Month: June 2007

Mybloglog messaging system and why I think it sucks

I just noticed the mybloglog mass message system thing. I don’t like it, it reminds me of that annoying myspace and orkut mass message thing. It is a recipe for spam spam spam and time wasting silly messages just filling up my inbox.

If every member of every community I’m in uses it just once a week, I’m in for a hell of a lot of reading and emailing/deleting.

Anyhow,  of course I had to try the thing out I so I mass messaged my 108 community members to see what they thought about it, I even told them that it was a one time message and apologised in advance too.

Here’s the kicker, I got a few responses, most agreeing with me. So I try and reply to their private messages and get this!

Message:* Now just slow down there, rock star! It appears you’ve become a bit overzealous with your messaging, or at least that’s what our new algorithm thinks. But we’re still fine tuning it, so if you think this is a mistake, just hit customerservice@mybloglog.com with an email and we’ll get you sorted.

Um…no, I don’t think so. If I get a message froma community member responding to something I sent them, I SHOULD be able to reply!

Come on guys, you’ve made some nice changes over there but this one is just asking for trouble.

Free advice time.

Drop the thing, or at least allow people to choose whether or not they can get these things. auto opt everyone out of it, and let them opt in to it.

Stick little checkboxes next to community members so we can selectively message certain people en masse.

If you go with an opt out system, then only show me members who have opted in on any mass message page.

One other thing, ever heard of letting people know about such things before you implement them?

I like MBL, I visit it daily, but things like this just give me negative chuckles .

Update:

Ive read a number of posts from people in the  mbl community who are annoyed about this. Ive had PMs on my mybloglog message page, but due to the way it works I get that silly message as outlined above, so have been unable to respond. Seems my one time mass message has put me into instant spammer terrority, or maybe it was because I once labelled myself a ‘schmoe’.

Anyhow

Avi puts it into a historical context of bloopers and avoidable slip ups

Andy makes his usual spot on observations

Meg too, tells it like it is.

John at disassociated explores a few of the issues experienced 1st hand and makes a few suggestion of his own too.

MBL have found themselves twisting in the wind and…well, just go and read it yourself.

Changes will no doubt be made in response to the criticisms out there. Why they have to wait a week to implement a few minor sensible changes, is quite frankly very puzzling. But hey, maybe they feel they have enough community capital to ride this one through too.

Why every blogger should have subscribe to comments checked by default

Ok, so this might come across as a bit of a rant, but i gotta say it.

I said it here, but I want to elaborate a little, so please indulge me for a minute ot two.

Subscribe To Comments

Allows readers to recieve notifications of new comments that are posted after their own. By Jennifer – Scriptygoddess.

This plugin is very useful. If your readers drop comments on your blog, then its a good thing to give them an option to respond. By using this plugin they can be notified when someone follows up a comment of theirs. I’ve changed the default to auto subscribe people to comments they’ve made, they can always deselect the subscribe me box should they so wish, most don’t which stands to reason. I figure that if people engage in a conversation then it follows that they’d like to be kept informed. You should too.

If you are a blogger and are inviting people to comment on your posts then the  first thing you should do is install a subscribe to comments option type plugin thing.

Once you’ve done that then you should change the default checkbox setting to checked.

IOW, if people commenting on your blog and DO NOT wish to subscribe to your comments and receive emails to their comments then they can uncheck the box! Let them action it, let them make the positive choice to unsubscribe from a thread that they felt motivated to respond to, my guess is most will not.

If you are thinking hang on a feckin minute I don’t want to get a stream of poxy emails every two seconds to some random comment I made on some random blog somewhere then I have to ask you, why?

WTF are you even bothering to engage in the 1st place? What is the point in commenting on a thread that a person or group of people are engaged in and talking about? Are you some kind of rude, I know I’ll just butt in say what I like then feck off out of it kinda dude? Don’t you want to respond to what people might say subsequently? Wouldn’t you like to be assisted in remembering?

Or do you remember every little blog post and place you commented on?

 I doubt it too, hell, I cant recall what blogs I’ve commented on 20 minutes ago! In fact if I see a blog that has the subscribe to comments checkbox checked I kinda smile internally, cos I know that I won’t have to worry about remembering where I commented. I just say my piece and forget about it, knowing that if someone should comment, I’ll get a little mail response with a piece of text showing me what they said. If I don’t like it, or get bored with it all, I can unsubscribe instantly takes me just two seconds. I don’t care if  I get 30 emails to a comment, it takes me  seconds to delete them or ignore them even. If I’m really bothered I can log in to my email account once a day and deal with them en masse even.

Do yourself and your commenters a favour, add the subscribe to comments plug in and edit the default checkbox setting.

End of sermon.

Speedlink Post with a Lazy Twist

All time list of Blog Commenters

I’d like to say thanks to these 102 names below who have commented on this blog at some point or other, thank you all.

