out on top.

But What if They'll Find Out You're a Yankees Fan, Anyway?

I'm not a Yankees fan - or a Cubs booster - so I don't need to worry about anybody discovering that I'm a closet fan of some particular team. I am, however, a practicing Catholic. Yep: One of those people.

It's not the sort of thing I can keep a secret, since one of my blogs is A Catholic Citizen in America. Sure: I could have kept quiet about my beliefs. But the bottom line is that even without that blog it would have been a struggle - and probably an unsuccessful one.

Like my daughters observed: I don't hide things well.

So, I've decided to let what I believe come up in posts - where they're relevant to the topic. Like home schooling. Yep: I'm one of those, too. (May 20, 2010, in another blog)

Don't worry, though: I've no intention of being heavy-handed about it. Except maybe in that one blog.

It'll be an interesting experiment. And, I hope, a successful one. My guess, based on a few experiences, is that there are a whole lot of folks out there who really don't mind a blogger who's got religious beliefs.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Related post:

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sincerity: Once You Learn to Fake That, You're Set

That's not the message of a post I read a few minutes ago:

"Five ways to maintain authenticity with social media"
Patricio Robles, via Econsultancy (May 27, 2010)

"Over the past several years, businesses have flocked to social media. Many have done so because they want to, and many more have done so because they think they have to.

"The increasing use of social media amongst businesses reflects the fact that social media is important, even if its value can be somewhat difficult to define and quantify. But social media is just a platform, and realizing value from its use requires the right type of use.

"Businesses have been flogged over the head with the advice about being 'authentic' when using social media. But what does that really mean? Here are five tips for being authentic and maintaining authenticity with business social media use...."
To avoid just copying the whole post (a dubiously-ethical act), but not take up too much of my own time, I'm repeating Patricio Robles's headings - with a heavy paraphrase of the text.

Make it personal.

Faceless corporate groupthink won't cut it online. Personality does. Have a real person who can make his or her own decisions run your social media.

Keep it real.

No, really. Learn what social media sorry is - and don't do it. But admit it when you goofed.

Sooner or later someone won't like what you do. That's their problem. Being principled and decisive isn't a bad idea.

Don't be afraid of opinion.

As P.R. says: "...It's my belief ... that one of the big reasons consumers don't trust companies is that companies often strive so hard to be 'PC' that they lose a sense of culture and personality...."

Think before posting something - but when you do post, say something.

Focus on interactions, not followers and fans.

Just because you can count them, that doesn't mean they're important. You want to interact with people who are going to do something.

Keep the distribution of traditional marketing messages to a minimum.

"NOW, WITH MORE INGREDIENT X!" doesn't work. Don't do it.

Old-style press releases aren't recommended, either.

News Flash! Some People You Meet Online are - People

I do some of those 'traditional marketing messages' on Twitter - giving the name of a post and its URL. At 140 characters, that's all I've got room for, when I want the folks following me to know about a new post.

But that's not all I put on Twitter. I also respond, from time to time, when someone makes a remark about what they're doing, or what their current situation is. It's the sort of communication, very condensed, that I'd engage in, if I were in the same room with them.

Which I think is a good way to think about online communities. They're communities, made up of people. I'll grant that you'll run into the occasional AI, spouting quips at intervals. But if you make a point of engaging people in conversation - I think you'll find that there's a breathing human being at the other end of the connection.

And, unless you're in the habit of shouting 'Sale! Three Days Only!' at folks you know - don't do it online.

A tip of the hat to , on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Easy Griller: "Grilling for the Rest of Us" Website Upgrade

I launched the Easy Griller website about five years ago. Quite a few websites discuss what I'd call the high end of outdoor grilling: involving lots of equipment; elaborate recipes; and words I had to look up, like "marinade."

That approach to grilling is fine: for someone who is willing to invest time, effort and money in pursuing the culinary arts as they pertain to the outdoor grill.

Me? I like to put burgers on the grill and then eat them.

I figure that there are quite a few folks like me: and now we've got a website and a blog dedicated (mostly) to simple, effective outdoor grilling techniques.

I'll admit that I've strayed a bit from the "simple" thing. But that's still the main focus of Easy Griller.

Today, I finished a long-overdue upgrade for the Easy Griller website. The navigation should be 'friendlier' now - and I've changed some of the content.

Now that the site architecture is improved (I hope), I intend to start working on the content: More pictures; streamlining the text, that sort of thing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Twitter, a Frantic Duck, the Carson Mansion, Macbeth, and Branding

I've read that Twitter is a good place to establish a 'brand:' helping people associate your name, or the name of your company, with a product, service - or at least a topic.

