(blogs let others gawk)

August 17, 2012

Galaxy S3 experience…

Filed under: General,Internet Rant,Technology Rant — Tags: , , , , — Bryan @ 8:05 am

So I recently upgraded my phone from a Epic 4G to a Galaxy S3 and because of one of the Apps I was required to install for work I went ahead and rooted my phone and installed a permissions manager (the app is super intrusive and I feel it doesn’t need access to everything it was asking for).

The side effect of this is seeing the crap other apps are doing on my phone and it has been a real eye opener. My chief annoyance right now is the Flickr app. I installed it and set my login but have yet to actually use it for anything yet. But! I discovered last night that every time I take a photo on my camera, Flickr runs and tries to send phone ID and geo-location back to Flickr! Yeah, you heard me. WTF is up with that. I’m not even uploading these photos to Flickr. Never launched Flickr. WTF do they need to know where I am taking everyone one of my photos from!?! Needless to say I blocked all of these activities. But it’s still incredibly irritating and a massive invasion of my privacy seeing this activity on my phone.

I’ve been running this app for a good year or more now and have to realize that Flickr has been capturing data on everyplace I use my phone over that time. Color me seriously pissed to say the least.

Thanks for your time… and yes, I know the theme on my blog is still fubar. One of these days I’ll get to overhauling this mess.


September 24, 2010

Push and Pull

Filed under: General,Internet Rant,Perspective — Bryan @ 4:07 am

In the world of advertising and marketing you can identify communications as either push or pull. Push is where you push content out to viewers and Pull is where viewers come to you to get content.

Mediums such as TV, newsletters and banner ads are identified as push based communications in that they are designed to push information about new products and services to you. The idea is to inform you about a solution to a perceived need you never knew you had.

Internet content in general (and by extension most social media) is considered pull based communications because the viewer has to actively go out and request the information in order to receive it. There is currently no way for you to force someone to read your blog or watch your YouTube video (not that people aren’t trying to figure out a way to do it though). Granted you can design a website that forces a pop-up ad to show before you can read the page you want to visit. In this case the add is push, but the content that that provided you to the chance to see the ad is pull.

In many ways, modern TV has evolved to this state. Historically when all we had generally were three channels run by national networks to choose from in any given U.S. city an advertiser could simply run their ad on all three networks at peek viewing hours for their target demographic and be confident that just about everyone would see the ad. Now with literally thousands of TV channels between broadcast, cable, satellite, internet, etc… combined with time shifting technology (ie, DVR devices such as Tivo) advertisers are moving to running ads specifically related to a particular program. In very much the same dynamic as a web site (eg, you want to run an advertisement that I.T. workers will see? Run it on TV during a show like MythBusters, and then put your online ads on a site like Slashdot.

Really, the bottom line is consumer choice vs. advertiser choice. The less choice a consumer has the more push communications can be applied unilaterally. The unfortunate thing here is that as people have more choice, marketers must get more intrusive in order to push their messaging out. I’m left thinking of a scene in Minority Report where the Tom Cruise character is walking along and all of the wall ads are narrow focusing audio at him with personalized sales pitches.

In the decade since blogs first formally appeared as a platform, people have been trying to figure out a way to make them more Push based instead of Pull. Why? Because as a Pull based technology your readership is limited to who you can draw into your site and this is where link aggregation services such as Digg, etc… come into play. Effectively people have been trying to find a way to make a things like blogs work in the way TV communications used to work.

A site like Digg or Technorati are Pull services, but they have such high volume and high visibility that they can effectively becomes a Push agent for everyone else down stream because they have critical mass audience based on being an aggregate.

I suppose in the rare cases, there have been blogs that have attained that same space but in all of the cases I am aware of the blogs are working as an aggregate site. Examples would be Slashdot mentioned above as well as sites like BoingBoing or in the most extreme FARK.

So, I guess the lesson learned here is if you want to get the word about about your product, you either need to advertise everywhere you can (print, TV, web, etc…), go door-to-door like the old days (or site to site posting comments — don’t spam!) or get your site/product referenced on one of these aggrigator sites (you better have something unique going on to get their attention). Hmm… that’s all that comes to mind at the moment. Does anyone else have ideas on this subject?

