Tuesday, October 25, 2011

24 Uncommon Uses for Coffee Filters

Coffee filters - More versatile than you think!
Occasionally the foodie in me takes over this blog. When that happens the SEO hat comes off and is replaced with...well...maybe one of these? Hmmm, perhaps that needs to be #25?

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.  

2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome...  Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.

3.  Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.

4.  Filter broken cork from wine.  If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter. 

5.  Protect a cast-iron skillet.  Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust. 

6.  Apply shoe polish.  Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.  

7.  Recycle frying oil.  After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter. 

8.  Weigh chopped foods.  Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale. 

9.  Hold tacos.  Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods. 

10.  Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot.  Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.

11.  Prevent a Popsicle from dripping.  Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter. 

12.  Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them..  It soaks out all the grease.  

13.  Keep in the bathroom.  They make great "razor nick fixers."

14.  As a sewing backing.  Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics. 

15.  Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors. 

16.  Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews. 

17.  Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car. 

18.  Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills. 

19.  Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.  Saves on having extra bowls to wash.

20.  Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage. 

21.  Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls. 

22.  Use them to sprout seeds.  Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a zip-lock plastic bag until they sprout. 

23. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers.  Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book.

24.  Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How SEOMoz and Moderator Jennifer Lopez Got "Yued"

 Yued - pronounced "yood" - Definition: A state of being where one is forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a community member who refuses to take an argument offline because that won't get them the attention they seek.

Yesterday Jennifer Lopez of SEOMoz experienced a Facebook Wall Moderator's dilemma: defuse or escalate. She attempted the former, even posting her personal email address at SEOmoz so that the culprit of the nagging Wall posts, Dennis Yu, could contact her directly. Well, Yu would have none of it and persisted down the escalation path like a whining two-year-old intent on having a tantrum.

Long story short, Mr. Yu wanted SEOMoz to promote a post he had written....in 2009. Now, folks, particularly some of you folks who are newer to blogging, SEO and search engine fun, 2009 is like ancient history on the Internet. It would be like trying to get The Leather Stocking Tales marketed by Amazon as a candidate for the NYT Bestsellers list...not going to happen.

Which is, pretty much, exactly what Jen Lopez tried to tell Dennis Yu. But he refused to take no for an answer. He also refused to take the conversation up with her via email. Why? Because he figured if he went on Twitter and Facebook and posted public comments saying how disappointed he was with SEOMoz that they would listen. To their credit, they did.

I encourage you to read Jen Lopez's full account regarding Dennis Yu and how he got banned from SEOMoz's Facebook page and then post your thoughts below. Do you think SEOMoz got "Yued?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Google+ Employee Steve Yegge's Rant: Perfect Example of Perils of Social media and the Pretense of Privacy

When I started my Blog back in July, I mentioned "Rants" in my title. Perhaps the closest I've actually come to posting a rant was when I wrote  a post speculating as to why women have been much slower to adopt Google+ than men.  But, when it comes to a true rant, I've got nothing compared to Steve Yegge. On the evening of October 11, 2011, Google employee Steve Yegge let loose a rant on Google+ that really is one for the ages.

Interestingly enough, this is also a really good real life example of how social media, privacy and the Internet work. I have no doubt that Steve Yegge bought a one way ticket to the dog house at Google when he accidentally published a rant on Google+ publicly instead of only sharing it with his private circles. Perhaps I need to send Steve my 10 + 1 Simple Strategies for Blogging Success: Why you shouldn’t blog when angry, drunk, high or naked?

Remember - anything you say or do online can be seen and read by anyone. Removing a post doesn't make it go away and in Steve Yegge's case, it just fanned the flames. Because I know you're dying of curiosity, here is the full text of Steve Yegge's rant:

