Two social media types

My brief and unscientific survey of all things pertaining to functioning social media sites excluded subscription AOL, music sites, photo sites, and video sites. Otherwise, they are all listed here on my Syndication Feed Lab page.

It's just a list. Don't bother making sense of it all. It is an incomplete list.

My first focus of interest was how these sites inter-operate and connect though feeds, APIs, and widgets, in actual practice. I'm almost positive I've learned something over the last few weeks, but it is a busy marketplace and things keep shifting as I watch. You'd think these folks would take a vacation now and then.

This more technical interest of mine was in service of the Internet Marketing gods, and I discovered two types of social media sites.
  1. Social media sites that are inhabited, and
  2. Social media sites that are uninhabited.
It is a fairly obvious distinction once one browses for groups, friends, followers, fans, or co-conspirators. The opportunity to make new friends is there, or it is not. Most of these sites provide the opportunity to invite my existing friends to the site, and even strongly encourage it. The philosophy seems to be, "If I can't spam my friends, who can I spam?"

But, what's the point of that? I already know my friends and have established reliable means of communicating with them, and I'm not talking about Facebook. Not that I would ever spam my friends beyond their level of tolerance anyway.

Syndication + social media = opportunity. It is the opportunity to smooze, make new friends, and distribute content to a wider audience. The smoozing and making friends part is critical to the success of the operation.

On the other hand IROTWS (I Read On The Web Somewhere) an offer to "Build a network of trusted friends for you!"

How the heck does that work? "Trusted friends by proxy" does not seem to compute.

From my spam filter - instant karma

"Instant gratification is the only necessary precondition for instant karma."

So, two to five months is too long to wait for a five-figure monthly income? The following screenshot of a spam email today is appealing to a sense of desperation. The reason I used a screenshot rather than copying and pasting the text is to avoid polluting the search index of this blog with spammy language. The language of spam has a definite flavor and tone to it.

Screenshot of smap email

The punchline was the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

"ATTENTION: I send ads for many different marketers for many different income opportunities. I don't have the time or resources to investigate each opportunity to be sure that it is legitimate. Therefore, I don't endorse any of the opportunities. Be sure that you investigate the opportunity before you become involved."


Claiming my own marketing back yard with a hobby

Louisville, Kentucky, is not a big city, but it is big enough to have distinct sections and neighborhoods.  I happen to live in Old Louisville, which is a historic preservation district containing more Victorian era residences than any other.  I've lived here for a bit more than a year now. This spring into summer, before the weather became so brutally hot, I moseyed, sauntered and wandered around my new neighborhood with a digital camera taking snapshots.  Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school. I took a lot of them, and I massaged them with Photoshop.

I intend to use these photographs to create a blog that will weld my name 'Tom Fox' with my local stomping grounds, 'Old Louisville.'  It may take as long as a year to accomplish, but I'm not in any rush.  I plan to use Seth Godin's 'drip' strategy, by daily posts of a new image with a street address. According to theory, this will burn the connection into Google's digital brain.

You can see my Old Louisville photos here. http://old-louisville.blogspot.com/

Once a day, every day, for the next 365 days, at least one new Old Louisville photograph will be posted on that blog.  The key phrase is "Old Louisville," and for some reason I want to own it.

I think it will work, but there is only one way to find out for sure, and that is to do it.  Since photography really is my hobby and I've already done the photo & Photoshop part just for fun, taking it this next step is fairly easy. If I had to pay someone else to do all the work, I could never afford it.

This is a form of search engine optimization, as a subset of search engine marketing.  If anyone is searching for things related to 'Old Louisville," I want them to find me. I still need to devise a way to connect and interact with those who visit that blog.  I suppose that would be classified as a variant of social marketing.


Enabling Google Gmail Web Clips

I don't have much of an opinion about Google's Gmail Web Clips, so don't consider this to be a recommendation. I am very curious about what Google is up to in general, and Web Clips drew my attention because it revolves around syndicated feeds, and I have just started to look into it. So far it looks heavily slanted toward the display of paid advertising, but I still need to mess with it some more before trashing it.

Enabling Web Clips is easy and reversible. There is a Web Clips tab on the Gmail Settings screen.  It  is also possible to add an RSS feed to the list, but that part hasn't been so easy yet.

Screenshot of Google Gmail WebClips setup procedure


Private social networks for business - Yammer

Yammer.com is a hosted enterprise microblogging platform that has an entry level for free, and advanced levels that are not for free. The buzz words and catch phrases are:
  • Company social network
  • Collaboration tool
  • Knowledge base
  • Productivity tool
  • Mobile tool
One registers for the Yammer service with a company email address. Only people with a verified company email address can join a company network. When I attempted to join using my Yahoo! email address, it was refused.

"You've entered an email address that was not assigned by your employer. Yammer is only available for users with valid company email addresses. If you have a company email address, please Sign Up using that email address, so we can connect you with your network."


SEO - Check your backlinks with Google Webmaster Tools

Checking your site's back-links with Google Webmaster Tools costs only a little bit of time and effort. Being a free service provided by Google, Webmaster Tools belongs in any bootstrapper's web toolbox. You can check the links that Google has found to your site from around the web, assuming that you installed and verified ownership of you site with Google about two months ago.

Once at the dashboard for your site in Webmaster Tools, It is three-click steps to begin learning who links to your web site. The screenshot below shows the first two clicks:

First click: Under the right sidebar menu item "Your site on the web", click "Links to your site."

Second click: Next, see the numbers in the far right column and click one.

Screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools *Links to Your Site* Page

Third click: Then, on the detail page of backlinks as shown in the screenshot below, select one of the links and go see who likes you.

Screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools *Links to Your Site* second page


Web optimization and diminishing marginal returns

Professor Paul Samuelson stated the law of diminishing marginal returns is one of the most famous laws in all of Western economic theory. In simplest terms the law of diminishing returns means that you can throw twice as many resources at a problem, but you should not expect to necessarily get twice the results you want. This is one of the central messages of Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing.

Godin begins that book by observing in recent decades consumer oriented businesses have spent more and increasingly more money on mass-market advertising, but with decreasing effectiveness. In part this is explained by the economic principle of diminishing marginal returns. It's not the only factor in play, but it is an important one.

The idea of diminishing marginal returns is especially important for small business owners to consider when contemplating directing scarce resources toward web site optimization. Of course every small business web site owner wants more business, but the ever present questions are, how much does acquiring one more customer cost, and is it worth it?


Deleting or editing blog posts

Somewhere along my searching the web I got the strong impression others think it a bad idea to ever edit or delete a blog post, regardless how crappy or irrelevant it is. Here are two quick examples. Rewriting blog history: Bad idea, and Advice: Never delete a blog post. A more balanced view is expressed by Dave Taylor in Should you ever edit or delete blog entries? There are others in a similar vein.

