Right Reading

concept to publication

Category: blogging (Page 2 of 2)

How to Disable Snap Link Previews

You’ve seen them — the annoying little bits of bling, as Nick Wilson aptly characterized them — that pop up a little thumbnail of the page a link points to. How can you get rid of these bothersome gnats that flutter up all over blog and web pages these days? Well, you could go to the snap site and download a cookie, but if you don’t want to do that, follow these simple steps:

1. Use Firefox as your browser and download and install the adblock extension.

2. Go to adblock preferences (under the tools menu) and add as a new filter: spa.snap.com/snap_preview_anywhere.js.

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Dicussion at download squad.

Testing Goodwidgets Photo Stack

I coughed up my two bucks for the pro version of GoodWidget (Stack), and it works great, except I think you need to pay per stack (you can change the contents of a stack but I don’t think you can have two running without paying twice). These photos are now from a walk in Sunol Wilderness, just to check the ability to change stack contents. Click on the images to shuffle through them. Source: goodwidgets.com.

NoFollow revisited

Wikipedia announced recently that it is going back to adding the “nofollow” attribute to its outbound links in an attempt to keep people from gaming the system to leach linkjuice off the the site for personal gain.

According to Google, “when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.” So the theory is that by denying linkjuice Wikipedia will stem article spam.

NoFollow has always been controversial, and the response to Wikipedia’s decision has been mixed. Rand Fishkin at SeoMoz (which has also instituted NoFollow) says Wikipedia has finally made the right decision. But he offers surprisingly little to defend that position.

Peter Da Vanzo at blog.v7n.com says the decision has scant significance:

Here’s a question: why do people assume that if Wikipedia adds nofollow, then the links won’t count in search engine calculations? It wouldn’t take much for the search engines to make Wikipedia a special case, and ignore the nofollow tag, if that isn’t the case already.

And another: How do people know that Wikipedia was passing any (real) PageRank or authority before? There are many pages which aren’t using the nofollow tag that also aren’t passing any measurable PageRank and/or authority, probably due to some hand tweaking.

Barry Welford thinks search engines are running up against Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle:

In a sense, Wikipedia is correcting the fallacy in the whole Google PageRank approach. It’s like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. There are some things you can’t measure. If you try to measure them then they’re not the same. Once Google says inlinks will boost a web page’s relevancy, then of course everyone, often supercharged with dumb computer programs, generates as many inlinks as they can.

My opinion? I don’t like NoFollow. I think it amounts to trying to get a free ride by benefiting from links without paying the cost for them. In fact, I’ve added a plug-in that removes the default NoFollow from my blog comments. If anyone wants to comment, I can approve or deny the comment, so the onus is on me to decide whether the link should stand. If commenters have added something of value then I think they deserve any link benefit I can give back to them (my home page, btw, is currently PR6).

I also feel that NoFollow will have little if any effect on the value of Wikipedia contributions. Even with NoFollow, links still bring traffic, and since Wikipedia is likely to continue to rank high in the SERPs, scam sites will still benefit from Wikipedia links if they can get them. In fact, a lot of the spam links submitted to this blog already have the NoFollow tag embedded. By instituting NoFollow, Wikipedia probably hurts honest sites more than scammers — just the sites that took Wikipedia to the top of the SERPs by linking to them in the first place.

So put me in the camp of the sensible Philipp Lenssen who writes at Google Blogoscoped:

What happens as a consequence, in my opinion, is that Wikipedia gets valuable backlinks from all over the web, in huge quantity, and of huge importance — normal links, not “nofollow” links; this is what makes Wikipedia rank so well — but as of now, they’re not giving any of this back. The problem of Wikipedia link spam is real, but the solution to this spam problem may introduce an even bigger problem: Wikipedia has become a website that takes from the communities but doesn’t give back, skewing web etiquette as well as tools that work on this etiquette (like search engines, which analyze the web’s link structure). That’s why I find Wikipedia’s move very disappointing.

Perhaps the most interesting response to the news came from Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim. He is adding NoFollow to links to Wikipedia from his site.

UPDATE, 24 JAN. Andy Beard has made a Wikipedia NoFollow plug-in, and Aaron Pratt offers a good commentary.

