Friday, August 30, 2013

Facebook Changes Are On The Way (Please, Don't Be Stupid About Them)

OK folks, Facebook just called "Incoming!!!"

I've recently received an email indicating that Facebook (FB) will be looking to update their "Data Use Policy and our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" sections of your user agreement.

Before I Go A Step Further, I must warn you:

Facebook proposing changes means they WILL be making changes, but they are putting them out there for you to see first.  This way, the proactive FB user can be prepared.

The Warning:  Please, please, please, I am so hoping that no one I know falls for the rumor and put up a post in their timeline saying that "Facebook does not have permission.... for this that and the other thing."

I'm sure you've seen them in times past, where thousands upon thousands of people post how FB doesn't have permission to change their policy, use their content, their image, their, well, activity.

Here's the problem:  If you're already signed up and signed on to FB, and you're already able to post that, you've already agreed to their terms and services, and your timeline is not a legal addendum to anything you've already agreed to.

Think about it for a moment.

It's like buying a car, getting the keys, then telling the car maker that their car does not have your permission to accumulate miles on the odometer.

Dudes!  You needed to do something about it before you bought the car, not after.  The same goes for signing up to use a social service. 

Once you agreed to those policies you didn't read, you are beholden to them.  Sorry.

-

The updates that Facebook say they're doing indicate that,

{
    Your information. We clarified that you share information with Facebook when you communicate with us, like when you send us an email.

    Other information we receive about you.  We simplified the explanation for how we receive information and clarified the types of information we receive when you use or run Facebook, including from your devices, such as your IP address or mobile phone number.

    Personalized ads. We rewrote the entire advertising section to better explain what we thought was important for people to know about how we use the information we receive to provide relevant ads to people on and off Facebook
.
}

Further more, they do make interesting points on content:

{
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.
}

{
you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP (intellectual property) content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
}

{
When you use an application, the application may ask for your permission to access your content and information as well as content and information that others have shared with you.
}

- - -

I find it interesting that they do present the situation to the users reminding them that they do own their own content.  I like that they address that.

But it goes on how they will redistribute as they see fit, until you choose to delete it.  There's other subsequent language in there about when you delete things, you need to understand that copies in cache will persist for a period of time and other deets.

With that said, below is the email I received this morning, and I presume, every single other FB user received.  (Dang, that's a lot of email)

If you are interested and make the time, below that, I provide links to the pages necessary to peruse their policies.

We Can Still Have Fun...

Being mildly evil, sometimes when I see folks out there posting their personal modifications to their timeline, thinking it will have any impact...  I take a quick peek... if I think they left something out that might sound important, I leave a comment/note for them.  Hehe.

If they're going to buy that rumor about the posting, hook, line and sinker, what the heck, let's have some more fun with 'em!

I can't help myself.  People can be so fun!

= = =

Email notification:

{

We're writing to let you know that we are proposing updates to our Data Use Policy and our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. These two documents tell you about how we collect and use data, and the rules that apply when you choose to use Facebook. Our goal with these updates is to make our practices more clear.
We update these documents from time to time to make sure we keep you posted about the latest things you can do with Facebook. This email describes the key changes we've proposed and directs you to places where you can learn more.
       
What's being updated and why?
Both documents have new language to help you better understand:

    How advertising works on Facebook
    What to expect when it comes to using your name, profile picture, content and personal info with ads or commercial content
    How to control or remove apps you've used
    What data you're sharing with mobile devices

Like always, we won't share the private information that you put on Facebook with advertisers without your permission.
       
What should you do and when will the updates happen?

You can review all the updates on our Site Governance page's Documents tab and over the next seven days leave comments on that page to give us feedback. Please take some time to read through everything and let us know what you think. If your comments lead to more updates, we'll post those on the Site Governance page, too.

To stay up to date on similar topics, please like our Site Governance and Privacy pages. And, if you want to learn more about how we show you interesting, relevant ads, or how cookies and similar technologies help us do so, please visit our Ads and Cookies pages. We hope you find these resources helpful.

}

- - -

Facebook Policy Links

Proposed Updates to our Governing Documents,

Data Use Policy,

Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

-  Bruce

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Facebook... Take The Hint And Save My Effing Settings While Making Billions

Oh Facebook, what will we do with you?

No matter how many times I turn off chat, you always turn it back on for me. 

No matter how often I resort my feed to "Most Recent," you always try to help by showing me what you call "Top Stories."

Facebook Profits while shoving their updates and idea on users
And so far, every time FB applies system updates to the software, users are always finding themselves receiving warnings to go check our privacy settings because you are notorious for smiting our personal preferences in the pursuit of that holy dollar.

Yes, Facebook, you might be free to users and your lack of consideration for our personal choice is the price we pay.

The price we pay for your angle on creating an even bigger marketing machine than you already are Mr. Facebook.

From the terror of end-users being mistreated, to the creator of the application making statements like he doesn't care about our privacy online (paraphrased, but accurate), there's been nothing but fun to be had using and bashing Facebook.

And let's not forget that even though you might "like" and follow a page, if you don't interact with it, FB will stop showing you the updates unless you actively click on "Get Notifications" under the Like pop-up menu.

