Monday, December 07, 2009
Neuroscientists at the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., have demonstrated how brain waves can be used to type alphanumerical characters on a computer screen. By merely focusing on the "q" in a matrix of letters, for example, that "q" appears on the monitor.
Researchers say these findings, presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, represent concrete progress toward a mind-machine interface that may, one day, help people with a variety of disorders control devices, such as prosthetic arms and legs. These disorders include Lou Gehrig's disease and spinal cord injuries, among many others.
"Over 2 million people in the United States may benefit from assistive devices controlled by a brain-computer interface," says the study's lead investigator, neurologist Jerry Shih, M.D. "This study constitutes a baby step on the road toward that future, but it represents tangible progress in using brain waves to do certain tasks."
Dr. Shih and other Mayo Clinic researchers worked with Dean Krusienski, Ph.D., from the University of North Florida on this study, which was conducted in two patients with epilepsy. These patients were already being monitored for seizure activity using electrocorticography (ECoG), in which electrodes are placed directly on the surface of the brain to record electrical activity produced by the firing of nerve cells. This kind of procedure requires a craniotomy, a surgical incision into the skull.
Dr. Shih wanted to study a mind-machine interface in these patients because he hypothesized that feedback from electrodes placed directly on the brain would be much more specific than data collected from electroencephalography (EEG), in which electrodes are placed on the scalp. Most studies of mind-machine interaction have occurred with EEG, Dr. Shih says.
"There is a big difference in the quality of information you get from ECoG compared to EEG. The scalp and bony skull diffuses and distorts the signal, rather like how the Earth's atmosphere blurs the light from stars," he says. "That's why progress to date on developing these kind of mind interfaces has been slow."
Because these patients already had ECoG electrodes implanted in their brains to find the area where seizures originated, the researchers could test their fledgling brain-computer interface.
In the study, the two patients sat in front of a monitor that was hooked to a computer running the researchers' software, which was designed to interpret electrical signals coming from the electrodes.
The patients were asked to look at the screen, which contained a 6-by-6 matrix with a single alphanumeric character inside each square. Every time the square with a certain letter flashed, and the patient focused on it, the computer recorded the brain's response to the flashing letter. The patients were then asked to focus on specific letters, and the computer software recorded the information. The computer then calibrated the system with the individual patient's specific brain wave, and when the patient then focused on a letter, the letter appeared on the screen.
"We were able to consistently predict the desired letters for our patients at or near 100 percent accuracy," Dr. Shih says. "While this is comparable to other researchers' results with EEGs, this approach is more localized and can potentially provide a faster communication rate. Our goal is to find a way to effectively and consistently use a patient's brain waves to perform certain tasks."
Once the technique is perfected, its use will require patients to have a craniotomy, although it isn't yet known how many electrodes would have to be implanted. And software would have to calibrate each person's brain waves to the action that is desired, such as movement of a prosthetic arm, Dr. Shih says. "These patients would have to use a computer to interpret their brain waves, but these devices are getting so small, there is a possibility that they could be implanted at some point," he says.
"We find our progress so far to be very encouraging," he says.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Microsoft bans unofficial Xbox 360 memory units
Latest 360 update shuts out third-party carts
By Adam Hartley
7 hours ago | Tell us what you think [ 0 comments ]
Microsoft bans use of third-party unofficial memory carts on Xbox 360
If you are using an unofficial memory unit with your Xbox 360 then you had better back up your data onto an authorised Microsoft 360 storage device quick sharp, as the next 360 update will shut-out third party devices from working with your console.
The new update is set to add a range of new features to your Microsoft console, including Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter and more.
Major Nelson advises
Xbox Live's Major Nelson blogs: "When Preview Program members start receiving the Xbox 360 system update next week, one of the changes is that unauthorized Memory Units will no longer work with the Xbox 360. If you've moved your profile or saved games onto one to "back it up," you'd better move it back onto an authorized Xbox 360 storage device prior to taking the update.
"If you continue to use an unauthorised Memory Unit after the update, you will not be able to access your stored profile or saved games."
If you want to know more about officially licensed Xbox 360 storage devices or accessories you can read more about the licensed accessories program on Xbox.com
So there you go. Consider yourself 'advised'...
"Microsoft bans unofficial Xbox 360 memory units
Latest 360 update shuts out third-party carts
By Adam Hartley
7 hours ago | Tell us what you think [ 0 comments ]
Microsoft bans use of third-party unofficial memory carts on Xbox 360
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If you are using an unofficial memory unit with your Xbox 360 then you had better back up your data onto an authorised Microsoft 360 storage device quick sharp, as the next 360 update will shut-out third party devices from working with your console.The new update is set to add a range of new features to your Microsoft console, including Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter and more.Major Nelson advisesXbox Live's Major Nelson blogs: "When Preview Program members start receiving the Xbox 360 system update next week, one of the changes is that unauthorized Memory Units will no longer work with the Xbox 360. If you've moved your profile or saved games onto one to "back it up," you'd better move it back onto an authorized Xbox 360 storage device prior to taking the update. "If you continue to use an unauthorised Memory Unit after the update, you will not be able to access your stored profile or saved games." If you want to know more about officially licensed Xbox 360 storage devices or accessories you can read more about the licensed accessories program on Xbox.comSo there you go. Consider yourself 'advised'..."
- Microsoft bans unofficial Xbox 360 memory units | News | TechRadar UK (view on Google Sidewiki)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
“Oh yeah, I tried being an entrepreneur a few years back but it was just too hard.”
