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October 2011

Top 4 Ways People are Using (or Could Use) Google Plus Hangouts

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The Dalai Lama has joined Google+ and is hosting a Google+ Hangout tomorrow (October 8th) with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It’s part of the Inaugural Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture in Cape Town, South Africa. The hangout is an On-Air Hangout, which means there is no limit as to how many can join. If you’re interested, tune in starting at 10:30am South African time (GMT+2.00).

As soon as Google+ announced their hangout feature, I knew it would be fun to see how everyone from businesses, celebrities, musicians and everyday people would use it. So far, it seems like people are getting creative and coming up with excellent ways to use the service.

Here are four ways the Google+ Hangout feature is being used (or could be used) and who’s using it:

1. To literally hangout – At the end of September, the Black Eyed Peas hosted a Google+ Hangout right before one of their concerts. They called it a “Backstage Hangout” and wanted to reach out to fans who couldn’t make it to the show. Band member Will.I.Am said he wanted to “redefine backstage interaction with fans”. It looks like around 74 people showed up to hangout.

2. As a conversation the world can watch live – This is what the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are doing. What better way to broadcast live a conversation between two important people in the world, where everyone who wants to can take part? I love seeing the Dalai Lama embrace technology and make the web an important tool for outreach.

3. Bringing people together around a certain topic – Food geek Lee Allison is bringing people together in their own kitchens who love food. He’s using the Google+ Hangout as a cooking school, as well as a chance to share your love of cooking from the comfort of your own home. He calls it The Social Skillet. He’s hosting a Halloween cookie G+Hangout! on October 27th and is inviting kids from their neighborhood to join in.

4. For customer service – Dell’s CEO Michael Dell posed this question on Google+ several months ago. He asked “I am thinking about hangouts for business. Would you like to be able to connect with your Dell service and sale teams via video directly from Dell.com?” It doesn’t look like they’ve hosted anything like this yet, but you can tell by looking at his Google+ profile that he has participated in several hangouts.

Have you used the Google+ Hangout feature? Also, what are some ways you would like to see businesses, celebrities and musicians use Google Plus Hangouts?

WordPress Releases Retro Mac Theme in Honor of Steve Jobs

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The internet was in full force yesterday honoring the life of Steve Jobs. From his best quotes and his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, to the way he changed technology forever. It was inspiring to see the different ways people chose to highlight his life, his legacy and keep the memory of him alive.

Boing Boing gave their front page a new look yesterday, which I thought was fantastic. It had the nostalgic classic Mac look we all know so well. Now WordPress has taken note and created a free Retro Mac theme.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg commented on the design saying, “Yesterday one of the tributes I noticed was the website Boing Boing switched their theme to one reminiscent of the original Macintosh interface, one of the several times Jobs would make a ding in the universe through his work. It seemed fitting, and we wanted to make it available to all of you, so our theme team worked through the night and here it is”.

Here’s a description of the Retro Mac theme:

A whimsical homage to the days in black and white, celebrating the magic of Mac OS. Dress up your blog with retro, chunky-grade pixellated graphics to evoke some serious computer nostalgia. In all its remembrance and respect, Retro MacOS also supports recent functionality. Read on to learn more.

You can download the theme here.

Do you have a favorite way Steve Jobs was honored yesterday? Let us know in the comment section below.

Don’t Lose It: How to Protect Your Blog

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Session: Don’t Lose It: How to Protect Your Blog
Speaker: Peter Pollock

I LOVE to drive. Driving is one of my favorite pastimes.

I DON’T love maintenance though.

Oil and grease and taking the skin off your knuckles when trying to get some faulty part out of the engine are nowhere near my list of favorite things. I hate them and avoid them as much as is humanly possible.

I think most of us are like that in some areas of our lives. There are maintenance issues that we all avoid, whether it’s with our cars, our washing machines, our computers or even important things like the plumbing…

The problem is though, the mundane, boring, time consuming things like changing the oil or replacing gaskets are often the most important.

If I don’t get the little faults repaired, they turn into big faults and all of a sudden I have no car to drive – and the fun of driving is gone
The same is true of your blog. If you don’t put the time and effort in doing the mundane, boring work of securing your blog from hackers then one day you’ll lose it and it will be gone, irretrievably.

