MovableBlog: Archives: August 2004
August 19th, 2004
With the hiring of Brad Choate as a software engineer at Six Apart, I discover the existence of a list of 6A bloggers. (That's what I get for nor reading the HTML versions of weblogs.) I'm not as heavily involved with Movable Type in the creation of my personal weblogs—of the too many weblogs I write, this one is the only one powered by MT—nor with my independent consulting—there's a reason for that, although the details haven't been finalized—so my only real source for MT-related news is Anil Dash's links weblog. He pimps MT pretty hard in that section, but then again, can you blame him?
I'm probably not going to follow MT as much as I did in the past (see vague reference above), but I did whip up an OPML file of the Six Apart bloggers. This is not a comprehensive list, so I'd appreciate a heads up on errors and omissions, and I had to actually search for some of them. Why are the board members and executives and board members with weblogs not linked in the Six Apart about page? If it were up to me—and there are doubtless good reasons why it's not—I would link to all employees to show what can be done with the software they produce with a standard disclaimer about the opinions expressed on their weblogs being their own. Of even better, embrace their diversity of opinion without a disclaimer. Okay, that should be reason enough why it's not up to me.
Most of their weblogs discuss very little about the company itself. One just recently posted photos of her cat. (I hang my head in shame that, as a blogger, not only have I never posted photos of my cat, but I don't even have one.) I recently overheard a woman who said that she does not want her developers writing weblogs. She wants them developing software while on company time, and that's fair. If you're hired to do something, but instead you do something else, then by definition you're not doing your job. I subscribed to one 6A blogger who stopped talking about their code and what the company was doing and focussed on their personal life. (Don't worry, I won't say who it is, but that's only because I've forgotten who it was.) I unsubscribed from the feed thinking "This is not what I subscribed for."
I stand by my unsubscription (I stand by everything I've done and said as an accurate reflection of the way I felt at the time), but only by looking at the weblogs of 6A employees do I understand that they are more than "just" employees of a hip Bay Area software company: they're people who define themselves by more than what they do to pay their bills, even if what they do to pay their bills happens to give them great satisfaction. That's what blogging is supposed to be: it's about telling the world how human you are and how human you can be. It's about saying as much or as little as you want to say about yourself, which is why the company needs to, to use an ugly geek expression I only heard used repeatedly and unproblematically just recently, not only eat their dog food but show how their employees are eating their dog food. Because as the OPML file shows, they do just that.
August 11th, 2004
I won the Monsterhosting.ca Canadian Search Engine Optimization Contest, which was to become #1 for the made-up keyword Xoduszero. I'm writing this on my new, very pretty, 17-inch Flatron L1710S. Even though I don't believe in Him, it is now clear to me that the good Lord above did not intend man to surf the Internet on a flickering Dell 15-inch CRT monitor. Not that I'm going to throw away the old monitor: I'm seriously considering setting up a dual-monitor system, the one thing holding me back being the fact that I will never want to go to a single-monitor setup ever again.
The reason I won the contest is very simple: I had pre-existing Pagerank. I'm linked in the Open Directory, which, I understand, also matters. Oh, and I asked for (and received) a Google Bomb. I thank those that linked to me. To pre-emptively thank those that linked to me, I added to the Xoduszero article, in the "Extended Entry", a little PHP script that took the RSS feed of a Technorati watch for the permanent link (hypocrisy!) showing an unordered list of those who linked to that post. The code is very similar to the code to integrate del.iciou.us using PHP. I also linked to the entry from my other weblogs—with their own pre-existing Pagerank—and it was automatically syndicated in at least 4 places, 3 of which I have admin access to. (The one I knew about but don't have admin access to is the MT-Plugins syndication page.) Let the record reflect that the syndicating sites existed before I even heard of the contest.
Syndication helped increase my chances of winning. So did the bloggers who linked to me. I'm not entirely convinced that valid XHTML code really helps that much in one's ranking, but I'll be happy to delete this sentence and link to someone who can provide me with a concrete example. The reason, I think, people linked to me was because many had read this site previously, thought it a useful addition to the weblog community, and were nice enough to Google-bomb me to win a $500 monitor ($600 including taxes). Anil Dash wrote, when he linked to the page declaring him the winner of the search engine optimization contest he entered, "remember, bloggers, use your pagerank for good, not evil". Offering to donate to charity if I won was my way of doing good (same with automatically linking back to the weblogs that linked to the Xoduszero post, using Technorati, which, helpfully, also kept the entry automatically updated throughout the month).
A word about the other competitors. At the end of the competition, there were three weblogs in the top 10: mine, Roland's (he was not an entrant, and as disclosure, he is a colleague, but he linked me of his own volition), and the Xoduszero SEO Blog. I imagine that if that last one was updated a little more frequently—a lot more frequently, since it was updated twice—it had the best chance to win. The other "static" sites were all nonsense, one even making up a definition of Xoduszero to give an official air to it. The Xoduszero SEO Blog writer, though, even considered donating to the Vancouver Community Network, the non-profit ISP for low-income Vancouver residents, that I donated to, because the writer once worked for VCN. If it wasn't me who won (hey, I gotta look out for #1 here), I would have liked to see it win, because it would prove that actual, interesting content wins over keyword stuffing and link spamming.
Did I learn anything from it? Not really. I already knew weblogs and their individual pages had relatively high-ranking in search engines. The neat thing about search-engine ranking contests, though, is that there is material incentive for people other than search engine optimization experts to participate, and then when it's over, to go back and analyze what search engine optimization techniques work and which don't. So far, after Anil Dash's victory, weblogs are 2 for 3, his win coming in the second round of the Nigritude Ultramarine contest (and coming a close second in the first round). If there's ever a business case for blogging, showing that weblogs can get you high-ranking for specialized keywords is a pretty compelling one.