Friday, January 27, 2006

Make Easy Money With Google

Make Easy Money With Google walks users through how to earn money through Google’s AdSense banner ad program. Some caveats. First, there are many ways to make money with Google: using Google Answers to turn expertise into cash; Google Base allows you to advertise your wares for free: this book isn’t about these other ways to make money with Google. Second, I scoured the aisles of the bookstore for this book. I found it in the financial section a shelf over from the likes of “Start Your Own Gift Basket Business.” If you want a hardcore way to cook the Google functionality into cash-- more cash than a schmuck could make for plunking a Google ad on his Geocities page—give up considering this book. When you learn the rules of the game, Google is good at changing the rules. There is a wisdom to not setting them in ink. Also, the hardcore methodologies taught by the likes of the Adsense Jerk, really become the cart that pushes the horse: the monetization overshadows the content.

This book has a strong narrative much like “The Wealthy Barber” (maybe it’s an Ontario thing—both authors hail from that province). Imagine writing down a 248 page discussion between a web savvy Adsense user and his uncle who bought his last computer to store recipes. This book is intended for an audience who is computer literate but much of the content is a basic how-to for getting onto the web. Web designers may scoff that this material isn’t worthy copy, but I really disagree. If you don’t know how to get a domain name, a web host, how to FTP, how to choose an HTML editor or many of the other necessities; you need this book.

Section 1, “Starting” gives us the basics of advertising and how to advertise on the web. I’m a sucker for tech history and the “How Things Work” view, so I found this section was a win.

Section 2, “Content” covers how to put together content and put it on the web. More basic than web design: this is a discussion of what to say not how to say it. Did you ever see that Simpson’s episode where Homer builds a web page? He had nothing to say, so he threw up every animated GIF he could find. This book really focuses on that topic and its so important. Remember the Adsense Jerk from above. If you followed his school of thought any piece of crap could onto your page and that couldn’t be further from the truth: quality content yields quality ads and quality coin. You can’t ignore that and Giguere doesn’t. Later in the section, the book talks about how to secure a domain name and web host.

Section 3, “Design” is mostly about how to design a serviceable web page: a set of best practices like site maps, clean designs and search engine friendly layouts. A lot of ink goes to using blogging services to put your content out there. That’s not a bad idea: blogs are an easy way to get your content out there with a minimum of fuss and muss.

Section 4, “Adsense” finally gets to talk about the subject: ADSENSE! What’s nice is how much details the author puts into this section. To be honest, I had been using AdSense for two years and didn’t know some of this stuff. Some of the stuff is insightful. While I would have like some super-user material—information how to really wring all the potential out of Adsense. We don’t get that, but if adding this is always one EULA tweak away from being a violation of the Adsense terms. In the time I’ve been using Adsense I think I’ve had to approval 6 new versions of Google’s terms and conditions.

Section 5 is “Traffic.” The web is definitely not a “build it and they will come” place. You can dump out tons of pages and material and never see a single visitor. Though brief, the Traffic section talks about how to get your site listed. With so much of the book talking about the role of blogs, I would have included the invaluable tool of blogging: tags. I would talked about traffic events. Though the promotion section is a little skimpy is it fine for the intended audience.

This book is for web novices who want to learn about this new fangled way to monetize their web pages. For that audience, I would recommend this book. I bought it fill out my knowledge of AdSense and then pass this off to my boss who was considering adding AdSense to our site. Web developers look for their books in the computer section. Money makers look for a way to make money in the personal finance aisles. I think this book ended up in the right part of the bookstore.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

One Skidoo Ride Closer to the Web Balkans

According to this Washington Post article, big players inthe US networking game are whining over bandwidth usage by large volume sites like Google. I wrote about this before. The telcos are going to continue to try to roll out services and keep people with their own networks. It's going to fail. While they are correct that they footing the bill for transmitting requests to the doorsteps of others. It's like a taxi that charges 1 out of 10 customers for their ride. Ninety percent of the people get a free ride, but that one schmoe pays $120 for his trip downtown. That's the dynamic: the service providers are still making money at the game, but they want more. The FCC has weighed in that network neutrality has to be maintained-- that the service providers cannot show bias toward traffic conduited through their networks. They'll find a way to skirt the rules. I remember when the CRTC leaned on BC Tel (Telus) and prevented service fee hikes. Telus responded by installing new phones sans faceplates-- just your wall jack dangling out of the wall. If the network providers get their way to botch neutral networking, we'll be left with our jacks dangling.

tags: Balkanization, Google, SBC, Telus

Flickr + Ingenuity = Cool

Krazydad have put out this totally cool app that ties Flash and Flickr together via XML. Choose a color and several matching photos will appear.

Using images from the Color Fields group on Flickr, JBum has created a beautiful and efficient Experimental Color Picker. Just click on a color, use the slider to adjust lightness and darkness, and it will show you photos with that color.

What KrazyDad has done is tap into the Flickr XML API. Hey kids, do you want to try this at home? This link helps. Once you've sucked in how to pull this off, you'll need access to the Flickr API (http://www.flickr.com/services/api/misc.api_keys.html). The details of the services are available for your use. Amazon's web services has the same sort of thing, BTW.