MarkH We use Google’s reader to keep…2007-01-02 18:41:38

sarahtowny Well at least I got to be super…2007-01-03 21:32:29

Barbara (Xerraire) welcome to blogging, been doing…2007-01-04 16:25:05

robwatts Thanks for stopping by and commenting…2007-01-04 16:33:01

cctech Super post Rob. You really…2007-01-05 21:25:28

Paula Neal Mooney I know, right? What’s the big…2007-01-07 20:00:33

Lyndoman I know what you mean about Ugly…2007-01-13 00:10:06

Joe Whyte Hey Rob,

This is a realy well…2007-01-13 02:08:27

Sarah Aww thanks for the mention!…2007-01-15 18:39:19

Hawaii SEO That’s how I found you and Lyndoman….2007-01-16 09:10:37

Matt Keegan Some people simply waste their…2007-01-22 21:06:39

Robyn McMaster Hi, you share a lot of interesting…2007-01-23 14:54:39

Brad Shorr Hi Rob,
Glad I helped inspire…2007-01-24 13:06:38

Jane Yet I am new to Mybloglog, but…2007-01-26 15:01:06

Andy Beard Isn’t MyBlogLog wonderful at…2007-01-27 12:11:13

Adam Klimowski Thanks for comment, I’ll be…2007-01-28 14:28:04

Shantanu Utterly fascinating! …I am…2007-01-31 12:44:16

David Sakol I just had the door slammed…2007-02-19 14:32:12

Dane Morgan To Robyn; There are, I believe…2007-02-26 03:39:18

Jeff Herz Thanks for the call out, though…2007-02-28 14:42:37

Carsten Cumbrowski Bait and switch is a classic…2007-03-01 11:17:36

Becky My faith in humanity will remain…2007-03-03 03:51:52

Mark from Bloglyne.com Great article – lots of additional…2007-03-03 05:05:20

Tim Nash I guess its what your trying…2007-03-04 13:15:03

Kevin Henney I think the potential for this…2007-03-05 05:29:10

Scott Rafer Hi, To the extent we know, we’re…2007-03-05 14:12:09

AgentSully Excellent post. As a new blogger…2007-03-15 04:13:24

Leftblank Very nice post, I’ve had tons…2007-03-25 15:43:41

Ashley Top Blog, Finally subjects worth…2007-03-28 10:25:13

Franck Silvestre I really don’t know. I think…2007-04-01 19:42:52

Marc Chase I just looked at that tool and…2007-04-07 10:59:41

Bri I think that 2 might actually…2007-04-10 13:29:17

Randa Clay Want to tell everyone that you’ve…2007-04-11 19:32:39

Shawn Collins The math plugin was great for…2007-04-19 18:37:43

Steve WordPressguy Nice plugin, I’ll be trying…2007-04-20 13:32:41

santaram hi thanks for adding my blog…2007-04-21 06:59:37

Mike Wow, what an awesome reply :D

The…2007-04-21 09:14:09

RK Thanks Rob! Sure looks exciting…2007-04-22 14:51:24

lyndonmaxewell hmm.. Believe it or not, I bookmark…2007-04-22 18:24:32

kuku man Wonder if my blog is a crappy…2007-04-23 12:21:10

Jules Oh I like the sounds of this!…2007-04-24 02:00:58

Robyn I’m with you Rob. A great book…2007-04-25 15:28:51

herzeleid_knits Dear god, who knew that blogging…2007-04-26 07:45:25

Keiron I love it! Clearly I am failing…2007-04-26 14:23:23

Antony Berkman Thanks for Broadening the Discussion…2007-04-27 21:20:50

Deborah Hi there,

Wow, thanks for…2007-04-30 04:11:07

Seo Blog wow… that’s an interesting…2007-05-02 20:51:29

Church of Integrity That was a great post. I have…2007-05-05 19:43:10

Laura Really sweet idea. I have a…2007-05-06 13:43:42

Jeff You obviously missed my response…2007-05-06 14:20:26

Tara I thought I would report back…2007-05-06 14:35:18

Waken Wow, this is comprehensive….2007-05-06 16:31:40

steve nice plugin, just installed…2007-05-07 13:31:38

HOBO SEO So that’s what that does! I…2007-05-08 23:14:34

TJantunen You asked a review of bidvertiser…2007-05-09 10:09:19

lisi so .. this is not out of TOC?
if…2007-05-09 11:20:55

Lyndon Antcliff Finally I got round to installing…2007-05-09 11:41:52

Derrich Amen to what Matt said. And…2007-05-09 14:55:27

Shane “I learnt I needed glasses by…2007-05-11 23:25:10

Culture Shiok! Anything for Blogger?…2007-05-12 02:12:51

Robin Bal Hey Rob,

Thanks for responding…2007-05-12 07:19:38

Angela I agree with Robin, even with…2007-05-12 20:41:34

Maria I guess I’m not the only one…2007-05-12 22:28:39

Chris Nice plugin Rob, just one thing…2007-05-13 08:44:11

David Airey :: Creative Design :: My first visit to your blog,…2007-05-14 11:53:57

