Friday, March 28, 2008

Why "A" Does NOT Equal "B"

A lot of people I know say that the complaint I'm about to present is little more than "nit-picking". Well, bring out your nits! I'm in a picking mood [By the bye, where does the word "nit-picking" come from? Just curious...].
Here are two sentences. Let's call them "A" and "B" [Actually, sentence "A" is better known as "Pipi", while sentence "B" is called "Esmerelda". "Esmerelda" is a skinny, bearded man who likes to go grocery shopping in a tutu. And no underwear. But I digress...:
-A) Your slip is showing.
-B) You're slip is showing.
Do they both make sense as currently written? Of course not! If they did, would one of them be an easy target for ridicule? For the record, sentence "A", or "Pipi", referrs to an owned, or possessed, item. The slip belongs to you. It's your slip. And it's showing! Pull your skirt down, before every person in Toonerville makes some kind of comment. "Esmerelda", sorry, sentence "B" starts with the contraction "you're", short for the words "you are". "You are slip is showing." No sense there. Especially since "Esmerelda" never wore one [I actually knew of a person who shopped dressed the same way as "Esmerelda". You did NOT want to see him looking for something on a bottom shelf, believe you me!].
What happened? You've run into the phenomenon known as "homonyms", defined as "two words that sound identical, but have different meanings". The Woman I Love, were she here [she's at home, asleep, lucky her...], would tell you, quite correctly, that I get agitated over the smallest of things. Say what you will, that woman's got me pegged. Nevertheless, an incorrectly-used homonym can send me into madness. Silly? You bet. But there's a point worth making here. Writing, especially good writing, is an art. Like any other art, those who are the best at it develop the craft of good writing. Part of that craft involves knowing, and using, the correct word at the correct time. Never mind that your reader will probably figure out what you meant. Using the wrong word will just make you look clumsy and uncaring. Please, folks, take the time to use the correct homonym. The few extra seconds will make your writing look more like the product of a serious writer, and less like "Esmerelda" from behind on a windy day...
A Few Common Homonyms...
"there" vs "they're"
"to" vs "too"
"wear" vs "where"
"hear" vs "here"
(I think you get the idea. Please, make my life less stressful, and your postings better written. We'll all be happier. Even "Esmerelda".)
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Couple Of Quick Points...

Just a note or two. It won't take you long to read but, in the immortal words of Bill Cosby [on "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids"], "Hey, if you stick around, you may learn something!"
-I know we are all sick to death of EntreCard items on the Blogs Of The World. At least I am. But Ramona Iftode, on her site, makes some sensible observations about how truly casual EC users can get real value from their drops. Check out her ideas here: [By the bye, Ramona's site is always full of good observations. Well worth adding to your "regularly visited" file...]
-Second, in answer to many requests [okay, one request. But it was a nice request.], RSS syndication for this blog is now available! Just click on the Universal RSS symbol atop the right-hand column of the blog to sign up (The syndicator is FeedBurner. Hope that's not a problem). Thanks to "D.S.W.B. for asking. Check out that site here:
That's all. At ease. Back to whatever it was you were doing...but subscribe first, why don't ya?
-Mike Riley

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Point To Seriously Ponder

What follows is part of a longer posting at my other site, It's an issue that many bloggers [those who try to make money at Blogger by running a "monitization" site] are going to be facing over the next few weeks and months. I am not advocating ANYTHING at this point except a calm consideration by all parties of the issues on the table. That said, keep your powder dry. You never know...

As an interested observer [and a Blogger user], I find myself very concerned about an apparent new policy at "Big B"; namely, dropping blogs that are using non-Google ads. I'd have to be a lawyer to understand every word of the Blogger Rulebook, but I don't deny they have the right to do this. What I wonder about, though, is how long Blogger bloggers [there must be a more graceful way to put that, but I don't know how] are going to put up with it. With the exception of my EntreCard, I choose not to use any "monitization" features on my sites [and I have some doubts as to how much money is on the way to 'Carders; see [below], where I've written a three-part consideration of the soon-to-be-implemented EntreCard "purchase" policy]. But I do believe that every blogger has a right to operate his or her blog as they see fit. Host sites that will not acknowledge this right may find themselves deserted, or worse, populated entirely by old cranks like me [along with the infamous sites that include "wish lists". There's something about 13-or 14-year-old girls (and boys) posting sites that seem to be little more than "come-ons" for "Sugar Daddies" to make their wishes come true that just creeps my ass out, big time. I'd rather see them go than the commercial blogs]. If, on the other hand, Google [owner/operator of Blogger] is simply looking for a percentage of money made on their blogs from non-Google sources, I can understand that. After all, Google provides a free hosting service. If people are using the free service to make money, the site should receive some form of compensation. But I have yet to find any notification/warning/request for discussion from Google anywhere in the Blogger site. Blogger has what I think is an unfortunate reputation as unfriendly to money-making sites. This will not help. (Perhaps the ultimate answer would involve the creation of a separate tier of money-making blogs. A lot of bad feelings have been raised by the current "blog raids". But I don't believe it's too late to mend the rifts.) Google is, without question, powerful. Time will tell if they can also be reasonable with a group of blog creators who are, for the most part, small businesspeople.

