Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How I used Google translation tools to find a Chinese spam comment

As many of you know, I run several sites and blogs, including the Parenting and the Internet blog. I have all the blogs set up so that I have to approve every comment, in part to keep spam comments out of the blog. This morning, I got a somewhat long comment in Chinese:

免費日本成人圖片 -
天馬流行音樂網 -
哈啦免費視訊網 -
洪爺自拍貼圖網 -
UOUO成人影音聊天室 -
成人交友聊天室 -
辛辣聊天室(限制級聊天室) -
小高聊天室 -
免費影音聊天 -
免費影音聊天室 -
成人影音下載 -
淫娃免費視訊聊天室 -
免費影音播放軟體下載 -
日本美女成人AV免費 -
OL絲襪美腿圖庫 -
下載免費防毒軟體 -
免費中文防毒軟體 -
免費線上掃毒 -
中壢電音急診室 -
080-6K聊天室 -
視訊相親館 -
東部網友聊天坊 -
同志交友俱樂部 -
愛情廣場聊天聯盟總站 -
拉子女同志聊天室 -
酷兒男同志聊天室 -
柔情聊天網 -
柔情聊天室 -
有間遊戲網 -
天馬音樂網 -
真情夢工廠聊天室 -
戀愛天堂聊天室 -
080北部人聊天聯盟 -
Kiss聊天聯盟 -
摯愛中年同志聊天室 -
080台中聊天室UT -
豆豆6K聊天室 -
6K小高聊天室 -
6K南台灣聊天室 -
天馬080聊天室6K -

Not having a clue about what it said, I went to Google's Language Tools page for help and got the following translation:

Free Japanese Adult Photos --
Pegasus Pop Music Network --
IMs as text Free Video Network --
Hung Shing Yeh Self-mapping network --
UOUO adult video chat rooms --
Adult Dating Chat --
Spicy chat rooms (adult-rated chat rooms) --
Small high-Chat Room --
Free video chat --
Free video chat rooms --
Adult Video Download --
Yinwa free video chat rooms --
Free audio and video player software to download --
Japanese AV beauty adult free --
OL Stocking Legs Gallery --
Download free antivirus software --
Free Chinese anti-virus software --
Free online anti-drug --
Chungli denon emergency room --
080-6K Chat Room --
Video deeply attached to each hall --
User chat Square East --
Comrade Dating Club --
Love chat Union Square Station --
Chat Room Latin Comrade children --
Queer gay male chat rooms --
Tenderness Chat Network --
Tenderness Chat Room --
There are games in net --
Tianma Music Network --
Truth DreamWorks Chat Room --
Love Paradise Chat Room --
080 Northern someone to talk to union --
Kiss Chat Alliance --
Comrade middle-aged love chat rooms --
080 Taichung Chat UT --
Peas 6K Chat Room --
6K small height Chat Room --
6K southern Taiwan Chat --
Tianma 080 Chat 6K --

It wasn't a perfect translation, but it was good enough for me to know that the comment had no place on a blog giving parents advice on how to manage their online children.

The lesson from this episode is to always approve comments before they go on your blog, and to translate the ones you can't understand before you approve or reject them.

Just for fun, I ran the following through the Google translator from English to Chinese and back to English:

Original- Keep your spam comments out of my blog

Chinese (Simplified) - 不要让你我的博客垃圾评论

Back to Eglish: Do not let you spam my blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Are You a Manager Looking for Insights into the New Media? - Check Out 'Read This First'

If you are a manager who is trying to get an idea of how the new media (podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can help you with marketing, sales, or customer service, then the latest episode my favorite social media podcast, Marketing Over Coffee, may provide an easy to digest introduction. The show featured Ron Ploof, a long time social media expert, and the author of the new book Read This First. You can check out the Marketing Over Coffee episode, or go to Ron's blog and check out the free audio book chapters.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Three Practical Twitter Tools You Can Use Right Now

One of the great things about Twitter are the many Twitter-related services provided for free by hundreds of providers. Three of them have been particularly useful for the work of AirSafe Media.

Search Twitter at
This is the top Twitter tool used by, and is especially useful for fast moving news items. Often Twitter users link to interesting online resources, and often these are excellent sources of information located in obscure areas of the web. Also, because new tweets are indexed almost instantly, you can often find out new information before it shows up on a regular search engine like Google or Bing.

Shortening URLs with
This service shortens a URL of any length to one that is about 20 characters long. If you sign up for a free account, you have access to a range of performance information, including how many times your link was clicked. If other users converted the same URL, then you can see how many clicks happened for all users, and compare how many of them were yours. Drill down some more and you can see things like who retweeted your Twitter post. You can get real time feedback on which of your links are of interest to your audience.

Use Twitterfeed to Combine Your Social Media Efforts

One of the things that Twitter can do for you is to announce new items on things like your blog, podcast, or anything with RSS syndication. With a very small amount of work, your blog posts will automatically be passed along to your Twitter audience.

Previous AirSafe Media Twitter-related Posts

How Twitter is used on
Associating Twitter with a blog and an automated mailing list
The evolution of social media use on
Using Twitter during a blackout

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 Things You Can Do to Help Your Favorite Nonprofit

The podcast and blog Marketing Over Coffee has an excellent idea for helping nonprofits--Over 12 days introducing them to marketing related ideas that can help them move forward. Naturally, there is an emphasis on Internet-related activities.

You can visit the blog at and see for yourself. On the first day, they suggested the following:

Introduce them (your favorite nonprofit) to the concept of Twitter (don’t set up an account yet), and work with them to pack the sum of what they do into 140 characters. Typically, non-profits have noble goals but can’t explain them especially well, leaving you with a vague sense that they do something good.

Help your non-profit by developing the following:

1. A mission and/or vision in 140 characters or less.
2. A list of keywords by which other people would find them.
3. Why, in 140 characters or less, someone would donate time or money to them.

I suggest checking out for more ideas, and to put some of these ideas of your own for your favorite nonprofit organization or community group.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If You Don't Know What Gadgets May Work for You, Here Are Several You Can Try

There are many options out there for widgets that you can put on your web site or blog to enhance your other content. Sometimes the best way to figure out what works for you and your audience is to try a bunch of them to see what works. Below are a few widget sites you can try:
  • Widgetbox – A variety of widgets

  • LinkWithin – a blog widget that appears under each post, linking to related stories from your blog archive

  • ShoutMix – Provides a chat widget for your site or blog

  • Wowzio – Various blog related widgets

  • SpringWidgets – Web site tools for blogs and social networks

  • YourMinis – Widgets for your blog, website, start page, and desktop

  • Monitter – Real time live Twitter watch and badge creator

  • Widgipedia – A very extensive widget resource

  • Widgiland – A social widget production social network

  • FeedWind – A widget for RSS type feeds
If you know of other sites with online widgets or tools for your web site, please let us know in the comments section.

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Unusual Twitter Related Service That Turn Tweets Into a Radio Show

The kinds of Twitter-related services that individuals and companies are limited only by the imagination. One of the more unusual ones is provided by, a which converts Twitter posts into a kind of radio broadcast. The service ads extras like simulated static between between posts to make it sound like you are changing stations with an old style radio tuning knob.

It isn't a word-for-word translation. URLs are excluded and common Twitter terms get turned into appropriate phrases. The result is somewhat mechanical, and for most not not hard to understand.

While this kind of service can have practical uses, the creators of it may have been looking to develop something that was more entertainment related than business related. You can get a bit of an idea of the attitude of the folks at by reading what they say about their company.

