The web2.0 of Web2.0

We got it wrong, so lets get our users to help

That might be what the suits at Facebook had to say when there was the huge backlash relating to their terms and conditions release a week ago.

For those who haven’t heard, there were huge online protests to the terms that made content posted onto Facebook the property of Facebook.

Now Facebook are asking for help from their community

The “Facebook Principles” lay out the start up company’s philosophy on privacy and control of information, while the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” are operating guidelines based on its big-picture stance.

Any Facebook member can access these proposals on the site and opine on them over the next few days. The networking site will incorporate people’s reviews when firming up governance policies. Future policy changes will follow the same democratic model, the company said. (Read more here)

Web 2.0 was supposed to be the interactive internet af=ge where content was driven by the user. So why not ask them for their views on governance and policies of the sites they use.

Most large companies use focus groups to do customer testing, but this is possibly the largest case of inviting a user comminty to shape more than just content.

Cloud Computing…What the?

For a while now, I have been talking about the need for New Zealand to improve its internet infrastructure (Read broadband speeds) to allow for a more distributed possibility to working.

In my last corporate job, the talk was of about Telecommuting, or allowing staff to work from home using the internet as a way of accessing corporate networks.

This was to be seen as a caring employer and I agree that a remote workforce is, in some cases, a good thing.

In my current role as a web designer, I work from home and have a lot of interation with people over the internet.

An increase in broadband speed is going to have a huge effect on my ability to increase productivity.

Recent moves to remotely hosted applications like Google Docs, Xero and others, shows a path to centrally located services and a reliance of good, robust, fast internet infrastructure.

This article discusses “Cloud Computing” and why we may miss the boat (or be dragged along behind) if we don’t up our broadband capacity soon.

Rod Drury says

“What that’s going to mean is that rather than storing your photos and video locally on your PC, these devices are going to make it compelling to put your stuff up on the web, which doesn’t work in a country with broadband data caps,”

I think this advance needs to happen in a hurry, the three main Telcos, Telecom (Xtra), Telstraclear and Vodafone have told the Government they don’t want the $1.5 billion dollars worth of investment into a fibre optic high speed network, it looks like they are not willing to lose their ownership of the network.

However, the government needs to take a lead and push through with the rollout as it is essential to the long term health of the economy in New Zealand.

Just dont forget us small town folk 🙂

The Top 5 Benefits of Using Google’s Webmaster Tools

1. Sitemaps

Sitemaps are a great way of telling Google what pages you want to be indexed.

Google will index your site regardless of using a sitemap, however, this tool makes it easier for Google to index those pages you want it to. You can exclude pages if you really want to, but you can use a generator to create the XML formatted file.

Here are some generators

2.  Content Analysis

One of the things Google hates is duplicate content, even worse is duplicate Titles and Descriptions (These are the important Meta Tags)

Webmaster Tools will allow you to see if there are any pages with duplicated titles or duplicated descriptions. This is a very important tool to get the most out of these tags

3.  Web Crawl Diagnostic

Once Google has crawled (indexed) your website, you hope all of your pages are visible in the index. This tool can help you find out if Google had problems finding and pages.

Obviously, if Google can find a page, it wont be in the search engine listings.

This can be bad links, moved content or other easily picked up issues.

4.  External Links

This shows all of the links into your website from other pages on the internet.

The best thing is the link on the right hand side that allows you to see all of the inbound links.

(Note: this does not show all of the times your website is mentioned, only the working links people can click on to find you)

In basic search engine terms, the more inbound links the better for you

5. Geographic Targeting

This one is bit more advanced and will affect a smaller number of people. One of the key changes in Google’s delivery of search results is the pre filtering that is done when you search.

Google will filter your results, even if you don’t ask it to.

As an example, if you do a search for a topic and DO NOT select the “web pages from this country” button your results are still biased towards the country Google believes you are in.

Alternatively, if you select the “web pages from this country” button, you will get results that Google think are directed to that country.

How does it do this?

It shows results for either websites with a country specific suffix ie .nz for New Zealand, or websites that are hosted in that country.

However, if you have a .com website hosted not in New Zealand, you will not be found in the search results for that country specific search.

The solution is to use Google’s Geographic Target, where you can specifiy the county you want to target (Only one, though)

There are plenty of other Tools, including Keywords, Search Phrases etc.

So Webmaster tools is a must have for all Web Designers, but also for those business owners who are keen to see how their sites are performing in Google.

Well done everyone! Controversial bill averted for now

I have just been reading Aardvark, a great local IT commentary site and the thoughts of it’s author Bruce Simpson about the Section 92a protest to stop the introduction of “guilt by accusation” legislation.

Bruce was quite condemning of the action so far by the NZ blogging community (plus a notable mention to Stephen Fry on Twitter) to run a Black Out campaign to highlight the problems with the legislation drafted as it currently is.