“I tried the whole blogging thing but couldn’t get it off the ground”
“I tried learning how to program PHP but I never could get the hang of it”
I don’t know why, but lately I’ve become increasingly sensitive to people complaining about how things are just too difficult. Whenever I hear statements like the ones above, I can’t help but think to myself
- How hard did you really try?
- How much time and effort did you actually spend?
- Did you just give up after encountering the first obstacle?
Call me a skeptic, but I honestly believe that 90% of the time people complain about their failures and give up because they don’t really give things a chance.
Case In Point
“Oh yeah, I tried being an entrepreneur a few years back but it never went anywhere”
When I challenged the acquaintance of mine who made this statement, he showed me his website and claimed that he spent over 6 months working on his online store but never sold a single thing. Wow, a whole 6 months huh?
When I went to take a look at his website, I was appalled. Not only did his online store look like complete and utter crap, but it appeared as though he spent little or no effort writing his product copy or marketing his store. To make matters worse, his product photos were all pixelated and distorted. It was no wonder that he never sold a single thing! What’s strange is that I always thought of this person as an intelligent individual. Was this garbage of a website really the result of his best efforts?
“I tried the whole blogging thing but couldn’t get it off the ground”
Newbie bloggers are notorious for giving up so I naturally asked to see the so called blog that my friend could not get off the ground. Turns out that he only had like 10 blog entries and he was using the default Wordpress theme! Not only that, but his about and contact page still had the Wordpress defaults! Given the state of his blog, how could he possibly have considered this trying?
“I tried learning how to program PHP but I never could get the hang of it”
Programming can sometimes be difficult to master so when one of my acquaintances made the above statement, I was sincerely willing to help him out and answer whatever programming questions he had.
I started out by asking him some very basic questions on where he got stuck and tried to introduce him to some of the simpler concepts of programming. Turns out that he didn’t understand a single thing that I was talking about. When I asked him how he tried to learn how to program, he told me that he tried to teach himself PHP by looking at some open source PHP code. What!?! You can’t just learn a language by looking at some arbitrary code. Why didn’t he pick up a book and start with the basics? How could he possibly call this trying to learn the language?
What Does It Mean To Try?
I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve encountered that claim to have tried something but never put out their best efforts. These people don’t give things their all and when they get stuck, they immediately write things off. In fact, the people that complain the most are the ones who give up before even trying. They bitch and moan about external factors when in fact they themselves are to blame for failing.
So if trying is more than just going through the motions, what exactly does it mean to try?
Trying Is Not Quitting At The First Obstacle
You can’t really claim to have tried something until you’ve overcome at least a few major obstacles. Most people who don’t try give up at the first sign of danger. They hit their first obstacle like a brick wall and then start making excuses.
Trying is sticking with something even though you feel like total crap. Those who have read my story know that our online store didn’t make very many sales during the first few months of operation and we contemplated closing up shop. No one could find our store online and at the time, we had no answers on how to increase website traffic. But thankfully, we racked our brains and eventually found creative ways to attract business. Nothing is ever completely smooth. To try is to overcome.
Trying Takes Time
Sometimes, trying and succeeding simply takes time. Sometimes, nothing you can do will accelerate progress and you just need to be patient. If you give up too early, you might miss out on potential gains that are right around the corner.
With our online store, getting indexed in Google and waiting for our reputation to spread via word of mouth was simply a waiting game. Nothing we could have done could have sped things up. Persistence was the key. What’s strange was that success came on like a switch towards the middle of our first year. All of a sudden we were getting lots of organic traffic and business really took off. If we didn’t stick around long enough, we would have missed out.
Trying Is Waiting For Things To Sink In
When you are trying to learn something completely new and foreign, certain things may be difficult to comprehend at first glance. The human brain works in strange ways and it sometimes requires time for concepts to sink in. If you give up before allowing things to settle in your brain, you are not giving yourself a fair chance.
For example, when I first started looking at the source code for some of the open source shopping carts out there, my brain was completely frazzled. Reading and understanding someone else’s code was not only difficult, but I could barely retain anything because there was too much information to absorb at one time. But I stuck with it and over a period of several months, things gradually began to stick. No matter how smart you are, it still takes time to learn, absorb and digest new things.
Have I Always Tried?
I always find it interesting to look back on some of the failed projects that I’ve worked on in the past. Sometimes I question whether I gave it my all. Sometimes I question whether I put my complete heart into it. Sometimes I wonder whether things would be different now if I simply tried again.
If you have a free moment, you may want to take some time and reflect upon your past as well as revisit some old projects. Sometimes all it takes is a new found perspective in order to revive an old passion. Who knows? It might be worth giving things another try.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Got a few grand to spare for a $3,000 phone? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Nobody does — and that’s a problem for the makers of luxury phones, such as Motorola, Bang & Olufsen, LG and Vertu.
After years of chasing the ultra-wealthy with exclusive devices that carry designer logos and promise craftsmanship from materials such as sapphire and stainless steel, luxury phone makers are now pulling back.
“The culture has shifted away from conspicuous consumption, so if you are going to have a super expensive product this may not be the time for it,” says Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis.
Motorola has already gotten the memo. Earlier this week, the company reportedly canceled the Ivory E18, a device tentatively priced around $3,000. The phone had met with lack of interest from telecom carriers. Motorola declined to comment.