Sony, Fox News, AT&T, the CIA… the list of major sites that have been successfully hacked goes on and on. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think somehow we’ll be immune or even clever enough to defeat all hackers.

Most bloggers don’t have sensitive information which could be stolen, but rather the attacks against them focus on taking them down – which really hurts when you’re trying to build readership.

From my experience as a web host and designer, the number one most important and guaranteed defense against hackers and other blog problems is…

BACK UP!!!!
BACK UP NOW!!!
NO, I MEAN NOW!!!!!

Seriously, backing up your blog regularly and consistently is going to help you keep your blog up and running more than almost anything else.

Don’t rely on your host to back it up, either – and don’t back up to a folder on your hosting space. You need to download a copy of the backup at least weekly and then store that on your computer or an external drive.

This is YOUR data, YOUR blog… don’t rely on anyone else to protect it for you!

My session at BlogWorld L.A. is titled Don’t Lose It: How to Protect Your Blog. Hopefully, everyone who comes will leave having learned new tactics, like making regular backups, on preventing and defending against hacker attacks, and dealing when they strike without panicking.
It may sound a little boring or even over-technical to you but trust me, this is some essential stuff and I’ll keep it simple.

If you love to blog then you need to come to BlogWorld and drop by my session to learn how to protect it so you can keep on loving it!

Learn how and why to:
i. Backup
ii. Upgrade to latest version of WordPress
iii. Use as few plugins as possible and update them all regularly
iv. Delete the Admin account
v. Use strong passwords
vi. Change file permissions / locations and server-side passwords

Are you coming to BlogWorld L.A.? Will you be coming to my session? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to either comment here or send me a tweet. I’m @peterpollock.

I’m excited about going to the conference and would love to meet you there!

If you can’t come, I’ll be making all the session materials available online after the event at http://Peterpollock.com.

Hear what else Peter has to say about his session:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

1.5 Minutes with Jen Wojcik: BlogWorld is Content Rich

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Session: Infected: Social Sales and the Zombie Apocalypse
Speaker: Jen Wojcik

At BlogWorld LA, Jen Wojcik will be talking about the zombie apocalypse, sales, and Internet memes and how they are all related!

Jen keeps coming back to BlogWorld because she thinks it’s a content-rich environment and conference. “You get a lot of bang for your buck!”

Hear what else Jen has to say:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

Digital Broadcasting Track Announced

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We’re very excited to announce our Digital Broadcasting track.  Track Leader, Paul Colligan, describes what’s in store:

The Digital Broadcasting sessions include:

  • The Rise of the Social Video and The Opportunity Bloggers
    Speakers: Mark Robertson
  • Integrity in the Streaming Ad Buying Process
    Speakers: Jim Louderback
  • So You Want to be in Pictures. The Tools, Tricks and Art of Visual Storytelling
    Speakers: Marla Schulman
  • YouTube Partners: The Success Panel
    Speakers: Ed Dale, Don McAllister
  • My Video Toolkit for Getting Seen on Social Media Outposts
    Speakers: Steve Garfield
  • Reviews Are the New Advertising
    Speakers: Julie Perry
  • Don’t Let Your Content Get You in Hot Water
  • How YouTube Can Make You Rich And Famous (For the Long Term)
    Speakers: Gideon Shadwick
  • King of All Media (Young Turks)
    Speakers: Cenk Uygar

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

Vlogging. It’s all the rage!

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Session: Breaking Into Parent Vlogging in the Type-A Parent Track
Speaker: Jenny Ingram (Jenny On the Spot)

Vlogging. Definitely not one of my most favorite words… yet it is the wave of the online future… Well I think it is. But is vlogging only for the young daredevils, musical prodigies or hip teens showcasing their shopping hauls?

I say NO!!

On Friday November 4th I hope you will join the video savvy Clay Nichols of daldabs.com and me for our groundbreaking Breaking Into Parent Vlogging session in the Type-A Parent track!

Yes, I said GROUNDBREAKING.

Because that is an action word.

At this session we will be sharing ALL our vlogging secrets! You want to hear about time-saving tips? Come to our session! Money saving tips and tricks? Come on in! Questions about the basics… or where to publish those videos, or editing, or music… or…? We’ll address those things too! Time permitting…. And since it is Clay and me… who really knows what can happen.