Today, I've posted about a frantic mother duck, the Carson Mansion, and Macbeth: in one blog, Apathetic Lemming of the North. My other blogs aren't as - eclectic? - as the Lemming, but they don't cluster very well either.

The blogs and website I'm focusing on right now have to do with outdoor grilling (Easy Griller); being a Catholic in America (A Catholic Citizen in America); and - as noted - everything, in the Lemming.

Since I Tweet (post one of those 140-word remarks) about posts on these blogs, anybody following me on Twitter will see quite a hodgepodge of topics. I'm not sure that's what 'branding' is all about.

One solution would be to have a separate Twitter account for each blog or website - but keeping track of those would be a trifle awkward. And a bit more time-consuming than handling one account. Time isn't something I've got in huge quantities right now.

I'm going to keep Tweeting on Twitter - but I'm also going to keep thinking about what I'm doing there - why - and how I could improve.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Psychology and Web Design: This Introduction isn't At All Bad

Micro-review in another blog:

"...Bottom line? This isn't a 'must-read' post. There aren't many of that sort, in my opinion. But this is a 'worth reading' post: There are more of this sort, but they're rare enough to be worth highlighting. The resource list at the bottom goes a long way to making this post worth the time it'll take to go through it.
A tip of the hat to LogotypeTV, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this article.
Here's the post I micro-reviewed:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Simple 'Secrets' for Affordable SEO

The post isn't a must-read. You and your business may succeed if you never follow the link to "5 Content Marketing Goals for Your Website & Blog - and One Big Challenge, Patsi Krakoff, Writing on the Web.

By devoting a few minutes to signing up for the next get-rich scheme, instead of reading Patsi Krakoff's post, you may even make your in-home business into a multi-trillion-dollar global megacorp. But I doubt it. Very much.

I read the thing and - confound it - now I'll have to think about something besides creating content for my blogs and websites. I really need a marketing team. And a technical department. And an executive secretary. And a seaside office complex. No, I don't "need" all that.

What I really need is a break - which I'll take, as soon as I finish this post.

Getting to the Point: 5 Content Marketing Goals

Here's what got this post started:The five content marketing goals are the sort of thing that are 'obvious' after you've read them, maybe not so much before. Here's what P. K. says you should want your blog and/or website to do:
  1. Impress visitors and showcase your business expertise
  2. Engage, educate, entertain & persuade visitors to short-list you
  3. Capture interest and convert visitors into leads
  4. Generate new business from current clients
  5. Attract visitors from search engines
Sounds good. And, more importantly, practical. In my view, unless you're just out for the thrill of having something online: you'll need to have a goal in mind, to justify the time and expense you're sinking in the thing.

Point 2 - and particularly 3 - tell me that Patsi Krakoff has a fairly traditional business in mind: one that started with a brick-and-mortar presence and has a presence on the Web as a sort of add-on. No problems with that, but it's not what I'm doing. I'll get back to that.

SEO: Search Engines and Being Smart

Then there's #5, about SEO. I'm not entirely on the same page with the author, but she made pretty good points. And, for someone who apparently thinks that what I'll call 'artificial SEO' is a good idea, she's remarkably candid:
"...There are those who say 'forget SEO, just write a lot of content for the people who's problems you can solve.' The search engines will catalog your keywords and you'll rank high based on 'organic search.'

"This can be true to a certain extent. I am living proof of that. This blog has been blessed with quality traffic and ranking and search results based on a long history of publishing plenty of content using a few keywords...."
(Writing on the Web)
Or, in my case, writing plenty of content using a whole lot of keywords. Not all in the same blog, of course.

A bit after that excerpt, there's this:
"...Search Engines Are Stupid, You're Smart

"I don't want to be a nag, but I'm going to repeat myself from here until Wednesday: search engines are stupid, so if you're a smart professional, you can learn how to attract search traffic to your blog and web pages. Forget throwing money at the problem. This is something you can and should be doing yourself...."(Writing on the Web)
And then, promotional copy for an upcoming online/phone seminar. It might be worthwhile: but do your "due diligence" before signing up.
Search Engines, Artificial Intelligence, C3PO and Street Smarts
Okay, let's start with that heading: "Search Engines Are Stupid, You're Smart." It's true, as far as it goes. Search engines are AI developed by some of the better programmers on the planet, but their intelligence is artificial. We're still quite a long way from a convincing equivalent of HAL 9000, Skynet, and C3PO. So, yes: search engines are "stupid." At least in the 'street smart' sense of the word.