Court I wish there was a better way…2007-05-15 16:38:04

Lee I tried out Bidvertiser when…2007-05-16 08:55:44

Anuj Seth Kontera works very well. I’ve…2007-05-16 18:49:18

Matt Ellsworth this is great! I can’t believe…2007-05-18 00:53:45

Moose It is a grey area, because could…2007-05-21 02:47:32

Rod I just wanted to write and congratulate…2007-05-21 12:13:57

Koordinasyon Oyun Thats just awesome, never knew…2007-05-21 15:22:37

Cindy Nice article and well done!…2007-05-22 06:14:15

Graphic Design Edinburgh Hi Rob,

Thanks for visiting…2007-05-26 16:00:30

Thomas Hansen Nice informative blog about…2007-05-26 18:57:21

Jonathan-C. Phillips Hi Rob, i tried the plugin,…2007-05-27 05:17:02

Jeff Q Thanks for the acknowledgement…2007-05-27 13:51:13

David Airey Very wise words, Rob.

Thanks…2007-05-27 15:50:58

Kickass Linkbaiter I’m obsessed by page rank and…2007-05-28 15:41:37

Shaun Anderson Matt that is quite a big photo…2007-05-29 12:38:31

Mark Barrera I think that your advice is…2007-05-30 19:48:04

Cornwall SEO If we send in cash do you promise…2007-05-30 19:55:10

Frédéric Panek Very nice information!
One…2007-05-31 05:08:43

Manila Mom I usually link using the blog…2007-06-03 17:32:04

Dexter There are lots of blogger beginning…2007-06-04 18:30:23

Turk Hit Box Hey check out this new plugin…2007-06-04 20:58:00

Shaun Google Adsense all the way!…2007-06-08 00:29:58

ace trader For some reason, I just think…2007-06-08 03:49:59

Dharm I am a big fan of Google.So…2007-06-08 10:06:12

Medicine Man The right answer is, text link…2007-06-08 13:32:22

Phishie Diaz You’ve really hit the nail on…2007-06-09 17:39:58

David Great Post. I keep coming across…2007-06-09 19:58:09

shaz google should really stop tryng…2007-06-09 22:46:31

Linkbait Cowboy For ages I have been looking…2007-06-10 06:16:02

MorganLighter Well, I might be the odd man…2007-06-12 04:55:23

Steven Interesting thoughts. It’s…2007-06-16 01:27:50

David Bradley Great idea to add the email…2007-06-18 18:48:17

Adam W Great post Rob, more people…2007-06-18 20:40:41

Everett I’ve used most of these with…2007-06-25 04:19:40

Absinthe Fever Thanks for the detailed post…2007-06-25 19:53:19

Jason I’m interested in trying out…2007-06-26 03:10:08

Andy Blimey, you get alot of comments!…2007-06-27 16:47:57

SEM an ever evolving changeling – why you need to read about stuff like this

[poll=3]

The  post that follows is a little anoraky and gets in to some of that miniscule stuff that people like me like to muse about on occasions and disappear up our own back passages but hey, do feel free to read it, you might even learn something.

Todays poll asks you to evaluate your own understanding of SEO. I’ve given 5 possible responses. I thought it would be fun to look at SEO or SEM or whatever label you wanted to apply, and look at the topic in general getting people to think about their own skillsets and understandings.

 Some of us think our understanding is good, real good. Nothing wrong with a bit of self belief and I already see that there is one person who believes that their understanding is “Fantastic, I’m the man”.

I put myself in the ‘Very good, I know a lot’ category. I only say this because I’ve been around a while at done this daily for years, I’ve got sites ranked on some very competitive terms. I understand what is required to do well with a site in the search engines. I’ve had sites banned too, it’s called pushing the envelop. Sometimes in order to go forward you need to take a step back or two.

I could have said ‘Fantastic I’m the man’ too, yet in reality in my opinion the only persons who can really say this and are worthy are the people who write the algoes themselves or someone who for some mad unbeknown reason that they’d keep very close to their chests, could get ranked for Viagra or Mortgage or any other high cost PPC keyword within a week and stay there for the duration – Yeah that’s not many people.

Chasing the magic bullets

I’ve said before too that SEO isn’t brain surgery, it’s pretty simple stuff, once you’ve grasped the basics.  The problems begin when you get into the minutae and try to look for magic bullets like ideal keyword densities, or page layouts or kw to inward link ratios and other unknowable intangibles. I say unknowable because they are exactly that. The only people who really know are those who have written the algoes and…well, most of those guys aren’t exactly going to begin telling the world what they are or when they are changed.

In other words, search algortihms are constantly moving targets. What is widely accepted as a good bet today won’t necessarily be a good bet tommorrow. It evolves constantly. The only way to begin to keep up is to look at the trends. See who is ranking and why. If you look at enough serps, then you will eventually get a feel for what does and what does not work.

Evolution baby

The days of flooding a site with zillions of links or keyword stuffing are for most of the good algoes out there long gone. It doesn’t take a genius to look at a genuinely popular site and see how it grows. Toolbars, Click through data, stats packages, Unique IP’s, user agents, link data, entrance data, bounce rates, page content are just some of the things that contribute to determining what is and what isn’t rankworthy.