Do you have any questions NOW that we can make sure gets to our session? Be sure to leave them in the comments!

Personally, adding the “parent” part to vlogging doesn’t make vlogging any different. Except the noise. And the distraction… and the unexpected element only children can add. Or animals. Other than that… it’s all VLOGGING!

If you are unable to attend… here are a few nuggets of advice to get you off to a solid start:

  • Never underestimate the power of GREAT lighting. Go the extra mile for that. A simple solution is using a lamp without a shade. And a white light – not yellow (to be clear). Set the lamp several feet away to avoid a hard light effect that sometimes gives an unappealing shine.
  • To save time, shoot more than one video at a time. I don’t get “camera ready” everyday, so often times I will shoot at least 2 videos. It saves time and it is really smart to save time. I’m not saying one must get “camera ready”. But some of us may see the value in that.
  • Talk to the camera like it’s a friend. That takes practice. So… practice. And also… make sure you are talking to the camera and not looking at yourself while talking “to” the camera. This also…. takes practice.

Oh, I’ll add a 4th… I’m a giver — PRACTICE. If you are nervous on-camera just shoot for the sole purpose of getting comfortable. Watch yourself. Learn about you and how you have that silly sniff or constantly pet your own hair when you are nervous… Learn about yourself. I learned I may or may not have one eye that is ill-sized compared to the other.

Maybe. And there maybe nothing that can be done about some things.

I have been vlogging since 2008. Since then, I have made every mistake in vlogging. Despite this, I have been invited into the YouTube partner program. See? Hope! I have co-lead several lead panels and workshops at other conferences (Blissdom 11, Evo 11 and BlogHer 11), and have learned that there are countless great questions to answer. I’d love to see the conversation begin right here – before we even get to BlogWorld. Video blogging can be as simple or as complex as one makes it. It is my hope that our session will help make vlogging be a fun and profitable add to your site.

Hear what else Jenny has to say about her session and BlogWorld LA:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

I am jennyonthespot on YouTube, @jennyonthespot on Twitter, and my blog… jennyonthespot.com.

Image credit Justin Hackworth

2 Minutes with Jordan Cooper: Humor Makes You Stand Out

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Session: Blogging With Humor
Speaker: Jordan Cooper

At BlogWorld LA, Jordan Cooper is hosting a two-hour session where he will introduce comedy writing exercises and teach you humor to help your blog stand out.

As for why he keeps coming back to BlogWorld, he says it’s one of the only conferences where there are so many different industries – it’s not just blogging.

Hear what else Jordan has to say:

Watch more videos and see why other speakers are attending BlogWorld LA. See all Speakers here.

Learn more about BlogWorld LA and register Here!

The World Loses Steve Jobs: What Happens Now?

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Steve Jobs passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones, on October 5, 2011. Although no official cause of death has been reported, Jobs had suffered from pancreatic cancer in the past and underwent a liver transplant in 2009. He stepped down from his role as Apple’s CEO in August due to his health problems, and when the news of his death hit the Internet, Apple posted a picture of him on their homepage (see above) alone with this simple message:

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

Jobs leaves behind his wife Laurene, the person he called the love of his life, along with four children.

But you know all this already.

I found out about Jobs’ death on Twitter, and for at least ten minutes, I don’t think I saw a single tweet that was about any other topic. His death took over the trending topics and, I’m guessing, is the reason why the fail whale came out to play for the first time in a long time. I saw messages of mourning from every corner of the world. One of my favorites (and I apologize that I can no longer find who originally tweeting this was “Stevie you’ll always be the apple of our i” and another, which I thought was beautifully perfect simply said “iSad.”

You don’t need another blog post to tell you that we’ve lost one of the greatest minds in the world, whether you are an Apple fan or not. Despite that fact, you’re here reading this, so I would like to pose a question to you instead: What happens now?

The world goes on. Despite the death of someone so world-changing, the earth won’t stop rotating. Even in our tech microcosm, life will continue. What happens now is that great people will go on to build upon the foundations that Jobs has given us to create things that even he couldn’t have imagined. Hundreds of years from now, new technology will be possible because of what Jobs did in his lifetime. What happens now is that we all are challenged to fill the gap, that hole created in the world when he passed away.

No one can replace the incredible Steve Jobs, but if we all try just a little bit harder to be amazing at what we’re doing in life, whether that’s blogging or social media or community management or raising llamas or driving race cars or something else…if we all try just a little bit harder, I think we’ll honor his memory well.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a video of Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Speech to the students at Stanford. He was standing before that class to deliver his speech, but I feel as though maybe he was actually speaking to all of us.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc[/youtube]

10 Reasons Your Blog is Failing

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Over the years, I’ve written for a number of blogs, including blogs where I was the owner (like my new Blog Zombies blog), blogs owned by other people (like this one, the BlogWorld blog), and blogs that were part of a larger blog network (like b5media). Some have been wildly successful. Others, not so much. My style as a writer certain has changed over the years, but I think the core of who I am is still there…so it isn’t the blogger along that causes a blog to fail or succeed. Rather, the other decisions that go into blogging have a huge effect on whether you’re eating potatoes or lobster for dinner.

In preparing to launch Blog Zombies, I took a look back at my own failures and successes, along with some well-known other blogs that have (or have not) been successful to see if I could crack the code. Why do so many blogs fail while others, often with less talented writers, succeed? Here are 25 different things that many failing blogs (including some that I’ve been a part of) have in common – if your blog is failing, these might be the reasons why:

1) You have unrealistic expectations.

What is your definition of success? If you expect to get a million hits your first month as a blogger or plan to retire to your own private island within a year, you’re going to fail. Period. Unrealistic expectations can make your seem like a failure and give up, even though you actually were on the right track. No a-lister out there was wildly successful from the very first post. It takes time to build a blog that’s comparable to the blogs of your heroes. When I first started blogging, this was my fatal flaw – I quit my first blog too soon, not giving it time to grow. Push yourself, but get your expectations in check.

2) You don’t make blogging a priority

I understand that many beginning bloggers out there have regular jobs that they can’t afford quit to blog full time. Here’s a reality check, though: that’s the case for all of us! At least, it used to be. Very few bloggers have the luxury of being able to blog as a full time job from their very first post because blogging simply doesn’t pay the bills right away, no matter how good you are. The difference between those a-listers in your niche and a lot of bloggers who fail is that the a-listers made blogging a priority. It means less sleep and less time with your family. It means having free weekends is a thing of the past. It means you don’t have as much time for hobbies anymore. Until you get some steam, blogging has to be your priority unless one of the kids is on fire. Welcome to the 80-hour work week, my friend. Of course, you don’t have to give up other things in your life completely – just be aware that if you don’t spend time loving on your blog as you build your readership, it isn’t going to go anywhere.

3) You haven’t invested any money into your blog.

“But I don’t have any money.” Well, fine. Continue to tell yourself that your blog is just fine with its free WordPress or blogspot domain name, it’s poor design that you don’t know how to fix, its non-existent mailing list, and its plethora of other problems.

Listen. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get started. That’s one of the reasons I love blogging. But you do have to start setting aside money for upgrades – yes, even before your blog is making money of its own in most cases. If you say you can’t afford it, I don’t believe you. You could afford to order pizza last night. You could afford to add the movie package to your cable bill. You could afford to go to the beach last weekend. This goes back to point #2 – make your blog a priority.

4) You take the “if I build it, they will come” approach.

Earlier this week, I talked about what the phrase “Content is King” really means for bloggers, and part of my argument was that you need to support the content you create. No matter how well you write, people aren’t going to just magically show up on your site and make it successful. At least, not at any kind of decent rate. You have to be out there promoting your content and building your community. Otherwise, you might as well just write in a diary.

I once served as a freelance writer for a blog where I wasn’t paid to do any kind of promotion. It was actually a ghost-writing project, so I didn’t even get a byline – it would have been difficult for me to promote that. After three months of daily posts and little traffic, I was fired from my position because apparently I wasn’t a good enough writer. Right, that was the problem. He went through three or four other writers over the next year before emailing me an apology and asking if I’d come back. I politely declined. He obviously didn’t understand that problem – it wasn’t the writer, it was the lack of promotion.

5) You “aren’t really into” social media.

Dude. Dude. If you’re a blogger who doesn’t like social media, you’re missing out on perhaps the single easiest thing you can do to be successful. I don’t care if you don’t like Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn. You need to at least have a mild presence at these social networking sites. You need to at least give your readers buttons to they can share your content. You need to stop complaining about the kids on your lawn and admit that social media isn’t some new-fangled passing fad. It’s here to stay.

And believe it or not, if you stop being so stubborn and give social media a chance, you’ll probably actually like it!

6) Your guest posts are better than your own posts.

Guest posting is a great way to promote your content. Some bloggers I know guest post like fiends. As soon as they finish a guest post for one blogger they’re off looking for their next fix. The problem? They don’t update their own blogs! If I click through to your site after reading a great guest post and their are tumbleweeds blowing around and – worse – mediocre posts that you threw up so there would be new content, I’m not going to come back…and neither is anyone else. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Only guest post if you can be assured that readers are coming back to your site and seeing even better content.

Remember, your blog is your home. If you want people to hire you as an interior decorator, your own home has to shine too!

7) You haven’t defined your niche.

What do you blog about? If the answer is pirates, cooking, Project Runway, and motorcycles, you’re probably going to have a hard time finding your audience. You don’t necessarily need to pick one specific topic, but when readers come to your site, they need to know what they’re getting. Are you a mom who tells stories about the funny things her kids say and gives tips on how to find the best toys? Are you a banker by day who writes humorous stories about your life to entertain readers? Are you a home cook who talks about her favorite TV shows and the snacks she’s going to make to eat while watching? You don’t have to fit into a tight little box, but if you post about everything under the sun with nothing that ties the topics together, you’re going to have a hard time building a community.

8 ) You’ve too narrowly defined your niche.

Define your niche, but don’t be so narrow that it is hard to find people who are interested. Your blog might be failing because there just aren’t many people interested in the topic. It’s hard to find an audience when you blog about something really random that doesn’t have a ton of fans. I mean, you can do it, but it’s much harder to build traffic and make a profit that way.

If your don’t have a broad enough niche, you’re also likely going to run out of things to say!

9) You blog as “admin.”

If I want to know how to do something specific, I google it. I read the post. I complete the task. The end. The next day, I probably can’t tell you who wrote that post. Does it matter? Well, yes…if you’re actively trying to build a community.

This point is a bit subjective, because if you’re planning a blog that is purely informational and gets most of its traffic from search engines, I suppose that blogging without personality could work. Most of the time, however, it works better to inject a little of yourself into each post. Let readers get to know you, not as admin, but as John or Susie. Make sure you have a well-written About Me page so readers can learn more about you because they will be curious if you write good posts.

10) You scrape content.

This should go without saying, but the last point I want to make is this – don’t plagiarize. If your blog is scraping content from others, it is only a matter of time before it fails, and I hope that when it does, the police are involved and you go to jail. I once worked (briefly) for a very small blog network that I found out was stealing content from others – I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible!

But also don’t scrape ideas. A lot of people in your niche are probably talking about the same topics, so be original and you’ll stand out. If you read an idea you like, give credit where credit is due. When you are inspired by another blogger’s work, link to them to give them credit for the idea. You can’t copyright ideas, so you might be well within your right to blog about that topic, but it’s just polite to link to the other blogger.

Remember, success and failure are both a matter of perspective.  And, even if you do feel as though your blog is failing, keep in mind that it doesn’t make you a failure. You can move onto your next project and be a raving success!

New Research Shows Tablet Owners Love Their Tablets

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It’s no secret that Tablets are making a huge impact on society and technology use in general. A new study from GfK MRI’s iPanel proves that fact.

The use of the Tablet is changing how much consumers use video game consoles, read books and newspapers, as well as how often they use computers. Here’s a chart which shows what activities are done less as a result of owning a tablet.

As you can see, 59% of Tablet owners say they use a video game console or handheld device less often, 44% of Tablet owners say they read printed books less often and 42% say they read hard copy newspapers less often.

Thankfully it doesn’t seem to be having too much of an effect on activities like going to the movies, playing sports or hanging out with friends and family.

“The fact that a majority of game-playing Tablet owners report using a video game console or a handheld video game less often as a result of owning a Tablet does not necessarily mean they are playing video games less often,” said Risa Becker, VP, Research at GfK MRI.  “But it does suggest that Tablet owners are moving their gaming from other devices to the Tablet.”

For those of you who own a Tablet, what activities do you notice yourself doing less of? Also, do you ever write up blog posts from your Tablet?

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