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How @PopSci Was #PWNED By @YouTube

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pop_tubeIt’s rather surreal to me that I’ve been blogging since 2005. While I’m not a “daily” blogger per se anymore, I continue to craft on the blogging platform and still regard it as the cornerstone of all things Social Media.

One of the aspects that make the platform is the comments section below every post. This generally open offer for engagement between blogger and reader is something that I think is vital to the very nature of blogging. If it weren’t for the comments section, the possibility for the level of engagement would be far below any other online platform. Comments, and the ability to do so, is what makes the experience uniquely “new” media oriented with a two way engagement as opposed to the single one way pontification stream of the “old” media. I have always been pro-comments because otherwise, well, you might as well just go back to the days of GeoCities with your animated GIFs, horrendous backgrounds, and pontification.

Yesterday PopularScience.com shut off comments on their articles. Part of their reasoning is as follows:

Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at PopularScience.com, we’re shutting them off.

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.

Also yesterday Gizmodo reported that the end is nigh for the bottomless pit of homophobic, racist, and ignorance that resides in YouTube comments. Here’s how they’re going to do it:

The new system will use algorithms to determine the people you most likely want to see up top. That includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).

So… basically Popular Science got owned by YouTube using comment algorithms to promote intelligent conversation. Does anyone see the irony of that?

I understand that comment moderation is not the easiest thing in the world. It could easily become someone’s full time job for a large enough site. I think that comments, and the ability to leave them, is something we owe to readers who consume our content. Whether they choose to take advantage of the opportunity or not is ultimately up to them.

My Alternative To Google Reader

Google Reader Closed

When the news was announced that Google was going to sunset their Reader service on July 1 the cries went up from the RSS subscribing masses. Losing this long time service was a blow to both content consumers and content producers.

Feedly App MenuBecause I am someone who depends on using a Feedreader, an alternative needed to be found. Although I tried a few of the recommended replacements, Newsblur and Netvibes, they just didn’t seem intuitive to either my work flow or my consumption needs. The service that I ultimately have decided upon is Feedly.

I like Feedly for a couple of reasons. First, it was able to import all my RSS subscriptions. This is a good thing because it has taken me years to find them. The bad thing was it imported ALL of my RSS subscriptions, even those who haven’t updated or existed for a few years. Cleanup in Feedly was really easy and went much faster than I would have been able to do it in Reader, so that was a plus. Overall, it was an A+ import experience.

Article ListThe next thing I really like about Feedly is the way it displays the articles, specifically under the Today tab. While all of my Reader folders were converted to tabs, the Today tab shows what has chronologically been published, as the name implies, Today. As my life has progressed on, I honestly no longer look at the RSS Feeds on a daily basis. It has become more of a weekday activity, while I prefer to spend weekends on content creation instead of consumption. All those weekend posts I’ll get to, but I can automatically be up to date with the happenings of then on Mondays just by looking at Today.

Feedly ArticleAnother important aspect is that I love the way the content appears in Feedly. The way content looks is an important aspect for me, both as a creator and a consumer. Because I use images frequently I was happy to see the way images were displayed with the accompanying content, at least on the RSS Feeds I subscribe to. Because CSS plays such a big roll in how content displays, and RSS Feeds strip all that out, it may not be that way for every feed.

Finally, Feedly has both a web based environment and native apps for both iOS and Android. I like having the native app option as opposed to being stuck in a browser and I love the mobile experience just as much, if not more, than the browser environment.

So don’t leave you’re RSS Feeds out in the cold when Reader sunsets and go sign up for Feedly today!

Two Words I Hate: Site Down

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Last night, after wrapping up a long day at work, I was greeted by 4 e-mails that in some context included the two words I hate the most:


Site Down

The site they were referring to was the EMS Blogs network. Not to get into too many finite details, but one of the posts on the network yesterday proved quite popular. While the blog itself is cache protected from traffic surges, the third party commenting system was not.

This caused an unexpected burden on the server, which then automatically shut the network down for 73 minutes while the plugin was disabled and the server reset. Our traffic loss was probably around 400 visitors during that time, which is a significant amount for any blogger or network. Of course, there’s the big picture to look at. Being down for 73 minutes of the month is actually 0.2% of the time which is actually really really good.

Even that doesn’t change the fact that I hate those two words. I hate them because I know, especially when it comes to the network, that other people’s expression is dependent on my ability to resolve that problem. Then again… that does make them just like a patient.