And, by comparison, just about anybody is, in the 'street smart' sense, smarter than a search engine. Honestly, it doesn't take much.

On the other hand, I think it's debatable whether your typical entrepreneurial wannabe is smarter than the search engines' programmers.
Being Clever isn't Being Smart
Part of my position, or attitude, comes from my memories of the 'good old days' of SEO, when experts (just ask them: They knew everything) told folks that the smart thing to do was load your keywords tag with every naughty word you knew; cloak parts of your website; and - a favorite - put lots of those naughty words right on the page, in a font that's the same color as the page background.

I still run into that advice, from time to time. It strikes me as being 'clever,' rather than smart. It takes a certain amount of technical know-how to figure out how to scam the early search engines. Whether it's smart to be that clever - I don't think so.

I know: today there are people who have spent a great deal of time establishing the image of someone who knows the 'secrets' of SEO. They've probably got some useful skills, since they keep getting contracts from big companies. That implies that there are measurable advantages to using 'professional SEO.' On the other hand, big companies can do stupid things. Remember the Big 3 Automakers meltdown?
I'm No "Expert:" But I've Learned a Little
I'm no "expert." I'm just some guy in central Minnesota who spent two decades in a small publishing company's marketing department: one as an advertising copywriter/graphic designer the other as the list manager. And, when the company (finally) got a website, I was the website's designer.

It's not all that impressive, since the company downsized - drastically - a few years ago; and I got an opportunity to explore other career goals. Best thing that's happened to me in a long time, in terms of 'career,' by the way.

So, I'm no expert - but I do have 20 years' experience in marketing (it was a small company, and I had opportunities to share and present ideas) - and have been spending part of my time, since then, learning how to promote myself on a shoestring budget.

And I think I am smarter than a search engine.

Which is why I won't try to be 'clever' with SEO. I've got reason to believe that search engine programmers are interested in connecting their users with pages that the users may be interested in - not in funneling traffic to some hotshot expert's page.

SEO: It's Brains, Not Bucks

So, SEO is useless?

Not at all. But I think that, at least for sole proprietorships like what I have, smart SEO is what I can do on my own, following a few principles. I didn't come up with these: they're a sort of distillation of what I've learned by testing - and by reading articles by people who seem to know what they're doing.

This probably won't seem very 'smart,' and almost certainly isn't 'clever,' but I think it works:
  • Write tight
    • Tell the reader what you're writing about
      • In the title
      • In the first paragraph
    • Eschew obfuscation
      • Use simple words
        • Unless your subject demands complex, technical terms
      • Keep sentences short
        • And simple
    • Stay on topic
      • This is a hard one for me
        • I tend to wander when writing
        • On the up side, I've gotten separate posts written that way
        • I'm being tested for ADD this fall
          • See what I mean?
            • Back on-topic
    • Use keywords as you write
      • If you're writing about cars, say 'cars' when appropriate
      • Don't struggle with synonyms
        • Unless you think your readers would be bothered by the 'car - car - car' repetition
      • Use keywords in your headings
  • Code smart
    • Keep your code simple
      • It's easier to debug
      • Short code loads faster
        • Your visitors like that
        • Scuttlebutt is that search engines are biased for fast-loading pages
    • Use the "Keywords" tag
      • Scuttlebutt is that search engines aren't using it anymore
        • There was too much abuse by 'clever' SEO 'experts'
        • Scuttlebutt can be wrong
          • And adding the keywords tag takes - what? five minutes tops?
    • Put your verbal content in text format
      • Scanning in that brochure and using the graphic
        • May look nice
        • Could be faster than creating a text/graphics page
        • Can't be 'read' by search engines
          • Remember: search engines really are stupid
          • They only read text
            • So far
I don't subscribe to the 'build it and they will come' philosophy of website SEO. On the other hand, I don't see the wisdom of spending thousands of dollars - which I can't afford - on 'SEO professionals,' when I've very good reason to believe that a combination of remember-your-readers writing techniques and no-nonsense website design can have a similar outcome. Without the expense.

Getting intelligently 'chatty' on social networking sites like Twitter helps, too.

But that's another topic.
A tip of the hat to Steveology, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Monday, April 12, 2010

'I am the Office Girl' - or - Heads up! It's Not the Forties Any More!

This post has a point to make, but I'll save that for the end.

First, I'll indulge in some reminiscences. These really do have something to do with this post's topic.

I am the Office Girl

Back in the late seventies, I worked for a company called Pellegrini Refrigeration. I was the only employee permanently stationed in their San Francisco plant. My job title was something like "general clerical:" I was responsible for taking messages, keeping things filed, copying blueprints as needed, tracking petty cash: that sort of thing.

