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2010

Image Manipulation Tricks For Bloggers!

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… by Aaron Hockley

You’re a blogger and probably aren’t a professional graphic artist, but you know how important it is to include images with your blog posts. Stock photos are often boring so you want to show off some of your own photos. Let’s take a look at four options for image manipulation that don’t involve the huge learning curve or capital investment of full-blown Photoshop.

  • Picnik (online, free) – Picnik is a decent image editor that can crop, resize, and perform global color adjustments to images online. If you use Flickr, you’ll find Picnik integration is built-in (on the Actions menu above a photo, choose Edit Photo in Picnik.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements (Windows, Mac, $72) – unlike its $700 big brother, Photoshop Elements doesn’t attempt to edit the kitchen sink. That said, if you’re a casual photographer preparing images for the web, odds are that you’ll be able to do everything you’ll want from this basic version of Photoshop. Based on the full Photoshop application, Photoshop Elements packs tons of useful features. Cropping, color adjustments, layers, cloning, image stitching and more can all be found. If you’re going to do much with photos, I strongly recommend Photoshop Elements as the best all-around image editing tool for casual photographers.
  • GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program (Windows, Mac, Linux, free) – The GIMP is a powerful open source image editing program that’s evolved in a fashion that provides a substantial portion of the functionality of Adobe Photoshop. While it’s powerful, I see two things that might turn someone off about GIMP. The first is that (just like the full version of Photoshop) all of that power involves a pretty steep learning curve. The second is that as an open source project that wants to be like Photoshop, you’ll find that it’s just different enough that most Photoshop tutorials won’t directly translate or apply (which helps contribute to that steep learning curve).
  • Paint.NET (Windows, free) – Paint.NET is another open source image editing program – this one based on Microsoft’s .NET software development framework. If you’re a Windows user, check it out since it offers a great set of features for that platform. While it doesn’t have quite as many features or polish as Photoshop Elements, for the types of tasks that bloggers often need (resizing, cropping, perhaps a black and white conversion, sharpening) you’ll probably find that Paint.NET can meet most of your needs.

What tools have you used? What are the best ways you’ve found to get images ready for your blog?

Aaron Hockley is a Portland-area photographer who also blogs about the photography ry and speaks about the intersection of social media and photography. Follow Aaron on Twitter.

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 10 Guests a-Posting

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One of the tips that has been driven into my head over the past few months is the importance of guest posting. It’s a great way to promote your blog while also building relationships with other bloggers. Guest posting is an art, though. I’ve seen some guest post attempts that are downright laughable! It isn’t because the writer stinks (though that can be a problem) – it is just a matter of not understanding how to write a successful guest post.

Guest posting is something I want to do more in the coming months, and I’m even going to start taking guest posts at After Graduation. So, this round up, which is part of the 12 Days of Blogging 2010, is a little self-indulgent! I’ve enjoyed reading these posts to prepare for the guest posting I intend to do; I hope you find some value in them too.

1. Guest Blogging: Tips, Advice, and Best Practices by Bill Hazelton at Sell It! on the Web

What I like about Bill’s post on guest posting is that it is a complete resource for those who want to get started with this technique. He gives you tips for finding guest positing opportunities, advice on staying organized so you keep track of your guest post locations, and an example of how to introduce yourself to other bloggers. From the post:

All you have to do is write an original, compelling article on a subject that fits within your guest host’s topic of interest.  Easy enough, right?  Well, there’s a bit more to it than just that and in this article, I’m going to provide some of the most important tips and “best practices” on guest posting for both the beginner as well as the advanced internet marketer.

Bill’s site, Sell It!, is a great resource for tips on starting your own e-commerce site, and don’t forget to check him out on Twitter @billhazelton.

2.Guest Posts: Are You Writing Them? Are You Accepting Them? by Virginia DeBolt at BlogHer

Virginia’s post for BlogHer (where she’s written over 400 posts!) is interesting in that it isn’t some kind of expert kind – it is a discussion. Scroll down to read the comments, because there are some interesting perspectives there not just on how you can be a guest poster, but also on how to host guest posts on your own blog. Writes Virginia,

It makes perfect sense for big sites like ProBlogger and ReadWriteWeb to want guest posts. The more good content you have, the better off you are. But what about small niche blogs that are essentially a one-person operation? Can guest posts benefit the little guys, too?

In addition to blogging with BlogHer, Virginia can also be found at First 50 Words, where she gives readers writing prompts to help them practice their writing skills, and Web Teacher, a blog about teaching/learning web development. Her Twitter ID is @vdebolt, and you can also follow the BlogHer Twitter account @blogher.

3. Successful Guest Posting Strategy in One, Two, Three by Ann Smarty at Blogussion

In a weird coincidence with this the title, there are three things I love about this post. One, it’s actually written by a guest poster (how meta is that). Two, the advice is spot-on (kind of a given for me to be talking about it here, haha). Three – Blogussion was started by two high school kids and features writing largely by a young audience – some even as young as 13. Essentially, it’s a community that I wish I would have had when I was that age – like minded, goal-orientated writers who want to share their experiences with one another so that everyone learns.

Bravo.

Anyway, Ann writes,

Guest posting is probably one of the most unappreciated forms of marketing that I can think of. If you can use the proper strategies and have your mind set towards creating a quality guest post – you will be rewarded for it.

Because really, only the passionate bloggers guest post. The benefits are plenty and lack of time is no excuse, however, it is something that many bloggers just can’t get around to doing.

Check out the Blogussion blog for the full post, and follow them on Twitter @blogussion. You can find Ann at SEO Smarty and follow her on Twitter @seosmarty. Oh, and she also runs the fabulous MyBlogGuest which is, in my opinion, hands down the best way to find guest posting opportunities quickly, whether you want to guest post elsewhere or want to find posters for your own blog.

