Easy Chat

Did you know you could add chat to your website very easily? With Gabbly you can simply type in to your browser address line (best with Firefox) ‘www.gabbly.com/www.mywebsite.com’ where ‘mywebsite’ is your site. You can also embed the chat tool right into your web page like the example shown here. Note sure about security, but it seems interesting.

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Comment Spam

Well, I’ve caved and have to turn off comments for a bit. For the last month or so, I’ve been getting slammed with comment and trackback spam – so much so that it takes me about an hour each day to stay on top of it.

I will turn comments on once I find time to upgrade WordPress, using their Akismet spam plugin.

UPDATE May 25

I’ve upgraded WordPress and have activated the spam plugin. I’d also like to incorporate a “captcha”-style comment (spam deterrent) option as well. Any recommendations?

“Come to Me” NETiquette

Summary: Since the blogosphere is abuzz in the Web 2.0 dialogue, I feel it’s time to reiterate the call that web sites should universally provide a usable method to transact with them from any capable electronic device. As CMSs becomes the norm, it seems too that such “universal access” capabilities should be the norm. Since we are swamped with so much information, I humbly suggest that we start by being sure to include titles for our content and full text options when syndicating feeds for consumption. I’ll explain…

It’s about the Net, not the Web

Once upon a time, the Internet was all about serving static HTML pages to view in a Web browser. The terms “Internet” and “Web” were considered somewhat synonymous, even though the former refers to the physical means for data trasmission among interconnected electronic devices (tool) and the latter refers to interconnected electronic documents (content). Today, the Internet transmits data in multiple ways, not just by serving up HTML documents for people to view on their preferred browser. The Internet provides services such as e-commerce, communication, video and other types of dynamic content.

We’re Becoming a More Portable Society

Today’s culture embrances portability. The world has become smaller, in part due to the Internet’s possibilities of transacting internationally on a scale unheard of 20 years ago. Further, this opportunity to connect, transmit, and receive information has moved away from simply using a personal computer to view web pages. I would first admonish gatekeepers of web sites to provide a method to view content on any capable electronic device. For example, Mike provides a great tutorial (for us non-code folks) for making your site mobile-friendly. Of course, I am the biggest hypocrite. Perhaps I will implement this feature once I get more than one reader (thanks, Mom).

Nonetheless, there are sophisticated happenings – take, for example, ESPN’s foray into mobile content delivery. Pretty impressive, huh?

Information Explosion

As David over at Technorati indicates, the blogosphere world alone “is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” Because so much content is being created on a daily basis, it is so difficult for the common consumer to find what he or she is looking for. Let’s try to make it a bit easier for everyone…

Titles Matter

NewsAlloyBe sure to include titles for new content. I’ve recently “crossed over” and now do most of my reading using a feed reader rather than proactively using a combination of search and bookmarks to visit specific sites for information. As Thomas explains, the “come to me web” is the model of the future. I would argue that as more and more information is created and available, the harder it will be to find it. However, one way to make sense of the information that interests me is to subscribe to feeds available through sites I am interested in. Right now I have over 80 90 sites I subscribe to, so when browsing for articles of interest, the titles really matter. We need to be journalists here. Interestingly, one of the bigger feed evangelists out there does not regularly use titles on his site, thereby making me less interested to see what he has to say when using my new feed reader of choice (hat tip to Mark).

Give me the Whole Article!

In addition, I would say a great many content providers that do provide feeds only provide “snippets” of an article – usually only the first 250 characters. This then forces me to visit the web site to view content. This really makes syndicated feeds worthless for the reader, IMHO. In defense of only providing snippets, I’m sure this practice may, in part, be done purposefully so that I will click on advertisements. However, feeds are beginning to become embedded with clickable advertisements.

I cannot speak to every CMS out there, but I do know that WordPress by default will only syndicate these snippets of an article for those who choose to subscribe to a site’s feed. I’ve chosen to make sure that every post on my site is viewable in its entirety in an RSS reader. Below is the interface used in WordPress to make this change:

WordPress Admin Screen

WordPress Admin Screen

Conclusion

We live in an information age where each of us is confronted daily with choices about what information we choose to grab, hold onto, use, and get rid of. We make these choices very quickly. Therefore, I urge all content providers to make their content accessible to all digital devices, but let’s start by making sites “feed-friendly” by offering full-text syndicated feeds along with richly named titles.

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Egocentrically Altruistic Web 2.0

John Battelle recently asked readers to come up with a tagline for the next Web 2.0 conference. This will be the third such conference.