I take a contrarian view of the situation. Elimination is an essential part of every healthy living process, on a micro level.  On a larger system level, everything is recycled and ultimately incorporated somewhere else if it has persistent value, or it is transformed.

Some think of the internet as a historical record, but that is not the way I view it.

Google maintains a site-wide keyword ranking as well as a page-specific keyword rank. I know this is true because Google Webmaster Tools reports these numbers and shows them to me in a graph. Although it is not clear to me how Google uses these site-wide keyword ranking, I know I'm not alone in my ignorance. But sometimes an extraneous series of posts may skew Google site-wide view of my web sites in a keyword direction I don't like. Eliminating the non-focused posts altogether may be the quickest solution to improve search performance, in my opinion.

But, I feel strongly about it. Especially when the abundance of my own verbosity on subject no longer of any interest to me are involved, and when they distort how search engines view the subject matter of my own blogs.  I have also written about it here.

Webmaster Tools - Keyword view

Google Webmaster Tools shows the significant keywords of a site, as seen by the Google search index. This will depend in large part upon which pages or posts that Google has actually crawled and indexed. Rarely is it every page.

Apart from the question if Google sees as much of your site as you wish it to, there is the issue of how Google sees a site.  The Google Webmaster Tools keyword data is a useful way to discover keywords you do not want to be given Google search significance. The screenshot below shows the resent keyword results for this blog after seven weeks, eighty posts, and 80 percent of the posts being indexed.

As you can see the red arrows point to "august" and "july" being counted as keywords in the top thirty of the most significant. This is not what I want, and it comes as a surprise. The month in which a post was written has little is any relevance to the content of the posts.
screenshot of Webmaster Tools site keyword data

Now that I am aware of the problem, I can investigate it and devise a remedy.

To me it looks like the cause of this problem was my blog setting choices for date formats.  I opted for a verbose display, with the names of the months spelled out for each blog post and for the blog archive display. It is a simple matter to change these settings so that dates are displayed in a purely numeric format. Actually doing that immediately changes the date format on the blog posts, but so far it seems to have had no effect upon the blog archive date format.

It makes sense to me that part of keyword optimization is to eliminate the keywords you do not want.

screenshot of blog page showing source of unwanted keywords


Google Analytics - Visitor loyalty

One of the standard reports available to me through the use of Google Analytics on this blog is a count of return visits by the same computer, presumably representing a single individual.  The recent incarnation of this blog was six weeks old on August 17. The screen shot below shows the Google Analytics Visitor Loyalty graph of this blog for the period July 6 through August 17. Analytics counted a total of 726 blog-wide visits during that time span.

Google explains the loyalty graph this way.
"Loyal visitors are usually highly engaged with your brand and a high number of multiple visits indicates good customer and visitor retention. A high number of new visitors (i.e. those at the top of the table) indicates strong visitor recruitment. On this histogram, your most loyal visitors are shown on the bottom and your new and least loyal visitors are shown at the top." 
People either like this blog and return, or they don't and they stay away.  That much is simple. It's useful to know the percentages.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Visitor Loyalty graph


Google's social media platform

Google's social media platform is so obvious it took me two months to see it.

The center of Goggle's monster social media contender is the profile page. Here's mine. It has a unique personalized URL, www.google.com/profiles/tomwfox. Parts are public and other parts are totally or partially private, as selected.

Compared to Facebook, The Google profile page "About me" and "Contact info" present the same type of information as does Facebook's Info Page. The Google profile page "About me" is invariably public it seems, but the "Contact info" is not public. You specify which people or groups of contacts can see it. The Google profile page "Buzz" tab is the functional equivalent to the Facebook Wall. Although I haven't looked at it closely, it seems that Google's Latitude competes with Facebook's newly announced social local mobile feature.

Google's continuing integration of Blogger, Picasa (photo hosting), Google Reader (Feed reader and sharing), and other platforms already easily matches the capabilities of Facebook, but just constructed out of previously independent parts. Facebook is more like a big lump compared to Google's structural and functional integration.

It just keeps getting better.


And the winner is . . . Koornk

It was three weeks ago today that I began my syndication experiment with this blog, or to spam the universe through an unconscionable misuse of RSS feeds, as some might say. The main purpose of the test was to see through experience how RSS feed syndication worked in practice, using only free online services. A second purpose was to find and reach new audiences that might be interested in my writing. Third in order of discussion was the possibility of self-created back-links to this blog to increase traffic and boost PageRank.

An important issue was the question of indexing the various blogs, quasi-blogs, and micro blogs by Google. The points of interest were: (1) If, (2) When, and (3) What effect?

Today I found out the answer in a small way. My Koornk blog  was the first of my testbeds to have a feed back-link indexed by Google, as shown in this screenshot. The Google search result for Koornk linked to the individual post, and not to the main blog page.  Due to the quirkiness of the system I cobbled together, the back-link is not to this microenterprise blog, it is to an intermediary transmission stage of mine located on Status.net.  Don't ask why.  It's complicated.

Screenshot of Tom Fox Koornk blog

Local web marketing through Google WebClips

I like to push buttons and click links just to see what happens, secure in the knowledge that if things go south I can always reach over and pull the plug, literally.

I enabled Google's WebClips in my Gmail web dashboard out of a need to satisfy my curiosity, and I was lucky to immediately discover the LivingSocial.com site I've written about as a result. WebClips is an amalgam of pre-loaded syndicated feeds, that I might or might not be able to edit and add to, mixed in with a dose of shameless commercialism and advertisements through Google. These are displayed one at a time discretely at the top of my mail inbox. The first one I saw after enabling the feature is shown below, and it was location specific to me, here in Louisville, Kentucky. "Louisville 1-Day Coupons."

I pushed the button out of curiosity and found LivingSocial.com's Louisville page and deal of the day. So far, LivingSocial Louisville looks great, and it bears looking into further.

Note: August 21, 2010 - afternoon

Really, Google Web Clips on Gmail does not have anything to do with local web marketing, per se.  Just so happened the LivingSocial's ad was the first one I saw.  I'm glad I saw it.  LivingSocial is something I need to know about.  All the rest of the advertisements since then have been fairly typical.

Screenshot of Google Gmail with WebClipsPublish Post


Incomprehensible irrelevant uncertainty as a marketing tool

Screenshot of Groupon.com offer
My question for today is: Does gratuitously injecting an element of incomprehensible irrelevant uncertainty into a sales pitch increase sales?

I think not, but I'm not an advertising professional and I don't have access to the split-test comparison data.

