Forget Education, Someone Has a Better Idea for Schools

From the NYT

“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities, child care and preschool, tutoring and homework assistance,” the speech reads. “Schools that include dental, medical and counseling clinics.”

I’ll get around to imagining that just as soon as I’m finished imagining schools that do what they’re supposed to actually do–educate.  Right now, I’m not able to do much beyond imagining.

Going to the Mat has similar thoughts.

Since the mid-60s we have asked more and more of our schools to help close some socially worrisome gap, that the schools have forgotten how to do their basic mission–educating kids. Adding more “social missions” to the schools is not going to improve schools.


It’s The Hard Knock Life? For Us?

Jigga What?“In my business, we like to say we’re from the hood. We’re not in the hood. By no means. Not even close.”

-Jay Z in “Water For Life”

I bet I catch some flack over this one, but it has to be said…

Over the last few weeks I’ve read several posts around the blogosphere about how tough times are financially right now. Gas prices are soaring, and…people are still complaining about traffic, so someone’s driving. The stock market is sort of…just steady. And I guess if you’re basing your assessment of your financial situation on how well your stock portfolio is doing, that’s not all bad. Interest rates are…near an all time low, though artificially. Unemployment is…5.1% (low). And the obesity rate of our country is reaching a level of crisis, so I guess there aren’t that many people going hungry.

Is this as bad as the Bush administration could screw things up? Is this all they’ve got?

Believe me, I’m a little frustrated too that times are so tough here in the land of milk and honey that we can only get milk and honey a few days a week. The other days we’re stuck with choosing either milk or honey.

Jigga's Problems

It’s gotten to the point that even the Jigga Man has problems. Based on what I’ve heard and the evidence presented in the graph above, he has at least 99 problems.

Then again, I don’t see any basic needs of survival listed as any of his problems either.

Seriously, I know there are people out there who are struggling just to get by. I know that. But what does “get by” entail here?  And how many bloggers are rummaging through virtual dumpsters to get a virtual meal via their high speed internet connections?

What are we actually struggling for? Bandwidth?

Are there problems? Hell yeah! Should we be concerned? Of course. But let’s keep things in perspective here. Having to sacrifice by doing things like cutting back to basic cable, making coffee at home and carrying a thermos, carpooling to work (with air conditioning), or not going to Disney this year are not the end of the world.

You hear it all the time, but it’s true. Go to some other country where people are really poor, and you’ll come back thankful for all of the luxuries the poorest of us enjoy here. When you see firsthand that “average” or “struggling” here is better than “wealthy” in many places, your perspective is changed forever.

It’s not just me, either. My grandfather, who grew up dirt poor during The Depression (capital letters, because that was for real) had this to say in his journal about his travels to New Guinea during World War II:

The only identity of men or women in their dress was their breast. I saw women with breast that hung down to their belt line. The men used pits to trap hogs and they would catch small pigs in them. I have seen women feeding babies and pigs also. They would feed the pigs until they could eat solid food or other things. They sure had a hard way of survival. I always thought I was poor and brought up the hard way. The only comparison I had up to that time was with people doing better than we were. When I saw a different comparison, I suddenly discovered that I had been rich all along and didn’t know it.

Not trying to trivialize anyone’s problems here, but please, let’s keep some perspective.  It’s not as though our women are breast feeding piglets to the point that they can eat solid foods so that we’ll one day (hopefully) be able to trap them, slaughter them, and have a meal.

By the way, if you are interested in helping someone who is trying to survive day to day have clean drinking water, please consider helping at PlayPumps.org.  You can also learn more about Jay Z’s travels to Africa to document their water issues at MTV.com.

Blogging Yourself To Death

An NYT article about the dangers of blogging

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

But don’t these types of things happen to workaholics in any field?  I get the fact that if you fall behind one time with a big time blog someone else will be there to fill in the gap you left, and I suppose that’s stressful (for some people), but these people are the .0001%.  Most bloggers are doing it just for fun anyway.  The few pennies we get on AdSense here and there is more of a justification validation that we’re actually “working” while we do this than anything.  Of course, some of us find a way to turn our blogs into a one-stop-shop for aircraft sales.  Then we’re talking about some serious money stupidity.