I was at Amazon for about six and a half years, and now I’ve been at Google for that long. One thing that struck me immediately about the two companies — an impression that has been reinforced almost daily — is that Amazon does everything wrong, and Google does everything right. Sure, it’s a sweeping generalization, but a surprisingly accurate one. It’s pretty crazy. There are probably a hundred or even two hundred different ways you can compare the two companies, and Google is superior in all but three of them, if I recall correctly. I actually did a spreadsheet at one point but Legal wouldn’t let me show it to anyone, even though recruiting loved it.
I mean, just to give you a very brief taste: Amazon’s recruiting process is fundamentally flawed by having teams hire for themselves, so their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams, despite various efforts they’ve made to level it out. And their operations are a mess; they don’t really have SREs and they make engineers pretty much do everything, which leaves almost no time for coding – though again this varies by group, so it’s luck of the draw. They don’t give a single shit about charity or helping the needy or community contributions or anything like that. Never comes up there, except maybe to laugh about it.
Their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas. Their pay and benefits suck, although much less so lately due to local competition from Google and Facebook. But they don’t have any of our perks or extras — they just try to match the offer-letter numbers, and that’s the end of it. Their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.
To be fair, they do have a nice versioned-library system that we really ought to emulate, and a nice publish-subscribe system that we also have no equivalent for. But for the most part they just have a bunch of crappy tools that read and write state machine information into relational databases. We wouldn’t take most of it even if it were free.
I think the pubsub system and their library-shelf system were two out of the grand total of three things Amazon does better than google.
I guess you could make an argument that their bias for launching early and iterating like mad is also something they do well, but you can argue it either way. They prioritize launching early over everything else, including retention and engineering discipline and a bunch of other stuff that turns out to matter in the long run. So even though it’s given them some competitive advantages in the marketplace, it’s created enough other problems to make it something less than a slam-dunk.
But there’s one thing they do really really well that pretty much makes up for ALL of their political, philosophical and technical screw-ups.
Jeff Bezos is an infamous micro-manager. He micro-manages every single pixel of Amazon’s retail site. He hired Larry Tesler, Apple’s Chief Scientist and probably the very most famous and respected human-computer interaction expert in the entire world, and then ignored every goddamn thing Larry said for three years until Larry finally — wisely — left the company. Larry would do these big usability studies and demonstrate beyond any shred of doubt that nobody can understand that frigging website, but Bezos just couldn’t let go of those pixels, all those millions of semantics-packed pixels on the landing page. They were like millions of his own precious children. So they’re all still there, and Larry is not.
Micro-managing isn’t that third thing that Amazon does better than us, by the way. I mean, yeah, they micro-manage really well, but I wouldn’t list it as a strength or anything. I’m just trying to set the context here, to help you understand what happened. We’re talking about a guy who in all seriousness has said on many public occasions that people should be paying him to work at Amazon. He hands out little yellow stickies with his name on them, reminding people “who runs the company” when they disagree with him. The guy is a regular… well, Steve Jobs, I guess. Except without the fashion or design sense. Bezos is super smart; don’t get me wrong. He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.
So one day Jeff Bezos issued a mandate. He’s doing that all the time, of course, and people scramble like ants being pounded with a rubber mallet whenever it happens. But on one occasion — back around 2002 I think, plus or minus a year — he issued a mandate that was so out there, so huge and eye-bulgingly ponderous, that it made all of his other mandates look like unsolicited peer bonuses.
His Big Mandate went something along these lines:
1) All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
2) Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces.
3) There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team’s data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the network.
4) It doesn’t matter what technology they use. HTTP, Corba, Pubsub, custom protocols — doesn’t matter. Bezos doesn’t care.
5) All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
6) Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired.
7) Thank you; have a nice day!
Ha, ha! You 150-odd ex-Amazon folks here will of course realize immediately that #7 was a little joke I threw in, because Bezos most definitely does not give a shit about your day.
#6, however, was quite real, so people went to work. Bezos assigned a couple of Chief Bulldogs to oversee the effort and ensure forward progress, headed up by Uber-Chief Bear Bulldog Rick Dalzell. Rick is an ex-Armgy Ranger, West Point Academy graduate, ex-boxer, ex-Chief Torturer slash CIO at Wal*Mart, and is a big genial scary man who used the word “hardened interface” a lot. Rick was a walking, talking hardened interface himself, so needless to say, everyone made LOTS of forward progress and made sure Rick knew about it.
Over the next couple of years, Amazon transformed internally into a service-oriented architecture. They learned a tremendous amount while effecting this transformation. There was lots of existing documentation and lore about SOAs, but at Amazon’s vast scale it was about as useful as telling Indiana Jones to look both ways before crossing the street. Amazon’s dev staff made a lot of discoveries along the way. A teeny tiny sampling of these discoveries included:
- pager escalation gets way harder, because a ticket might bounce through 20 service calls before the real owner is identified. If each bounce goes through a team with a 15-minute response time, it can be hours before the right team finally finds out, unless you build a lot of scaffolding and metrics and reporting.
- every single one of your peer teams suddenly becomes a potential DOS attacker. Nobody can make any real forward progress until very serious quotas and throttling are put in place in every single service.
- monitoring and QA are the same thing. You’d never think so until you try doing a big SOA. But when your service says “oh yes, I’m fine”, it may well be the case that the only thing still functioning in the server is the little component that knows how to say “I’m fine, roger roger, over and out” in a cheery droid voice. In order to tell whether the service is actually responding, you have to make individual calls. The problem continues recursively until your monitoring is doing comprehensive semantics checking of your entire range of services and data, at which point it’s indistinguishable from automated QA. So they’re a continuum.
- if you have hundreds of services, and your code MUST communicate with other groups’ code via these services, then you won’t be able to find any of them without a service-discovery mechanism. And you can’t have that without a service registration mechanism, which itself is another service. So Amazon has a universal service registry where you can find out reflectively (programmatically) about every service, what its APIs are, and also whether it is currently up, and where.
- debugging problems with someone else’s code gets a LOT harder, and is basically impossible unless there is a universal standard way to run every service in a debuggable sandbox.
That’s just a very small sample. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of individual learnings like these that Amazon had to discover organically. There were a lot of wacky ones around externalizing services, but not as many as you might think. Organizing into services taught teams not to trust each other in most of the same ways they’re not supposed to trust external developers.