At our mission is to index all the world's information; however, unlike google we plan to be really evil in the process. We've started by seeking out the most relevant scholarly data on the web. Naturally Twitter was where we looked first. Using our unpantentable Tweet-to-Speech™ technology, we've made it possible for billions of people to hear the "Pulse of the Planet" as never before.

Rather than describe this service, I invite you to check it out for yourself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

How to Use High Quality Flickr Photos on Your Site Under Creative Commons License

Creative commons and Flickr. If you need a photo to spice up your site or blog, search within Flickr for photos that you can freely use. Many of the photos on Flickr can be used under a Creative Commons license. What this means is that all you have to do is give proper credit for a photo, and you can use it legally and without paying anyone.

To do it, go to Flickr, search for the kind of photo you want, then on the search results page, choose the 'Advanced Search' option, choose one of the Creative Commons option to limit your search for photos that you can use with one of the Creative Commons options.

Once you find the picture you want, look for the 'Additional Information' heading, and click on the 'some rights reserved' link to find out how you should give credit for the photo.

The photo in this post is an example of that process. The shot is of the aftermath of a 2004 plane crash in Colorado that killed three people on the aircraft. One of the comments happened to include a link to the NTSB report.

The source of the photo was from Flickr user Greg Younger, and license information is available at Flickr.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learn How to Find or Create Google Gadgets to Improve Your Web Site or Blog

While your blog may be filled with original content that you or your group develops, it sometimes helps to have additional extras to improve your audience's satisfaction. One of the many things that you can do is add gadgets, or dynamically generated content, to improve a visitor's experience. These resources can provide a wide variety of information or content, for example news headlines, weather, or a calendar.

Google provides many free gadgets for your web site or blog, and all you have to do is search their gadget directory for one that you like, copy the code, and place it in your web site or blog. Some of the more popular gadgets were featured in this article from Quick Online Tips.

If you have a few programming skills, Google will even show you how you can build your own custom gadgets. Visit the Google gadget creation page and you will find detailed instructions for building gadgets that you can place on multiple sites and products including iGoogle, Google Maps, Orkut, or any web page. Once you write your gadget once, with minor changes it can run in multiple places.

To give you an idea of how it would work, look below to find a gadget that produces the current Dilbert comic strip:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 Is One Tool You Can Use to Evaluate a Site's Advertising Potential

If you are involved in any aspect of search engine marketing or search engine optimization, you need every advantage you can to stay ahead of the competition and to stay current on developing trends. One of the many free tools out there that can help you is KeywordSpy.
Through this keyword tool, you can perform advanced keyword research and keyword tracking to study what your competitors have been advertising in their Adwords campaigns and Other pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. It also offers a convenient way to view the same information about your own sites.

Among the advantages this software gives is the ability discover who your competitors are, what kinds of keywords they are using, and a general idea of your competitor's online advertising budget. With this tool, you can tell the exact terms and phrases that are driving the most traffic to your competitors' websites, which should help you in tailoring your site and your online marketing approach to increase your own traffic.

Like with many online SEO and SEM tools, there is a free and a paid version of this service. It is worth it to register and check out the free version.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Is All the Fuss About Free and Why Anyone Who Is Online Should Pay Attention

If you are doing anything involving the web, most of the really good stuff is free, from basic office and business services like Gmail and Google Docs, to entertainment options like YouTube to iTunes, most of the really good stuff is free, and most of the rest of the stuff that costs money has free options that are very, very capable.

Have all the online business types lost their minds? Is this the beginning of the end of capitalism and the final triumph of socialism? Hardly.

It may be a bit hard to believe, but offering content, services, and knowledge for free has been the path to the growth of businesses associated with the Internet, and to the creation of revolutionary changes in communication, publishing, and a host of other areas.

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine and the author of The Long Tail, laid out the basic reality of this free economy in his recent book Free: The Future of a Radical Price makes the following general argument:

- The economics of the Internet allows a near zero marginal cost for distribution, so all content is getting cheaper over time.

- The concept of "There's no such thing as a free lunch" is giving way to the idea that a free lunch is not a gimmick to get you to buy something.

- If the good and useful stuff is free, you can't win on price, you have to focus on quality and relevance.

- The challenge for anyone or any business that is online is to create an audience or potential customer base with free services, content, or information, and then work to get something of value from them. While the exchange can be for money, it can also be for intangible things like reputation.

For a more detailed background on the concept of free, check out this Wired article from February 2008, Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Download Your Google Docs Even If You Have a Lot of Them

If you are serious about working online, that means keeping all of your key working documents, or at least copies of those documents, online. One convenient way to do that is to use Google Docs for your text, spreadsheet, presentation, and PDF files.

If you like Google Docs, and the files start piling up. It makes sense to download them and back them up. While you can do it one file at a time, if you have 20 or even 200 files, it can be a big hassle. However, it looks like those hassles are all in the past.

According to the unofficial Google blog Google Operating System, now you can export all your documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs from Google Docs in a zip file.

If you have a bunch of Google Doc files, you should download them somewhere offline to back them up. If you haven't used Google Docs yet, check it out. Log into Gmail and click on the 'Documents' link in the upper left corner. If you don't even have Gmail, then get an account and start messing around with it. All this stuff I mentioned is free, so you don't have much of an excuse not to try it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Text to Speech Functions as a Podcasting Tool

Text to speech software has been evolving for decades, though there has been substantial progress in recent years. For those of you who have purchased a Mac computer in recent years, the compute comes with a text to speech system that can be used to read text.

I've run a podcast for several years at my airline safety site, and last week I decided to run a test to see how well the audience would accept a computer voice instead of a human narrator. I combined that with the online form I talked about in the last post to do two things: try out the text to speech software as a narrator and evaluate the audience's reaction to it.

Early results show that the podcast, which was just under five minutes long and was about two airline safety incidents from late October 2009, was generally well received. Most of those who responded listened to the entire podcast, and also felt that they could stand to hear the voice for short episodes. Surprisingly, most said they would listen to shows of any length.

One of the options for this text to speech system is to supplement regular interviews. There are dozens of comments and emails that come in during the typical month, and some would be appropriate for some podcasts. Also, those who wanted to submit guest commentaries but who did not have recording capability could write their response, and the software could read it.

For the aviation safety podcasts, the ultimate goal of using text to speech software isn't to avoid recording regular voice conversations, but to provide a way for the portions of the audience without podcasting equipment to contribute to the ongoing conversation.

Listen to the Podcast Episode
Northwest Airlines A320 Overflight Event and the Delta 767 Landing Incident

Friday, October 23, 2009

How Quickly Should You Try Out a New Tool or Resource? - Do It Immediately

There are many good resources out there for getting ideas about how to improve your ongoing online marketing efforts. One of my favorites is the podcast Marketing Over Coffee, whose hosts discuss several new or ongoing topics, usually related to search engine marketing, web analytics, or social media. A few weeks ago, their discussion about Gigadail led me to write an article about the virtual online podcast directory I made.

In this week's show they did it again. They casually mentioned that Google Docs allows you to create an online form that you can use on a site or a blog. While I was listening to the podcast, I went to check it out, and created a form by the time the show was over. I then put it in the blog, and let Twitter and my mailing list contact my audience.

I've been using Google Docs for a while, and this capability was always right there under my nose, but I didn't notice it until I heard it in the Marketing Over Coffee podcast. This is another example of just how rich the online environment is when it comes to having free and useful resources all around us. The least you can do is try them out whenever you come across one that looks interesting. You can start by taking the survey.