I am a little worried about someone who posts as feverishly as this guy.

Bad For The Country?

When I got in my car today, Sean Hannity was on. I know, I know–but that’s the station I’d been listening to earlier. I’ve pretty much established what I think of him before, but what he and his guest, Bernie Goldberg, had to say today really drives homes those feelings. Although I don’t remember which one said it, the other was definitely in agreement. I’ll keep the quote to the part that I know is 100% correct so as not to unfairly portray these gentlemen:

“It’s bad for the country.”

Since you probably don’t listen to his show, you may wonder exactly what they were talking about.
Was it the federal government meddling in the education system? Was it the devaluation of our currency by the Federal Reserve? Was it the triumvirate of big government regulation-happy candidates to which they we have narrowed our realistic choices to?

Nope. Bloggers. But not every blogger is bad in their eyes, just those that disagree with them. Actually, they didn’t use the term “blogger”. I believe the phrase they used was “idiot with a computer and a modem.”

It seems that to Mr. Hannity and his guest, an idiot with a microphone has more right to an opinion than an idiot with a computer.

My favorite thing about free speech is that it allows me to speak my mind and spread my ideas if they are good. My second favorite thing about free speech is that it allows every idiot with a bad idea to expose himself as an idiot, and have his bad idea ripped apart.

For these reasons, I hope that Mr. Hannity and I both continue to enjoy the benefits of free speech.

Why I Give Full Articles in My Feed

With apologies to those who come here only for the ranting…

I have a plan to do a whole series of articles on search engine optimization (SEO) for bloggers. While the topic of full vs. partial feeds may not be directly related to SEO at first glance, I feel that it is in a round about way. After all, the goal of SEO and is to get more visitors to your site, and that is probably one of the goals you’d like to accomplish with your feed as well. I’m by no means saying that partial feeds are bad, and I think they definitely have their place. But for me (and probably most other bloggers) I believe full feeds are a more effective way to drive traffic. While much of what I’m about to say is based on experience, I believe I can back it up with logic and human blogger nature.

So first off, what’s the argument for partial feeds? It’s actually not a bad argument, and I used to subscribe to it myself. When I first set up my feed, I was sure that partial feeds were the way to go. I thought I had to do everything I could to force entice people to visit my site. There was no way I was going to give away all my content through the feed. Only after they loaded up the entire site, ads and all, would I give away my content.

But then it hit me–I’m giving it away no matter what. It didn’t take me long to realize that full posts in my feed were better than partial feeds, not only for my subscribers, but ultimately for me as well.

Good For My Subscribers

Anyone who uses an RSS reader is probably addicted to it. One of the first things we do after we read an article we like on a new site (especially a blog) is to look for the feed subscription button. And as a blogger, one of the first things I check every day is my FeedBurner stats, mostly out of vanity, because I’m truly flattered that people care enough about what I have to say to choose to subscribe to my feed. I feel like the least I can do for the folks who’ve paid me such a big compliment is to say “thanks” by making my site as easy as possible for them to read in the way they choose, and that means no ads in the feed as well.

But that means subscribers aren’t going to see any of the ads on my site in their reader, so they won’t ever click on these ads, right? Well…I don’t believe that’s necessarily true.

Good For Me

Think about it…the people who are subscribed to my feed are people who already may be interested in what I have to say. They are also likely to engage me in conversation by leaving comments on my blog. By giving them full posts in the feed, I increase the chances they will read everything I wrote. That increases the chances that they’ll want to comment on something I wrote, and that means they will visit my site. By contrast, a partial feed means that I have three or four sentences to entice them into visiting the site. Frankly, I don’t have enough faith in myself as a writer to accomplish that with every post.

An even more compelling reason–I think it’s pretty safe to assume that many of the people reading my feed are other bloggers. And while comments are great and encouraged, an even bigger compliment from another blogger is a link back from their blog. In fact, I’d much rather have a single link than ten comments. Again, providing the full feed increases the chances that someone will read something they’d like to write about on their own blog.

