Category Archives for The Online Life

The Age of the Female Consumer?

Female SymbolLast week I went to the Women2.0 Conference in San Francisco. The conference, geared towards female entrepreneurs, was one of the most inspiring events I’ve attended. Everyone I met was smart and accomplished. The highlight of the show was the pitch competition where startup founders pitched their businesses to a VC panel. The pitches weren’t for small little businesses – these were serious ideas looking for capital investment of 500K and up. Case in point, the winner, Angaza Design, is bringing pay as you go solar power to East Africa.

The day also had many speakers, including crowd favorite Lynda Weinman, founder of lynda.com. Fran Maier, who was a key player in the shaping of match.com gave a speech “Embracing the Female Consumer”. In many ways women have achieved parity or have surpassed men in their engagement with the internet. Women are the shoppers (no big surprise there) and spend 33% more time on Facebook than men. With our natural inclination to network, social media is a natural to entice more women online. Just look at the popularity of Pinterest.

The “she” economy is now reckoned to be 5 trillion dollars, so Fran’s call for companies to embrace the female consumer is not one to be ignored. For me however, this raised more questions that it answered. What should businesses be doing differently? If anything? Take this blog for example, I hadn’t realized this until now, but it’s mostly men that comment on this blog. I had never given this matter a second thought. Like many women in technology, I’m used to being surrounded by men. The Women 2.0 conference was the first technology oriented conference I had attended where my gender was in the majority. So much so that the hotel converted a few of the male restrooms for our use.

I had just accepted that the topics I blog on were of more interest than men. I’m not sure there is anything I can do to attract more women readers. And no I’m not going to change the colors of this blog to pink. But am I thinking too small here?

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Match.com Gets Social, Maybe a bit too much

match.comOnline dating sites. Despite their widespread use I still feel like there is a stigma attached to online dating, enough so that you don’t really want to admit in social conversations you have a profile on Match.com – let alone write a blog post on it. It feels like you are advertising to the world that you are desperate for a date. But, putting aside my misgivings and with low expectations, at the beginning of last summer I created a profile. Long story short I did not meet my current boyfriend through Match.com, but I really thought Match did a great job of enticing engagement on the site.

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DMCA Takedown Procedure for Stolen Content

No one like having their content stolen. It’s even worse when it ends up on low quality spammy sites that drag your backlink profile down into Penguin target territory. If the website in question is scraping a significant portion of your content, like entire articles verbatim, filing a DMCA takedown compliant with Google can be effective way to get it removed.

First, attempt to contact the site owner and tell him that stealing content violates The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and you will file a DMCA takedown with Google if the content is not removed. If you don’t get a response, then file the DMCA takedown request. If it is a Google properly, such as a blogspot blog it can get completely removed, otherwise it will be removed from Google’s index. For non Google properties, select the “web search” option.

Reporting spam, such as paid links and malware is a different procedure.

Gamers get social with a LAN party for Diablo 3

may 20 2012 eclipseHere in California we are an hour from the start of an annular solar eclipse. So in honor of this rare and unusual astronomical event, I thought I would write something a little different today.

LAN Parties, the ultimate social event for gamers.

Diablo Firefly Artwork

Diablo Firefly Artwork

Gamers that have been waiting for the release of Diablo 3, an online multi-player role playing game, were finally rewarded when Diablo 3 released on May 15th (at 12:01 AM PST to be precise). My son, who moderates a popular Diablo 3 online forum, hosted a small LAN party for its release that kicked off at midnight.

What’s a LAN party?

A LAN party is a group of gamers that come together in one physical location to video game. In this case, the Diablo LAN party didn’t require setting up a LAN (which is an acronym for Local Area Network), as all that was needed was a decent internet connection and a router. Each gamer brought their own system (BYOC – bring your own computer), but there are large LAN parties that provide equipment. Diablo players can all be on the same team as they interact with the online world that is Diablo 3 and it is a lot more fun do this with your friends in the same room, than separately.

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January 18 Blackout

theoatmeal sopa

Today many websites went “dark” to protest a pair of bills, SOPA and PIPA, that are currently in the US Congress. These broadly reaching bills are seen rightly by many as a vehicle for internet censorship.

Here is many screenshots of what greeted visitors on many popular websites today. The sad Koala to the left is courtesy of The Oatmeal, which posted a clever animation on its site in support of the blackout.

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Will Your Site Go Dark on January 18th?

Stop Internet CensorshipMany websites are planning a blackout on January 18th to protest the SOPA legislation. Like many things, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy) started out as a well intentioned effort, mainly spearheaded by the music industry, to tackle piracy and copyright infringement by “rogue” websites. However many think the legislation goes too far.

The opponents say that SOPA would give the US government the ability to completely block a website from US viewing even if just one link on that site violates copyright. It wouldn’t matter if the link was created by a user and not the site owner, blockage would still be possible. If that doesn’t bother you, this FAQ on SOPA may. No wonder sites such as reddit – which are driven by user generated content – are up in arms over this legislation and plan to go dark on January 18th as a protest.

