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Friends don’t allow comment spam on their friends’ blogs

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I”ve been wondering why comment spam is such an everyday occurence. And I’ve been thinking about it even more after reading about the broken windows theory.

The theory goes that people feel lax when they know or suspect no-one is around to monitor their behaviour. I’ve experienced it myself, too. Some months ago I was trying to find parking for my scooter in de Waterkant. This shouldn’t be difficult but de Waterkant is a unique area — few streets are level. So I see a level enough spot and I see that someone else — a fellow scooter owner — had parked there already. So if they can park there, surely I can park there, right?

It was not to be. The store assistant saw me parking there and asked me to move. She was pleasant about it so I obliged.

So here’s the thing: I would’ve found somewhere else to park if I hadn’t seen that scooter parked there. Genuine. But the scooter’s presence gave me the excuse to park in front of a shop window.

The same thing goes for blog spam, litter, crime, etc. It’s more difficult to litter when the area is neat. Or rather, I suspect the majority of people wouldn’t litter when the area is neat but a minority will always litter, no matter what the area looks like. And a minority of internet users will always post spammy blog comments, no matter how well the owner protects the blog.

So when I open my blog’s spam folder, I feel compelled to google those comments. And sometimes I’ll find many, many, many results.

This phrase yields 118 results: “I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here frequency.” And this phrase yields 58 200 results: “I will directly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.”

I can’t write to all 52 800 blog owners but I can try to let some of them know that they’ve allowed spam to infiltrate their blog. And if each of them contacts just a few of the others, we can try to keep our blogs free of SEO consters.

This blog post is a perfect example of what I mean: “I’ll be speechless” It has 80 spam comments. The scary thing is that I’ve seen worse than that.

I once wrote to a blog owner to alert them that their blog has been infested with spammy comments. They wrote back to say thanks and then added that they were just so grateful for any and all comments. So they don’t particularly mind hosting spam comments.

I’d rather have 0 comments than 80 spam comments that promote Viagra, cheap cars online, and arabic boys names.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

February 23rd, 2010 at 10:56 am

Posted in Digital stuff

We need a proper mobile shortener service

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OK. So Google has Goo.gl, Facebook has Fb.me, there’s TinyURL, Bit.ly, and there’s WordPress’ wp.me. And there are 5478 other URL shortener services available to choose from. So here’s my question: when are the big mobile browsers going to enter the battle? When’s Opera going to do something similar?

There are a few mobile URL shorteners out there: QuickTr.im for iPhone and Android devices; there’s Mobile Tiny URL for keypad phones; and there’s Delivr.com.

I do not have an iPhone nor do I have an Android phone so I tested out Delivr.com and Mobile Tiny URL. Delivr.com works well but it still doesn’t have the functionality that I’m looking for — shorten a URL with one tap of my stylus or one tap of a key. And it needs to be integrated into the phone’s software so that I can copy the URL onto the clipboard and send it to friends via sms messages or as part of an email. I can only use Delivr.com with Opera Mobile, not with Opera Mini.

It’s not enough that I can shorten and simplify a complex URL; I want a mobile URL shortener service that will allow me to press a key on my phone that shortens the URL while I’m viewing that particular page. It needs to mimic how one would use a URL shortener service on a computer, but it also needs to cater to the many phones that cannot use copy and paste (yet). The user would overcome this liability by writing down the — simpler! better! faster! — URL on a piece of paper and then sending it to a friend.

While Mobile Tiny URL is cute, it is much more beneficial to a user whose phone has a keypad. The service assumes the user has to tap a key several times to get to the specific letter they want to use: 3 times to get to the letter ‘c’, for example. But this isn’t always the case. Some phones   allow you to select the exact letter you want without having to tap the ‘a’ key 3 times.

So the perfect mobile URL shortener service would need to do the following:

Be compatible with the phone’s software

Opera Mobile gets this right — I can copy and past a URL into an sms message and vice versa. But not all mobile browsers allow this — Opera Mini 5.2, which is one of my favourite mobile browsers, doesn’t –  and not everyone has a Windows Mobile phone.

