Thoughts on PayPerPost – The Only Time I'll Talk About It

A lot has been said about PayPerPost over the past few years and largely, I’ve stayed quiet on the matter. My silence should not be interpreted as acceptance of how the business is setup or “sold” to bloggers. Techcrunch and others have covered the company, the business practice and the impact on the blogosphere ad nauseum. I have no desire to cover the same ground, so this will be the one and only post on the matter. :-)

At SXSW, I spoke in some length with Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA, the umbrella company that PayPerPost operates under. It was a really great conversation as we relaxed on the rooftop patio at the SXNW party. People watched jealously as we lounged comfortably while everyone stood around trying to talk to other people. :-)

At any rate, Ted expressed that the focus of his company is to provide bloggers with choice. Bloggers want to be able to make money, and we help them do that. For those not aware, PayPerPost pays bloggers to write reviews of companies and products. They no longer require “positive” reviews and now allow for disclosure of paid posts, however in my opinion, the damage is done and not everything is being disclosed from the PPP side.

I’m all about blogger’s choice, and providing opportunities for bloggers to make money. However, these choices and decisions must be made as educated decisions. If bloggers make the decision to use PayPerPost based on an understanding of the ramifications of paid content, then the decision and the consequences are completely on them. However, an offer to make money without ensuring that the blogger knows the consequences of these actions is shady.

Bloggers largely can face three major consequences of using Paid Review services such as PayPerPost: Loss of search indexing, loss of credibility and loss of readers. Not all bloggers will suffer consequences, and not all bloggers will face immediate ramifications. But the potential is there, and this is the context that these decisions should be made in.

Loss of Search Indexing

Some bloggers don’t care, or they simply don’t try to ensure that their blog is listed high in search engines like Google and Yahoo. To many more, ensuring PageRank (whatever it is?), good search engine result positioning (SERPs) is critical for the growth of there blogs. Because PayPerPost largely targets new and longterm bloggers, this search aspect might be foreign or even completely unknown to the blogger. Matt Cutts, the Google Spammer (not spammer as in he spams, but spammer as in he ensures the Google index is free of spam) has already talked quite a bit about Google’s position regarding paid content and links that pass “bought” influence. Whether you agree with him or not, he is the authority on this stuff and bloggers should understand the ramifications of paid content.

Loss of Credibility

Bloggers watch what other bloggers do and they take their cues from them. As you post paid content, the reputation loss that can be had from other bloggers or potential jobs, etc is vast. Anyone who is willing to “sell” their objective judgement for a few bucks is seen as the lowest form of life on the planet.

Loss of Readers

Potentially the biggest immediate impact that bloggers would face is the loss of reputation among readers. They expect you to be something and when you’re not, they’ll head for the hills. Contrary to popular belief, readers are not as loyal as you might think. If they see you using them for monetary gain, they are exponentially more likely to walk away and never come back.

While I have a lot of respect for Ted, my only remaining beef with PPP is that they are not proactively doing what they can to make sure bloggers understand the consequences. Give bloggers a choice, but make sure they understand the consequences. If they decide to press forward with the service, that decision is on them.

Organizaciones que Aprenden

En una era de constante innovación es importante poder identificar las características que ayudan al éxito y crecimiento de una empresa.

¿Perteneces a una organización que aprende? ¿Alguien está encargado de mantenerse al día con las innovaciones? ¿Cuando un empleado tiene un idea innovadora, existen los mecanismos para que la empresa evalue y adapte dicha idea?

David Garmin y Amy Edmonson, investigadores sobre las Organizaciones que Aprenden, definen estas como “empresas preparadas para crear, adquirir, interpretar, transferir y retener conocimientos” y capaces de “modificar su comportamiento para responder a esos nuevos conocimientos.”

Entonces, ¿cómo enfrenta tu empresa a la innovación? Este gráfico nos muestra cuatro tipos de empresas, de acuerdo a como responden a las nuevas ideas:

Tipos de Organizaciones que Aprenden

Los 4 Tipos de Organizaciones que Aprenden

Las organizaciones que Aprenden Rápido tienden a ser innovadoras, se mantienen al día con las nuevas ideas y tecnologías que puedan afectar sus operaciones y han implementado una cultura empresarial que premia la innovación, experimentación e implementación de nuevas ideas a través de la empresa.

