Archive for Weblogs

It didn’t take long at all for the spam bots to find me.

Shortly after my new site and blog was launched in WordPress, I initially was enthused by the sudden surge in traffic I was seeing from all of the comments on my brilliant prose.

They go like this. “Heya, wonderful wordpress blog, and a fairly good understand!” OK, so not everyone is really grammatically correct, at least they seem nice. Or a simply comment. “Great post! I love it very much!” Gee, thank-you very much. Comment approved.

It doesn’t take long, however, before you realize noone is really saying anything about what you’re writing. Some comments take a really strange tone.

“Thanks for the info, been looking everywhere for information on this.” Really? Or “Just to be remembered is good enough for me. Lots of people are forgotten.” If you say so.

When you really start to tune into the hard cold fact that these aren’t real people reading your blog at all is when you start to pay attention to the URLs the bots hope to plant somewhere within your site.

One comment read: “Thank you a lot for giving everyone an extraordinarily brilliant possiblity to read from this site. It is often very pleasing and as well.” Sent from the URL: www.camgirlsaction.com. Hmmm, why do I think the guy running a cam girls site is not spending a lot of time reading my blog?

A simple Google search on “How do I stop spam in WordPress” brings you to quite a bit of advice, including help pages in WordPress itself and a host of other bloggers trying to battle the bots.

The first question in WordPress Help is “Why are they spamming me?” The simple answer: “Because they can” but also the fact that everyone is trying links to their web pages so search engines — namely Google — think their important. Does this really work? Should I hire a couple of these mysterious bots to spread my URL far and wide? I don’t think so.

So your next move — unless you want to spend hours each day marking tons of spam comments as spam — is to find a good widget that forces the spammers to actually prove they are human beings.

WordPress has an FAQ on Combating Comment Spam that will take you directly to the WordPress Plugin Directory. Search for “spam” in the 13,500 plugins, and that will narrow you down to some 598 or so. Spam clearly is a problem.

So I went back to Google, this time looking for a recommendation on a decent WordPress spam tool. I came up with the “Match Comment Spam Protector.”

Fortunately, I have a very savvy website designer, who built my custom site in WordPress. I asked him if he would install the widget for me, since I’m a bit leery of messing with any HTML code in the site myself although widgets generally are pretty simple to install. Josh Divine, with PRGM2 in Boulder, jumped right in to my rescue from the spam bots. Now, only time will tell.

Can bots solve math questions? One of the first comments on the Comment Spam Protector page is “I’ve installed this plugin, but still get spammed. Why?” The answer was to check and make sure the spam isn’t coming from trackbacks instead of comments.

I’ll know pretty soon if this works. This morning I had nearly 50 spam comments waiting for approval in my email. I just deleted them all. So by tomorrow morning I’ll find out if bots can now answer math questions. I sure hope not.

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I’m not much of a morning person. I’ve been to more than my share of 7:30 a.m. meetings. I’ve played in the competition to be bright, sunny and full of ideas first thing in the morning, but I generally prefer that the sun be fully up before my networking begins.

Now I’ve found my own way to be social after that first cup of life-giving caffeine. Getting up early isn’t the problem; making rationale decisions is.

So after reading local news in the Boulder Camera and Denver Post, I’m generally on my computer, pleased that I’ve scheduled no meetings before 10 a.m. and giving me at least a good hour or so of learning something new about how to use social media.

As part of my morning “social” routine … checking news wires (30-year journalist habit that’s tough to break), twittering breaking business news on Boulder, and maybe scanning Facebook friends … I often take a little time to learn something new in the social media world. Since PR, marketing and social media is now my business, it’s good for me and it’s good for clients.

There are hundreds of social media bloggers to follow, but I recommend checking in on a few for some of the most informative reads. Typically I get most of their daily news from Twitter follows or e-mail feeds.

