Forum Users Are Vocal

When I am looking to get the word out for a client, I often look at forums for inspiration, because I think the real conversations (since the pre-1995 AOL explosion), have always been on bulletin boards and forums. Forum users are loud-mouthed and honest and you can get a great idea of these things:

1. What they think about your product/site.
2. Which competitors they are choosing over you.
3. Their favorite sources of info (they quote liberally).

When I am in affiliate mode, I read these forums”

Digital Point, WickedFire, Webmasterworld, Sitepoint

The ones with RSS support get my attention first. The others, only when I have extra time, which is never. Before I wrote this, of course, I had to check and make sure the ISN’s forums had RSS, but, whew, they do, per forum. 😉

RSS was the ‘one-issue’ that I made sure I had when I set up my problogwriters forum (moderator needed, btw). There are only a handful of ways to achieve RSS forums for free, and SMF seemed the smartest, due to it’s beautiful integration with Joomla. Security breaches aside (I was hacked twice), this is still the solution I recommend to people.

But back to the topic at hand, forum users are influencers. I’d bet if you named off the top early bloggers, every one of them were forum users first. These people talk, and their ideas created a following.

As well, don’t overlook the SEO aspect. Do a search on a product, most likely you’ll get a forum (or several) in the top 10 results. These predominantly textual sites, much like blogs, are SEOed well by nature. If your product is great, you WANT it mentioned organically in forums. This creates a testimonial that is organically well placed SEO-wise and since it’s off your site, it is seen as user gen trustworthy. Of course, I stress I would NEVER suggest spamming a forum. This will almost always come back to bite you in the ass. If your product/site is crap, stay out of forums. If it is good, someone from your group needs to be in offsite forums on a regular basis with your link in their signature.

Don’t forget to use forums in your marketing push. Bloggers always talk about community. You won’t ever build a blog community that is as strong as a forum, even though some are close (think or any number of mommy blogs. The next post will focus on bringing the successful parts of a forum to your blog.

BarcampUSA Tickets On Sale Today

This morning, Feb 1, Barcamp USA tix went on sale. Here’s the deets:

Early registration special if you register before May 1

$20 for 1 day pass

$10 for each additional day

Total cost is $50 for all 4 days

There will be an option to sleep inside some of the session tents at no cost. These tents will generally be 30 x 30 feet and have room for two or three dozen people each. (you will not be able to leave any personal items in the tents during the day)

Private tent camping fee is $15 per night with up to 8 people per tent.

(significant advantages to registering early)

This BarCamp is going to be different that the others we’ve seen. Most Barcamps run 200-500 people. This one will be 3K-5K strong, and is being touted as ‘the woodstock of our generation’. I can’t wait. I might even consider camping out on the grounds, though that is SO unlike me.

We’re organizing a killer videoblogging track, so if you want to add a session, jump in and do so. There should be a great deal of elementary level sessions, as so many people just want to get started. However, please jump in with some intermediate and advanced sessions as well. Remember, it’s an un-conference. At Barcamp you don’t have to be an expert, you just need to be passionate. Chances are there will be plenty of people who will jump in and lend you a hand. Let me know via email or the comments if you want to get more involved. As well, sponsorships are available, and the videoblogging track doesn’t yet have a track sponsor.

Hope to see you there! (cross posted to

Ballmer Admits He Thinks Linux Infringes On Microsoft’s Patents

From ComputerWorld:

Ballmer said Microsoft was motivated to sign a deal with SUSE Linux distributor Novell earlier this month because Linux “uses our intellectual property” and Microsoft wanted to “get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation.”

This may make quick balance-sheet sense, but to piss off a plethora of developers and do a quick about-face to their ‘evil empire’ days is moronic. You should see the ‘love fest’ on TechMeme.

Wiki Founder Wants to Invest In Copyrights

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, said on his Wiki list that he’s looking for inspiration on buying copyrights to put them in the public domain:

I would like to gather from the community some examples of works you would like to see made free, works that we are not doing a good job of generating free replacements for, works that could in theory be purchased and freed.

Dream big. Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you like to see purchased and released under a free license?