This effort was still underway when I left to join Google in mid-2005, but it was pretty far advanced. From the time Bezos issued his edict through the time I left, Amazon had transformed culturally into a company that thinks about everything in a services-first fashion. It is now fundamental to how they approach all designs, including internal designs for stuff that might never see the light of day externally.
At this point they don’t even do it out of fear of being fired. I mean, they’re still afraid of that; it’s pretty much part of daily life there, working for the Dread Pirate Bezos and all. But they do services because they’ve come to understand that it’s the Right Thing. There are without question pros and cons to the SOA approach, and some of the cons are pretty long. But overall it’s the right thing because SOA-driven design enables Platforms.
That’s what Bezos was up to with his edict, of course. He didn’t (and doesn’t) care even a tiny bit about the well-being of the teams, nor about what technologies they use, nor in fact any detail whatsoever about how they go about their business unless they happen to be screwing up. But Bezos realized long before the vast majority of Amazonians that Amazon needs to be a platform.
You wouldn’t really think that an online bookstore needs to be an extensible, programmable platform. Would you?
Well, the first big thing Bezos realized is that the infrastructure they’d built for selling and shipping books and sundry could be transformed an excellent repurposable computing platform. So now they have the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, and the Amazon Elastic MapReduce, and the Amazon Relational Database Service, and a whole passel’ o’ other services browsable ataws.amazon.com. These services host the backends for some pretty successful companies, reddit being my personal favorite of the bunch.
The other big realization he had was that he can’t always build the right thing. I think Larry Tesler might have struck some kind of chord in Bezos when he said his mom couldn’t use the goddamn website. It’s not even super clear whose mom he was talking about, and doesn’t really matter, because nobody’s mom can use the goddamn website. In fact I myself find the website disturbingly daunting, and I worked there for over half a decade. I’ve just learned to kinda defocus my eyes and concentrate on the million or so pixels near the center of the page above the fold.
I’m not really sure how Bezos came to this realization — the insight that he can’t build one product and have it be right for everyone. But it doesn’t matter, because he gets it. There’s actually a formal name for this phenomenon. It’s called Accessibility, and it’s the most important thing in the computing world.
The. Most. Important. Thing.
If you’re sorta thinking, “huh? You mean like, blind and deaf people Accessibility?” then you’re not alone, because I’ve come to understand that there are lots and LOTS of people just like you: people for whom this idea does not have the right Accessibility, so it hasn’t been able to get through to you yet. It’s not your fault for not understanding, any more than it would be your fault for being blind or deaf or motion-restricted or living with any other disability. When software — or idea-ware for that matter — fails to be accessible toanyone for any reason, it is the fault of the software or of the messaging of the idea. It is an Accessibility failure.
Like anything else big and important in life, Accessibility has an evil twin who, jilted by the unbalanced affection displayed by their parents in their youth, has grown into an equally powerful Arch-Nemesis (yes, there’s more than one nemesis to accessibility) named Security. And boy howdy are the two ever at odds.
But I’ll argue that Accessibility is actually more important than Security because dialing Accessibility to zero means you have no product at all, whereas dialing Security to zero can still get you a reasonably successful product such as the Playstation Network.
So yeah. In case you hadn’t noticed, I could actually write a book on this topic. A fat one, filled with amusing anecdotes about ants and rubber mallets at companies I’ve worked at. But I will never get this little rant published, and you’ll never get it read, unless I start to wrap up.
That one last thing that Google doesn’t do well is Platforms. We don’t understand platforms. We don’t “get” platforms. Some of you do, but you are the minority. This has become painfully clear to me over the past six years. I was kind of hoping that competitive pressure from Microsoft and Amazon and more recently Facebook would make us wake up collectively and start doing universal services. Not in some sort of ad-hoc, half-assed way, but in more or less the same way Amazon did it: all at once, for real, no cheating, and treating it as our top priority from now on.
But no. No, it’s like our tenth or eleventh priority. Or fifteenth, I don’t know. It’s pretty low. There are a few teams who treat the idea very seriously, but most teams either don’t think about it all, ever, or only a small percentage of them think about it in a very small way.
It’s a big stretch even to get most teams to offer a stubby service to get programmatic access to their data and computations. Most of them think they’re building products. And a stubby service is a pretty pathetic service. Go back and look at that partial list of learnings from Amazon, and tell me which ones Stubby gives you out of the box. As far as I’m concerned, it’s none of them. Stubby’s great, but it’s like parts when you need a car.
A product is useless without a platform, or more precisely and accurately, a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product.
Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don’t get it. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: “So is it the Stalker API?” She got all glum and said “Yeah.” I mean, I was joking, but no… the only API call we offer is to get someone’s stream. So I guess the joke was on me.
Microsoft has known about the Dogfood rule for at least twenty years. It’s been part of their culture for a whole generation now. You don’t eat People Food and give your developers Dog Food. Doing that is simply robbing your long-term platform value for short-term successes. Platforms are all about long-term thinking.
Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that’s not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there’s something there for everyone.
Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: “Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let’s go contract someone to, um, write some games for us.” Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.
You can’t do that. Not really. Not reliably. There have been precious few people in the world, over the entire history of computing, who have been able to do it reliably. Steve Jobs was one of them. We don’t have a Steve Jobs here. I’m sorry, but we don’t.
Larry Tesler may have convinced Bezos that he was no Steve Jobs, but Bezos realized that he didn’t need to be a Steve Jobs in order to provide everyone with the right products: interfaces and workflows that they liked and felt at ease with. He just needed to enable third-party developers to do it, and it would happen automatically.
I apologize to those (many) of you for whom all this stuff I’m saying is incredibly obvious, because yeah. It’s incredibly frigging obvious. Except we’re not doing it. We don’t get Platforms, and we don’t get Accessibility. The two are basically the same thing, because platforms solve accessibility. A platform is accessibility.
So yeah, Microsoft gets it. And you know as well as I do how surprising that is, because they don’t “get” much of anything, really. But they understand platforms as a purely accidental outgrowth of having started life in the business of providing platforms. So they have thirty-plus years of learning in this space. And if you go to msdn.com, and spend some time browsing, and you’ve never seen it before, prepare to be amazed. Because it’s staggeringly huge. They have thousands, and thousands, and THOUSANDS of API calls. They have a HUGE platform. Too big in fact, because they can’t design for squat, but at least they’re doing it.