Just a thought, campers...

-Mike Riley

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Sad State Of Refrigerator Doors

Have you taken a good look at your refrigerator door lately? Now, if yours' is like most peoples', it does an excellent job of keeping the cold in, and the warm out. That's not the problem I want to address [By the bye, if that is your problem, get that fixed as soon as possible. Besides making the storage of food at best problematic, it keeps your coolant motor running, which can lead to overheating, burnout, and, worse, fire. You may not be the only person who can prevent house or garage fires, but a lot of it is on YOUR shoulders].

No, the issue here is the quality of your children's drawings posted on the fridge (Of course if your child is a budding Matisse, or better yet, the next Warhol, please ignore the rest of this posting). I'm not saying your child is untalented. First of all I don't know. Secondly, the problem is probably not his or her fault. You see, funding has been cut for education in many American school districts. When budgets are cut, what money is available just doesn't go as far. I'm not here to judge what is important, and what can be eliminated when times are tight [oh, wait a minute, I am...sorry], but my votes would involve sensible reductions in military spending, as well as a tax system that brutally punishes the rich [after all, years of tax breaks for the wealthy have done nothing to demonstrate what The Great Communicator called "trickle-down economics", and his running mate correctly identified as "voodoo economics"], and increases in all varieties of, among other things, education. That would include education for the arts [Do you see where this is going yet? Hang on, we're nearly there...]. Arts education would not only improve those refrigerator artworks, but encourage creative thinking in many areas of life [As this is a Presidential election year here in the US, maybe it's a good time to press any candidate you may encounter on his or her policy towards education. Thank you].

But, since the better part of the currently maturing generation missed out on the whole "arts education" experience, maybe Your Host can throw together a few places for tips that can improve the appearance of your blog [and don't think I'm playing superior; I plan to go over this very location with a fine-tooth comb over the next week or two. It's Spring, (or Virtual Spring, anyway); let's all do some Cleaning and Maintenance!

Color Theory And Reality: - Actually a series of articles about color coordination and color theory. Understandably written, well worth your time. - Another perspective on color coordination, from an Arabic newspaper. [In English]. - More technically oriented than the first two pieces, it's very useful for its illustrations of color in use [The illustration that tops this article is from this site].
Blog layout/design: - State-of-the-art insights, from a source for cutting edge style. - A YouTube driven course of design principles. - Functioning Form is the blog of web theorist and designer Luke Wroblewski. I'll be honest; he goes over my head. But if you want to consider the Future of The Web and Blogging, this is a good starting place.
Have a marvelous Passover, a Happy Easter, or a Nice Weekend. And please offer a SUBMISSION or two, for goodness' sake! We are offering 250 EC credits for your submitted articles that make it to the blog. So take some of my credits! Please!
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Upping The Ante

Okay. First of all, there is one more post coming in the "EntreCard" series [look for it either later this week or early next]. (Editor's Note: because I started the third EC post as a draft before writing this posting, it actually appears beneath this entry. I'm sure there's some logic to all this, but I'll be Da---- if I understand it. - MR)
After that, I want to get back to this site's true focus; namely, writing and layout tips for the casual [ie, non-commercial] blogger. I've been hoping for submissions from long-time bloggers, tech-heads, you know what I mean. So far, though, the pickings have been non-existent, never mind slim.
Okay. You need a bribe to play. Fair enough. Acknowledging that reward is a primary motivation in human activity, and to celebrate the acceptance of this blog by the good folk at BlogCatalog, I am now offering 250 EntreCard credits for any published posts (They still have to meet the Guidelines posted at the top of the right-hand column of this blog). If you're not a 'Carder, first of all, you should be.
Secondly, I think we can work out some kind of compensation [but not money. I don't have a lot right now, or ever, for that matter].
Go ye and blog...
-Mike Riley
PS: The Chinese character illustrating this post is translated, roughly, as "Wealth". Just thought you'd like to know...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Think Tank: EntreCard And The New Blog-Based Economy (III)

As noted in previous posts in this series, the social/business networking service EntreCard will begin buying/selling EC credits in the near future. This reflects an acknowledgement of a "grey" market in EC credits that already exists. So who'll buy, who'll sell, and, most importantly, who'll make money?