While there is some fearmongering going on here, it is clear that the legislation is dangerous and not really in the spirit of a free and open internet that many of us expect. SOPA opponents have many valid points. While there are signs that the White House is beginning to waver in its support of the bill, we are not out of the woods yet.

Joining the SOPA blackout protest? Read this first

Many are urging webmasters to protest by posting a statement on their site or altering their site to redirect to this effective AmericanCensorship.org infographic. There are already WordPress plugins created that you can use. However before you run off and implement any of these, consider that your actions may have a negative impact on your site’s SEO. Have a read of this post:
How to participate in the outage without hurting your site with Google search. Google recommends that you have your site return a 503 HTTP status code so that it knows not to spider your content that day.

It occurs to me that maybe Google should just not crawl that day?

Picture by aussiegold and published under the Flickr Creative Commons License

Uploading Photos from your Phone

On a recent trip to Europe I took over 200 pictures with my Android HTC Incredible cell phone in Germany, Istanbul (Turkey) and Prague (Czech Republic). The idea was to not only share snapshots as I travelled along, but also to create an online album to share with my friends when I got back. Here some tips on how to upload photos from your phone that I picked up. Note that this post tends to be Android specific.

Roman Cistern - Istanbul, Turkey

Roman Cistern - Istanbul, Turkey

The basics

You don’t have to have a smartphone to share pictures. Most cellphones today can take pictures and send them via SMS (the protocol used for text messaging). You usually have the option to send a “picture message” to an email address as well. You can do this with a smartphone as well. With Android, if you email the picture it appears to be coming from your gmail account.

As an aside,the Android OS is tightly integrated with your gmail account, for example sharing contacts … in some ways this makes life easier when you are emailing from your phone, but in other ways it junks up my phone with a lot of contacts I’ll never email again. This also can impact your uploads as I discovered.

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Connectivity while traveling – Update

I’m into the third week of traveling in Europe. As mentioned in my previous travel in Europe post I’m also working part-time while traveling. The first week I spent in Munich, including a visit to Oktoberfest and the second week in Istanbul, Turkey. Now I am visiting Prague, a beautiful city which I highly recommend.

Google in Czech

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Mixing work and travel in Europe

One of the main attractions of the work I do is that I can do it from anywhere. With a laptop and a cell phone and an internet connection I’m work ready and have worked from a variety of locations in California and Texas.

Ein Bier

Courtesy of K Mick - Flickr Creative Common License

Well now I’m taking it to the next level with a 3 week trip to Europe. Oktoberfest in Munich has been on my bucket list forever and now I finally get to experience it next week!

Other than the obvious problem of mixing work with pleasure, there are some challenges in working from Europe.

  • Timezones – Germany is nine hours ahead of California, so this means that my client meetings will need to be at night. Since I will need to meet with a couple of clients during the three weeks I will need to allocate “work” nights during the time I will be there.
  • Connectivity – One of the reasons I picked Europe is because it is a developed country and I should be able to find internet connectivity fairly easily in hotels and WIFI hotspots. I do need to be careful on what I send over unsecured WIFI and may need to invest in a USB broadband card. Similar to the card I have here, there are pay as you go plans in Europe. On my todo list is reconfiguring my mail on my phone and laptop to send over SSL as I have noticed that some of my mail providers block SMTP over unsecured WIFI. Hopefully using SSL will do the trick.
  • Power – Fortunately I won’t need an actual transformer as the laptop’s power is already transformed to a lower voltage, but I do need a adaptor plug. I picked one up at Radio Shack. My cell phone plugs into my laptop to recharge.
  • Phone – This was the most daunting part of planning the trip. At first glance it looked like I would either need to rent a phone when I arrived or try a service here that ships you a phone to take with you. Europe uses a different network (GSM) than the US (CDMA) and although AT&T and T-Mobile phones work on GSM, many of the travel blogs will tell you that Verizon phones won’t. This however is changing, my new Droid does have the capability to work on GSM. I called Verizon to set up a plan and get the magic incantation to activate GSM. The plan is not cheap, it’s $.99 a minute and $.50 to text. However I can receive texts for only $.05. Due to this I may still consider renting a phone, but at least I’ll have a phone that works there. The real killer is data roaming, that can run hundreds of dollars. I plan to keep that that turned off.
  • Phone meetings – At $.99 a minute, this is not a feasible option for hour long (or even half hour) client meetings. Enter Skype. I will be signing up for unlimited calling to US landlines and cell phones for $8 / month. Another alternative is MagicJack but this requires additional equipment to order from them.

I leave in 2 days, we will see how successful I am at mixing travel and work! Stay tuned.

The silent gatekeepers of your web experience

Two weeks ago, I did an informal poll with my friends on Facebook. The question I asked “How many of you habitually click on the “Most Recent” link on your wall rather than letting Facebook tell you what’s news? I was wondering if I was the only one that was bugged by the assumption I wouldn’t find “unpopular” posts by my friends irrelevant. I wasn’t, many people responded and said they always clicked on “Most Recent”.

Welcome to the new web, which is increasingly becoming tailored to you. It’s not just Facebook, which devalues those friends whose links you never click on, Google too personalizes it’s search results too, to your location, your past history, even if you are not logged in.

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