Dec

10th

Panning for Gold in the Twitterstream

Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Just about everybody has used their website and blog to promote their businesses, and, in the past few years, have supplemented those efforts with the use of other social media outlets such as Facebook, and Twitter.  In the case of the blog and website, these efforts may be categorized as passive in the sense that the business owner sits back and waits until clients are attracted through his website, and make contact, and ultimately, business.

SalahibidenFacebook and Twitter were innovative at the time, and helped businesses form a relationship with clients with a more personal approach, allowing a subtle transition from a purely passive approach to their prospective clients to a more pro-active and personal one.  A lot of folks missed the point of Twitter and Twitter and came late to the party.  The same can be said for the late adopters of Facebook, who didn’t understand their kids’ fascination with the social aspects of Facebook.  College kids live on facebook.  Andif you had any doubt about the centrality of Facebook to the zeitgheist of our society, one need look no further than Michaele and Tarek Salahi’s crashing the Whitehouse state dinner late last month.  Pictures of them and Obama and them and Biden were on their Facebook page before dawn.

I wish I had a nickle for everyone who commented on my embracing the Twitter idiom with a snide comment like, ‘What do I care what people had for breakfast.’  A lot of folks are missing the point of both of these social sites:  they provide a way to form quasi social relationships, and so called weak friendships.  Their point is that people are more apt to do business with people with whom they have some sort of connection.  If you’re looking for someone to re-do your kitchen, you’re much more likely to choose someone from your church, or even someone who is friendly with the butcher whom you lilke.  I am not a big Facebook user because it is too time intensive, but I have met quite a few friends, professional colleagues, and business partners on Twitter.

But Twitter is still a quasi passive platform, though the lines are blurry.  I do know that the easiest way to turn someone off on Twitter is to come onto him with a hard sell:  ‘I’ve made $15,000 this month on Twitter, and I can show you how to do it, too!!!!!’

But thee are now on the horizon two very important developments which promise to significantly enhance the power of using Twitter.

But first a small diversion.  Earlier this year, an enterprising your Australian named Chris Duell developed a site called Twitterhawk.  Now the idea of Twitterhawk is that the site sifts through the Twitterstream looking for key words that you set that occur near a geographic location that you specify.  So if you were a carpenter in Peoria, you might set up a search that looks for kitchen remodeling in Peoria.  Twitterhawk would return to you a list of those tweets,  And, for a few cents a tweet, Twitterhawk would send a series of rotating tweets to those whose tweets you designated as appropriate targets.

Back to those new Twitter innovations.  The first was the implemenjtation of lists on Twitter.  Now you can create lists of folks on Twitter that you follow.  And you can categorize them with common traits, for example software architects (like Paladin Consultants, LLC ), or economists, or photographers.  It helps you keep track of people, especially when you have lots of followers.  You can see the Twitterstreams of these lists, and even get an RSS feed of them.  Better still, in most cases everyone has access to virtually all of everybody else’s lists!

And where can you find and mine these lists?  Listorius is one of the first resources dedicated to managing the new feature.  Mashable also has a growing arsenal of Twitter Lists.  Unless I miss my guess, new sites dedicated to this new tool will be popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain!

The second innovation comes from a site called Listimonkey, a site designed by a very clever young Belgian expatriate named Xavier Damman, now living in the Bay Area.  He has also managed to secure a domain name in his own name!  Anyway, his wrinkle on Twitter is that if you send Listimonkey the name of a twitter list, a key word or phrase, and your email, Listimonkey will email you with a set periodicity the tweets from members of that list contain your key word or phrase!  Now, although there is some SEO juice and pride in having a large list, this is not necessary to work with Listimonkey.  In fact, you can use anybody’s public list!  (Most lists are public.)

Now think about that.  If you are a real estate agent in Chicago, you might watch somebody’s Chicago list for the key word ‘moving’.  If you were a photographer in Atlanta, you’d watch somebody’s Atlanta list for the keyword ‘wedding’ or ‘getting married’.  And, Listimonkey allows you to create as many of these list/keyword combinations as you like!  Very powerful, and a dimensional abstract improvment on Twitterhawk’s idea!