Las organizaciones de Aprendizaje Cíclico tratan de mantenerse al día con la innovación cada cierto tiempo. Experimentan con nuevas ideas cuando estas ya han sido probadas por otros. Este no es un comportamiento necesariamente dañino para la empresa, ya que a veces una empresa puede perder la concentración al sobre-innovar o intentar probar cada nueva idea sin llegar a implementarlas dentro de la organización.

Las organizaciones de Aprendizaje Tardío incorporan nuevas ideas sólo cuando es estrictamente necesario para la supervivencia de la empresa. Aún cuando este comportamiento puede funcionar para empresas en nichos con altísimas barreras de entrada, la competencia eventualmente las alcanza y rebasa ya que no están preparadas para evolucionar.

Las organizaciones Aplazadas simplemente no ven la innovación hasta que es demasiado tarde. Sin mecanismos para evaluar nuevas ideas, o convencidas de su superioridad, un día despiertan para encontrar que son obsoletas o que un competidor se adueñó de su mercado.

Ray Stata, fundador de Analog Devices, dijo que:

“El paso al que las organizaciones y los individuos aprenden llegará a convertirse en la única ventaja competitiva.”

Para lograr el éxito, los individuos y las organizaciones deben aprender más rápidamente que su competencia. Si la innovación en tu área profesional avanza más rápido que tu capacidad de aprendizaje, más temprano que tarde te quedarás atrás.

¿Están tu y tu compañía preparadas para aprender? ¿Hay alguien en tu compañía encargado de informarte de nuevos avances que puedan afectarte? ¿Sabrás qué pasó?

Deja tus comentarios… me encantaría desarrollar este tema más a fondo. ¿Tienes alguna historia que compartir sobre la innovación y tu compañía?

Información adicional:

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Coworking Columbia

Sometime last year, I discovered Independent’s Hall in Philadelphia. Indy Hall is a coworking organization that was started by the entrepreneurial community, and largely spearheaded by Alex Hillman who saw the community developing and the need for folks to get together and work.

In such environments, the ability to share ideas and collaborate, is of such value that the first steps had to be taken to organize. It’s all about providing a venue and the tools for collaboration and then getting out of the way to allow the entrepreneurial and creative juices to flow. This is the success of Indy Hall and since I’ve discovered them, I’ve kept a close eye on what is going on there.

I’ve seen Alex a handful of times since, most recently at SXSW, where I whined more about the fact that the Baltimore/Washington area needs coworking but that space was so expensive, the community might not latch on, that I was too busy to make things happen. Blah blah blah.

And that’s about what Alex said. Blah blah blah. In fact, he hears these sorts of broken record excuses regularly as he outlines in an amazing post titled, Your Problems Aren’t What Make You Special, Your Solutions Are.

Here in the Baltimore/Washington area, we have a small group that has been working out of Starbucks for well over a year. It’s loose. It’s unorganized. But it’s grown and on any given day, there are three to nine of us working and taking up the space. Starbucks love us because we keep buying coffee. We love each other because we can share our ideas and bounce thoughts around, share a YouTube video, talk about something that some blogger wrote, etc.

One of our number is the CEO of an Air Taxi company. Another is a financial investor. Another is a freelance photographer. And the list goes on. We’re tied together by a common bond of wanting to share our ideas because iron sharpens iron. We want to see the local entrepreneurial movement grow because we all also agree that working in an office sucks.

Last week, we decided to formalize some things. Little steps at first, but we want to lay the groundwork and see how the community reacts. Every Friday, we’re meeting here (for now) at the Starbucks at 6490 Dobbin Center Way, Columbia MD 21046. For the sake of structure, we’re saying 9am-5pm however people are free to come and go as they wish.

If you’re keeping track at home, we are meeting tomorrow, so join us. Join us once or join us weekly. We are community and we welcome you.

And if you want to get on the mailing list (it’s low traffic), join us at columbia-coworking@googlegroups.com. Hope to see you here!

Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

Note: This is not a political post, nor is it a political endorsement.

Wednesday morning. Just about twenty-four hours have passed since Barack Obama addressed the nation on the issue of race and his relationship to firebrand pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you’re American, you’ve probably heard the speech by now, or at least heard excerpts. Even if you’re not American, given the high profile nature of this political campaign, you’re probably more than aware of the circumstances surrounding the Wright-Obama relationship.

In summary, Wright is the spiritual mentor and long time pastor for Obama, and has been the catalyst for tremendous questions surrounding Obama’s ability to be a uniter, and the life principles that drive his decisions. As the spiritual advisor to Obama, multitudes of sermons denouncing the United States and white people has created significant controversy and question about Obama’s ability to be qualified for Presidential office.

Watching the reactions of pundits, bloggers and listening to radio call ins, it’s apparent that the field is split as to whether Obama knocked the speech out of the park and put aside the concerns of critics, or if he didn’t do enough and that “true bigoted colors” shown through.

Regardless about how you feel about his success, I personally feel like he painted a beautiful picture of how to manage brand. Listening to critics, it’s apparent to me that those who didn’t think he did enough feel that way because they want politicians to play a political game. Obama has to say just the right thing. He has to do just the right thing. And if he doesn’t, he’s not fit to be President.

I’m of the mindset that politics is not what we need in politics. As I’ve said many times before, brand is about authenticity and trust. Relationship is built on authenticity and trust. I’d have more distrust of Obama if he came out and threw his spiritual advisor under the bus, because his spiritual advisor is part of who he is! Whether he threw Wright under the bus in public or not, Wright would still be a significant part of who Obama is! And that cannot be denied or covered by politics. Faking it will always cause distrust.

A difficult part of blogging, particularly professional and corporate blogging, is the balance between what makes sense in terms of transparency and what could ultimately be detrimental to your company or personal brand. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that the flow of real time conversation allows people to put themselves on display. We see folks for who they are, if you’re like me (and I’m guessing most of you are), we like people and trust them more for it. That’s brand. It’s trust. It’s relationship.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much the Obama speech helped or hurt him in the polls. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know if that makes him electable or not. Time will tell. The transparency of a man who is under fire regarding a very sensitive socio-relational issue in America, makes him more electable, in my opinion, than any politically charged and correct speech he might have otherwise made yesterday.

Again, this is not a political endorsement, but it plays well to the things we deal with daily.

Qué Pasa con Latinoamérica y los RSS

Parece que aquel viejo dicho de “La información quiere ser libre” no aplica en Latinoamérica. Un breve estudio de medios latinoamericanos con presencia en Internet parece indicar que la gran mayoría todavía no adopta un modelo de distribución abierto.

Preparando el website inicial de NotiLat.com visité 115 websites de medios latinoamericanos en Argentina, Chile, Colombia y Venezuela y encontré que sólo 37 de ellos -un 32%- ofrecían algún tipo de canal RSS para distribuir sus noticias. Algunos de estos canales RSS no funcionaban correctamente, se encontraban en alguna carpeta protegida o no se ajustaban a las especificaciones del formato.

RSS in Latin American Media

Adopción del formato RSS dentro de los Medios Lationamericanos

Del 68% restante (78 medios), pude salvar 27 creando un canal RSS artifical con Dapper. El resto de los websites permanece escondido detrás de arcáicos formatos HTML, links que funcionan con javascript y modelos cerrados de suscripción. Es una lástima, pues lo que realmente les hace falta es exposición. A medida que facilitemos la distribución de la información que generamos, facilitamos la publicidad de nuestro servicio.

Y ustedes, ¿qué medios utilizan para mantenerse informados de lo que ocurre en Latinoamérica? ¿Cuáles te facilitan la tarea de compartir su información? ¿Se justifica un modelo cerrado?

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10 Things You Need to Know About WordPress 2.5

WordPress is about to release version 2.5 into the wild (It just hit Release Candidate yesterday so the release date, though officially not known, is coming soon). If you’ve been using WordPress.com or have peeked at the demo site you will know the biggest change coming to WordPress with this release.

