Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Happy new decade!

Of course, for the pedants, the new decade actually starts on January 1st 2011 but, as with the millennium, I guess we may as well take the opportunity to celebrate twice.

What a decade we’ve had, eh?

Financially, the first one of the 21st century has been very much a rollercoaster  ride for the world and many of the people within it. The 21st century didn’t start overly well and the last decade finished on the worst downer for many a year. The last time it was so serious was way back in the 1930s and that took the 2nd world war to pull the world out in the end. This time, supposedly, we know better and have had loads of time to develop economic theories which’ll pull us out. Sounds good, but the minor fly in that ointment is that we went into this depression with those theories in place and they obviously didn’t work too well, did they?

Technologically the 21st century has been a major disappointment. Not only do we not have the promised flying cars predicted (well, not yet) but we’ve lost supersonic commercial travel, almost lost the hovercraft, lost the amphibious cars that we had in the 1960s and still don’t have a moon base. On the plus side we do have a space station, the beginnings of commercial space travel and the Mars mission is back in the frame. Electonics-wise the computers are lots faster, the storage lots bigger and we think nothing of “image processing” these days because even the cheapest digital camera does much more of it than the NASA computers ever did for the moon shots. From the science fiction world we can buy the Star Trek communicators for virtually nothing and the PAD (ebook reader) sales are finally taking off. Yet to come are things like warp drive (several theories postulate potential ways of doing it but it’s on the distant horizon) and the transporter (one that seems to have all kinds of theoretical and ethical problems at present).

Socially, we have all the tools in place from 1984 and have only the totalitarian state remaining to complete the picture. That’s perhaps the most worrying development in many ways as the technology making the 1984 scenario possible seems much more effective than the version sketched out in the novel would ever have been. On more positive fronts, the derogatory “self-publishing” of yesteryear is now everywhere and so widespread that we don’t even have a collective term for it these days.

So what’s likely to come up during the coming decade? All being well financially things will get back on an even keel though somehow I suspect that it’s likely to be past the mid-point of the decade before we can truly say we’re getting through to the promised land. We still won’t have a base on Mars but at least we should be seeing the first stages of serious design for the mission well before 2019. Computers will, as always, be a whole lot faster and the storage will fill up just as quickly. Somehow I can’t see us going for the 300 megapixel cameras that would be doable by 2019 but I imagine that 3D ones will be the order of the day by then. Books may well have bitten the dust by then as the ebook readers should be in full colour and probably 3D capable by 2019 with a price close to that of a single hard back book. Time travel seems to be gaining a growing interest so perhaps we’ll even see the earliest developments on that front during the decade which is the one thing I reckon would spur on the first contact with aliens (sorry guys, but warp capable civilisations would present virtually no danger compared to those that could travel in time).

What about moi? Well, James will have gone through primary school and be close to starting university by 2019 which is a whole heap of changes to think about. Assuming that I continue on my present rambling journey through the OU I will have clocked up at least one more degree and perhaps getting around to settling down to do a doctorate by then. Dear knows where we’ll be living by then. I’d be betting that it won’t be France but aside from that who knows? Work-wise, it’s hard to believe but I should be within spitting distance of retirement by that point.

So Happy New Decade! Here’s hoping that the new one will at least finish much better than the last one did.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The McDonalds approach to blogging

Thanks to the free wifi service offered in McDonalds it seems to be attracting an increasing number of itinerant bloggers.

Almost every time we’ve been in lately (and, yes, we’re one of that band of McD bloggers whilst we wait for our ADSL connection) we’ve seen someone whipping out the laptop in a relatively quiet part of the restaurant. Thus far, our record is four separate surfers but I’m sure that’s a record that’ll soon be broken.

It’s not really surprising that they’re attracting these folk: after all that word “free” is quite a pull. What is more surprising though is that the majority of these people are lugging around full size laptops rather than running with the likes of my trusty Aspire One. After all, at under £200 for quite a usable machine it’s not out of the question to buy one pretty much just for the holidays and these days you can even get them “free” with some broadband packages.

Is it a worthwhile marketing strategy for McD though? Well, in that the restaurants obviously need a connection of some sort for their credit card machines it’s largely a no-cost service for them so there’d appear to be no downside in offering it. Moreover, few of the itinerant surfers leave without buying something so it would appear to be all upside for McD at the moment. Whether that would continue to be the case were significant numbers of surfers to start using the stores is another matter. It certainly works fine if there are a handful of people using the service but if there were, say, 10 or more then a) the seats are going to be taken up and b) the service is going to slow down. Still, at the moment, it seems like a great idea.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Now that Nightjack’s blog identity has been sprung and bloggers are no longer anonymous anymore, perhaps it’s time to “out” the anonymous newspaper correspondents and sources too?

Thanks to the Times it seems that bloggers no longer have the priviledge of anonymity. To be fair in the case of Nightjack the police who he worked for were closing in on him and would probably have worked out who he was fairly soon even without the aid of the Times.