But Listimonkey is good not only for finding new customers and clients.  It’s great for finding out about new products, techniques, people, trends- wealth of information from one site that harnesses the communal information it mines from the Twitterstream!

I’m afraid Xavier’s innovation will spell bad news for Chris Duell and Twitterhawk.  It’s a shame, but the market marches on.  One can only wish Chris Duell luck, and hope that he has another great idea.  But with talent like he’s shown, I am sure that his next idea is right around the corner.

But getting back to Listimonkey, as those emails come rolling in from Listimonkey, it would be pretty easy for a good software developer to come up with a program which would parse those emails as they came in, and then tweet appropriate messages to the originators of those tweets mentioning the keyword(s).  Xavier has such a good idea, that I predict will soon overrun his mailserver.  But that will be an happy problem for him to solve!

Please leave a comment, so we know whether or not we are on target!  It helps us find out what our readers think.

Dec

2nd

Top Tips for Achieving Economy of Effort in Successful Blogging

Blogging | Software


All of the top0bloggers have their own system for making their quality articles and getting their popularity.  Each of them uses a different combination of techniques.  Some effectively use other peoples effort and leverage it elegantly.  I’m not talking about plagiarizing the work of others, but rather the effective tapping into the community for their resources.  That’s an effective technique once a blog achieves a critical mass, but not readily workable for the smaller or newer blogs.

I have developed a system for fitting our blog writing into our daily routine, and it involves the use of technology by gaining efficiency from productive software and streamlining the thought processes.  This helps get around the press of servicing clients in our software development and web business at Paladin Consultants, LLC .

Inertia and the lack of a clear idea of what to write about has been the number one blogging stumbling block for me, along with a cumbersome production process of the blog article itself.  I have solved this in several ways.

  1. I found I had a lot of ideas, but didn’t have a way of recalling them when I needed them.  So I started using Evernote, which recently added a Blackberry extension.  Since I am never far away from my ‘berry, I can text, dictate, or send a picture to Evernote, and harvest those thoughts at the proper time.  I also am a heavy user of OneNote, so, on an as needed basis, I copy thoughts from Evernote to OneNote for a more permanent and well-organized record.  There is a good blog for OneNote, which talks about the many uses it has. 
  2. I try to have a small camera near me all of the time.  At very least, I have my Blackberry camera. So, armed as such, it is easier to get illustrations of some of my topics and ideas.
  3. Recently I have found that once I have decided on a thought or idea, it is productive to actively think about that idea while falling asleep.  During the night, somehow, the idea seems to be processed and examined from all sides, and, oddly enough, seems to be well developed my morning.

The next bottleneck is usually the development of the idea.  This is partially resolved by the sleep technique discussed above.  The problem with the sleep technique is that if you don’t capture it quickly, its persistence appears to be limited.  Use it or lose it.  So among the first tasks of the morning needs to be the capture of the previous night’s thought process.

I’ve had success with mind mapping techniques, especially for short blog articles.  For a longer treatise, a hierarchical outline, such as one might produce in Word would be more appropriate. Usually, I draw the mind map on a yellow college ruled pad, but I’ve gussied up the one for this article to make it visually appealing. See if it makes sense to you.

Mindmap.jpg

Once I have the ‘plan’, then it’s time to bring in the power tools to take care of the details.  I use BlogJet, a very convenient and inexpensive online blogging software, which lets me compose, spell check, insert artwork, links, tags, and virtually everything I need to do to produce the blog itself.  I felt that this piece of software reduced the amount to time I spend visually composing each article by at least 1/2 hour.  They also have a very nice feature which fits into Firefox, which allows me to copy and paste pieces of web pages into the text of my blog very easily.

Firefox is an extremely important piece of software for me.  It seems that no matter how hard Microsoft and Google try, they can’t quite come up to the standards of the Firefox Mozilla browser:  Mozilla always seems to be one step ahead of them.  There are two Firefox  plugins that are particularly effective for me: Taboo, and SEOQuake.