But Facebook is free to the end-user, so the price we pay is that of getting pushed around by Facebook and its programmers.

We are at their whim.  Or in layman's terms, "Screw you" while we make a buck off you.

-

As it stands, Facebook stock is just under $42 a share and is valued at over $100 billion.

The value comes from you and your friends consumer demographic information.

There are aspects of your profile open to marketers that FB sells access to.  And when a marketer reviews your information, they also have access to all your friends profile information too.

It's pretty much a windfall for FB to see information that most users give freely to them.

Think about it...

Playing the games, filling out surveys, "like"ing things and what not deliver an awful lot of statistical data on the consumer, that being you.

Everything you do provides something of value to them.  Including filling out your profile to its fullest, and clicking on what movies you like and other similar functions.

In May 2013 Yahoo reported that FB has over 1 billion active users each month, equating to 665 million users a day.

That's a lot of content to be able to sell to marketing associates or clients!

-

So when Facebook makes a change that modifies your profile settings, or forces content days old, to pop back up on top of your feed becuase someone commented on it, rather than being confused as to why, or updates disappear from a specific page, remember, it's more about how Facebook can best leverage content for profit.

Despite that, Facebook can still be handy.

On the bright side: 

If you set up your profiles and permissions just right, not "like" or use any of their apps that want permission to peruse your profile, and keep your profile clean (minimalist), it can be a very handy communication tool for you and your family and/or friends.

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Google Is Not The English Expert Here (And How To Google Specific Sites)

More often than not, folks will search Google for something.  Then they take the result and run with it.

And from what I can tell, folks may actually credit Google for returning accurate results.  That accuracy, including results that are based on grammar.

But the site GrammarBook (GB) sent out an interesting piece today in their newsletter that made me go "Huh?"

It seems that Google does not always return the proper, grammatical response to your searches.

In GB's example,

"...type the word literally into Google.  Here is what you'll find:

1    In a literal manner or sense; exactly: "the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle".

2    Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling. "

Then GB goes to town on the result, pointing out how definition no. 2 guides us down the road to

"an Orwellian nightmare?"

They point out that Google seems to be redefining words and that who or what ever is running the algorithm of Google does not know the basics of  capitalization or punctuation.

They point out the lack of a capital T in the first result.

They also point out that periods DO NOT go outside of quotation marks.  (Yep, that's a tough one to digest at first... periods, commas and other things stay inside of quote marks.  Even if it looks funny.)

They go into more specific dismantling statements in the article which is worthy.  (Actually, the whole site and newsletter are pretty worthy if you have any inclination to improve your writing on the fly.)

Ah, and then the final stab at educating the end-user, DG says,

"This is the very demographic that produced Google's founders, and most of its employees. These
literally-torturers are the people who make the company profitable.

...

We language watchdogs may not like it, but for Google, showing solidarity with its contemporaries—even to the point of endorsing their ignorance—is a savvy business decision.
"

This site is big enough of an authority to make those entertaining statements.  And it drives home an interesting point.

When I look up definitions, I sometimes take exactly what Google dishes up as the first answer, which would seem to be their own, if GB is on to anything here.

But a better approach, if you're looking for accuracy, is to conduct your web search, and focus it on a literary site by looking for the results from that site a few lines into the page of results.

How To Search A Specific Site for Information

Or, if you know a site you trust, you can conduct your search as follows of just that site:

<search term(s)> site:blahblah.com

Here's an example search you can try.  Hehe...  yes, I'm a bit shameless:

breaking bad site:brusimm.com

What this search format does is focus Google's search on the site you've specified rather than going hog wild and pulling up other noise from around the world that would seem to be distracting and per GB, inaccurate at times!

[ GrammarBook ]

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How Vegetarians Have it Tough and Does PETA Likes Big Penises?

The first half of this piece is my funny take on things, but I wrap it up with a serious take on the world of vegetarians.

-


The Huffington Post is reporting a funny (sort of) piece on how PETA is asking that the National Buffalo Wing Festival ban pregnant women from their eating contests.

The reason they're making this request is because there's a study out there (they say) saying that poultry consumption has links to smaller penises!

Wait...  as PETA Associate Director said that pregnant women should think twice before their sons "come up short."

LOL.

Their focus is on one statement saying "phthalates, chemical compounds that can be found in chicken, may diminish genital size."

And so the chicken support organizations never told us THAT!!!

Of course there are others that say that their warning is half-cooked.

= = =

Of course, PETA uses this opportunity to go into the suffering of our poor food source, and how they're hung upside by their legs and left that way before being slaughtered and dipped in scalding fluids to defeather them, while alive.

All joking aside, some organizations do tend to treat their livestock horribly, with no concern for their suffering.  My latest piece, a film I reviewed called Vegucated.  It was about taking meat eaters and seeing of they could last as vegans for a while.

But then they went into some aspects of the food industry.

They showed undercover footage of how piglets and pigs were dumped in scalding oil and turned and spun while screaming their lungs out, all to skin them efficiently.

Or another great film I reviewed, Temple Grandin, where one woman fought to make a difference in the cattle slaughter industry.

I've been privy to footage of what a kosher kill is, where they hung the cow upside down and sliced its throat, letting it bleed out while screaming.  And these poor creatures, if you weren't looking, would think it was a person screaming.

