Monday, July 28, 2008

Open Lab: A Little Of This, A Little Of That

What are we now, a little less than a month into the new "liaison" between EntreCard and SezWho? Maybe it's time to take a Polaroid, as it were, of the situation [not to change the subject, by the bye, but did you hear Polaroid is giving up making film, and film cameras? Like most manufacturers, they realize that the marketplace is going digital. But, as someone who's taken one or two risque photos with Polaroids, thereby avoiding sending explicit film to a processor and risking their refusing to print photos (actually happened to an acquaintance or two). Like many people my age, I'm missing my youth]

First thing I've noticed; people don't seem to be jumping on SezWho as much as I expected [this could be tech-related; there are still those demon issues with some platforms, especially Blogger. This site is one of two I still can't get registered. My other two (all four are Blogger, in case you're wondering) are running fine with the SezWho widgets]. Maybe I'm just visiting sites that haven't signed up, but random selection should give me a higher percentage of SW sites. On one hand, bloggers are an independent breed, and will go to a new feature only when they're ready. But I'd suspect Graham and the EC front office might be disappointed with the turn out, what with the strong boost they gave the new hook-up.

Another issue [this one connected, I think, with the concept of SW] is comments vs drops. Look, we all figured that there would still be more "drop and run" types than "commentors". Fair enough. But I've yet to notice any real "bump" in the number of comments I get. Of course, of the two sites I have that are currently working with SW, one is a humor/general blog [probably hard to make comments about, except of the "you suck" or "you rock" variety], and an history blog about Niagara Falls daredevils [again, not too encouraging of comment, although a few people have tried. At any rate, the "rating" stars only show up on the original post, not the "comments". SW needs to fix this for Blogger-users ASAP].Anyone else want to write about their SW experience? Comment at the end of this, or at least leave a link to any posts you've run on the subject.


Regular readers of these ramblings know I love toys. I'm talking about web-based or downloadable, FREE tools to create images for blogs. In fact, there's a link list for several of them already. Just scroll down the right-hand column until you get to the "Access To Tools" picture. Yes, it was created at one of our link sites. Today, courtesy of the fine folk at via Regretful Morning, a program that helps you create parody versions of those "motivational posters" that so many offices and schools have displayed [usually, such posters don't bother me too much. But I always wondered why the "Effort" poster was located outside the Men's room, while the Ladies' room was marked by a poster entitled "Adventure"] Anyway, here's the link: [].

That's all I've got...

-Mike Riley

Monday, July 21, 2008

Harry Houdini On Promoting Your Blog

...and I can already see a few of you in the back taking bets on whether I can use the career of the greatest magician who ever lived as a lesson to bloggers. Sucker bet, my friend, sucker bet. Of course I would not bring up an example that I hadn't already considered carefully [especially one dressed only in swim trunks and manacles].

(For the uninformed: Harry Houdini is believed by most experts to be the greatest magician of the 20th Century, and very likely the greatest of all time. Among other feats, Houdini
-made a live elephant disappear on stage,
-regularly accepted challenges to escape from specially-built
packing crates, handcuffs, and other restraints,
-popularized escaping from straitjackets - in full view of the

-escaped from many jail cells around the world while wearing only
swim trunks, and after being thoroughly searched
[I'll tell
you why he did this momentarily].
The experts will tell you that there are magicians working today who can duplicate many, if not all, of Houdini's illusions. What made his performances memorable, however, cannot be duplicated: the skill with which he manipulated the audience into believing that he was doing exactly what he told them he was doing.)

All right, you know the whom of this presentation. Now here's the why.
In addition to his unarguable magic skills, Houdini worked hard on his promotions as well. Harry would frequently announce his presence in a city by escaping from the local jail, or freeing himself from a straitjacket while dangling from a 15- or 16-story building at the busiest intersection in town. He gave newspaper interviews on magic. He was one of the first performers to see the potential of doing radio appearances. Houdini frequently said that his stunts and [usually] unpaid radio and newspaper appearance got him more newspaper space, and thus more free advertising, than anyone else of his era.