 

  • Mashable: With some 30 million monthly page views, obviously they’re doing something right. Mashable.com follows news on all the biggies like YouTube, Twitter, Apple, Google but covers many other social media sites as well. Often first with breaking news.
  • Sarah Evans of PRSarahEvans.com: Owner of PR firms Sevans Strategy, she’s a self-professed social media freak and really works it well.  I subscribe to her daily Commentz, and almost always find something interesting to read from there.
  • All Facebook at allfacebook.com: What would a morning be without the latest gossip about what Facebook is up to? I haven’t seen the movie yet, but something is always up. Calling itself the “unofficial” Facebook blog, this is a great site to follow.
  • Social Media Examiner, your guide to the social media jungle by Michael Stelzner at socialmediaexaminer.com: Excellent tips and stories on how to actually use different social media. A recent post, for example, was “How to Use Delicious: The King of Social Bookmarking.” I often tweet links to posts on this blog.
  • Mediabistro.com: Yes, I do read blogs on things other than social media. Mediabistro provides a well-rounded feed of media news. It’s not really focused on social media, but what is social media without traditional media? I reading more news online, but I’m still a believer in getting some ink on your fingers.

 It’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed about which bloggers or social media news you decide to follow. So find your own favorites, and then do a little socializing in the morning without actually having to stare across the table at someone.

Of course I count on a huge amount of news flowing from the people I follow on Twitter, and if you like keeping track of some of the entrepreneurial goings-on in the Boulder, Colorado area as well as links to a few of the good social media tips I discover, follow me @jwlewis.

 

 

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Are you a Front Range blogger looking to get ideas, tips and network with others creating blogs on just about anything under the Colorado sun? 

Well, just like you have to think everyday what you might write as a blogger, just do it and attend the Meetup of Front Range bloggers, alternating meeting sites currently between the Uptown Tavern in Denver and Gordon Biersch Brewery at Flatirons Crossing Mall in Broomfield. 

Maybe you're just thinking you would like to start a blog. That's OK, too. In the meetups I've attended so far, there's always several people just getting started. I wish I had found the meetup before I started blogging, I would have done some things differently from what I've learned.

My 2010 resolution: Try harder to write shorter posts on my blog. So here goes. There's never enough time to get around and meet everyone at the meetups, but I'm always impressed by the blogging talent. Here are some quick links to some very cool bloggers I just met at the January meetup.

* BloginSong.com Camille Bright-Smith introduces herself as a blogger who sings rather than writes her blog. It's a different approach for sure. She's also starting to add other songwriters to her blog.

* Effortlesseating.com Elizabeth Yarnell, a natural health expert, as well as publicity coach, is hoping to create a cooking TV show. For now, follow her blog as well as www.gloriousonepotmeals.com. Oh yes, she writes a third blog, www.recipesforpublicity.com. Several bloggers at the meetup manage to keep several blogs going. I'm impressed.

* callisto.fm Michael Sitarzewski is changing the way we listen to podcasts. You can browse different podcasts by channel. I haven't dug into this very far, but if you listen to podcasts,give it a try. He also blogs at zerologic.com.

Macgetit.com There was a lot of talk about Apple's new iPad since it was released on the same day as the meetup. And Kevin Cullis, who blogs about using Macs, has a post on Why I Probably Won't Get an iPad. That was before the announcement. Wonder if he still thinks the same way?

I could go on but just remembered, I'm supposed to keep my posts shorter. The Bloggers Meetup has more than 300 members, although the meetups usually have about 20 to 30 attending.  

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If you’re reading this column, then you’re officially part
of what Huffington Post founder and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington
calls the “linked-in” economy.

Huffington and this new Denver-based Internet newspaper are
the newest players in the intensely competitive Colorado media wars. This is
Huffington’s third news site after launching in Chicago and New York. Next up is Los Angeles.

 I’ll be as curious as you to see what happens.  According to Wikipedia, the HuffPost as
it is known, has more than 3,000 bloggers.  And all 3,000 of us share at least one thing in common.