At first glance, the deal offered by Louisville's Bard's Town Pub through Groupon.com is straightforward. Spend $10 today, get $20 in beer and burgers tomorrow, and the opportunity will be available for another 2 days, 16 hours, and 19 minutes, more or less.

First thing in the morning I can understand that much.  I can even read the fine print without being shocked, dismayed or confused. In my mind it is a really good deal to make your beer and burger money go twice as far.

Then I get to the "46 bought, 54 more needed to get the deal" part of the ad.

I don't appreciate my WTF? moments to start coming quite this early in the day.

Nowhere in the fine print does it say "Offer not valid until a minimum of 100 people buy-in."  It would be a logistical and logical nightmare, not to mention a big legal problem, to structure the deal that way.  You can buy it today but you have to wait 24 hours before using it (fine print) tomorrow, except if less than 100 people opt-in before the offer ends on Tuesday in which case it is not valid at all?  This does not work.

What sensible reason does Goupon have for doing this?  What are they thinking?


Catastrophic browser incompatibility

I received an email promoting Ektron.com's content management software (CMS 400.net), and out of curiosity I clicked through the link. I clicked through both links contained in the email, and then I searched Google for Ektron and clicked through a different third link.  In each case, I received the following error message, as shown in the screenshot below: Runtime Error - Server Error in '/' Application.

Bummer. Ektron's server is down. Bad timing after sending out the email.

Still not satisfied, I tried the link with a different browser, and voila!, it worked. The runtime error seems to have resulted from a wild and uncorrected site incompatibility with Google's Chrome web browser. Ekton is running Microsoft Active Server Page (ASP) scripts.

Who wants a content management system that totally befuddles the Google Chrome browser from a software company that didn't bother to check it out? I assume that the Ektron site runs on its own CMS 400.net software, but if not, why not?

Screenshot of Ektron.com error page

Internet marketing for local business - LivingSocial.com and Groupon.com

LivingSocial.com is best known from its Facebook app business, but it also has a parallel web-based presence outside of Facebook. LivingSocial has pushed its web presence toward marketing local businesses. When I visit the LivingSocial.com URL, I get my location specific page, LivingSocial Presents Louisville - my home town.

The tempting offer is an opportunity to purchase a $30 gift certificate to a local Louisville business for only $12. It looks to be a very good deal. It was a business that I had never heard of before: Amazing Green Planet. I don't travel in that part of town often these days.

A list of U.S. cities served by LivingSocial can be found here.

Groupon.com offers a similar service. Today's deal that comes through Groupon is $25 to buy a $50 gift certificate from Gap.

Either of these two deals qualify as a loss-leader, being an offer to double your money. But the two deals, one from Amazing Green Planet and the other from Gap, are of different value to the advertisers. The potential benefits are:
  1. Awareness,
  2. Action, and
  3. Buzz
Amazing Green Planet bought a whole lot of awareness by advertising through LivingSocial.com. I had never heard of the store before, but now I have a favorable impression, I'm curious, and I know its general location. Like me, most people who see the advertisement will not act on the offer outright, but they may remember it.  I can't say the same about Gap's ad. I didn't learn anything new. It was  just another Gap ad.

I was tempted by the Amazing Green Planet offer because it seemed to be such a good deal, even though I wasn't sure what the store sold and there isn't much I want to buy. I fell back to my default position that the best way to save money is not to spend it.

In both instances I was tempted to take voluntary action to share these two deals with some friends.  With Amazing Green Planet it was because I though the store looked cool and I want to know if any of my friends had knowledge of it.  The Gap offer would go to friends who shopped at Gap anyway.

But I didn't.  I did not buzz a single chirp, nor a tweet.

Seealso: Deal or no deal? What’s the deal?

Social media: Local mobile Facebook check-in

Facebook introduced a check-in feature for its mobile equipped users who are inclined to tell their friends exactly where they are at any given point in time during the day. As CNN reports, the good folk at Facebook have given special attention to users' privacy concerns. My personal solution to these type of privacy concerns is to not go out of my way to tell anyone where I am or what I'm doing, but that's just me.

Michael Sharon wrote of the official Facebook blog, "Ever gone to a show, only to find out afterward that your friends were there too? With Places, you can discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time."

On the bright side, this technology can be viewed as encouraging spontaneous bonding experiences and social cohesion. There is a remote possibility that it could impinge on the party planning business, or be used by political dissidents to orchestrate impromptu civil unrest. Worst case, the technology might be used to co-ordinate the illegal activity of street gangs. If Facebook wants to focus on creating a service that would be useful for the social lives of users, there may be surprises in store when it finally comes out all the ways of devious and inventive societies on the fringe. Whatever can be used can also be misused.

I'd bet that before the end of the year there is a technical means to spoof the system into reporting you at one location when in fact you are at another. The market for the app would be cheating husbands or wives, and there aren't that many systems which genius hackers can't crack.

The recent development at Facebook puts it in direct competition with other local mobile social media providers like Foursquare Labs Inc and Gowalla. Facebook's plan to make the new service pay for itself is unclear. I predict that some form of advertising will be involved.

To use this new service requires one of the smartphones supported by Facebook.


Google Caffeine is really fast

Google announced its new web indexing system called Caffeine in the first part of June this year.

Borrowed Google image
"Our old index had several layers, some of which were refreshed at a faster rate than others; the main layer would update every couple of weeks. To refresh a layer of the old index, we would analyze the entire web, which meant there was a significant delay between when we found a page and made it available to you."

The Official Google Blog
My test of Google's improved speed claim was to perform a Google search on the title of my last blog post, Motoral uses Open Source StatusNet, within less than 120 seconds after posting it.

Voilá! There it was!  Fast!

Screenshot of Google search results

Motorola uses Open Source StatusNet

Although this sounds like a standard commercial self-promotional press release, it illustrates one business model built on Free Open Source software.  I don't mean how Motorola uses StatusNet micro-blogging software in its business, I mean how the software experts who develop the StatusNet software package and give it away manage to pay the rent.

They charge for their expertise to those who lack the time to become experts themselves.

This is my assumption.  The software is free, but the expertise to quickly and reliably customize the package and make it work is not free.

Global technology leader Motorola turned to StatusNet to enable conversation and collaboration between employees.

"StatusNet has revolutionized our internal social communications."
— Rami Levy, team leader at Motorola Open Source Technologies

Read our new Motorola case study to learn how StatusNet helps Motorola:

  • promote social knowledge management
  • encourage real-time collaboration
  • reduce email inbox clutter
  • improve visibility for corporate events and program

Want to learn more? Contact us to find out how to use StatusNet's social messaging platform in your company

Microblogging standards

In the ancient and arcane world of Usenet, cross-posting was considered by many to be a great sin, and it was usually discouraged.  It was discouraged because it was annoying.  Reading a cross-post was like reading a message from somebody who wasn't really there. Cross-posters generally weren't available for conversation. Cross-posters were not interested in conversation, they were interested in shoveling their message far and wide. Some were so unkind as to call out cross-posters as being "spammers."