If that sounds like an obvious outcome, perhaps it shouldn’t. In the last few years, luxury phones had turned into an attractive new business, as designer houses rushed to get a foothold in the tech sector. Prada collaborated with LG to launch two LG Prada phones in Europe and Asia. Last September, Samsung launched the M75500 Night Effect phone, which carried the Emporio Armani insignia. A month later, Motorola offered a $2,000 phone, called the Aura, which was fashioned out of stainless steel and sported a 62-carat sapphire crystal lens. And then there’s Vertu, a company that makes true luxury phones, the cheapest of which costs about $6,000.
The recession put a spoke in those plans. And it’s not just the 401Ks of middle-class Americans that have been in peril. In Russia, many newly-minted billionaires saw their fortunes slip away with falling oil prices. By the first quarter this year, the U.S. economy had shrunk 5.5 percent. Even 50 Cent has complained about losing more than a few Benjamins on the stock market.
And just like that, the crystal dominoes started to fall. Last October, Bang & Olufsen, whose phones retailed in Europe for more than $1500, shuttered its cellphone business as it decided to trim its costs and get out of non-profitable ventures. Motorola is the latest to pull back its luxury line.
Luxury phones have never been a big phenomenon in North America, says Greengart. Their manufacturers have had better luck in emerging markets. But now even in those countries, where once 8 percent GDP growth seemed conservative, wealthy consumers are feeling the pinch.
“Super expensive, bling bling phones are big in markets where conspicuous consumption is a way to tell your countrymen you have arrived,” says Greengart. “But now, it’s a very different economy for everyone.”
Many of the troubles that the uber-expensive phones face are because they are created by companies whose main expertise is in targeting a mass market, says Frank Nuovo, former chief of design for Nokia and current head of Vertu.
“I didn’t start this business to soak the phones in diamonds and jewels,” says Nuovo. “The concept is same as a fine watch or a fabulous car. To be a true luxury product, you have to look at making something that doesn’t have an 18-month shelf life.”
True luxury, as Nuovo defines it, doesn’t apply to a mere $2,000 phone: A Vertu device, soaked in platinum, can run up to $70,000. The company’s one-off phones, designed in collaboration with luxury jewels house Boucheron, cost even more.
Nuovo may have inadvertently hit on the real problem with luxury phones: Phones are still a very feature-driven products. They are products where the rapid advances in technology can rend older models obsolete very quickly.
“Phones aren’t like a handbag where the fundamental utility remains the same and the design changes all the time,” says Greengart.
But Nuovo isn’t convinced. “Take watches and cars,” he says. “They all run the same but everyone has a unique way of delivering them stylistically. We can do the same with phones.”
Despite the bumps on the road now, Nuovo says the luxury phones will bounce back and find an audience. “It is no different than a fine watch or a car,” he says. “If you take people who value something that is made extraordinarily well there will always be a group interested in it.”
Vertu is determined to prove that. It will launch its latest handset the Carbon Fibre Ascent Ti in August. The phone is made of high-gloss carbon fiber and has a sandblasted titanium surface. The price tag? $9,800.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
PS: I’ll let you know next week if I have anything else to add/subtract from my thoughts on these services. *cough*
Blogging Tools 1 Comment »
Everybody Loves Coupons
Posted by Loretta on October 12th, 2007
I found this blog earlier this week while I was looking for coupon codes, thus the title Everybody Loves Coupons. This blog is actually part of a main website, Ultimate Coupons where you’ll find loads of coupon codes and discounts and great savings info. I love to see this in a website! Whenever I go somewhere I admit that I do look for a blog, and if there’s a blog I generally go check out and leave a comment and add it to my feed reader if I like what I see, which in this case I did ;)
ultimate coupons everybody loves coupons blog
Adding a blog to an existing site is a great way to add interactivity and connect with your readers, clients, customers, whoever is visiting your website! There are a few options you can use to do this. Ultimate Coupons took the folder route, as you can see their web address for the blog is http://www.ultimatecoupons.com/blog - the slash blog means that it’s a folder they created within their upper level directory. Another option would be to create a subdomain, for example http://blog.yourdomain.com. Either option is good, you just need to choose what’s right for you and your website.
Back to Everybody Loves Coupons. I found lots of awesome stuff on the blog, like the current contest to win a Nintendo Wii! Which of course I entered because my kids would love it … I would encourage you to enter too but that would just be more competition for me! LOL no really do enter, I love getting into blogging contests. Another great feature to add to your blog or website - a contest! It creates even more interactivity, builds links, and keeps readers interested and coming back to see what happens next.
Halloween is just around the corner so there’s a special Halloween Coupons page all set up to help you prepare to do your best spooking! I love the use of the pages to draw attention to the holiday themed coupons, it’s fresh and current and great use of a page and the top nav bar.
So go meet Andrew, and check out all the great deals while you there. You might even win a Wii! :) Happy Blogging!
win a wii, andrew, contest, coupons, coupon blog, ultimate coupons, coupon codes, great blogs
Great Blogs 1 Comment »
Finding Your Voice
Posted by Deb on October 10th, 2007
Hi ya’ll. *Cass slinks in, head hanging down, glancing around nervously* How ya doin’? Me, I’m alright. Been busy a little. Blogging, you know. About stuff. Different stuff, some here, some there, and now I am going to blog some more. About blogging. You know, it takes some hard-core-ness to blog about blogging. I specifically want to touch on niche blogging tonight, and I want to bring out one positive and one negative. I just want to get my toes wet over here again, as it were. So!