Apparently he’s been asked by someone who has the cash to spend and wants to help the community. I initially saw this via /., but have also seen it reported by BoingBoing.

There’s a fierce debate currently going on at /., with more than a few ideas being bantered around. I’m sure this is exactly the kind of open convo that Wales was hoping to spark. If nothing else, at least Wikipedia’s getting some good blogosphere press.

WordPress Widget Error

I’ve done a goodly amount of searching on how to fix this error in my Widget plugin, but apparently because they are on the new side, this error is not very common.  In fact, I only found one instance of it happening online and that was in the support forums, and no one had answered it yet, even after the poor guy had bumped it.

I am getting this error when I attempt to install and use the widgets plugin for my widgets-approved theme.  I am able to install the plugin, activate it and I actually see the tab ‘sidebar widgets’ in the presentation tab of my dashboard.  When I click on the ‘sidebar widgets tab’ this is what shows up underneath the tab:

Fatal error: Cannot redeclare register_sidebars() (previously declared in D:\hshome\databaselogin\\wp-content\plugins\widgets\widgets.php:22) in D:\hshome\databaselogin\\wp-content\plugins\widgets\widgets.php on line 22

Here’s what I have tried:

Upgrading to the most up-to-date version on WP

Deleting and reinstalling the plugin

Putting the entire plugin’s folder in the wp-content/plugins area so that it looked like wp-content/plugins/widget/a bunch of files and then I tried wp-content/plugins/a bunch of files (neither worked)

I asked the WP guru I know, Sarah Lewis, and she suggested:

1. Activating a different widget-ready theme.  That will rule out or confirm a theme-specific issue.

2. Deactivating all other plugins, and if that improves anything, activating them one by one to find where the bad interaction is.

3. Downloading the whole WP directory and doing a directory-wide find for “register_sidebars”.  That would tell me if there’s anything else trying to define the function.

I’ve done the first two and I don’t understand the third, so if anyone else out there has any suggestions, I’m all ears.  Sarah will be available to follow up on my situation tomorrow, if I can’t figure it out before then, but I’d really like to start customizing my sidebars (and the temptation to edit the theme is almost too great).  Please email me if you have any ideas.  I will post the follow up when I know something.

HP’s Telecommuting, Corporate Marketing Relevancy and Identity 2.0

Podcast Roundtable

Participants Martin McKeay, Dan Sweet, Jeremiah Owyang, Dennis McDonald and me

Summary: HP demands workers on site –smart or stupid? Are corporate marketer’s going extinct? and exactly how many logins and IDs do we need to use the web –is there a solution?

In this episode, (one of our best ever) we’ve tackled issues on the new policy that HP has demanded on reduced Telecommuting. Is this an effective way for employees to work? or does the office 2.0 empower and enable workers to connect online and by using collaborative technologies?

With the ability for customers and prospects to connect and build networks and communities, are Corporate Marketing Departments, even relevent? If possible, what can corporate marketing departents do to stay relevent? We explore this issue from multiple sides and issues –dial in to hear.
Too many gateways mean we all end up with far too much information to keep up with. When a beta tester and geek like Ismael Ghalimi ends up getting frustrated, then you know it’s time for Identity 2.0. Rather than having to keep up with 30+ passwords/logins and having to worry about APIs and the technical specifics of multiple platforms, Identity 2.0 would streamline all of this into one gateway that shared your data with the applications you allowed.

Martin seems to think we are up to 10 years off from this. The discussion goes from why Passport didn’t work (um… it was from Microsoft) to the possibilities of a web without walls. Dennis asked if there were enterprise implications here. All in all it was a fascinating discussion of a fairly complex subject. We’ll devote a future full podcst to the topic. Check out OSCON’s Identity 2.0 online resource.

Podcast Roundtable Episode for June

Firefox Upgrade

Blogging can be so frustrating when you have to deal with tools that upgrade and then glitch for unknown reasons. This mornings security update for Firefox is a case in point.

The early morning is always a busy, deadline-rich time for me, and as it’s also summer and my kids are out of school, I have an added level of stress in the am. Of course, when you add to that the fact that Firefox downloaded the update without warning, you end up with one frustrated blogger. Now, to the credit of the Firefox developers, they did allow the restart to be postponed, but when I chose to postpone it my copy of Firefox (not sure if this is systemic) shutdown and the quality feedback agent popped up.