4.Guest Posting Sucks! No Wait, It Rocks! Well Heres My Policy. by Gabriele Maidecchi at Esimple Studios Blog

I’m a fan of guest posting, but I know some bloggers who absolutely will not accept them and others who absolutely will not write them. I think there are valid argument for both of these arguments. In this post, Gabriele talks about her personal guest post policy, which I find really helpful in creating my own. Guest posting may not be for you (at least not all of the time). From the post:

To guest post or not to guest post? This dilemma is following me since a while, and I really haven’t wrapped my mind around it in a definitive way.

While some people think it’s a very awesome way to get your name out and gain more traffic and readers, some others tried it and decided it’s not as good as they say it is.

In the end, I believe it’s pretty much a matter of just trying and deciding whether it suits your needs or not.

Check out Esimple Studios for the rest of the post and follow her on Twitter @esimplestudios.

5. Be Yourself When Writing Guest Posts by Nasrul Hanis at Guest Posting Tips

Guest Posting Tips is an entire blog devoted to the topic of guest post. The post I chose to highlight here isn’t long or life-changing – but it is one that is super important to keep in mind. The whole reason you guest post is to make new connections, so make sure you’re introducing yourself as you, not just writing free posts for the other blogger. Writes Nasrul,

Some writers might think their articles will be regarded as low-class articles if they maintain their own styles of writing. NO. Being somebody else is not the solution to expose yourself. And even your article had pulled a lot of comments and feedback, you can’t be proud of it as it is not you in the article.

Check out Guest Posting Tips for more topics on this subject and find Nasrul on Twitter @bloggerdaily.

6. The Five Unwritten Rules of Guest Posting on Blogs by Danny Brown

If you only read one post about guest-blogging, read this one. Danny Brown writes,

If you’re a blogger, you may have been asked to write a guest post by another blogger.

Or, you might have offered a guest post yourself to a blogger you admire.

Either way, writing a guest post opens you up to a whole new audience and can increase your own readership into the bargain.

Blog readers that may never have heard of you otherwise now have their eyes on you.

Add to that the credence that comes with someone else thinking enough of you to have you on their blog, and a guest post is a pretty big thing.

The advice he gives in this post is just…awesome. So awesome that I’m not going to dilute it with a ton of my own comments here. Just go to Danny’s blog and read it already! Oh, and you can find him on Twitter @dannybrown.

7. 4 Ways to Increase the Chances Your Guest Post Submission Will Get Accepted by Bamboo Forest at Blogging Teacher

This is another guest post about guest posts. I’m a total geek and love that! We’ve all been in this situation, too – facing rejection. In a guest posting situation, it often sucks because you’ve already written the post, which may not fit well with another site. Bamboo Forest’s post helps decrease the chances of that happening. From the post:

Imagine a beautiful girl walks your way.  As she approaches, she begins to smile, and the first thing you notice is a big piece of purple fruit loop stuck between her teeth.

The above might be a game changer, you know?

When submitting a guest post, it’s vital you fulfill a certain criteria otherwise the publisher receiving it may lose patience and reject it even if it’s quality. This is particularly true with larger blogs that receive endless submissions.

Check out Blogging Teacher for the rest of the post, as well as more great bloggin tips from Paul Cunningham (@paulcunningham on Twitter). you can normally find Bamboo Forest blogging at Tick Tock Timer and Pun Intended or on Twitter @bambooforest.

8. Top Blogs: Do They Accept Guest Posts? by Thursday Bram Hyper Modern Writing

I have a confession to make. I’ve had a blogger-crush on Thursday since…gee, probably since I wrote for b5media. That’s a long time, yeesh. Thursday is one of those bloggers that pops up just about everywhere, with Hyper Modern Writing being her web content writing blog for freelancers. What I like about this post is that she not only writes about finding guest posting opportunities with some of the top bloggers out there, but she also covers the idea of getting paid to be a guest poster. Writes Thursday,

Here’s a secret: The grand majority of top blogs will accept a submission. There’s a secondary question that can be equally important if you’re trying to earn a living online, though: do those blogs pay for submissions?

To learn more about making money as a guest post writer, check out Hyper Modern Writing. You can also find Thursday at ThursdayBram.com, at Constructively Productive, and on Twitter @thursdayb.

9. Guest Posting on Top Blogs by Annabel Candy at Get in the Hot Spot

Like Thursday, Annabel is a blogger that I keep seeing pop up everywhere online. She’s been a guest poster on Problogger, Dumb Little Man, Zen Habits, and more, so she’s overly qualified to give advice on guest posting for top bloggers. In this post, Annabel talks about the advantages of guest posting, finding the right blog for your post, scoring the posting spot, and more. From the post:

I bet if I said I could get you a free advertising deal which put your brand or blog in front of your target audience you’d be more interested.

Well, with blogging giving away your best writing and getting free advertising are the same thing ~ it’s called guest posting. You just need to change your mentality and stop thinking of guest posting as giving away your best work and start thinking of it as free prime time advertising. It’s definitely worth giving away your best blog posts because one guest post on a top blog like Zen Habits or Problogger may send a few thousand new readers your way.

Get out Get in the Hot Spot for more from Annabel, and find her on Twitter @getinthehotspot.

10. How to Get A-List Bloggers to Accept Your Guest Posts from John Chow

Want advice straight from the horse’s mouth? This is the post you need. Not that I’m calling John Chow a horse. He just has one of the most popular blogs out there, and one that gives tons of readers the chance to guest post every month. At the same time, he gets tons of guest posts every month, probably more than anyone could ever publish, so his tips can help you learn specifically how to get accepted on his blog, and on other really popular blogs. Writes John,

Getting your post onto an A-List blog is one of the best ways to boost your traffic and increase your credibility. It’s also one of the best, if not the best, no cost promotion idea. Here’s a few tips to improve your chances of having a big name blog accept your guest post.

For the full post, as well as tons of tips to help you make money online, head to JohnChow.com – and don’t forget to check him out on Twitter @JohnChow.