Trying combinations of new services
Sometimes using a single new tool may not be enough. One example was given in the where it described how Gmail, Google Reader, Google Alerts, and Delicious to keep up with news and events on a particular topic, while at the same time saving bookmarks, files, and other information on services that could be accessed from anywhere online.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blackouts, Twitter, and Social Media

If you are involved with search engine optimization, or you actively use social media for online marketing, then you are constantly getting exposed to new and different online resources, or trying to figure out different ways to use them to make money or to keep your business moving forward. Sometimes it takes a dramatic event to show us just how useful these tools can be in a totally different situation.

A few weeks ago, the dramatic event for me was a blackout. I was at home late on a weekend night, and the lights suddenly went out. I looked out the window and saw a nearby neighborhood was lit up, so I figured it was a localized blackout. I also figured it wasn't going to be a big local news story, so listening to the radio probably wouldn't give me much information.

The TV and computer were out, but my phone, which had Internet access, was up and running. I suddenly had a wild thought about how to get information on my neighborhood blackout. I'd used Twitter, specifically the search function in Twitter at, and did a search on my neighborhood's name.

What I found surprised me. There were quite a few people who were using their Blackberrys and iPhones to send Twitter messages to their friends. It was surprising because the area affected by the blackout had about 10,000 residents, but most would not have even had access to the Internet, and only some of them would have had both Twitter accounts and a desire to send out messages.

The number of people using Twitter in my neighborhood was surprising, but the content of the messages were not so surprising. Most of the messages were not very useful, with things like jokes, rumor mongering, and wild speculation about the blackout. In spite of the useless noise, I did find several useful pieces of information, things like links to the power company's web site and Twitter account. Links to the Twitter accounts of local television news organizations, and updates on what blocks were getting back their lights.

So what should you take away from this little story? First, if someone in your family is using Twitter, don't get in their way. If you are thinking about using Twitter, go ahead and check it out. You may actually like it. The service may come in handy one day in ways you can't imagine. Whether you use it or not, check out Search it like you would a search engine and look for things that interest you. I've found it very useful for breaking news items. For details, check out a post of mine from another blog that describes how I use Twitter to support my web site

Because of this experience, I found out several things I didn't know, such as the fact that local news organizations use Twitter, as does the local electric utility. Next time there's a problem with my electricity, I'll know where to go.

For even more insights into the kinds of social media resources are out there for you to use, check out my list of 10 free social media tools you should try.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Can Now Record Your Comments and Questions to Online with Google Voice provides a number of ways for the audience to keep in touch with and to suggest topics for the News. Now, with the help of Google Voice, you can record your comments and questions online or by phone.

To check it out, you can click on the icon below, or you can visit the feedback page at

Your thoughts may inspire new material for, or it may end up in a future episode of the Conversation at If the icon doesn't work for you, or if you are calling from outside the US, please call directly at 408.905.6259.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Easy to Use Encoder That Allows You to Properly Format Source Code For Inclusion in a Web Site or Blog

Sometimes using the right search terms can uncover the right tool at the right time. The other day, I was writing a post for another blog and I needed to put raw source code in the post. Blogger will try to execute the code no matter what kind of formatting tags I put around it. I wanted readers to be able to easily copy and paste the code, so making it into a graphic wasn't a good choice.

After about 30 seconds searching for an answer of how to put raw code into a blog without it getting executed, I ran into an online converter that did the job for me. It did things that would have been very time consuming if I had to do it by hand, things like changing '<' to '<. and similar conversions for '>', '&', and '"'.

For this and other links to search engine optimization and web site development tools, visit AirSafe Media's Delicious links at

Friday, October 9, 2009

Website Grader is a Free SEO That Gives You Immediate Feedback on the Marketing Effectiveness of Your Site

When it comes to online marketing tools, I have three basic criteria:

1. It has to be free

2. It has to be easy to use

3. I has to give me immediate and useful feedback.

Website Grader meets all those criteria in a big way. It is a free SEO tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website. It provides a score that incorporates things like website traffic, SEO, social popularity and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the website can be improved from a marketing perspective.

I tried it on my oldest website,, which has been around for over 13 years and has for several years has consistently been been a top ten result in Google for searches on key terms like 'airline safety.'

I put in the URL, and within a minute, I got back a detailed report on how well the site worked when it came to on-page SEO like the quality of the metadata and readability level, and off-page SEO like Google PageRank, Alexa rank, and whether the site was on key directories. You can even include competing web sites in your analysis to see how they compare to yours.

The report was well organized, giving clear suggestions on how to improve the site. I was so impressed by it that I immediately updated the site to deal with the minor issues it uncovered, oversights like having images without alternative text.

It also has several convenience factors like the ability to email the results. The service even provides online access to your report. For an example of how it works, visit a recent report page for

Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself, and tell me what you think.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ten Free Social Media Resources You Can Use That Can Benefit You, Your Family, or Your Business

Two of the biggest excuses organizations and individuals have when it comes to using social media applications is that it takes too much time to figure out how to use them and takes too many resources once your start using them. True, some social media applications may take a bit of time to learn, but if you have figured out how to use email and do basic things on the web like find things with a search engine. If you can do that,figuring out most social media applications should be easy.

Cost is not an issue because once you can get online much of the really good stuff is free. At most you need only a personal computer and access to the Internet, and often all you need is online access.

The following ten social media resources are not only free, but should be useful to you in some way, especially if you are trying to make yourself or your organization more visible online. Also listed are the services used to support the AirSafe Media associated site,

1. Blogging
Think of a blog as a web site where just about all the work is done for you. You sign in, write something, hit a button, and it is online. If you've thought about starting a web site but have no idea what it takes to do it, a blog is the easiest way to get that experience. Also, if you already have a web site, a blog is an easy way to try quickly try new ideas that may later put on the site. Two of the biggest blog services are Blogger and WordPress. Both of them can get you from login to published blog in less time than a lunch break.'s Choice: Blogger

2. Micoblogging
This is a stripped down version of a blog, basically little more than a couple of sentences and maybe a link to something online. Examples include Yammer and the much more widely known Twitter. This blogging method that may work best for sending short messages to portable devices like an iPhone or Blackberry, or in conjunction with other resources such as a web site, mailing list, or full sized blog.'s Choice: Twitter

3. Online File Storage
If you need to share files with one or more colleagues, or you need to access key files from several different computers, and don't want the hassle carrying around a laptop or thumb drive, or emailing files, you can use one of these services to manage your files in a password protected environment.'s Choice: Airset

4. Photo Sharing and Storage
If you are interested in sharing photos, services like Flickr and Picasa allow you to store photos online, and even giving you the option of allowing others to access them or download them.'s Choice: Flickr

5. Intelligence Gathering
If you need to find or track some information online, for example monitoring a developing news story or keeping current on a competitor or industry, Google has a service called Google Alerts that will keep track of them for you and send regular email updates when it finds something.'s Choice: Google Alerts

6. Video Sharing
Some of the millions of user generated videos are published every day may actually be of interest to you. While you may be able to find them using general search engines like Google or Bing, you may have better luck by searching within video sharing sites like YouTube, Metacafe, and LiveLeak. YouTube is by far the biggest, with the greatest variety of content. Also, if have videos that you want to share, you can follow the example and create a home page withing the site to showcase your videos.'s Choice: YouTube

7. Social Networking
Facebook and Myspace may be the most well known social networking sites, but a site like LinkedIn is more relevant to working professionals, providing a kind of online resume and biography, and allowing others to see you out and contact you.'s Choice: LinkedIn