If you are trying to source images that match a predominant shade, this is an excellent tool. Choose the color. find the photo that you want, go to Flickr and see if the image has rights that allow your reuse.

tags: Flash, Flickr, REST, XML

Friday, January 20, 2006

Just Phone it in

Have you needed to parse any number into a normalized number? This Perl function will do just that. Any number you plug into it will come back normalized and consistent: international, extensions, you name it. Feel free to cut the contents and paste them into your own script.
In the coming weeks and months, I will reissue this normalizer in PHP, ASP and other languages. Enjoy!

tags: Perl CGI normalization functions

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Digg

Digg.com has come up fast. "Overnight" it's become like a Slashdot on sterioids. Much more polished and organized: Digg looks much more viable than content/news granddaddy, Slashdot.
In truth, Digg is like a DOS attack in everything but name and primary intent. Stories are posted by Digg members. When people see them, they rate them. They can either give the story a "Digg" or they can complain about it. A Digg raises the prominence of a story. If a lot of people do it at the same time, the story is destined for the front page where people will really see the story. When this happens, thousands of people will hit a page in a matter of minutes. These visitors have been dubbed the "Digg Army." Think of them more like an invading army of Borg drones. Do I have a problem with Digg? Oh yeah.
The quality of comments is really pathetic. The Internet is the refuge of anti-social tools. But Digg is for the cream of the crop. It's largely populated by angry male techies who voraciously pop in twenty word rants against anything they find. Save the twenty words for your next four dates, guys.
It is irresponsible to develop a tool such as Digg without a caching system for those front page stories. Google has a cache. With about 20 lines of code and some drive space, you could create a cache to store a more local copy of a site. When it hits the front page, Digg can offer users to visit an easy to find cache and lessen the strain on these destinations.
Given the damage that Digg popularity will do, it's a matter of weeks before sites will wise-up and block traffic from Digg.com. When that happens, angry Digg drones will vent their spleen in the comments for not being able to easily get to a site that they would only have savaged in a review.
In the next year, Digg will go down as a brave failure . Before long, the Son of Digg will clean up. It will look at a revolutionary way to weight comments and reviews to weed out the pipsqueaks. It will find a way to make a site popular without delivering punishing sums of traffic to the newly popular. Son of Digg will expand beyond two dozen categories. Son of Digg will give users a way to plunk review sheets on websites so that you can say a site is worthy from that site and not from the Digg environment. Webcrawler came before Google and slipped into the murk. You could buy and sell stuff on Usenet but eBay cleaned up. I saw a Push technology piece in 1996, but it took RSS to make live content updates easy and fun.
Enjoy Digg.com while you can. On the Herzsprung-Russell diagram of website longevity, Digg.com is Sirius.

How to hack DIGG
  • Digg is made to be manipulated by a flash mob. If you were so inclined, you could make Digg do your bidding. Diggs don't get to the front page through their own merit, they get there manipulation. If you've a pathetic loner, you can sit on Digg voraciously pushing select stories to the top. If you come to Digg site thinking a story got to the front page through popular concensus, you're mistaken.
  • Get 10 friends. 20 or 50 friends would work better.
  • Have them all sign up to Digg
  • Pick a target: a nice juicy website that has a Digg-friendly tech bent. If you want to be mean: pick a target on a creaky server. If you want to be mean to Digg: choose something on a server that can take a pounding.
  • Pick a time: Rush hour is business hours on weekdays when all of the geeks are lying to their bosses that this is research and not goofing off. If you digg outside of these peak hours you will get some traction.
  • Use MSN or another IM so that all of your friends can talk to one another. Get a few connected chats going (e.g. 3 chats where 1 person from each chat has two groups up at the same time).
  • One user puts in a story about the target website. This can take a couple of minutes of approval screens.
  • Ready, Set, Go! Everyone in the chat circles Diggs the new story. Have each of them search through Digg for key words from the title of your piece.
  • Then, email people who aren't in on the Digg and tell them about it (linking to the Digg piece so they can digg it). If all of this happens in a minute or two, it will look like what it is: a way to manipulate a system that is all about manipulation.
  • Hope for this thing to get a life of its own. Autobots (people who dig because its there) will digg the story too. Stories with 2000 diggs make it to the front page. I have also seen stories that are posted outside of rush hour make it to the front page.
  • This is all about density of popularity: if 10 people digg something in 10 min. it's more popular than something that 10 people digg in 20 mins; or 20 people digg in 2 hrs. Metaphorically: it's not the cargo beneath the balloon: it's how fast it rises.
For more on turning the sod: Alex Bosworth's piece.
If you want a Digg alternative, there are plenty of options.
When I get around to it, I'll post a piece on how to engineer the Son of Digg, which I am sure a bunch stunned chair moisteners will get all up in arms about.

tags: Digg Slashdot borg DDOS DOS

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's So Bad About Blogs?