The bad thing about niche blogging is that it can be a lot of work to set up and maintain a true niche blog. It’s a constant battle to keep things focused. The temptation to veer off course is ever present, and while your readers will allow you some latitude, they are also likely to protest if you get too far of course. Unfortunately, the protest is liable to be silent. And by that, I mean they will just leave.
The good thing, is that after you get your niche blogs set up, no matter what you think of to say, there’s someplace to say it, and you can often find a way to get paid for saying it. It’s a situation you could very easily come to love.
Niche Blogging 2 Comments »
Posted by Deb on October 3rd, 2007
I have multiple blogs, and one of the things I had to look at was the frequency of my posting. I decided to create niche topics, along with keeping general blogs. In the beginning, I thought it would be a good idea to post to each blog daily. My reality was that life got in the way, and that wasn’t happening. What I decided worked for me, was blogging a couple times a week to each blog.
Here’s the thing, it’s your blog and you get to decide! If you don’t have time to blog daily, then blog a couple times a week, or maybe once a week. Don’t feel that because you can’t commit daily, you shouldn’t have a blog. There is no hard, fast rule about what your blog has to be.
Your blog is a reflection of you, and if you are comfortable writing to it a couple times a week, that’s okay. When your readers are familiar with your pattern, they’ll know what to expect.
Many different “top notch” blogs tell you how often you should blog, or how many times you must blog. Some even insist you blog multiple times each day. Remember, it’s your blog, and you get to make those decisions. Trying to fit into somebody else’s pattern isn’t going to bring you the joy of blogging. Finding your groove is what will feel good!
While many people want to blog and earn, remember blogging should be enjoyable too! Put the fun back in blogging, and blog when YOU want to.
Happy Blogging! Deb
If you are an avid blogger, you probably are always looking for ways to be more productive. Doing the mundane tasks of moderating comments, managing post entries, etc. While wordpress works just fine on it’s own, there are several plugins that can help you get more done in less time. I will start with 5 today.
WP-Chunk - This nifty plugin will take all those long url’s that your readers love to post in their comments, and gracefully shorten them
Subscribe to Comments - A plugin that allows commenters on your blog to check a box before commenting and get e-mail notification of further comments. This is especially useful when readers wish to be notified of any answers to questions they’ve posed within your blog’s comments.
Create N Place - With this plugin, you can write new blog posts right on the front page of your blog — there is no need to log into the admin system to write a new post.
Edit N Place - A free Ajax powered plugin for WordPress, that lets you edit your post right on the front page of your blog. The plugin now includes quicktag buttons like bold, italics, link, img, and more.
Better Comments Manager- A plugin which allows you to reply to comment from within the admin panel. It uses Ajax to respond to comments so you do not have to leave the comments page while commenting. This will prove useful to bloggers who simply can’t keep up with the number of comments they face. Luckily, this plugin is also compatible with Brian’s Threaded Comments.
Feel free to add your favorite productivity plugins in the comments, my next post will be based on reader submissions and will include a link to your site as well as to the plugin you recommend.
Plugins No Comments »
9 Things You Must Do When Changing WordPress Themes
Posted by Eve on December 11th, 2007
Out of the thousands of themes available for Wordpress you are bound to find one you love. While my next article will help you learn how to change a theme if you have never done so and want to, this article will focus on what to remember once you do pick and apply a new theme for your blog.
Once you pick a new theme, there are a few very important steps to take to make a seamless transition. Many of us overlook an item or two and end up missing a few days of stats and advertising dollars.
The sidebar is gone. Most of us add things to our sidebar, be it advertising, widgets, text, links, etc. Once you get a new theme, the old sidebar you customized will be replaced. Unless you are using pure widgets for your sidebar you will have to manually edit your new sidebar file. This is usually a great time to do some blog clean up and get rid of unneeded items and clutter.
Your Stats and Feed Flares. If you use Google Analytics, feedburner, etc. Any website stats sites or programs there is usually a piece of code you had to add to your files, usually in the header or footer. When you pick a new theme these files are not used so you will have to transfer your codes to the new theme files in order for your stats program to continue tracking your visitors. This also applies to Google Webmasters Tools. If you are a user of this you will need to reapply the tracking code or uploading the file to your new theme to make sure the site stays verified.
Plugins Cleanup. Now is the time to check your plugins, add in the code to the new theme to make some work, and also go through and see if you still need or use the plugin. Some you will not need because of features of the new theme, and most you will have to transfer the code- for instance- any comment plugins that you need to add lines to the comments.php file of the new theme to make the plugin work.
Advertising Update. If you are running ads, be it single ads or google adsense you will need to not only apply them to the new theme, but manage the colors and layout to fit the new design. This is also a good time to re-evaluate if the ads are working on your site and try new ad placements.
RSS Feeds and Subscription. Once you have the new design up you will want to check the rss subscriptions, try subscribing to your site and make sure you replace the rss links with feedburner links if you use them. Also, if you use feedburner, make sure to update the rss addresses in the header.php file to be your feedburner address.
Test, test, test! When you get your new theme up and running you will want to test the actions, like searching, see if the results come up the way you want them, click on a category and test the formatting, try out commenting and other plugins to be sure they blend and display the way you want them to.
Browser Check. Check in both Firefox and Internet Explorer, ask friends to check using other browsers and operating systems. Do your best to get it to look uniform on all browsers. This could make or break a new theme you like.