MyBlogLog, yes or no?

MyBlogLogYahoo recently purchased MyBlogLog for $10 million. Some blogs I read have been touting the service. The idea, I guess, is to put a face to the sometimes invisible communities of blog readers. You could say it’s a kind of Facebook or MySpace service for blogs. For example, a MyBlogLog widget puts the images of subscribers on their blog posts, or enables the blog site to show visuals of the most recent visitors.

I have kind of mixed feelings about this. I can see its value if you’re really trying to develop a network. (And why spend time on a blog otherwise?) At the same time, I like to retain some degree of privacy. Well, I signed up, but that’s about it so far.

I know some of my readers use MyBlogLog. Are you happy with it? Should I be spending time on this? (I sure don’t want to work as hard at this as this guy does.) So, should I build a community? Install the widgets? What do you think?

The basics: The Complete Guide to MyBlogLog(ing)

UPDATE: I’m not a big user of such sites, and I should probably work harder at network building. But I dabble a bit in Technorati, MyBlogLog, and BUMPzee, and I’ve come to like MyBlogLog the best; recently I put a “recent readers” badge on this blog. The statistics MBL offers are a nice feature, and I prefer the interface.

Eight New Blog Features

now reading library pageSome readers might have noticed that I’ve added a few new features to the blog. Specifically (starting with left sidebar and proceeding to right sidebar):

  1. Flickr badge.
    The flash badge at left enables clicking through to my most recent photos at flickr.com. I like the way it’s not static. But will it start to look like the blicking, scrolling texts of the 1990s?
  2. Book of Days link
    It may only rank ninth among my pages (actually I think that’s because it’s really about 38 pages, so the hits are spread out–I’m certainly not going to take the time to add them all up) but I still have a fondness for the daybook, which was the first feature I added when I began to break out of resume website mode about ten years ago. Since I’ve discontinued the Book of Days RSS feed (as too much work) instead I’ll try to update this link to the page that includes the current date (in other words, about every 10 days).
  3. Social bookmark link
    I’ve had this on my html pages but only now added it to the blog. Saves a stroke or two in adding the site to your del.icio.us bookmarks, or wherever. (I don’t like the way some sites give you about a million icons with every post.)
  4. Now Reading
    This is an interesting plugin from Rob Miller. If you like it you can download it here. It’s a database program for storing books. When you enter a book it pulls a thumbnail of the cover from amazon. If you click on a book it takes you to the library page for the title, where you can post reviews and the like. It has a lot of features that I’m not interested in using, so I stripped down the templates. (I had trouble making the library pages work with my theme, so I just removed the right sidebar from those pages.) I’m integrating it with some of my book reviews. I keep meaning to post more of those but I hate doing that kind of mechanical stuff–plus back in the day I put them all on a zip disk that went bad, so it would involve a lot of key entry. Someday …
  5. Duly Quoted
    Links to one of my quotation pages (currently Ava Gardner).
  6. Moving on to the right sidebar we find, first, a link to my bio and my e-mail information (anti-phishing format). This is something every blog should have, right? I guess I just overlooked it until now.
  7. A big honking subscribe button
    (The search box isn’t new. It only searches the blog. The full site search is at the bottom of the sidebar–does that seem okay?).
    Some say bigger buttons get more clicks (try it). It sounds just stupid enough to be true. But I can’t deal with the standard orange color in my scheme, so I’ve changed it to rightreading blue.
    UPDATE: I’ve scaled this back a notch so it’s not quite as in-your-face.
  8. Top 10 Currently Popular Pages
    Based on my awstats reports, these are my most popular pages this month. Only number 10 is a surprise to me (but it’s a pretty big surprise). I’ll try to update this as it changes with future monthly reports.

So there you go. Have I added features of value or just cluttered up the page?

Packaged Goods Media versus Conversational Media

That’s the distinction John Battelle makes in an interesting piece. The “pillars” of PGM, he says, are

  1. Ownership or control of Intellectual Property by the corporation.
  2. Ownership or control of expensive distribution networks.
  3. Established business models based on highly evolved approaches to advertising and subscription models.

