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Friday, September 21, 2007
I was shocked to see some local news yesterday, regarding the Neath Port Talbot council sacking a member of staff and causing two others to resign. Well, I say shocked, I mean bemused - but shocked gets your attention better. Anyway, why did they lose their jobs and why am I bemused? Well, they lost their jobs because they'd spent too long the internet's car boot sale eBay. As for my bemusement, it reminded me of the days I worked in an office and was just the same, and how lucky I was to
get away with it for years not be in the same position.
If you hadn't noticed already, there's been a few stories around recently of people getting into trouble for spending to long on sites like Facebook and MySpace. According to the BBC and law firm Peninsula, staff are wasting 233 million hours a month and up to £130m a day updating profiles, reliving their childhood on eBay and playing pointless Facebook apps. All of these erstwhile pursuits contribute to extended breaks and lost productivity and have got the bosses in a panic.
This army of 'Cyberslackers' is growing as access to the net in the workplace increases. It's causing so much concern that some places have even gone as far as banning access to Facebook. In the case of Neath Port Talbot Council they went further in taking action against time wasters. As well as the three jobs gone, there's another couple of people under investigation for 'eBay adddiction'.
Whilst some would applaud such actions, for me this marks a disturbing turn of events for employees. I also fear that if this trend grows, it could potentially cause more damage to the UK's economy than Northern Rock doffing its begging cap to the Bank Of England.
Why you ask? Well imagine what would happen if workers stopped slacking on t'web during work hours for fear of losing their jobs? Imagine the amount of money that would stop pouring through the UK economy if office workers stopped shopping during work hours? After years trying to get profitable, Amazon would become a wasteland as the day time traffic and orders dried up. Imagine the amount of man hours that would be lost if people had to throw sickies to stay home and play Deal Or No Deal, free from the worry of their boss unexpectedly leaving their eBay session to come and find them gambling on work time? Imagine the AdSense publishers who'd lose literally hundreds of cents as traffic fell on their sites during the day.
The effects go further than merely financial as well. Imagine the lack of self satisfaction there would be if MySpace and Friends Reunited was blocked from workers and they were no longer given the time to find out if they're doing better than that horrid bloke who's name they forgot and sat at the back of the class in primary school. It would be good news for Proxy site webmasters but little good to the UK's worker's self-esteem.
Is that not enough for you? Then imagine the horrific damage to the environment caused by the down turn in recycling, people no longer able to list for sale on eBay those DVDs that come on the front of the Daily Mail every day. Imagine the heartache and family fights caused at Christmas because mother had not had time research which iPod Nano was the right one for her precious and ordered the wrong one online. Imagine how depressing life would be without a dozen friend requests to attend too each day. It's a scary thought...
Now, I'm lucky enough to have been Cyberslacking since 2000. In fact, eBay should send me some shares for all the people I turned on to them way back when and over the years. I know what slacking looks like, and I have to say, if they turned off the internet at lots of public service offices and banned access to such things, there would be an uproar. Well, I say uproar, but to be fair, I mean some actual work would get done.
Let's face it, nobody likes working, and the internet has been a godsend to get us out of doing any. But look at the bigger picture - these people are putting money back in to the economy with the workplace shopping. That money in turn comes around again to help the people who employ them. Ok, so a few bits of paperwork take a bit longer to get done, but so what? The nation's economy needs Cyberslackers. If there was a surplus of work to be done, employers would never find the time to make sure their staff could enter the web, let alone complain about them slacking off on it.
So despite the fact three people have lost their jobs, I'm sorry to say I found myself bemused. I can still see the rows of computers back at my old office, the screens shining with rows of eBay and Amazon logos showing that productivity was at an all time high and the public's money being well spent. Whilst I sympathise for those people, at the same time, that so could have been me. Just as well our bosses had the internet as well, or most of us would have been on our ear.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Have you noticed its approaching domination yet? The last couple of months I've been getting more and more people contacting me to check their Facebook profile. My disdain for such things finally caved in and I got me a Facebook account, just to see what all the fuss was about. Facebook has been around for years, I've been seeing my images *hotlinked* (swears under breath) for a long while, but when I first checked it out I had to be American and in a college to join. Being neither I ignored it.