 We’re both counting on you, the news consumer, to pass along
news or commentary that you like to someone else. You might post a link on your
Facebook page, you might give me a
friendly tweet on Twitter (and someone
else might retweet), or you could digg this to the social news site digg.com, where people link and vote on their
favorite content. If all else fails, you might just copy and paste it into an
e-mail.  But that is so passé these
days.

 The more shared links (six in this post so far), the merrier
for Web traffic numbers of both the Huffington Post, which counts its visitors
in the millions, and my blog, the Boulder
Report
, which counts visitors in … well, let’s just say considerably less
than millions, more like hundreds (and that’s in a month, not a day).

I got several interesting comments (another desirable thing
in the blogging world) to a column I wrote in May called “Will screen staring
be the demise of the printed news?” In it, I said readers might want to look at
the HuffPost to see how blogs and videos can join with news coverage to create
this new brand of journalism. Only four years ago Huffington started combining
her own opinions with “as many interesting voices as possible,” and now
bloggers on the site have included everyone from Barack Obama to TV host Bill
Maher and Colorado’s Gary Hart. You can look at the sites Blogger Index to see who’s
getting the most views.

Colorado’s been no stranger to the fast-paced changes in the
newspaper business, particularly the demise of the Rocky Mountain News and
Scripps’ exit from the Denver
Newspaper Agency
.   That
also resulted in my hometown newspapers, the Boulder Camera and Colorado Daily, moving entirely under
ownership of the MediaNews Group,
owner of the Denver Post.

As a news junkie, having run the Boulder County Business
Report for 18 years, I access news online more than ever but still send out my
Lab every morning to retrieve the Camera, Post and the Wall Street Journal from
my driveway. He would absolutely hate retrieving my laptop. After selling the Business Reports in Boulder, Northern Colorado and Wyoming to Ohio-based Brown Publishing in early 2008, I do
a lot of my writing at the Laughing
Goat
, an east Pearl Street coffee house where I also dig into free copies
of the Daily, the Boulder Weekly, Denver’s Westword, Boulder’s Nexus and whatever else happens to catch my
eye.

Recently I drove to downtown Denver, where at Common Grounds I got the
chance to meet Katharine Zaleski, senior editor for the HuffPost organization,
and Ethan Axelrod, the new editor of the HuffPost in Denver.  Both were at the end of a long day and still
setting up meetings with Colorado publishers from Grand Junction to Aspen,
explaining how news organizations could “opt-in” to add their content to the
new HuffPost site here. Response, they told me, had been very good.

Much of what they shared with me was strikingly similar to
Huffington’s recent online interviews with Jon Friedman of MarketWatch.

“The future of media,” Huffington said, “is going to be
social media.

“The way to make money now is to follow the consumer … to
embed your product in multiple sites.”

And counter to speeches by many newspaper publishers about
creating more “paid” online content, Huffington says she doesn’t see “content
behind walls succeeding unless you’re offering very specialized content.”

Compare her view to that of MediaNews owner Dean Singleton,
also current chair of the Associated Press board.  In interviews with Westword
and others, he has advocated a business model to lock up much of his
newspapers’ current free online content, giving it instead to only paid
subscribers. 

Fewer people accessing that content (the Post has about
254,000 subscribers daily and 704,000 on Sundays), of course, means fewer
“links” — a 180 turn from the linked-economy strategy of the HuffPost.

One thing for sure, the Denver Post is watching closely what
happens with this Internet-only Huffington Post. I don’t think it was a coincidence
that the Denver Post just announced a new advertising campaign called “I want
to know” that will be on billboards, TV, radio and even Facebook and Twitter.

The pay-for-Web content debate is raging online, and it’s
not just newspapers.

Monetization is the word investors and venture capitalists
love to hear.