-

It's always fascinating to see the non-meat side of life.  My wife, being a vegetarian, I have a chance to see that side of the eating world and what they have to go through.

There are so many products out there that you'd think is vegetarian, but beef fat and what not are added to products to make them taste better to most folks.  Heck, even at one point McDonald's fries were not vegetarian.

It's a sad fight a vegetarian has to go through to not eat meat.

And to see some of the statistics and how many more resources are used to help create a hamburger, versus a decent salad is a serious eye-opener.


[.huffingtonpost.]

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PageRank - Another Ubiquitous Change From Google

Over at SER they've made an interesting observation that Google has not made their usual scheduled website PageRank update like they usually do.

They've contended that Google usually changes their PageRank data every 4 months at most, but the last update was back in February, 6 months ago.

They don't seem too agitated by the change, stating that they're in favor of dropping PageRank (Google Shills?).

Me...  I presume this, if it's a valid observation, is yet another step towards weighting their Google+ platform and the Authorship associated with it.  Or they could be caught up in the myriad of changes they continue to make to "improve" their processes on the back end.

-

I'm not against of for all the changes that Google is making to the internet itself.  But damn, the last time someone tried to game the system, the justice department came down like Thor's hammer on Microsoft.

Google is changing things and they are taking swipes at and destroying the little guy or smaller websites.  And they're blatantly using their Google+ (can we say the new Facebook?) social network to sway web authors into using it.

By using Google+, you can supposedly get an online author ranking, which seems to slowly be outranking page ranking for websites.  If you sign up and use G+ and all related processes to it, that is.

But the honest little guy is getting smite in the process.

After some of their changes, there were a few things I ranked no. 1 for on the web at my parent website and I had customers coming to my site for those few things.

But after the changes, I now sit on the third or fourth page of results, despite doing nothing different on my end.

I had a nice income from Google Adsense that was building up, but then, it has dwindled to literally, a little bit of beer money, so to speak.

(Oh, here's a kicker... after having been a Google Adsense customer for over ten years, I just got an email from them, saying I could make money using Adsense and that I should join!

Yep, something's afoul at those Mountainview, CA offices, that's for sure.)

-

What I find odd is how they still pitch Adsense to everyone while dinging and destroying good, honest, valid websites that are trying to carve a niche out of the web for themselves.

Eh, it's all part of the game I guess.  That game, being that the web will only be for the big business entities.  Period.

To be honest, it seemed inevitable.

-Bruce
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Is COMCAST Selling Customer Marketing Data?

comcast logo (aka, xfinity)
The other day a few months back I was "convinced" to add Comcast's phone services to my cable package.

They have a strange but seemingly compelling force behind their sales pitch to get folks to sign up for the added phone services. It felt like the rep on the phone was almost rabid about having me add it, once I let on I was considering it.

So after some banter, and brokering a deal between us, where I got to save money off my monthly package rates, we added it.

It's funny because even though I said I'd never, ever, ever use the phone, they are REQUIRED to come out and install the equipment for the phone.

No matter what I said.  (I've not used a land line in almost 10 years.)  But IT HAD TO BE DONE.

"Fine, whatever" I told them.

They came out and added a new box with a phone jack added.  And then the fun observations began.

= = =

As soon as the phone was "installed" with my service, it didn't take more than a week before I started getting spam solicitor calls to that number. (Mind you, I have no clue what the number is, so I could not have given it out to anyone accidentally.)

Sure, I did not have a phone hooked up to the phone jack.  But my cable service was adjusted to show me a pop up on my TV every time we got a call, with the option to answer.

Gads... seriously?

I had to look it up, but I found out how to turn those stupid messages off.  (There are options in your cable box that suddenly made sense!)

- - -

Sure, that seemed pretty irksome, but I was able to stop it.

But what did piss me off was the junk mail that started showing up at my door.

You see, I've been able to keep junk mail away from my physical address for quite some time.  I use a "PO" box for all things, including my CABLE BILL!

That way, I can filter and toss out unwanted crap at my mailing service location.

But my cable company needs to know where the bat cave really is, to provide their services to us.

As soon as I got that phone service, I started receiving junk mail from ATT (congratulating me on my recent move.  (If you can count seven years as recent!)), United Dental and other bulls*t!

The timing was impeccable, and the only thing I can surmise from the empirical evidence, is that Comcast, via their sub-contractor phone service, sells your marketing data for the extra buck.

Sure, it might not be Comcast itself directly.  But since they allow their third-party phone company to sell the data, by association, so do they.

Or Xfinity Voice, as they seem to like to call themselves.

Total fail on Comcast!  And that's my rant for the consumer minded privacy advocate today!

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Online Contests: Finding and Making A Junk Email Account For

Entering to win things online is sort of fun.  As you come across or look for the contest you just saw on TV, winnings can range from the usual things like cash, a car, a trip, hotel stay for several nights, shopping spree at that store of yours, free movies, free Amazon money... well, you name it, it's probably been put up for a give-a-way.

And some contests are easy to enter.

All you have to do is supply and or all of the following:  Your email address, name, address, and maybe some other details, and away you go.

And some contests are one time only, while others are enter every day for the next few months.