I'd been told that there was a particular customer who had been calling rather regularly. The issue seemed to be that he'd received services, and didn't want to pay. Well, I could see his point: but Mr. Pellegrini had bills to pay, too.

Anyway, I'd been told what to say to him, so I wasn't at a loss when he called.

He didn't like the courteously-worded 'I can't do anything, talk to the main office' message I had. But, since there were multiple incoming lines and I'd been told to be polite, he and I had a mildly extended conversation.

Near the end of our dialog, he said, "look here, I've been talking to the office girl. Let me talk to the office girl." I replied, quite accurately, "I am the office girl."

It took him a second or two to respond. Then he said, "oh." Followed by another longish pause.

He addressed me as "sir" after that. And he never called again.

I think it might have something to do with my sounding quite a bit like James Earl Jones. The actor who played Thulsa Doom and was the voice of Darth Vader?

Why Talk To Me? She's the One Who Called

My wife's family are competent, and she's no exception. Let's put it this way. I'm the one with a computer, she's the one with power tools.

Sure, I can disassemble a lock - but I'm getting off-topic.

A few years ago, she noticed an issue with our home's electrical system and called an electrician. I have a notion she could have handled it herself, but the Sauk Centre city government is calmer when electrical work is done by someone with a license. I can see their point. I'm getting off-topic again.

So, the electrician comes. He and my wife are in the kitchen. I'm there too, just to see what was happening. (I've learned a lot by listening to technicians talk with other people.)

The electrician has a question. He asks me. Not my wife. She's closer to him, and started the discussion. But no, the electrician asks me a question.

I explain that I haven't a clue and ask my wife the same question. She replies. To the electrician. He doesn't respond. Until I tell him exactly what my wife told him.

After a while, we settled into a routine. The electrician said something, I'd tell my wife, she'd say something, I'd tell the electrician.

Hey, don't knock it: We got the job done.

And I think it's hilarious. My wife, not so much: but she sees the funny side of it.

Then there's the time, back in the day, when one of my sisters-in-law took shop class - that'll wait for another post. Maybe in another blog.

Got a Business, in America?

Guys? If you're a man and run a business, I'll tell you something you should already know. American women aren't any less competent than we are. Many of them stopped putting up quietly with male dimwits who hadn't caught on a long time ago.

I'm not on the same page as the bra-burners, but let's face it guys: America isn't an all-boys club.

Personally, I like it that way.

But even if you'd like the 'little women' to act like it was still pre-WWII America: that's not the way it is.

I played along with the electrician's cultural blinders because he had the skills and certification we needed. And because I don't mind adapting to cultural norms, when I can.

But not everybody's like that.

Never mind the chance of a discrimination or abuse lawsuit: does anybody in business want to lose the customers?

Well, That's Interesting: Blog2PrintTM

"Got a Blog? Make a Book!"

"Next time someone asks "How can I print my blog?" send them to Blog2Print. With a couple of clicks, you choose a cover, the posts you'd like to include, and you're on your way to creating your own Blog Book!..."

At last count, I've got 11 blogs. A few of which might be worth converting to print format. This is something I'm going to think about.

The blogs I think might, maybe, be print-worthy are:

In each case, the number of posts is the count as of 23:55 UTC, April 12, 2010.

Narcissus-X (106 posts) is a possibility, too: but that angsty and arguably-insane artiste's posts are very short, there aren't that many of them, and I'm not sure people would be interested enough to actually pay for a book of them.

I may have left out the blog which, in print format, would make me a bigger best-selling author than Stephen King. But I doubt it.

Related post:

Friday, April 2, 2010

That's My Son-In-Law Who's Doing That!

Three years ago this June, I posted "Hiring Relatives and the Chinese Business Model." It was a sort of good news/bad news look at the potentials and perils of working with relatives.

In America, nepotism has a bad reputation - it's something that many companies specifically forbid. For good reason, I think: too many nitwit brothers-in-law and incompetent cousins can ruin morale and wreck a company.

On the other hand, having relatives work in the family business works pretty well among people with a Chinese cultural background - and in my family.

My oldest daughter and I have cooperated on a few projects - successfully, I think - and now I'm doing a little work for my son-in-law. He's the Executive Producer of Oasis Productions: and is managing production of "Art of Serenity: A Journey of Faith." (anoasisproduction, YouTube (February 23, 2010), video 4:13.)