The idea of microblogging standards involve the character length limit for microblog posts, and essentially, the ability of various services and platforms to cross-post. These days, cross-posting with blogs is not only encouraged, it is practically a fad.  I have pursued blog syndication myself with some gusto.

A few of the main players in the world of microblogging interoperability standards are found at: ostatus.org, and microblog. See Wikipedia also.

This type of interoperability, or cross-posting as I call it, is something that people donate large sums of money to further. In 2009 the Knight Foundation gave money to design a system that allows anyone, anywhere to easily create a Drupal online news site whose content can be published on Facebook in order to reach an extended social network. - from drupal.org


So much for standards - small signs

Standards based HTML <img> tags generally have a minimum of two components, a src="http://some.url" part and an alt="some text" part.  As far as I can tell, there isn't a web browser in the world that cares which comes first, the src or the alt. It works fine either way.

It just so happens that I learned to use the HTML <img> tag putting the src= part first and the alt= part last, and that's the way I've done it ever sense out of habit.  That is the way I've done it unquestioningly until recently while working with the Google Blogger post editor, which is built to check user supplied HTML.  Also, it seems, the Blogger post editor was built to re-write user input HTML for no obvious reason.

The Google Blogger post editor re-writes the sequence of the <img> tag components so that the alt= part is first.  When I input <img src="http://some.url" alt="some text" /> to the Google Blogger post editor, it changes it to read <img alt="some text" src="http://some.url" />. Every time.

My current mindset is that Google is the benchmark for how things ought to be done, and my pragmatic philosophy is to give a huge, powerful, and impersonal bureaucracy (read Google) exactly what it want in the way it wants it.  Accordingly, I shifted my habit and reversed the <img> elements sequence when writing HTML.

Then I went to post on a Wordpress blog, and the Wordpress post editor did precisely the same thing as the Google Blogger post editor, except in reverse. Wordpress re-wrote my <img alt="some text" src="http://some.url" /> to read <img src="http://some.url" alt="some text" />.

The only effect this has for me is to re-enforce the observation that the sequence doesn't make any difference.

But, if it doesn't make any difference, why do Blogger and Wordpress re-write this code?  Moreso, why do they do it in opposite directions? I'm sure there's a compelling reason somewhere, but I'm not going to put any time into finding it.

The important point for internet marketers and search optimizers is to use the <img> alt tag.  Forget about the sequence.


Browser compatibility with Scribd.com

The actuality is hard to describe, but my opinion is fairly easy to state.  Using this document on Scribd.com, I think that Google Chrome displays it best.  Safari and Firefox display it differently from Chrome, but about the same as each other, and are tied for second place.  Internet Explorer 8 comes in a distant last place.

Maybe I'm missing a plugin, or something.

Note to self: Meta Weblog API

"The MetaWeblog API (MWA) is a programming interface that allows external programs to get and set the text and attributes of weblog posts. It builds on the popular XML-RPC communication protocol, with implementations available in many popular programming environments."

The myth of web optimization

“I think that maybe inside any business, there is someone slowly going crazy.”
— Joseph Heller

In his business book The E Myth, author Michael Gerber states, "The technical work of a business and a business that does that technical work are two totally different things."  In this sense, the ability to bake a marvelous cake and decorate it beautifully is considered 'technical' work, and it is Gerber's point that skill as a pastry chef does not necessarily translate into skill in running the business of a bakery.

Baking and managing the business of a bakery are two different skill sets.

It is very similar with search engine optimization (SEO).  The ability to increase web site traffic through technical means does not necessarily result in an increase in business profitability.  But it is very different from Gerber's E-Myth because most small business managers are not SEO technical experts themselves, nor do they wish to be.

Business managers are dependent upon the technical experts for SEO guidance, but in the small business world the SEO experts all too frequently have no understanding of the business needs of the entrepreneurial purpose.  Optimization of a business web site is not a task that managers or business owners ought to delegate.

A business web presence is too important to trust entirely to technicians.

Does Google index PDF files?

Question: Does Google index PDF files?

Answer: Yup, as long a the PDF is not encrypted or password protected, and it meets Google's other standards of index-ability, whatever they are. PDF files are frequently returned by a Google search.  Google has indexed PDF files since at least 2001, going by Search Engine Watch  According to GOS Blog in 2006, Google also uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to index PDF files consisting of scanned pages. This was confirmed in 2008 on the official Google Blog.

Furthermore, PDF files can contain hyper-links, if you put them there.  You know, links to URLs. Frequently the significance of this may be overlooked for SEO and marketing purposes.

A list of file types that Google indexes: Google Webmaster Central
"PDF formatted files are the most popular after HTML files. PostScript and Microsoft Word files are also fairly common. The other file types are relatively uncommon by comparison."
Google FAQ - Filetypes


Google search quiz answer - sitelinks

The answer to my July 30 Google search quiz - How did they do that?

How they did it is still a mystery internal to the secret workings of the Google search machine, but there is a name for it — Sitelinks.  A webmaster can facilitate the creation of useful Sitelinks in Google's search results for a site by creating a nice logical and clearly defined hierarchical site structure and navigation system.  Doing this is just what Google recommends webmasters do.  But the time and the manner of Google Sitelinks, if they happen at all, is up to Google.  That's the way it is, as stated by Google in the screenshot below showing Google Webmaster Tools Sitelinks page.
"Sitelinks are links to a site's interior pages.  Not all sites have sitelinks. Google generates these links automatically, but you can remove sitelinks you [the webmaster] don't want."

screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools page on Sitelinks


Cheapo feed syndication blues

Playing with feed syndication services that meet my specifications has its challenges. My criteria are simple. These requirements for feed syndication service are:

  1. They must be totally free.
  2. They must be easy to understand and use.
  3. They must work at least some of the time.

In point of fact, it's a lot like playing with Leggos where each piece is made by a different factory to slightly different specification. Sometimes the quality control is not six-sigma.

So it goes in cheapo land.

Slow change and small business

"The slow changes in the media landscape are accelerating and virtually every pre-digital system is in danger. The slow changes in the marketing landscape are in their second decade and these changes will have their effects on every business and cause as well." - Seth Godin

In 1987 my wife and I started a retail computer store. We had a good location and we put a lot of money into advertising.  This consisted of Yellow Pages ads, newspaper ads, and local radio ads. It was effective to build the business.

I doubt that it would work today.  I don't remember the last time I looked through the Yellow Pages, read a newspaper, or listened to local radio ads.