At the end of last year it opened its registration to all. As I was busy at the time fabricating fake MySpace profiles, I never looked at it again. There didn't seem much point, there were no open-to-all-robots profile pages to drop links on and ain't that what social networking sites are for? So, I just forgot about it. Switch forward to recent months and the Faceboook invitations start arriving. Only thing is, this time it's all people I know. So finally, I sign up and start seeing who's about from my past circles.
The differences are striking straight away. Firstly, there's a complete class of people I know who've never visited MySpace, let alone got a profile who've got themselves up on Facebook. Don't get me wrong, the usual suspects are there in droves too, but now there's a whole lot of professional types joining the ranks as well. Architects, TV production staff, accountants, administrators, project managers and more are amongst the people I've seen getting their Facebook pages up and running recently. For a large percentage of them, this is the first time they've done something like this, and they have jumped into it with abandon (mainly abandoning their personal details that would be of use to certain evil people in society...)
The second striking difference between Facebook and MySpace is I think one of the reasons it's succeeding, is it looks a lot cleaner and for the user, it handles a lot easier as well. The apps are a breeze to add and actually, compared to the dross on MySpace, worth adding to your profiles. Seeing the way these new Facebook people are installing these apps and passing them around to their friends, the affiliate marketer in me is wishing I was able to code some cool Bingo related app for people out there. What's more, there are hundreds of potentially lucrative app / affiliate cross-over ideas out there, just waiting to be developed and unleashed.
Let's be honest here. MySpace has always been a bit Chavy, despite the droves of emo'd up
pop chart fans alternative souls on there. The glaring colours of the pimped-up profiles, the loud and offensive music blaring out your speakers at 4 in the morning, endless requests for a shag by ugly blokes and the always endearing ability to trash your browser - MySpace is as Chav as it gets. At the moment, Facebook feels like a dapper 30 year old college lecturer, taking a cup of coffee in the local Starbucks, reading the Guardian. You can bet he's looking up over his paper and out the window, scowling at the hoodies over the road swigging Carling and trying to pry open the cash-point.
For my money, Facebook is set to win here in the long run. Sophistication, ease of use and a comfortable familiarity will see many more slow uptakers (like me) come rushing in, enthused by seeing the sorts of people already on there. Just remember - if you're going to jump in, only give access to your details to people you actually know. I'm yet to see the sort of robot spam, invitations and evil worms that have made MySpace a teenage wasteland best avoided, but given Facebook's upwardly mobile demographic - it can't be far behind.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Now, take several of the high points of the last couple of years in inventive web ventures, throw them in a pot, give a good stir and add a dollop of celebrity interaction and you have The 1 Second Film. Shades of the Swarm Of Angels, The Million Dollar Homepage, MySpace and more - people (and parasitic SEOs) everywhere can get a part in producing a film, from as little as a $1 donation.
Basically, they're making a 1 second film in the 70mm format, and having 90 minutes of credits, where the producers will be listed. There's a boat load of celebrities involved, a whole lot of talk and buzz going on around it and it's got the old excitement in droves. Jump over there and get your self a producer credit - now!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Web analytics have long been in need of sexing up. If you run sites, you're probably used to looking at things like Awstats or Webalizer. Both are good and very useful, but if you're like me - you're willing to do with them rather than pay for similar things. Well, in the true mash-up tradition of Web 2.0, there's now something out there for us stats junkies - a new service called Clicky (yes it's a stupid Web 2.0 name but the service rocks so there.)Before I get into it I need to thank Dave Naylor, the infamous UK SEO, for pointing it this out - his description of it being as addictive as when you first got an AdSense account (those were the days) intrigued me - so much so I jumped over and jumped into Clicky. He wasn't wrong, I can't keep away from it. The flaming thing is addictive. What's more it's also helped me plug a couple of holes and spot a couple of potential earning opportunities I would have missed in the mass of results I normally get from Awstats.
