Planning to write a book? Attend our workshop!

Last December Kira Henschel invited me to present on blogging at her publishing workshop. Kira runs HenschelHAUS Publishing, and offers workshops to help people get moving on their book ideas. She asked me to speak on blogging and social media from a how-to perspective.

It was a lot of fun, and quite successful too — one of the attendees has already finished her book and begun the process of marketing it. Jill Baake’s got an I Love Me Mom blog, and I Love Me Mom available at Amazon.

Writing a book is surely a difficult thing to do, but marketing seems to be the hidden valley of challenges for many authors. I know I always thought that being author went something like:

  1. Write really great book.
  2. Sign deal with grateful publisher.
  3. Wait for phone calls announcing each successive step up the best seller list.
  4. Enjoy being rich.

Seriously, I think most folks believe that the writing is the hard part. Actually, it’s editing the book into its most productive form and then marketing it effectively.

What’s also interesting is that while it used to be there weren’t too many publishers that was the only way to get a book in print aside from paying to have the book printed directly. Between changes in printing technologies, publishing technologies, and all the rest of the technologies there are now a lot of new options and many hybrids.

Kira’s invited me again for her next workshop on July 23rd. If you’ve got a book in you that needs to get out, this is a great way to develop a plan to make it happen. From Brainchild to Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Birthing and Publishing Your Book will untangle the mess for you, and leave you with a clear path to follow to your book.

Why did my bounce rate go down?

I’m not really that much of a stats junkie, but I do try to keep an eye on what my sites are doing. I noticed this little item in my Analytics, along with a coincident 100% increase in page views:

Screen shot 2011-04-22 at 7.08.53 AM.png

As you can see, my bounce rate has plummeted. I’m not sure if it’s because my traffic is now all some kind of new spider or what, but it’s pretty dramatic, no?

Anyone else see this kind of trend?

Online Bully Defense

Yesterday I wrote about how one’s email address has become their online identity. As I think about online identity, it occurs to me that a difference in strength of identity might be enabling online bullies. Just as a physical bully seizes initiative to exploit another’s physical weakness & lack of vigilance, online bullies can operate in the same way. If your whole online life revolves around one site, and the bully has a stronger presence, bullying is enabled. It’s a difference in strength of online presence and reputation.

The internet is so new, has moved so fast, its not surprising that this is happening. Even well-funded corporations who have devoted huge resources to PR are still challenged to manage their reputation online. No wonder kids can find themselves exposed.

Helping my kids develop a stronger online identity, in advance of them really needing it, will help them be more bully-resistant. Having their own place to publish content is also a hedge against social sites changing terms or moving from free to paid. At the end of the day, what will matter in the long run is what comes up when someone types my daughter’s name into a search engine.

I’ve pulled their domains, and when needed we’ll develop sites for them. They have control over the content, and can build whatever presence fits them. They can probably manage the SEO of their own site well enough to make it place higher than Facebook or other pages, which is a hedge against the inevitable, regrettable social media content. It can be the site they mention to prospective employers (preferably, investors) or whoever else they need to impress.

They can still enjoy all the fun and drama that comes with Facebook and other sites, but they will have their own presence on the web as the anchor. This is the same strategy recommended to businesses, and the same logic is applicable to personal brands as well.

Anyone else need a good blog photo?

I took the photo I use on my blog, and for all the other innumerable sites, myself. I’ve gotten a few compliments on it, but I really don’t love it that much.

I also need a different one for instances when I’ve got some space – like on my blog – and instances where I don’t – like twitter, linkedin, etc.

But I’m finding that making a good photo of myself is far more challenging than I thought. Everything I shoot looks the same, and it’s boring. The first one was taken using my little Canon P&S camera, but I’ve now got the remote for my Nikon D70, so the camera isn’t the issue. It the lack of imagination.

Sara Santiago has an awesome photo. So does Bruce Schneier. Kevin Rich has a good one too. There are lots of them out there, and the only thing I see that they have in common is that they a) aren’t the usual studio portrait, and b) convey the person’s spirit.

I want to hire a photographer but the family coffers have no funds for that. I do have a few skills, so barter is an option.