Things have changed.


Syndication Notebook entry - Superfeedr.com

Superfeedr.com has been in existence for about a year or so, going by the date of its domain name registration, and I just found out about it today.  At first glance, Superfeedr looks like an answer to my prayer, but it is a bit more technical than most of the services I've looked at recently.  It will take me some time to get with the program, I'm sure, due to the level of technical detail that seems to be involved.  I'm not the swiftest learner on the block, either.

PubSubHubbub stands for PUBlisher-SUBscriber HUB, or PubSubHub. The 'Hubbub' is cute, though.

Part of the specification documentation is hosted on Google Code - here. The reference hub is located on the Google Apps Engine.

This will take me some time to figure out. Best of all, it involves a whole new thing, XMPP, of which I know nothing except XMPP is commonly called 'Jabber."

XMPP.org software libraries


Google's stealth social media strategy

Google is assembling the parts of an integrated social media system that will ultimately dwarf any other (read Facebook), through sheer grinding persistence backed by a bazillion dollars. As far as I've noticed, they are doing it very quietly.

My public Google profile is my main piece of evidence: http://bit.ly/foxbuz

I've had a Google profile for years, and for years it was a great big nothing. Previously, a Google profile consisted of a photo and a name, and not a thing more than that. It was even more lame than my Yahoo! profile page.

These days, I've recently noticed, my Google profile page has grown legs. Not only can I display biographical information on my profile page, and LINKS!, I've also answered the question: "What the hell is Google Buzz good for?" My Google Buzz entries are now also a part of my Google profile, as you can see if you look. Google Buzz is still part of and controlled through the Google Gmail web interface, which is for personal contacts only. My Google Buzz is now echoed publicly on my profile page.

Syndication: Blog RSS to Del.icio.us

Del.icio.us, or delicious.com as Yahoo! calls it, is a social bookmarking site, and the Microenterprise blog RSS feed is now channeled to Bebo like this:

Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —> Status.net —> Ping.fm —> Delicious.com

As you can see, the form of the entry is unacceptable. "Tom Fox (tomwfox)'s status on Sunday" is much less than useful.  It is counter-useful.  Plus, Delicious.com inserts rel="nofollow" in to the anchor tags.

This one is for the dustbin.  Plonk.

Delicious.com's FAQ include the following:
How can I promote my website or advertise on Delicious?
Bookmarking websites in order to promote or advertise them is considered spamming, and that's against our Terms of Service. If you'd like to advertise on Delicious, you can use Yahoo! Search Marketing to be in Sponsored Search results within Delicious.
For what it's worth, the Delicious TOS does not actually say that.

Screenshot of delicious.com bookmark page


Google site search box in Google search results page - how did they do it?

I saw this Google site search box in Google search results page (screenshot below) for the first time that I remember, ever. How did they do that?

Screen shot of: Google site search box in Google search results page


Social media marketing: Bebo

Bebo was purchased by AOL in 2008 for $850 million.  AOL sold Bebo earlier this year for somewhat less, after threatening to shut it down.  Bebo was obviously patterned after MySpace.  If you are peddling bubble gum flavored lip gloss, Bebo might hold your target market.  Bebo users seem to be very young adults still focused upon adolescent pursuits.  It's a big, if temperamental, market segment.

Bebo offers its users a public profile page consisting of selectable and movable modules.  My own experimental Bebo user profile page has a "Lifestream" module that currently displays this Microenterprise blog RSS feed.  This is subject to change at any time by either Bebo or myself.

The Microenterprise blog RSS feed is now channeled to Bebo like this:

Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —> Status.net —> Ping.fm —> Bebo.com

The link to the original blog post goes through several transformations withing the various steps of theis transmission chain, but by the time the Twitterized blog post reach Bebo, they are all shortened to the ping.fm system and they all point back to a Status.net post, but not to the original Blogger post.  Even at that, Bebo displays the shortened link-back verbatim, but passes the URL as a text string to a Java Server Page (JSP) as a query parameter.  I doubt that a search engine would follow that level of re-direction, but at least both Bebo, Ping.fm, and Status.net can count the clicks, if there are any.  Bebo does not insert any rel="nofollow" tags that I noticed.

One anomaly is that not all the posts get all the way through the pipe.

Another branch of the RSS distribution channel is to Twitter, like this:

 Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —>Twitter

Bebo also has a Twitter module available for its user profile page that I installed.  This made it possible for the same Twitterized Microenterprise post to appear twice on my Bebo profile page.  The Twitter feed to Bebo contained the Bit.ly link shortening URL used by Twitterfeed.  Again, I don't know if, or how, Google search deals with shortened links in general, but I'm fairly sure that the larger link shortening services count clicks and sell link popularity data to somebody, for some purpose.

How useful this information may be for internet marketing purposes remains to be seen.


Social media and structured data - Friend of a friend (FOAF)

"Local. Mobile. Social. We're talking about street gangs here. Local mobile social media is for nothing but high-tech street gangs." 

"The dynamic of our society, and particularly our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks. Understanding how networks work will be the key to understanding how the economy works." - Kevin Kelly, New Rules

An important type of network related to understanding the human economy is the human social network.   Describing the wide variety of human relations isn't easy. The Yupik language of the Inuit has a worf for a degree of friendship that translates roughly as "I like you very much, but I wouldn't want to go seal hunting with you." Seal hunting involves long weeks in very close personal contact under difficult circumstances.

Nevertheless, there is a movement to create a Web of machine-readable homepages describing people, the links between them and the things they create and do. It is called the Friend of a Friend (FOAF) movement, and this post represents the full extent of my research on the subject.


Semantic Web - FOAF
Drupal includes a FOAF module. Drupal is an Open Source social media publishing platform.
FOAF-a-Matic - Generates FOAF XML from user input data.
RDFweb FOAF Project 
FOAF Project Org
FOAF on WIkipedia

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


Syndication - RSS feeds to ShoutEm.com

Ordinary RSS feeds cannot be imported into ShoutEm.com created community blogs or lists, as far as I can tell.  ShoutEm.com directly supports conections between it and Twitter or Facebook, but not for any generic RSS feed, unless it is hidden somewhere.

HelloTXT.com lists ShoutEm.com as a candidate as a feed link through it, and it even goes through the motions with me setting it up.  The thing is, ShoutEm.com does not realize it is suppose to honor HelloTXT.com's request.  Nothing happens.  

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


I doubled my blog traffic in one week with social media

Except that going from 25 visitors per day to 50 visitors per day is no big deal, and spending 25 hours to do it is silly.  Then there is the fact that it will fall off once I stop humping it.

Don't be a chump.  Hype is hype.