How do links back to my blog help me so much?  Obviously, exposure to the the other blogger’s readers has a lot of value, but there’s another reason, and this is where the SEO part comes in. Search engines (especially Google) see a link as a “vote” for a site. So a link increases my “clout” with search engines, which means that I can greatly increase search engine rankings, which greatly increases my traffic. And I have to believe that the random visitor from a search engine is less familiar with my site layout and less likely to be wise to blog ad placement in general. This means that they are more likely to click on an ad than a regular subscriber who visits my site every day (because I don’t provide full posts in my feed) would be. More search engine traffic also increases the chances that I’ll get even more subscribers–rinse and repeat.

It’s win, win, win.

Full feeds reward loyal subscribers with the ability to read your site with ease. In my case, this includes keeping the feed ad free.

Full feeds reward you directly by increasing the chances your subscribers will visit your site and leave comments. One way conversations are fine, but I have those in my head all day, and sometimes I get tired of hearing only myself.

Full feeds increase your chances of getting back links, which increase your search engine rankings, and ultimately your traffic. Back links increase your exposure to other bloggers’ readers, and search engines are an excellent source of readers who would never find you otherwise.

I hope this helps those of you are trying to decide whether to use full or partial links, and I really hope I’ve convinced those of you who to whom I subscribe and are currently using partial feeds to give me the whole thing in my reader!

A Great Story Opportunity

A while back, I wrote a post about a few advantages newspapers have in the market and how they could use them to remain relevant. Using these assets–excellent writing, investigative journalism, and local marketplace branding–newspapers can give us something no one else can.

Today in the KNS, at least on their web site, there is a relatively short piece from the AP about a man who escaped prison 46 years ago and has been apprehended. This is the exact type of story I’d love to see local newspapers tackle. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to give me something no one else can give me.

Leroy Albert Morgan’s crimes occurred in Hamilton County, he escaped from a Nashville prison, and he was caught in East Tennessee, so it is of local interest. Using great writing and investigative journalism, why not tell us this story? Take us beyond, “he escaped in 1961, he’s been using an alias, and he was arrested this week.”

Tell us the story.

How did he escape prison, and how was he able to avoid authorities for so long? Has he been in Tennessee the entire time? Was he assisted by friends and family–how many people were in on it? What has he done in the time since the escape? What did the State do immediately following the escape to try to catch him, and why did these efforts fail? What (exactly) have they done since? How did they eventually track him down, how long did it take to find him, and how long have they known his whereabouts?

Seriously…this is the stuff movies (or at least made for TV movies) are made of. A good great writer can do some investigative journalism and tell us a great story from so many angles–the escapee, his friends and family, the penal system. And again, most bloggers don’t have the time and resources available to cover something like this.

Stupor Tuesday

What a stinker.

Lot’s of folks around the office are talking about the primaries today.  It’s strange to me that so many people don’t pay attention until the day of.

Anyway, here’s a quick roundup of what some of the blogs I frequent are saying this morning…

Music City Bloggers is taking a poll.  It reminds me of my favorite episode of “Married With Children”. 

  • Kelly Bundy enters room–“What are you guys doing?”
  • Bud Bundy–“We’re taking a poll.”
  • Kelly–“What are you going to do with a poll?”
  • Bud–“We’re going to stick it in your head so we’ll have a place to hang the sign that says, ‘duh.'”
  • Kelly to Al–“So unfair.  You won’t let me get my nose pierced but you’re going to put a poll in my head?!”

I feel like I’m about to get a poll stuck in my head–more like a javelin.

I’m sure the folks at TennesseeFree are going to be hitting it from all sides, but for now are at least having a little fun with John McCain.

The Liberty Papers have a few predictions.  I predict we’re about to lose some money or some freedom, and more than likely some of both.

Knoxviews has a roundup of local races, and  Brendan Loy wonders if the circus situation in Knox County may help Obama’s cause in Tennessee.