Amazon gets it. Amazon’s AWS (aws.amazon.com) is incredible. Just go look at it. Click around. It’s embarrassing. We don’t have any of that stuff.
Apple gets it, obviously. They’ve made some fundamentally non-open choices, particularly around their mobile platform. But they understand accessibility and they understand the power of third-party development and they eat their dogfood. And you know what? They make pretty good dogfood. Their APIs are a hell of a lot cleaner than Microsoft’s, and have been since time immemorial.
Facebook gets it. That’s what really worries me. That’s what got me off my lazy butt to write this thing. I hate blogging. I hate… plussing, or whatever it’s called when you do a massive rant in Google+ even though it’s a terrible venue for it but you do it anyway because in the end you really do want Google to be successful. And I do! I mean, Facebook wants me there, and it’d be pretty easy to just go. But Google is home, so I’m insisting that we have this little family intervention, uncomfortable as it might be.
After you’ve marveled at the platform offerings of Microsoft and Amazon, and Facebook I guess (I didn’t look because I didn’t want to get too depressed), head over to developers.google.com and browse a little. Pretty big difference, eh? It’s like what your fifth-grade nephew might mock up if he were doing an assignment to demonstrate what a big powerful platform company might be building if all they had, resource-wise, was one fifth grader.
Please don’t get me wrong here — I know for a fact that the dev-rel team has had to FIGHT to get even this much available externally. They’re kicking ass as far as I’m concerned, because they DO get platforms, and they are struggling heroically to try to create one in an environment that is at best platform-apathetic, and at worst often openly hostile to the idea.
I’m just frankly describing what developers.google.com looks like to an outsider. It looks childish. Where’s the Maps APIs in there for Christ’s sake? Some of the things in there are labs projects. And the APIs for everything I clicked were… they were paltry. They were obviously dog food. Not even good organic stuff. Compared to our internal APIs it’s all snouts and horse hooves.
And also don’t get me wrong about Google+. They’re far from the only offenders. This is a cultural thing. What we have going on internally is basically a war, with the underdog minority Platformers fighting a more or less losing battle against the Mighty Funded Confident Producters.
Any teams that have successfully internalized the notion that they should be externally programmable platforms from the ground up are underdogs — Maps and Docs come to mind, and I know GMail is making overtures in that direction. But it’s hard for them to get funding for it because it’s not part of our culture. Maestro’s funding is a feeble thing compared to the gargantuan Microsoft Office programming platform: it’s a fluffy rabbit versus a T-Rex. The Docs team knows they’ll never be competitive with Office until they can match its scripting facilities, but they’re not getting any resource love. I mean, I assume they’re not, given that Apps Script only works in Spreadsheet right now, and it doesn’t even have keyboard shortcuts as part of its API. That team looks pretty unloved to me.
Ironically enough, Wave was a great platform, may they rest in peace. But making something a platform is not going to make you an instant success. A platform needs a killer app. Facebook — that is, the stock service they offer with walls and friends and such — is the killer app for the Facebook Platform. And it is a very serious mistake to conclude that the Facebook App could have been anywhere near as successful without the Facebook Platform.
You know how people are always saying Google is arrogant? I’m a Googler, so I get as irritated as you do when people say that. We’re not arrogant, by and large. We’re, like, 99% Arrogance-Free. I did start this post — if you’ll reach back into distant memory — by describing Google as “doing everything right”. We do mean well, and for the most part when people say we’re arrogant it’s because we didn’t hire them, or they’re unhappy with our policies, or something along those lines. They’re inferring arrogance because it makes them feel better.
But when we take the stance that we know how to design the perfect product for everyone, and believe you me, I hear that a lot, then we’re being fools. You can attribute it to arrogance, or naivete, or whatever — it doesn’t matter in the end, because it’s foolishness. There IS no perfect product for everyone.
And so we wind up with a browser that doesn’t let you set the default font size. Talk about an affront to Accessibility. I mean, as I get older I’m actually going blind. For real. I’ve been nearsighted all my life, and once you hit 40 years old you stop being able to see things up close. So font selection becomes this life-or-death thing: it can lock you out of the product completely. But the Chrome team is flat-out arrogant here: they want to build a zero-configuration product, and they’re quite brazen about it, and Fuck You if you’re blind or deaf or whatever. Hit Ctrl-+ on every single page visit for the rest of your life.
It’s not just them. It’s everyone. The problem is that we’re a Product Company through and through. We built a successful product with broad appeal — our search, that is — and that wild success has biased us.
Amazon was a product company too, so it took an out-of-band force to make Bezos understand the need for a platform. That force was their evaporating margins; he was cornered and had to think of a way out. But all he had was a bunch of engineers and all these computers… if only they could be monetized somehow… you can see how he arrived at AWS, in hindsight.
Microsoft started out as a platform, so they’ve just had lots of practice at it.
Facebook, though: they worry me. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure they started off as a Product and they rode that success pretty far. So I’m not sure exactly how they made the transition to a platform. It was a relatively long time ago, since they had to be a platform before (now very old) things like Mafia Wars could come along.
Maybe they just looked at us and asked: “How can we beat Google? What are they missing?”
The problem we face is pretty huge, because it will take a dramatic cultural change in order for us to start catching up. We don’t do internal service-oriented platforms, and we just as equally don’t do external ones. This means that the “not getting it” is endemic across the company: the PMs don’t get it, the engineers don’t get it, the product teams don’t get it, nobody gets it. Even if individuals do, even if YOU do, it doesn’t matter one bit unless we’re treating it as an all-hands-on-deck emergency. We can’t keep launching products and pretending we’ll turn them into magical beautiful extensible platforms later. We’ve tried that and it’s not working.
The Golden Rule of Platforms, “Eat Your Own Dogfood”, can be rephrased as “Start with a Platform, and Then Use it for Everything.” You can’t just bolt it on later. Certainly not easily at any rate — ask anyone who worked on platformizing MS Office. Or anyone who worked on platformizing Amazon. If you delay it, it’ll be ten times as much work as just doing it correctly up front. You can’t cheat. You can’t have secret back doors for internal apps to get special priority access, not for ANY reason. You need to solve the hard problems up front.
I’m not saying it’s too late for us, but the longer we wait, the closer we get to being Too Late.
I honestly don’t know how to wrap this up. I’ve said pretty much everything I came here to say today. This post has been six years in the making. I’m sorry if I wasn’t gentle enough, or if I misrepresented some product or team or person, or if we’re actually doing LOTS of platform stuff and it just so happens that I and everyone I ever talk to has just never heard about it. I’m sorry.
But we’ve gotta start doing this right.
Now THAT my friends was a rant..... The supreme irony? Steve couldn't have posted his rant on Facebook because it exceeds the maximum allowable characters. I guess you could say that Google+ has room for more characters, like Steve Yegge.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Protect Your Personal Brand - Buy Your Own Domain Name Now!