Taboo is a software tool which allows you to take many tabs open in Firefox, and store them in one tab as thumbnails.  So, instead of having 20 tabs opened, you might only have two: the one you’re immediately working on, and the other containing the Taboo ‘reservoir’ collection.  Taboo allows you to temporarily store dozens of pages in this thumbnail format, each image growing as you mouse over it.  It saves looking through the tab array, and saves scarce memory.  A very useful tool!  I have a Bookmark category called ‘Blogging Tools’, which I open in tabs  (about 10 sites), then annex them to the Taboo page.  Makes for very efficient research and fact checking.

Firefox app Taboo

SEO Quake, is another Firefox app that analyzes the keyword/ key phrase content of your article.  At the end of writing the article in BlogJet, you can save it to a temporary HTML file, and use SEO Quake to appraise it for links, key phrase effectiveness before you publish.  And it always helps to have a list of your Wordtracker phrases to rework your article against.

In the Pantheon of Tools I rank Delicious near the top.  It’s a very powerful tool which lets you save sites, software techniques and articles, like your Browser Bookmark feature.  Except that your Delicious sites are available to you whether you happen to be at your computer or not.  Available on client machines, Available on your Blackberry or iPhone. Available on your laptop.  Available in subgroups as RSS feeds of your tags, of as subscriptions to the tags of the rest of the universe.  An extremely powerful element in anyones toolkit, and a great contribution to social knowledge.

In addition to photographs, I try to include portions of scanned documents like software code where appropriate, to illustrate my point, as well as screen clips, video clips, and charts.  I find that Google charts allows one to create some very nice looking graphics with ones own data.  Those graphics, though not ornate in any sense,  are far more professional looking than those produced by Excel.

Finally, if you are not a strong typist, or are composing at the keyboard, while doing your research at the same time, Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking is a good candidate for you.  I confess to using it sometimes to squeeze out a quick article when I am short on time.

Please leave a comment – comments help us do a better job!

Nov

23rd

It’s a Great Time to Be Alive

Blogging


I cannot think of a better time to have lived.  Certainly not before the printing press; certainly not before the airplane, not during the World Wars.  No– now is the time.  Access to goods, food, learning, entertainment (although the 18th-19th century might have an edge there), travel, technology has never before been able to attain the lofty heights that we now enjoy.  That is not to say that there are storm clouds on the horizon with respect to our standard of living, and the freedoms we enjoy.  But in terms of access to information and knowledge there has never been any time like the present.

Now that access to information is truly a two-edged sword.  A fair part of that information is false.  And partaking of that information (which is from many sources) is largely free.  New scientific information is readily available, as are many reservoirs of fecund ideas.  But some information available is false, and some late and outdated.  So the seeker must be able to discern the quality and reliability of the information he finds.

An excellent example of that caveat arose just recently when after many years of a steady drum beat from ‘very reliable’ sources on the perils of global warming, a hacking at the University of East Anglia last weekend exposed the scam wherein scientists were caught faking statistics and press releases to favor their chicken-little position.  In addition, there was evidence of a plot to discredit their opposition, destroying their credibility and ruining their careers.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, recent estimates suggest that there are some 12 million blogs written by American adults.  And according to that same organization, some 57 million Americans are blog readers.

Think of all that free information!

But before that information is used, it needs to be evaluated.  Always in critical situations, it is wise to check your sources with other sources.  For instance, if one listened only to the global warming drum beat, one could easily be convinced that the earth as we know it was coming to an end.

On virtually every subject, it is now easy to become quite well informed through a variety of media outlets: videos from youtube, tutorials from places like Adobe and many others, podcasts, web sites, blogs-a-plenty – and in a very short period of time.  Now it’s important to keep differing opinions in perspective, but luckily there are millions of competing blogs and sources of information to allow you that freedom.

Google, the advertising company that provides such excellent search capabilities, provides a rich texture of blogs, tutorials and analytic programs to help guide us in providing satisfactory web experiences.  And Adobe has many tutorials to help us learn and become masters of its graphics processing programs, Photoshop and Illustrator.  These folks provide this information because they are the web developers have a common interest: using their programs to help design professional and powerful web sites.