You might ask, “Where did WordPress 2.4 go?” The answer to this is that it was skipped. Yes, that’s right, the 120-day release cycle was scrapped this time and you essentially have two releases in one. Again, the changes are vast and countless. This is a huge release.

So let’s get into the nitty gritty shall we?

New Admin User Interface

WordPress 2.5 GUIBy far the most comprehensive change in this release was the complete rethinking of how WordPressers do their administrative tasks. Happy Cog Studios was enlisted to do usability research and testing – with the emphasis being on usability research. Several of the items in this rundown are going to be broken into their own list item as they deserve their own description and, again, this upgrade is huge.

You’ll notice that the WordPress admin is now bathed in a lighter blue, lighter grey and orange color scheme. I like the nice hues, but others are bound not to. If you’re a developer or know your way around creating WordPress plugins, you can supply your own admin CSS with the

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wp_admin_css

and

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wp_admin_css_uri

filters, and WordPress is already supplying per-user options of “Classic” – the old dark blue feel – and the “Fresh” style which is installed by default.

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function my_admin_css( $cssfilename )
{
    // Use name of the CSS file inside the wp-admin folder WITHOUT the file extension
    return 'my-new-wp-admin';
}
apply_filters('wp_admin_css', 'my_admin_css');

I’d just stick with the default though. It’s not too shabby.

Menu Layout

WordPress 2.5 Menu
One of the first things you’ll notice is the change in the administrative navigation. It struck me as very Movable Typeish. I don’t know if the idea came from them or simply that Happy Cog had such thorough user research that it made sense. Either way… it makes sense.

Primarily, users interact with the WordPress admin in one of four areas – writing posts, managing posts, managing comments, and managing design elements. You’ll notice that these items make up the primary navigation on the left side of the screen. (Sidebar: You’ll also notice that the Presentation menu has been renamed Design – which was a usability decision. It makes sense.) Matt wrote more about this.

The rest of the formerly Primary navigation items – Plugins, Options (now Settings) and Users have been moved to a secondary navigation on the right side of the screen.

Sub-navigation is something that’s a little weird. As both the Primary and the new secondary navigation used to be part of the same menu bar, the “submenus” all made sense to appear below the primary navigation. This is still the “right” place, I believe for the new Primary navigation points but seems awkward for the Secondary navigation items that are relegated to a different portion of the screen. I know this is something that is currently being thought about, I just don’t know what the final results will be.

Also, as a bit of additional commentary, I think plugin authors need to go back and revisit their choice of where they have put their plugin subpages. Do they really make sense to be in the Options page (now Settings)? Do they really belong in the Manage page? In my opinion, plugin settings pages should be listed as a sub-page of the Plugins menu.

Widget Handling

WordPress 2.5 Widget MAnipulation
Another MASSIVE shift in philosophy has been in the Widgets page. Before, you could drag and drop widgets into position. You can still reposition widgets by dragging within a sidebar, however, WordPress is relying less on Javascript “bling” for this release. Each widget is listed in a column on the left, you click the Add link and it jumps into the sidebar. Instead of having all sidebars displayed at one time, the user selects the sidebar from a dropdown to expose a different sidebar.

To me, this adds work to the overall experience, and so fundamentally I don’t like it, but it feels more reliable.

Dashboard Overhaul

WordPress 2.5 Dashboard Overhaul
The second thing you will probably notice immediately on login to the WordPress admin (the color scheme being the first) is the new dashboard interface. Now it is completely modularized, and though there is no “tight” way of adding your own, plugin authors can create their own dashboard widgets. The architecture is primitive at this point, but will improve offering a much easier way for plugin authors to do their thing without feeling like they are “hacking”.

A summary of your entire WordPress install is summarized in a widget titled “Right Now” informing you of the number of posts, comments, draft posts, tags and categories. Other useful widgets like incoming posts, etc are available and can be customized with your own RSS feeds.