And now, an additional treat for you all – I’m going to highlight some awesome real-life guest posts from around the web! If you’re looking for some examples of high-quality guest posting action, these are prime samples. They’re not about guest posting, but rather about other topics that fit both the host and the writer well. When a blog and guest team up successfully, it’s always a little piece of web magic, in my opinion!

I think that’s an appropriate way to end the list, don’t you? Of course, the guest posting list doesn’t really have to end there – today, I’d like to invite you to not only share your favorite posts about guest post, but to also share guest posts you’ve done on other sites or guest posts people have done on you site – no matter what the topic. Go ahead; brag a little! Give us some awesome examples of what a guest post should be.

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 11 Tweeters Tweeting

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It’s Day 2 of the the 12 Days of Blogging 2010, and today we have a subject that is near and dear to my heart – Twitter! While I know others disagree, Twitter is hands down my favorite social media platform, and today’s list features 11 bloggers who have shared some awesome tips to help you make the most of this network. Remember, if you’ve written about this topic, please feel free to add your post’s link at the end via a comment!

Yes, links are highly encouraged in this series – please share so your knowledge can help us all! Just make sure they’re relevant to the topic!

1. Should You Be On Twitter? by Erika Napoletano at Redhead Writing

Of course you should be on Twitter. Right? What the hell could somebody spend an entire post talking about when it comes to that question?

There’s a reason this post, by the fabulous redhead Erika Napoletano, is first on today’s list. Not everyone needs to be on Twitter. In fact, some people are better staying away from the platform. From Erika’s post:

Social media requires a strategy, whether you’re Suzy Sunshine looking to find fellow knitting fans or Bob the Business Owner seeking new customers.

Ask yourself right now: why are YOU on Twitter?

I research, compile and present social media strategies to a wide range of businesses throughout the year and I always enter each research stage with one assumption: this business should NOT be on Twitter. That is, unless I find evidence to the contrary.

Should you be on Twitter? To find out and read more posts, visit Erika at Redhead Writing, where she talks about online strategies. You can also follow her on Twitter @RedheadWriting.

2. Mannequin Networking – Why Twitter Automation is Bad by Scott Stratten at UnMarketing

Whenever you talk about Twitter, you have to mention Scott. I’m pretty sure it’s a law, at least in Canada. I’m also pretty sure that if you put “un-” before a word, you have to send Scott a dollar, so I’m going to refrain from calling this an un-link or un-recommendation. But I digress. This post on UnMarketing pretty much sums up Scott’s core philosophy on Twitter – it’s about engaging, not about a plastic sales pitch. From the post:

Automating tweets is like sending a mannequin to a networking event. Stick a post-it note on it, and roll it in, to multiple events around the world! Think of all the Chamber of Commerce mixers you could cover! Different time zones! Let the relationships windfall begin!!! Boooyaa!!!

You can’t deny it – it’s a good use of the term boooyaa. I like the triple o action. Beyond the word choice, though, there’s something else you can’t deny – Scott is undoubtedly one of the best tweeters out there, and this post is just scratching the surface. So, check out his entire site, UnMarketing, for more tips and follow him on Twitter @unmarketing.

3. My Opinion on Ads on Twitter [or Sponsored Tweets] by Darren Rowse at TwiTip

Ok, this post *technically* breaks my rules, since it’s from 2009, but it’s too good not to include – it’s about the highly controversial practice of collecting money through sponsored tweets. Also, it’s from Darren Rowse, so definitely worth breaking the rules. You may know Darren best from Problogger, but he also runs TwiTip, which is completely dedicated to Twitter and features tons of guests posts every month. This specific post is great for those considering sponsored tweets. Writes Darren:

A number of people have asked me recently what I think about running advertising in Twitter streams.

Should it be done or avoided? What impact might it have on you as a Twitter user if you do run them? Are there times you should and shouldn’t use ads to monetize your Twitter account?

My opinion is pretty simple. I know no everyone will agree but it’s probably somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of opinions on the topic. Some argue that Ads should never be used on Twitter – others argue that you should monetize your account in any way you can.

Darren’s post gives a good overview of the debate and some smart advice for tweeters considering this money-making technique. Check out more Twitter tips at TwiTip and follow Darren on Twitter @problogger.

4. Using Twitter Search to Help People by Marian Schembari

I absolutely love this Twitter tip from Marian Schembari. Love. We’re talking chocolate cake level love here, people. If you’re trying to build you blog, using Twitter’s search function to find new readers is super smart – and Marian gives readers a really good rundown of how to do it successfully. From the post:

Unless you really hone in on search terms, you get bombarded with a lot of spam, retweets, completely irrelevant tweets and messages in other languages. So you have to target people by language. Click on “Advanced Search” and choose “Written in” and then the language of your choice. You can also specify location, hashtag, specific users, dates, links, even “attitude.”

Convinced that you need to learn more about Twitter search as a tool to help you grow your readership? Head to Marian’s blog to read the full post. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @MarianSchembari.

5. 10 Steps to Creating a Successful Twitter Chat by Mack Collier

Mack Collier first came on my radar a few months ago when I finally caved in and decided to see what this whole #blogchat thing was about – people were clogging my Twitter stream with it, but in a good way, since they were helpful comments. My God. #Blogchat, which Mack runs every Sunday evening, has become a guilty pleasure of mine, and I even blog about the best tweets here on the BWE blog every week. There’s no official counter, but #blogchat is one of the largest if not the largest chats on the platform. Mack’s post on Twitter chats can help you learn how to run a successful chat of your own. From the post:

It’s definitely been a labor of love for me, and I am a HUGE proponent of Twitter chats.  So I wanted to write down the ten steps I’ve taken to build #blogchat up into the success it has become.  I would hope you can use this advice to start your OWN successful Twitter chat.

You can start a Twitter chat on just about any topic under the sun, so it doesn’t matter what your blog is about – this post is for you. Check out Mack’s blog for more social media tips and follow him on Twitter @MackCollier, especially on Sunday nights when he hosts #blogchat.