It’s all about the users…

Yep, that old all about the user chestnut but it really is! If you wan’t your website to rank in the search engines and make a serious effort at doing well with it then, yeah whilst it may be easy to buy a line of “just make a kick arse site and forget about ranking and leave it to the engines” the reality is however that it doesn’t hurt to think like a search engine and try and understand where they might be coming from and why. At the very least you might avoid making some huge mistake advised by some nincompoop somewhere.

It might help to look at some of those factors and explore a few of the issues attached to each.

Toolbars and Stats packages

Toolbars are a fantastic way of measuring user behaviour. A toolbar could in theory, measure and record every little thing you do, every click, every interaction, every minute spent, every IP address used, every button clicked could be recorded and measured for every site you visit. Privacy paranoia issues aside, such data could be seriously useful for measuring a sites worthiness or value. Google, Yahoo and MSN or Live as they so ridiculously call themselves all have toolbars. I’ve no idea of their uptake none of them publish any figures, but its safe to say that their users are in the millions. That’s quite a substantial set of metrics that are very difficult to manipulate externally.

Catching a cloaker

The toolbar could also be used to compare data stored about a particular url. If the content seen by the toolbar was radically different to that seen by the search engine spider for example, then this could be an indication of cloaked or alternative content which on the whole is considered a huge no no by the search engines. No amount of IP or useragent cloaking is going to be able to interfere with a user installed browser embedded toolbar.

Stats packages like Google’s Analytics are used by webmasters to glean info about their sites.

Google for example provides a comperhensive free stats package that is of very good quaility, giving them massive insights into the behaviours and traffic make up of a huge number of websites. The value to the site owners are huge, but the value to the data hoarders like Google is even bigger still.

Some people like to say how cool Google is for letting them use such a cool package for free. I’d argue the opposite and say they should pay site owners to install the damn thing, but hey – I use it here, its a neat little tool for someone who isn’t too bothered with a data monster having access to everything they do, skynet anyone? 😉

Anyhow I digress, the point is that similar to the toolbar example above, such stats packages above give priceless insights to user behaviours and site metrics. Comparisons can be made and scaled and applied to known winners and applied accordingly. If a site or page has a high bounce rate then it could mean that the page isn’t as relevant for a query, or is lacking in quality, some other thing to look at. It could act as a flag for some kind of manual review even, at least on known competitive or popular search queries.

Entrance page data (the page that a user lands on)  could be another signal of quaility or high interest. Lets assume that a site has a high % of non referal data. Whereby people have just typed in the url into their browser address bar. This could be due to say a TV advertising or paper media campaign or word of mouth thing where people had seen or heard of this great new website. Such a website might not have a reliable link profile or authority score, yet still be of intrinsic social worth. Such a site might generate an off the scale link profile that might resemble something similar to a paid link algo manipulation. Entrance page data, in these scenarios would be invaluable in terms of deciding whether the site in particular deserved to be ranked or boosted for any associated queries.

Clickthrough data

Most SERPs these days are tracked by the engines. Each link to website x y or z will be wrapped inside a little script that will check the position of the url within the serp. One would suspect that they would then look to take other factors into consideration and analyse that data too.

They could for example look at page titles and compare them against user queries and look for relationships that up such click  frequencies. Such data could be used to develop all manner of new products and services. Similar to how supermarkets stock their shelves, or manufacturers present their products or write their advertising copy. Certain combinations work where others don’t. Non static ever changing constantly evolving massively complex but…measurable and noteworthy nonetheless.

They could  look for users who had clicked a url only to hit the back button shortly afterwards. A high incidence of such occurences measured against  sufficient data could well indicate a signal of low quality. This could then be folded in on any susbsequent data refresh.

In closing…

Just a few things to think about there, there are lots of others relative to authority and how that’s arrived at, domain names and the factors applicable, content and distribution thereof, social media and how that can help or hinder – the point is, that these and the things mentioned above are aspects of the mix that you can’t really ignore. If you are serious about your business, then you just have to keep your eye on the ball and if you can’t then at the very least you’d better think about employing an SEO who can.

As much I’d like to think that the world is this super nice fluffy place full of people wishing to help me do really well and succeed and stuff, I’m also long enough in the tooth to know that there are also a bunch of people quite happy to kick my arse and trample all over me at the 1st opportunity. It’s by and large how business works, to the victor goes the spoils and all that stuff.

I don’t know who said it, but its one of lifes truisms. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer still. For me that’s as relevant to SEO as it is to war or any other scenario where you could end up getting squashed. If you know the reasons why you might get squashed either heavily or lightly even then you might just be able to do a thing or two to prevent it. Trust me I know what its like to get squashed it’s damn painful.

Search engines are our frenemies.

Kickass plugins for your WP blog and why you should use them

WordPress Plugins for you blog

Wordpress plugins are legion, there are 1000’s of them out there. Here is a selection of some of the ones I use with a little paragraph on some of the reasons why.