Take your time. Test, test, test, before you spend 3 hours changing plugins and options, change a little and test, then change a little more, nothings worse than spending hours on a theme that refuses to work in most browsers or that does not take changes well. This is your blog, make sure the new theme works for you and your topic.
Tell People. Once the theme is up and running, post about the change, listing new features and asking for feedback and bug reports. Your readers are the best source of information and their opinion and advice can help your readership if you listen and reply.
Themes 4 Comments »
Posted by Loretta on December 10th, 2007
They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. And I disagree. It can be done, and done well. SugarRae is a perfect example of it being done well.
This is the blog of Rae Hoffman, affectionately known in the blogging and SEO world as SugarRae. Or maybe you know her better as the queen of SEO. She has proven herself in a mostly male industry and she kicked all their a$$es at what she does.
I first met Rae way back in 2001 when I started working from home. Yes, we met at WAHM.com ~ crazy, right? We used to hang out in the chat room with a few other work at home regulars and we would all bounce ideas off of each other every Wednesday night. I miss those Wednesday night chats, but we’ve all come so far since then and I think we all manage to stay pretty busy. Rae has definitely gone far, and learned a lot and most of it self taught. She’s my internet hero!
So, what are you going to find at SugarRae? Well you’ll hear tidbits about SEO and on the very same blog you’ll hear endless rants about things like the online poker ban and Rae’s extreme dislike, okay hatred, for Bob Saget.
And that’s just the tip of the blog-berg. (Coined a new blogosphere phrase there maybe? -lol-) Anyhow, if you’re interested in what goes on inside a serious SEO expert’s mind then check out SugarRae. I am convinced she is one of the few sane SEO experts out there, and I know she is not going to try to sell you a ton of useless crap. I’d trust her with my very tiny marketing budget any day.
Great Blogs 1 Comment »
Photos In Blog Posts Boost Traffic
Posted by Suni on December 5th, 2007
Every time you put an image into a blog post, you might not think that it is doing much, other than making your post pretty. Actually, the pictures attract people’s attention. They are more likely to see a picture before they read words.
Deb says that every time she puts a piece of clipart into her posts, traffic increases to that post. Something to think about, no? There are a number of places online you can go to get clipart, real art, photographs and such for small fees and sometimes even free.
I use more free resources than anything, myself. I usually do a search for free clipart images in my favorite search engine and go from there. Then, there is iStockPhoto where you can buy pictures or just use a sample pic. The sample pictures are free to use anywhere, but they have the iStockPhoto logo across the face of it. These are available for use as is. If you buy the pictures, then there is no logo BUT there are stipulations, depending on what you buy.
Next time you want to post something on your blog, try and find a good picture that goes with the post content. It might just give you that extra boost of traffic and a few more regular readers.
Also, don’t forget about those little tags inside the image code that tell people what the picture is. Those tags are picked up by search engines. Whenever someone looks up a photo of something with those image searches, your photo would then be available to come up under the tag you gave it. For example, I am going to post this photo:
The code would look something like this:
See where I added the alt=”Digital Camera” ? That is crawled by search engines so when people look for pictures of digital cameras, this picture will be seen by the searches.
You can do the same thing with the title tag in the link for the picture. For instance you can do this:
Yet another way for your pictures (and links) to pick up traffic. Let me know if you find that this works for your site.
Blog Marketing No Comments »
What is Your Blogging Goal?
Posted by Deb on December 5th, 2007
What is the goal of your blog? It’s a simple question really, just not one that is easy to answer at times. You may have many goals for your blog. Do you want to have lots of readers, have a place to express yourself, or do you want to earn money from it?
When you have an idea of what you want from your blog, you’ll have a clearer plan.
My goals have changed over time, and in the course of the change, I’ve had to change my path. When I first started writing my blogs, I wrote them for me. I really didn’t care if I had readers, I wanted to be able to have a voice and express myself. Over time, I started to enjoy when readers would comment, and I realized I liked that extra traffic. The question became do I change my voice or my path? Was I now writing for my readers, or writing for myself? I chose to stay in the voice that I was comfortable with, but also add in some questions so people had something to respond to. It led to more interaction.
What about making money? Many people blog with the intention of selling ad space, or blogging for bucks. That’s all well and good, but if you lose that voice that people enjoy, you may lose your readers. Without readers, there isn’t much monetization going on. Traffic brings bucks and advertisers, and readers want something good to read or chew on.
It’s a fine balance between doing both. Be sure to put personality even in those $$ posts, so that the reader gets something out of the mix.
If you write for pleasure and for advertising, how do you find your own personal balance?
So let’s see…for lunch today, I had vegetable soup and…oh, you really don’t care do you?
You’re just learned a valuable lesson in that last sentence. Nobody cares what you had for lunch today, unless it was awesome and you’ve included the recipe. Maybe it was a great new restaurant you’re reviewing, and in that case you just may want to talk about those belly dancing waitresses. If you were just sitting at your desk eating some soup, it doesn’t really hold much interest to others. Bringing personality, having fun, or bringing useful information to people, will make them want to return.
Does your blog have snap? Or does your blog have too much bounce? What exactly is bounce? It’s a measure of how long people stay on your site and keep reading. If you have a high bounce rate, that means people are opening your page and moving on way too quickly.
It’s not just what brings somebody to your site, it’s what keeps them there. Do they keep reading, or do they jump ship too quickly?