I need someone willing to take a good photo of me, or failing that, willing to take a poop-load of photos on the theory that one of them will be good.

I’m more than willing to return the favor.

Any takers?

Using the Thesis theme

I spent some time with Jim Raffel tonight, and one of the things that came out of it was a reminder to fix my blog theme. I’ve bounced through a lot of themes on this blog, and Lornitropia before that. I’ve never found one that really made me ecstatic, but part of the problem is that it’s hard enough to design, let alone design and implement.

So I decided to give Thesis a try. It gets rave reviews, and it seems pretty nice.

But anyone who’s used it before will notice that I haven’t done much with it. Please give me some time 😎

Slicehost vs. Rackspace Cloud, first impressions

I thought I would save a few bucks by moving to a Rackspace Cloud Server. It was a rocky start, but so far, so good.

Back in July I made the jump from GoDaddy hosting to a virtual private server on Slicehost. While it was intimidating at first, there was a lot of online help and a responsive forum. Once I got things going, it was smooth sailing.

The biggest difference between Slice and Cloud is that the Slice folks include a pretty hefty amount of bandwidth. The thing is, I don’t use most of it. Cloud doesn’t include any bandwidth, and charges a small amount for every GB used. For me this is a better deal. It would actually cut my monthly costs in half, so I decided to start up a Cloud account. It was a bit of a rocky start.

First, when I signed up I was told they’d call within 15 minutes to activate my account. Why they need to call when I’ve signed up for far more expensive things without a call I don’t know, but it’s not a big deal. Except they don’t call. I fire up a chat session. I find out I’m #3 in the queue and will get a call shortly. Some time later I do. I wasn’t in a big hurry at the time, but in a day where most online purchases that can be fulfilled immediately are, it’s odd.

Second, the knowledge base is not as complete as Slicehost. For instance, when I looked up installing MySQL + PHP, I got a message saying that article wasn’t available.

Then I realized I could just restore a tar of my other server, so I did that.

But that left DNS, so I went to make those entries. Yikes! No edit button. No duplicate button. CNAMES require the full domain, not just the subdomain. This is gonna be a LOT of typing compared to Slicehost. So I figure I must be missing something and go to the forum (as the KB doesn’t have much) to learn what it is that I’m missing. I mean, I only have a dozen domains – surely the folks with lots and lots of them would be going nuts with this simplistic interface.


Why is it that EVERY software or service company that has a forum requires you to register SEPARATELY from the account you used to buy their product?


So I get into the forum and I’m very puzzled. I find that there is exactly one post. After a while I realize that there is no ‘Post New Topic’ button, and I figure my account must not be activated yet. But I can’t find anything saying so. I check my email. I check my answering machine. I check my driveway for a telegram delivery guy. Nothing.

Out of curiosity I read the one post I can see – Posting Guidelines. I expect to read the usual boilerplate, which is there, but at the top it says that if I can see only one post I should open a live chat session and get my account activated. I would have thought this would be automatically requested when I created my forum account. I guess not.

I open chat. My wait time is 13 minutes. Then a message shows up apologizing for the extended wait time, and suggesting I should open a service ticket. So I open a ticket. The text there says that if I want service quickly, I should open a chat window and mention the ticket number. Sure enough, I try chat later and after a wait I get my account activated.

I do a search for DNS edit, and find several posts from people asking about how to edit & duplicate DNS records. From March of 2009. Then I find out that they don’t allow TXT records, which are required to make an SPF record.

A few deep breaths later, and I realize that I don’t need to do my DNS with Cloud, I can do it with GoDaddy, which has a pretty darn functional interface, allows everything under the sun, and I realize I should have been doing this stuff there to begin with.

Once the DNS stuff got sorted out, and my server tarball was unpacked, all was well. I can’t tell a bit of difference between the performance of the Slicehost and Cloudserver servers, except for me the Cloudserver is a lot cheaper. Since both are owned by Rackspace, I suspect they may actually be the same server.

I’m happy I’ve made the choice, and if you’re looking for virtual private server capacity, give Cloud a look.