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Update on No Updates

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, July 30, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Updates to this site have slipped lately because the free time I used to spend blogging is now consumed by something a little more colorful. That colorful thing’s name is Stewie, whom I brought home from the Animal Shelter two weeks ago.

Stewie! Snack Time Bathtime for Stewie Stewie the Gymnast Birdie Naming Contest

So you’ll forgive me if the latest Google/Yahoo/MSN happenings are taking a back seat to more exciting reads like tips on how to get your parrot to eat vegetables, or the intense debate about whether Happy Huts are appropriate conure cage accoutrements.

I actually took the opportunity to create a WordPress blog about this experience, since I wanted to spend more time with that system. (I’ve mentioned before how much Blogger sucks, in my opinion.) Don’t worry, I’m not actually trying to get anyone to read it — I’m not one of those pet owners… yet. Nor will it be updated for much longer (unless I can figure out how to monetize it much more successfully than this blog).

From what little I’ve used the system, it absolutely hands down beats the Blogger platform… except that you cannot display LinkShare.com affiliate links in your posts. Is it that
the WordPress CMS just strips that code right out of the posts if you’re on the WordPress domain (to force you to comply with the WordPress ToS)?

And if that’s the case, how is WordPress identifying all the links that could have a for-profit component to them? AdSense and LinkShare are probably easy to identify, but there are scores of other affiliate programs out there and the folks at WordPress couldn’t be tracking all of them. Am I missing something here?

Not that I intend to circumvent WP terms… just curious.

p.s. More pictures of my adorable little Stewie.

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Category: Navel-Gazing

Yahoo Search Update Wrapping Up

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, July 23, 2007 at 11:39 am

According to the Yahoo Search Blog, Yahoo rolled out an update to their search index and ranking algorithm over the weekend. Time to go check the rankings.

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Category: Yahoo

Askville.com Harder to Spam

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Last week I ran across something I hadn’t seen before with online account registrations. Askville (Amazon’s user-generated Q&A forum) requires a cell phone number during the account creation process! That makes it exponentially harder to create multiple user accounts. (Unique email addresses? Puh-leeze.)

askville

According to an email I just got from Research and Markets (disclaimer, I can’t vouch for this market research firm):

U.S. mobile penetration levels are currently at around 80 percent. This translates into roughly 240 million subscribers.

And obviously (obviously?) cell phone adoption by the types of people who would sign up for an Amazon Askville account would be at least a little higher than this. So Amazon is banking that their users will have a cell phone number, and that they’d be willing to give it up. Otherwise they’d be alienating a lot of potential users in a space that’s already a little crowded.

Seems pretty obtrusive to me, but it is does address the problem of people creating multiple user accounts to game the system.

Is this the direction account registration is going to have to go?

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Category: Spam

3 Tips for Instantly Improving Your Writing

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, July 4, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Alternative title: What my 8th grade English teacher taught me

I don’t really consider myself a writer (unless you define a writer as Thomas Mann does, which is to say “a writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”), but the fact that I’m capable of stringing a couple of sentences together at all has resulted in all sorts of opportunities. (In fact, it was the strength of my cover letter alone that landed me my current job, believe it or not.)

You’ll find lots of web sites with uninsightful advice like “write about what you know” or “read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style,” which are good tips but won’t help you turn horrible writing into not-quite-as-bad writing. If you’re looking to turn your already-good writing into brilliant writing, this post isn’t for you. And if you don’t know basic grammar or habitually neglect to check your spelling, there aren’t any tips that will help you until you master those very basics. Sorry.

So here are my surefire tips that anyone can employ to immediate effect to achieve not-quite-so-bad writing. Ready? Drum roll please…

  1. Try not to start sentences with the articles “the,” “a” or “an,” or the pronoun “I.” Really, really try.
  2. Don’t start two consecutive sentences with the same word, or any two paragraphs with the same word.
  3. Read your writing out loud one paragraph at a time and rewrite anything that uses the same meter over and over. Da-dun da-dun da-dun. Da-dun da-dun da-dun. I’m go-nna fall a-sleep. Varying the length of your sentences is the easiest way to ensure the meter varies also.

Before you say, “poppycock, I can show you plenty of examples of brilliant writing that don’t follow these rules,” understand that writing conventions are meant to be broken… but only by those who’ve already mastered them.

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Category: SEO copywriting