8. Subscribing to Podcasts
There are millions of audio and video podcasts out there that cover a huge range of topics, including a few that would be of interest to you. Both Apple (iTunes) and Microsoft (Zune) distribute free software that allows you to easily manage subscriptons to audio of and video podcasts of every description. The iTunes software also has extensive links to online audio stream of radio stations from around the world.'s Choice: iTunes

9. Free Phone Calls
Wouldn't it be great if you could use the Internet to call someone long distance, even internationally, without spending any extra money? You can download a program like Skype or Googletalk and talk for free with anyone else who has both a connection to the Internet and who has downloaded the same software.'s Choice: Skype

10. Social Bookmarking
All web browsers allow you to bookmark favorite pages, but if you use several computers, or even several browsers on the same computer, keeping track of your bookmarkes can be next to impossible. Bookmark sharing resources like Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon allow you to create an online account where you can store and manage your bookmarks, and then either make them private and password protected, or make them public and available to anyone.'s Choice: Delicious

Selected Social Media Applications Used by
Podcast (main page)
Podcast (subscription)
Mailing List (online press releases)
Bird Strike Blog
Crash Video Blog

Next Steps
If you are using none of these services, go ahead and try one of them to see if it can help you out in some way. If you are using one or more of them, leave a comment on this blog post and share your experiences, positive or negative, with using these services.

How to Use Twitterfeed to Automatically Send a Link Your Blog with Twitter

If you have read some of the previous posts on this site, you've seen how I've used Twitter with my site, and you may have even seen my article on how I associated my mailing list with Twitter so that both the mailing list audience and Twitter audience could be notified of a new blog post or news item at the same time.

This second solution didn't deal with the situation where I wanted the Twitter audience to get notified immediately and the mailing list audience to be notified later. It also didn't help me in a situation where a blog did not have a mailing list associated with it. I could have used my mailing list service create a new list that had no members, but could be used to send a post to Twitter, but that seemed to be a bit of overkill.

Fortunately, the service Twitterfeed solved both problems. Once you set it up, you can tell it to update your Twitter account any time your feed gets updated. If you use services like Feedburner, you can create specific feed for blogs, podcasts, or many other kinds of content. Once you log into Twitter feed, you can associate a feed with a specific Twitter account.

If you set things up right, updating your content, adding a blog posting for example, automatically updates the feed, and Twitterfeed automatically posts a message and a link back to that blog post.

To make it work smoothly takes a bit of practice. Twitter allows messages only 140 characters long, and the URL takes up about 25 spaces, so I make sure my title on the blog post is less than 115 spaces. I treat the title like a newspaper headline in that it explains the content of the post well enough so that someone can decide if it is worth reading.

For more background about Twitterfeed and their recently added features, check out the Twitterfeed blog.

Monday, October 5, 2009

New FTC Rules for Sponsored Blog Posts

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently approved changes to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with FTC regulations. Anyone involved in online advertising that involves testimonials or reviews, for example paid blog posts, should pay attention to these changes.

Under the old guidelines, an advertiser could feature unusual or atypical results in a testimonial ("I lost 300 pounds eating nothing but bacon bits and Jell-O!) so long as there was some kind of disclaimer in the ad.

Even more important to the online advertising world is that under the new guidelines an advertiser that has to disclose any “material connections” (for example, payments or free products) between endorser and the advertiser. To be more specific, if a blogger takes money or some other kind of consideration to review a product or service, that post would be considered an endorsement.

What Does This Mean for Bloggers and Site Owners?
It isn't clear what this may mean for the average blogger or site owner. If you own a single site or blog, and just have a few paid blog posts, the FTC probably won't even pay attention to you. However, if you have any kind of common sense when it comes to accepting advertising, you'll avoid any advertising that is promoting anything that is illegal, or that appears to be fraudulent or misleading.

When it comes to disclosing whether your site or blog takes advertising, it would probably be a good idea to do so somewhere on the site, or even in an individual blog post. It isn't clear what would be acceptable and what would not be acceptable, since the new guidelines don't go into effect until December.

While the FTC only has jurisdiction in the US, what happens in the US will likely become the norm around the world. If you are involved in online advertising, you should pay attention to any major changes in the US advertising market.

For more details on the changes, check out the FTC's press release from October 5, 2009.traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Is a Good Advertising Agreement?

If you offer advertising to web site owners, either as an advertiser or as some kind of broker or advertising representative, you have to have some kind of agreement with the site owner. Often that agreement is unspoken, or only mentioned informally in a phone call or email. Whether you have formal written contracts or just a verbal or handshake agreement, you have to have some rules about what you will or won't do, or what you expect from advertisers or site owners.

Below are a few suggestions for what you should look for from your advertising partners, or from your own organization. Even if you don't use a formal contract, you would be wise to have some ground rules written out ahead of time so that you can refer to them if someone asks or if you come across a problem with site owners or advertisers.

Please note that these are guidelines, and not a legal contract. If you need something that will stand up in court, please find the appropriate professional assistance.

Definition of Roles
Be clear about what you do and what you expect of the others involved in the agreement. For example, if you are an advertiser, say so. If you are acting as an advertising broker, don't hide that fact.

Advertising Type
The typical kinds of advertising types are plain text links or some kind of graphic or banner that has an embedded link. Most advertising is static in that they don't change over time, or they could be a type that changes over time or that is animated.

Advertising Location
Typical locations are on a particular page on a web site, in a particular post in a blog, or visible on all pages of a site or posts on a blog.

Duration of a Placement
Usually, an advertisement is in place for a fixed amount of time (month, year, etc.), or until some other specific event occurs.

Payout Rules
Typically, a site owner is either paid up front or paid after the fact. Pay may either be a flat rate, or based on performance like the number of times a link is clicked or based on sales of goods or services. Whatever the system is, make it clear to the site owner.

Change Rules
Most advertisers will expect a reasonable number of changes to the ad during its placement period. How many is reasonable is usually up to the site owner. For example, for a month-to-month placement, one or two changes per month should be expected. If a site owner insists on zero changes, it may make the site much less attractive to advertisers.

Advertising Visibility by People and Search Engines
Site owners should not do anything to undermine the ability of the ad to be useful. The typical advertiser will insist that the ad be visible to people visiting the site or blog. Most, but not all, advertisers will insist that the link within an ad be visible to search engines. This means things like no redirects or nofollow attributes, and use of plain HTML links. Both the advertiser and the site owner should be clear on what is allowed and what is not allowed.

No Abuse of Insider Information
If you have an agreement with an advertising broker, and you find out sensitive business information such as what advertisers that broker is using or what other sites that advertiser is working with, you should not approach those other businesses unless you first clear it with that broker.

Full Disclosure to Site Owners
In the online advertising universe, site owners often have the least information about what is going on. Advertisers and brokers are usually much more savvy about how the game is played. If a site owner, wants to know what's going on, tell that owner everything you can within reason. For example, if they want to know what percentage of the advertising dollar that they get, there is no reason to hide. If they want to know if you are the advertiser or the agent of an advertiser, just say so.

Things You Won't Do
Typically, this would include the kinds of advertising your wont' deal with, or what you would do if an advertiser did something underhanded like change the page behind a link to inappropriate content.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Drug Companies Have Sharp Reduction in Text Link Advertising

According to an October 1st media release by the online marketing company comScore, one of their recent studies showed a significant change in search engine marketing by the pharmaceutical industry, specifically a greater than 50% drop in the use of sponsored links for related terms like prescription drug treatment, as a result warning letters distributed by the US Food and Drug Administration in March 2009. The FDA warning letters were issued to pharmaceutical manufacturers concerning the exclusion of fair balance language in sponsored link advertising.