Adsense Injection

Inserts Adsense into your blog without a log of f**ing around. By Dax “The Hammer” Herrera.I’ve used this plugin for a while now. Its highly configurable and enables you to inject adsense ads into your blog. You can randomise them, set the number of ads to appear, the types of pages they are to appear on too.

Buy Me a Beer Allow your blog visitors to buy you a beer by sending you money through PayPal. A special BlogClout plugin By Sherief Mursyidi.Outputs a little link at the end of each post or into your sidebar with a link to your paypal account. You can specify an amount or leave it blank so users can enter an amount themselves.Also allows you to specify when writing posts as to whether or not the link appears. Good plugin that enables your readers to reward you, should they feel so inclined Dean’s Permalinks Migration

With this plugin, you can safely change your permalink structure without breaking the old links to your website,and even doesn’t hurt your google pagerank. By Dean Lee.

I recently changed my blog configuration and was looking for an easy way of migrating my old permlinks to new. This one does just that, giving a 301 moved permanent response header to the new, allowing for a relatively painless transition from old setup to new. No need to contact anyone linking to your old style documents as referals will automatically be recognised and redirected to the revised url structure. Damn handy.

Digg Dugg

Syndicates all kinds of stories from digg.com for specific users, friends, topics, digg search, and the Popular/Upcoming sections of digg to display them in your blog. By Tim Isenheim.

A great plugin for showing your users related content from Digg. Forward thinking monetisationists could do very good things with a plugin like this.

Digg This

Adds Digg story link on detection on digg referer By Aviran Mordo.

Great way of showing your users ‘dugg’ stories and encourage interaction. Also acts as a little visual prompter for your friends to digg your stuff.

Feedburner Feed Replacement

Forwards all feed traffic to Feedburner while letting through some important User Agents. By Steve Smith.

Andy Beard – Niche Blogging officiando alerted me to this plugin. Very handy way of pulling together the various WP rss feeds and links into a single unified url. Requires a feedburner account to work, but definitely an asset

Get Recent Comments

Display the most recent comments or trackbacks with your own formatting in the sidebar. By Krischan Jodies.

People like to visit active blogs. Show your users recent comments as they have arrive. Configurable too, with various options that enable you to debar your own comments, trackbacks, set numbers of comments to be shown, grouping of comments that sort of thing.

Landing sites

When visitors is referred to your site from a search engine, they are definitely looking for something specific – often they just roughly check the page they land on and then closes the window if what they are looking for isn’t there. Why not help them by showing them related posts to their search on your blog? This plugin/guide lets you do that, works with a long list of search engines.

This is a neat little thing. I’d been meaning to do something with SE query strings for some time, so to see this saved me a lot of faffing about coding it myself. As described above its a cool way of honing in on that search engine query and offering up alternatives and calls to action.

Math Comment Spam Protection

Asks the visitor making the comment to answer a simple math question. This is intended to prove that the visitor is a human being and not a spam robot. Example of such question: What is the sum of 2 and 9? By Michael Woehrer.

Damn handy little simple effective anti spam measure. Isn’t perfect, but has drastically reduced my comment spam inbox. Also has configuration options that enable you to change the form objects that help break those smarter spambot attempts.

MyAvatars

This plugin allows you to add MyBlogLog.com avatars to WordPress comments. By Andrea Micheloni & Napolux.

Users like to put a face to a comment. Add a human dimension to your blog by showing mybloglog avatars of your commenters. Where a commenter doesn’t have a mybloglog account then it will produce a standard sillouette. Not an ideal solution, but a definite plus for the active blogger/blogging community.

Posts you may have missed

5 you may have missed By Robwatts.

Outputs 5 posts that haven’t received any comments. Similar to my tumbleweed plugin, without the icons and %’s

Post Teaser

Post Teaser generates a preview or “teaser” of a post for the main, archive and category pages, with a link underneath to go to the full post page. It includes features to generate a word count, image count, and an estimated reading time. By Jonathan Leighton (Turnip).

I like this plugin because it snippetises all of my posts and is a great time saver. I dont have to insert a more tag to denote a cutoff, i just set a number in the options page and it does it for me. I can also configure the message too. By showing your visitors that bit of extra info on your post (number of words and estimated time to read it) you make your blog that little bit more user friendly and focused. Not everyone has the time to read a 3000 word post 😉

Related Posts

Returns a list of the related entries based on active/passive keyword matches. By Alexander Malov & Mike Lu.

Another very good plugin that lets you output related posts at the foot of your blog posts. Users might read your post and think cool, I liked that and then notice your 5 related links and read those too. Damn handy for mixing things up and adding value genereally.

Show Top Commentators Follow and Nofollow (modified)

Modified version of the top ten commenters plugin by Nate Sanden with added nofollow version for internal pages. By Rob Watts based on an original work by Nate Sanden.