Visual Editor Improvements

WordPRess 2.5 TinyMCE Improvements
The Visual editor, a long time bane of many users existence, has been upgraded with support for TinyMCE 3. It even includes Full Screen mode for those of you that don’t like to be distracted when writing. I cannot speak to the ability of this upgrade, as I don’t use WordPress’ visual editor, but I’m told it is a vast improvement over the older version. The TinyMCE team has worked closely with WordPress on this release as well.

Flash Uploader

WordPress 2.5 Flash Uploader
For those of you using a lot of images in your post, the image uploader has been completely overhauled as well. Namely, you can uplopad and insert multiple images at once via a new Flash-based uploader. This will gracefully fallback to the original uploader if Flash is not installed, so never fear. There is now a new “Add Media” link in the header of the post window that handles all this now. For those of you who want to debate the philosophical decision to include closed source Flash into open source, and GPL’ed WordPress, knock yourself out.

Plugin Auto-upgrade

An ambitious new feature that is being included in WordPress is a new autoupgrader. By default, it will try to upgrade plugins that are already in the WordPress plugin repository by writing the new files out to the existing plugins. however, this is an inherent security risk as it would require your plugin files be writable by the world. So the fallback is to upgrade plugins via FTP/FTP over SSL. Though your FTP username and password are stored in your database, it’s important to remember that FTP is inherently insecure. FTP/SSL is much more secure but is still not the best. Thanks to hooks in the filesystem functionality, I’ll be releasing a plugin that I’ve been working on for Secure FTP (FTP over SSH). It’s not ready yet, but hopefully will be soon and I’ll let you know when it is.

Custom Sizes for Thumbnails

WordPress 2.5 Thumbnail Sizes
Since the image uploader was added back in, something like WordPress 2.0, many, many people have complained about the inability to modify thumbnail sizes. I believe the old default was something like 100×100. In WordPress 2.5, thumb-nailing became a whole lot more useful. You can not only set your thumbnail dimensions globally, you can also have a “medium” sized thumbnail, a la Flickr and an option to crop an oversize image instead of just resizing. I figured some of you would like that.

Tag Management

WordPress 2.5 Tag Management UI
With the introduction of WordPress tags in WP 2.3, the development group took a measured approach to adding user interface around them. A minimal form field on the post write page allowed for a comma separated list of tags with no additional way of management. Fortunately, in 2.5, a bit more UI was added, though functionally identical. It works like Flickr tags where tags can be added via a list of comma separated tags or via a “type, click, add” mantra. In addition, the UI has a tabbed interface which allows for the selection of tags by checkboxes and by most used tags, useful to say the least.

Password Strength Too

WordPress 2.5 Password Strength
The last major item (and trust me there are tons of smaller items or more obscure items) in the list of things you should know about WordPress 2.5, is the password strength meter. Passwords should be at least three characters or they will be deemed “too short” and should consist of two of three types of characters – letters, numbers or symbols – or will be considered too weak. Password security is a big concern for everyone in IT and blog security itself could be beefed up significantly by users choosing “strong” passwords.

Bonus Item: Timestamp Sanity

WordPress 2.5 Timestamp ManagemtThanks to Mark Jaquith (Disclaimer: Mark is one of my employees at b5media, but is also a core developer of WordPress), the timestamp functionality of WordPress has recieved a complete overhaul. By default, a new post has no timestamp module. Instead, it’s a publish immediately, or you can click a link if you really do want to modify the timestamp. When editing a post with a timestamp, there is also no “Modify Timestamp” checkbox that caused so much confusion for so many years. If you modify the existing timestamp, it’s assumed that you actually want to change the timestamp! In other words, WP is no longer insulting the intelligence of users (not that it was an intentional insult before, but the big brother protection from the blogger’s own self was a bit tedious).

So if you feel like testing, you can grab a copy of the lastest trunk code at

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http://svn.automattic.com/wordpress/trunk

. The usual disclaimers are in play when using a non-stable released version: No support offered, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, don’t feed the tigers. But if you want to contribute to the development process, testing AND reporting bugs is a good way. A lot of testing is going on right now before a release, so have at it. :-) Enjoy.

Update: Ozh describes how to create your own wp-admin stylesheet.

Social Media: How Much is Too Much?