Remember when vanity license plates were like the ultimate in personal branding? On the Internet, owning your personal name as a domain goes way beyond vanity. It's a necessity.

Whether you think Google+ is the next big thing or not, the one thing becoming clear on social networks is that your real identity matters online. When personal and business relationships are being forged online without people ever meeting in person, who you are and how you represent yourself online can often make or break the deal.

Go search for "yourname.com" right now...

When I search "danatan.com" I get some interesting results. First, I see that Dana Tan is a comic book character from DC Comics' Batman series. Cool! I also see a search result giving a link to my Twitter page, and a few other links to various videos, some me, some of a comic book character. Because DC Comics is fairly well known, and Dana Tan is a main character, I was really surprised to find that "danatan.com" was available. I bought it immediately. 

Buying your name as a domain name protects your personal brand

If you buy your own personal domain name and develop it with good content, you can make sure your name is associated with stories and items that best define who you are.

Go search for your personal name as a domain right now. If it's available, buy it!

Not sure how to do that? Simply go to GoDaddy.com and type it in to search from their home page. If your domain name is not available, you can find out who owns it at WhoIs.com. If you can afford it, try to buy it from the person who owns it. This can be done by contacting the owner through their current registration company.

Need help? Email me and I'll assist in any way I can.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Choose a Domain Name That Will Improve Your Site's SEO

Some things in Search Engine Optimization [SEO] will never change. This is one of them. Choosing the right domain name can significantly boost your site's organic results in search engines [SERPS]. Think about it this way, if a new visitor makes it to your site, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to come back again in the future. One way to do that is to make sure your domain reflects you and your business with laser-like accuracy and that your domain name is easy to remember.

Let's Try an Example

Let's pretend we are going to open an online site selling clay flower pots that people can decorate themselves with paint. 

Step 1 - Keyword Research

This is a little bit different than doing keyword research for a specific product or category page. Ideally, what you are looking for in this research are keywords that have a good balance of four key factors:
    • Good Search Volume
    • Low Competition
    • Relevancy
    • Higher CPC

Good Search Volume - You want keywords that produce a good amount of traffic. Think about it. If a keyword is only producing 250 global searches in a month, and you've got 5,000 sites competing for that traffic, are you going to get enough traffic to have a business? Probably not.

Low Competition - Not only do you want some keywords that produce a decent amount of traffic, you want the competition for that traffic to be fairly low. If a keyword is producing 10,000 searches a month, and there are only 100 or so competitors, that keyword gives you much more traffic than the word that had 250 searches but 5,000 competitors.