Self explanatory really. Rewards top comenters with a home page dofollow link as well as (for qualifying particpants) a site wide nofollow link too. Requires a little work with your theme layout (creation of a new sidebar option or is_home function) but definitely worth the effort. Reward your commenters without excessively draing your blog juice.

Sociable

Automatically add links on your posts to popular social bookmarking sites. By Peter Harkins. Modified with nofollow to external links

Great plugin. Social networking sites like digg and stumbleupon are fantastic traffic generators. Visitors with social media accounts might like to share your stuff with their friends and other net users. Plugins like tis, make that process a whole lot easier

Subscribe To Comments

Allows readers to recieve notifications of new comments that are posted after their own. By Jennifer – Scriptygoddess.

This plugin is very useful. If your readers drop comments on your blog, then its a good thing to give them an option to respond. By using this plugin they can be notified when someone follows up a comment of theirs. I’ve changed the default to auto subscribe people to comments they’ve made, they can always deselect the subscribe me box should they so wish, most don’t which stands to reason. I figure that if people engage in a conversation then it follows that they’d like to be kept informed. You should too.

Tumbleweed

Whats the TR for your WP blog? Shows an icon with a number and outputs random non commented posts that your visitors may have missed By Robwatts.

A handy little way of showing yourself and your users how busy your blog is. A well commented blog shows that your posts are of interest to your readership. By seeing your tr rise and fall you get a quick one look glance at how you are doing. Also outputs any missed posts, indicated by those that have received less than 3 comments.

WP-phpMyAdmin

Provides phpMyAdmin from the WordPress admin console By Christopher Hwang.

A neat little plugin that helps you to manage your database from within your blog backend.

WP-Polls

Adds an AJAX poll system to your WordPress blog. You can also easily add a poll into your WordPress’s blog post/page. By GaMerZ.

People love to see little polls and opinion numbers. This is a neat little plugin that enables you to do just that. Has a number of configuration options that let you specify when polls should appear and for how long they should run.

wpSEO

The wpSEO plugin rewrites your blog title, META-description, META-keywords and META-robots so these are more user and search engine friendly. By Sergej
Müller.

An interesting little plugin that as shown above lets you tweak and lay with your title and description and keyword tags. Lots of options to allow experimention with densities word placement and more. Definitely worth a little mess around with.

<!– ckey=”6CE9D64A” –>

Search engines – Public or Private accountability?

I’m one of these people who happens to value their privacy. Just like you do too no doubt.

Occasionally if the mood takes me, I’ll share a bit more about myself.

I’ll do a little meme or I’ll open up on an issue dear to me, maybe in a forum or some other persons blog perhaps. I’ll share my info with certain websites. I might enter a personal email or private address, credit card details, DOB that sort of thing.

The key issue is trust, I either choose or choose  not to trust  the site I am using, I decide whether or not I want to do business with them. That business can take the form of any number of the above described transactions, be it personal info private info or opinion, the bottom line is that its all my stuff, it comes from me, no one else owns or controls that, I’m a free man after all.

Keeping up with it all

We live in a fast changing world that moves at break neck speeds. In the world of technology its sometimes difficult to keep abreast of  the myriad of innovations that seem to constantly appear on the horizon. I like that, its cool it keeps me on my toes. I need to find out about it all too. I have a TV a Radio, I subscribe to the odd tech journal. I read newspapers, I listen to my friends and peers. I have a computer too (duh) and I use that to connect to the net with (double duh)  and yes at long last I hear you say, I use those things called search engines too.

In fact I use those search engines a great deal.

Search engines are vital to our lives

I benefit from search engines in lots of ways.

I could not function in the way I do without access to a search engine. They are fundamental to how my life is ran and structured.

Our world demands that to get on in it you need to be equipped with the skills and the tools required to successfully navigate your way around. For me, and I suspect lots of others too,  information is the lifeblood of my progress through life. Quick and easy access to the things I need is a vital part that enables me to move on and keep up  – the old methods of libraries and encyclopedias are old hat. They are too slow and in some cases  often out of date the moment their shelves are stacked.

>>Search engines and Business use

I’ve used them to gauge the performance of my business activities.  I’ve  used them to research other companies that I compete with. I’ve used them for competitive research purposes on behalf of clients. I’ve used them to find new opportunities, for myself and for the companies that employ me to do their bidding. I’ve used their products to promote both what I do and what the people I’m paid to help do too.

The benefits to me have been huge and have helped me establish the type of working life I can enjoy and benefit from. I couldn’t have learnt a fraction of what I know without their existence. I’d have traversed my curve a whole lot slower than what I have

>>Search engine and Personal use

Like many others I’ve also used them to research things I might write about on my blog. I’ve used them to find other ways of connecting to other people. I’ve used them to research personal issues. I’ve used them to research illnesses of loved ones, I’ve used them to research legal stuff around my rights and duties,  I’ve used them to win bets with friends or to just prove a smugarse point or two. I’ve used them to learn all manner of things. I’ve used them to find educational resources, interactive forums, answers to questions and problems.

