Friday, November 23, 2007

Web2.0, Money, and Education Part II

It was less than 3 weeks ago that I wrote how important I thought it was that we recognize how to make money on the Internet. The second bullet in Dave Winer's post about creating a maintainable and thriving web refers to the way money and competition is changing the landscape of blogging. Companies are putting together teams of bloggers to increase their readership and their revenues.

I think Fred Wilson's post on the topic spells it out nicely. I'm going to post a giant piece of that post, but if you find it as interesting as I did you'll want to visit his site to read the comments also. Fred wrote:
For years, I've been using curators to filter my web experience. I can't and won't subscribe to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of blogs I want to stay on top of. I realize that everything I write here, or on, unionsquareventures, or at newcritics, won't be read by every reader/subscriber. I know that all of you are doing the same thing as I am. We are relying on the world of social media curators to surface up the things that are interesting and we read that.

Techmeme has been the killer social media curator for my world of tech blogs. Lore has it that it was created using Scoble's OPML file. It doesn't matter to me if that's true or not, I love that story. Because my OPML file was unusable until I found Techeme and after that I stopped reading feeds and started reading curated feeds.

But curated systems will be gamed. Everything on the Interent will be gamed. And user generated content won't stay "user" generated forever. The pros will crash any party that's worth crashing and make it their own.

I don't think this is a bad thing, it's just worth noting.

Just when you are starting to get the hang of another new technology and starting to see the writing on the wall you are hit with a moment like this. I'd never heard the term "curated feed" before now. I was just noticing how worthless the local newspaper feed is because all stories receive equal billing, unlike the printed paper which contains headlines of varying sizes. I'd thought useful it'd be for someone to moderate stories and provide only stories I might find interesting. Glory be, I just read that Fred's been using "curated feeds" for years. I feel so inadequate.

Centralization Bad for Internet

How could tinyurl, feedburner, and webcite be bad things? "Centralizing stuff is not good for the Internet," wrote Dave Winer recently. De-centralization is at the core of RSS and re-use of content. Centralization is for control freaks, bean counters, and moochers.

Most of us love tinyurl for what it provides, but did you ever consider what happens when it breaks, or what would happen if it disappeared for good? Steve Rubel addresses the idea recently in his post entitled "Could a Billion TinyURLs Go 404?" The possibility certainly exists. A better solution for a maintainable Internet would be using our own tinyurl services, rather than relying on a centralized service which could easily become overloaded or go extinct for other reasons.

So what about feedburner? A glitch in this service could render all subscriptions through it useless, with no notification to the users. RSS was created as an infinitely scalable method for distributing content. Feedburner works by funnelling traffic through a central site for the purpose of counting hits. It's very tempting to want to know who's reading, but using feedburner to do so makes us no better than the control happy paper publishers we so often criticize.

For kicks I checked the preferred subscription method to local newspaper columnist Joe McAdory's blog and the feed(s) from nearby newspaper The Montgomery Advertiser. Neither used feedburner. I was relieved to find that, and reminded of a familiar Confucious saying--"He who lives in glass house shouldn't throw stones."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Solar Collector Alignment

According to this article about a Solar Heater in Mother Earth News:
The ideal angle at which to position a southfacing solar collector (in the Northern Hemisphere) or a north-facing collector (in the Southern Hemisphere) is your latitude plus 10°.

Looks like I'm at a touch over 32d latitude, which makes 42d the ideal angle. That's close enough to the 45d SWAG that I shouldn't have even bothered to note it...except that it's neat to know someone cared enough to make a recommendation.

Post Veterans' Day Thank You

On the way back from our Smokey Mountain vacation we took the old highway through Madisonville to get some smoked bacon from Benton's Country Hams. While waiting for our smoked bacon order to be freshly sliced to our liking, a gentleman noticed our Auburn University attire and asked "you folks are too young to remember the games, but have y'all ever heard of Jerry Wilson...or Tommy Lorino?"

