John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?  Competitive Web & SEO
December 28th, 2007 by john andrews

The Stars of PubCon

At PubCon this year there were stars everywhere. Big Stars, and little stars. So far, no one has been able to tell me what they indicated.

Most of the attendees got name badges with small star stickers attached to the outside lower corner. The same sort of sticker stars your 2nd grade teacher used to stick on your label when you were a good student. Some people’s name badges had small green stars attached to them. Some had small red stars. Some, like mine, had larger purple stars with metallic flakes – sort of “glitter stars”. What did they indicate, and who amongst us had the cipher, and why?

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December 28th, 2007 by john andrews

Job In A Box: The Mobile Professional

I have been a full-time mobile professional for 4 years now. That’s 4 years of no office, high-tech gadgets, and constant change. A few years ago I made a friend in an office maintenance company manager. He didn’t use computers, but certainly understood them. One day over coffee he pointed to my Thinkpad and said “that’s a 3 story building in there”. I knew what he meant.

Today’s Seattle Times reports The Seattle Times is warning of serious cuts next year. They “face the most difficult and painful downsizing in it’s history next year”, citing decreasing ad revenues as advertising increasingly moves to the web. They expect a $33 million dollar cut in print revenue over the next two years. They already cut $21 million from the budgets and are looking to cut $6 million more. They claim the newspaper is running as “bare bones” already, and they have no choice but transformit into a smaller, more focused entity.

I have a Job-in-a-Box myself. My little laptop is the box, and it is stuffed full of job opportunities. Many of those are being pulled away from newspapers like the Seattle Times. My 3-floors-of-office-building in a box is no joke. I don’t have a cleaning lady coming in to vaccuum, or a maintenance guy to fix the sink. Those absent workers don’t have supervisors, either. And there’s no warehouse guy to unload the paper and cleaning products they use. One time long ago I had a summer job cleaning overhead light fixtures in Manhattan office buildings. No need for that with my little box.

I pay t-moble $40 per month for Internet access via Starbucks, and I spend about $150 per month on Starbucks coffee and food. Yes, I have bought “Hear Music” CDs and coffee mugs. No I haven’t bought a $900 espresso machine (yet), but I did find the Starbucks-branded Bodum French Press I bought was a dollar lower in price and a ton more convenient to purchase than the same Bodum French Press at or anywhere local. The question I have is… when will Starbucks really embrace me as a customer? Woods Coffee has a conference room available for $35 per hour, right adjacent to the coffee shop. Oh, and it has a view of the San Juans. If it didn’t rely on the town park for its bathrooms, that room would probably be booked solid. Half way to good. Sigh.

As newspapers trim their reporting staff the writers and “investigators” increasingly go online to write material that Google plasters with advertising. And increasingly, as the close-to-the-news bloggers write daily, the aggregators make money aggregating (and plastering with ads). There is plenty of room for the old-school news reporters to step in and start recapping the blogged news with editorial, creating yet another layer of Google-advertising-coated “content”. Once people come to really rely on those “anchors” for their perspectives on what’s happening, there is a need for channels, to provide quality control, branding, stability, and of course (paid) issue framing. It’s all at work now, although it will all get more advanced and bigger very quickly going forward. Blog Networks are the geek answer to channels, but merely an early incarnation of what is really needed.

What I find most interesting is that the people who used to buy newspapers still have plenty of money, and are still interested in the same core goals and objectives that had when they were shopping for newspapers. So they will still buy, but not yet. They want to see more control, which means more “channels”. I twill take some time (2 years?) but it will happen fast. If you’re not building some piece of that new new media, you really need to re-think your online strategy. There is a TON of opportunity.

Starbucks can’t be the solution forever. We already hit a limit with noise and power outlets. Shared offices need to be expensive enough to keep out the in-between-job pseudo mobile professionals, while still cost effective for the pros. That temporary office space market is all about value, and no one has mastered it yet. We’re not temporary.. we’re transient – lol. If you are a professional, add a layer to this web thing and step right into the flow. If youre an accountant, offer a Freshbooks solution for the mobile pro (step in and do the quality work needed to make Freshbooks work like a dream for my particular circumstances). I hate to pay an accountant for a “Quickbooks solution”, because I know it’s not Quick and it’s not a solution, but I’ll glady pay you to bring your small business accounting expertise to my world via configuration of something like Freshbooks.

Ditto for web designers. When was the last time you saw a web designer sitting at a Starbucks with a laptop and Wacom tablet, with a sign that said “on-demand design services $35/hour”. I’d probably use one of those 3 times per week for an hour or so at a time, and even then I’d probably add one at least one ongoing project per week. “Can you touch up this image for me? Thaaanks” and ten bucks later I’ve excuted on a project I would have otherwise put off. At any given time there are two or three of us mobile office pros at Starbucks. When will there be critical mass? How about a PHP developer on-site once a week on a reliable basis? I know it could work.

Job-in-a-Box. For you wannabee domainers, the domain can be had for $250 here.

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December 28th, 2007 by john andrews

Why I won’t be at Seattle Startup Weekend – Google Checkout

Updated: We don’t need no stinkin’ Google Checkout. I’ve registered via alternative means, and looking forward to it.

Sigh. I was getting psyched about Seattle Startup Weekend in January. I know it’s odd, and I know it’s “cumbersome”, but it is real live meshing and I so love meshing with tech peers in a goal-oriented challenge. As an odd combination of old skool tech project lead and new school search strategist, I thought I could make an important contribution. I also thought I would be tested in my ability to deliver the search strategy message in a high-octane Einstein-cats environment. But, I won’t be going.

Why not? Because they only use Google Checkout.

I won’t use it not because I don’t want to tie my real name and email address to my local SEO activities (although honestly I don’t like to do that). I even got over my distaste for giving Google my credit card number and physical address, just to be able to pay the $20 reg fee for this event (against my better judgement). I really don’t like the idea of giving Google my financial data. Those issues weren’t enough to deter me this time. But just as it has EVERY OTHER TIME I HAVE TRIED TO USE IT, Google checkout choked on my payment submission.

So no, I won’t be attending and yes, it is simply because those Seattle Startup Weekend dudes don’t take anything but Google checkout. That’s a deal killer right there for privacy reasons (secondary), and performance reasons (primarily).

This time Gogle choked on my “ship to” being different than my “bill to”. Give me a break. This is a freakin’ $20 registration. There’s nothing to ship! I simply ddn’t want my physical address to show on my registration, so I entered my mailing address as the “ship to”. But, even though I had entered the proper bill to address for the credit card, Google couldn’t handle it. They actually emailed me back and asked for a copy of my driver’s license and a copy of a recent credit card statement, FAXED to them.

Thank you for using Google Checkout. We periodically review accounts to ensure a secure environment for our buyers and sellers, and unfortunately we were unable to verify some of your account information. As a result, your account has been temporarily suspended and your pending orders have been cancelled. So we can verify and reinstate your account, please fax or email us a copy of one of the following documents:

  1. Your driver’s license, passport information page, or other government-issued ID
  2. Recent credit card statement (please black out the first 12 digits of your card number)

Please fax these documents using our secure fax line: (650) 644-0159.

What the hell is a “secure fax line”? New rule in my house – any vendor insisting on using Google checkout as the only payment method does NOT get the sale. Ever. Period. No debate, no discussion.

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John




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