The Perfect Run and Another New Balance Ad

Hungry Mother on “that” run:

I thought about my “magic run” back in 1977, when I was on sabbatical leave at Duke. On day, when I was doing a power walk, I jogged for 3 miles for the first time in my life. That run was smooth and effortless. I felt as though I could run forever.

I think everyone who’s ever run (or biked/paddled/whatever) somewhat seriously has had that day. If you’re really lucky you’ll get several of them in your life. To be fair, anyone who’s ever seen me run knows that I’ve never had an “effortless” training session in my life, but I have had a couple of days when it seemed like everything just clicked perfectly. In my case, they usually end with a violent vomiting session because as good as I feel, I’m really overheated or pushed beyond where I can run comfortably. Is that the runner’s high I’ve heard so much about?

As with most of my other successes in life, good runs for me are usually fueled by spite more than anything else. I ran my best 5k on what was supposed to be a recovery day after a 10 mile run that I completely bonked on and barely finished. Luckily, I was highly pissed off at the beginning of the race and was further agitated by a jobroni (he’d later become my running nemesis) who kept passing me then slowing down and letting me pass him back. With about a half mile remaining I decided that this jerk was not going to pass me again, and I ended up edging him out by about 15 seconds to take the title in the fat boy division of that race.

I’ve had a couple of training runs over 13 miles that seemed to go perfectly too. One of these runs started with all the people I was training with taking off at too fast of a pace for me–I’m very slow at the start, but usually accelerate as the run goes on and end up just kind of slow. Running alone gave me a few miles to stew, and I eventually began to boil. I think I ended up passing them somewhere around ten miles, and the site of them just fueled the fire–each mile after that got faster and faster. I actually ran a personal best for the half marathon distance that afternoon, although it doesn’t count since it wasn’t a sanctioned race. Unfortunately, it was also about 92 degrees outside. After I puked I almost passed out and had to go sit inside a nearby restaurant in the AC and sip water for about an hour.

I really showed them, huh?  Here’s some running zen to help you remember why you do it.

A Call to Action!

If you haven’t subscribed to my feed, now would be a good time to do so.  There is a special prize inside every post that’s available to feed subscribers only.  You’ll be especially interested in this if you’re a blogger…

Running is a Bitch

This New Balance may be exactly what I need to get me to renew my relationship with her.  It’s really good.  There’s a whole new series of New Balance ads out, but this one is my favorite.  It perfectly sums up how I feel about running (when I’m fit).

[youtube bdeEPhdpay0]

Cool, Cocky, and Bad

Honky Tonk ManThough I’m tempted to make this autobiographical, I know in my heart that I owe it to the greatest Intercontinental Champion ever to focus on him. That’s right, The Honky Tonk Man is the greatest IC ever…hands down.

I’m always gratified when the majority of my readers answer a poll question correctly. Not that all poll questions have a correct answer, but this one did. Still, it is widely known that I have the brightest readership in the blogosphere.  Both of you guys are geniuses.

Anyway, one year, two months, and 27 days. That’s how long Honky held the IC belt. No one has held it longer. Even when he lost the title, it was to the Ultimate Warrior. Not “Warrior” as he was known after his return. No, no, no…The Ultimate Warrior. No shame in that.

Me! My Favorite Meme Ever!

Taylor tagged me with a meme.  In her post she mentioned that she was celebrating her 6 month anniversary blogging, and I realized that I let my one year anniversary slip.  Oh well, I don’t put much stock in that kind of stuff anyway.  Here are the rules to the meme…

** Post about the meme and link back to the person that tagged you.

** Go back to your archives and link to your five favorite posts.

Link One: must be about family
Link Two: must be about friends
Link Three: must be about yourself
Link Four: must be about something you love
Link Five: can be anything you choose

** Tag five other people (at least two must be new acquaintances so that you can get to know them better).

A post about family:  I almost feel bad claiming this post as my own, because I didn’t write most of it, and definitely didn’t write the best parts of it.  It’s all about my grandfather’s Thanksgiving day in 1945.