According to comScore, there were 11.9 million sponsored link exposures in March 2009, but only 3.2 million the following month, dropping to 1.9 million in June 2009.

AirSafe Media encourage any site owner who chooses to accept advertising to do so wisely. You can find AirSafe Media's general guidelines for advertising in the February 2009 post "Choosing and Rejecting Text Link Advertising Offers."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Using URLs in Your YouTube Description

Social media, which includes a wide range of publishing and communication applications and resources, is a continuously evolving set of practices and technologies. While some aspects are quite technical and beyond the understanding of most who use social media, others aspects are quite simple and obvious once they are pointed out. This post is about something that fits the latter description.
is an excellent podcast run by a pair of online marketing veterans who regularly hand out simple and effective advice for enhancing anyone's online marketing strategy. One recent tip for YouTube videos where they suggested placing an appropriate URl at the beginning of the description section of a video. YouTube automatically turns a plain URL into an active link, which can then point back to a blog, web site, or other online resource related to the video. has had a combination audio and video podcast for several years, with the videos uploaded to YouTube and other video sharing sites. Most of the videos are associated with a particular page on the main web site, and I usually put a URL at the end of the video and the very end of the description. It was a simple matter to log into the account and add that same URL at the beginning of the description.

Before I made this very minor change, only those viewers who went out of their way to open the entire description, or who had the desire to watch the entire video would find the link. Now, even a casual visitor to one of's YouTube videos will know where to go for more information. Time will tell if this leads to as significantly greater traffic on the web site.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is Your Google App Down? - Get an Update

If you rely on Gmail, Google Docs, or some other online Google application to get through the day, when it stops working your online life can come to a halt. One thing you can do if this happens is to figure out if it is a local problem on your computer or with your ISP, or if it is a larger problem. One place to go for rumor and speculation is Twitter Search at If it is a system-wide problem, there will be many Tweets.

To go straight to the Google source, check out Google's Apps Status Dashboard at You can get a general overview of the status of the more popular applications. If you see a service disruption or service outage icon, click on it to get updated information.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Free Online Video Conversion Resource

For those of you who use video for podcasts and other online uses may be tempted to use videos from places like LiveLeak and YouTube, but it can be a hassle converting it to a form that you can use.

The other day, I ran across some news footage on LiveLeak, and found that there was a convenient link for downloading it. That link took me to, a free online service that can download video from a laundry list of sites, including Youtube, Break, Metacafe, Myspace, Dailymotion, Veoh, Liveleak, Blip, Collegehumor, and Ebaumsworld, and convert it to common audio and video formats such as FLV, WMV, MPEG, MP4, AVI, MP3, and WAV.

The price is right, so why not give it a try.

Related Resources Podcasts Podcasting Manual

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Network Solutions Will Cut Your Prices - If You Ask

The laws of free enterprise can do good things, especially the law that says when two companies offer the same service at wildly different prices, something has to give. Like many who run blogs and web sites, I manage several, and have several domain names on standby. When I took over the Money and Minds blog, the domain name was managed by GoDaddy. Looking at renewal options, I saw that it was only going to cost me $9.99 to add an extra year. It seemed awfully low compared to Network Solutions where I had my other domains since the 1990s. I decided to check, and found that adding one year to my domain name managed by Network Solutions would have cost me $34.99.

If there were only a few dollars difference, I wouldn't have bothered changing providers, but being close to renewal on another domain, I decided to transfer that one over. After arranging the transfer on GoDaddy, I called up a customer service representative at Network Solutions. Once he found out I was going to make a switch, he immediately offered to extend my registration not by $34.99 a year, but by $8.75 a year. Unfortunately for him, I'd already paid my money to GoDaddy, so that transfer was going to go through. Smelling an opportunity, I asked if the same $8.75 deal was good for all of my other domains. His answer was yes. He was more than happy to extend my registrations of all my domains at that lower price.

I don't know why Network Solutions insists on charging more than three times the amount GoDaddy does for the very same service, and only offering a competitive rate when they are about to lose a customer. I do know that if they offered me this deal, they might offer you the same. If you are a Network Solutions customer, ring them up and mention that you want to transfer your domain management elsewhere. If you don't use Network Solutions, and a renewal would cost you more than $8.75 a year, either ask for a discount or go shopping for a better value.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making a Home Page Only Link for a WordPress Blog

If you create a standard WordPress blog, links that you add to the sidebar will appear on every page of the site. If you only want a link to only appear on the home page, you can follow one of the options suggested by one of AirSafe Media's partners:

Option 1
: Create your own sidebar code that will display a specified link only on the home page

Option 2: Use a code like the following:

Just replace [LINK URL] with the appropriate URL and [LINK TEXT] with the appropriate link text.

If your home page resides in a location other than /index.php, then replace that with the appropriate option (for example, /default.html or /default.php, etc.)

I welcome any comments or feedback you may have. I would especially welcome any suggestions for creating a home page only link in Blogger. I've done it, but it was somewhat complicated, somewhat time consuming, and more than a little bit frustrating.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How Uses Twitter

When I started the aviation safety site back in 1996, I didn't have a built in audience or any offline publications, so I had to continually evolve how I used the web site and other online resources to find and build an audience. Along the way, one of the key tactics I developed was to look at emerging trends in online communication and to use those that help to serve the audience.

Twitter was one of those technologies. Once I saw that Twitter was getting some traction and being increasingly adopted by users, I incorporated it into several elements of the universe. Specifically, whenever I send out a mailing on the opt-in mailing list, that mailing list automatically generates a tweet. I also tie in the two top blogs with my Twitter account, and those also generate tweets for each no entry. Finally, if there is a breaking news item like a plane crash, I typically use Twitter to send out a brief headline and a URL to a web site page or blog post with additional information.

One of the unexpected benefits was that Twitter and related technologies opened up additional options for connecting with the audience. The most direct is the connection opportunities with those who choose to follow on Twitter. The other is the Twitter search function at It is a great tool for quickly finding useful links to breaking news stories. For example, after a plane crash, there are usually hundreds of tweets coming in every minute, and at least a few will have links to news media and other resources that have timely information on an unfolding event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When Should I Get Paid? - Workable Policies for Site Owners

Every advertising program has a different system for computing payments and for determining what payments are due. While site owners have little choice with the larger programs, when it comes to dealing with smaller advertisers or advertising brokers, things can be a lot simpler. There are three ways to make things easier: choose a payment system that allows you to track payments, get paid in advance, and get paid by a deadline.

Use a Payment System
For most people, PayPal or similar online payment programs have the kind of tracking system that allows the site owner and the advertiser/broker to resolve any disputes as to what you got paid and when.

Get Paid in Advance
Advertising agreements, especially with smaller companies or individuals, are often a very informal affair, with agreements made by phone or email. The easiest way for a site owner to be protected against problems with the advertiser agreement is to get paid in advance. An owner should only agree to be paid otherwise if the advertiser or broker doesn't offer any other option or if that advertiser or broker can be trusted.

Get Paid by a Deadline
Getting paid by a particular date is an excellent policy when combined with the previous suggestion of getting paid in advance. This reduces the risk for the site owner and encourages the advertiser or broker to maintain a consistent relationship. It also makes it easier to manage the advertising deals on a site, especially if a site owner gets payments from several sources.