We touched base earlier today: work on the documentary is on schedule. It's coming out by the end of August, 2010. Barring something like a Haiti-level disaster here in central North America.

He also set me up with an email service that'll allow us to exchange decent-size files. As a sort of test of the system, he sent me photos of the new office and workroom of Oasis Productions. These are scaled-down copies:

Video editing - the computer's doing the work at this point. April, 2010.

I'll want to ask - but I suspect the lighting is a little contrived in this photo. The lighting isn't quite that dramatic.

Production / editing area, Oasis Productions. April, 2010.

That's my daughter, at the editing station. There'd been discussion of my doing at least some of that work: but she's got transferable skills - and she's on-site, so it's her job now.

Like I said, family businesses can work well or fail spectacularly. It depends on the family. I think we'll do okay.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: Google's Blogger Teams With Amazon

"Blogger integrates with Amazon Associates"
Blogger Buzz (December 16, 2009)

"Earlier this year we simplified the process for monetizing your blog by adding a 'Monetize' tab in the Blogger app. We started with AdSense, which allows you to add contextual advertising to your pages; more recently we added AdSense for Feeds to help you generate revenue from the distribution of your blog via RSS and Atom. Today we launched a third option: direct integration with Amazon Associates to search Amazon's product catalog and add links to products that earn you commissions when your readers buy products you recommend.

"With this feature, you can search Amazon directly from the Blogger editor and add pictures and links to Amazon products right into your posts. Your readers will earn you commissions whenever they buy the products you recommend, and if you don't already have an Amazon Associates account, you can sign up for one for free without leaving Blogger.

If you've ever written a blog post about a book, recommended a gadget, or reviewed a toy...

And so on. It's clearly a promotional announcement: but I'm thinking seriously about using this feature. (And the Blogger-Amazon connection is nothing new: check the date below the release's title.)

I've been signed up with the Amazon affiliate program for some time, but haven't used it very much. First, I don't review - or discuss - all that much that Amazon carries. Nobody's giving me free samples, and I don't have the budget for a lot of unnecessary products. I know: I could order something, look at it, and return the thing for my money back. But I don't operate that way. Besides, even if my ethics would stretch over that sort of cleverness: Sooner or later I'd be caught. I don't know that misusing a guarantee like that is illegal, but I've had a policy of dealing fairly with vendors for decades: and don't intend to change that now.

If this new Blogger service is easy enough to use; and takes maybe three or four minutes, tops, for each review/link: it may be worth the trouble.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The New York Times, a Crazy Bonus, and Entrepreneurs

I get calls from time to time, from people at employment agencies. They want to know if I'll be filling any positions.

I'm a writer and artist, writer mostly, and run a sole proprietor business where I'm the CEO, general manager, marketing department clerical staff and maintenance department - and do anything else that needs to get done.

Even so, I'm not paying myself all that much. But it's no use complaining to the boss about it: I've tried.

The Brian H. Gill Company isn't one of the most successful small businesses in America: but I've got something in common with those that are.

I don't waste (too much) money.

I can't.

I think it's partly a matter of scale, partly a different approach to running a business.

Take The New York Times: Please!

Take The New York Times, for example. It's an old-school newspaper; and a dispenser of what it says is "All the News That's Fit to Print". That slogan's been around since 1896, and started out as a marketing campaign to distinguish the NYT from what I suppose we'd call tabloids today. (Britannica)

The New York Times won't, I think, disappear: it's got a role to play as the hometown newspaper for Manhattan's upper crust. But it's got financial issues.
"Times Says It Will Cut 100 Newsroom Jobs"
Richard Pérez-Peña, Media Decoder blog, Media & Advertising, The New York Times (October 19, 2009)

"The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs - about 8 percent of the total - by year's end, offering buyouts to union and non-union employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.

"The program mirrors one carried out in the spring of 2008, when the paper erased 100 positions in its newsroom, though other jobs were created, so the net reduction was smaller. That round of cuts included some layoffs of journalists - about 15 to 20, though The Times would not disclose the actual figure - which was the first time in memory that had happened.

"The paper has made much deeper reductions in other, non-newsroom departments, where layoffs have occurred several times. But the advertising drop that has pummeled the industry has forced cuts in the news operation as well. The newsroom already has lowered its budgets for freelancers and trimmed other expenses, and employees took a 5 percent pay cut for most of this year...."
I've got my own ideas about why traditional, old-school, established newspapers and network news departments have facing hard times recently. But that's another topic, for another blog. ("The New York Times, Insularity, and Assumptions," Another War-on-Terror Blog (October 21, 2008))

The bottom line is that The New York Times apparently doesn't have enough cash coming in to pay all of its employees. That sort of thing happens. I was laid off for the last time several years ago, from a job I'd had for two decades, so I've got some idea what the Times staff is going through.