Google’s YouTube wants
a deal in Hollywood to sell movie downloads right when they’re going to DVD
release.  Facebook and MySpace
are battling for more paid display advertising, with about one of every five
Web display ads now viewed on social networking sites. National ad buys into
the HuffPost sites have included national advertisers like Starbucks and
Volkswagen.

In her Marketplace interview, Huffington marvels at how fast
her online news venture has made inroads and captured market share. Analysts
believe the company is nearing a “break even” point, not bad in a recession.

“We are lucky that we don’t have to deal with the legacy
costs of an old business,” she says. “And we are lucky that we are the new kid
on the block. We didn’t even exist five years ago. YouTube didn’t exist five
years ago.

“It used to take 20 years to become a brand,” she continues.
“Now you can do it in a year if you tap into a need.”

I’ve been increasing my own time spent on blogging and
social media, but I don’t really expect it to pay my bills.

My blogging competition? Something like 112 million other
blogs according to blog search engine Technorati,
and that number is a year old. China alone has 50 million bloggers, but
fortunately here in Boulder not that many people read Chinese.

I also haven’t collected a dime yet via the Google Adwords
on my own blog, but I’m working on it. I need to go with better display ads,
other bloggers advise.

If I ever make it to page one of the HuffPost, maybe your
“links” will help me out. With an average $3 per cappuccino per column, I’m far
from breaking even. 

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Daverogers

Dave Rogers gets a plug for his new social media startup, Localbunny.com, at Downtown Boulder's breakfast meeting discusson on using social media.

A good pounding of wet spring snow couldn't keep more than 100 downtown Boulder businesspeople from learning more about how to tweet, blog, yelp and simply try to understand the rapidly growing world of social media. 

While it's so easy to think you're drowning in the flood — make that "deluge" — of social media sites, there's always something new to discover. A few of us had some slightly nervous laughs learning we're getting close to an emerging "silver surfer" crowd (60 years and older). The breakfast presentation at the Hotel Boulderado also included good info on Yelp, which came to the Denver area with its restaurant and retail reviewers just about a year ago.

Flashing a Powerpoint page showing literally hundreds of social media site logos, Amy Moynihan and Ashley Cohen of GoundFloor Media told the downtowners not to panic if they're new to the social media world. "Pick one or two, and just dip your toe into it," Moynihan said to one woman who asked why she shouldn't run away screaming from the whole social media invasion.

Facebook, Twitter and Yelp could be the top three mediums to get started on in the online conversations and marketing that include everything from blogs, wikis, podcasts, vlogs, Internet forums, virtual communities and micro-blogging (Twitter.)

If you're running a "brick and morter" retail location, Moynihan said, you absolutely need to be taking a look at Yelp, because probably there's already a "yelper" posting a review of your service or product online. The really active "yelpers," she said, get to be "elite yelpers." 

Fact is, many downtown Boulder businesses, including the Downtown Boulder organization and businesses such as Boulder Theater, Tee & Cakes, Boulder Baked, Laughing Goat Coffeehouse (my usual coffee hangout), the Dish, Spudbrothers (here is their Yelp page), and others (certainly the bars and breweries) have already made the plunge. Think the 20,000 students at CU are important to your Boulder business base? Then social media is a no-brainer. 

I'm a "fan" of Downtown Boulder's Facebook page, and heard about this latest Downtown Community Exchange via their Twitter. Downtown Boulder is actively promoting various "specials" or pointing to reviews — national and local — of restaurants and other businesses. New DBI Director Sean Maher told me the Dish, a gourmet sandwich shop, tweeted a secret "password" to followers, offering a one-day discount to whoever knew the word. About 40 customers came in with the tweet word of the day. 