A quick way to check your bounce rate is to look at your stats. If you have Google Analytics, you can see your bounce rate easily. In this instance, the lower a number is, the better it is. (Ex: a 40% bounce rate is better than a 90% bounce rate)
bounce rate, bounce, google analytics
Blog Marketing 2 Comments »
Tweet for Traffic
Posted by Suni on January 11th, 2008
Remember we talked about Twitter before? Well, there are a number of websites that allow you to use your Twitter account to garner traffic for your blog.
Twitterfeed allows you to send automatic updates from your blog to your Twitter friends. You can set the posts from Twitterfeed to only post at intervals. This is great for those of us who update our blogs every day and would like for people to continue to come back. Eventually those people become regular readers and will likely comment more on your blog. Continually reminding people that you are updating your blog is a surefire way to keep traffic coming in.
You can also automatically blog your Tweets for the day automatically with LoudTwitter. The bonus in this is if you can’t blog from your cell phone but you can use Twitter from it, you are able to blog about the day with your tweets. These tweets are posted in your blog as a post. If you have your Twitterfeed account going, the resulting blog post will end up in your feed with all your tweets posted for easy reading.
These are only two of the ways you can use Twitter to keep a continuous flow of ideas and readers rolling through. Can you think of more?
Tags: twitter, twitterfeed, loudtwitter
Blog Marketing, Social Networking No Comments »
What Does 2008 Hold for Your Blog?
Posted by Deb on January 2nd, 2008
Happy New Year! What does 2008 hold for your blog?
Many people think of the new year as a chance to have new beginnings. I’m certain many new blogs will be started as people vow to write to them on a regular basis. I’m also certain at least 70% of those blogs will end up being forgotten about at some point.
Rather than take on a new blog, let’s look at the blog you have in front of you. What direction do you want your blog to go in 2008? What worked well for you in 2007? Was there a series of articles or a topic that seemed to do well? Did people respond to one type of post over another? Did the posts with pictures gain more traffic?
When you have a clear picture of what worked for you in 2007 and what didn’t, you can weed through and tighten what you’re doing this year.
I’ve been looking at one of my blogs, and I’ve found it doesn’t have enough focus. My goal for 2008 is to give it better focus. On another blog, while it’s a niche blog, I found that by changing the particular angle, I was able to zone in on what I wanted my blog to represent. Another blog I found was too boxed in by being a targeted topic, and I’ve decided to open the topic up a little wider to include more categories.
I’m also trying to add clipart and pictures to more of my posts, as well as get better at tagging. Tagging is one of those things that just seems to slip my mind, and that’s not good! I’ve taken an inventory of my own blogs, analyzed my stats, and I’ll be making some changes.
What will you be doing to change your blog in 2008? Will you add another category, writer shorter or longer posts? Maybe you’ll work on social networking, and building traffic.
With a fresh year before you, it’s now the perfect time for you to go take inventory!
Happy Blogging! Deb
blog, blogging, social networking, blogs, build traffic
Posted by Deb on February 6th, 2008
Let’s face it, sometimes you just don’t have anything to say. When you blog regularly, there will be times where you may have blog burnout. Here are some ideas to get that fire going again.
Change the look(theme) of your blog to get inspired
De-clutter your blog, examine those crowded sidebars
Add a new category that you haven’t written about before
Get inspired by what others are saying, write a post responding to another post
Sometimes just taking a small break is enough
Write a post highlighting your favorite posts of the month or year
Write a post that highlights other blogs in your category you love, and what you like about them
Sometimes just taking a look from a different angle will give exactly what you needed to get back on track!
Happy Blogging, Deb
blog, blogging, blogger, burnout
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Opposites attract — how genetics influences humans to choose their mates
Vienna, Austria: New light has been thrown on how humans choose their partners, a scientist will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today (Monday May 25). Professor Maria da Graça Bicalho, head of the Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Laboratory at the University of Parana, Brazil, says that her research had shown that people with diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar, and that this was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction.
Females’ preference for MHC dissimilar mates has been shown in many vertebrate species, including humans, and it is also known that MHC influences mating selection by preferences for particular body odours. The Brazilian team has been working in this field since 1998, and decided to investigate mate selection in the Brazilian population, while trying to uncover the biological significance of MHC diversity.
The scientists studied MHC data from 90 married couples, and compared them with 152 randomly-generated control couples. They counted the number of MHC dissimilarities among those who were real couples, and compared them with those in the randomly-generated ‘virtual couples’. “If MHC genes did not influence mate selection”, says Professor Bicalho, “we would have expected to see similar results from both sets of couples. But we found that the real partners had significantly more MHC dissimilarities than we could have expected to find simply by chance.”
Within MHC-dissimilar couples the partners will be genetically different, and such a pattern of mate choice decreases the danger of endogamy (mating among relatives) and increases the genetic variability of offspring. Genetic variability is known to be an advantage for offspring, and the MHC effect could be an evolutionary strategy underlying incest avoidance in humans and also improving the efficiency of the immune system, the scientists say.
The MHC is a large genetic region situated on chromosome 6, and found in most vertebrates. It plays an important role in the immune system and also in reproductive success. Apart from being a large region, it is also an extraordinarily diverse one.
“Although it may be tempting to think that humans choose their partners because of their similarities”, says Professor Bicalho, “our research has shown clearly that it is differences that make for successful reproduction, and that the subconscious drive to have healthy children is important when choosing a mate.”