And finally, in an oldy but goody, Fail Blog keeps everything in perspective.

More to come later.

Microsoft to Buy Yahoo!?

From the WSJ:

The offer, $31 a share in cash and stock, is a 62% premium to Thursday’s closing price. Microsoft said Yahoo holders would be able to trade their shares for cash or 0.9509 Microsoft shares a piece, with no more than half of the overall purchase price paid in cash.

Seems too good for Yahoo! shareholders to pass up. What would it mean for us?

It could have a big affect on bloggers and site owners. Currently Google dominates the pay per click advertising market with AdSense. Microsoft getting control of Yahoo’s advertising network could mean a higher payout for publishers and maybe even some transparency in just what percentage of the cost of an ad a site owner is paid for a click. Currently, there is no market force to compel Google to pay out higher rates or to disclose their payout percentages.

Microsoft can actually afford to operate a division at a loss for a while in order to change the market. For proof, look no further than Internet Explorer and the X-Box.

Of course, Google could always counter with an even better offer. It’s a good time to hold Yahoo! stock, huh?

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!

My Ideal News, uh, Thingy

I’m not affiliated with and don’t have any knowledge of the newspaper business. You could make the case that this doesn’t make my opinion worth much, but if you consider the performance over the last few years of people who do know the business, maybe doing something different warrants some consideration.

Jack Lail has been posting recently about possible new ways to calculate compensation for journalists, and in a post today hit on something:

At my newspaper, we have been distributing daily top 10 lists of articles based on page views to the entire newsroom for a year or more. The lists are not used for compensation and do seem to provide instant market insights about what readers found interesting.

The way I see it, newspapers, for now, are positioned to provide three things that are at a high premium and that most blogs/bloggers can’t deliver. I think most would be wise to capitalize on these by shifting the state of mind from being a newspaper to becoming a news organization/outlet/center:

Excellent writing
Not just good writing. For now, newspapers have a large market share of excellent writers. That’s a part of the market I’d want to keep. Let the good writers go if you have to, but keep the excellent writers around. That means paying them well. If you don’t, you will eventually lose the excellent writers to their own endeavors, and you’ll be stuck with nothing but good writers. Good writing is nice, but it doesn’t make you much more special that the thousands of independent blogs that feature above average writers.

Investigative journalism
The time, resources, and energy it takes to dig (and dig, and dig) for a story set newspapers and real journalists apart from everyone else. Give us more stories that take time to develop. Give us stories that, in short, no one else can. In most cases, that would mean increased concentration on local news, and pulling back on stories happening elsewhere. And sports? Please. The account of a football game that was attended by 100,000 people, viewed by millions, and opined about (real time) on countless message boards and blogs has little value the day after the event. Does it sell copies? I’m sure of it. Does it sell as many copies as it did 10 years ago? I’d guess probably not, per capita. And if you’re now going to count web clicks instead of copies, newspaper web sites definitely don’t have the market share that the print version of the paper had 10 years ago. It doesn’t seem like a good place for resources long term. It may be time to start scaling back or redirecting resources.

Being community hubs
Newspapers have a huge asset that takes years to create–name recognition in their local markets. It makes sense to capitalize on that by being first to that market with resources that connect the community. Instead of viewing local bloggers as competitors and hacks, find a way to leverage them as a way to drive traffic. Become the place that the community uses to find local blogs. The bad news? It’s may already be too late. In my local market, the News Sentinel caught on remarkably early, and even goes so far as to feature bloggers on the front page of their web site on the weekends and has built a community aggregator. In other markets, it has taken a while, and links to other sites and blogs still aren’t featured or easy to find. As a result, other organizations have stepped up and are trying to fill the void left by what should have been the logical market owner.

It is great to see some newspapers are catching on and are willing to try something new or go in a different direction. At the same time, it’s frustrating to see the industry as a whole belly aching about its problems. Face the facts–not only are the rules of the game changing rapidly, but the game itself is evolving.

I mean, this isn’t the record industry. You guys may actually have to change.