July 14, 2010

The industy is dead! Long live the industry! (Won’t someone think of the children!?!)

Since I touched on the subject of media transition touched on briefly in my post about going mobile friendly, I think this is a good chance to highlight some historical hysteria regarding entrenched business models collapsing to be replaced by new ones.

Let’s specifically look at the history of music distribution over the last 100 years.

Going into the 1900’s piano rolls and sheet music were the predominant methods of music distribution. Granted there were also broadsides, but those were considered a medium for the working class and were typically lyric sheets with no music score, commonly notated with statements like ” sung to the tune of -fill in the blank- “.

Even in a time where the average worker earned around $600 a year, 25-60 cents for a copy of sheet music was a premium purchase for many. That said, sheet music was big business and when the phonograph came around, sheet music publishers saw the new medium as a threat and fought tooth and nail to kill the medium. “Oh! We can’t let this happen”, “This will destroy the traditional family gathering in song”, “nobody will learn to play music”, “someone think of the children”, etc…

But, the reality on the ground was that pianos are expensive both to purchase and maintain. On the other hand, phonographs are cheaper to produce, cheaper to maintain, easier to operate and you didn’t have to be able to play music to enjoy them. In the end music producers actually sold more copies of music because they now had a larger audience and the companies that adopted to the new business model profited greatly.

Most sheet music publishers failed to adopt the medium hardly failed to die. Granted some of the fears were well founded, the days of the families gathering around a piano to sing together for leisure were lost (if they truly were all that common to begin with). But sheet music is still produced and sold in most music stores. Granted these days it’s mostly piano and guitar based, but, those are the popular instruments for people learning to play music so it only makes sense.

Let’s roll ahead to the next big jump to radio. When radio hit the scene phonograph publishers went crazy. “Oh! We can’t let this happen”, “People will quit buying music when then can get it for free over the radio”, “This will make it impossible for musicians (sic, publishers) to get paid for their work”, etc…

On the contrary to most concerns, radio actually increased sales for two reasons. People were exposed to a larger variety of music and they like the convenience of listing to a song on-demand so naturally they went out to buy their favorite songs in order to have them available to listen to. Publishers that added value to their product saw even better profits (e.g., B-Sides) among core fans.

Then over then next 60 years not much changed aside from improvements in recording and distribution. Granted there were fights over the introduction of cassette tapes and fears that people would just copy music instead of buying it. The same thing happened with CD based music. But don’t forget it’s always been a steady lowering of the bar of the cost of entry into the world of listening to music contrasted against the publishers desires to maximize profits from that same music. Also, people on the whole will more often than not pay for something when they feel it is being sold at a value they perceive as fair. Don’t believe me? Ask Trent Reznor (of the band Nine Inch Nail) or for another example in a different entertainment industry, ask the video game publisher Stardock. Both have spoken out at length about the success of this business model to their sales.

Since the who knows how long the common perception (supported by much anecdotal evidence and statements from artists) is that artists get paid little if nothing for their work when they publish music through a publisher and that publishers takes all of the profit from sales. The big money for the artists more often than not is in concerts and live performances and endorsements. A popular song will generate larger ticket sales and everyone wins (hopefully). This situation set the scale for next big crisis for publishers. The Internet combined with the modern computer.

In the mid-to-late 90’s the barrier of cost related to copying and sharing music finally broke down and anyone with a computer and internet connection suddenly found a plethora of methods to acquire music to listen for free (sometimes pirated, sometimes not) that weren’t available before. And the net result? Sales increased! What’s that? That doesn’t make any sense. The music publishers told us that people stealing music was loosing them money. Wrong. People downloading music was gaining them customers. The money they were supposedly loosing was based on estimates of “if every single downloaded song on the Internet had instead been purchased we would have profited this much”.

… publishers used the same logic with radio by the way.

The reality was that people who used to be pigeonholed to a particular music style suddenly had a inexpensive way to explore new music that they might not have been willing to pay for (on the risk that they might not like it). When they discovered a new artists or new genre they enjoyed, they then frequently went down to the record store to find more of that music to purchase. You had punk rockers buy classical music and country lovers buying speed metal.

But the industry could only focus on the “lost sales” not factoring in that these weren’t really lost sales. Anecdotal evidence from the time indicates that were more like samples. To compare, yes, we know there is always going to be the guy who lives off samples at the grocery store for dinner, but most people actually buy their food and the samples are good because they primarily encourage regular customers to try things they never tried before. The guy living off of them is a cost of business.

I always said at the time that music companies should have jumped on this immediately and put their entire catalogs online at 56kbps bit-rate (radio quality), with an easy click to purchase the higher quality version priced as a convenience item. They would have made a killing, but instead they decided to fight their customers (and still do). Effectively deciding to sue anyone who eats a square of cheese at the deli counter without buying the whole wedge.

When asked years later why they pursued this course of action, one executive answered that they were so scared of the changes happening and knew that they didn’t have a clue about what was going on that they feared everyone was out to rob them and that even the consultants couldn’t be trusted. So they fell back on the only tool they could trust, their lawyers.

Sadly this fight is still playing out even to this day but in the last year some significant changes have happened that probably mark the end for some of the large publishers in this space. The barrier of entry for recording equipment has vanished and a lot of bands, frustrated with publishers and finding greater profitability by simply going solo on the Internet is increasing. When you strip away all of the fluff YouTube is now the largest publisher of music on the Internet at this time. So large that other publishers now effectively turn their content over to them just to get exposure for their artists.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Business is always evolving and those that learn and adopt quickly are well positioned to profit from their observation skills. Others are destined to dig in their heels and ultimately become a footnote to history.

….some references that helped in the creation of this article are listed below.

  • Media-Morphosis: How the Internet Will Devour, Transform, or Destroy Your Favorite Medium: http://www.internetevolution.com/document.asp?doc_id=171555&
  • http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc1/WagesandWorkingConditions.html
  • http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/cm20030124ar03p1.htm
  • Perspective: Radio/photograph was going to destroy print: http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/papers/murphy.html
  • Sheetmusic and broadsides…: http://popmusic.mtsu.edu/dbtw-wpd/textbase/broad/broadside_ex.htm and http://www.phonobooks.com/BirthRec.htm
  • http://cultureandcommunication.org/deadmedia/index.php/The_Victrola
  • Radio was going to destroy the records: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_radio#Legal_issues_with_radio (although the Internet distributed music has revolutionized the way records are sold, it still hasn’t destroyed them)

April 30, 2009

To SEO or not to SEO, that is the question.

Filed under: General,Internet Rant,Perspective — Tags: , , , , , — Bryan @ 1:12 am

Most people at some point in their lives will hear the advice “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” or maybe “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. This is generally sound advice, and if nothing else it is good counsel to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of a confidence scam.

This leads me to today’s discussion about SEO companies. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and defines a company as one that will help your business improve how visible your website is in search results on sites like Google, Yahoo, Live Search or any of a dozen Internet search sites online. If you want the best search results for your site, you must optimize it for the search engines.

You don’t know what to do? Who can help?

There are two classifications of SEO companies. The first and best to work with are companies that will audit your website and give you valuable feedback on how to change your HTML page structure. How to present your web content on your site. How to added meta-data to your web pages that helps clue in the search engines as to what can be found on any given page. They will help you understand about all of the extra non-web page files that you can create for your web site that co-operates with the search engines to help them locate your content and best determine how to list it. They may even give you advice on ways to completely rethink exactly what content you should put on your site in order to achieve your online goals. In short an honest SEO company will be there to educate and inform you so that you can make the best decisions on how to engage the online aspect of your business and achieve a sustained level of visibility.

Additionally, they may counsel you on ways to build relationships with other sites to establish cross linking opportunities and how to go about presenting your site to the public in a clean and professional manner that helps you towards getting the traffic you want.

Some of these companies will even help you with this work for an added fee and provide full transparency with their operations, working with you much like a P.R. firm or Ad agency in helping maximize your URL and brand exposure. In fact some of them may work in tandem with your P.R. and/or Ad agency to potentially help take your brand to the next level of visibility. It’s going to be hard work and you better have good, strong content on your site. Why? Because, while you can spend a billion dollars and get a billion people to visit your site, if there isn’t anything there, they are not coming back and they are certainly not going to tell their friends about you (unless it’s to make fun of you).

Now, on the other hand, I suppose if all you want is a billion people coming to your web page and nothing more, then you can always engage with the other kind of SEO company… and unfortunately these guys are the predominant type in the industry.

This second group is the one that tells you “for X amount of dollars I can get you top ranking in Google in 30-days”. All you have to do is just kick back and watch the hit counter on your site climb. This frequently reminds me of the old “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” deal that may work, but by using it you are risking some seriously major health issues and in some rare cases… death.

That got your attention right? You’re sitting there thinking, “OK, now he’s done it, that’s over the top nobody ever died from using an SEO firm.” No… not literally. But many companies have paid a harsh penalty to their brand for some short term traffic gain. Take for instance BMW Germany’s and Ricoh’s brush with Google a couple of years ago.

So just what are these “unscrupulous cads” up to that’s so bad? Well, at their most fundamental level they are assisting your company to behave in a manor contrary to anything you or your peers might have done as a part of normal day to day business. For instance on the more bland but annoying side some of these SEO companies retain ownership of 1,000 or even 100,000 domains that literally contain nothing more than some web pages that point links to their clients in order to try and trick search engines into thinking that your site must be pretty darn popular to have 100,000 other sites linked to it.

At the other end of the spectrum, a tactic currently in use by some of these companies is to pay substandard wages to workers in third world countries to do nothing more than log into every single blog they can find on the Internet and post a comment that contains a link back to your site (be it in the comment directly or the homepage URL provided on the user profile). You’ll almost certainly have seen this on your own blog as a spam comment at some point.

In the BMW example above they were using an old trick of padding out lots of unrelated keywords in the metadata of dozens of web pages on their sites to trick search engines into thinking there was text on the pages that not only didn’t really exist but also redirected you to some other page when you actually got to their site. Effectively, this was gaming the results on words like “used cars” (in BMW’s case) so that BMW always came up on the first page of search results.

There are even companies that do this for other media types as well, such as video. In this case a company might take a video from your site and literally, litter it on every other video portal they can find and upload multiple copies of the video to each of those sites while doing nothing more than changing the length of the video, changing the title or description and having all of these bajillion copies of your video all have a reference link posted someplace that comes back to your web site. This may create the false impression that lots of video sites are linking back to your video site naturally and thus by link volume, artificially inflating the search visibility of your video content. Not only is this behavior discouraged by search engines, it is frequently a Terms of Service violation with sites like YouTube, et all. And, if caught, at best the offending up-loader’s account will get banned (that would likely be one of the dozens of accounts the SEO company has created on their service for doing this). At worst, the video site publicly denounces your use of an SEO firm to spam their portal.

Now that you have some examples of how this works what are the real risks?

Well, the first and foremost risk is for your company’s brand image. In the case referenced much earlier, both companies received a public black eye over their behavior and Google blacklisted BMW’s and Ricoh’s sites from the search index until their sites had been modified to stop their questionable behavior. Alternatively if the SEO companies botch their work badly enough you may be in for ridicule by the public at large or worse your customers. I suppose if you don’t mind the risk of your site getting delisted and having everyone get a laugh at your brands expense (the old “any press is good press” adage right?) then maybe this is just what the doctor ordered.

But don’t kid yourself. At best this second type of SEO operation is deceptive behavior and in the circles I run in, companies that perform this kind of work are considered unethical at best. Period.

Finally, back to the opening title for this post “To SEO or not to SEO, that is the question.” The answer is yes, search engine optimize your site, but mind who’s helping you do the work.