On Blog Networks: Pros And Cons

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Recently I’ve been involved in a few different discussions about Blog Networks, and both their benefits and the disadvantages. To be honest, I find it a little surprising that people are doing things now that are so… 2006… but whateva. In the interest of full disclosure I have been offered spots in quite a few Blog Networks on different topics, but I have only participated for a very short time on only one. That participation was over 3 years ago, but even with the amount of time that has passed it seems that there has not been much change to how they are run.

What Is A Blog Network?

A Blog Network is really a group of blogs that cover a variety of topics under one banner. A great example of a Blog Network (and where Blog Networks need to go) is B5Media. Another example of a Blog Network from a technical perspective, although they probably wouldn’t consider themselves one, is CNN who puts many blog voices under one banner.

Traditionally a Blog Network provides the technical support needed to create a blog, and the blogger provides the content that populates it. With the increasing popularity and stability of WordPress MU, Blog Networks have become another option for the average publisher to expand their presence on the internet with basic technological knowledge.

The Pros Of A Blog Network

  • Potentially increased visibility – By joining with other bloggers, there is the potential for you to increase your visibility. Compelling content is what draws readers in. Someone else’s compelling content of today can bring readers to your own compelling content of yesterday and tomorrow, bringing you extra exposure and new readers
  • Not bearing the sole burden of content – By not bearing the sole burden of content, a huge weight is lifted from your shoulders to stay fresh and relevant. The lessened demand leaves more time for family, friends, and of course Mafia Wars
  • The possibility of earning revenue without the hassle – This always seems to be the biggest pro that bloggers sign up for. Earning money is not as easy as throwing an AdSense block in your sidebar. Today it requires time and effort for effective sales in advertising. With the Blog Network handling the sale of ads on your blog and sharing the revenue with you

The Cons Of A Blog Network

  • Potential loss of visibility – If you haven’t already established a blog, this probably won’t matter for you since being at zero visibility means there’s only one way for you to go and that is up. Established bloggers need to realize that by jumping off their own blogs they are essentially starting all over again. Sure you’ll be able to announce to your readers that you’re moving, but the links that you have built up over time that the search engines use are going dead. They don’t automatically follow you to your new endeavor under a new domain. Some bloggers make a bigger mistake by bringing their domain with them, which will result in those backlinks going to an Error 404 page on the network or worse… to irrelevant content
  • The burden of higher quality content is higher – Sure you are part of a network, but what will make you stand out? Obviously you’ll need higher quality content than the next blogger in order to continue being the authority as you have been in the past
  • The Loss of Copyright – This is the absolute biggest reason to stay completely clear of a Blog Network. You write it and they publish it with their Copyright notice in the footer. This is less of an issue if you are a blogger who is getting paid for both a) content and b) performance. What I mean by that is you are getting paid a set amount per word/post and ontop of that getting performance or “traffic” bonuses. The working MO of Blog Networks is to offer you an ad revenue share based on the number of unique visitors or pageviews that you get. Some Blog Networks will even set a “minimum” performance level (which is usually some ridiculously high number) before they will include you into the ad share. Think about it… if they sell two ad spaces on your blog and collect the revenue but you don’t make their minimum “performance” level they are keeping your percentage… and the rights to the content you created
  • The Loss of Being Able to Determine Your Own Advertising – There is a reason that the FTC has made changes regarding blog advertising. An advertiser appearing in your sidebar isn’t just an acknowledgment of payment, but it can be inferred as an endorsement. So for arguments sake let’s say you have a bad service experience at oh… I don’t know… a motorcycle repair shop. You blog your disgust and how unfairly you and your bike Betsy were treated. You move on to other things, and then one day an ad appears in your sidebar for that very same motorcycle repair shop. Like contextual advertising, you have lost your ability to control who is cashing in on your reputation

What Every Blogger Should Know Before Signing Onto A Blog Network

  • READ THE FINE PRINT – As with everything you do, be sure to READ THE FINE PRINT, especially with Blog Networks where revenue is dependent on performance. The devil is always in the details…
  • Think About The Long Term Effects – I am a big believer in the revenue possibilities along the long tail. Make sure something you create today for them and not being compensated for is something you can use later on for yourself to generate revenue in case they cease to exist
  • Effects On Your Personal Brand – If you join a Blog Network you will surrender a bit of your Personal Brand that will be replaced by the Network Brand. In some cases this may good and in others it may be bad

Whether you decide Blog Networks are right for you or they aren’t is ultimately your decision. I think much of it depends on the entire reason you started blogging. Please, just go into it with your eyes wide open and both the benefits and disadvantages to both you and your readers in mind.