Social Times is one of those cool new social media blogs that just happens to be in Washington, D.C. It is a joint venture by Nick O’Neill and is backed by other prominent goons from the DC market, Frank Gruber and Jesse Thomas. All friends of mine, all respectable bloggers that are each doing great things individually.

One of the writers at Social Times, Anthony Lafauce, wrote an article last week “Social Media… I think we need some time apart“. It was particularly a good article, not because of the literal content of the article, which described his time away at SXSW as a “liberating” time free of Facebook, Twitter and other socnets. Instead, the real meat of this article was in the fact that he highlighted a systemic problem in our internet culture.

I don’t want to sound like an old stodge (cue the jokes about, “Back in my day…”), but society has increasingly lost focus of what is truly valuable – that is the personal and human contact that is not afforded by social media. Yes, increasingly we are aware of the life streams of others, friends or followers. Yes, we like to grab beers and hamburgers while chatting over some new juicy bit of gossip. But we’ve lost, in most cases, the sincerest form of friendship and collaboration that there could ever be. Deep, lasting personal relationships with others where empathetic exchange of laughs and ideas transcend the superficial relationships that social media is so adept at creating.

Over at East Coast Blogging, Jimmy Gardner has taken off on this idea about cementing the community. I point you to a telling comment by my friend Keith Casey where he says something that is the antithesis of what social media mavens try to create with wildfire “friends and followers”:

People who want to get a piece of that are likely to jump in. But what about the opportunity to meet/help complete strangers? To be honest, my friends and allies *always* come first.

So, I concur with Anthony. The ability to shut it all down is great. The ability to connect in the real world and develop strong and solid relationships that will and do transcend into business, collaboration and partnerships is a more compelling effect.

Think on it.

Twitter Terminal Velocity

Terminal Velocity is defined by physicists as the maximum speed that an object of a given mass can achieve when accelerating toward another object with a gravitational constant. Skydivers can only accelerate to a certain speed before maxing out at a terminal velocity.

For the geeky science type among us, the formula is for determining Terminal Velocity is here.

There is a Terminal Velocity with Twitter as well. I have, at the time of this writing, I have 1,293 followers on Twitter. That’s 1,293 people who I see tweets from. If my calculations are correct, I see approximately 10 tweets per minute. That’s 600 tweets per hour or 14,400 tweets per day. That’s a hell of a lot of Tweets.

Here’s my non-scientfic law, though. The tweet stream reached terminal velocity somewhere back around 500 followers when I also received approximately 10 tweets per minute. There are variables, of course, that play in to the tweet stream – mostly due to the Twitter infrastructure. For one, Twitter can only deliver a certain number of Tweets per second anyway. Secondly, the human factor plays in. How quickly do people read and respond to my tweets? How quickly do my tweets get delivered to them? In the end, the Tweet stream moves as quick at 1,293 followers as it did at 500. Titter terminal velocity.

So how do I deal with 14,400 tweets per day, you might ask? (I know you might ask because you ask all the time when I meet you). Simply, I don’t read everything. I read all the @ replies directed toward me. I read all the direct messages. I really only read everything whenever I sit down to actively engage in Twitter (which might happen once or twice a day for 30 mins at a time). It’s really the only way I can deal with the flow.

Mokonji

mokonji-transp.pngI began working on a project recently that I’m not ready to talk about in great detail. Let’s just say that it is somewhat the anti-social network, though it will take elements of social networks and tie into social networks and behave in many ways like social networks. However, it is not about social networks or social networking. It is about you!

The name of the venture is Mokonji and you can sign up to get in on the ground floor later this month. My philosophy on this is to release early and often so select invitees will have the opportunity to get in at a very early stage, kick the tires, and offer their feedback. I’ll be prototyping quite a bit on Twitter so follow me or the Mokonji user on Twitter to follow this hot piece of action. Or, check out blog where I’ll also be posting.

SXSW Beatbox

Yep, the SXSW posts seem to keep coming. My friends over at IZEA put this video together. (Disclaimer: This is not a paid review! ;-) )

Anyways, great footage, hilarious video. Yours truly pulls a paparazzi move at the end.