Archive for November, 2008

Why should you bother with an RSS feed?  Well, have you ever opted out of signing up for a mailing list to protect your personal information?  Or switched emails and lost all of your mailing list subscriptions?  What about if you are the author of an e-newsletter?  Ever try to manage that email list?  Or wonder what happens to those bounced addresses?
 
Enter RSS – Really Simple Syndication… or your ‘feed’.  I attempted to think of a clever analogy, but, like many things on the web, somebody else has already done it for me
 
What I haven’t seen is somebody telling me ‘the thing about RSS is…’
 
So, why’s it a big deal?
 
Because it makes sharing your updates EASY and RISK FREE.  By feeding your updates to an RSS feed, you simplify the process by which people can be notified that you have published new content.  Your RSS feed can also then automatically post to your Twitter account, your friendfeed account, your facebook account, your website, somebody else’s website and all of the eager people just waiting for your next update!  And don’t forget, the subscriber does not need to give away any of his/her personal information or worry about losing the subscription if their email changes and can very easily unsubscribe if they no longer want to be a part of the list.  All with no management needed from you beyond providing your spectular content.
 
Example:
 
ABC Ltd. from Calgary sends news releases across the wire on a fairly regular basis.  Every news release also needs to be up on the website as closely as possible to when the release crosses the wire to satisfy some disclosure objectives.  The company’s webmaster must then sit and wait to push the ‘publish’ button to ensure the release is posted after receiving confirmation from their news distributor that it has indeed crossed the wire into the land of general public information.  Or, ABC Ltd.’s communications person must sit there and wait because the webmaster brought in a content management system (CMS) so he/she did not have to sit there and wait.
 
Had ABC Ltd. integrated an RSS feed onto their website from the release, there would be no need for the webmaster or the communications person to sit there and push the button to publish.  While the two of them head out for coffee after confirming a time for the release to go public, the release crosses the wire and BAM!  It’s automatically posted to the site and nobody lifted a finger.
 
Sound too good to be true?  It’s not.  It’s really that simple.
 
Example:
 
Mr. X from Edmonton owns an organic grocery store and publishes an e-newsletter every week about nutrition.  The e-newsletter also includes some instore specials.  Mr. X would like to start running some daily specials and nutritional tips for his customers, but he is worried about inundating their emails with short messages and updates that frequently.  He saw a piece on the news last week about how people are turning to blogs to publish daily content and decided he would like to try one for himself.  Lucky for Mr. X, most blogs (such as this WordPress one) come standard with an RSS feed.  Mr. X started promoting the extra daily specials that were on the blog through the e-newsletter and in the store.  Soon, he was seeing his regular customers even more regularly as they came in to take note of the special deals.
 
Example:
 
Suzy Cue has worked at the same company for the last 5 years.  Over those 5 years, she’s built up a very useful listing of information and news that is emailed to her on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  Last week, Suzy got a call from a head hunter with an amazing position that she just couldn’t say no to.  With only 2 weeks notice to give, Suzy had to tie up all of her loose ends… and quickly!  In her haste, she forgot about all of the useful pieces she relies on to keep her up to date.  When she gets to her new job, she regrets not having kept a better record!  Suzy starts to make her list of items she had been subscribed to.  But as she’s visiting each website again, she’s noticing they all have this strange little orange graphic.  Suzy clicks on one and discovers the RSS feed… she is now equipped to take her subscriptions with her.
 
RSS Highlights
 
1.  Ease of updates of information to your latest published content – it saves your customer time and helps keep you front of mind.
2.  Security and privacy of your customer’s information – no need to manage their information or for them to worry about it being sold to a 3rd party.
3.  Publishing of your updates across multiple platforms – your content reach can travel much farther through each person’s online network.
 
And yes.  It really is that simple.

Why I prefer Gmail to Hotmail

Posted: November 24, 2008 in other
Tags: ,
Screenshot of Hotmail page

Screenshot of Hotmail page

Right up there, right at the top of the screenshot for my Hotmail account.  That Lavalife ad… the ad with no relevance to the page.  The ad that is visual so I know it’s an ad.  The ad you don’t see when you log into Gmail because they aren’t using visual ads… no big invasive banners at the very top of my page screaming ‘look at me!  Not at your email!’.  I would sooner have no ads on either, but then I’d have to pay for my otherwise free email accounts.  So, I’d rather see Google’s ads while going about my daily email business… at least there’s a chance I may find one of them useful because they’re relevant to the content of the page.

This is just pretty freakin’ cool.  Robots with facial expressions and showing emotion….

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Earlier this week, Google launched a new search product that includes a way to comment and vote your favourite finds up or down and add comments about a site for others to view. The feature only works when you are logged into your Google account and only you see which topics you’ve promoted to the top or deleted from your results.  Techcrunch has explained the features well, but the author, Mike Arrington, doesn’t like the new feature.  Robert Scoble thinks it’s bang on.  I think it’s just another reason you’d better make sure your site is one people find useful.

If people are able to customize their searches and save the information so the sites they have found useful before are always on top, making sure your site is one they want to see more frequently in their search results is becoming more and more important.

I have always believed that your website should be fulfilling a use or providing a service.  I often compare it to a magazine – if the articles are the same every month or nothing new is added, who’s going to keep buying that magazine?  Your website should be useful… if nothing else, it should be something that people want to pass on.  The Google Search Wiki is kind of like a new way to bookmark sites right now.  If you vote something up at the top on a particular search term, it will always remain at the top for your individual search – again only if you are logged into your account.  But imagine if Google takes it one step further – if Google starts taking a user’s top voted sites and including those in new searches because it’s a site the user has identified as one they trust and one they’ve found useful in the past.  When Google does that, I will be on bored with Robert Scoble in thinking this is fabulous.

Meteor touch down old news

Posted: November 21, 2008 in other
Tags: , ,

So, it’s been two hours or so since the reports of a meteor potentially touching down near Edmonton… and with a lack of chatter on Twitter and no videos showing up on YouTube to keep me engaged, I’m feeling like it’s old news already.  I’m watching the Twitter stream on Twitter search and one tweet just popped up with somebody who just found out about it.  I looked at it and said ‘meh, that’s old news’.

My question is when did news that was two hours old suddenly become ‘old’?  How quickly does my attention span from one topic to the next?  Why is something no longer interesting if there are no new developments within minutes?

While the rest of the world is still just finding out about the meteor and gluing their eyes to the TV… I will keep my Twitter feed open so I will still be one of the first to know when more developments are in, but I can go about a normal Thursday evening otherwise.

If only those astronomy experts had Twitter accounts…

Update:  Someone just tweeted that there have been two meteor touchdowns in Canada AND one in New Orleans… now this gets a wee bit more interesting.

Update: Found a blog post talking about a good deal of meteors seen over Tucson and San Diego earlier this week.  Maybe the reports of meteor touchdowns in Alberta and New Orleans are related?

Update: The meteor news is making UFO sites…