Some of them.
"New York Times CEO was paid $4.9 million in 2009"
Breitbart (March 16, 2010)

"An analysis by The Associated Press shows that New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson got roughly $4.9 million in compensation in 2009.

"Robinson's base salary fell 4 percent to $962,500. But she got a bonus of about $2.3 million, four times the size of her 2008 bonus.

"Robinson also received stock options that were worth $1.6 million when they were granted. About $560,000 of that was meant to replace options that had been given in 2008 and were later voided because they exceeded a limit set by company bylaws. ..."
I think that managers and executives earn the big bucks: by riding herd on projects and people; and by making the right decisions. (Lemming Tracks: Jobs, Skills, Status and Stress," Apathetic Lemming of the North (March 13, 2010))

Like I said, I think it's reasonable to pay folks at the top of the pyramid more than those who are responsible solely or primarily for their own work. To a point.

I don't know what folks who aren't CEOs in The New York Times get paid, buy my guess is that the $2,300,000 that Robinson got 2009 might have paid the salary of at least one other employee. I could be wrong, though: $2,300,000 sounds like a lot of money to me, but not everybody's like me.

Good thing, too: But that's yet another topic.

Even if Robinson really is worth that much to The New York Times, I am not at all sure that taking over two million bucks as a bonus - $4,900,000 total - sends the right messages to the rest of the employees.

Being Rich is Okay

I have no problem with other folks having more income than I do. I'm where I am as a result of choices, and on the whole I'm satisfied.

Once I told my boss that the way I saw it, my job was to make him ridiculously wealthy. That may sound like apple-polishing, but it was a simple statement of fact. I wanted the person who signed my paycheck to have plenty of cash - because that's where my pay came from.

Entrepreneurs aren't Better: They've Got to Act Sensibly

The person who runs the paper in the town I live in can't act like the CEO of The New York Times. His paper has a little over a dozen employees. Each of them has a cluster of functions, and as far as I can tell the paper needs each of them. (That's not entirely guesswork - I've talked with the owner/operator and folks working there, and seen what they do.)

I suppose he could, in a few bad years, take a whacking great bonus for himself and fire some of the folks who work for him. It would be stupid, but he could do it.

In the short run, he'd have more money for himself. In the long run, I don't think the paper would survive. Even if the remaining employees didn't cut their losses and find work somewhere else.

Sauk Centre might wind up without a newspaper - or someone else might step in to fill the gap. I know of at least one person who could do it.

So it isn't that entrepreneurs are necessarily smarter and more sensible than high-end corporate CEOs. They've got to act responsibly. When they don't, their enterprise collapses.

Unlike major American automakers: who, when they pilot their companies into the ground, get taxpayer support.

Which I've written about before.

Vaguely-related posts:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jobs, Skills, People and Micromanagement

There's a post in another blog, that's also on-topic for Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind. Instead of copying the whole thing, here's a link:

A terse summary: People aren't identical, micromanagement is a bad idea unless an employee needs that much structure, managers making more than clerks is okay - to a point.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Social Media Experts" and Other Hazards

Excerpt, from (in my opinion) a pretty good post:

"Oddly enough, most of the 'social media experts' that write books on the subject (read: get paid to speak, not to actually have ever managed social media for a client) tend to spend most of their tweets sharing quotes and news stories. The celebrities are split into two groups: ones that say really mundane things that we adore like reading People Magazine and the ones that attempt to use it as a platform for social change (yet don't follow anyone back.) Most of the companies on Twitter are talking at you in a way that is basically an advertising bastardization of this social tool. The 'professionals' seem to think that passing along news articles all day long is the sole use of Twitter – and sadly most of them are about 3 hour behind everyone else. The MLM crowds spam you constantly and create one or two fake 'real tweets' between spam to fool people. (Who? I'm not sure.)..."
(Amanda Vega Consulting) [emphasis mine]
My guess is that "MLN" stands for Multi-Level Marketing: Not Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. I suppose it could be Mailing List Manager or Mid-Level Manager, but that doesn't seem too likely. The lesson there is, I think: beware acronyms. You know what you mean, but others may not.

There's more - quite a lot more - in the original post.