BE CAREFUL... the one time only contests can smite you from the drawing if you enter more than once.  You don't want that!

But then there are the contests that require a Facebook 'Like' or newsletter sign up.

I skip the Facebook required contests.  I have friends and family I care about and I do not want to expose them to these cretins.  (Yes, when you like something, that something has access to some select profile info of yours and your friends too.  Facebook is insidious that way.)

But everything else is pretty fair game.

Now admittedly, I have yet to win anything.  It's rare when I do win things.  But still, that does not stop me from entering.

For one, I use Google's Chrome

Why do I use Google Chrome to enter online contests?  It has an auto-fill mode that seriously helps fill out lots of different contest pages.  And if you've found a contest that allows you to enter daily, it's a huge boon for that.

Email Account Just for Contests!

Second, I create an email account specifically for junk like this.  For me, I created it under gmail, use it for my contests and other insidious marketing machines like real estate agents and such.  That way it doesn't clutter your real inbox.  Trust me.  I get a few hundred emails a day now at this junk account and I'm glad I get them there!

On, and one more thing:  I pretty much set my forwarding/filter options to dump all the email in the trash folder.

That's right, skip the inbox and land it right in trash.  In gmail, trash over 30 days old supposedly gets deleted.

So this becomes a win/win all around.  As long as you check your trash often, just in case they send you the winning notification.  But it's nice that when your trash becomes your defacto inbox, it will empty itself as time goes on.

And while you watch your inbox, you'll probably notice some pretty insidious email marketing campaigns.  Most will only send you an email letter every now and then.  Some will make sure to send something weekly.  Then there are those that send things daily or a few times a day, every day.  Just wow.
-

In case you're wondering how I find these online contests, I tend to check out Contest Bee.  They do an awesome job collecting lists of contests to enter.  It's up to you which ones to pick.

HAVE FUN!

http://www.contestbee.com/

http://www.contestbee.com/sweepstakes-and-contests/car-giveaways/

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stopping Your SVCHOST From using 100% of Your CPU

Disclaimer:  This really isn't a fix, but what I did, did stop it and I haven't seen this issue in a while since.

Ever notice that at times, you can't get anything done on your computer because svchost is taking up all of your available CPU?  It's pretty annoying, and supposedly Microsoft put out a patch to take care of that, yet the patch/fix doesn't seem to have actually taken.

For me, my quick fix is the following:

I just open up my Windows Task Manager, highlight the app that's causing the high CPU usage and hit delete, getting rid of it.

-

If you look around, the web is full of "answers" to the problem, but they don't seem to actually address the issue.  Instead, the answers by well intended folks go on and on about every thing but the issue, talking about what might be causing it.  Or you're directed to an unknown application to see or identify the problem.

These answer boards are pretty annoying 90% of the time because of that.  Gads, I hate and don't trust most answer boards.  Even though they mean well.

BUT...

If you must know details, you can head out, locate an MS app called Process Explorer and install and run it.

Once installed and running, you can hover your mouse over the svchost session that's freaking out on you and PE will show you what app is making this happen.

I didn't do that, I just smite the damn thing in its tracks and I've been OK.  Of course I have no clue what I did smite that was causing it, but my Anti-Virus and Firewalls are up and running, so I'm OK with whatever I ran over.

-

Another suggestion out there is to Visit the Microsoft website and Download Windows Update v3 WindowsUpdateAgent30-x86.exe and run that.

But I hate things that require one to reboot into safe mode, so I'm not officially endorsing that premise.  A good working application does not need to be run in safe mode!


So for now, amid the myriad of suggestions, here's hoping this might help you out in the interim.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lost Puppy Found Paddling in Middle of SF Bay (Seriously!)

What a weird and wonderful tale of a lost puppy and its rescue.

It seems some windsurfers were spotted gathered around in a cluster with their sails down by a man who was commuting home from SF to Berkley in his little boat.

He headed over to see what was up, in case anyone needed help, and he saw that the windsurfers had picked up the young black lab puppy from the water.

The little guy was just out there in the Bay, paddling away.

The man in the boat, Adam Cohen, offered and took the tired and wet pup with him in his boat.

He took him home, warmed him up and the next day had the little guy checked out.  All is fine with the puppy except, without a microchip, they don't know who is owner is.  (He looked healthy and well cared for... except for that losing in the ocean part.)

BTW:  The windsurfers were trying to cajole the Coast Guard to come get the dog when Adam happened upon the scene.

The rescuer wants to return the dog to its owner, if they can find it.  But they are also willing to keep the dog if they can't.

-

How the heck a dog finds itself swimming in the Bay?  Good question.  Maybe it fell out of a boat or it got seriously confused or as most dog owners don't seem to get, it could have been frightened by something and the "fight or flight" mode kicked and the dog found itself in the water, confused and disoriented.

I would love to see how this story pans out, but hey, if anyone knows someone who lost a black lab mix at sea, well, there might be good news on the horizon.

Or, someone is so blasted stupid, they should not even be given the chance of being reunited with the dog.

Either way... it's a feel good, rescue story!

resources:  ktvu, huffington post,

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You Have to Get A Kick Out of Some Website's Schemas

So there you are, on the web... you see a distressing headline from the Huffington Post about a celebrity in critical condition.  You hurry over to that post to see the news on this person.  You are horrified to read the details about this star.  And then, there, below this terrible news article, is a picture gallery of the hottest stars today.