GroundFloor Media pushed home the point that Facebook and other social media are not just for teens anymore. Demographics show the fastest-growing group using social media is 25 years and older, and that includes a whole bunch of us — let's say "somewhat older" adults (whew, found out I'm not yet a silver surfer after all) — who are starting to "surf" with the teen set. (The leading topic right now for the next Ignite Boulder, by the way, is "My mom just joined Facebook, now what?)

eMarketer, the morning presentation showed, is predicting the number of U.S baby boomers using the Internet at least once a month (you have to wonder who uses the Internet just once a month?) will jump by 5 million to almost 64 million in 2011.

As snow piled up outside the Boulderado, Dave Rogers, former publisher of the Onion in Boulder, announced he's just launched a new social media tool called Local Bunny. This just-born startup, unveiled recently at the Boulder Denver New Technology Meetup, allows businesses and organizations to not only get their specific business noticed, but to list specific dates and schedules. Local Bunny will then push that information out to social media like Facebook and Twitter, letting users search information not just by name, but by the "time" of a class or event. 

Dave told me he's just out of the gates with this one, but quickly showed me on his iPhone how he could search Twitter by typing "@localbunny yoga, boulder" and bring up a listing of Boulder yoga classes by time. Looking for a 9 a.m. class? There they are, or at least that's the idea.

Downtown Boulder will be planning some more smaller sessions for DBI businesses on social media, and here's my suggestion: Get a bigger room. I tried to get into one of the social media sessions at the World Affairs Conference, where a whole bunch of the "silver surfers" were grabbing all the seats, and people had to be turned away.

Hey, I've got to end this blog. While writing, a tweet came in showing downtown Boulder restaurant Bimbamboo is following me. I love their "small plates" menu … think Asian tapas. Now I'm following them, too.
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I
went looking for some recession-busters — ideas that local businesses have to
beat the slowdown blues.

The
one consensus I heard seems simple enough: Turn off
  the TV news. No one, by the way, mentioned turning off their
BlackBerries.

I
get it, but it’s hard for me.
  I’m
an incurable news junkie who writes better with a Jake Jabs commercial playing.
I need my morning groans about the latest layoffs or Ponzi schemes. Today’s Journal
had Nortel Networks’ Chapter 11 and Microsoft job cut rumors.
  The closest thing to an upbeat story
was that more people are heading to public libraries; of course, they’re using
free Wi-Fi to search for jobs.

The
recession’s a reality. We listened to endless forecasts of when it would get
here, now we have endless forecasts of how long it will last.

So
what are local businesses doing? No matter how cautious you were in ‘08, was it
enough? It seems like there is some uncovered financial surprise around every
corner.

In
18 years of running my own business, there were few I met with a more positive
attitude than Karen Bernardi, who runs
Bernardi Real Estate Group at Coldwell
Banker.

         We met again at a
New Year’s Eve party, and she was dancing, celebrating 2009 like the stock
market had topped 20,000. Didn’t you hear about the housing bubble Karen?
  You had to know Colorado had the fifth
highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year.

         Call
the Bernardi Group, and listen as the receptionist makes you feel like it’s
your birthday and hers, too.

         Karen’s
team practices everyday on how they talk to customers and what they’re going to
say. “
We are a sales organization, and
everything comes down to the number of people you talk to.”
  The goal of positive thinking: “We
interact better.”

         Bernardi Group has a
strategic plan. It’s called higher sales. “Interest rates are down, and I try
to focus on that, the things that are positive in this market.”

         CNN? Karen doesn’t
watch it. “National news sells negativity,” something not in her formula for
closing sales. She knows the stats and reads publications that keep her
informed, but she also knows she “can’t change the national economy.” With her
energy, I’m not so sure.

         Cut back on
marketing to lower costs? No way. Bernardi increases her advertising in tougher
times, while trying to “spend our money wisely.”

         Most people downtown
know Sam Sussman. Click on the Web site of
Eight Days A Week Imaging, and
you’re greeted by a video of two smiling staffers. Sam says he tried harder
last year to get “back to the basics,”
 
cutting expenses and renegotiating some deals with his biggest vendors.