Relevancy - Good search volume plus low competition are meaningless if the keyword you've chosen doesn't do a good job of describing your product or service. For example, when I plug the term "clay flower pots" into Google's Keyword Tool, one of the terms I see that has excellent volume and low competition is "garden centre." While it might get me lots of visitors, they aren't going to be qualified visitors because "garden centre" could describe a lot of different things. It certainly isn't synonymous with "clay flower pots." 4 conversions out of 10,000 visitors and 4 conversions out of 10 visitors is still 4 conversions. Choose keywords that describe your business with laser-like precision.

Higher CPC - Going after keywords that have the combination of good search volume, low competition, high relevancy and high CPC (compared to similar keywords) can save you a fortune in online advertising. If you can build an expensive term into your domain name, and rank well with it, you are positioning yourself well organically for terms that you may not have been able to afford to bid on in Adwords or Bing.

Step 2 - Select the possibilities

Go through the Google Keyword tool's results for "clay flower pots" and select all of the most relevant terms. In this case, Google returned 800 results when I did a general search so I went back and checked the box that said "Only show ideas closely related to my search terms." This produced a list of 14 keywords.

I think it's best to work from both lists because each might give you some different ideas about which keywords to choose. For example, I noticed on the short list that the most expensive term for CPC was "wholesale clay flower pots" at $0.89 a click. I also noticed on the bigger list that the term "wholesale flower pots" was also relatively expensive at $0.97 CPC, about 26 per cent higher in cost than the term "clay flower pots" which had an average CPC of $0.72.

Step 3 - Make a Short List of your favorites

In the case of "clay flower pots" my short list looked like this:


Since my business is about selling clay flower pots to people who want to hand paint and decorate them, the domain "www.clayflowerpotcrafts" combines words with good search volume, low competition, relatively high CPC costs and it describes exactly what my business is about.

Step 4 - Make sure the domain you want is available

Visit GoDaddy.com's homepage and type in your preferred domain name. One of the biggest advantages to choosing your domain name using the above process is that most of the time your first choice is going to be available because it's usually a combination of 3 or 4 words. Hooray! In this case the domaine "www.clayflowerpotcrafts.com" is available.

We will talk about how to protect your domain and online business from something called "cyber-squatting" in a future post. For now, buy that domain and get started building your site!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dana Tan SEO Moving from Mansfield PA to Olympia WA

Hi everyone! This is a very brief post to explain my absence and the limited number of posts over the last week or two. I am in the process of moving my base of operations for SEO and SEM consulting from East coast to West. Throw a little hurricane in the mix, and stir. It's been a pretty interesting couple of weeks. I will be doing professional SEO and SEM for a company based in Olympia WA and have uprooted my children, cat and goldfish to head West. Here is a picture looking out to Puget Sound from my new deck...

I look forward to have Internet up and running soon. Look forward to new posts on SEO and SEM from the great Northwest!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 20 Dry Spices for Your Kitchen

Yes, well I seemed to have started something with these top 20 kitchen lists. So here we go...

My Top 20 Dry Spices for Your Kitchen:

  1. Cumin
  2. Basil
  3. Parsley
  4. Cayenne Pepper
  5. Sage
  6. Rosemary
  7. Thyme
  8. Red Pepper Flakes
  9. Oregano
  10. Rubbed Sage
  11. Mustard
  12. Terragon
  13. Cinnamon
  14. Ginger
  15. Cloves
  16. Paprika
  17. Dill
  18. Celery Seed
  19. Turmeric
  20. Allspice

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Use SEMRush.com to Improve Your Organic SEO – 12 Easy Steps [Video]

SEMRush is one of the few paid SEO tools that I think is worth the money.  I am including both a Video and Step by Step Instructions.

To show you how to use this tool I picked a random company: Brannen Brothers Flute Makers             Step 1. Enter the URL of your company into the SEMRush.com search bar
            Step 2. Click on “Full Report”             Step 3. Click the column header to sort the list in order of Keyword ranking
               Step 4. Click the “Export” tab that’s best for you – I use Export for Excel             Step 5. You will have a list that looks something like this:
            Step 6. Insert a new Column between Columns A and B
                Step 7. Title the New Column “Categories”
               Step 8. Separate the Keywords into Categories Enter a category name beside each keyword. The category is up to you and your business. Use categories that make sense. If your company is big enough to have Product Line Managers, ask them for help if you get stuck categorizing. In this example, it’s a very small company and I happen to know this business extremely well. These are the categories I came up with:
  • Branded
  • Components
  • Dealers
  • Geographic
  • Makers
  • Material
  • Price
            Step 9. Click the upper right-hand corner to highlight the entire spreadsheet
            Step 10. Click the “Data” tab and then click “Sort”             Step 11. Select to sort by Column B or “Category” – ascending and Click “OK”
            Step 12. You will now have a spreadsheet alphabetically sorted by Keyword Category
For a company as small as this one, one person could easily look over this list and make some key observations:
  • What keywords do you think are missing? – Make a list
  • What keywords are here that surprise you? – Why? Make a list
  • What keywords rank lower than you would like? Make a list
If your company has a strong brand, like Brannen Brothers, finding a lot of branded terms in the top 20 organic rankings should be expected. Your observations, and the keyword lists that you make from answering the 3 questions above will help guide what to do next. For example, Brannen Brothers manufactures flutes. However, the number of keywords for flute components that they have organically ranked in the top 20 seems low. Of those words, many of them are still on the second page of search results. It would probably be very beneficial to optimize some pages of their site for the terms “lafin headjoints,” “flute lip plate,” “headjoints,” and “flute trills.” It would probably also be beneficial to brainstorm and add some additional “Component” keywords to a wish list of terms they would like to be ranked well for by doing some keyword research surrounding these terms. To give you real-life evidence of how well this works, here’s a screenshot of a company, Kingdom.com, where I initiated this SEMRush method in January of 2010. When the project began, they had 424 top 20 organic keywords. When the project ended they had 3,498!
This Screenshot shows Kingdom.com's move upwards compared to several competitors.
Need help? I’d be happy to do an SEMRush audit of your Website and make recommendations for a reasonable fee based on the size of your site.  Please contact me directly at danatanseo@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 20 Kitchen Cookware items I Couldn't Live Without