Eh?

website seo traffic capture tactics

Or better yet, as you look up this celebrity on the web, you might come across a site like SheKnows.  The terrible news is there too.  But this article about the medical tragedy is peppered with news items between paragraphs like "5 Reasons The Bachelorette is better than The Bachelor" or "Juan Pablo 101: Get to know the new Bachelor."

All, while fans are reading terrifying news reports on the star.

To be honest, these are all honest, web traffic-grabbing tactics every single website tries to employ to retain site visitors.

On of my favorites is the sad-ass tactic of finishing all posts with a question to bait readers into commenting.  (Yes, with no respect for your own intelligence, they believe you can be baited into desired internet behavior)  In this case, I noticed one site asks if you're praying for this star?  LOL. (At the question, not the situation.)

One of my next favorite tricks is "Must See" or "Must Read" headlines.  Seriously?

-

I can't imagine most of my readers fall for that crap.  I don't deploy these tactics in an artificial way.  But if you do see them on any site I run, they're honest developments of something I wrote.  Usually, I'm excited and I'm asking my five readers what they think! 

Today's piece was motivated by these practices of websites pumping out a tragedy while pushing glorified alternate headlines in the middle of the article.  It just hit a button.

It's like watching a TV show about someone who kills themselves using plastic bags, and the story is cut up with ads for Glad Trash bags.  I can't tell you how many times a TV show has thematically inappropriate  TV ads.  (AND THEY'RE STILL LOUD!!!)

At some point, a website can show it cares, by pulling or modifying what they're pumping out to the site visitor.

I have sidebar ads on my sites that I have no control over.  But some of these sites that have some serious dollar to drop on staff and programmers, and they should know or do better.

At least if they care about their site visitors.  How hard can it be to have appropriate ads, or properly set tags and categories?  Just sayin'.

=
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Google Says Use NoFollow Links in Widgets and Infographics... What?

SEO suggestions: Making Website Widget Links nofollow




I just learned that Google hates widgets and the links within widgets.

Well, they may not hate them, but apparently they have made a recommendation to make links within widgets as nofollow links.  And that has folks concerned, being as how all links to all things count for ranking.  Or at least used to.

But with this new trend over the last year or so, with Google employing the "help" of webmasters to disavow bad incoming links and what not, this seems like something folks need to pay attention to.

Yikes...

If you use a lot of widgets on your WordPress based site, you had best have checked the "nofollow" options for the links.

If you've hand built some of your widgets using the text widget (um, uh ho.), I'm guessing someone like myself needs to get in there and fix a few (dozen) links or so.

Now obviously my sites rank about as high as pond scum.  But then again, for those in the know, pond scum can actually be pretty important in the realm of life.


So How Do You Make a Link a Nofollow Link?


Per a Google support page, all you need to do is add

rel="nofollow"

To any link, as in this example:  sign in

-

Devil's Advocate:

If you check out my source link, you might notice a fascinating trend of distrust of Google's recommendations.  And I get it.

For one... they always suggest using source links.  Or, tell them who the real site that deserves credit, actually is.   Another aspect is that Google is desperate to start finding more "web spam" and are now targeting internal links.

Other comments reference a ton of critical sites out there that suddenly need to comply with Google?  Or is Google again gaming the web to help GooglePlus's stance on the web?

Or, as a few folks chiming in seemed to agree on, "All google links are good. All other links are bad."

I suppose if you're suspicious enough, you can just wait this out and see what happens to your site traffic.  Or, as someone I was chatting with, do a massive 'nofollow' campaign to all links pointing back to Google. 

Resources:  .seroundtable., .support.google.

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US Postal Service Can't Even Deliver A Present

It's been said that the USPS (U.S. Postal Service) is slowly losing ground in the industry they once had a monopoly on.  And over time, with the few experiences my family has had with them, I'm not surprised.

For instance:  Each time I've had issues with a post carrier, and I eventually get a hold of their supervisor, they've always told me how I can reach the mail carrier to talk to them.

What?  How lame is that?  One has a problem with an employee of theirs, and the boss says it's between you and them.  WTF!!!???  That's about as lame as it gets if you ask me.

This has happened a few times with me and my family.

The latest epic fail?

Sending a small piece of jewelry in an envelope with a letter.  For some reason we questioned it's ability to get to it's recipient.  But we sent it any way.  Trusting in the system.

And when the letter got there, the small piece (very small) of jewelry was pulled out through a rip in the envelope and the letter was delivered, sans gift.

So at this point, I'm guessing the USPS aren't as picky as who they're hiring any more, aren't paying them enough obviously, and don't give a crap about the little details.

It's a shame, that's for sure.

Go UPS! 


- from BeS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Menlo Park: What Is All The Street Construction Going on Downtown?

I'm sure any resident might have taken note of all the construction going on, on Santa Cruz Ave., in downtown Menlo Park.  The construction crews have been crazy busy for the last several weeks.  Heck, this morning I took note that they started working on Menlo Ave sections, along the side of downtown Menlo Park.


So what's going on?