The same goes for blogging.  I am writing this article on a program called Blogjet, which I use to create, edit and post articles on several blogs.  I have not been a prolific blogger in the past, because I have been too busy with various software and web development projects.  So I needed to get ‘up to speed’ quickly.  I learned about Blogjet from some other blog article I read which evaluated Blogjet and 14 other competing products in Smashing Magazine.

Unfortunately, blogging has not been an activity which has produced a lot of remuneration for me– at least directly.  Existing clients want their projects progressing, leaving little time for writing great tomes.   More recently, I have been using Twitter to disseminate compact little crumbs of wisdom.

But now I have been thinking that perhaps I could devote an hour a week to promulgating some more complex ideas of my own to the bank of community knowledge, and with the aid of decent software like Blogjet and OneNote to assist me, I have started anew my quest.

Fortune found me a terrific blog to assist me in honing my blogging talents.  Seth Waite’s Blogussion blog is an excellent place to begin.  With his own suggestions, and a weekly roundup of tips of the week from other successful bloggers.  And, to be honest, I was piqued last week when I tried to join a group of another well-known blogger just a few hours after their introductory period ended.  The new price was 3 time the intro price, and they would not let me join at the intro price.  So I am determined to accomplish the same goals now for free.

George Washington and the rest of our founding fathers came to this country with very little.  Their fathers had been steeped in the European guild system of mastering only one art: a carpenter in one instance, a miller in another, silversmith in yet another.  They arrived here and did not have a diverse enough economy to allow for this elegant division of labor.  They were forced by circumstance to become expert in many crafts.  Washington was a surveyor, farmer, general, and statesman.  And the other founding fathers had similar eclectic talents.

If they were resourceful enough to form this country into the greatest in history, certainly we with the resources at our disposal can continue in that tradition.  If fact they would expect nothing less.

 

Sep

14th

Washington DC Tea Party 9/12/2009 My Journey

Economics | Uncategorized


I went down to the Washington Tea Party on Amtrack because I felt a personal responsibility to do whatever I could to help get my country back on the right track both fiscally and philosophically.  For the best part of the past year, politicians have been expanding the government, and destroying incentive in our society.  We have been weakened militarily, diplomatically, and financially, culminating recently in the attempt to have the government take over the health care industry.  The immediate purpose of my trip was to land my presence and make a stand showing how opposed I am to the so-called public option of a single payer government entity, and all its Trojan Horse look-alikes which would eventually destroy the health insurance industry, and make the government the sole decider of how to ration health care in our country. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul

16th

Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO: Metatags

Website Development


Meta tags are road signs for search engines that are found at the beginning of each well-formed HTML page on your site.  They are not visible to the user on the page because they are buried in the HTML code, and are of value to the search robots, and therefore of critical interest to those in charge of marketing the site.  It is the meta tags which guide the search engines to what the developer of the site thinks is important on that page. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul

9th

Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Developing Realistic Expectations

Website Development


This article discusses the practical aspects of running a successful website, and the ongoing tasks associated with maintaining a good competitive position in the search engines over time. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun

22nd

Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Developing an Effective Keyword Strategy

Website Development


This article is about how to choose key words and phrases in your web copy to target more effectively visitors to your site who are likely to buy your product. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun

13th

Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Choose Your Battles and Your Terrain

Website Development


In our last article in this series, ‘Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Understanding Search Engine Boundaries‘, we discussed the working of search engines and how they go about doing their job – matching a users request with a list of appropriate responses in the form of web pages.  This article is about how to make your website coexist with that paradigm, and how to effectively compete with the thousands of other sites which offer the same product you do. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun

9th

Software to Help Find Missing Children

Software


Our business is designing and developing custom software for clients for whom we consult.  Over the past 20 years, we have developed such diverse things as industrial robots, currency hedging systems, accounting systems for major private equity firms, and statistical forecasting system, to name only a few applications. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun

7th

Effective Web Marketing: Common Sense SEO Understanding Search Engine Boundaries

Website Development


In a large sense, search engines are the gatekeepers of the web.  Unless you can learn their rules, you will not be attracting too many people to your website or blog.  Read the rest of this entry »