The scientists believe that their findings will help understanding of conception, fertility, and gestational failures. Research has already shown that couples with similar MHC genes had longer intervals between births, which could imply early, unperceived miscarriages. “We intend to follow up this work by looking at social and cultural influences as well as biological ones in mate choice, and relating these to the genetic diversity of the extended MHC region”, says Professor Bicalho.
“We expect to find that cultural aspects play an important role in mate choice, and certainly do not subscribe to the theory that if a person bears a particular genetic variant it will determine his or her behaviour. But we also think that the unconscious evolutionary aspect of partner choice should not be overlooked. We believe our research shows that this has an important role to play in ensuring healthy reproduction, by helping to ensure that children are born with a strong immune system better able to cope with infection.”
Friday, May 15, 2009
Diamonds pile up worldwide as consumers finally realize their worthlessness.
By ANDREW E. KRAMER May 11, 2009
Each day, the contents of the bags spill into the stainless steel hoppers of the receiving room. The diamonds are washed and sorted by size, clarity, shape and quality; then, rather than being sent to be sold around the world, they are wrapped in paper and whisked away to a vault — about three million carats worth of gems every month.
“Each one of them is so unusual,” said Irina V. Tkachuk, one of the few hundred people, mostly women, employed to sort the diamonds, who sees thousands of them every day.
“I’m not a robot. I sometimes think to myself ‘wow, what a pretty diamond. I would like that one.’ They are all so beautiful.”
It could be years before another woman admires that stone. Russia quietly passed a milestone this year: surpassing De Beers as the world’s largest diamond producer. But the global market for diamonds is so dismal that the Alrosa diamond company, 90 percent owned by the Russian government, has not sold a rough stone on the open market since December, and has stockpiled them instead.
As a result, Russia has become the arbiter of global diamond prices. Its decisions on production and sales will determine the value of diamonds on rings and in jewelry stores for years to come, in one of the most surprising consequences of this recession.
Largely because of the jewelry bear market, De Beers’s fortunes have sunk. Short of cash, the company had to raise $800 million from stockholders in just the last six months.
The recession also coincided with a settlement with European Union antitrust authorities that ended a longtime De Beers policy of stockpiling diamonds, in cooperation with Alrosa, to keep prices up.
Though it is a major commodity producer, Russia has traditionally not embraced policies that artificially keep prices up. In oil, for example, Russia benefits from the oil cartel’s cuts in production, but does not participate in them.
Diamonds are an exception. “If you don’t support the price,” Andrei V. Polyakov, a spokesman for Alrosa, said, “a diamond becomes a mere piece of carbon.”
In an attempt to carefully calibrate its re-entry on the global market, without forcing prices still lower, Russia is relying on two things: the Soviet-era precious gem depository — created to hold jewelry confiscated from the aristocracy after the 1917 revolution — and capitalist investors, whom Alrosa hopes will buy diamonds as an investment, like gold.
Russia is taking a leadership role in other ways, too.
Sergei Vybornov, Alrosa’s chief executive, said that he had helped persuade the central bank of Angola — which, like Russia, is still relatively flush with oil money — to buy 30 percent of the production of Angola’s diamond mines, keeping these stones off the market.
And last fall, Alrosa began what it called the St. Petersburg Initiative, along with De Beers and other large producers, to invest collectively in generic diamond advertising, akin to De Beers’s promotion of the slogan “Diamonds are forever.” Russia assumed the task as De Beers has principally shifted to promoting its own branded gems.
Still, it is a precarious time for the Russian diamond company to assume leadership of the industry.
Until last year, De Beers produced about 40 percent of the global rough stone supply, and Alrosa 25 percent. But De Beers, which is prohibited under its European Union antitrust agreement from stockpiling, closed mines in response to the glut in rough stones. Russia is loath to do that, as authorities in Moscow, gravely concerned about potential unrest by disgruntled unemployed workers, try to keep workers on the payroll.
In the first quarter, De Beers reduced output by 91 percent compared with the previous year. The diversified mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton also curbed production.
Meanwhile, the market for wholesale polished diamonds, worth about $21.5 billion, is expected to fall to about $12 billion in 2009, according to Polished Prices, an analytical service for the industry.
Rough diamond prices have fallen even more, as much as 75 percent since their peak last July at some auctions.
The two markets are distinct. Typically, about 60 percent of a rough diamond is lost as dust or shavings in the cutting process.
Mr. Vybornov blames diamond traders who pledged diamond stocks as loan collateral for part of the world glut. When credit dried up last fall, banks and other creditors seized those gems and sold them, he says, flooding the market. By December, his company decided to withdraw entirely from the market rather than further erode prices.
Russia historically remained mostly a behind-the-scenes player, perhaps because Soviet authorities would have had to perform some ideological gymnastics to promote a product consumed principally by the rich of the capitalist world.
Instead, twisting politics, the Soviets concluded a semisecret agreement with apartheid-era De Beers to sell Siberian diamonds in a way that would not undercut the market.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian diamond industry created a formal alliance with De Beers, selling the South African company half of each year’s production at a discount intended to subsidize De Beers’s generic diamond advertising undertaken in the 1990s, mostly in the United States.
Now, the Russians are in the driver’s seat.
Charles Wyndham, a former De Beers evaluator and co-founder of Polished Prices, said Russia had thus far managed the transition well: withholding gems to make more money in the long run rather than further depressing the market.