RSS to Ping.fm jury rigged

I'm thinking since Ping.fm was spawned in the micro-blogging Twitter World, and feeds from big-blogs introduce complexity and a level of pesky details previously not encountered by Ping.fm.  Parsing a single XML file type, the Twitter type, is not a big deal, but building a general purpose XML parser capable of dealing with a wide variety of RSS types is a big deal.  Yet, it can be done.  It has already been done by others, and I'm confident Ping.fm will get it right soon.  If not, they should quit.

Anyway, I've re-wired my experimental RSS distribution circuit to avoid any big-blog RSS inputs directly connected to Ping.fm.

This Blogger blog -> Feedburner -> Twitterfeed -> Status.net -> Ping.fm.

In this distribution scheme, Twitterfeed does the parsing of the big-blog RSS and shoves it to Stastus.net which generated the RSS feed that is input now (today - right now) into Ping.fm.

This is not an ideal arrangement, but it might work.  This is the eleventh time I've re-drawn or revised my Blog syndication distribution map. If you look at it tomorrow, it will have probably been changed again.

This post will be my first test of the new channel.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

How well does Ping.fm parse Wordpress blog feeds?

How well does Ping.fm parse Wordpress blog feeds?  It depends on how you look at it, and how long you look at it.  With a statistically insignificant number of samples . . . a grand total of two . . . I'll give the optimistic view of Ping.fm's performance, and give it the benefit of the doubt by saying it got exactly half right. The other half, not so good.

"The WordPress->Feedburner->Ping.fm did not work any better than the Blogger->Feedburner->Ping.fm did. Maybe the problem is with Feedburner. I just switched to the native WordPress feed of this blog to Ping.fm, just to see what happens next." 
- The Learning Curve - RSS to Ping.fm - Again

The first and most encouraging sample was Ping.fm-feed version of this Wordpress post: Another Ping.fm test

Ping.fm correctly came up with this as its shortened link: http://ping.fm/8m1Jo

The second less than inspiring example is Ping.fm's rendition of #smartmarket test

For this one, Ping.fm came up with a shortened link, http://ping.fm/6D8ie, that incorrectly re-directed to the blog post's comment feed:


Ping.fm has a serious problem parsing Feedburner blog feeds and Wordpress blog feeds.  Is it fair of me to think that Ping.fm may have problems with blog feeds in general?

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Snooping Yahoo - RSS syndication feeds and more

Both Yahoo! Pulse and Yahoo! Meme easily allow the importation of external RSS feeds, and display the content, such as a blog post, in a Twitter-like truncated feed, with a shortened link. It is usually displayed as the blog post title, with the shortened link back to the original, and possibly a bit more.

One unexpected find was the fact that Yahoo! Meme posts are automatically sent to Yahoo! Pulse.  So, the same RSS feed sent to both results in duplicate postings, or near duplicate postings, on Yahoo! Pulse.  One comes from the direct RSS feed to Yahoo! Pulse and the other comes from the same feed echoing off of Yahoo! Meme.  Therefore, I eliminate the feed to Yahoo! Pulse, and no harm done.  It gets there anyway.

My personalized Yahoo! Pulse page is not accessible to the general public, and I have no idea if or how it may be visible to another Yahoo! member, or friend, or distant cousin.  In other words, Yahoo! Pulse seems fairly useless to me.

Yahoo! Meme, on the other hand, is nice by providing a unique URL for my page there, which I named Ephemerality (http://meme.yahoo.com/ephemerality/) .

This is the same name I used on Tumblr.com.

Another unrelated discovery was my Yahoo! blog with the unique URL:


It's nice to have a unique URL for my totally free Yahoo! blog space, but that URL is ridiculous.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


RSS to Ping.fm works fine except . . .

RSS to Ping.fm works fine except with Google Feedburner RSS.  With them Ping.fm gets the links wrong.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Syndication - RSS to Twitter, et al. flummox

Automated syndication of RSS feeds to social media platforms is in a state of transition and growth.  Add in the fact that several social media sites are in the midst of transitioning user authentication protocols. These things are a little glitchy, at the moment. As a guy doing things on the cheap (meaning free), I can't really complain all that much.  Except possibly about the fact that I'm interested in testing the actual marketing usefulness of these free services in the social media world, and not so much interested in testing if they work right and issuing ticked-off public bug reports..  Nevertheless, that's the way it is. A lot of it just doesn't work right for now.

First — As of this first week of August, 2010, Ping.com allows one RSS feed to directly connect as an input for its services.  Ping.com is new to this.  The other more commonly accepted method for connecting a RSS feed to Ping.com is through Twitterfeed.com.  Twitterfeed.com is the original Twitterizing service.  Ping.com has been a social media distribution service. I opted for the new untested option and used a Feedburner RSS feed for this Mircoenterprise blog in Ping.com.

Second — Twitterizing services shorten links due to the 140 character limit on Twitter. When Ping.com shortens the link to the original Microenterprise blog, it has a difficult time locating the correct link to shorten in the Blogger - Feedburner RSS feed.  Ping.com only gets it right about half the time, and this is annoying.

Third — So, when I get the bright idea to switch the circuit, and use Twitterfeed.com as an input to Ping.com, like everyone else does, and not have a direct connection between Ping.com and Feedburner, it doesn't work. I don't know why it doesn't work, but every time I try, the setup fails.

Note: As of August 6, 2010 afternoon, this notice appears on the Twitterfeed.com signup page for Ping.com:
"Please note that Ping.fm have temporarily suspended the use of twitterfeed with their service. Until they re-instate this functionality, we are unfortunately unable to post to Ping.fm."
Fourth — Then I say to hell with Ping.com, and I start moving all the social media connections already established there and take them over to HelloTxt.com.  HelloTxt.com is working perfectly, as far as I can tell, but now the problem is that HelloTxt.com does not support all of the social media platforms I connected with on Ping.com.  One of them is Yahoo! Meme, which is odd.

Note: As of August 6, 2010 afternoon, the few social media services that I switched from Ping.com to HelloTxt.com are not working . . . yet. Sometimes these things take time.

Therefore, I moved what I could and left the rest on Ping.com.  Ping will get it working soon enough, I hope.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Social media: RSS feed to Koornk.com

Koornk.com displayed the Microenterprise blog RSS feed through Ping.fm without any fuss, as shown in the screenshot of Tom Fox on Koornk. Of the four active links showing, two of them actually work and connect to the appropriate Mircoenterprise blog page. The other two active links go elsewhere, as of now.

The link problem is not with Koornk.com, it is with Ping.com.

