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Miscellaneous

Websites I Can’t Live Without

Please forgive the hyperbole in the title “Websites I Can’t Live Without.” The truth is, yes, I can live without them. However, I use them so frequently than not having them at my disposal would create a void.

Google: I use Google for all my Internet searches and online research. I launch it from my toolbar in Firefox, which takes me to Google for the search results. I can quickly zero in on the exact information I need and only seldom get distracted.

TheFreeDictionary: For online dictionaries, this is my favorite. If I’m writing anything, there’s a good chance that I have this site open. It allows me to quickly verify the correct usage of a word, as well as point to synonyms. (Random trivia question that was recently posed to me: “What is a synonym for euphemism?”)

IMDB: For all my movie, television, and actor information, I immediately go to imdb (“Internet Movie DataBase”). I tend to spend too much time there: I suppose that it is my guilty pleasure—no, wait that might be…

BibleGateway: This is a great site to read or study the Bible. Search by verse, key words, or topic. Plus it has lots of related tools and resources. It also has more Bible translations than I knew existed.

The Weather Channel: Yes, I’m fixated on the weather and weather.com is my go-to source. Though lately, I’m more inclined to use their app.

Amazon: As a writer, it seems I’m often looking up books and checking authors. Though I’m not there every day, it’s close.

Social Media: I’m often on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads.

I use these sites almost every day that I’m online—which happens to be almost every day.  I suppose that I could live without them—but why try?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Miscellaneous

My Website Search Engine Rank

Earlier this week, I talked about my Netflix reviewer rating and my associated questions of how it was determined. Aside from my love affair with Netflix, there was a greater purpose in sharing it, namely to pave the way for this post on a parallel business topic, my website search engine rank, aka Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Since most people find websites via search engines, it is imperative that websites do everything possible to be accepted and loved by these search engines, especially Google, the king of search.

Just as I am unaware of how my Netflix reviewer rating is determined, I am likewise in the dark of how Google (and other lesser search engines) determines their rating for my websites. I have theories as to what to do—and what to avoid—to improve my standing in the search engine results, but there is no way to verify them. In fact, I can spend hours tweaking, adjusting, and improving the things I think will help, only to see traffic drop (correspondingly, there is sometimes there is a tangible improvement). Other times I make little or no changes only to see usage improve.

Of course, there is no way to do a controlled test. As I am tweaking my site for better results, competing sites are also making changes.  Therefore, I can improve my site in the eyes of the search engines, but if others improve their’s more, then my results will actually be worse.  Although this seems like a wasted effort, at least it keeps me from falling even further behind.

Another confounding thing is that no one knows for sure what Google really looks for and how they prioritize these parameters. In fact, it is common for SEO “experts” to disagree on what to do and what to avoid, even to the point of making opposing recommendations.

Lastly, as people discover ways to “trick” search engines into giving better placement than warranted, Google and others correspondingly change their assessments of sites in order to not reward those who employ questionable tactics. So, for Google, just as I surmised with Netflix, the rules can suddenly change and my ranking will be affected as a result. Sometimes it improves and other times it doesn’t, which can be exciting or disheartening, but that’s life.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Miscellaneous

Going Digital

In the May 4 issue of Information Week magazine, there is a great quote from Colin Powell. He said,

“I was born analog, was raised analog, and lived most of my life analog. I had to become digital over the last 20 years, and I’ve had to work hard at it because my business required it.”

I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but I can identify with that. I, too, was born analog and raised analog. However, I’ve spent half my life in a state of migration from analog to digital. I’d like to think that I’ve transitioned nicely. After all, I embrace the Internet, I blog, I have several websites, and my work not only revolves around cyberspace, but I use it as the primary means of conducting business.

However, before I become too comfortable patting myself on the back for my digital sophistication, I must admit that the allure of text messaging evades me and Twitter seems more like a novelty that a practical communication tool (see “Do You Tweet?“).

So perhaps I’m not a digital as I’d like to be.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Miscellaneous

Internet Explorer 8 – Part 2

Last Friday I groused about Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8) and the suggestion of compatibility problems. Today I received a proposal from an author who wanted to write an article about that exact topic.

Granted, to sell his idea, he needs to focus on the negative side of this controversy, but still some of his assertions are cause for even greater alarm. He stated in his pitch that “Microsoft completely overhauled the code in its browser with its March 19, 2009 release, a move that will distort the appearance of many Web sites designed for earlier versions of Internet Explorer.”

He then quotes Nick MacKechnie, a senior technical account manager for Microsoft, who said that the new browser “may cause content written for previous versions of Internet Explorer to display differently than intended.” (This statement is verified from Microsoft’s website and Nick’s blog.)

If I understand this fiasco correctly, it seems that prior versions of Internet Explorer were not completely compliant with published standards, but were in line with standard practices. IE 8 seeks to reverse that, becoming more compliant with the formal standards, at the expense of sites that follow accepted practices.

If being compliant to standards means that millions of websites will stop working, doesn’t that suggest that maybe the standards need to be changed to better reflect the reality of how things are actually done in the real world?

In the mean time, every website is caught in the middle of this conundrum.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Internet Explorer 8

I received an email from Microsoft yesterday. They announced that Internet Explorer 8 would soon be released.

Then came the interesting part. They want me to make sure that my websites are compatible with their browser, the new IE 8. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Shouldn’t their new browser be compatible with existing websites?  If a website displays correctly with IE 7, shouldn’t they make absolutely, positively sure that it will work equally well with IE 8?

So, how do I check to make sure my website is compatible? Oh, it’s so simple, just download the beta version of IE 8 and view my websites. If they display properly, then I am compatible. Gee.  Really?

Between my dozen websites, that amounts to about 5,000 pages.  Viewing each page, assuming I take no breaks or have any distractions would take about 14 hours (at 10 seconds per page). However, the logistics of tracking which pages I have checked and which pages are pending would be a formidable task, easily doubling or tripling the amount of time.  Then, what if a page needed to be tweaked?  That would take much more than 10 seconds per page.

Hey, I have a different idea.  Let’s not use Internet Explorer 8.  Problem solved.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.