Honorable Mentioned

In between all the bad news, rotten weather and lack of electricity this week there were a few bits of good news.

  • PSO claims our power will be back on this evening.
  • Tulsa Overground selected one of my films.
  • My blog was mentioned in a national newsletter.

Hopefully our juice will be on soon, before we spend a sixth night without lights or heat. The neighborhood has been awash in work trucks and linemen as power is slowly being restored. Last night the temperature finally dropped to the point we had to give up and spend the night with friends.

This year I submitted a few short films to the Tulsa Overground Film Festival. Since this is their 10th year I hoped they might find one of my entries worthwhile. In 2005 they selected Zen and the Art of Lawn Maintenance and What Happens in Tunica. This year they chose the spoof commercial Because We’re Dix. All of these are available online from the films page at maduko.com.

Last but not least, the latest newsletter from the Recent Past Preservation Network had a brief mention of my Oklahoma Modern blog. They included a photo of the concrete turret house near Sand Springs.

But I still wish our lights were on.

Watching the Internet Work

Add the Blogger Play Gadget to your iGoogle home page.Last week I came across a new TWS* that is pretty cool. The folks at Google had played with this little gadget internally for months when someone had the bright idea to make it available to the public. It’s called Blogger Play and it’s a window on the world. Or at least the world of people that have sites on Google’s free blog service, Blogger.

What it “plays” is a slide show of photographs that people have added to their blogs. As a new image is added to any one of the millions of blogs powered by Blogger, they show up in this random shuffle. The eclectic mix of images is a mesmerizing procession of snapshots and images from people all over the world. I was fascinated at the wide variety— family photos, technical drawings, corporate logos, you name it.

The viewer allows you to modify the speed at which the images change, and pause or stop when you see something interesting. If you care to learn more about that image a link and information about the blogger who uploaded the image is also provided. Click the picture and you’re taken to the blog where the image originates. Well, it’s virtual origin at least.

Play quickly became so popular that Google whipped up one of their “gadgets” so users could add a miniature player to their iGoogle starting page. Have a look and see what you think of this unusual window on the world.

Blogger Play

* TWS = Time Wasting Site

So you think you need a forum?

I’ve worked on several projects over the years that involved setting up online forums. These electronic bulletin boards can be a beneficial addition to your web site, and a helpful feature for your visitors. Unfortunately, they can also be a total waste of time and/or a royal pain in the ass. Like so many other things, preparation is the key. Before jumping to add a forum to your web site take this simple test and see if it’s right for you.

  • Is your site currently ranked and receiving traffic from search engines?
  • Are your visitors looking for specific information or answers to a question?
  • Can your site visitors, or yourself, supply the answer they need?

If the answer to all three is yes you have a very good chance of deploying a successful forum! If you answered no to any of the above, well… you may want to consider why your site needs a forum. Let me explain why.

Many people make the mistake of setting up a forum to generate traffic and bring people to their web site. This is rarely effective. If you don’t get much traffic from Google right now, a forum will most likely not increase it much. In fact, there are cases where forums actually hurt a site’s search engine ranking.

Bottom line: concentrate on your site’s content first. Once search engines like your site they will tolerate the addition of a forum.

What are your visitors seeking? This is important to know because you’ve spent a lot of time creating a web site about… oh, let’s say Britney Spears’ collection of sunglasses. You need to know if your site is attracting people because they are interested in that specific topic or just because it’s in the general vicinity.

Are your visitors arriving at your virtual doorstep because they want to see all those sunglasses? Are they seeking out information on the latest Armani shades? If so, that’s good. People are seeking and, chances are, finding what the want on your site. On the other hand, if they’re just hitting your site because they’re trolling for candid images of Britney it’s not so good. If your visitors are looking for the specific content you provide, then a forum is probably a great addition to your site.

Finally, who can answer the questions your visitors are asking? Can you, or other visitors to your site, provide people the information they are looking for?

Some information is only available from a manufacturer or directly from one single person. Forums work best when people are looking for something that other forum users can provide. If nobody else has any answers it just becomes a cyber bitch session that your visitors will eventually find tiresome.

Hopefully these guidelines can help you decide whether a forum is a worthwhile addition to your web site. Either way you decide to go– be sure to do your homework first!

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