The advice - to view (alleged) experts skeptically - is, I think, valid. You'd think that publishing houses wouldn't waste ink, paper, and marketing resources on an inaccurate book: but the fact is that many are more interested in turning a profit, than being helpful. My opinion. And, some editor - or, worse, manager - may think that the wannabe expert is the hottest thing since Aaron Montgomery Ward decided to mail a catalog to prospects. (Why 'or worse'? Managers can do more damage to their companies than editors. My opinion.)

I think the author was on the right track, characterizing online communities as being " an electronic high school...." The point that so many marketing 'experts' seem to miss is that people in online communities are - people. Some of us seem to have had our last contact with Homo sapiens sapiens in the mid-to-late teens, with high school as the major social experience.

Think about it. Think about it. You're trying to convince people that they'd be interested in a product or service of yours. And, that you're in high school. Standing in the hall, or in the lunch room.

How effective would it be - in the long run - if you kept shouting things like "I made eight thousand dollars in the last eight minutes!!!!" or "Cleaner!! Meaner!! Cuts Grease!!!" - - - You get the idea.

Or, if you're an "expert," you don't.

Spelling it out: online communities are communities. They're made up of people, not targets for marketing. If you throw advertising slogans at them, likely enough they'll tune you out - promptly, and maybe permanently.

That kind of 'marketing strategy' you don't need.

Sort-of-related posts about marketing:More:
A tip of the hat to Twitter_Tips, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Comment Moderation Goes Into Effect Now

I didn't want to opt for comment moderation, but I reached my limit for Chinese-language pornographic spam a few minutes ago.

I'm switching this blog to 'comment moderation' mode. You'll have to wait until I get to your comment and determine whether or not it's spam. It could take a while.

Posting a comment in a language other than English simply isn't a good idea. I'm familiar with a fair number of languages: and I do check comments. If you've got something obscene to peddle to Chinese- or Japanese- speaking folks - don't bother.

For everyone who has something to say about these posts and isn't comfortable with English: sorry about that. I simply don't have time to run a multilingual screening process.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter

"Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010)"
Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang (February 11, 2010)

"Lack Of Signal In A Sea of Noise

"There’s an incredible amount of media and blogger noise about social networks, yet there are few viewpoints that are looking at the networks objectively minus the 'killer app' hype. My career mission? To cut the hype and help companies make sense of what to do. For those fraught with information overload, this definitive matrix will help...."

The matrix, a few paragraphs down, is a table with Google Buzz, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter across the top; and one row each for "One-Liner," "Vitals," "Strengths," "Weaknesses," "Opportunity," "Threats," "Marketing Platform," "Future State," "What They Don't Want You To Know," and "What They Should Do."

Some of the cells obviously call for an opinion, or speculation: but it's a handy way to look at what this blogger thinks. And, in my opinion, is based on reasonable assumptions.

I think Mr. Owyang succeeded in 'cutting through the noise.' I certainly appreciated an op-ed piece on this sort of a topic in which the author's thoughts and opinions were clearly - and efficiently - presented.

A tip of the hat to Twitter_Tips, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: Tweetmeme and Twittley Button

I was asked why I don't use Tweetmeme or twittley button. In each case, because I hadn't thought of it. I've glanced over both services' pages, and they both look good. Naturally.

I'll have to look into both, before making any sort of decision. If they involve letting yet another service provider know what some of my passwords are: there'll have to be an awfully big "up" side to using them.

It's not that I'm suspicious, but accidents happen, and I don't want to spend time recovering control of accounts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Well, That's Interesting: Ustream Producer

My son introduced me to Ustream Producer today. From the marketing video, it looks like the best thing since sliced bread.

Ustream is the service I use to get my webcam's streaming video online.

What Ustream has to say about Producer:

"The Ustream Producer is a desktop application allowing broadcasters to stream in high quality, just like they would from Ustream's website."

The free version:

  • Supports one camera
  • Allows importing movies and audio
  • Enables up to three transitions
  • Supports picture in picture/co-hosting
  • Provides screen capture feature
  • SD bitrate support
  • H264 Flash 9 video
  • Upgrade Producer to Producer Pro for a simple, one-time fee
(Ustream Producer promo page)
Like I said, it looks good. But it also will take system resources: which I don't have in overabundance. Still, I'll be thinking about how I could use the software.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well, That's Interesting:

My son-in-law pointed be toward a quite promising resource: I'm doing due diligence now, starting with their Terms of Service.

But, as it stands: this looks like the best thing since sliced bread.

Provided I wanted the material for personal use, broadcast within America only, and some other applications, I'd be fine. As it is, the TOS specifically excludes "web broadcasts, advertising commercials or promos" - which are the uses I had in mind.

Back to the drawing board - but it was certainly worth a look.