O.K., I hear some of you saying; I can't escape from handcuffs, or from a glass box filled with water [two more Houdini feats]; how can I get free publicity like that? Well, if you blog at least semi-regularly, you probably have some skill you're reasonably knowledgeable about. Why not write an article for your local newspaper [or weekly tabloid] on what you know about? [Those weekly papers are usually more than happy to have someone provide some copy for free. And some of those papers even pay a token amount!] If you do, make sure you include your blog's web address somewhere in the piece. Call up your local radio station, and offer to talk about your interest for free. If your community's cable-tv system has a public-access channel, it's likely that one or more shows on the station are on the lookout for possible interview subjects. Sometimes you have to overcome shyness to get on those programs, but it's all just one more opportunity to get your message out. And, in that immortal lyric from The Hokey Pokey,
"That's what it's all about".

-Mike Riley

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Human nature is a funny thing. Sure, most of us, having been raised in the company of other humans, know what we should do in most situations: don't honk the horn at an old person crossing the street, don't take the last piece of pie without asking someone [if you're stupid enough to take it when someone is around], don't launch your sleeping older brother from a recliner by pushing in the foot board [hey, he TOLD me to make sure he got up. And I really did try to wake him by other means first!]. But, no matter how well-behaved we are, an incentive [receive reward/avoid penalty] does tend to make us behave even better.

This brings us, of course, to the new association between EntreCard and SezWho. When I was in high school [Canisius High, Buffalo, NY; Class of '75], I actually took a year of Canadian history. As is often the case in such learning, the subject was not nearly as important as the education I received from its instructor, an old Jesuit named Fr. Greer. To his credit, I believe he felt the same way. One of the aphorisms he dropped on our adolescent minds was, "History happens for two reasons; the good reason, the one we tell our grandchildren and the history books, and the real reason, which is why a human does something". Looking at most of history in that context, it's clear that many wonderful things have been done for very banal reasons. But I digress.
Whatever else people may say, the EntreCard - SezWho affiliation, in this context, is a piece of genius. Graham, in his statement, gave us the good reasons: increased socialization, elevated "conversations" between blogger and reader, a generally higher level of discourse in blogs [since readers are encouraged, through credits based on the quality of their comments, to leave at least reasonably well thought out replies]. No one can, or should, deny that these are things serious bloggers have always wanted. But I believe that the real reason for the new paradigm is to discourage EC'ers from just "dropping and running". Not that there's anything wrong with it.(In the same way, it's said that a 19th-century German leader invented the idea of sewing otherwise useless buttons on the ends of his soldiers' uniform sleeves, to prevent them from wiping their faces and dirtying their coats)
Understand, I'm not against the encouragement of comments. Sometimes it's very frustrating as a blogger to post what you believe to be the best thing you've ever written, only to find that no one seems to have given the proverbial "rat's ass" about it. Allowing other bloggers to vote on the quality of posts and comments is another stroke of brilliance; the more you involve someone in an activity, the more time and effort they will invest in it. It's just human nature.
As to the actual results of all this, I'm not really sure. My mind says that, if EC'ers are reading more blogs [to write acceptable comments], fewer cards will be dropped. Then again, if the comments are highly enough prized by other blog readers [and thus rewarded with credits], the difference may turn out to be a wash. Bloggers will have to decide if their best strategy is to "drop and run", or to write well-thought-out comments [I suspect most bloggers will fall into one or the other category]. The cynic in me wonders [and I apologize for old Mr. Skeptic] if, by slowing the card-dropping-rate, EntreCard is trying to subtly encourage the sale of EC credits [some of which, at least,, EC sells itself]. (That's the downside of human nature: all those real reasons pop up in your head as you think through the new rules. Oh, how I wish Mr. Skeptic would go away!)
A final thought: sites like SezWho [and EC, for that matter] talk about the "socialization" of their locales. I may be old-fashioned, but I still believe that the best way to socialize is to go where large groups of people gather. Introduce yourself. Sooner or later, someone isn't going to think you're unstable, and will introduce themselves back. At least here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's Summertime, people! Get out and get some air, for gosh sakes! There's more to life than the Blogosphere!