A post about friends:  it happened ten or so years ago, but I just posted last year about my buddy Eaton Beavers

A post about me:  in September I was busy damning Scrubs straight to hell.  The writing is corny and contrived, but the clips of highlights at the end of the post make it all worthwhile.

A post about something I love:  I wrote one in in December about the abandoned practice of exchanging emails with My Favorite.  I love My Favorite, and I love exchanging emails with her too…especially the kinds we’ll never ever ever show our kids.

A past about anything I choose:  Back in July, before I had the HUGE following I enjoy today, I wrote a post about Fury Face.  A tale of a terrifying mask or a cartoon character who is perpetually showing his anger?  Nah, just a group of educators who can’t spell.

So I think I’ll tag….

SVD, who is currently enjoying an Instalanche and riding the wave of success.

The Wookie at Total Diatribe, who will probably have something mean to say in every post he chooses

My Favorite, who is very starved for time to write, so everything she writes is very important

Hungry Mother, who has a plethora of interesting posts about every one of these topics.

NewsComa, who probably doesn’t even have time to participate because she’s churning out great posts one right after another.

So It’s Not Just Me

Back before anyone read this blog *wink, cough*, I wrote a fairly snarky post about the absolutely ridiculous commercials for Yaz and Viva Viagra.  It seems I’m finally vindicated, as NewsComa is equally creeped out by the Viagra commercial.

Every now and then I make a mistake that seems fairly common among bloggers.  I come up with an idea that is so damn funny that I absolutely must get it published as soon as possible.  After all, the whole world is probably dying to know how unbelievably witty and clever I am, right?  I then spend the next couple of days checking every now and then to see how many hundreds of links and comments I’ve received.

So far I’m batting .000

I suspected my Yaz/Viagra post may fall into that category, so I went back an re-read it.  My conclusion:

I really am as clever and funny as I thought–maybe even funnier!

Three Things I Haven’t Let Go

When I first got hit with this meme by BillyMac, I thought the topic was “3 Things I Wouldn’t Let Go”. That one would be pretty easy–family, health, and some other random item.

But this is “3 Things You Haven’t Let Go”, which has a much different conotation. Maybe I’m inferring it incorrectly, and it’s vague enough for interpretation, but I take this as “3 Things I Haven’t Let Go (but probably should)”. Believe it or not, this is a part of my character I’ve really worked on over the past few years. I’ve really tried to develop “the ability to let that which does not matter truly go.” Despite my best efforts, I still have plenty options. After all, I am powered by spite.

Spite CanAs I’m trying to narrow it down to the top three, I’m realizing how much I don’t want to admit any of this publicly. It’s not the fear of baring my soul that’s holding me back–it’s the realization of how stupid they all are. All instances of forgiven, but not forgotten. In order of increasing ridiculousness on my part…

Las Vegas August, 2005
I was going out for a weekend with about 15 other guys. Soon after booking my ticket I saw that there were UFC fights that weekend, so I asked some other guys if they wanted to go. I could only buy eight tickets, and as soon as seven other guys said they were in, I bought 8 together. $100 per ticket before all the taxes and charges. Not a problem–these guys are all local and they all have jobs. I’ll get my money back this week, right? Wrong. But that’s not the worst part. Literally thirty minutes before the fights I met up with the final two guys who owed me for their tickets. They walked up with two other guys who I didn’t know, paid me for the tickets, and turned around and sold them for $200 each to the other guys right in front of me! Chuck Liddell is lucky he didn’t have to fight me that night.

Summer 1993
I was living in a dump of a house in Ft. Sanders with two other guys–$300 rent. We split the electric and basic phone service evenly, but if anyone had long distance calls they had to pay it themselves. The month he moved out, one of my roommates had $37 worth of long distance calls to his girlfriend in California. By the time the bill came, he was gone, and the other guy and I had to eat it. Sure, not a lot of money, but at the time it was, and besides it’s the principle. I never got the money back from him, but I did hit him in the back with a folding chair (part of the height of my pro-wrestling obsession) in Long Branch one night when he was playing pool. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel any better.