Blogs are all over the place. Once a fringe tool, they took off in a big way. Corporations are being urged to blog. CNN has a Blogwatch. More than one story has been broken via a blog. So, what's so bad about blogs? There are a number of weakenesses in the blogging concept-- or more to the point-- how people use blogs. Ironically this is being posted in a blog, but nevertheless...
Blogs are web pages. Blogs are a repackaging of web pages. Where before you had to write the text, get the HTML right, find a place to post it, figure out FTP, FTP it and hope some notices. I know. I've been publishing material for almost 10 years. Yet, if you look for my work on the web most of what you will find are the blog posts. Part of this is because of two things: conformity and ease of use. Blogs pipe content into templates so that the material is ordered and predictable. By being predictable, the pages are machine readable. Because they are machine readable, search engines have an easy time indexing them. Most blogs are created through engines like Blogger, Wordpress and the like. This means that any schmoe who can hit a keyboard can publish on the web. Blogs are like a content management system (CMS), but they don't do so many things that you would like to have out of a web page. My personal site holds files, applications and so many other pieces of information. Were I an online retailer, a blog wouldn't suit my needs because I couldn't hold a catalog in my blog. So, a blog is a partial solution to anything you want to do-- unless all you want is an online catalog.
Blogs are not secure or safe. One aspect of blogging is the interactivity. You post and someone can comment. When you let people comment, you're letting them publish on your dime. They post anything. They can hype their own sites. Splogging-- spamming blogs-- is an abuse of this capability. But you know, you've invited the guests: don't solely blame them for eating all the lox.
Blogs are not vetted. DIM rules the day. Is that a non-sequitor? Bear with me a moment. If you post something on a website, it gets indexed and shows up in the search engines in a matter of weeks. That way, opportunistic posters don't get their message spread overnight. With blogs: the material is either timely or useless. Because of that: search engines index blogs almost immediately. No? Check out this link. I wrote this on Sunday, January 15th. Within three hours, it appeared. It dropped off two days later fueled by a fast-food algorithm that forgets its last meal. Of I've just edited this piece, so it may make it back again. By the time you check this link it will likely re-indexed. That isn't right. You need enough time to check to see if something is accurate. If yesterday's post becomes today's news, it could turn into tomorrow's scam. If you don't believe me try to order a copy of the little Red Book. This speedy indexing is great for giving us a viable alternative to the traditional media-- the same media that hoodwinked us into believing there were WMDs (a crazy man yelled it out, but the networks repeated it and gave it a rubber stamp of legitimacy to the public). But when a blogger fakes some news in their post, they won't lose their job: at worst, they'll lose their blogger account.

Way, way back (circa 1995-1996), Yahoo and Webcrawler and the like were eager get links. They'd grab the links and speed them into their index. Well "speed": between slow machines and some vetting, it took a while. By 1999-2000, most of the search engines took months to list sites. They would offer expedited service for cash. Google was still taking in the links for free. Fast link indexing was concurrent with the Internet boom. Picky search indexing came in tandem with the Internet bust. Now, we're into another boom cycle and voila: it's in tandem with link hungry speed indexers like Google's Blog Search, Technorati, Digg and others.

Two example of what's going on.

First: Look at two parts of the world (both which I have not been to): Stockholm and Banglore. Stockholm is all sophisticated, rarified and solemn. It's exclusionary. Banglore is crazy: every street corner is packed with tech colleges. Every tech college is turning out graduates. The new Internet whiz kids are sharing the sidewalk with oxen; and with people who dressed and worked like their great-great-grandparents. Everything is going on and what's happening in this energetic environment is driving the New Boom.

Second: Look at retail in December and Febuary. December is shopping frenzy. Stores have to pump a lot more money into their staffing levels. With all of the people shopping, the shoplifting levels are way up. People buy stuff and return those items in January. Contrast that with the dead zone of Febuary. Low staffing, modest shoplifting and people make certain purchases and not impulse buys to stuff under the Christmas tree.

The blogging boom is filling servers with uninformed opinions and half-truths, before you can blink: those stories are peppered throughout the search engines. Despite the drop in quality, the quantity of stories is some weirdo indicator of Internet health like hem lines and the economy. Freneticity runs parallel to success.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

DIM: Discreet Introduction Mechanism

I have just finished an article that I posted on my site: "Making A Discreet Introduction". This about an alternative technique to AJAX. A process, I've dubbed "Discreet Introduction Mechanism" or DIM .
Here's a quickie example of DIM in action.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Webpage X-Ray

This is a swell Firefox Extension: Web page X-Ray.
As the author writes:

Once installed the X-Ray command is available by right-clicking as well as in the Tools menu. When applied to a page it can help you see how the document was constructed without having to go back and forth between the sourcecode and the page in your browser. Is that list made of li dd or p elements? Is that an h3 tag or just some bolded text? X-Ray shows you what’s beneath the surface of the page.

While I create webpages all the time, there’s something about writing a piece of code you have to install that’s very satisfying. Even better was finding that it was actually something I’d find helpful myself.

For version 0.5 the current list of supported tags is: h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, ol, ul, li, dt, dd, font, div, span, blockquote, pre, a, b, i, strong, em. If some other people find this extension useful, I’ll probably add support for more tags, and possibly experiment with adding some other enhancements as well.

Download the X-Ray.XPI