-Mike Riley

PS: Please, oh please, oh please vote for this post! I want to be at least a Four-star member by the weekend! Thank You...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Chain, Chain, Chain..."

If everyone who reads this post had a nickel for all the SEO theories out there, none of you would need to worry about SEO; you'd be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. Search engine optimization is one of those money-making blog factors that actually has some relevance for all bloggers. People not in the profit game may not care as much, of course, but anyone who takes the time to create a blog would like it to be as popular as possible, to be consulted, to be searched for. And the simple fact is, the higher you are on a Google search page, the better off you are in such matters [indeed, more than a few experts will tell you that your blog must be at the top of page one for Google to do you any good at all. They have a point; unless I'm completely dissatisfied with the first Google search result, I almost never go any further].
Which brings us, naturally, to yet another SEO theory: the Linkback Project: The posting, by the mysterious "Dr. Algorithm", explains it as well as any one could, I suppose; I have to confess that, when confronted with such exposition, Mine Eyes Glaze Over [this wouldn't be so bad, mind you, but my brain usually glazes over as well]. Still, the good "Doctor" makes a case for the project, if for no other reason than to see what happens if someone tries it. (Short-term, I suspect that it will be quite helpful to its members; "pyramid"-type schemes, even those which have no illegal components [and I believe this one if legal at every level] are frequently very successful in their early stages. Long-term, though, trust Google to come up with yet another change in their mathematics, so that the system can't be "gamed")
Take a look at this one for yourself, then, if it makes sense to you, go for it. In the int erst of science, I'm putting this blog on the list. Let's compare notes over the next few weeks.
-Mike Riley
PS: Part of the process involves putting the currently active links in a post:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Inside (And Outside) The Box: An Entrecard Experiment

Back in March, this site ran three "Think Tank" posts on EntreCard's plans to allow members to buy and sell EC credits. At the time I predicted, among other things, that 'Carders would soon be offering ad agency-like services [ad creation, purchases on relevant sites, etc] to potential advertisers. History, to date anyway, has shown I didn't have a clue as to what would really happen [go back in the March archives, to get an idea of how far off I turned out to be. If you're not that heavily interested, just understand that 99 % of what I had to say, while reasonably well thought out, was, to reference the Sex Pistols, bollocks]

Still, even a blind pig hits a truffle now and then. Case in point: the EntreCard to your right. Its sponsor is Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, located in Crawfordsville, Indiana. For the last few years, they've been building their new home, and want to throw an appropriate dedication service to commemorate its completion. Keeping this short, they're asking 'Carders for donations of EC credits, which they then plan to sell on the EC market to defray the cost of their service. It's not completely new, of course [nothing under the sun is]. The original version used to be done by non-profit groups across America [and in other countries as well, for all I know]. "Money-off" coupons in the US used to [and still may] have a cash value. It was usually some ridiculously low rate, like 1/20th of a US cent (the whole thing was the result of some obscure law. If you're really interested, Google the matter, and leave a "Comment" with your findings). Boy Scouts, church groups, animal shelters [you get the idea] used to collect as many coupons as they could, then cash them in. I'd like to think someone at the church remembered the old technique, then updated it for the new century. Then again, perhaps someone invented it fresh. Either way, it's an example of out-of-the-box thinking. That may be the only point made in my original EC posts that lives beyond the original entries. Bottom line: if you do what everyone else does, you'll have way too much competition. Find your own space in the forest. Then open the best pop stand you can operate...[if you carry Diet Pepsi, I'll be there]
-Mike Riley