However, now that the Times have removed the anonymity for bloggers, perhaps it is time that the same cloak of anonymity was removed from newspapers too? After all why should the foreign correspondent who wished to remain anonymous be allowed to do so by the Asia Times (no relation to the London Times as far as I know)? Sure, chances are the Chinese would have thrown them out of the country or perhaps something a little less subtle, but after all if Justice Eady can “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity” how much more so does that apply in the case of newspapers? Can we take it as read that the practice of having anonymous columnists will be ended forthwith?

Now, I’ll grant that there were special circumstances in the case of Nightjack in that Richard’s blog was a little too real and appears to have compromised some cases that he talked about but that’s a separate issue. The key think is that Justice Eady’s comments are way too far reaching. Taken to their ultimate conclusion and you could easily see the end of criticism in totalitarian states which, thanks to blogging, was finally finding a voice of sorts where previously it had none. The situation of newspapers is no different: why should their sources be protected any differently? After all, they’re talking to a news outlet so why should they have any expectation of anonymity?

Why should newspapers be allowed the protection of anonymity when bloggers have lost it?

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Is your blog a Rolls or a Trabant?

Much as we might laugh at the Trabants that East Germany used to turn out as being unreliable and prone to break down, sadly that’s what many blogs seem to look like these days.

Oh, they don’t break down, but the quality of the workmanship that you see in some of the posts is really deplorable. What’s perhaps worse is that a lot of those low quality blogs are taking sponsored posts and if anything the quality of the posts that they get paid for is even worse than the norm for them.

Why do the advertisers put up with it? OK, they might just want the link from the blog but do they really want their product to be associated with shoddy workmanship? After all, the authors of these posts are numbered amongst their suppliers ultimately. Surely they can’t be so uncritical to accept what are often very shoddy posts indeed?

How bad are they? How about “you must visit this site. i think there products are really great. visit this site they have great products.”? I’ve paraphrased the real example so you can’t search for the actual blog entry that was based on (which was worse than that).

Good quality writing doesn’t mean that it can’t be about trashy subjects. Whilst many would call The Sun a trashy paper, every one of their articles is well written. Sure the writing style is laid back but it suits the content just as the relatively dense writing style of The Times suits it’s content and readership.

Just as there’s a range of writing styles in newspapers, so too one would expect there to be a range of writing styles in blogs. That doesn’t mean that the spelling, grammar and repetitiveness of my example is acceptable though because it isn’t and especially so since the advertiser paid $50 for it (quite why they approved payment is beyond me).

I’m not saying that you need perfection from day one but you should at least aim for that.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How DO you measure the effectiveness in attracting traffic of a change in your website?

The number of hits that myself and Wendy have been picking up on our main blogs has gone up quite dramatically over the last month or two and, ideally, we’d like to know why that is but, of course, the problem is that we’ve not just done one thing with the blogs over that time.

First off, we moved the blogs from a UK based host to one based in America. Since both blogs are targeted at a UK market (if one could call a 40/30 traffic split targeting) one would have expected that this would reduce the number of hits thanks to the geo-targeting that the search engines get up to. Having said that when I say we target the blogs what’s actually happening is that we’re writing in British English rather than American English and we’re writing about topics that arise in the UK rather than those that arise in the US. That said, the differences in British and American English are so small and so little used within the blogs (I’ve not used one word so far in this post that is in country-specific English) that I can’t see it affecting the search engine hits to any substantial degree. Also, many of the topics that we write about are international in scope which presumably explains the almost equal split between British and American readers. Thus, on balance, the change in ISP shouldn’t have made a difference.

Next, we changed how the titles come out on the blogs. Previously they would have been listed as, for example, “Foreign Perspectives » Blog Archive » Title of the post” whereas now they come out as “Title of the post | Foreign Perspectives”. Now on a really top ranking blog it might well be to the advantage of the blog to have the blog name coming first but Foreign Perspectives isn’t, yet, in the top ranks of the blogging world so perhaps it’s best to have the post title coming first? I suspect that’s contributed to the rise but I don’t know how great the contribution has been.

Then we thought we’d have a go at promoting the blogs on social networking sites. You might think that this would have a very large and noticeable effect but whilst it is noticeable in the stats it’s not, usually, that large. Some posts do pick up a bit of a following in Twitter but most don’t. I suspect that I could work on this is a promising area to develop but I’ve not done so as yet. The other social networking sites rarely pick up on the posts or at least people reading it elsewhere aren’t clicking on the link to the post. So chalk up some rise to this one.

Finally, we compared note as regards topics we were writing about. In my case I’ve written a little more stuff in the entertainment category and that’s certainly had a bit of an impact on hits but, again, not an overly substantial one.

So overall, there are a couple of things that would seem to be contributing to a rise in readership but none that seem to be sufficient to produce the doubling of hits that we’ve noticed over recent months.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.