A buddy of mine said everything they're doing looks like they're preparing the streets for parking meters and the power required to run them.

I didn't like that conjecture one bit!  Turn Menlo Park into a pay-parking mecca?  That would be shameless.

But instead, (don't falter folks!), I found the information talking about the downtown street construction.

In one bit of information, I saw where all this construction is for irrigation as they plan on sprucing up the city with more landscaping.

I still can't help but wonder why there are so many electrical installations going up and down all of Santa Cruz?

But for now, it seems all is not lost, and this is for the beautification of Menlo Park!


http://www.menlopark.org/departments/pwk/cip/ (<- at="" br="" can="" check="" construction="" link="" out="" the="" this="" updates="" you="">

- from BeS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mobile 'Google Maps' App: More Dangerous Than It Needs To Be

Recently Google Maps mobile app updated itself, and in the process, Google had incorporated the Navigation mobile app into their Maps app.  It's nice and not nice, depending on how you look at it.  But more importantly, there's a function missing that the new app desperately needs.  Without it, the app is a dangerous utility to use while driving.

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It used to be that when you pulled up your (Google) Maps app on your smartphone, when you needed to drive to another address, you punched it in and were given the option to start Navigator.  You would start that app, and it would take you to your desired destination.

In the meantime, your Maps app could still be used.

Regardless, when you use Maps to see where you are and you needed to zoom in or out, there was this great little '+/-' icon (Zoom Buttons) in the lower right corner of your screen that allowed you to zoom in and out on the map.

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I'm not sure if that function came from the Labs add on or it was with the Maps itself.

Either way, it was an incredible "safety feature" within Maps because you did not need to use the 2-finger function to zoom in or out on the map.

But now that the app was updated, that zoom feature is no longer there.

Now, if you're using your smartphone (or whatever platform) to use Maps, you need your passenger to use two hands to zoom in or out because now you need the two-finger motion to do zoom.  This means either laying down the device or holding it in one hand and using the other hand to deploy the function.

And as far as I can tell, no matter where I look, there is no option to re-add this function.

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GOOGLE...  please figure out how to replace or return that one-button touch feature to zoom in this new version of Maps.

It would make your product a safer tool to use.

- from BeS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blog SEO: Keeping Site Visitors Longer, Confusing SEO Rules and The Reality of Web Surfing

As any website owner/writer/operator can attest to, there are two games out there when it comes to trying to win the SEO game of the internet.  Getting visitors, keeping visitors and hoping Google sends you visitors.  Oh... wait, that's three.

It's a tricky balance, I'll give you that.

SEO Rules and Practices

First, one, has to get traffic to your site.  Some like using cheap tricks by using questions as titles.  (My sites suck because I use honest headlines.) 

Another piece of the balance is keeping visitors around to read your content.

The third is hoping Google refers people to your site via search results.

How hard can it be?

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"Very hard, the answer is, to question last!"

Your chosen subject content is an importent issue.  More folks flock to Hollywood gossip than mathematical equations. 

I had a gossip site that did well, but I got tired of wanting to throw up every time I wrote about someone's fashion nip slip or pregnancy, or drunk driving arrest.

So sadly, I walked away from that cash cow.

But getting people to your site, especially if you're just starting out, is TOUGH!

That is, unless someone starts a site where they already have a huge following.  Then all the rules and suggestions about Google's SEO are pretty moot.  For example, George Takei...  case in point!

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Yet no matter what, it's always suggested to write good, original quality content.

Sigh.

But if you have not noticed, there are two kinds of web surfers, and the SEO suggestions are for only one aspect of those surfers.

The suggestions are good ones... here's a sample:

  • Write decent content,
  • Have original content,
  • Use 300 words minimum,
  • Bold certain points to catch attention,
  • Engage users socially,
  • Use good linking structures.
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The above suggestions are great because there is a contingent of sufers out there that do come to websites because of great, lengthy, in-depth content.  I've seen it and been part of that.

But there's that other aspect of the web surfer, and combined with newbie websites, just don't always mash up well.

There's that web surfer that hits up your site because it came up in a search result, clicks through to the bottom paragraph or even just hits the source link and bolts to your source!  That's it.  One hit, 2 seconds, then gone.

According to the Nielsen Normam Group, users leave a web page within 10-20 seconds.  (Crap, my sites must really suck!)  They do point out that if an article has any clear value to the web surfer, they stick around.

But traditionally speaking, surfers tend to always be in "a hurry" as they scat around the web.  The study they reference says that,

"the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users' decision to stay or leave. The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages."

And can you blame them?  No, hell, I do the same thing.  Especially when I'm looking for specific information.

For example, sometimes I look up ideas for coding that I do at work.  I google my thought, and hit up the sites.  I'm not looking for mindless, egocentric conversation.  I'm looking for results that will impact my curiosity.

So I'm in, I'm out.  I'm gone in less than 5 seconds if nothing stands out.  In under 20 if I end up reviewing info that might be critical to my need.

Then, I'm out of there.

But that's indicative of typical, random surfing.

If I actually see content in and around my search results that seems like it might be appealing, I bookmark or follow the site on Facebook, Twitter or Feedly and watch their feeds to see if anything else they post is of interest.

