Archive for June, 2010

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How To Not Get Rich Developing A Web Site

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on June 25, 2010 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I’ll be back soon to let you know if my failure succeeds.

After two years of writing daily articles, I’m taking a little break to finish some other projects (a book and a small startup, among other things) and working on a long overdue redesign of Dissociated Press. While I do so, I thought I’d share some thoughts about how NOT to create, develop, and maintain a site. We’ll be back with fresh daily linkage and pithy commentary sometime soon, perhaps on a new domain.

How To Not Get Rich Developing A Web Site

1.) Don’t Get Too Clever With The Brand

When you’re naming a media property, you want something clever and catchy, but not too clever. While “Dissociated Press” is indeed a kind of clever name, it in fact fails six ways to Sunday. One of the more amusing things I learned over time was that the people who were most likely to appreciate the name were also the most likely to remember it incorrectly, constantly changing “dissociated” to “disassociated”. For the record, most dictionaries list the latter as an alternate form. But that’s irrelevant. The name is hard to remember, and can’t be turned into a verb like “googling” or “twittering” or otherwise be repurposed easily. And I honestly had no idea what “dp” meant to a lot of people. Yikes.

2.) Stay “White Hat” With The SEO

Early on I generated remarkable traffic and reasonable site revenue with some slightly sketchy search engine strategies. The downside? The site seemed to get “sandboxed” for a while, and has never recaptured the same same volume of visitors. This is actually a no-brainer, but I wanted to see the results of this kind of strategy firsthand. If you’re interested, the site went from zero visitors on June 11, 2008 to nearly 200,000 page views by December of the same year. And then promptly disappeared almost completely from all three major search engines. As of this writing, there are about 30,000 page views monthly, and although that has been increasing, it is increasing verrrrry slowly.

3.) Alternately, Don’t Rely Entirely On Organic Search Traffic

On the other hand, unless your site has very narrowly focused content, and some likelihood of high quality inbound links, don’t rely on simply coding and keywording the site well. Get out there and promote it in every way imaginable. If you don’t use sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, or other sharing sites, tap into your friends who do. Or solicit links from sites that rank for content related to yours. I have done neither, and I’m seeing the lackluster results of relying solely on organic search results.

4.) Use The Usability Knowledge That You Possess

When creating the original layout for the site, I did something remarkably stupid, in spite of knowing better. And paid for it. Or rather didn’t get paid because of it. The original design I used for almost two years presented daily posts in different categories on the front page. The newest article was always at the top, under a heading that said “Featured Today”, but the articles were arranged vertically, so people CONSTANTLY assumed that the site wasn’t updated daily, because they simply assumed the site was a “blog” with posts descending down the page in date order. A painful reminder of the fact that PEOPLE SEE WHAT THEY WANT AND EXPECT TO SEE, not what’s right in front of them. In a decade of web development, I’ve watched people constantly do things like clicking on the word they want to be a link, in spite of it clearly not being a link. And yet I want to believe that “the user” is not a numbnut. Accept it. The user is a numbnut.

5.) Polite Placement of Ad Content?

In the original design, I placed almost all the ad content in sidebars, as a courtesy to the user. I assumed people would occasionally click on ads as a courtesy. HAHAHAHAHA! That’s really, really stupid. I won’t resort to popups that make you click ads by accident or other fishy methods like those annoying “hover ads” that many sites torture us with, but POLITE AD PLACEMENT? What does that even mean? Stick ‘em in there baby, and use the heatmap. You’ll notice that the current layout uses the maximum allowable AdSense ads, placed in standard hotspots.

6.) Fresh Quality Content vs Promotion & Marketing

If you’re working alone, and are forced to make a decision between consistently fresh quality content and marketing, maintain a balance, and favor the marketing a little. The truth is that unless you have marketed the site and know that you have regular visitors from a specific source, your search engine traffic will comprise the bulk of your visitors, and they will have NO IDEA whether you update daily, and won’t care. Spend six months building up some quality content, then MARKET, MARKET, MARKET. When you get the traffic up to a respectable volume, you’ll actually be generating enough revenue that you can afford to write every day. Until then you’re just an underpaid writer, and there’s nothing dumber than being independently broke. I’m kind of an expert on that topic. Trust me.