Why Have Rules?
Without rules or standards, having advertising on a site can be a hassle that isn't worth the money. It is also difficult to manage multiple advertising deals, especially if you manage multiple sites, without some kind of system. Having a few basic and simple rules for getting paid is the least you should do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Using Google Alerts to Find Comment Opportunities

There are many ways to use social media to market or promote an online resource like a web site or blog. One of the easiest ways is to leave a comment on another blog or web site. Sometimes major media events that happen to be related to your blog or web site present an easy opportunity to enhance public awareness.

For example, in March 2009, the FAA proposed a rule change that would make it almost impossible for the public to see or analyze the FAA's biggest bird and wildlife strike database. There was heavy media coverage of the event online, in newspapers, and on television. I run several web sites and blogs that deal with bird strikes, so I had a simple three part plan to take advantage of the sudden public attention:

1. Use Google Alerts to find out what news stories were coming out online (I used the search terms [+faa +"bird strike"]).

2. Find the articles with the largest potential audience and either post comments to the article (always mentioning at least one of my bird strike blogs or sites),

3. If an article from a medium to large media organization had contact information for the writer of the story, I'd make a point to contact that person by phone or email and offer to provide information or answer questions.

By letting Google do my research for me, I was able to easily find dozens of opportunities to post comments to articles and use those posts to direct readers to some of my resources. In addition, I also found relevant media contacts that I could help or that could help me later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two Useful Resources for Site Owners

The Internet is an evolving universe, and no matter how much I do online, I'm always discovering new and useful resources that help me to manage several web sites, blogs, and many other online activities. Two interesting ones that I came across yesterday were and The first site I actually found after coming across the book Upgrade Your Life which was written by the same organization. Basically gives you all kinds of advice on how to improve or streamline what you do online. You've probably done a few of these things already, and not all of them will be useful to you, but I'd be surprised if you could not find a few things that would make your time on the site worthwhile.

I found the other site from a link from is run by Trent Hamm, who is also the author of the book 365 Ways to Live Cheap!, and is a wide ranging blog about ways that you can deal with bad spending habits and financial stress. Two articles that caught my eye was a list of 30 free and open source software programs for Windows based computers, and the second is a very good argument for investing in a sturdy file cabinet as well as detailed listing of what kind of documents and other items you should keep in them.

My book Parenting and the Internet had a list of my top 10 recommended free software programs, plus a list of dozens of others. If you subscribe to the Parenting and the Internet mailing list, I'll give you a link to a free PDF download of the entire contents of the book.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Market Your Video with YouTube's Video Response Option

Using YouTube as a distribution option for's podcasts has been quite successful. YouTube consistently accounts for about half of all the downloads or views of the podcast videos. One of the options YouTube provides is the ability to easily embed a video on a web page, and this is an option that is used all over and several of the associated blogs.

One option I overlooked until this week was using the video response option in YouTube. It works just like a text comment, except you use a video. If you already have a video on YouTube, it just takes couple of clicks to place the link. The really popular videos with tens or even hundreds of thousands of text comments often have at most a few video responses.

It took me about two seconds to come up with a very easy marketing tool--find the most popular video that is relevant to one of's YouTube videos and add a video response. I did this for at least 25 of the 45 videos now on YouTube, and early results show at least a 50% increase in daily views. I'll wait a couple of weeks before I believe it to be a long term trend, but so far the response is better than I expected.

One of the side benefits of looking for an appropriate video to respond to is that I've discovered some very unusual airline safety and security videos. The one that stands out the most is a rap video about the TSA by a group called the T.S.A. Gangstaz. It is rude, lewd, totally inappropriate for minors, politically incorrect, completely unsafe for work, and it has over half a million views. If a small percentage of the viewers of the anti-TSA rap video follow my link and end up viewing informational and educational TSA video, then I'll consider the video response a success.

Warning: If you follow the link to the video, you will see how I've implemented the video response option, but if your manager is looking over your shoulder, you'll have some explaining to do.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A 5 Step SEO Process for Your New Site or Blog

When you are in the planning stages for a new web site or blog, there are a few basic steps you can take to make that site or blog interesting to your audience and attractive to search engines.

These days, when you are starting a new web site or blog, it helps to plan your content so that it is interesting to your audience and also attractive to search engines. One thing that helps to accomplish both is to have unique content. Even if you are reusing your own material from another web site or blog, you should put in a few changes to update it for the audience and to keep search engines from thinking that it is duplicate content that should be ignored.

Making a site more attractive to search engine is one of the best ways to grow an audience since because potential new users will be able to find your site or blog while searching for something related to content. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the big buzz phrase you may have heard about, and if you think you should know something about it, you are right. The 5 step SEO process used when AirSafe Media creates a new site or blog is pretty simple, very free, and after reading this post you may want to use the process yourself.

Step 1: Plan on Making it Useful to Your Audience
Unique content should be the foundation of your site or blog, as well as an understanding of what your audience wants. The basic AirSafe Media philosophy is a simple one--give the people what they want, and just a little of what I think they need. Keep this in mind as you add content to your site or your blog.

Step 2: Find the Best Sites and Blogs on the Subject
Whatever it is you are planning to do, someone else has probably done it before. If you can find the very best sites or blogs in your area of interest, you will probably find excellent examples of what to do, what not to do, and where you can best contribute. Finding the sites can be difficult, or it can be easy. In my book Parenting and the Internet, I laid out a detailed procedure for making that happen. If you subscribe to the Speedbrake Publishing mailing list, your confirmation email will have a link to the free PDF ebook. The details are on pages 163-169 of that document.

Step 3: Find the Hottest Keywords and Key Phrases on Those Sites
Once you have a list of these key sites, put them through Google's Keyword Tool to find out the most relevant and popular keywords or key phrases that are associated with these sites. These top sites became that way in part because the sites ranked highly in relevant search engine searches. If these words and phrases are relevant to your site or blog, then using them will make it easier for a new visitor to find you.

Step 4: Find Out the Trends of These Keywords and Key Phrases
Once you identify keywords and key phrases of interest, you should get an idea of how often people use those terms in searches. Google Trends can easily show what terms are on the upswing and what terms are on the way out. You can even compare two terms to see which ones are doing better. You can use this tool to figure out which of your many alternative words or phrases you may want to use, or if you want to use some more than others.

Step 5: Put These Keywords or Key Phrases in Your Site or Blog
If you have done your work it Step 1, you probably have a lot of these words and phrases already in your content. Remember that you want to make your work useful to your audience, so only add the keywords and key phrases in Step 3 if it makes sense in the context of your work. You should also include these words and phrases whenever possible within the HTML tags for the page title and description, as well as in the 'alt' field for any image tag that you use. Also, try to put them in the heading tags as well as in the body of your text.

An Case Study
While you should go through all the steps if you are designing a new site or blog, you can use parts of the process for a smaller effort within an active site. I was adding a podcasting section to my site, and I wanted to figure out what kind of podcasting related terms I should include on the pages in that section (Step 4 and Step 5). I found out during my research that podcasting was a kind of social media. I did a Google Trends search for phrase 'social media' and the term 'podcasting' and found that the use of 'social media' was on a long term upswing and the second on a downward slope. I also did a comparison of the two terms and found that 'podcasting' was getting many more searches. I originally thought about adjusting the content to fit in the phrase 'social media' but decided against that idea after I finished my evaluation.

Your Next Step
Don't just sit there, take some action. At the very least, sign up to get a free copy of Parenting and the Internet. I guarantee there are at least a half dozen other things in that book that you could use right now.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Using Gmail to Find Mailing Lists That Sell or Give Your Email Address to Spammers

I was listening to the podcast the other day, and it mentioned a very interesting way to use Gmail to find mailing lists that sell or give away your email address to spammers. In short, if you add a '+' and additional characters after the user name (before the '@' sign), Gmail ignores that and will deliver the email to the normal address.