In the short term, anyway, I think this is a seller's market. Those who have credits to spare will off-load them to buyers at the best rate possible. I still think 5 US Cents per credit is as good a starting place as any [I got this figure by looking at rates for the similarly-sized ads of the Wonderwall service].

If you've been an EntreCarder for more than a month or so, try a simple experiment; go to a blog you formerly advertised on. Then check what its current ad rate is. In most cases, you'll find the rates have gone up [in some cases by 100 % or more]. When I first noticed this, my reaction was, "Boy, I must have picked blogs just before they began to peak in value [I always try to buy my EC ads at a low rate] !" But then I thought about it. Nobody is that good at picking blogs to advertise on, or that lucky. Then I realized that inflation was at work. In the days before any new economic system kicks in, the value of the form of exchange frequently rises.
Who'll be buying? People who can market the credits. My personal model is something like that of ad agencies, which in the real world frequently persuade the potential sponsor to advertise, create the advertising, then purchase space to promote it. Who'll want to advertise on EC? At first, anyway, people who are already used to marketing their products or services in that way; I have no crystal ball as to whom, but look around at the ads you see on the Internet now, and I suspect they'll be among the Usual Suspects.
Long term, I'd guess [and it's only a guess] that businesses that are well-known already would be next in line. If EntreCard holds to its "blogs of distinction" philosophy, companies would have to establish blogs to be linked to the EC ads. (If you handle marketing for a national fast-food restaurant chain, for instance, this doesn't sound too complicated. A blog that features "Great Moments In The History Of [your restaurant here], for instance, with an internal banner linked to the REAL commercial they want to present probably would fit within the EC guidelines. Of course, the viewer would have to click on the banner. But a free coupon should make that happen)
After that, the options seem endless. How about regional advertising? If EC can tell you which bloggers are "nearest" to you by location, you can tell an advertiser in your town where to advertise. In fact, I'm sure that people more clever than myself are working out the details of this, and other advertising possibilities, while I type these words.
As I've said throughout these posts, I'm really not interested in exploring any of these possibilities. But the changes that they will inevitably bring to EC intrigue and, to be honest, worry me. I hope we can all stay friends when EVERYONE is playing for money...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Think Tank: EntreCard And The New Blog-Based Economy (II)

[Before I get back to the topic at hand, a quick explanation; I'm not planning on making this a "how to make money blogging" site (as I think Laura might be concerned about, see Comments to previous post). But I've become intrigued with the whole EntreCard phenomenon - collecting/dropping Cards, the seemingly endless (for the moment, anyway) series of contests, the sense of honest friendliness among its members. I truly hope none of that is lost in the New EC World. But I can't see it working out that way.
I am not very good at monitization; the ideas I'm throwing out here are my own, and should therefore be looked at with great suspicion. But if you can make some coin with them, well and good. Please bear with this post, and perhaps one more on the subject. Then we will return to our true goal of making the Blogosphere a better place through SCIENCE! - MR
This post takes the form of an history lesson, or at least one of those clever vignettes you sometimes see promoting The History Channel. I apologize. But it features one of the most intriguing "moments" in the history of North America.
The photo above needs a little explanation. Imagine a line of humans, moving cautiously across an ice field, climbing up the iceberg-like side of a mountain. This line extends across a massive stretch of ground, in both directions, as far as the eye can see. You are weighed down with over one hundred pounds of food and other supplies, as is everyone else in line. The line moves slowly in cold that reaches well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. You shuffle uncertainly, cautiously searching for drop-offs and gaps in the ice that sits below the snow. It's 1898, and you are trying to get across the principle land route to the hottest gold rush site in a generation; the Klondike region of Canada.
Tens of thousands of men and women abandoned safe, sane lives in the United States, Canada, or other parts of the World. With little or no experience in winter travel [or gold mining, for that matter] , these brave people headed to what is now Canada's Northwest Territory. They slept in tents, or on the cold ground in sleeping bags. When they finally reached the gold fields, the third-largest city on the continent, Dawson, sprung up to supply their needs and wants. This "city" had wood-framed homes, taverns that at least matched the ones in the "outside" world. They had large theatres for plays, and most of the bars had performers brought in from the East. They had banks, to keep the proceeds of lucky miners. They had newspapers to inform the locals what was going on there, and in the outside world.
And yet...within five years, it was almost all gone!
The gold was, for the most part, "played out". Without the draw of riches, many of the region's residents left, for the next gold rush, the next opportunity, the next big thing.
Some stayed on, of course. But they were in the minority.
After the gold rush [that'd make a great song title, wouldn't it?] , many books came out about the Klondike rush [one of the best is Pierre Berton's Klondike. Berton's parents did stay on after the 'rush, and he grew up in the abandoned town]. Most of them pointed out that, while a few prospectors hit big, most of them headed home empty-handed. A few added the observation that those who seemed to do best in the whole era were those who provided goods and services to the miners. Further, the ones who did best within that group frequently were the ones who thought "outside the box". For instance, one salesman somehow transported hundreds of cats to Dawson. No one could figure out why. He grew rich selling his cats to lonely miners who wanted a pet!
Mull over the story of the Klondike over the next few days. I think there may be a lesson or two for EntreCarders [thought I'd forgotten about all that, didn't you?] in the frozen North. We'll talk again soon...
-Mike Riley