6. Hot Chicks Are Always Going To Have More Twitter Followers Than You by Robb Sutton at Blogging Labs

At first, the goofy title of this post just made me laugh…but when I took some time to read it, wow, Robb is right on the money with this one, in my opinion. It’s all about quality, not quantity when it comes to Twitter (and social media in general). Writes Robb:

You see it all the time. Some hot chick avatar has 75,000+ followers but they are following 82,000+ and you say to yourself, “man…I wish I had that many followers. I am going to do whatever I can to get them.” I am here to tell you that you should much rather have your 1,000 or even 100 followers rather than their 75,000+ that they spam on a regular basis.

You can check out more from Robb at Blogging Labs and follow him on Twitter @robbsutton.

7. Art of Retweets: Top 10 Ways To Improve Your ReTweetability by Ana Hoffman at Traffic Generation Cafe

Why do some blog posts get retweeted a ton while others fall flat? It isn’t just about getting someone with a lot of followers to retweet you (though that certainly helps). In this post, Ana talks about some of the easy ways you can improve your tweeted links so that they’re more likely to be retweeted. From the post:

Retweeting is a great way to share information and ideas, as well as bring a nice flood of social media targeted website traffic.

When you retweet someone, you show that you think enough of what they have written to share it with your followers and by doing that, increase their social media website traffic – one of the ultimate compliments on Twitter.

But how do you get tweeple to retweet your thoughts, pictures, videos?

I absolutely love the tips in this post – it’s a lot of information that I didn’t know about before. You can find more information about driving traffic to your website from Ana at Traffic Generation Cafe, and find her on Twitter @webtrafficcafe.

8. How to get Targeted Twitter Follwers Fast by Kristi Hines at Famous Bloggers

I know Kristi from her own site, Kikolani, where she recently published a massive list of female bloggers, but she also posts at Famous Bloggers, a multi-author site where there’s always an interesting discussion going on. Usually, I’m not a fan of anything that says social media is “fast” or “easy,” but as always, Kristi delivers in this post with some awesome tips that really do make finding a targeted following quicker. Writes Kristi,

When starting out on Twitter, one of the first things that people want to know after they have setup their profile and sent out a few tweets is how to find followers. Not just any followers, but followers who would be interested in what they have to offer.

As you may know, one of the ways to get followers is to start following people in hopes that they will follow you in return. So how do you up the odds that people you follow who are interested in your topic will follow you back?

To find the answer to that question, head to Famous Bloggers for the full post, and don’t forget to follow Kristi on Twitter @kikolani.

9. Protecting Your Private Parts On Facebook, LinkedIn And Twitter by Natalie Sisson at Womanz World

Ok, this post isn’t just about Twitter, but its an important one, so I wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost in the shuffle. As bloggers, we tend to live online, so we often don’t think twice about what we post to social networks. Unfortunately, that can have some bad results. Protect yourself! This post includes all you need to know about adjusting your privacy settings across some of the most popular social networks, Twitter included. Writes Natalie:

Imagine your grandkids doing a search on you in 40 years time and finding those tacky updates about how drunk you were on Saturday and the tagged photos to boot!

Amusement factor aside, privacy is an ongoing concern for all of us as social media sites attempt to access every last detail about us. How do you protect yourself?

Well, when it comes to privacy, it all boils down to using your common sense.

Act as if you don’t have any privacy settings.

It’s an important reminder for all of us to consider how we use Twitter and if that’s the best choice. Head to Womanz World to read more from Natalie and follow her on Twitter @womanzworld.

10. Is Twitter the Ultimate Creation Killer? by Jonathan Fields

Say it isn’t so, Jonathan! Twitter could be bad?!?

Yes, it can be. I think we all get too caught up in social media sometimes. If it is chewing up time and not allowing you to create content, that’s not a good thing! In this post, Jonathan talks about his own struggle and resolution with this balancing act. From the post:

By all rights, I should be doing everything possible to eliminate distractions, to push back against everything that pulls my focus away from my mission, save the other “important” activities and people in my life. But at the same time, I don’t want to abandon my tribes. Both, because I love them, I love engaging with them and I know that they’ll also be important in helping whatever I bring to life succeed.

Seems like a hell of a balancing act.

But, here’s the thing. That may be more illusion than reality.

You don’t have to give up Twitter to create. You just have to find the balancing act that works for you! Head to Jonathan’s blog to read more, and follow him on Twitter @jonathanfields.

11. The Arrogant Bastard’s Guide to Twitter by David Crandall at Heroic Destiny

It seemed fitting to end with this post. Who can’t get behind a complete guide to Twitter as told by a self-proclaimed arrogant bastard? This is a post that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, not just because of the funny title but because everything he says is so true. From the post:

I follow people I like, but lets face it, not all of those people are ones that I constantly want to see their every little thought. I just can’t…neither can you. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t closely interact with hundreds of people at once. No one can. If blaming it on me and saying I’m an arrogant bastard but you like my rules helps, then go for it. I’ll be your arrogant bastard hero for the day.

No amount of gushing that I can do here will live up to this post, so head to Heroic Destiny to read it and other post about David’s  journey to a life of freedom. Oh, and check him out on Twitter @DavidCrandall.

So that’s it for today’s list – some of my favorite posts on Twitter from 2010. I bet you have a good one too, either from you own site or from a site you love to read. Share it in the comments! And don’t forget to hit the retweet button to share the holiday cheer – this series is all about passing around as much information as possible to the entire BlogWorld community!

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

Photographs Can Equal Repeat Visitors!

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… by Teresa Boardman

The humble still image is a powerful social object. People simply love photographs of just about anything. Flickr, the popular image sharing web site, flourishes because it is a social network based on photography. The images range from on-the-spot shots taken with camera phones to professional quality images taken with high end DLSR cameras, and everything in between.