St. Patrick’s Day Rugby Tournament, Savannah Georgia, 2000
We had a pretty solid team, and were scheduled for a Sunday morning match. Of course we’d all gone out on and had fun on Saturday night. At game time on Sunday, we only had 12 guys there. We started the match shorthanded, and when the other guys finally rolled up, I was infuriated. I didn’t even want them to come into the game–my preference was to take an ass kicking and let them sit and watch it. After the match (we lost) I refused to shake their hands. I love all of those guys, but I haven’t let the fact that they didn’t show up for us that morning go. I could have stayed in Knoxville if all I wanted to do was drink beer and not play rugby. Under certain conditions and in the presence of certain people, this one still sends me into a mild rage.

See the common thread here? All cases of being let down by friends. So I guess that is my biggest pet peeve? Possibly.

Up next are:
SVD
Ivy
Taylor–fingers crossed she’ll relate this to public education

Part II (of many) on SEO, Google, and Content–Technology Moves, Build For Change

First of all, I can’t take credit for all of these ideas. Lot’s of them have been borrowed from guys like Steve Pavlina who are basically saying the same thing I am.

One of the more important points Steve makes is that your content should be timeless. What he means by this is that if your content is only pertinent only to what is going on today, there’s not much reason for people to want to look at it tomorrow. This is especially important as you try to build momentum for your site traffic over time.

Early on, your site will not be highly listed on any engines. With Google, you’ll be stuck in the “sandbox” for quite a while. While you may be providing great content that is extremely relevant for the day, week, or month it is published, your potential readers will never find it, at least from a search engine. Down the road, you may be lucky enough to be bumped up to a high ranking for the search terms, but it’s likely that no one will be searching for it.

Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, I maintain a site for my rugby club (www.knoxvillerugby.com) that contains scores and information about the club for the last few years. While the score of last Saturday’s match will get the majority of its traffic in the week following the match, there is a good chance that old guys who want to relive the glory days will one day come back to our site, possibly through a search engine, and read about what happened way back when. But, like I said, the majority of the traffic is going to come in the first week. This traffic is not search engine driven. It is driven by the fact that the site is reliable and updated in a timely manner. Not only do members of our club check our site regularly, but members of other clubs whose place in the league standings are tied to the results of our match check it as well.

So what do I mean by “build for change”? One could take that statement as a call to build in scalability and flexibility. While these are certainly important attributes to consider for your site, this actually isn’t what I’m talking about at all. The basic idea of what I’m saying is, don’t focus your efforts on search engines. Don’t focus on trying to get people to link to you. Don’t focus your energy on driving loads of traffic to your site today.

Focus on providing your customers with exactly what they want–good content that they want to come back for. All the rest will follow.

The biggest problem with relying on technology to drive your traffic is that technology is always changing. In 1999-2000, the .com boom, I was doing some work for a company who was selling its services to European companies to boost their rankings on search engines. Back then, Yahoo! ruled the roost, but they didn’t have nearly the market share that Google has now. People weren’t focused just on getting ranked highly on Yahoo!, but every search engine. We were monitoring rankings on over 100 different search engines as well as checking for links on the highest traffic sites on the web. Our goal was to get our customers rated highly on ALL of these engines. In much the same way that Google’s Page Rank system works now, each customer was assigned an indexed ranking based on their listing in the engines and the number of links to them that existed on high traffic sites.

Not exactly rocket surgery, but useful at the time. What wasn’t foreseen by my employer was the fact that one company was going to come in and basically take over the search industry. I was constantly asking, “what do we do when the situation changes?” I’ve long since parted ways with them, but I can imagine that their customers aren’t very thrilled with their Ask Jeeves rankings being in the top ten if their Google ranking is 97. I’m sure they’ve adjusted their product to account for this, but there are factors they didn’t see coming that I’m not sure they’ve dealt with. I would guess the most difficult problem they had to addres is that not only did the dominant players in the game change, but the technology changed as well.

The way search engines worked has drastically changed since 2000. Search engines are smarter (especially Google). Search engines are better equiped to handle rapidly changing sites. Most importantly, search engines are constantly changing and improving going forward.