Year One included the tagline “The Web Is a Platform” to which Battelle remarks,

“That felt spot on, because the idea of the web as a place you could build on the work of others was a pretty new idea.”

Year Two included the tagline “Revving the Web” to which Battelle remarks,

“…because it was all about the services and businesses and opportunities that arose from the Web – all of which taken together made the web more robust and more exciting.”

For November’s conference, Battelle suggests the tagline “Disruption” by indicating,

“…the year the Web – in all its forms – really flexes its muscle and begins to seriously turn the soil of the global economy in deep and permanent ways. Think of the disruptions in the media and entertainment industries – probably the deepest disruptions so far. But we’re only in the first inning or so of the disruptions in the mobile and communications space (how excited do YOU think AT&T is about Google offering free Wifi, for example? Or eBay buying Skype?). And the disruptions of search and clickstreams on commerce is only now beginning, and the same is true for the massive IT industry (Microsoft Live, anyone?). And the disruption on our cultural life – in government, for example (can you say warrantless wiretaps meets the Database of Intentions?) – is only beginning to dawn on all of us.”

(more…)

WordPress Vulnerability

WordPress Logo

WordPress and Secunia reported on August 9 that there is a critical security vulnerability in WordPress 1.5.1.3. I can attest to that.

Yesterday I had a very important presentation to give as part of my graduation requirement for grad school. My presentation was entitled “Don’t Get Caught in the Web: Using a website to enhance small business opportunity.” Part of the presentation involved a demo of a live website that I created for my wife’s private practice.

2.5 hours before the presentation, I casually checked the site from work and was presented with a page that read, “Account suspended. Please contact support/billing immediately.” What?! After 52 minutes waiting on the customer service line with my webhost, I was told that they do not provide support over the phone. Instead, I needed to use the form submission to communicate support requests via email. Aarrgghh! Now about 1.5 hours before showtime.

I did use the submission form and received a reply more quickly than I anticipated. My provider suspended my account because they thought I had introduced a malicious IRC bot onto my own webspace. Sorry, I’m not that technically inclined, just enough to install WordPress and to customize it for my liking.

Long story short, a hacker infiltrated my webspace through a vulnerability in WordPress 1.5.1.3. It appears a patch may be available to close this vulnerability, but thankfully, my webhost support contact made a file change on my space to hopefully plug this security hole.

Fortunately, the presentation went off without a hitch and I could access the website. After two more weeks of a summer school class, I will be done with my program. In retrospect, I realize that perhaps I need to use a stricter password for my WordPress account. Security has become a serious issue, folks, and yesterday it became that much more personal to me.

Update

On August 14, WordPress 1.5.2 was released to address these security issues.

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When Stealing Bandwidth is Good

Jeff Gates of Life Outtacontext opened my ignorant eyes to an internet faux pas with his entertaining July 23rd entry entitled, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” Jeff first provides the common definition for stealing bandwidth:

Stealing Bandwidth: “when someone links directly to internet files from another Web site without the owner’s permission. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) often limit the amount of monthly “traffic” to or from your Web site. So, often victims of bandwidth stealing are charged whenever other people use their files in this manner.”

As a relative newbie to the blogosphere, I thought it would be wise to save web server space by pulling in images from other sites rather than copying them onto my web server and linking to them from my site. I hadn’t even considered copyright issues.

However, are there times when stealing bandwidth is good? I would argue that if you pull files from another site, common courtesy suggests that you should also provide a hyperlink to the source story or topic you reference. At the end of the day, don’t web sites want to attract readership? If I use an image from another location and I also cite where I grabbed it from (without altering it), wouldn’t this be a positive thing? Wouldn’t it be similar to quoting an author and including the appropriate references to the quoted passage? It seems to me more of the social “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”

I wonder what executives at photo sites like Flickr think about this issue. Flickr allows people to share photos, and quite often users provide a creative commons license for their images. How does Flickr feel when a gazillion people link to images on their servers? They even encourage users to link to their personal images for their individual blogs!

I am in a position now where I do not have a large readership. I pay for modest web hosting services, so bandwidth is not yet an issue for me. If I started attracting a gazillion readers who stole my bandwidth by linking to images on my site, I’m sure I might have a different opinion about this issue. But then again, if I had a gazillion readers, wouldn’t bandwidth already be an issue that would be my responsibility to resolve?

I sincerely want to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Update: August 5, 2005

I went to the Drudge Report this morning and found that the images Drudge displays are a result of him linking to these files from other sites. Now wouldn’t that be interesting if the image owners did a move similar to the one Jeff Gates pulled?