The internet is visual and Google loves images. Yet as I attend WordCamps and bar camps for bloggers there is rarely a session that has anything to do with still photography. There are often sessions for how to use video in blog posts but rarely still photography.

This year at BlogWorld there were a couple of sessions that were related to travel photography and I attended them all and learned from the travel industry. They know that to effectively advertise hotels and travel destinations they need amazing photographs and they know how to leverage photographs to attract customers.

It isn’t just the travel industry that can benefit from photography – it can be used to sell any idea or business! Yet still images are often of poor quality or missing from business blogs and web sites. Businesses can benefit from high quality photography and use it to attract patrons.

It is hard to understand why someone would pay a designer to design a site but will not take the time to find some great photos for it or hire someone to take them. Chances are, anyone visiting the site will notice the photographs before they see the design or read the content, and it is the photos that will grab their attention and keep them on the site.

Photographs are like glue on a blogs, they can keep readers on the site and they are like magnets that keep people coming back.

If you are involved in organizing a bar camp or word camp or conferences for bloggers consider offering sessions on photography, photo blogging, and mobile blogging and how to use Flickr. Photographs can be the foundation of a solid social media marketing plan. It has worked well for me for years. The people who read my blogs may forget what they read but they remember the photographs and they remember me because of them.

Take advantage of the humble low tech and inexpensive still image as a way to attract blog readers. Photographs are social and they are media. Maybe in 2011 there will be more photography related sessions at the BlogWorld and New Media Expo.

Teresa Boardman Realtor/Broker with St. Paul Home Realty.  Serial blogger, writer and photographer and founder of the award winning St. Paul Real Estate Blog in 2005.  Her blog started as an experiment in online marketing and is used today as an example of the best practices in real estate blogging. Boardman also writes a weekly column for Inman News and is the author of the St. Paul Photo Blog.

Are Spammy Comments Inevitable?

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Hang on, I’m not going to talk about the spam and junk comments we get on our blogs because that’s long since been discussed to death and while it’s managed by Akismet and such, it’s just a fact of life. Even with those tools, I still get 5-10 clearly spam comments on AskDaveTaylor every night (usually between 1-5am, when I imagine that it’s mid-day in India or China?), all easily deleted.

Instead, I’m going to ask whether these sort of comments are just part of being online and a natural outgrowth of any commercial or economic system where there are bottom-feeders trying to exploit and trick both the system and its users for a fast buck?

What made me wonder this, btw, is when I was looking at the app reviews on iTunes for a game and noticed that they’re starting to be overrun by spammers. Yup, those little two-sentence reviews are a brave new outpost for this sort of thing, as shown here:

In case it’s not obvious, I’m not encouraging you to check out either of the apps (or Web sites) mentioned. Like email spam, like blog comment spam, encouraging these guys is like feeding cockroaches in a tenement, a really bad idea.

What really strikes me about this after being in the blogging world for eight years and being online for a lot longer than that is that there’s a sort of inevitability to this sort of thing, a sense that everyone who designs any sort of user feedback or user generated content system, any Web-based app or even standalone app that lets people share their own opinions must take this junk into account and design the system to limit — or, better, prevent — these sort of abuses.

On the blogging front, it amazes me that I see similar sort of daft spam comments on all of my blog articles, from film reviews on my film blog to parenting discussions on my parenting blog. I know, much of it’s automated, but it’s not, really, because the automated stuff is what Akismet is so darn good at catching. This is actually a human being spending the time and effort to attempt to leave a comment that starts out more or less related to the topic (“good review, I love Jolie!”) followed by those pesky links to their scams, hustles and rip-offs.

Is this just the way of things?  Should we all finally buckle down and just assume spam is going to spread and ooze into every corner of our online lives?  What do you think?

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 12 Writers Writing

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Today, as part of the 12 Days of Blogging 2010, I wanted to showcase people who can help you with one of the essential blogging skills: writing. This is a topic near to my heart, since I was a freelance writer before I even knew what blogging was! There are some awesome bloggers out there who talk about nothing but writing; there are also bloggers out there who talk about writing as part of the whole blogging profession. Let’s look at some of my personal favorite posts about blog writing from 2010; don’t forget to leave a link in the comments if you’ve talked about this topic as well!

Yes, links are highly encouraged in this series – please share so your knowledge can help us all! Just make sure they’re relevant to the topic!

1. Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write by Ali Luke at Aliventures

It wouldn’t be a post about writing without mentioning Ali Luke and her blog, Aliventures. Her entire blog is awesome if you’re interested in learning to be a better writer, and I highly recommend check out her ebook, The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing, which can also help you with the writing aspect. In “Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write,” Ali writes:

Some bloggers don’t really write. They just type.

I’m sure there’s been times when I’ve been guilty of the latter. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing posts as “content” – something to tap out fast in order to increase a bunch of statistics. More page hits. More comments. More readers.

But you know that bloggers who carry on like that won’t succeed. The blogs that you love aren’t the ones which churn out half-arsed content – they’re the ones where the words grab you and don’t let you go.

Ali’s full post talks about the two worlds of writing and blogging and how they should come together to create a more powerful platform for yourself in either world. Check out Aliventures for more awesome posts and follow Ali on twitter @aliventures.

2. How To Write A Blog Post (or how I do it) by Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media

I’m a fan of this post because it’s pretty much everything you need to know to write on your blog successfully, step by step. Of course, we all have different methods for blog writing, but this is a good place to start if you’re feeling stuck. From Lisa’s post:

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my time writing blog posts. I write them for us, for outside industry sites and for clients. Luckily, blogging is something that I really enjoy and, because I do it so much, I’ve been able to create a pretty effective process for getting the words out and the posts up. When I was fishing for blog topics on Twitter last week, a few people suggested I perhaps write about how I go about writing posts and share any best practices I’ve found for making it easier.