The attributes of CM, on the other hand, are

  1. Conversation over dictation
  2. Platform over distribution
  3. Service over product
  4. Iteration and Speed over Perfection and Deliberation
  5. Engagement over Consumption

Battelle writes

When I read traditional media interpretations of “user generated content” (last weeks New York Times piece proclaiming 2006 the year of “You Media” comes to mind), I feel extremely dissatisfied. These pieces focus on the wrong thing – they judge Conversational Media by the standards of Packaged Goods Media, then find themselves smugly satisfied that CM doesn’t measure up. However, it’s clear that CM is here to stay, so writers from the PGM world struggle to make it fit their worldview. “Now we have to figure out what to do with it,” The Times piece sniffs. “Ignore it? Sort it? Add more of our own?”

“A line,” Battelle observes, “clearly written by someone who doesn’t engage much in the world of Conversational Media.”

An interesting, well-balanced piece that respects the different character of both PGM and CM, and doesn’t try to assert that one is better than the other.

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Link: Packaged Goods Media v. Conversational Media

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Famous Last Words

famous last words

I should finish up the press check I’m on tomorrow and have Thursday free, or maybe I’ll just proof the cover on Thursday morning. God, I hope so. I’m about to go mad trapped in this industrial park just, frustratingly, outside the lovely city of Bruges.

But those aren’t the “famous last words” I meant by the post title. I was referring to my web page of that name, which made StumpleUpon‘s “buzz” page, bringing a bunch of visitors. So this is a place where people can leave suggestions for more “deathbed bon mots and strangled prose,” or make comments à son gout.

Lately 75 percent of my non-search engine traffic has been coming from StumbleUpon. I’m not sure what to make of that, other than to say thanks to the stumblers who have bookmarked my pages.

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Rightreading feeds have changed

Well, somewhat.

I’m now using this blog feed (http://www.rightreading.com/feed/) as the main feed for the entire site, since any most new features are announced here. There’s a feedburner link at right to add this to your reader of choice. (If you’re reading this in a feed then you’re already cool.)

The original site feed (http://www.rightreading.com/feed.xml) is now the feed for my Book of Days. You might want this one if you’re interested in all the news that’s old on this day.

Blogospherus

I’m not sure exactly what it proves, but a French blog is “scientifically” testing the blogosphere by tracking the spread of an unannounced post, released 16 November on Thierry Crouzet’s blog about “le peuple des connecteurs.”

La blogosphère est-elle un mythe?
Quelle puissance virale est la sienne ?

Existe-t-elle ailleurs que dans l’imaginaire de quelques papes des blogs ?

La blogosphère a-t-elle pour seule demeure Technorati ?

Blogospherus est créé pour tester la réactivité de la blogosphère, comme une expérience scientifique.

Combien de temps faudra-t-il pour fédérer les blogs de la blogosphère ?

It appears rightreading is the first English-language blog to pick this up. (I got it through Chroniques patagones, quoted in the extract above.) Will it (or should it) spread anywhere from here?

I guess this is the equivalent of casting a message in a bottle into the sea and seeing if anyone responds. Does it have any meaning beyond that? Stay tuned, or get more information, at blogospherus.net (in French).

Exploding Aardvark

lisa boucher

At a time when niche marketing is the rage and everyone wants to capitalize their blogs by optimizing for keywords in search engine result pages, it’s nice to run across an entertaining and informed generalist blog with an offbeat sense of humor and a judicious mix of posts ranging across politics, music, language, and other topics.

No, not this one. I’m referring to Exploding Aardvark, in which Lisa Boucher artfully mixes the most unusual ingredients into a uniquely tasty dish.

An editor (but not one of the dull ones), she could probably fix up my long-winded opening sentence.

tropical blogging, beachside

A work trip brings rightreading to Waikiki this week, so posting will be light.

After a short time here I observed that Waikiki is evidently Hawaiian for “place of pink skin.” Weather on arrival was pushing 90, with 80 percent humidity — so humid even the locals were complaining. But the haole to a man (and woman) stripped off most of their clothes and stretched out on beach chairs, amassing in greatest numbers in the hottest part of the day. They looked like pork loins roasting on a grill. You could hear the sizzle. Futile sun screen oozed off of them in greasy puddles.