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“The Anti-Google”

On Tuesday, Thomas Vander Wal, the person who coined the concept “folksonomy,” came by my summer grad school class with a talk entitled “Designing for the Personal InfoCloud.”

Thomas talked about a variety of topics, but some of the things that struck me revolved around his discussion of folksonomy. Thomas says that he does not like the definition included in Wikipedia because the site allows users to constantly add or remove content to define the concept. He provided us with the following descriptors:

Folksonomy:

  • Actual vocabulary used for objects in a community and across communities;
  • Network-based selfish bookmarking;
  • Free-tagging;
  • Socially shared; and
  • Externally structuring content

There were a few concepts that clicked in place and resonated with me. First, something clicked when Thomas explained that folksonomy is the “anti-Google.” Essentially, Thomas argued that search tools build algorithms to help you “find what you want.” However, the concept of folksonomies, manifested in collaborative bookmarking tools (such as Flickr, Del.icio.us, etc.), help you “find what you don’t know you want.” He explained that while a majority of people might want results that are in the mainstream, folksonomies let users find information that might be in the long-tail:

The Long Tail Effect in Music

Secondly, I really got hung up on the idea that folksonomies involved “selfish bookmarking.” For instance, when my wife bookmarks an article about Apple’s iPod, she might only use the term “ipod” to tag her bookmark, because she only cares about classifying her article so she can find it later. On the other hand, even though I know I can later find the article by searching for “iPod,” I might try to use multiple tags to help others locate my article. I might additionally use the terms “Apple,” “mp3,” “music,” and so on. However, Thomas cuts through this by explaining that if you choose to assist others this way, then this is really your selfish method of bookmarking.

Thomas’ concept really involves no moral, ethical, or “responsibility of the user” argument when it comes to practicing folksonomies. However, as I’ve argued before, for some reason I am stuck on the responsibility of the social tagger. My ideal would be that taggers use multiple tags to describe the content that they choose to bookmark. That way, it becomes easier for other persons to find their content. This does not negate the concept of folksonomies. The social component to this phenomenon is such that we learn to trust others and the tags they use to describe content. Therefore, I still propose that other services that incorporate folksonomies into their systems provide a mechanism for rating taggers on a “trustworthy” scale.

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A Call For Usability Ideas

For my graduate school class, I must work with a group to evaluate a web site or an information system (or compare multiple ones) for usability issues. Any ideas?

So far, my group has talked about the following:

Certainly we can think outside the box and look at the usability of non-web systems (e.g., Bank of America ATM vs. Chevy Chase ATM), but it might be best to focus on web-based products. Your thoughts?

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Branding, Marketing, and Blogging (Part 2)

When most of us do a search for whatever interests us using our favorite search engine, we typically do not look further than the results on the first page or two. Personally, if I do not find what I need on the first results page from Google, then I will refine my search criteria and try again.

A recent article discusses how blogging and the use of trackbacks can raise your site to page 1 of the search results.

In my previous post, I discussed how my wife could use blogging as way to brand and market herself. In addition, I would argue that her credentials as an expert in her field will be further emphasized if she used a blogging tool to discuss topics of interest to her and a loyal following then began to link to her thoughts. If she came up on page 1 of a search for marriage and family issues, would this help establish her credibility? You bet. Certainly she may not get the collegial respect she might deserve if she frequently had articled published in professional journals, but her practice is for her clients, not for respect among peers.

My wife is an avid writer on paper…let’s see if she will begin to blog her thoughts on marriage and family issues…stay tuned.

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Branding, Marketing, and Blogging

For the last few months I have been telling my wife how useful blogging can be from a professional point of view. You see, my wife runs a small business, her own psychotherapy practice. She primarily focuses on marriage and family therapy.

Last week she received an email from a Psychology Today listserv on the importance of blogging. The author provided some interesting statistics:

  • 87% of 12 to 17 year-olds are considered internet savvy
  • whereas 66% of the rest of us are considered internet savvy

Since part of my wife’s attention is focused on families with teenagers, it seems that she might be able to draw in more of these clients, or at least find alternative ways of providing counseling services to these clients.

With services such as Technorati and FeedBurner that, in part, track blogs and blog traffic, my wife might also brand her site and be seen as more of an “expert” in the field the more she decides to post her own thoughts and articles on the web.

I think she became a bit interested in the importance of blogging, but it was Psychology Today that influenced her, not me…

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