Now, of course, I was at the end of a lengthy and unsaved post that was due in a few minutes. So, I vented and restarted the software, only to have it happen again, half an hour later, at the end of another unsaved post. So, the Firefox upgrade cost me about an hour and probably, in terms of stress, a year off of my life. I hope it was worth it…. 😉

And, I lost my Roboform toolbar, which saves me from logging into the 50 or so blogs I manage (just manage, not write) for clients every day, so I have to manually enter in each of their logins later today when I check the blogs. That also is frustrating. I wonder how many other extensions I lost because of the upgrade?

I saw this post on the same topic and thought the author explained the opensource developer plugin problem therein well:

Well, you don’t. What this means is that different things break for different people when you upgrade. Case in point — I ran an automatic update to Firefox this morning, and I lost four extensions that weren’t compatible with the new versions. I hope that sometime in the future, compatible versions come out for those extensions, but until then, I’ve lost some functionality.

What gets worse for software developers is when someone writes a “killer extension” for your system — an extension that everyone uses. You may find yourself in a position of not releasing upgrades until you’re sure they’re compatible with all the killer extensions lest you really irrritate your users or they just refuse to upgrade rather than lose their beloved extension.

But, what can you do? Firefox doesn’t want to allow security issues out there as IE has done, but with independant developers that have not monetary reason to upgrade on your schedule? This is a problem that will certainly plague Firefox, especially if they continue with these automatically downloaded upgrades.

CSS Problem Solved

I just want to thank Scott of Tyner Blain. He took the time to download my CSS, study it, find out my issue and sent me the snippets of code to fix it perfectly. I really appreciate the effort and the results (note my right sidebar is no longer underlined).  You may have to clear your cache to see the change immediately.
The Tyner Blain blog is pretty good too, by the way, if you’re into software design (cool favicon as well). Thanks again Scott!

Blogger Needs Categories

I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they migrated from Blogger (blogspot), Google’s uber popular blog platform, because of the lack of categories.

I know that Blogger has implemented some great additions to their platform in the past year. When I began blogging on Blogger there was no picture upload (you had to use Picasa’s Hello and the integration was horrible. And, if I remember correctly, at that time comments as part of a Blogger blog were new as well. I know a lot of people on Blogger who still use HaloScan comments because at the time they were blogging their Blogger blogs did not have the comment feature.

Now, the last super-duper huge feature that Blogger needs to add is a category feature. Yes I know you can use Technorati tags as categories on a Blogger blog, but frankly, that’s not ‘easy’ and it’s not good enough for reliable categories.

Blogger needs to implement this pretty quickly. I migrated from Blogger to WordPress months ago, and it was a snap (and I didn’t lose one word of content). When others realize just how easy this migration is, if Blogger isn’t up to par with other free options, they’ll begin to hemorage.

Well, they’ll still have the sploggers…

Skype Releases Conferencing

This is a great new idea from Skype. As someone who’s done a few Skype conferences (we often use Skype when we chat as a group at PodcastRoundtable), their conference call features are pretty good already. And, you know I am not just saying that because I’ve come down hard on Skype MANY times. I think they really need to fix their issues with calls that just cut in and out (dropping packets) because often when I am on with clients across the pond the conversations are almost intelligible.

However, this new product, Skypecast, is set to become a big star in the world of VoIP communications. By allowing a virtual moderator to pass off the conversation, you are in effect creating a conference, not a conference call. The podcast potential remains to be seen, but it’s promising…

The other parts of the service are just as cool:

From cNet on Skypecasts:

Bloggers can schedule Skypecasts and link to them from their sites, so visitors using Skype can click to join discussions instantly, without leaving a blog site.

And, they are planning on integrating Skype with cell phones (beta here). No, not how we want it integrated (Skype calls on your cell) without third party help (SoftGnome). However, they’re looking to make SMS (texting) available through Skype. Look out Verizon’s vText…

I’m certainly not a Skype fanboi, but this new product has really gotten me excited. I’m off to check it out.