Just
the same, he admits to being surprised by the severity of the year-end economic
“meltdown.” Sam also mentioned negative national news for keeping people down.
“Media just makes its message a little more extreme,” he said.

Sam,
who campaigned for Obama,
  says he
watched “the best come out” from friends and other businesspeople working for a
change in the White House. He believes the psychology of the marketplace will
swing soon toward a more positive note.

“I
think we’re entering a new age of personal responsibility. The people he
(Obama) is putting in office are not idealists, they are pragmatists.”

The
good news, he adds, is Boulder’s economy still seems “pretty solid,” and he’s
expecting brighter signs nationally, maybe as soon as the second quarter.

         Brian Cleveland, CEO
at
Parallel Path, a Boulder Internet marketing agency, has his own ideas to
beat the recession blues. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that his business
actually doubled in 2008.

         “Standing out in the
crowd is going to be very important in 2009,” Brian says. And his company is
investing in “new tools to improve customer communications.”

         Freeze in your
tracks and just try to ride it out? Brian takes the other track, working on a
new product (and new revenue stream) to help “brick and mortar retail
businesses who may have never considered using SEO (search engine optimization)
techniques to drive traffic to their Web sites.”

         In
a city that thrives on entrepreneurial startups, shouldn’t we be just a little
worried?
  A survey of VCs found a
national consensus of an investing slowdown and continued weakened exit markets
in 2009.

            Foundry Group partner Brad Feld pointed me to his
“Downturn Lessons” on his popular
Feld Thoughts blog. The first is “Don’t
Forget to Play.” “Don’t forget to hang out and have fun with the people you
work with. Lunch anyone?”

         Another
is “Give Your Sales People All the Knives.” No, it’s not about carrying your
Swiss Army knife to work, it’s about the attitude necessary to reach each
quarter’s sales target. “This is in direct conflict with what you might think
if all you do is read the newspaper and watch the television,” Brad writes.

OK,
maybe I need to change.
  “Comedy
Central” is my new channel.
Wolf Blitzer, I’m gonna miss ya.

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Boulder's Metzger Associates launched a new blog today called DNC After Dark, a great idea to offer up dining and entertainment tips for delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August. 

I just led a discussion today at the Boulder Press Club about how traditional media must continue to adopt, innovate or even acquire new media tools if they are going to compete with the social networking wave capturing advertising dollars.

John Metzger actually has been on the new media forefront for PR and marketing companies, adding a digital side to his business several years ago and telling business clients how they, too, must be thinking of creating corporate blogs, better Web sites, etc.

With all of the national attention that will be focused on the DNC, Metzger's blog is not only a good idea for the delegates themselves, but, of course, a good way to get the Metzger name out to businesses. 

The site just launched, and right now has links to only about six bars and 16 restaurants, but those numbers should climb pretty fast as word gets out. 

The site also has a link to another Metzger blog, Media in the New Millennium, from the director of Metzger's New Media Practice. There you can read about plans for the New Media Summit at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder on Monday, July 14.

A new web site and blog, www.bouldercarbontax.org/, will keep watch on how the city of Boulder uses new tax revenues to try to lower the city’s carbon footprint.

Boulder-based journalist and blogger Amy Gahran is partnering with Adam Glenn, a New York-based journalist, to run the site thanks to a $90,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and its Knight News Challenge, which funds new digital media initiatives.

Boulder, which passed its new carbon tax last November, is expecting to raise close to $900,000 annually, so clearly it’s a good idea that the new site will provide a public forum to allow citizens to comment on exactly what is being done with their tax dollars.

Gahran, an experienced blogger, told the Boulder County Business Report, “We’re going to get a bunch of people with different perspectives. We’re going to throw some discussion points out there and synthesize that discussion into blog posts. We’re using the blog for some more traditional ‘shoe-leather’ reporting that Adam I will be doing.” The Business Report story says Gahran hopes to involve other bloggers from Boulder’s business community on the site.

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