Well, I really am writing another SEO post...and it's going to be excellent of course. But while I'm sitting here putting that together it dawned on me that I need to follow up my Top 20 Pantry Ingredients You Must Have in Your Kitchen with a post concerning utensils, implements...yes, cooking parephernalia.

Paraphernalia - now there's a word. I had a Dickens of a time spelling it. Once I'd finally got it right I was very curious as to its original meaning. Here it is, straight from the Meriam-Webster online Dictionary:
the separate real or personal poperty of a married woman that she can dispose of by will and sometimes according to common law during her life
I say, that describes every item in my kitchen absolutely perfectly...

So here it is:

My Top 20 Kitchen Items I can't Live without (unless of course disposed of by will or common law):
  1. Cast iron Dutch Oven
  2. Wooden spoon
  3. One large sharp butcher's knife
  4. One large sharp paring knife
  5. Set of stainless steel measuring spoons (keep your knickers on, they count as one because they are all hooked together with a little metal ring!)
  6. Cheese Grater
  7. Cast iron skilllet
  8. One cookie sheet
  9. One bread pan
  10. One Stainless steel Stock pot
  11. One Stainless steel large saute pan
  12. One electric hand mixer
  13. One small hand blender
  14. One stainless steal spatula
  15. One rubber heat-resistant spatula
  16. One stainless steel 1-2 qt. sauce pan with lid
  17. Crock pot
  18. Mandolin (no silly a slicer, not the guitar kind!)
  19. Large oven-safe mixing bowl
  20. Large oven-save serving platter

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 20 Must Have Kitchen Pantry Ingredients

Today I'm taking a little break from SEO and indulging in my other passion, cooking. One thing that can help you survive hard financial times is knowing how to cook. Along with that, you have to know how to shop for ingredients that give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Cook Poor and Eat Rich with My Top 20 Kitchen Pantry Ingredients:

  1. Eggs
  2. Butter
  3. Lemons
  4. Flour
  5. Sugar
  6. Rice
  7. Salt
  8. Pepper
  9. Onions
  10. Potatoes
  11. Milk
  12. Garlic
  13. Tomatoes (Canned Sauce, canned dice or 4-6 fresh tomatoes)
  14. Fresh Greens (could be Chard, Romaine, Spinach, Collard or Spinach)
  15. Peanut Butter
  16. Celery
  17. Apples
  18. Cheese
  19. Pinto Beans
  20. One large (5-25 lbs) protein item (could be whole chicken, turkey, venison, fish, pork shoulder, pork belly, ham or beef chuck roast)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SEO Saturdays - Pagerank Demystified

First - a Little Pagerank History

Pagerank is one of those words that gets stuck in your spellchecker….

Pagerank was an algorithm originally created by Larry Page, one of Google’s founders. “Page” is a reference to his name, not your website “pages.” The algorithm looked at how many people (including you) were linking to a certain page of your site and then gave it a score on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being of no relevance and 10 being most relevant.

Pagerank was important to search algorithms in 1998. While still a part of the equation, it’s such a small element that it’s really not worth monitoring, mentioning or tracking. This is advice straight from the Google Webmaster blog.

13 years later there are still people obsessed with Pagerank, Link Juice, and Link Spamming

A big part of the Pagerank equation is from how many sites link to a specific page of your site. Consequently, every page of your site has its own Pagerank. There are still lots of “checkers” out there. Here’s a link to a decent Pagerank checker.   

Just keep in mind, whatever number is there…isn’t real. You can’t get your real time Pagerank, from anyone. So really, you’re going to take this mystery number and actually use it to determine your actions? Are you nuts?

Sure, you can track your site’s Pagerank over time – But you’ll never see what it is right now because Google won’t tell you!