The full post is available on Outspoken Media, where Lisa blogs with Rhea Drysdale about search engine optimization and marketing. You can also follow her on Twitter @lisabarone.

3. The Power of Confident Writing by Brian Clark at Copyblogger

Copywriter is perhaps the best-known source of information about blogging and writing, and one of my favorite posts from founder Brian Clark was about being confident as a writer. He also links to a great Copyblogger post on tips for confident writing by Steve Errey from The Confidence Guy. I love the tale of the restaurant in this post, along with what we can learn from it as writers. From the post:

I’m not talking about arrogance. Arrogance is an indication of fear, not assurance.

Too many people, however, approach copywriting from a defensive mindset. You’re already back on your heels from the start, instead of proudly sharing your excellence with the people who can benefit most from it.

Copyblogger is a site you should be reading if you aren’t already. They have guest posts from some of the most intelligent bloggers across the Internet and a stable of regular bloggers who are pretty smart cookies themselves. Follow Brian on Twitter @copyblogger.

4. How to Slash your Writing Time in Half by Mary Jaksch at Write to Done

Writer to Done is a blog that has tons of tips for writers, including an entire section for blogging. Really, though, many of the articles there can help bloggers as much as they can help article writers. Since most bloggers are super busy, I wanted to highlight “How to Slash your Writing Time in Half,”  a recent Writer to Done article that can help you save time when penning posts. Here’s an excerpt:

As a blogger, I need to write a lot of articles. Fast. Not only do I need a flow of good ideas, I also need time to turn the initial ideas into useful blog posts. It’s sometimes a struggle.

Do you want to write faster – without losing quality?

The post goes on to give you 10 tips for writing posts quickly. In the upcoming weeks, Mary will also be posting her annual list of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers on Write for Done, so that’s definitely something you should check back to read. You can also follow @WritetoDone on Twitter!

5.  How to Write Great Copy using Storytelling Techniques by James Chartrand at Men with Pens

Storytelling is a technique I use often in my own blog writing, and while I’ve read tons of resources on this topic, James’ article isn’t about why you should include stories in your writing, but rather how to do it effectively. Not every blogger uses storytelling to its maximum potential; this post will get you back on track. James writes:

Because they’re so powerful, stories are very useful for copywriters. Good stories can move people to action. They can encourage sympathy and instigate donations. They can cause an uprising or a revolution. They can provoke a response or influence readers. They can sell.

Storytelling works.

Except, of course, when it doesn’t.

Head to Men with Pens to read the rest of this post, along with more tips for writers, bloggers, and freelance business owners. You can follow James on Twitter @MenwithPens.

6. 5 Tips for Writing an About Page that Connects with Your Reader by Judy Dunn at Cats Eye Writer

Hands down, one of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers make is not having a clearly marked and well-written About page. Having this place to talk about yourself is important because when someone new comes to your site, they want to know who you are and why the heck they should ever come back. A poor About page could actually cause you to lose readers! Judy Dunn has tons of awesome blogging tip articles at Cats Eye Writer, but because About pages are so important, this is the one I wanted to highlight for you all. From the post:

For every expert opinion on how to write the ‘perfect’ about page, you’ll find an equal and opposite one.

“Keep a professional focus,” says the expert of stuffiness. “You need to separate business from  personal.”

“It’s all about credibility. Your degrees and post-graduate work count the most,” says the guru of self-importance.

“Be ‘authentic’ and talk about some mistakes you’ve made,” says Mr. Warm and Fuzzy.

All of these people are wrong.

Because there are no about page rules—except for one.

Want that one rule?You’re going to have to check out Cats Eye Writer – and don’t forget to also follow Judy on Twitter @CatsEyeWriter.

7. 3 Things Probloggers Should Do Before Hitting The Publishing Button by Darnell Clayton at BloggingPro

Does this article have three simple tips? Yes. Do we do them every time we write a post? Nope. Darnell Clayton’s post at BloggingPro is an excellent reminder of how we can ensure that every post is of a high quality. Your readers deserve it, after all! From the post:

In an age where everyone wants to be first, many bloggers are sacrificing elegance for speed in a vain attempt to break the news before their rivals get a chance to analyze the story.While bloggers should always attempt to break a story (as doing so can result in a massive amount of traffic), bloggers should also try to make sure their post is presentable to the world, lest they hear rebukes from their readers in the comment section.

BloggingPro is a site that I’ve really grown to enjoy over the past year. If you’re looking for blogging work, they have a job board that I’ve personally found extremely useful. You can also follow BloggingPro on Twitter @blpro.

8. 4 Types of Blog Posts That (Almost) Anyone Can Write by Laura Spencer at Writing Thoughts

Laura Spencer has a wealth of information for writers at Writing Thoughts, and one that she posted recently for bloggers is “4 Types of Blog Posts That (Almost) Anyone Can Write.” If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, this is a great post for finding some ideas for your next post. Laura writes:

Over the past few years, I’ve blogged professionally at five different blogs (not including the one you’re reading, which I own). During that same period, I’ve literally written hundreds of blog posts.

As a professional blogger, I know that thinking of topics to write about can sometimes be a struggle. That’s why today I’ve decided to list four types of blog posts that nearly anyone can write.

If you want to learn her four tips, you gotta head to Writing Thoughts. Oh, and pro tip? Keep your eyes peeled for Laura! She also works at Freelance Folder and Everything PR, and has guest posts across the web. You can catch her on Twitter @TXWriter.

9. 8 Online tools to help improve your writing at 10,000 Words at Media Bistro

I’m a sucker for cool shtuff that makes my job easier. If you’re a writer in any capacity (blogger or otherwise), this post has some unique tools you can use to help you find the writer words, imporve your typing skills, an more. From the post:

The internet is full of writers, both good and bad. Thankfully, if you find yourself leaning toward the latter category or you just want to beef up your scribing skills, there are plenty of free online tools and resources for improving your writing

Check out 10,000 Words for more posts about the intersection of journalism and technology, and don’t forget to follow @10000Words on Twitter.