“Whatever one wants to say about the Russians, they certainly aren’t stupid,” Mr. Wyndham said.
Alrosa is seeking to jump-start demand by selling gems under long-term contracts to wholesale buyers in Belgium, Israel, India and elsewhere. Under these contracts, six of which have been signed, prices are set at a midpoint between the peak last August and this winter, and fixed for a period of several years.
“A diamond ring should not cost $100,” Mr. Vybornov said. “We don’t want that type of client.”
Alrosa is also working with a Moscow investment bank, Leader, a subsidiary of the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, to market diamonds to investors. Under the plan, investors would buy diamonds but the gems would not be released to jewelers for several years.
It is a program, essentially, of outsourcing the stockpiling function to investors in exchange for the chance to profit from a possible recovery in the market.
At one of Alrosa’s cutting shops in one of Moscow’s outer districts, Aleksandr A. Malinin, an adviser to the president of Alrosa, showed a typical collection that might become the basis for such an investment vehicle.
The gems fit in a felt box about the size of a laptop computer.
The larger stones, a circular-cut 10 carat flawless white and a princess-cut yellow, were estimated at about $400,000. The smaller ones ranged from $16,000 to $100,000. But the value of the box, while surely several million dollars, is something of a mystery just now given the depressed market.
How the buy-in price for the stones will be set, and how the company will determine when the price goes up and down, is unclear, Mr. Malinin said.
“We have to tell people that diamonds are valuable,” he said. “We are trying to maintain the price, just as De Beers did, as all diamond producing countries do. But what we are doing is selling an illusion,” meaning a product with no utility and a price that depends on the continued sense of scarcity where there is none.
At the Alrosa unit that receives diamonds, called the United Selling Organization, where about 90 percent of the output of the Siberian mines arrives for processing, Elena V. Kapustkina pours about 45,000 carats of diamonds though a stainless steel sieve every day to sort them by size.
“It’s just a job,” she said.
When asked whether diamonds had lost their romance for her, Ms. Kapustkina paused, looked down at the pile of gems on her table and blushed.
In fact, she said, her husband, a truck driver, gave her a half-carat ring 22 years ago. “Of course I love it,” she said. “It’s from my husband.”
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The downturn in home prices has left about 20% of U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than their homes are worth, according to one new study, signaling additional challenges to the Obama administration’s efforts to stabilize the housing market.
The increase in the number of such “underwater” borrowers comes amid signs that falling prices are making homes more affordable for first-time buyers and others who have been shut out of the housing market. But falling prices also make it more difficult for homeowners who get into financial trouble to refinance or sell their homes, and for others to take advantage of lower interest rates.
For instance, fewer will qualify to take advantage of a key component of the Obama administration’s plan to stabilize the housing market. Under the plan, announced in February, as many as five million homeowners whose loans are owned or guaranteed by government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can refinance their mortgages, but only if the mortgage loan is a maximum of 105% of the home’s value.
Government officials are considering an increase in that limit. “It’s a question that we’re looking at,” said James Lockhart, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie.
Real-estate Web site Zillow.com said that overall, the number of borrowers who are underwater climbed to 20.4 million at the end of the first quarter from 16.3 million at the end of the fourth quarter. The latest figure represents 21.9% of all homeowners, according to Zillow, up from 17.6% in the fourth quarter and 14.3% in the third quarter.
“What’s going on here is that you don’t have any markets that have turned around and you have new markets, like Dallas, that have joined the ranks” of communities where home prices have fallen, said Stan Humphries, a Zillow.com vice president.
Borrowers who owe far more than their home is worth may also be less likely to participate in another part of the government’s housing plan, which provides incentives for mortgage companies to modify loans to make payments more affordable. Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist, said borrowers who owe 30% more than their homes are worth are far more likely to walk away from their property than those who owe just 5% or 10% more and expect prices to rebound. More than one in 10 borrowers with a mortgage owed 110% or more of their home’s value at the end of last year, according to First American CoreLogic.
There are some recent indications that the housing market could be beginning to stabilize. The National Association of Realtors pending home-sales index, for instance, increased 3.2% in March.
Just how many borrowers are underwater is a matter of some dispute, with the answer depending in part on assumptions regarding home values and mortgage debt outstanding. Variations in home-price estimates can make a major difference in the number of borrowers who are underwater. In addition, borrowers who are already in the foreclosure process may be counted as being underwater if the title to their property hasn’t changed hands.
Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, said underwater estimates can be too high if they use price data that includes a large number of foreclosures. Foreclosed homes tend to sell at a discount, he said, making it appear that prices have fallen more than they actually have.
Moody’s Economy.com estimates that of 78.2 million owner-occupied single-family homes, 14.8 million borrowers, or 19%, owed more than their homes were worth at the end of the first quarter, up from 13.6 million at the end of last year.
Part of the reason Zillow’s numbers are higher may be that it looks at mortgage debt taken out at the time the home was purchased and doesn’t adjust for any payments since made toward the outstanding mortgage balance. It also assumes that borrowers who took out home-equity lines of credit at the time of purchase have fully tapped the amount they can borrow. That approach can overstate the portion of borrowers who are underwater, Mr. Zandi said.
Mr. Humphries of Zillow calls his methodology conservative and said Zillow’s use of pricing for individual homes provides a better measure of home valuations than Mr. Zandi’s approach, which relies on market-level estimates of home values. He adds that Zillow doesn’t include foreclosures in its pricing models.