Without labouring the point too much its clear to say that as in the example of  the business sphere above, I’ve benefited enormously from the advent of search engines. I’m also fortunate to be the type of person who can grab hold of these things and use them to maximum effect.

 It’s not one way traffic

Of course, it isn’t all about me me me and win win win. As self enhancing and marvelously beneficial it all looks at a glance, the search engines do benefit too.

The meteoric rise and influence of some today are indicative of their mass public appeal and use. Companies like Google being worth billions of dollars practically overnight has been no accident. Users like me, have helped build these  empires. Ordinary citizens and companies have written the documents that have formed their vast databases. Documents  continually fetched and reappraised by their search engine bots and spiders, bots that continually trawl cyberspace in their everlasting quest for information, feeding on the knowledge of the world, sucking everything in  like some huge information vacuum cleaner.

I love this quote from Robert Morgan

Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.

But hey, search engines share the information they receive right? Absolutely they do. Why wouldn’t they even. It isn’t theirs to keep after all, they are simply enabling users to search and find key information within the array of servers used to store the data.

That’s cool though isn’t it? Nothing wrong with that, they get to slap a few related ads from people looking to sit alongside the queries and they benefit from the revenue accrued from their user clicks. A marteting mans wet dream almost – users in buy mode, get the opprtunity to click on ads from companies looking to sell the very thing they are after.

So what does this have to do with that Robert Morgan quote – why am I even blathering on about it, what does it have to do with anything I hear you ask.

>>Search engines are data miners

If you take off the fluffy rose tinted specs and put down the kool aid for 20 seconds or so, you might be pleased or concerned to hear that search engines also store data related to how you search and can and do attribute it to personal users. They track your queries and track your behaviours, they talk about that they do in the broadest of terms but give very little away on the specifics. A recent document criticised one particular search engine and assigned them in the lowest grade. A news article reported it thus

In a report released Saturday, London-based Privacy International assigned Google its lowest possible grade. The category is reserved for companies with “comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy.”

See, over here in the UK we have this thing called the data protection act. It enables people like me, should the mood so take me to request of a company or organisation that is storing data on me, specific access to those files and information. It enables me to keep a track on those watching me and possibly using stuff they have on me against me or in ways I might not agree with. Its fee based, but its there to see should I so want to see it.

It might be boring to repeat the list of findings the report highlights, as I’m sure you can draw your own conclusions and theorise as to the where’s and who’s of where some of that stuff could go.It’s certainly annoyed  one  shareholder  and I don’t doubt one or two more even, and one can kinda see why too.

When things like this grow legs and begin to walk then things can begin to freefall pretty quick. Questions begin to get asked from all manner of angles and places, forcing carefully considered responses. The  data protection working party represents the interests of some 650 million people . It seems very reasonable of them to ask such questions, hell why wouldn’t you even.

>>>>Privacy Defeciencies

Its not too far a leap to ask why it is that a privately owned company with an almost monopolistic grip on something so fundamental to the lives of so many people should  be allowed unrestricted insights and access into the lives of its users.

Why shouldn’t I or any other person on the planet be allowed to search in private? Why should my actions be open to scrutiny from faceless people that I have no knowledge of. Why should I have delve deeply into the annuls of some corporate privacy document to find out how they are tracking what I do.

Hell why is there not even one mention of the word ‘query’ or ‘queries’ in that document itself, is it any surprise that when Privacy International  (PI)   should identify things like…

Google logs search queries in a manner that makes them personally identifiable but fails to provide users with the ability to edit or otherwise expunge records of their previous searches.

…that people like me and millions of others too for that matter should sit up and ask, hang on a minute, what is this all about then?

Matt cutts complains

Google didn’t leak user queries

In this past year, AOL released millions of raw queries from hundreds of thousands of users. Within days, a journalist had determined the identity of an AOL userfrom the queries that AOL released. But AOL got a better grade than Google.

So because Google didn’t leak those queries or mess up with the data storage (yet) that makes it ok then? If anything those links referenced show how off this whole thing is.

It really doesn’t wash for a company to be able to argue that ‘Oh its ok, we aren’t gonna do anything nasty with it all, we promise, trust us..’ um no sorry buddies, why should we? You didn’t think it cool to tell us in your privacy document, what else aren’t you telling us? How else are you making capital on the trust I invested in you as a user? Seriously, what else aren’t you telling me? It’s a reasonable question.

Diminshing trust

I can’t deny it, my mindset has shifted. For sometime now I’ve seen Google in a different light. Yahoo, MSN for me they always we’re nothing but what they are – a face of global capitalism. Companies set up designed to extract maximum value for their shareholders and investors.

See, Google were different. They once were very very cool.  I liked this company a whole lot.They took the webmaster community with them and people bought into that whole do no evil mantra. People like Matt we’re a human interactive face to what seemed to be a hip funky happening company.