10. Developing Good Grammar Habits by Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward

While writing forward doesn’t have tons of writing tips specifically for bloggers, this post by Melissa is one that most of us need – myself included. I’m admittedly the worst self-editor in the word, but even awesome editing skills won’t save you if your grammar sucks from the start. Writes Melissa:

Good grammar is an essential component of good writing. Grammatically clean texts are easier to read, easier to get published, and in many cases, a firm understanding of grammar can make the writing process easier.But for many writers, grammar is secondary. They’re in it for the creative journey – these writers are focused on telling a story, making a statement, or sharing ideas. Grammar is just a necessary nuisance.

Too many writers avoid truly learning grammar because they prefer to focus on the creative aspects of their writing.

Her tips for grammar are ones that I’m going to attempt to apply in my own life, and i hope you will too. You don’t have to be grammatically perfect to be a good blogger, but it certainly helps keep readers on  your site. Check out Writing Forward for the rest of this post, and follow Melissa on Twitter @MelissaDonovan.

11. Why You Must Write Your Boogie Man Post by Stanford Smith at Pushing Social

I’ve been lurking on Stan’s blog for a few months now, and I love his writing style. Pushing Social isn’t just another boring new media blog. Those are a dime a dozen; Pushing Social is not. In addition to awesome posts like “Why You Must Write Your Boogie Man Post,” Stan recently announced his new Spectacular Posts Bootcamp, a video series where he’ll share some of his top tips. From his Boogie Man post:

My 3 year old swears a monster lives in his bottom dresser drawer.  The monster is a smart son-of-a-gun, he only hides there when I leave the room.  But…If I read “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” right before bed, he won’t come out. (smart kid)

The dresser monster is my boy’s boogie man.

The funny thing is that we never really outgrow the “boogie man” do we?

To learn what a Boogie Man post is and rise to Stan’s challenge of writing yours, head to Pushing Social. You can also follow Stan on Twitter @pushingsocial.

12. Developing Compelling & Engaging Content by Nicholas Cardot at Site Sketch 101

Site Sketch 101 is a blog that combines advice about content, design, and influence into something…well…spectacular. At BlogWorld’s keynote, Scott Stratten talked about how he’ll pull over the car to read a new post by Jay Baer. This is my car-pulling-over blog. Nicholas’ posts are never half-assed. Never. I can think of no better way to end this list. (Have I gushed enough?) “Developing Compelling & Engaging Content” is just one of the many awesome posts about writing content for your blog. Nicholas writes:

In the world of blogging and web development, one adage has risen above all others, “Content is King.” We understand that websites are a combination of design elements, usability, navigation, load speed, interactivity and content. More importantly, we understand that content is the king that rises above all others.

With compelling content, a weak performance in these other areas of your website will be overlooked. With weak content, even the most beautiful and easy to use websites will ultimately fail to achieve any notable level of success.

Check out Site Sketch 101 – you won’t be disappointed. You can also follow Nicholas on Twitter @nicholas_cardot.

Now that you’ve checking out my 12 Writers Writing, please join the list by leaving a comment below with a link to any post you’ve written about blog post writing. Come on – when do people actually ask you to spam them with you comments? :-p You can also leave links to other great bloggers who have written about this topic. Don’t forget to add a little teaser information to entice readers to click, and if you leave a link in the comments, do us all a favor and retweet/share this post so that we can spread around the holiday love!

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

12 Days of Blogging 2010

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Here at BlogWorld, we value the community above all else. Without you coming to the event every year, there would be no event. The hard work everyone on the BlogWorld staff puts into making the event a success would be for nothing if no one showed up! Whether you’re a sponsor, speaker, attendee, or BlogWorld blog reader hoping to make it to the event someday, you’re important to this event.

As a way to say thank you, and give you as much value as possible in the weeks leading up to the end of the year, I’m introducing something new here on the BlogWorld blog – and hey, maybe it will even become our little family tradition! I’m calling it the 12 Days of Blogging, and every day, you’ll get a post filled to the brim with links to tips from some of the best bloggers around the world. Some of these names you may recognize. Others will probably be brand new to you. Either way, there will be are over 75 100 bloggers featured as part of this series!

What do you have to look forward to?

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (FREE EBOOK)

And here’s the key thing to remember: I want you to leave comments on ALL of these posts with links to your own blogs. Try as I might, I can’t know about all the cool stuff going on across the ‘net, so I’m relying on you all to help me out! Every day, you’re invited to leave links to any post you have that is relevant to the topic of the day – and I’m hoping you’ll take full advantage of this opportunity to promote your own work!

Whether you get involved or not, I hope you find this series helpful. Thanks for spending even a small part of this holiday season with me here at the BlogWorld blog!

Happy Holidays from me and G, my attention whore cat who insisted in being in this picture. 🙂

Creative Commons 101: Using Images on Your Blog

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… by Aaron Hockley

It’s widely accepted that including images with blog posts is a great way to draw and retain attention; finding relevant images that can be used while respecting the artist’s copyright can sometimes be a challenge. One good source for images are the millions of images licensed under Creative Commons licenses.

What is Creative Commons

In many countries (including the United States), copyright laws automatically protect a piece of work at the time it is created. You own the copyright to your photos as soon as you press the shutter button. With some limited exceptions, using a photograph or other material requires permission from the copyright holder. Creative Commons consists of a set of content licenses in which the creator retains some rights to the material but makes the material available for a given set of usages without requiring specific permission for each use.

A Creative Commons license can be interpreted as “This photo (or other material) can be used for _____ and in exchange I ask for _____.”

Common Creative Commons Terms

Most Creative Commons licenses require Attribution, which means that credit needs to be given to the creator of the work. While the license technically says the creator can specify the form of attribution, the convention online is to include a line of text that says something like “Photo by Steve Stevenson” with the text being a link back to the photographer (either their main website or the location where they posted the photo).