The first link shown below, as shortened by Ping.com is: http://ping.fm/rF8DL

Currently, that Ping-shortened link re-directs to:


. . . . which is not correct.  It ought to re-direct to this URL:


Screenshot of om Fox's page on Koornk.com

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


Ping.fm renders RSS input feed links like crap

Note: When I wrote this item, I was confused by Ping.fm's domain. (Dot)FM is the top level domain for the Federated States of Micronesia, and it didn't register in my head. So I erroneously typed it Ping.com throughout. The syndication service I'm talking about is Ping.fm, and not Ping.com. Sorry.

It's a new feature for Ping.fm, this business about taking a RSS feed directly and Twitterizing it for output to various social media platforms. It's a new and experimental undertaking for Ping.com to do this. Right now it limits user's direct input to a single RSS feed only. For experimenting with it.

It's a good thing Ping.com is undertaking, and I have been a Guinna pig for their testing, these past few days. So far, Ping.fm renders RSS input feed links like shit.

Back to the drawing board.

August 6 update: In all fairness, the trouble might not be with Ping.fm. It may be that Google-Blogger-Feedburner feeds are especially difficult to parse. I'll try an entirely different feed source with Ping.fm to see if makes a difference.

Little known fact about Google's Wave

In my mind, Google's now defunct Wave project was named after a synchronous multimedia communication technology that functioned instantaneously across distances that spanned an imaginary solar system in the early 21st Century science fiction TV classic, Firefly.  I think it's obviously true. Do you have a better idea?


The nouveau word 'bloggel' is a verb on my planet. Bloggel rhymes with 'boggle' and it shares a similarity of meaning with 'flabbergast.' In the strict sense, bloggeling is an activity directed toward Twitterized blog posts spawned elsewhere.

Here's how it works: When this message is posted on the Microenterprise blog, it appears here but it also gets stuffed into a RSS feed that passes through Google's Feedburner to my Ephemerality blog on Tumblr.com, except extremely truncated. Once the very short version and link is automatically posted on my Tumblr.com blog, I can then edit the post by hand and add a few unique pithy or humorous remarks to make the whole thing more intelligible and appealing. After all, the idea of social media is somewhat premised on the personal touch. An automated Twitterized blog re-posting can be obviously non-human in appearance, and that would defeat the whole purpose.

This process of meta commenting about my own blog post reproduced in short within a second blog is called bloggeling, by me. Few read it here, so far, and nobody reads it there yet, so what's the point?

The point is to find out if it has any effect upon those things that are being measured. Same reason the bear went over the mountain.

Tom Fox

Louisville, Kentucky

Tom Fox on Twitter

Syndication: RSS to Twitter - accessibility or the new spam?

Technology amplifies the good and the bad with equal ease and troublesome indifference. A thousand busy posters can generate a considerable volume of twittering, but consider the potential for an exploding number of tweets flying back and forth when every ambitious internet marketing concern embraces the brute force power of fully automating the process.  Just as automated email pushed spam into your email in-box, RSS-to-Twitter technology may well result in pushing a tide of smarmy promotions into social media.

The essential differences between email and social media will make the inevitable issue of automated social media spam by way of RSS feeds much easier to deal with  Unlike email that can be sent anonymously and from anywhere, automated feeds to social media outlets come from identifiable sources through a connections that must be negotiated.  More importantly, the target is not a captive audience as with email.  People encounter social media channels only by choice, so far.  RSS spam can be more easily regulated or ignored.

How RSS to Twitter works

RSS icon from Matt Forsythe - comingupforair.net
I have to assume you know what a RSS feed is, for the easy reason that I have no simple explanation that would satisfy one who doesn't know.  RSS feeds are everywhere, and you've seen the distinctive icon frequently, scattered about the web.  With a blog, for example, an RSS feed might contain every single post in a structured data format in a single file that can be read by anyone.

A human can share a blog post on Twitter by posting a link to their Twitter account directly.  A computer software program can extract the link information for a blog from its RSS feed and post each one to Twitter, if Twitter allows it, and Twitter allows it.  That is the root process of RSS-to-Twitter systems.  It involves the automated extraction of data from an existing RSS feed and then posting that data to an existing Twitter account.  That is the gist of how it works.

"RSS to Twitter" is a metaphor

RSS to Twitter is also a statement of origin.  It started with Twitter and Twitter users,  and it makes sense.  If I can write a blog post and manually post a link to it on my Twitter account, and I do that every day, how much more efficient is it to automate the process?  Quite a bit, for me, and it is not limited to Twitter.

The RSS-to-Twitter process immediately found use and support for other social media platforms.  Now, it is possible to automatically send a notice of my new blog post to a multitude of social media outlets.  RSS-to-Facebook, RSS-to-Delicious, RSS-to-Blogger, RSS-to-Tumblr, RSS-to-Google Buzz, and many more are now a practical reality.  It is being done and it is growing, slowly.  It has instant and obvious appeal to internet marketers.

RSS to Twitter - How it's done

This is not a genuine "how-to" for converting a RSS feed into a Twitter API feed.  It is a "How to use free web resources to do that which you lack the time or the motivation to do yourself."  The main free to use on-line force behind RSS-to-Twitter is Twitterfeed.com.  There are also use-for-pay services such as SimpleFeed.com, that caters to multinational corporations, but that is not for us.  Another free to use service that went dark is RSStoTwitter.com.  The individual developer did not come up with a working business plan that made his RSS to Twitter service pay for itself.  It was unsustainable.

So, "how it's done" for most of us non-programmers revolves around using Twitterfeed.com, or something similar.

Twitterfeed.com accepts RSS imput, converts it to a Twitter-compatible format, and feeds the result out over the following channels:
  1. Twitter,
  2. Ping.fm,
  3. Hellotxt.com,
  4. Status.net, and
  5. Facebook
Both Ping.fm and Hellotxt.com allow further distribution of the Twitterized feed to several scores of other social media.  Previously Ping.fm did not accept RSS feeds directly at all, but it has recently introduced that feature which, for now, is limited to a single RSS feed.  Ostensibly, Hellotxt.com has a companion site Hellotxtfeed.com that functions like Twitterfeed.com, except its server has not been available online since I started checking five days ago, so I have my doubts about it. Feedburner.com has also recently added the capability of sending Twiterized RSS feeds directly to Twitter.  That is contained within Feedburner's 'Socialize' tab.

What good can come of RSS to Twitter?

That remains to be seen, as far as I'm concerned.  Right now I am busy trying to understand its potential, once I figure out how it actually works in practice.

See my RSS syndication map - a work in progress

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Google Blogger: Tips and tricks

This blog is hosted for free on Blogger.com. One of the nice feature of Blogger that I really appreciate is the ability to write a post and then schedule it for later posting.  For example, I am writing this post on Monday afternoon and I will schedule it to the posted online at 3 AM Thursday morning.

It might make you think I was up all night working.