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Think Tank: EntreCard And The New Blog-Based Economy (I)

The social networking-advertising site EntreCard [of which I am a member] has made great strides since its introduction late last year. There are currently some five thousand members, and current 'Card users have created a fund of 30, 000 EC credits to induce new enrollment. The requirements to join are very simple; a blog "of quality" [a description which, for the most part, actually fits], and a visual "card", which must be 125 x 125 pixels. The program gives users the opportunity to promote their blogs by purchasing "ad space" [for want of a better term] on other member blogs. The purchase medium is EC credits, mainly earned by visiting other EC bloggers' web sites, and clicking on a widget that holds an EC ad. Other ways to acquire credits include winning them in regularly-held drawings, usually sponsored by EC members who have mastered the credit-gathering system [more on this shortly], or through cash-for-credits transactions [EC currently acknowledges the existence of an active "grey" market in credits; the service will soon establish its own credit marketing operation for EC points]. The "grey" market appears to be moderately active, with 'Card credits even turning up on eBay, and several sites devoted to such sales operating openly on EntreCard.
The two principle "systems" by which "Carders" drop are reciprocal dropping [dropping EC cards on sites that have visited yours], and power dropping [using advanced techniques to drop on many sites in a short amount of time]. EntreCard sets a strict limit of 300 cards per day, per blog [a limit many members get around by operating more than one blog. I currently operate two myself, and by no means would I consider myself a power player in the Brave New EC World]. The service says[reasonably, I think] that most people get nowhere near the 300 figure, but admits that some of their active users do reach the limit.
Time for some horseback figuring: for a moment, let's assume that the soon-to-be marketable EC credits sell for five cents apiece [probably somewhat high, but an easy figure to calculate]. A reciprocal dropper like myself will typically drop about 60 cards per day, per site. This works out to three dollars in salable credits available to sell. Not exciting in itself, but consider that the operator of two blogs would, in theory, be able to clear about thirty dollars a week. That would, for instance, cover the cost of high-speed Internet access in many communities, with a little cash left over. But consider if the rate per credit were to rise to twenty-five cents [a figure I predict we may see within the first year of the marketing plan]. The figure per blog rises to fifteen dollars per day, per blog, and seventy-five dollars per week! [little wonder, then, that EntreCard announced this week that it was aware of the existence of software designed to automatically drop cards. It also announced improved security to prevent such ploys, but, with money on the table, it's probably just a matter of time before someone develops an undetectable program to "carpet drop" cards]
So, a pool of potential sellers appears to be in place. But who will be the buyers? What will bring them to EntreCard? How will those transactions be handled? And who will the real money-makers be? I'll try to address those questions in my next posting.
-Mike Riley

Monday, March 3, 2008

Some Thoughts On Templates

Just as a house is built around a frame, a blog is built around a template. Your template gives a structure to the posts, links, widgets, and other elements that make up your blog. Careful selection of your template's design, including color scheme, will make your blog stand out from others with similar themes.

The two main template formats, Blogger and Wordpress, are both based on html/xtml language. Which one you select [or if you select another one entirely] depends on your blogging requirements, as well as which system you prefer to work in. There seems to be a feeling that Wordpress is more suitable for business-oriented blogs, while Blogger is better for personal blogs. I have never felt comfortable trying to create a blog using Wordpress; if you feel comfortable with one format, use it. There are plenty of business blogs that use Blogger, and many personal blogs on Wordpress. If anyone has a stronger opinion one way or the other, please comment on this post. Your insights will help newbies make the choice that is right for them.

(Along that line, I'd really like to hear from those who use neither Blogger or Wordpress, and why. Please comment below)

-Mike Riley