Some Creative Commons licenses specify No Derivatives which means that the photo may be used as-is but cannot be “remixed”, edited, or used as part of another work. Some licenses specify that the image is Share Alike which means that it can be remixed/edited but that the resulting work must also be licensed under the same Creative Commons license.

The other term to be aware of is that some licenses specify the image may only be used for Non Commercial usage. This can be a bit of a gray area for bloggers – is it commercial use if you accept advertising and make money from your blog? I generally play it safe and if I’m going to use Creative Commons images I only use ones licensed for commercial use. After all, my blog is a business.

Finding Creative Commons Images

You can use Flickr’s Advanced Search to find images for free use on your blog. Head over there, put in the term you’d like to search for, then scroll down and check the box to indicate you want to find only Creative Commons-licensed content. As I mentioned above, I also tick the box for content to be used commercially.

Creative Commons images can be a great way to add interesting images to your blog at no cost. As long as you respect the license (commercial vs. non-commercial) and include a link back with attribution you shouldn’t run into any hassles.

What experiences have you had with Creative Commons images? Do you find them to be helpful?

Aaron Hockley is a Portland-area photographer who also blogs about the photography industry and speaks about the intersection of social media and photography. Follow Aaron on Twitter.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Comments and Niche (@idiot_girl)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Blog Comments

A few months ago, I spoke with someone who was extremely discouraged about the number of comments left on his blog. For every post he wrote, he would get thousands of unique views, but only one or two comments. I asked him what he blogged about. His answer? Weekly round-ups of real estate news.

Well, there is your answer. No one was coming to his blog for the conversation. They were simply coming to read news they may have missed.

During #blogchat, one tweeter expressed this concept well:

idiot_girl: I think some bloggers should also realize that not all blog types invite comments.

Take a look at your niche. Are they a vocal group, inherently? Does your niche lend well to discussion? Are your readers comfortable with leaving comments on blogs? The answer isn’t always yes.

And that’s ok.

Most groups of people are vocal somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding them. That can be online or offline. For example, my friend with the real estate blog may not be starting conversations on his blog, but his target market is made of people who go to tons of conventions, expos, and other types of events every year. Another example – I know someone whose target market is made up of tweens and teens. They aren’t super comfortable with blog comments, but they definitely are vocal on Facebook. If you want the feedback, find where your community hangs out…and bring your blog to them.

But at the same time, you don’t need comments to be successful. I know someone who makes five figures every month from a shopping-based blog network where he’s lucky to get 5 comments per post. He has a different focus from a blogger who is talking about parenting, though. It’s all about understanding your niche. Sometimes, the lack of comments is no reason to worry!

Thanks to idiot_girl for a tweet during #blogchat that was definitely not idiotic!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Spamming Yourself (@OneGiantStep)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Blog Comments

There’s one issue relating to blog comments that I debate with people more than others – whether or not to answer comments on your own blog. A number of people brought up this topic during #blogchat this week, and this one sums up how I feel about the topic:

OneGiantStep: I worry that if I respond to EVERY comment that I’m just spamming myself

I’m firmly on the side of “not every blog comment needs a response.” Some bloggers disagree with me. A number of the comments that I highly respect respond to every comment and encourage new bloggers to do the same. I don’t, because I think it can get out of hand. Like OneGiantStep noted, it starts to look like spam on your own site.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reply to any comment. I know bloggers who do that as well. Some are just lazy. Others are misguided (in my opinion) and believe that its best to remain silent while they let their community engage with one another. I personally believe that you need to be somewhere in the middle. As a professional blogger, it’s part of your job to respond to your community.

Here’s when I don’t respond to a comment, though:

When I Don’t have Anything to Say

What, you were expecting a long list? :-p

Sometimes, comments fall through the cracks. There are only so many hours in a day, and occasionally I miss comments that require a response. I think we all do. No one is perfect. Even if you have a VA, you’re going to miss some comments.

But just because I haven’t answered a comment doesn’t mean that i missed it. Sometimes, I just have no further comment.

Now, it’s important to not leave questions unanswered. That’s a given. Even if you don’t know the answer, acknowledge the question and try to help the reader. Leaving the question unanswered just looks like you don’t care about your readers. Email the answer? Still, leave a comment. Other commenters don’t know that you emailed the person who asked the question, so to them, it just looks like you snubbed the reader.

But what about other comments? Should you respond? It’s a judgement call. Here’s the rule of thumb I use: If someone adds something to the conversation, I should try to respond with my thoughts. If they don’t really add much, but are instead thanking you or saying what others have said, I don’t always reply. Don’t get me wrong – those comments are important to me too! I just don’t want to respond to “great article” with “thanks.” That means there are two comments now that don’t add anything for future readers.

Here’s an example of my thought process. Let’s say I write a post about my favorite kind of cake. Because I like cake. Reader #1 leaves a comment asking if anyone knows where they can find a gluten-free recipe for that kind of cake. Reader #2 leaves a comment saying that they once ate a version of that cake while on vacation that used chocolate frosting instead of peanut butter frosting and it was also really good. Reader #3 leaves a comment that thanks me for the article because they had been looking for a good cake recipe.

I would 100% reply to Reader #1 with links to some gluten-free resources. I would also reply to Reader #2, thanking them for the suggestion and noting that not only would chocolate frosting be good, but readers should try mixing and matching other recipes as well to find new flavors. I would probably not respond to Reader #3. What do I have to say? Nothing.

Of course, there are a lot of other issues to consider here as well. How do you comment in a way that doesn’t dominate the conversation? Should you respond to troll comments? What about comments left on older posts – should you answer them too or spend your time focused on comments on new posts? Is it ethical to hire someone to answer comments for you, under your name?

But for now, I hope that I’ve simply given you some food for thought about the general concept of replying to every comment. Thanks OneGiantStep and everyone at #blogchat this week for inspiring this conversation!

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