Why would this be useful to you? Let's say you need to sign up for many mailing lists using the same email address, and you want to be able to figure out which mailing list may have allowed your email address to fall into the hands of spammers. The solution is simple, sign into each mailing list with a unique identifier. For example, if you were to subscribe to the Speedbrake Publishing mailing list and you had the Gmail address, join the list using Email to that address will still come to address even though it was addressed to

Try it yourself. If you have a Gmail account (if not, get one set up for free at, and then join the Speedbrake Publishing mailing list at with '+speedbrake' inserted before the '@' sign. After you finish the signup process, you will get a confirmation email. By the way, this confirmation email gives you a link to a free copy of my book Parenting and the Internet, which is a useful guide for managing the online affairs of your child.

Do this for all of your new mailing lists, using of course a different identifier for each, and if you start getting unsolicited emails, you can easily identify who did you wrong and take appropriate action.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Multitask Your Email Management System

If you have an ongoing relationship with an audience, you are probably using several methods to keep in contact such as podcasts, blogs, mailing lists, and Twitter. To make life easy for you, it makes sense to make them all work together. The following is an example from the aviation safety web site

Whenever the site creates a new podcast, a notice about that podcast is placed on the site's news blog. The mailing list used by automatically reads the updated RSS feed from the news blog, and sends out an email to all the subscribers that has the title of the blog post along with a link to that post. That same list is also tied into's Twitter account, so that those who prefer using Twitter over a mailing list will also get notified.

Using a mailing list with the option of notifying multiple channels of communication is much more convenient way to manage your audience and frees you from making a separate effort to notify each audience segment. For more information on the mailing list system used by, visit

If method of managing customer relationships sounds interesting to you and you would like to test the system for yourself, you can take a free test drive of the system by signing up below:

Take a Free Test Drive today!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, and Your Blog

How long should a blog entry be? Like an email, a blog entry can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Usually, problems arise with blog posts that are too long rather than those that are too short. While there are no hard and fast rules about the maximum length of a post, there is one rule inspired by a 19th century writer that that provides a useful guide for today’s writers.

President Abraham Lincoln’s address at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, PA, on November 19, 1863 was a speech of only 266 words that was both a powerful message on the principles of democratic government and a shining example of how a short message can speak volumes. This speech also provides the inspiration for the Gettysburg Criterion for email that I wrote about in my book Parenting and the Internet. This is a rule that the text in the body of an email should be shorter than the Gettysburg Address. If the rule makes sense for email, it should probably make sense for blog entries.

To use the Gettysburg Criterion, get a copy of the Gettysburg Address and keep it nearby when you are writing. When you get though with your rough draft, compare the length to that of the Gettysburg Address. If the draft is longer than Lincoln’s speech, then consider making it shorter. If making it shorter is not an option, then your consider options such as breaking up the posts into two or more posts, or just post a synopsis of your writing in the blog and make the full version available elsewhere such as in a downloadable file.

For your convenience, I’ve included below the text of the version of the Gettysburg Address that is inscribed in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (punctuation added for clarity):

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

The Gettysburg Criterion is only one way to evaluate your writing. If you can write a post that is much longer or much shorter but that is also effective, then do so. If using the Gettysburg Criterion encourages you to take time and energy to become a better writer then, it will probably help you in ways that go far beyond your next blog entry.

You can download a free copy of Parenting and the Internet, including the Gettysburg Criterion, at

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How to Search Twitter for What's Hot

One of the things that was notable about last week's plane crash in Amsterdam was the use of Twitter by nearby witnesses. I heard about it in the media as I madly updated with accident information, but I was frustrated because I didn't have an easy way to search Twitter. Actually, I had a way, I just didn't know about it. allows you to search Twitter for up to the minute messages. It is such a good service, that Twitter acquired it. You can find it either at or

By the way, here is another shameless plug for Often after a several plane crashes in a short period of time, someone would ask me if "plane crashes happened in threes." I used to dismiss this kind of question as nonsense, at least until I actually analyzed the concept behind the question. I no longer dismiss the question. In fact, not only do I think that crashes can happen in threes, I know that they can happen in fours and fives as well. Check out for details.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is it Legal to Advertise Online Gambling?

Recently, I was debating with a site owner about whether a link to a gambling site was legal where he lived in Washington State. He pointed out that online gambling was illegal in that state, and he didn't want to take a chance to be accused of promoting online gambling, so the owner would not place any gambling links.

I didn't know about Washington State laws, so I did a quick Google search and came up with an interesting fact sheet from the Washington State Gambling Commission at The first line is pretty ominous. It says "Internet gambling has always been illegal in Washington State and in the United States." I don't know about gambling having always been illegal, but I am aware that transferring funds to pay for online gambling are not allowed in the US, and that banks, credit card services, and PayPal can't transfer money from US customers to online gambling sites. These money transfer laws were made at the federal level, so they applied to every part of the United States.

The Washington state gambling commission also didn't like advertising for gambling. On the second page of their fact sheet, it says that "It is illegal to solicit Washington State citizens to gamble on the Internet when a fee is involved to play the games."

In the state of Washington, and perhaps other states, would a mere link to a gambling web site constitute soliciting someone to do something illegal? As I said before, I'm no lawyer, but I'll give you my opinion anyway. In my opinion, if the web site is not promoting illegal activity, and if it is legal in the location where it resides, then providing a link to it should not be a problem.

Any site owner should review the destination URL of any outgoing link you currently have, and any external link that you are thinking about adding. If you already have a link to a site, and then you find out that the site is not obeying the law, specifically the law where you reside or where your web site is hosted, then the sensible thing to do is remove the link. If you are still deciding to place a link, and you have even a little bit of hesitation, then don't add the link.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Choosing and Rejecting Text Link Advertising Offers

For the average web site owner who has developed a web site to serve a specialized audience, making money from advertising is usually not a high priority. There are many programs that offer affiliate marketing opportunities where a web site owner may get paid if someone buys a product or service, or if a visitor does some other specific action. In most cases, the site owner has to go out and find these opportunities. But sometimes opportunities come looking for the owner.

There are also a number of companies that offer to pay to have specific links placed on a site. These may be plain text links, text links embedded in surrounding text, or even a rotating banner with a changing set of links. For most owners, getting an unsolicited offer like this is usually unexpected, and in most cases accepting such offers won't cause a problem. However, a site owner should still be careful and be prepared to say no.

You might ask, "Why should I say no to easy money?" The simple answer is that placing a link on your site may mean easy money, but this easy money isn't free from risk. In a previous post, I discussed how search engines may penalize some web sites that may violate their policies regarding advertising.

While search engine policies may differ, common sense dictates that anyone considering placing such links should at least check where the link is going. A sensible policy would be to avoid any link that is associated with one or more of the following:

Illegal activity: To be safe, this would include any activity, product, or service that is illegal in the location where your web site's server is located, or the location where the site owner or the business that owns or runs the site is located.

Unethical activity: Specifically, activities that your target audience would consider unethical. One example is an educational site aimed at high school students running ads from a company that sells customized term papers.

Immoral activity: Deciding what is moral or not could be an easy process or a hard one. One morality indicator I like to use is the 12-year-old rule. If I wouldn't want the average twelve-year-old to be exposed to it, it doesn't show up in the site or the blog.

Sites with no value to your audience: If you don't give your audience what it wants, they'll go elsewhere. Offering links that go to sites with no real benefit to them isn't worth the money.