I may be back, for personal use.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Pretty Good Article on Twitter Misuse - and SEO My Way

I'm borrowing the format from my Apathetic Lemming of the North blog for this post: excerpts from an article, then my take on it.

"Why Your 4,243,564 Twitter Followers Don't Mean Jack
aimClear Blog (January 15, 2010)

"When Twitter launched four years ago, it (perchance inadvertently) gave businesses the most precious gift imaginable: an intimate glimpse into consumers' daily lives. It gave them the power to monitor brand reputation in a clean, accessible interface. Corporate brands like @Zappos, @Starbucks, @Dell, @JetBlue, and @TheHomeDepot, as well as personal 'brands' like @StephenFry and @AlyssaMilano have been wildly successful with social media because they're structured, devoted, attentive, engaging and personable.

"Tragically, there are also bandwagon-jumping companies and celebrity glory-whores who go at Twitter like a portly dude at a buffet. They use it as self-centered bullhorn and nothing more...."

Two examples, without the accompanying screen grabs:

"...6) You dove into Twitter because it seemed cool. And then you just, like… stopped. Then you started using an API for your PRs. And we all hated you a little bit more. | @tgifridayscorp

"Companies who thrust themselves into Twitter without a clear set of goals are setting themselves up for humiliation. Just because Twitter is free doesn't mean the marketing campaign should be half-assed. This pitiful stream of tweets will haunt TGI Friday SERPs for all eternity. (Hat-tip @PureDriven for this example.)

7) You don't encourage, you expect. (And you @mention yourself. Seriously?) | @coldstonecream

"Coldstone makes some wicked tasty ice cream. But what kind of success can they hope to achieve with social media when they talk at people rather than with them? The last @mention they exchanged with another real live human being was in April of 2009. (Hat-tip to @MerryMorud for this laughable gem.)..."

There's more, like: the fellow who has upwards of three quarters of a million followers, follows two people, and hasn't tweeted in almost three months; the ball team that tweets status updates, and nothing but status updates.

This Sort of Thing Gave SEO a Tacky Reputation

Not the article: the "lobotomytastic" (coined by the article's author, as far as I know) examples of self-destructive public relations listed.

I enjoyed reading the article - apart from the occasional vulgarities - and think that it's a pretty good resource for anybody who's trying to get the right sort of attention on Twitter.

Or any other sort of social media, for that matter.

A bottom line, I think, is to remember that social media is social. Anybody trying to use something like Twitter would be well advised - again, I think - to remember that people who Twitter aren't a demographic; they're not the masses; they are people.

Only a few of the folks I communicate with on Twitter and elsewhere use their faces (or, like me, parts of their faces) as avatars, so I don't know what they look like. But as I communicate with each of them, I get to know them. And they get to know me.

Which is the whole idea of the exercise.

About SEO having a tacky reputation? I may have overstated that. On the other hand, I use Search Engine Optimization techniques myself - and still tend to cringe when I see "SEO" in a title or summary.

For me, that's because so much were (and, astoundingly, still are) suicidally clever ideas floating around: like putting lots of naughty words in your HTML tags - and in text that's the same color as your page background.

Bad idea. In my opinion.

The SEO I use isn't my invention: it's a set of ideas culled from what people who had a reputation to lose wrote on the subject.

The basic idea is to remember that you're trying, eventually, to communicate with people. People who don't have infinite patience and aren't necessarily die-hard fans of yours.

Since this is my take on SEO, I'll call it "Brian H. Gill's SEO Tips" - even though it's cribbed from what 'real' experts had to say.
  • Decide what you want to say
    • If you change your mind, half-way through
      • Go back and revise the first half
  • Pick a half-dozen or so words that connect with what you want to say
    • If you're writing about browsers, that might be
      • Browser
      • Web
      • Explorer
      • Firefox
      • Safari
    • You get the idea
  • Put as many of those words as will make sense to a reader in
    • The title
    • The first paragraph
  • Let the reader know what you're writing about
    • In the title
    • In the first paragraph
  • Stay on-topic
  • Don't write fluff
    • Even if you have to write a set number of words
    • Anecdotes and reminiscences are okay
      • If they relate to what you want to say
I've read that search engines are getting better at reading data that's not straight text - but in general I keep my pages and posts simple, anyway: with as much information in text as possible.

If that doesn't sound clever and innovative: it's not supposed to. It's supposed to make it possible for search engines to mine my posts and articles for keywords, index them, and ultimately for someone interested in SEO, aardvarks, cosmology, interior design, or whatever, to find my pages.

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

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