You can dig right into it and see things grouped by actions, country (with a Google Maps mash-up) and all sorts of information as it happens. It shows you if they download something - tells you what time they got there, how long they stayed and on and on. There's just so much good stuff. I know you get all this in other stats packages, but there it's all after the fact and jumbled. Clicky is the opposite.
Now, there's one slight problem. You can sign up for a free trial account - it allows you to try it on three domains - you get 27 days trial then you can either pay for the pro service and get up to 10 domains on there, or drop down the features and keep a basic account. I'm itching to get more domains on this given the power of it, my credit card is in my hand awaiting to pay. Thwarted! I have to wait 14 days for them to check my sites aren't going to overwhelm their servers. Curse you! Yes. It's really that good and I'm logging in way more than I did when I first got AdSense. Top marks from here.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I have to say I love the forum at Digital Point. It has one of the worst signal-to-noise ratios on the web, but over the years I've got some great tips and deals from there. There's been a lot of crap as well, but hey - we's got to learn somehow. I check there often, and I see a lot of stuff that makes me smile every time I visit. Be it 10,000 original articles for five dollars, MySpace account 20 zillion contacts for ten dollars or another webmaster newbie asking why his AdSense account got banned - it has it all.
Another reason I enjoy Digital Point is it (and similar forums) lay bare the rise of a whole army of lazy webmasters, all looking to be the next big web thing. We all want our sites to be successful, that's all well and good, but unfortunately at Digital Point, there's many with little actual will to stand out from the crowd and do something unique. Most are looking for, or selling quick 'sure-fire' solutions that are anything but.
I've sort of touched on this trend here in the past, and indeed been guilty of being caught up in the madness myself once or twice. How do I mean? Well, take for example the old favourite of Pixel Advertising. It goes like this - someone does something, makes a ton of money off it, a whole industry suddenly springs up trying to emulate it whilst completely missing the fact the boat's sailed already.
As much as we like a shortcut, in some cases it can also be detrimental to a web master's site. Duplicate content, spammy services, links from bad neighbourhoods, banned URLs, etc. Digital Point isn't alone in being a focus for these dubious services, you see it wherever webmasters congregate. There's a whole cottage industry trying to get rich, one dollar at a time, offering ebooks, databases of stuff and sure things.
And if it's for sale in such quantities, you can guarantee someone there is buying. At times it feels like some would even sell their left kidney for something as meaningless as a PR7 backlink. All sorts of behaviours and cultural misunderstandings abound, and this sort of laziness is also apparent in the sites that many are concentrating on making in a misguided attempt to grab a slice of online success. Unfortunately for most of them, they are doomed for the same reason the Pixel Advertising clones were doomed - the time has passed.
The fact the pan has flashed would also explain why there's usually loads of these sorts of sites for sale there as well. Fortunately for the jaded and spent webmaster, there's a boat full of newbies there to gleefully pick up the slack when they've realised the futility of what they were doing.
These lazy sites fascinate me - they're being mass produced on an industrial level and there seems to be no shortage of webmasters willing to try them out. In my own lazy, list-obsessed style, here's my run down of ten sites that frankly, webmasters should avoid getting involved with. Unless, and this is a big unless that 99.9% of all webmasters trying one of these sites won't be able to do, unless you can do something radical with it.
Many will try these, and clutter up the web with endless copies of cookie-cut website scripts and pointless ventures. But, here's my tip - don't waste your time on 'em. Choose your niche, make it about something you love, make it original, build it up. There.
We all got to start somewhere, and I have to admit I've been guilty of pointless web sprawl. Partially, as a result of stuff I'd learnt at places like Digital Point. Now though, I've stopped, my focus is on less sites and making them as unique and original as possible (in the main - I still do the odd experiment.)
There are webmasters out there who already knew this, and they're there on Digital Point as well - their advice is priceless. Figuring out who they are is the fun part. Unfortunately, many of us were too busy making pointless sites, rather than concentrating on quality.
If you're a webmaster and you're thinking of starting a site from the list above. Think twice - would your time be better spent developing something you've already got rather than trying to replicate what's already gone? I know what I want to do from now on.