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Here's the proof in the pudding on retaining site visitors:

At the end perspective of the study nngroup was citing, they make the following suggestion:

"To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds."

That means your opening sentence or two, and your bold headlines or headings that are peppered throughout your content need to be the eye candy for getting folks to stay.

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So... did you stick it out to the end of THIS ARTICLE?


{.nngroup.}

- from BeS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

In Washington, It's Legal to Blow Up Dogs (Because they don't suffer???)


Let me get this straight, a man blows up a Labrador Retriever.  We'll call him the soul-less a-hole (SAH).  He gets tossed in jail, on a $500k bail, but it's not for blowing up the dog.

That's because the laws in Washington state address animal suffering, and not a-hole behavior against animals.

WTF!?

This SAH (Christopher Dillingham) (allegedly) blew up his daughter's dog because he was having a dispute with her. And originally, they did arrest the man on animal cruelty charges, that were later dropped.

He does have other issues with other chargers being brought against him for using explosives, where he could get a 22-year jail term, so there's that.

But my jaw dropped that the animal cruelty charges were dropped.  Seriously, how defined do the laws have to be to have some kind of statute brought against this man?  This might have been the heat of the moment, but he had to think it out to grab explosives (they run a fireworks shop), grab the dog, and make this situation happen.

Oh wait!  They say they're reviewing the animal cruelty statutes to see if they could bring more charges against this SAH.  OH Goody, I feel so much better now.

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Lesson learned here is that if the state of Washington has a terse perspective on the lives of animals under the care of humans.

Don't move there if you love your pets!  Sheesh!  No matter how many times I see this s***, it amazes me how people can degenerate to treating animals like things.

Here's the ABC news article if you're interested.

-Bruce
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Is Social Media Impact Over Blown? Are You Losing Facebook Updates?


This article starts with chatting about Social Media and my perception of it, it verges down the path of a Twitter stat or two, and ends with the bumbling process of which Facebook stops presenting some updates to folks and pages you follow.  (With a fix for that.)

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Is social media all it's cracked up to be?



Anyone who has tried running a website knows that one of the "defacto" Google rules is to build a good social media following.  To interact and share good content, and spread your word.  This gives your content more exposure on the web, period.  And it helps you with your Google rankings, etc., etc..

But most of the time social media (SM) tends to follow and grow around personalities that already have a presence.

Some of the bigger websites out there have their SM accounts, and they already have a following.  So when they open or post to any SM channel, everyone will follow along and it looks like SM is working.

One particular pro-blogger conducts tests on various aspects of the web, but with thousands upon thousands of followers, the tests to me seem rather invalid.  Now if he were to take up an unknown mantle, and try his tests then, well, those results I'd believe.

But be it as it may, the entrenched say you must use SM to get ahead on the web.  But what I'm seeing is that for someone like myself, it's consistent, decent article creation that helps.  But in a very slow, methodical advance of generating web traffic.  Every now and then, like maybe two or three times a year I hit on an uber-hot subject and my traffic goes through the roof!  But as in any business sense, you might retain about one percent of that spike.

So the traffic spikes are fun to see, but they're not netting the numbers in the long haul.

And now Media Life put something interesting together about SM... some stats.

For instance:

30% of online adults, between 18-29 use Twitter.

While only 18% of adults who are online, have a Twitter account.

[Go ahead, you do the math on that one.]

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Here's one that doesn't surprise me, and that is there is a higher concentration of SM users come from households who make less than $30k a year.

They claim that this number reflects the "relative youth" of who uses social media.

And I don't think that's innaccurate.  But I see it as those who have crazy busy careers and make more money than most of us don't have time to even dawdle on the web.  They actually have lives that keep them very preoccupied.

I work amongst a bunch of scientists and of about 50 of them, one or two might embrace the Twitter, while some might be on Facebook.  But most of the time, the blank and polite stares says it all when I inquire if they use any of these platforms.  Those with productive careers are otherwise focused, in other words.

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MediaLife's focus was on Twitter.  Facebook is a totally different beast.

The way Facebook works, it almost works against the account holder.

I say that because as you follow, like or friend pages or people, if you don't interact with those streams of content, Facebook stops showing them to you in your feed.  Yes, if you don't comment on, or like updates of pages, or even friends, you will eventually stop seeing those updates.*

Then there's the even more annoying aspect that old posts show up in your timelines as new, just because someone commented on them.

ARgh.

*There is a fix so you don't lose status updates on pages or friends on Facebook.

Head over to their page/stream, and click on the like button.  There's an option to "Get Notifications" there that you need to click.  It seems bass-ackwards that you like something but stop getting updates unless you click this, but there it is.

OK...  I'm done with this consumer rant on social media for the moment.

If this helped you out in any way, please like, share, .... oh crap, there I go, pushing my social media agenda.

[medialife]

-Bruce
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Did Your Cell Phone Amber Alert Scare You Too? Here's Some Info


 Last night my TV was having an Amber Alert go off and right after that, my phone went off on it's own Amber Alert.  If I had not seen the TV alert first, I might have gone running, screaming from the room, thinking my phone was going into battery overload and explode.  (Sure, I might have seen way too many sci-fi movies.  What of it?)

But instead, it was just a new wrinkle in our phone technology.