Adult sites: Unless your site is adult-oriented, avoid any link to sites that have material that is not safe for work, or appropriate for children.

Sites that look suspicious: If you don't feel right about the site, don't link to it.

The most important thing about placing any links on your site is that the final decision is up to you. No matter how good the money looks right now, think twice before you do anything that might drive your audience away or lower your site's search engine rankings.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Advertising Rules and Search Engines

Much has been written about the rules that Google and others have when it comes to advertising. The fear of many web site managers is that any paid advertising on their site will have dire consequences when it comes to their search engine rank or their Google PageRank value. While I have no idea what the exact rules are for the algorithms behind the search engines, what I do know is that the policies of Google, the biggest player in the search engine world, seem to allow many types of advertising.

Recently, while reviewing the polices of their Google AdSense policies, one paragraph about competitive advertising and services states that "In order to prevent user confusion, we do not permit Google ads or search boxes to be published on websites that also contain other ads or services formatted to use the same layout and colors as the Google ads or search boxes on that site. Although you may sell ads directly on your site, it is your responsibility to ensure these ads cannot be confused with Google ads."

There continues to be a fear among many web site owners that Google and others will punish sites for any kind of advertising, or that a "nofollow" attribute would have to placed in any kind of text link ad. I have yet to find any policy statement within Google's AdWords or AdSense that states this, though the belief that such a policy exists is widespread among site owners and managers.

There are cases where Google and others may punish a site, and I agree with sanctions in some cases. For example, if a site is clearly designed to game the system by artificially getting a high search engine rank and the site's content consists mostly of paid text links, then having the site ignored by search engines is in my opinion in the best interest of the consumer.

This doesn't mean that companies like Google that make their money in part from advertising enjoys competition. My interpretation of Google's policies, based in part on having conversations with Google representatives at industry meetings, is that although they would like to discourage links that exist mostly for the purpose of enhancing a site's PageRank value, and that there may be sanctions for sites that have a large number of these kinds of links, that they are not interested in punishing every site that has text link advertising.

The fear for many site owners is that they could be playing fair and seemingly within Google's rules and still get punished by having their PageRank reduced or having a drop in their search engine results, and to have these things to happen without notice or chance of appeal. This is a scenario I worry about on occasion. I currently manage about a dozen sites and blogs, and I also place significant content in places like YouTube and Facebook, This content is often closely related, and at any given time I may have dozens of relevant links connecting blog articles, web pages, online videos, and other resources. While a person looking at this collection of sites may be able to easily see a relationship, a search engine algorithm may evaluate designed to look for and punish paid link type relationships may not be able to do so.

My argument is that search engine companies are free to do what they wish when it comes to their search engines and related tools, and I think they should sanction activities that clearly undermine their usefulness of the search engine. While search engine companies may want to discourage advertising that they don't control, punishing sites isn't in their best interest and will likely not be an issue for most sites.

The following example may make it plain. If a set of sites for a particular subject area were consistently in the top ten results the major search engines and drew substantial traffic, it wouldn't be surprising that advertisers would want to work with those sites. If one one search engine decided to punish all sites with advertising, then the ten best sites on a subject, which happen to attract lots of advertising, would suddenly not be at the top of that search engines results for that subject area. The competing search engines that don't punish these sites would still have the best sites on the top of their results, which would provide their users with a better search experience.

If an search engine were truly putting sanctions on all sites that advertise, it would be pretty obvious once the top sites were no longer in the top results. In the past several yeas, I have not seen any pattern that suggests that this has been happening for Google or for the other top search engines.

I'll make no predictions about the future advertising policies of Google or any other search engine, but based on my experience, I believe sites that use dishonest or misleading advertising will be punished, but sites that use honest advertising that provides value to the site's visitors and that doesn't try to manipulate search engines will be treated fairly.

Friday, January 23, 2009, the New York Times Test, and Flight 1549

Since I launched in 1996, one of the ways that I generated traffic was to get the attention of mainstream media. Most of the time, success is measured by a link to the site within an online story from a local newspaper or television station. If you visit's media page at and the Conversation at podcast at, you'll find several of these kinds of articles and interviews.

You may think that an interview on the worldwide radio network of the BBC or a couple of minutes of conversation with Wolf Blitzer on CNN would lead to an avalanche of site visitors. I used to think that way too, until I reviewed the traffic statistics in the days after those events. There are however a few media entities that have consistently a huge effect on's traffic, and the two that have consistently produced a combination of both high traffic and attention from other media entities are the New York Times and the USA Today.

Based on the role these two publications play, its not much of a surprise. The New York Times is very influential because it often influences what news stories or policy issues are covered by major print, broadcast, and online media organizations both inside and outside the United States. When it comes to commercial aviation, the USA Today is at least as influential as the New York Times. The paper is the one you would most likely see in the hands of an airline passenger (at least in the US), it has an extensive online presence, and the organization has consistently produced comprehensive coverage of major aviation events, especially those that happen in the US.

That influence extends beyond the news world. In 1991, the New York Times published a news article about the result of a research I coauthored with my adviser while a graduate student at MIT. Some time after that, I was watching Saturday Night Live (this was before it got rebranded as SNL) and had the eerie experience of watching my work lampooned on live national television. I don't know if the writing staff decided to try to generate a few laughs after reading the article, but I have to believe that if the story didn't run in the Times, the research would not have been joked about on the show.

Based on that experience, I came up with something I call the "New York Times Test." The test is a simple one, you only have to answer one question--if something that you do ends up being featured in a front page story on the New York Times, could you deal with it? Could you deal with the kind of scrutiny that happens when your family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, and millions of total strangers suddenly take a keen interest in your work? Would you be able to stand the criticism, whether it was deserved or not, whether it was honest and fair or mean spirited and destructive? For me, it happened twice, and I'm happy to say that I passed the test both times.

Last week, I took a variation on the New York Times Test when the USA Today featured part of my site in a page two story the day after the ditching related accident involving US Airways Flight 1549 (the night before, I'd had a hurried cell phone conversation with the reporter who interviewed me while I was negotiating rush hour traffic). The story, which mentioned that the crash was only the fourth time that a jet airliner had ditched, came out on Friday, but I didn't realize it was printed until Sunday. I may have seen the story earlier, since I bought the paper that day, but I was way too busy dealing with the aftermath of the accident.

What tipped me off was multiple emails with the following kind of message--"Hey Todd, you missed one, what about the time airline XYZ had a plane crash in the water." To make a long story short, I didn't miss any and I didn't have to change any of the accident data on the site. had always had a specific set of criteria for calling an event a ditching. However, prior to all the attention generated in part by USA Today, I had never felt the need to explicitly state on the site what definition I was using. After last week, I saw the need, and you can see my definition at

It wasn't a classic "New York Times Test" because it was neither a New York Times story or even a front page story. However, it certainly generated the kind of attention for the site that a front page story in the Times would generate. If you want to see what was written, check out the article, which was reprinted as a sidebar story on one of the USA Today's online pages about the accident.

After last week's experience, I've decided that the "New York Times Test" is still a valid test, but it doesn't have to involve a front page story on the New York Times. On today's Internet, you don't even need a media organization to make the test happen. It could be a YouTube video, a blog post, or some combination of online information services that may take your work from obscurity to prime time in a matter of hours. This test has many of the elements of a common nightmare of college freshmen--you can't study for the test, you can't predict if or when it will happen, and you may not even know that you're taking the test until after it has started. My only advice is that if you find yourself in the middle of the test, be prepared for an experience.