November 30, 2004

November 29, 2004

More skepticism on blogging for dollars

Filed under: — 4:19 pm

Via ProBlogger I ran across an article at CorporateBlogging: Blogs are Business Support Tools, Not Direct Money Makers. This echoes what Doc Searls said not too long ago, and I’ve heard the same tune from many different places. It’s completely correct, and it’s also completely wrong. Let me explain.

Many people have said the same thing about writing computer books: you can’t make money directly with books, but they’re good for your resumé. People who treat this as an absolute are missing the point: there’s more than one approach. There are writers who write for their resumé or reputation, and there are writers who write to make money.

The writers who write to make money have to do things a certain way:

  • Choose topics that are marketable rather than writing about whatever they please.
  • Perform on a publisher’s schedule rather than on their own.
  • Treat writing like a job, work on it full time, and be a team player.
  • Be willing to abandon a book or an entire subject and start over with something else if it isn’t working out.

The same applies to writing a weblog. If you want to make money, you have to treat it like a real business:

  • Focus on a topic that sponsors are interested in.
  • Write regularly whether you want to or not, or recruit additional writers.
  • Write and edit professionally to create quality content.
  • Consider your audience’s needs at least as important as your own ideas for the site.
  • Spend time doing unappealing things like marketing the site or contacting sponsors.
  • Be willing to change focus, style, or approach if the status quo isn’t working.

A personal weblog (like this one) isn’t likely to make money, and it isn’t intended to. It’s a resumé builder and a personal outlet. A company weblog like Google Blog or a corporate-sponsored weblog like Scoble’s isn’t going to make money directly—they’re business support tools. But a site that follows all of these rules—like PVRBlog or the Weblogs Inc. Network—can certainly make good money.

If you’re really interested in making money with a weblog, don’t listen to those who say it’s impossible. I’ve heard the same thing about writing books and running content-oriented websites for years, and I’ve made money doing both. I fully expect to make money with weblogs—in fact I’m already making some through WIN—and many others will too. Just keep in mind that it will take a different focus and different kinds of work than running a personal site or a business support tool, and it certainly won’t be a free lunch.

Update – 12/1/2004: Steve Rubel posts about yet another skeptical article at EContent. All of this skepticism makes me even more enthusiastic about making money with weblogs…

November 28, 2004

November 25, 2004

November 23, 2004

November 18, 2004

November 17, 2004

RSS Spam? ZDNet is very confused.

Filed under: — 6:11 pm

All of the media outlets are trying to work “blogging” into their strategies to remain relevant. The trouble is, they don’t have the usual editing and quality control, and things like this post at ZDnet are the result. Here’s a choice quote:

Lately I’ve seen my RSS feeds becoming heavily polluted by RSS spam – entries that are just ads, or sets of links that all lead to purchases (on which the spammer gets a cut). Maybe it’s because I’ve been covering cellular technology a lot. (I’d love to hear your experience.)

This paragraph is wrong on so many levels:

  • What is RSS spam? RSS isn’t anything like email. If you subscribe to a feed, what you get is entirely controlled by the authors of the site. So calling ads in RSS feeds “RSS spam” is like calling ads on Web pages “HTML spam” or ads in magazines “paper spam”.
  • He refers to “the spammer”. Who’s that? The site he’s reading a feed from or some mysterious third party who’s sneaking ads into the RSS feeds?
  • Does he think the fact that he’s “been covering cellular technology a lot” is actually causing him to receive personally-targeted ads in RSS feeds, or is it just bad phrasing?

He continues from there by going off on a bizarre tangent about the RSS specification, open source, and “the commons”. Apparently he thinks that the RSS standard includes “ethics” that aren’t being enforced. Or something.

Question is, who polices what no one owns? How can we maintain the cleanliness of the commons against those who don’t share its ethics? It’s a question that has haunted the Internet for 10 years now. It’s a question that, frankly, haunts every open source technology.

This paragraph sounds like a valid criticism of Wikipedia, but what does it have to do with RSS, or ads in RSS, or open source? And speaking of ethics, apparently lots of people have been leaving comments on this post but only the positive ones are getting through. It doesn’t take a “commons” to lose track of ethics. (via Matt)

November 12, 2004

November 11, 2004

On ICANN’s new transfer policy

Filed under: — 2:42 pm

ICANN has a new registrar transfer policy for domain names starting this Friday. It’s designed to make it easier for domain owners to switch registrars. Some of us have been waiting a long time for this, as we have domain names being held hostage by certain Australian domain name registrars who won’t be named here.

This was announced back in July with not much reaction from Slashdot and very little discussion anywhere else. Now that the policy is about to be in effect, everyone is spreading panic. Slashdot: new rules make domain hijacking easier. Kottke: ICANN’s Stupidity. Everyone is linking to this article at Netcraft that seems to have started it all.

I think the panic is a bit overblown (and a bit late–where was everyone’s concern in July?). If you read the actual policy it makes a couple of things clear:

  1. This policy is for registrar transfers, not ownership transfers. It doesn’t make it any easier for a domain to be hijacked, except perhaps by a corrupt registrar.
  2. The gaining registrar is still required to confirm the transfer: A transfer must not be allowed to proceed if no confirmation is received by the Gaining Registrar.

The big difference here is that the losing registrar has less ways to prevent the transfers. Considering the way some registrars have held domains hostage, this seems like a good thing to me, and I’ll avoid panic until I find a shred of evidence outside that Netcraft article. Ars Technica seems to agree.

Update: Jason Kottke has updated his entry to correct this–thanks for quoting me!

Another Update: Ross at Random Bytes has posted a rebuttal to Netcraft’s article that goes into lots of detail about the history behind this and the benefits of the new policy. Ross is also Director, Innovation and Research at Tucows, who assisted in initiating the new policy.

Google’s amazing expanding index

Filed under: — 2:06 pm

The search engine size war in review:

Anyone who works with large databases knows that “number of items” can be a very vague concept. Google’s number of items could vary depending on whether they decide to include or reject things like duplicates, obvious spam, malformed pages, newly crawled pages, and so on. Considering that they must index millions of new pages every day, it amuses me greatly that the “number of pages” at the bottom of the search page only changes when it’s convenient for marketing purposes.

November 10, 2004

November 9, 2004

November 8, 2004

November 5, 2004

November 4, 2004

Challenge-Response mail filters block themselves

Filed under: — 3:47 pm

Every week I get seven or eight email messages from challenge-response spam-blocking services like MailBlocks or Earthlink’s Spamblocker, asking me to take a few simple extra steps to get my email delivered. For the most part, I delete them.

I don’t believe in services like this because they start with the assumption that the recipient’s time is far more important than mine. Worse, most of the blocked messages are my responses to people’s questions. If you’re going to email me a question, don’t make it hard for me to get the answer to you. I won’t bother.

Now I read in techdirt that people like me aren’t the only thing keeping these systems from working. In an ironic twist, the challenge messages are being blocked by spam filters, so the sender often doesn’t see them at all.

This makes me wonder: what happens if everyone uses a service like this?

  • I send you a message.
  • Your spam blocker holds the message and sends me a challenge message.
  • My spam blocker holds the challenge message and sends you a challenge.
  • Your spam blocker holds the message….

I imagine MailBlocks has a way to prevent loops like this within their system, but if everyone uses different systems, what can they do? If they start whitelisting anything that looks like a challenge message, spam and viruses will start looking like challenge messages to get through. This whole idea just doesn’t scale.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
Powered by WordPress