Don't be fooled.  What went off on your phone was not just an Amber Alert.  On my phone, it's called "Emergency Alerts" and it goes off for critically important issues in addition to Ambers. Last night's alert was for a child abduction.  But I also have an older alert in my records for a flash flood warning alert.  So for me, (on my Verizon Motorola Razr M), it's a general alert system.

This alert system was technically started at the beginning of this year (2013) and is from FEMA as part of a nationwide program.

Depending on what region you live in, you might have old messages from Hurricane Sandy in your records.

According to sources, the alerts are limited to 90 characters and you do not get a text message charge for receiving them.  Also, if you want, apparently you can opt out of the program.  Though for the life of me, I'm not sure I see a reason why I'd want to opt out.  For a few reasons.

Like noted earlier, I have alerts for a flash flood warning in my records* and now the Amber Alert.

*I found my records under the folder where all my apps are, under a short cut called "Emegency Alerts."  It may be somewhere different for you.

I had no problem knowing about a potential hazard zone that I'm in. 

Also, if I had a child go missing, I'd be fervently hoping no one opted out so that everyone near and around me would know about my plight and somehow, someone out there I don't know, could help me out.  Hence, since I want the help, if ever needed, I in turn, make myself available to provide the same assistance.

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Now there are issues with the system.  For one, the hour that an alert is transmitted.

Looking around the web, I've seen where folks have grumbled when they learn their phone pushes emergency alerts at 4am, and the like.  I suppose that could rumple my feathers.

Others are just scared when their phone screams at them.  (Once I got up from jumping out of my seat and dusted myself off, I tried to look like I knew what was going on!)

Supporters of the system want to see it used responsibly... which means finding a fine line of a balance between what time alerts go out, versus the emergency.


For me, if a wall of water (flash flood) was hurtling towards me... sure, wake me up at 3am.  I'll let that one slide.  Alien crafts hovering in the sky with death beams lancing out at the ground... I don't know.  Would knowing save my meager little life?  OK, wake me up.  I'd like to at least see this.

Usually, the alerts are regionally driven.  Meaning last night's alert might not have reached Northern CA customers.  But in this case, a man who killed a woman and may have kidnapped a child was suspected of being on the move and they had to deliver the alert in any potential direction he was going.  In this case, the person was suspected of heading to Texas.

For me, sure, it was a scary tone alert, but for a worthy cause if they catch this bastard.

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This emergency alert system is a joint effort between

Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA),

the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Notifications are delivered through the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program.

They claim one can opt out of receiving these alerts, but the options I've found don't seem to be available on my own phone.  And I dug around in all kinds of places on my phone.  And apps, being as they are, are pretty inconsistent as to where specific settings can be found.

But per sources (CBS News) they say you can opt out:

"mobile phone owners can send the keyword "help" to the short code 26237 (AMBER). To enroll or modify, send the keyword "Amber + 5-digit zip code." To cancel send the keyword "stop." "

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Since this is a relatively new program, the service is on newer phones.  Hence, if you live in a household where someone might update their phone or another person has not, more than likely, only one of them will get the alert.

Early forms of alerts were pretty barren, saying something like, there is an Amber Alert in effect, go look it up.  But last night's alert had good information about the man and his vehicle.

Last night's bleep alert was the first Amber Alert sent in CA.  But there have been 19 such alerts across 14 states since the system's inception.

The fact that this alert startled people and folks are mainly unaware of what this system could do, is a dig against the process, but I'm not sure where.  Should we yell at the news media for not reminding us?  The system admins themselves for not getting the word out better?

Try as one might, no matter what venue one tries to communicate with, most folks won't pay attention unless it impacts them directly, or completely forget about it.

It's hard to find the right way to keep people apprised, so maybe, when they get blasted by a cell phone tone, then they'll learn all about it.

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Footnote:

I'm also betting, since this gave people a good startle, that some may not be aware what happens when you dial 911 on your phone!  The last time I did, it locked my phone out from me while they triangulated my location!

This was a few years ago, and I presume, it might be a bit more advanced and less obtrusive now-a-days.  But hey, expect the unexpected.

If you think about it, your smartphone is nothing less than a small, networked computer.  And yes, I guess it can still make phone calls too.

Good Resource on the Issue: {.wirelessfoundation.org/}
{http://www.missingkids.com/amber/wea}

Other Sources: The Big Story, LAIST,

-Bruce
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Latest Consumer Recalls: Kids Water Balls

There's a recall out for lack of a better term, children's Water Balls.

Technically, they're "Be Amazing! Toys Recalls Monster Science and Super Star Science Colossal Water Balls" and the problem is that these Water-Absorbing Polymer Balls could be mistaken for candy by a small child.

These balls, if swallowed, can start absorbing fluids and expand to an uncomfortable size, and "cause intestinal obstructions, resulting in severe discomfort, vomiting, dehydration and could be life threatening. The toys do not show up on an x-ray and require surgery to be removed from the body."

They know this because of one incident so far. (That they're aware of.)

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CPSC posts all recalls on its website at www.cpsc.gov/recalls.

If you think you have this toy, head to the CPSC site and search for the item.  They have information on what to do with the product, who to call.

-Bruce
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