He recalled meeting a large man named Jerry Wilson (and Tommy Lorino, both from the 1957 Nat'l Championship Auburn football team) in France during the war. He had asked "are you the Jerry Wilson that spent the afternoon in our backfield," referring to the Auburn vs Tennessee football game. I'm not sure if he played or if he was just another faithful fan, but the man was obviously in the presence of someone he admired. What's more, they were now on the same team, fighting for the USA. Jerry had responded by asking where he was from. "Aww...just a little town you've probably never heard of in Eastern TN called Madisonville" the man had answered. Jerry said he knew exactly where Madisonville was located because he went through there on the way to Gatlinburg...a trip many folks from Auburn made for honeymoons and anniversary trips. The man told us that his little town was like so many others since the Interstate had been built. He explained that Madisonville is now a place people travel by, not through. Such true words the man had shared. My wife and I were on our way back from Gatlinburg on our anniversary trip and had elected to take Hyw 411 so we could stop at Benton's. The trip north had been via Interstate, and had taken us right by his beautiful little country town.

It was nice meeting the gentleman, sharing his memories, and enjoying the flashback by visiting the smokehouse filled with the aroma of fresh pork. If you never visited a country slaughter house as a child you might not appreciate the smell as much as I did. For those of you--I hope there will always be Wal-Mart, Bruno's, and Kroger for your culinary purposes. Thanks to the military service of the man from Madisonville, Jerry Wilson, Tommy Lorino, and thousands of others, we have our choice. Thank you, US Veterans.

PS: Mr Allan Benton himself was there at his place of business too. The sausage was excellent, and I can't wait to try the bacon. It was reassuring to see that it's possible for a business to remain viable in a day of automated processing and imported goods. Hurray for the little guy!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Security Issues with Facebook, MySpace, and Social Sites

Security concerns with Facebook, Social Networking, and Web2.0 sites are huge, because they teach users to do all the wrong things.

Perhaps the worst offender is when an application asks for you to "authenticate" an application with your username and password from a third party site. Example--the app which includes your photos from on your Facebook page. This is teaching users to be "phished."

Jeremy Keith, a web developer in Brighton England, pledges to do the right thing in his "The password anti-pattern" post.
So here’s what I’m going to do: even if it costs me a contract in the short-term, I will refuse to implement any kind of interface that involves asking the user for a password from a third-party site. I urge you to do the same. And if you feel equally strongly about this, make your thoughts known: blog about it, talk about it…

I urge you to read his complete post for a better explanation of the problem.

There are also issues of privacy and Personally Identifiable Information which people politely ignore to be "social." It is ironic that organizations are being forced to eliminate PII online, but users are posting far more personal information by their own free will.

Security is not at all a priority when people are trying "cool" new things, because the "secure" way is rarely the fun way. It is unfortunate that security does not become a priority until after it is compromised.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Education's Use of Myspace, Facebook, Second Life

Have you ever read an article full of typos and grammar mistakes and questioned its legitimacy? As you spend a few hours setting up your educational Myspace page amidst thousands of other users who have spent years learning the culture and etiquette you should realize you are not the leader of this pack. Your youthful mistakes distract from the message you bring in the same way typos distract from what you read. This is not to say that you shouldn't try. Rather it is a reminder that the most efficient way to get a message out to a population is to use someone from that population spread the word.

If one of your employees loves participating in MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, or some other possible new media conduit, use that love and energy to do what you can't. That person who is familiar with the method, excited about the message, and motivated by having fun at work can quickly do something you may never be able to do--earn the respect of a target audience, and then teach them something new.

As for yourself...learn and participate, but don't kid yourself into thinking you're gonna be an instant expert.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Web2.0, Money, and Education

We (Education) really need to be learning and teaching more about how to make money on the Internet. The reason is not so that we can make money, but so that we know when we're being taken. Most of what we read about Web2.0 and Social Networking and 'blogging is firmly centered around the almighty dollar. Understanding how and why things work like they do requires knowledge of the online monetary system. The "how to 'blog" tutorials are great, but you should keep in mind how people get paid to write while you're reading them. In order to get reasonable statistics needed for maximizing profits, you need tracking information. The very nature of RSS prevents tracking exactly who reads what. The multitude of sites offering hit statistics and rankings should be your first clue that Web2.0 (a marketing term itself) is all about making money online.

'Blogging is a great evolution of the web so I don't want to hinder that process, but it is worthwhile to understand the monetary system before even reading the "what to do before you begin blogging" kinds of information.

You could do your own search and not bother with mine, but I'll list two hits which seem particularly relevant.
1) Google Adsense is a very common pay-per-click option. Users click on the ads and you get the money. Your job is to build a readership, knowing some percentage will click.
2) The second half of this post by is great! (notice the google ads?)