With its glow lava lamps funky little logos and goofy colours, its simple fast efficient search engine. I enjoyed following its little data refreshes and its Google dances and all the other paraphernalia that came with it. I wanted them to succeed, crazy huh? I, and apparently lots of other geekazoids really did want this  group of geeks doing geeky things with tech stuff to succeed. A breath of fresh air on what was for me at least a stale and money grabbing profit at all costs altavistic landcape

Yet today, not just over this PI report, or that EU enquiry mind; today – I’m like, all that ‘do no evil stuff’ is just meaningless tosh now. I don’t buy their ubergeek we are all nice and cool people image anymore,I haven’t for sometime. Reports like the one mentioned add credence to a view that it really is about time we had some legislation that forced certain standards upon private companies.

Sorry google but doing things like tracking me and not giving me opt out options, just because its a way of improving the datasets and knowledge and value you can give to other interested marketers and affiliates and shareholder value  is just plain wrong. To add to the mix the fact that its not even private, that my very queries alone can be looked at and read by some one who I don’t even know is very disturbing too. I really don’t like it. You’ve gone too far.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Ok so sure, theoretically my ISP could well be a whole lot worse. After all they filter all the data that I send out there. It all comes through their pipe. Every piece of unencrypted plain text data I push through their servers could theoretically be grabbed analysed and crunched. Thats MSN chats, emails, websites visited, everything.

There are quite clearly already recognised serious privacy issues there too, addressed at various levels but thats a topic for another discussion perhaps – the reality is that most people are just blissfully unaware.

Search engines might argue that comparatively they are not as ‘bad’ as Internet Service Providers (ISP’s). That ISP’s are the potential bad boy exploiters in all of this and to some extent I have a little sympathy with that view, but at the same time, it really isn’t about some “they are worse than me, so leave me alone and pick on them instead” kind of world view. Its about ensuring that  providers of services like Google who ( agree or disagree) have a monopolistic near 80 % stranglehold on something as fundamental and utilitarian as search; behave in ways that ensure my personal rights and privacy are at worst maintained and at best enhanced.

You don’t have to use them Rob

It isn’t really an argument to say that if I don’t like it then I should use something else, because the others out there could well be doing the same things or worse.

Search is fundamental to all of our lives. We need some strong public accountability in our search engines enforced by strong democratic controls.

Controversy marketing – why it works and why you should consider it

Every now and then I see a flurry of activity around certain individuals, usually on the back of something apparently wrong or outrageous.

Shoemoney, a   big fish in a little pond whilst debating with a guy named Randfish, another big fish in a little pond caused Andy Beard, yep, you got it, another big fish in a little pond to react and address the issue as he saw it.  I think Andy has been reading a few linkbaiting articles lately as the headline is a classic “Blogging Full Disclosure Debacle – Grow Some Brass Ones” now if someone is talking about you in such a way its very difficult not to react. In fact both did, Rand commented on Andy’s Blog and Shoe blogged  on it. The other thing too is that it stirred all of these people to chime in and give an opinion or two. David Naylor Twenty Steps Hamlet Batista Search Anyway Online Business Blog BlackBeard SEO CPA Affiliates Frank Watson  Dave Taylor  Shawn Collins 

People say controversial things all of the time for a variety of reasons. Some do it because they just haven’t really thought things through, others do it because they are a little bit thick and don’t realise what they are really saying and some do it because they know it’ll have the desired effect of stirring things up and gaining a little attention.

Doug Heil used to do it all of the time. He’d start threads in his SEO forum that attacked a well known face in the crowd. He’d call them a spammer or a cheater. He’d pour scorn on sites that he considered to be spamming and call them out it. He was a classic example of a controversy marketer in action. Others have used less charitable words, but the point is for a time it worked. For a time it did actually pull people into his site and they reacted to what he said. His telling like he saw it, however controversial got people talking about him.

John Chow and his recent aim at monetising his blog commenters by charging to de-nofollow commenters links, got some a little hot under the collar, various peoplein the blogosphere questioned what he was doing. What he was doing was considered to be very controversial and got people talking about him, in fact according to Y! site explorer its encouraged thus far 108 separate new inwardlinks. Whilst he may have caused some short term consternation with his readers and conversationalists, the reality is that his blog has attracted a little more love in the form of links.

Jason Calacanis is another, he had a platform at a search engine watch conference and said that SEO is Bullsh!t he subsequently blogged on it too and said that 90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman he stirred lots of discussion as result, with the likes of Danny Sullivan calling him out on it in lengthy terms. A little look again via Y! site explorer shows his post attracted 461 separate links now 462. 

We can’t all do it of course, some of us just aren’t built that way. Most of us tend to operate within the confines of safe social discourse. We don’t have the bulls or the energy or the stupidity in some cases to run around alienating groups of people or individuals. Reputations whilst often hard fought, can so easily be undone. Hell, some people  trade very nicely on being an ass, but if you are gonna be an arse, then it seems you’d better be a 1st rate one, else you’ll be sure to see your metrics plummet as people go off of your boil and see you for the arse that you truly are.

Anyways, the good news from all this stiff is that Ive now got my own disclosure policy too, so besides being the inspiration for this post I guess I should also be thanking Andy, Rand and Shoe for that too. Thanks guys.

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