Today in SEO there is only one part of your website that should be manipulated based on Pagerank. That is to create internal links [link to yesterday’s article] on your site that link pages with a high Pagerank, to pages with a low Pagerank.  There’s an important caveat in that equation. You can’t just go round linking irrelevant pages. If you send a bunch of links from a high-ranked page with a smoked ribs recipe to a low Pagerank page for vegetarian tofu chili, uhhh, that’s not going to be very relevant.

If you are going to link a page with higher Pagerank to a page with lower Pagerank, for God’s sake make sure there’s a logical reason.

Relevance is a much larger part of Google’s algorithm, which contains over 200 variables and is updated at a rate of nearly 9 changes per week. Why people have been dwelling on Pagerank for the last 13 years I don’t know. At a rate of 9 changes per week over the last 13 years, that means Google has changed it’s algorithm 9 (13x52) times in the last 13 years. Folks, that’s 6,084 times.

So do me a favor. Instead of obsessing over link juice, go squeeze some lime juice and make a great Marguerita. Join me next week for Saturday SEO!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Content Might be King but Inbound Links are Queen - Sit Down Kids - This is a Lesson in Linkology

Outbound Links, Inbound Links, Back Links, Hyper Links, and Internal Links – Links Explained for SEO

Lesson 1 – What is a Hyper Link?

I’ll spare you the techno-babble. A hyper link is anything on a Web page that is “clickable” and navigates you to another Web page. What’s the difference between a “link” and a “hyper link” online? Nothing. They are the same thing. Ok, onword ho!
plastic sausage links
These are not Hyper Links

Lesson 2 – What is an Inbound Link?

Inbound links are the single most important thing that will affect your site’s SEO

Inbound links, also called “Back links,” are links on other websites that link back to pages of your site. If Content is King, inbound links are Queen. Maybe someday this will change, but my guess is it won’t be for a very, very, VERY long time. Think about it this way: You apply for a job and submit your references to an interviewer. She contacts all of your references. They say amazing things about you. Some other guy wants the same job too and has all the same qualifications. However, he only has two references while you had five and his don’t say amazing things. All other things being equal, who get’s hired? Right! You do!

In SEO the site with the strongest inbound links wins!

You could have a crappy site, with misspellings and bad grammar. If you have more better inbound links than the other guy, your site will come out ahead of his in the SERPs. [Now don’t get all excited, my bad grammar was intentional!]. What other people say about you holds more weight with Search Engines than beautiful design and immaculate editing. Search Engine spiders are like the interviewer I just mentioned. They are ranking your site based on your references from other people, more than anything else. Everything else in SEO is important, but less important.

So does that mean that outbound links are bad?

Lesson 3: What is an Outbound Link?
Gypsy man with crystal ball

Outbound links are links from your site out to other sites. There was a time when some SEO professionals were obsessed with something called Pagerank. I will address Pagerank in tomorrow’s post, so don’t worry if you don’t know what it is. These SEO’s believed that any outbound link on a page reduced the importance of that page to a search engine spider. This led to people trying to manipulate the importance of their own pages and a mystical activity called “Pagerank sculpting.” Believe me, it had nothing to do with art.

SEO’s who say they have a magical bag of tricks that can “fool” the search engines are most likely attempting to manipulate Page Rank with bogus inbound and unhelpful outbound links. Stay away from people who say they have “secret methods.” They are charlatans. 

Outbound links can often be crucial to the success of your pages. 

Saguaro Cactus
For example, what if your site was all about travel to Sedona, Arizona. Your content discussed places to see, guided tours, hotels, restaurants and even had reviews from other people who had visited. But on the site, there were no links to any of this, no hotels, not the chamber of commerce, no local attractions, no transportation companies, nothing.

This would give your visitors a terrible experience. Here you are telling them all these fun things they can do in Sedona, but you’re not giving them any way to even begin making reservations or planning their trip. In this case, not only would outbound links help your visitor, they would establish your credibility as a travel expert.

Outbound links that are relevant to your content and enhance visitor experience are always a good thing for your SEO

Lesson 4 – What are Internal Links?

Internal Links are links from one page of your site to another page of your site. Your Navigation menu on your home page is a good example. You might also reference things from one page to another. For example, if you are selling microphones and you want to suggest a mic stand to your customer, you could include a link to that accessory to make it easier for your customer to find. That would be an internal link.
hansel and Gretel following breadcrumb trail
Just in case you can't wait, click the link
for an excellent Web design article on breadcrumbs

Think of internal links as a breadcrumb trail for your visitors. Actually using breadcrumbs in your Web design is a great idea, but a different topic, so I will save that for a future post. These breadcrumb trails need to be a logical progression. If you start sending your visitors or spiders around in circles, or worse, dead ends, they just get frustrated and leave, or worse, possibly at a cabin in the Austrian woods where an old lady in a tall pointy hat invites them in for dinner. Neither are good scenarios.

Your trail should not be a digital rendition of Escher’s Mummies on Stairs [okay, it’s not called Mummies on Stairs, it’s really called “Relativity” – a 1953 lithograph]. Ooohh, that was an outbound link!

Stay tuned for a future post on easy ways to get high quality inbound links to your site. Yes, when that post is written there will be an inbound link that will take you right to the article. In the meantime, read something from the Dana Tan SEO Blog Archives [ooohhh, now that was a real inbound link!]