7.) Quit If It’s Failing

Take the advice of people like Seth Godin and quit when it makes sense . And then follow the lead of people like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and fail quickly and successfully. I’ll be back to let you know if my failure succeeds.

Here are Jimmy Wales’ theories of failure:

Fail faster. If a project is doomed, shut it down quickly.
Don’t tie your ego to any one project. If it stumbles, you’ll be unable to move forward.
Real entrepreneurs fail.
Fail a lot. But enjoy yourself along the way.
If you handle these things well, “you will succeed.”

And One Ring Shall Cool Them All: The Dyson Air Multiplier

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on June 25, 2010 by admin in Technology

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Looking for a cool way to stay cool? Check out the Dyson Air Multiplier.

Theremin players may be disappointed
by the sound quality of the Dyson

While sitting in a friend’s sweltering apartment the other day, I found myself staring mesmerized by his oscillating fan, wondering if anyone had thought about moving fan technology forward since I first did this at my grandma’s house when I was a toddler. Well, if you’re aware of how much James Dyson’s vacuums suck, you won’t be surprised to learn that his fans blow. I mean literally, because actually, they’re kind of, er, cool. And the 350 scientists and engineers that developed them might be offended at my calling them “fans”; Dyson actually has them trademarked as the Dyson Air Multiplier™. Although there are no visible blades, an internal motor rotates nine asymmetrically-aligned blades to pull air into the device, and then move it up the pedestal and into the precisely angled ring at the top. Then physics does the rest, through phenomena referred to as inducement and entrainment. It’s the entrainment part that helps eliminate the choppy breeze created by a conventional fan; as the air moves smoothly out of the Air Multiplier™, the surrounding air begins to move in a stable fashion as well. And this is the device’s main selling point, aside from its unique appearance. Which frankly caused me a little disappointment. Given the design, I at first secretly hoped the thing used some kind of electromagnetic force to move the air. Now THAT would be cool. In any case, the Air Multiplier™ is getting good reviews, although even Consumer Reports points out that 300 bucks is a lot for a fan. Perhaps if the reviewers had some pressing need to move a balloon around in circles (see video below) they’d be more impressed. My only criticism is kind of silly; how’s a kid supposed to make a robot voice by talking through the fan, or pretend he’s flying an airplane? Oh. Never mind. I guess we that that covered. Read the rest of this entry »

Music As Torture

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on June 24, 2010 by admin in Music

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The sounds of the sixties brought people together. The sounds of the 21st century are not only annoying us, they’re causing lawsuits and lethal injuries.

The US Government’s
version of a “boom car”

While I would still contend that the recent remake of We Are The World is the most effective use of music as torture ever devised, there are a multitude of ways to cause discomfort with sound. Which I’ll get to after I tell you a little story, and give you some background. I’ve always felt that music is literally sacred, and that it should never be used to make someone else unhappy. Meaning, for instance, that if my choice of music bothers someone, I’m glad to turn it off and look for common ground. I’m rethinking my values a bit lately though, thanks to boom cars, ignorant cops, and outdoor fundraisers with drum machine driven top forty bands. Let me explain. I live in town that has an abundance of musicians. Musicians that apparently aren’t allowed to play on the streets unless they suck in some way. Example 1: A few weeks ago I walked past a talented jazz guitarist playing at a very reasonable volume. I tossed a couple bucks in his case. A few minutes later I walked back past him to find that he had stopped playing, and that a cop was writing him a ticket. I asked the cop why he was ticketing the guy. The cop cited a 90 decibel limit specified by the city. I’ve done professional sound work, so I asked this cop how he decides how many decibels a musician is generating. As he tried to explain that they have a decibel meter at city hall for when a citizen questions a cop’s judgment, a bus drove by, completely drowning him out. I got in a fairly heated argument with this public servant who risks his life daily to protect us from all this lethal jazz, because he had NO IDEA what he was talking about. He ended up not writing a ticket. I guess it was cost-inefficient for him to make the trip to get the meter. A week later, a local organization was holding a fundraiser across the street from my apartment. Their “entertainment” committed two crimes at once. First, they played at well over 90 decibels until after 11pm. And second, they played songs like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”. WITH A DRUM MACHINE. And finished off their sound with nasal, midwest schoolteacher whitefolk vocals. Granted, there’s actually no law against sucking, but where was that cop NOW? I pondered the likely results of filing a noise complaint against a fundraiser for a major medical institution, and decided it would be futile. So I ended up doing one of the more childish things I’ve done in my life, which was to digitally create cleverly dissonant tones and aim them out my window during the most egregious offenses against decency that the top forty band committed. Like when they started playing “Play That Funky Music White Boy [Church Lady Remix]“. After this I was feeling like a bit of a git for an hour or so, until the universe reared its ugly karmic head and treated me to a series of boom cars parking below my window. Which instead of teaching me a lesson, got me fantasizing about building a HERF Gun that would be specially tuned to destroy car audio subwoofers. This fantasy sated my frustration until the next morning when the owners of the parking structure across the street decided that 7am was a great time to star with the jackhammers. Again, where was that noise-fighting cop now? So while you’d probably suggest that I should just move to the country and all my problems would be solved, the point I’m really getting at is that sound is more and more often being used recklessly, rudely, and in some cases violently. Below is a quick list of these evil uses of sound, and what you can do about them. Read the rest of this entry »