(On a side note, one of the wires in my laptop screen also seems to have got fried. I’m trying to think of the thin vertical line that now seems permanent as a design element, on the principle that if you can’t fix it, it’s a “feature.”)

Rightreading has logged some time in the tropics over the years, so here’s some good advice (certain to go mostly unheeded). First, from about 12:30 to 2:30 or 3:00, favor the shade. Mornings and evenings, OTOH, are great times for walks on the beach. Second, don’t overdo. Take it slow and easy — in the (not so) long run, slow and easy will beat crash and burn (and I mean burn literally), trust me. Third, every so often stop and have a drink. The experts will tell you that alcohol will just dehydrate you even more, and I’m sure that’s true in some theoretical sense (like, if you’re actually dying in the desert, maybe a shot of vodka isn’t what you really want). But in the real world, based on my years of experience, I can assure you this is false. Screw the scientists. Have a beer. You’ll feel better.

Some photos after the jump . . .

Read More

Should teenagers and others express themselves through blogs?

That’s the question the Restored Church of God is asking.

The answer: “No one—including adults—should have a blog or personal website (unless it is for legitimate business purposes).” You see, “blogs are something youth should not be doing in any way.” Why not? Because “Jesus Christ and His Church have standards. Those who desire fewer standards should go to the splinters or to the world.”

So no excuses — now you know. Take down that myspace site this minute!

If you don’t believe me, you can visit their … well, their website.

Writely for Gmail Users

If you have a gmail account you are now automatically signed up for Writely, the on-line word processor that was bought by Google a while ago. Since it includes a spell check and other word processing tools, I imagine it might be handy for webwork. Especially since you don’t have to wait for a bloated program like Word to load (on that subject, for routine stuff I’ve been using notepad more and more lately — hey, remember when notepad was the software of choice for websites?). Anyway, I’d be curious to hear any impressions of Writely.

Authorship and the Web

On a worldwide web where anybody can post anything any time (unless they live in a place like China, but that’s a subject for another post), how can we identify original content? How much does proper attribution matter?

There’s a whole parasitic industry of taking other people’s content and manipulating it to draw hits and bring in income from advertising. (The essence of this kind of work is not high percentage yield but just sheer volume, so they are avaricious for content.) For example, a few weeks ago someone stole my article on if historical figures had been webmasters and posted it as if it were their own work, without any attribution or acknowledgment of my authorship. In the on-line world such copying has become so common as to seem trivial. Even entire sites may be duplicated.

Consider a couple of examples from just the past few days. First, at SEOmoz a scraper included in a post making fun of her an e-mail from a woman who felt she had been wronged. The e-mail was only removed on advice of counsel. Following up on this, Graywolf made a couple of posts on his popular SEO blog that were designed to manipulate search engine results to punish the woman (SEOEgghead spoke up on her behalf).

Did the woman have a legitimate complaint? Does she have a right to “own” search results on her name and business, or are they fair game for anyone to use as they wish?

In another current case a columnist for the Daily Telegraph posted a column that was pulled word for word from a blogger’s entry. (No explanation yet from the paper or the columnist.)

According to the Berne convention, “Independently of the author’s economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work.”

Have such rights become merely theoretical? Do they continue to have meaning in a great collective enterprise like the web? Is it inevitable that technology tends to remove content from individual control? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Blog anthem

Listen to the blog starters’ anthem here.

New Blog Launch

I’m moving the main rightreading blog over here, where it will be hosted as a subdomain of www.rightreading.com.(in other words, as blog.rightreading.com). You can pick up the feed at feedburner.

I’ll probably keep alive the old blogger blog (I also have a LiveJournal blog, but that’s mainly for family). I hope to have greater control and flexibility by hosting the blog myself (with WordPress). Mainly it just seems neater to have the blog reside here rather than offsite.

Let me hear your suggestions about modifying the design or adding features. Any thoughts on defining a different focus for the two blogs?

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Some rights reserved 2017 Right Reading. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via rightreading.com/contact.htm.