Fortunately, the black out campaign and the “whining” has made a difference.

Bruce said today on his site

The whining is deafening — yet virtually nobody is listening. In fact, I’d wager that people are just turning off because of all the constant harping that’s coming from the blogging community.

Fortunately, the Government didn’t turn off and has just announced:

Prime Minister John Key announced at a post-cabinet press conference this afternoon that implementation of the controversial clause of the copyright legislation to be delayed until March 27

To enable a voluntary code of practice to be agreed.

Well done to the blogging community for making themselves heard and making a difference. The battle isn’t won and I’ll be waiting in anticipation of a better solution to the current problem.

Google Penalises Google for Paid Links

One thing that is a hot topic at the moment is paid links. Google has said for a few years that it frowns on the idea of paid links.

This also includes paid posts that include links (I suppose essentially the same thing).

Recently Google Japan was found to be doing just that and was penalised for it, dropping 4 PR points as a result of the penalty.

Matt Cutts twittered “Google.co.jp PageRank is now ~5 instead of ~9. I expect that to remain for a while.” He expresses Google’s deep remorse and apologises on the company’s behalf in this video.

A few things stand out for me here:

  1. Google applies penalties across the board, BMW fell foul of Google a few years ago and was lost off the indexes for some time.
  2. If you have a PR of 4 or less, look out, if you are looking at this technique to build your ranking.
  3. Ignoring the webmaster guidelines (Which Matt says is evolving all the time) can be fatal for these grey and black hat techniques.

In another video, Matt argues against people who think Google are trying to tell webmasters what to do on their site. He points out that webmasters can do what they like, but so can Google.

With Google having over 90% share in the search market in NZ, you have to be careful to follow the guidelines or face the consequences.

Are you Blacked Out?

On the 28th of February, anyone who is accused (not proven) of repeatedly downloading copyrighted material can have their internet access terminated.

It is part of a revision of the Copyright Act Section 92a.

In protest, the Creative Freedom Foundation is organising a virtual protest and is asking people to change their avatars and other profile images to all black, so to promote what a censored internet might look like.

But what does the act mean?

Can I look at things on Youtube?

How do I know I have downloaded something that is copyrighted?

How do I know how many time I have infringed?

Are there any sites that are exempt?

While there are some obvious places that carry pirated and illegal software, music and movies, my concern are with other less obvious places.

Back to Youtube… in amongst all of the amateur and obviously licensed and official clips, there is a large grey area of those that may or may not be an issue.

These could be remixes and mash ups of songs, things that have taken something and made something else (Like the Lego songs)

Youtube has a policy of it’s own for the notification and taking down of content that infringes copyright. Why isn’t this enough?

So many questions and no real answers coming from the Government except to say they will review if it necessary.

Will the 28th be D-Day for the internet in NZ?

Will you Black Out?

Matt Cutts on Basic SEO

Here is a great video that goes over some basic questions about SEO.

Matt Cutts on You Tube – How to get better visibility on Google

Once of the key things that Matt talks about is the 3 main meta tags. He goes to great lengths to talk about the benefits of the Title and Description tags, but says “Don’t worry that much about the keywords tag”

To what level “Don’t worry” means is not known, but taken together with the fact that a badly written keywords tag can have a detrimental effect on your site, it can be like a poisoned chalice.

I have not been adding Keywords tags to my sites due to this fact and client results have not been adversely affected.

I often get comments from people that they are no Keywords in the meta tags, so this video is a great place for people to do some research.

What do you think? Have tyou been penalised for bad keyword tags?

Have Symantec lost faith in their own products?

A great piece by Tom Pullar-Strecker from The Dominion Post talks about the auto debit of credit cards for renewals of their anti virus software.

He even says Website TechWeb has quoted former Symantec consumer-group chief Enrique
Salem saying it was also one of several ”revenue-generating”
strategies to ”pump up the consumer group’s bottom line”.

This makes me think that they do not think that the quality of their product will be enough to bring in the revenue they need.

Symantec products used to be well renowned for being excellent products in the fight against viruses and stood up very well against other antivirus programs.

To the extent that it was seen as a more serious product, built for business strength use.

The main competitor was McAfee, who also produced a great product (The original DOS one I used on my first PC)

As the fight against viruses has become more and more important, both companies have targeted the consumers maket more.

I have installed Symantec products a number of times and each subsequent release was, in my opinion, a worse product than the previous one.

They seemed bloated and slow, even the interface was slow and clunky.

To the point where I changed to AVG.

While AVG is not fantastic, it seemed to do the job just as well and was much smaller and compact. (The latest version seems to have fallen victim to a bit of bloat as well)

I am currently using Avast and it looks good so far.

I have seen many horror stories about Symantec products around the operation of the program, the difficulties in getting rid of it and many billing issues as well.