Sloppy Seconds: Short Films Under One Minute

[ Comments Off ]Posted on June 23, 2010 by admin in Popular Media

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

It took over 2000 seconds to locate these five, ten, and fifteen second film sites. Don’t expect us to take another few thousand to actually REVIEW them too.

There’s a feeble irony in the fact that it will take you longer to read this than it takes to watch any of the short films referenced. Take solace in the fact that if you do read this, you’ll be spared the endless tens of seconds that I subjected myself to in order to spare you some of the same agony. As an attention deficient media sieve, I’ve previously mentioned my obsession with short format visual media, whether as tradtional short film, TV commercials, or obscure animation. I’ve been especially busy lately, so I thought maybe it’s time to push the envelope and see if there are any REALLY short films out there. I started small, with 5 Second Films. Clever idea, but we’ll have to see if they manage to bump up the quality of the content. If I’m going to spend a minute of my life perusing your five second films, I want at least four scintillating seconds packed into every feature, not just a clever gag. On a slightly more arty note, we have Ten Second Film. I guess that extra five seconds really gives you some room to expand on a theme. I didn’t find any 11 or 13 second film sites (although I did find a 93 minute film called 13 Seconds), but if you’re a cellphone filmmaker (and yes, even they have festivals ), 12Seconds.TV seems to be some sort of video sharing social site. And when we finally get to fifteen seconds, things get a little more interesting. The 15 Second Film Festival – supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – is, in their words, “a small, but perfectly formed, two-seater itinerant Art-Deco Picture Palace” that “delivers a carefully curated programme of eye-popping, lip-smacking, brain-tickling quarter-minute masterpieces“. We’ll let you be the judge. We’ve already spent over 2000 seconds assembling these links for you, we’re not gonna spend another 1000 finding highlights and snagging the embed code. Let us know if you find anything good. Read the rest of this entry »

Are You Too Stupid To Vote?

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on June 22, 2010 by admin in Politics

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A government “of the people, by the people, for the people”? Are you kidding? Have you talked to “the people” lately?

Are you too stupid to vote? Or just rationally ignorant? I think historically politicians have banked on the former. And frankly, I think there’s a viable argument that democracy isn’t working in America because, well, you’re a retard*. A fact that – in better times – lent a certain humor to politics. Personally, I’ve lamented the apparent demise of truly funny political satire for some time now; Hunter S. Thompson went and died on us, and P.J. O’Rourke must have quit drinking or something. I mean, you can still find some humor in politics if you can get far enough from the stench of it, but by and large, the topic is only funny if you’re a part of the ruling oligarchy, an overpaid “expert” on cable news laughing as you pick up your paycheck, or just too stupid too realize how bad things really are. On reflection, that last group has provided some comic relief. As an example, read the rather lengthy (and probably fictional) Rogues of K Street. The anonymous author (an alleged Tea Party political consultant) sums up just about everything ignorant about a tea party voter, and how to manipulate their sentiment. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ll admit I’m personally as ignorant as the next voter. In spite of talking a good game, I probably learned everything I know about politics from watching Primary Colors and Wag the Dog, and I can still get sucker punched like I did when I voted for the Obama crew. I also didn’t do so well on the Pew Research quiz referenced in the links above. Read the rest of this entry »

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