Ironically, one of the tasks assigned to me way back then was to develop a “keyword generator”. Literally, those were the specifications I was given–“develop a keyword generator”. Now, my idea of a keyword generator and my boss’s were completely different, and frankly, my idea was a little ahead of its time.

My boss was very disappointed when I proudly showed him my software. He was expecting a tool that prompted the user enter a few keywords, then spat back these same keywords with the <meta> tags around them.

He was actually a little angry when I demonstrated my app that spidered three layers into a site and returned suggestions for keywords based on frequently occurring words and weighted based on the page on which they occurred and their placement on the page.

Which sounds like it more accurately addresses how search engines work nowadays?

The point isn’t that he wanted me to write a tool with very little functionality (and there were a million of these already available). The problem was that he had no inkling that search engines could ever change or evolve and refused to consider it when confronted.

We are facing a movement today that I predict will drastically change the game again. Social networking sites are becoming more popular by the minute as a way to find information. “Rankings” on sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, etc. are driven completely by the users. Relevance and quality aren’t being decided by algorithms at all, but by actual people. So when 1,000 people “digg” your site, you better believe that there are thousands of others who are going to sit up and take notice of it.

As more and more people discover these sites and see the value in them, high rankings on these sites will become more and more important. Some people are well aware of this situation and are already coming up with ways to try to “game” these sites by falsifying user recommendations, and they are responding by banning domains that try to beat the system. I think a better approach is to focus on providing good, original content. You will not only increase your chances of finding good, loyal users, but you’ll also have built for the future.

We don’t know for sure what tomorrow will bring in search, social networking, or technologies that are still in their infancy. What we know for sure is that the goal of these technologies is always going to be finding and categorizing the best content out there.

Build quality into your site, and you can rest easy that you’ve also built for change.

Part I (of many) on SEO, Google, and Content

I’ve been reading up a lot lately on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), marketing, monetizing a blog, sandboxes, traffic generation, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

From what I’ve read, what I feel in my gut, and what everything else I’ve done in life has taught me, I’ve come to a pretty simple conclusion–you gotta work for it, at least as far as content driven sites go. And just like everything else, if you put in the hard yards and take care of what you can control, the rest will take care of itself.

I’m doing a little experiment, which I’ll discuss in a seperate post, to determine how much a very targeted SEO strategy can help impact a site that is basically without content. In contrast, I also have this site (not an experiment), with I plan on providing an abundance of relavant, original content that is focused on, well, nothing in particular. As I said, more on that later.

I’m not saying it doesn’t pay to be smart about SEO and to be aware of the existence of search engines. You would be stupid not to use keywords that are relevant (the important word here is relevant) to your site, and it is probably worth your while to do some research into the most common searches that occur for your target market. But in the end, the free market will determine whether or not your site is successful, not Google. Why? Because not only is your site market driven, but Google is market driven itself!

Maybe I’m a simpleton who isn’t looking at all the angles, but here goes…

How Google’s Market Relates to Your Market

Google’s goal is to provide its customers with relevant search results. The reason Google is the top search engine, and the reason everyone wants a high Google ranking, is that it actually does a good job at achieving this goal. People’s trust in Google to give them what they are looking for was brought about by Google’s ability to sort through the junk and provide relavant results. Google’s continued dominance relies on being smart enough to know which sites deliver relevant content and which sites are simply trying to trick the user into visiting the site in hopes of selling them something they aren’t looking for. If Google fails to perform, someone else will jump in and provide this service.

That’s the beauty of the free market–if it is technologically possible, the demand will be met. In fact, the technology actually drives the demand in this case. So Google not only has to worry about providing their users with a quality product right now, but they also have to work to continue to provide a quality product in the future or risk being upended by someone with better technology who does a better job.

In other words, if Google’s search engine is dumb enough for you to trick it placing a crappy, irrelevant, get-rich-quick site high up the rankings, no one will want to use it anymore. If no one uses it anymore, what good is it for you to be ranked highly there? At that point, Google is no longer able to effectively connect you to your market.