Tumblr.com blog tip:  Tumblr blogs also have an option for delayed posting.  Tumblr's system is set by frequency of posting from a queue, whereas Blogger.com's system is based upon setting a specific date and time for each post.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


RSS syndication feeds: Importing feeds to Tumblr.com

It is possible to import RSS syndication feeds directly into Tumblr.com and have the feed posts appear in Tumblr almost just as if they were originally posted there.  This is a great convenience for establishing and maintaining a semi-automatic blog post RSS syndication feed distribution system, but Tumblr is not totally overjoyed at the prospect of becoming an automated dumping ground for posts coming from and going to someplace else.  Tumblr is in the business of community building.

On Tumbler, an external feed will remain active only so long as a real live person regularly originates posts on Tumblr itself.  "You must log into Tumblr frequently or directly post to Tumblr frequently in order for feed imports to remain active,"  says Tumblr representative Mark Lafountain, here.

In truth, the only genuine advantage from importing an external feed into Tumblr is is you have a collection of followers who read the feed.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


RSS syndication glitch No. 1

Below is a screenshot of my own Facebook page showing that my most recent RSS syndication configuration results in double posting of these Microenterprise blog posts.  The lower of the two auto-posts shown here is through a ping.fm to Facebook link, and the one above is a Tumblr.com to Facebook link.  I knew that ping.fm is a simple pass-through service, but I incorrectly assumed that the Tumblr link would limit itself to new posts that originated on Tumblr itself.  Instead, Tumble passes everything along.

I haven't yet decided how I will deal with it.  Tumblr passed on the Feedburner link back to the original post unaltered, and it is ugly, but I may have to live with it and eliminate the ping.fm to Facebook link.  Whatever I decide, the change will be reflected in an updated syndication distribution map.

Screenshot of Tom Fox Facebook web page

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Social media: RSS feed to Tagged.com

Tagged.com is a social media site similar to, but much less popular than, Myspace.  Tagged.com appears to be, and has been described as, targeting a 'youth market.'  It is all about games, music, and flirting.

I connected to Tagged.com through Ping.com (see: Distribution channel map), without first checking to see if it was a good audience for an internet marketing blog.  I don't think it is, now that I take a close look at Tagged.com, and the focus of interest there,  However, Tagged.com does pick up and display the twitterized blog post.  The display on Tagged.com includes the Bit.ly shortened link to the original Microenterprise blog post, but it it not an active link.

Tagged.com also provides for a custom URL for my profile page, making it accessible to search engines - at least in theory.  All other of the pages are accessed through generic URLs and session cookies, which is bound to fuddle search bots. Tom Fox's Tagged.com profile page.
Screenshot of www.tagged.com/tomfox

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Bit.ly tips and tricks

Bit.ly. is a link-shortening web service.  The idea behind a link shortening service like Bit.ly, and there are several other such services online, is that many links are just too long to be useful.  Long links tend to break when sent by email, they are ugly, and long links are not practical for micro-blogs like Twitter.  Therefore, the usefulness of link shortening services.

The process is simple.  When you create a shortened link through Bit.ly, the new link is a Bit.ly directed link which triggers a many-to-one relational database lookup that finds the actual web URL which is the destination or target link, followed by a re-direct to that site.

So, you have a shortened Bit'ly link and a longer destination link, but there can be multiple shortened Bit'ly links created by several different users, all pointing to the exact same target link URL.  Many-to-one.  Bit.ly counts every time someone clicks on one of its shortened links, it aggregates all the various Bit.ly link clicks to a common destination URL, and it reports both counts to any user with a Bit.ly account who created one of the links.

In the Bit.ly screen shot below, the numbers "0 out of 704" indicates that nobody has clicked on the Bit.ly shortened link that I created, but that 704 people have clicked on other Bit.ly shortened links to the same target that were created by others.  That's the tip.

The trick: With this specific example, I had received a Bit.ly shortened link in an email newsletter from an internet marketer.  After I clicked on the Bit.ly link, I copied the actual URL that I was re-directed to, and then used it to create my own Bit.ly shortened link.  I assume that the seven hundred four clicks to the other Bit'ly links is a fair representation of the internet marketer's newsletter click-through numbers five days after his email newsletter was sent.  That's about all the clicks he is going to get from that newsletter, based upon my experience.

If one wished to speculate about email open rates and click-through rates, one might be able to estimate the size of the internet marketer's email list.  But that is way too tricky for me.  However, it is still my opinion that the link shortening services sell their link popularity data to the search engines and the market researchers, see: Social Media Data Extraction.  It might be a good idea for internet marketers and search optimizers to know and use these services responsibly.

Screenshot of bit.ly shortened link statistic web page

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


Blog post syndication distribution channels and map

The native Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed for this Blogger blog, microenterprise, is re-directed to Google Feedburner, and anyone can subscribe to the feed in a number of different ways including the free email distribution that Feedburner provides.  More than that, by using the many social media, automated ping services, and micro-blog platforms freely available today, I have recently constructed an entire distribution channel that pushes my posts down a networked distribution channel.

This is just a beginning that I cooked up yesterday afternoon, and there is a lot of room for expansion.  More importantly, there is the question about the effects, if any, that the distribution network has on traffic and rankings.

I created a visual representation of the RSS distribution channel here, on Scribed.com.

August 3, 2010 Update

1. I removed my test blog on Presently.com from my distribution channel. Presently.com is in the business of creating and selling enterprise in-house micro-blogging software.  The free hosted micro-blog that Presently.com offers is intended, it seems to me, as a live demo of the software, rather than as a working tool or community in the public internet environment.  I looks like fine software, but it wasn't designed or intended for my purpose.

2. Since I will be originating posts on Tumblr.com, to keep it alive, I decided those new posts will be distributed to Twitter and Facebook.  Why not?

3. Moved Facebook off of my Twitter feed and onto a Ping.fm feed for the Microenterprise blog posts.  The way it was before resulted in double posting of Tumblr posts on Facebook.  Not good.

The RSS distribution channel map has been revised, expanded, moved, and re-published, here.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


Blogger comments RSS feed channels

Blogger.com is the free blog hosting service for this blog.  Blogger is owned by Google, and Google has introduced a steady stream of improvements to Blogger since its acquisition by Google a few years back.  I don't remember when RSS feeds for Blogger were introduced, but as it stands now, Blogger provides one RSS Atom syndication feed for the blog posts as a whole, and one separate RSS Atom feed for each post's comments.

The usefulness of an Atom RSS feed for the blog as a whole is apparent once you take a look at syndication, and this is a topic I plan to discuss in detail.  Yet, the usefulness of as many different separate comment feeds is still not obvious to me.  Maybe if all the comment feeds were merged into one aggregate feed, they might have vale.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter