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25 posts from November 2007

Jeff Pulver on what he is seeking in a PR firm...

Over on his blog, Jeff Pulver wrote a great post: 'Today's unsolicited email: "Still looking for a PR firm/publicist?"' that is worth reading if you are in the PR field. I have to agree with Jeff's various rules:

  • Rule #1 whenever pitching someone – do your homework!
  • Rule #2 when pitching Jeff – define the deliverables and be modest for what you take credit for.
  • Rule #3 – Jeff will hold you accountable for promises made want to be treated as a person and want to know his account matters.
  • Rule #4 – The account manager should show interest in the work being promoted.
  • Rule #5 – Talk straight and don’t take credit for work that you didn’t do.

Especially his Rule #1. It continually amazes me the high degree of "spam" that I get from PR firms who obviously haven't taken 10 seconds to look through my site to see what I cover. I've just wound up on some email distribution list and so as a result I get spammed.

Sadly, I have no way to know how many good PR people out there did take a look at my sites, determined that I was not appropriate and therefore didn't pitch me. All I typically see are the many spam pitches and every now and then someone who actually does it right. I have one in particular that I'm planning to highlight here at some point because she did the pitch so well!

Anyway, Jeff's post is worth a read. What do you look for in a PR firm?

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The curious case of the lowercase "g"... and my, how resources available to parents have changed...

200711270803A conversation at 5:30am this morning:

"Daddy, what is this letter?" (holding up a puzzle piece with a letter on it)
"It's a letter 'g'".
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is. It's just a lowercase letter. A small one."
"But where is the squiggle at the bottom?"

It turns out that she was talking about the loop at the bottom of the lowercase letter "g" that appeared in one of the books she has been learning words from. Looking up the letter G in Wikipedia did in fact bring up this interesting (to me) little bit of typography. If you look through the various letters, the lowercase "g" is really the only case I know of where we have common usage of a very different letter from a typographic point-of-view. (Well, another case might be the uppercase W.) Many if not most letters have common variations with and without a serif (the line on the top or bottom of a "stem" or main "stroke" of the letter, for those not accustomed to typographic terms). But I can't really think of another letter that varies as much as the lowercase 'g'. A quick survey of some of my daughter's books shows that the g does have a "squiggle" or loop at the bottom of it in some common fonts.

From the Wikipedia article:

The modern minuscule (lower-case) G has two basic shapes: the "opentail G" and the "looptail G" . The opentail version derives from the majuscule (capital) form by raising the serif that distinguishes it from a C to the top of the loop, thereby closing the loop, and extending the vertical stroke downward and to the left. The looptail form developed similarly, except that some ornate forms then extended the tail back to the right, and to the left again, forming a loop. The initial extension to the left was absorbed into the upper loop. The looptail version became popular when printing switched to "Roman type" because the tail was effectively shorter, making it possible to put more lines on a page. In the looptail version, there is a tiny flick at the upper right which in typography is called its "ear".

As I looked through our daughter's books and also looked online, it seems that all the more recent books seem to use the "opentail G" without the loop/squiggle. The particular book where she pointed this out was an older Richard Scarry book ("Best Little Word Book Ever") and the same font seems to be used throughout the "Golden Books" series of "classic" children's books. It was also present, though, in other books.

On one level, it was an interesting discussion to have with my daughter (although we could have had it a bit later in the day, really) and an interesting pointer to me to notice the typography in books she is looking at... because she will notice it.

It was also interesting to think about how resources available to parents have changed as well. When confronted with the inevitable "I don't know why it's different", I simply jumped online, went to a site (Wikipedia, in this case) and looked up the info. Fascinating world we live... and that's the world my daughter and her peers will be growing up in!

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PodCamp Ottawa this coming Sunday...

200711211423For those of you in Ottawa, this Sunday will bring you PodCamp Ottawa from 10-4 at the wonderful National Arts Centre. I'm not all that sure how good the "no chairs" thing will go down (if I were still up there, methinks I'd be bringing a lawn chair!), but there seem to be some good people already lining up to go. Hope you all have fun! (Me, I'll still be recovering from turkey...)

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Firefox 3 Beta 1 now available for download...

200711200905The folks over at Mozilla have now released the first beta of Firefox 3. More information can be found here:

It is of course posted with the warning that this is for development and testing purposes, i.e. don't install it on a machine where using Firefox is critical. Some reviews are already appearing: ZDNet and CNet. I'm sure there will be more articles about it in the blogosphere as the days go on.

Being a chaser of bright shiny objects, I've naturally downloaded it and will be giving it a try myself. I'll post here my opinions as I start using it in daily work. What about you? Are you going to try it out? (Or wait for another beta or release?)

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Choosing WordPress Mu for a blogging portal...

200711191441As I've been discussing, I'm in the midst of evaluating various pieces of software for Voxeo's blog portal. When I last wrote, I was debating between WordPress MU and Lyceum... I've now made the decision to move ahead with WordPress MU into the next stage of pilot testing. Why? Really one word...


As noted in the announcement of Wordpress 2.3, there is now native support for tags in addition to categories. It happens that I very much like the use of tags on a whole number of levels. Lyceum looks to be an excellent multi-user blogging platform, but its current release is based on the older WordPress 2.0.11. WordPress MU, on the other hand, is based on the current WordPress 2.3.1 release. (I'll note that somewhere in the site I saw that the Lyceum folks are working on a Lyceum 1.1 release that will be based on WordPress 2.3.1, but I need to move ahead now with the blogging project.)

That's the latest... stay tuned for more as I plunge into all the customization and configuration.

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"Spinning Spammers Steal Our Blog Content" - Lorelle on WordPress describes a new type of content theft

If you blog and care about the theft of your content, you should really read this post from the "Lorelle on WordPress" blog: "Spinning Spammers Steal Our Blog Content".

Like most bloggers, my text has been lifted/scraped/stolen... whatever terms you want to use. In a couple of particularly egregious cases, I did actually make the effort to contact the thief and in one case got it taken down. (A marketing company that seemed to be setting up bogus blogs for SEO purposes and populating them with content from various RSS feeds. The CEO was a bit surprised/embarrassed when I called her up on the phone and basically said "Why are you stealing my content?") But I don't have the time to do that with any regularity. I could probably spend all day doing that and have about as much effectiveness as banging my head against a wall. I'd rather write new content and do all those other things that I need to do each day.

So I was a bit saddened to read of this newest development in the constant war between the spammers/sploggers/thieves and the content producers. Now we have people who will take the content of our RSS feeds, mash it up/remix it with synonyms, and put it out in a probably unreadable form... for SEO or whatever purpose they may be paid for.

I do wonder if these people can honestly look at themselves in the mirror in the morning... but yes, they probably can... as far as they are concerned they are finding new and innovative ways to service their clients. There's just this minor little matter that they are stealing our content to do so....

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Blog Portals - looking at WordPress MU and Lyceum...

As I've mentioned in previous posts, one of my tasks in my new role with Voxeo is to create a "" blog portal for the blogs the company will create. Given my interest in open source, I've been investigating options there for a "corporate blog portal". Why open source? Primarily because I'm a huge control-freak and I want to be able to control all aspects of the portal, even if it means diving deep into source code. So my first inclination is to investigate open source options and then if I can't find something there that meets my requirements, I'll move on to commercial software.

On first-glance, though, it would appear that there are two viable open source options out there:

Both options look good. Both let you use the zillion WordPress plugins out there. Both provide front-end portals. Both can be customized to the nth degree. Stay tuned for more analysis... and if any of you reading this have used either of them, I'd appreciate any insight you can offer.

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Twitter is Terrific for Thieves - The Dark Side of Status Updates

Consider these posts from a fictional Twitterer:

Man, this 60-inch plasma display looks totally awesome on our living room wall!
@<user>, what's even better is the incredible sound coming through our Bose home theater system - it so totally rocks!

And some time later, this partial exchange:

@<user2> - take <highway> to <city>. Get off at exit 9 for Main Street.
@<user2> - coming down Main St take the 2nd left onto North St. 3rd house on right. Blue with yellow shutters. Can't miss it.

And some more time later, this on a Friday:

Goodbye fellow twitterers! We are all going away to <city far away> for the long weekend. See you on Tuesday!

Could it get any better for a thief?

They have been given a juicy target... they have been given precise location (which often is also included in the user's profile- or enough is there that a thief could use other public information such as phone directories to get an address)... and they have been given a window of opportunity in which they know no one will be home. What more do they need? Well, maybe a tweet like this:

Darn. Alarm system is offline and company says they can't repair it until next week.

And I've seen people tweet things along those lines - and I've had to wonder what people are thinking.

Or perhaps they aren't really "thinking"... caught up in the fun that Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and Facebook status updates can provide, it's easy to just post whatever random thoughts come into your brain. Without thinking of whether or not there are ramifications for the safety of themselves or their property.

Now the same can be said for blogging. I've certainly seen people blog all sorts of details about their activities that, in my opinion, they probably shouldn't. But "status updates" are so immediate... more like IM messages, except for this wee minor detail that they are potentially searchable via Google and easy to find publicly (depending upon the service).

How great is this for thieves? If I'm a smart thief all I need to do is do some searching for Twitterers (or users of another service) in a given area, aggregate their RSS feeds and just keep watching and reading for a while. Sooner or later I'll be able to identify some targets and then I really just need to wait for some window of opportunity to appear. If I'm a smarter thief I probably aggregate blog feeds and other information as well.

Of course, the reality is that if a thief is this smart, he or she is probably involved in much more potentially lucrative endeavors such as identity theft, phishing or other online criminal activities. Still, there is some potential for thieves and others to read your status updates and gain information that can help them know when they can target you or your property and what value might be there. I suppose I can summarize it as the pithy:

Think before you tweet!

Seriously, though, there are undoubtedly some "Status Safety Tips" or "Tips for Safe Twittering" that we can come up with. I'll offer some suggestions here:

  • Do you really want the world to see all your updates? Twitter allows you to make it so that updates are only seen to those following you and that you have to request to receive updates. If I recall correctly, the default in Pownce is that a new post is only visible to your friends. Facebook keeps all of the status updates inside of its walled garden... unless, of course, you've done what I've done and put your Facebook status on your web page and/or had it go out to Twitter. You have the choice. Now the downside of keeping your updates private is that you lose out on the all the potential Googlejuice and other SEO/SEM goodness that comes with having your updates out there. You lose out on people finding you. On the other hand, it's probably a whole lot safer.

    It's a choice you have to make. My choice has been, for now anyway, to be very public with it all. I'm very deliberately using all these media as part of my own experimentation in online PR, personal branding, marketing, etc. But I've gone into it with my eyes wide open realizing that you need to be careful.

  • Do you really want to post that your home is empty? I often use my twitter feed as an ongoing travelogue when I'm traveling to conferences, but readers may or may not have noticed that I typically don't post about travel when I'm NOT on business travel. I may post AFTER a trip "Just had a wonderful weekend in New Hampshire!, but I tend not to post about it before leaving. I do worry to a degree about my posts about travel in that it clearly states when I am not at home but my family is. However, I've made the personal decision that the benefit I gain through that communication about my travel far outweighs whatever small risk there might be to my family. Still, it is something to think about.

  • Do you really want to post about that big expensive new toy you got? Sure, don't we all? That's half the fun of status updates. Posting about what we are passionate about and the cool things that intersect with our lives. Some of those may be expensive toys and we know that our geeky friends will love to hear about it. I do it. But the warning is to remember that if you are running with public status updates anyone can see them, including those who might not be friendly.

What other suggestions would you have?

At the end of the day, security is balancing act. Odds are that there probably isn't (yet) a ring of thieves in your neighborhood sitting there monitoring Twitter/Jaiku/Pownce, etc. Odds are that you can post about whatever you want very publicly and there will be no issue. The benefit you gain from engaging with your community... for developing those relationships... may far outweigh any safety risks.

But I do think it is something we need to think about. The amount of information we choose to share publicly is our choice. With every post, we make that choice whether we realize that we are doing so or not. I choose to be very public, but also do think about what I post. I know others who are more private with their information. It's a choice.

What is your choice?

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Privacy and Social Networks... a great video from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Thanks to a tweet from Donna Papacosta, I learned of this great video from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada called "Privacy and Social Networks":

The terms of service the speaker references is the hideous ToS of Facebook, which I discussed previously and continues to make me concerned about what information I upload into Facebook.

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Yea! Microsoft's Windows Live Writer is now out of beta! Get the new version now...

Longtime readers will know that I have been a huge fan of Microsoft's Windows Live Writer offline blogging editor (see what I've written about it). In fact, I have to say that WLW is the ONLY application that I severely miss now that I've moved to MacOS X (sorry, neither ecto nor marsedit yet measure up to WLW for me) and I'm actually considering running Parallels just to be able to use it. To me, it is that good.

So I was delighted for all the Windows bloggers out there to see the tweet from Neville pointing to the Microsoft blog entry indicating that "Windows Live Writer 2008" is now available. You can download it now.

If you have never used an offline blog editor and you are on Windows, do check it out. I've been using offline blog editors for most of the seven years I've been blogging and once you start... you'll never want to go back.

To all you Windows users, enjoy! Me? I'm thinking of firing up Parallels to give the new release a try...

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