It should be easy to use

Users shouldn’t have to fiddle with the browser’s advanced features to enable the function. It could even be an app that the user downloads onto their phone.

Compatibility

Whether it is a website or an app, it needs to be compatible with a myriad of mobile browsers as well as a myriad of WAP-enabled cellphones. This might be a challenge but I’m confident that there are plenty of clever developers out there who can build superb applications.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

December 22nd, 2009 at 11:13 am

How to link unto others

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I’m sure I don’t need to evangelise the concept of one writer or blogger linking to others. I’m sure that many of you know that linking = good. It’s a great way to add depth to an article and you’re also helping to sustain the internet linking community. So I’ll touch on a related topic, which should be one of those Blogging  fun-DOH-mentals. It’s something that schools should teach. It’s so easy –link unto others as you would have them link unto you. Good linking “sends people away to keep them coming back.” Linking also helps our readers to tailor-make their internet reading adventure, sorta like those 1990s choose-your-own adventure books that I loved.

Link to the idea, not to the person

It’s frustrating when I’m reading your post on oh, I don’t know, 50 Ways to make your colleagues love you more effectively, and you mention something interesting but you neglect to link to the article, Youtube video, or Tweet. Instead of doing this you link to the person who wrote the article, posted the Youtube video, or wrote the Tweet. This means that I need to do a quick Google search for the relevant piece. It’s not a great user experience for me. Help me to save time and I’ll be devoted to you. I’ll proselytise and evangelise your website or blog simply because I like to think of myself as an information curator. And I love sending people links to stuff that’s useful. Let’s hope your site is next.

Another reason why this is a good idea is that it promotes deep-linking. But this places some responsibility on you the blogger — ensure that the site allows deep-linking and that your readers will go to the exact page you had intended them to go to.

Link only when needed

You don’t need to link to every single name, idea or Youtube video; only link to those that would benefit your readers the most. Gratuitous links to your blogging buddies only benefit them, unless their websites offer such amazing thought, content and entertainment value that you have to link to them. A link to an A-list blogger might get you noticed — they, too, check their stats. Practise restraint when linking out try to keep it fun and informal. No need to cite MLA or The Chicago Manual of Style; be as informal or formal depending on the type of writing you do.

Keep the reader’s flow at a constant level

Sometimes you’re writing a rant or a stream of consciousness piece of writing that doesn’t need linking to others. Then you don’t need to link. Unless you want to add more depth to your writing.

Use original link text

‘Click here’ tells your reader nothing about where the link will take them. Tell the readers something about the destination by using link text that describes where the new link will take them. You don’t need to know much about HTML to do this, either; most blogging platforms — I use WordPress — help you to format correctly. And there are many web tutorials that you can use to learn HTML. I used W3Schools and love it. It’s so useful to know HTML, even if it’s just the basics.

Underlining does not belong in internet documents

Your users will want to click on the underlined text and be disappointed when they realise it isn’t a link to a site that’ll solve all their problems. And there are many other linking practises that you want to embrace or stay away from.

Please, no links to categories

Big online newspapers are the ones guilty of this. I am sure that it has some benefits for both the newspaper and for its readers. But which is better –  newspapers linking to categories within the text or our [learning how to] using the search box ourselves. Because that’s what these categories are. I’d rather that they, like blogs, use drop-down category boxes.

Twitter replies

This doesn’t really belong in my list. But I’m gonna touch on it regardless because I see so many people who are unaware of the convention. Twitter allows you to reply to a tweet by clicking on ‘reply’. This applies to all Twitter clients, even to cellphone applications. Please use it. It helps to keep tweets in context, especially when you’re replying to one of my tweets. And then I don’t need to reply with a ‘huh?’ to your tweet. This function didn’t work on 13 November but Twitter has fixed it since then.

One link to rule them all

So you’re writing about your company, blog, new book on Amazon, etc etc etc. One or two links to it is OK; anything more is overkill. Trust me, I saw the first link. I saw the second link. And my eyes are hurting from looking at the 435 other links in your blog post/article. Less is definitely more in this instance.

Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

November 19th, 2009 at 10:48 am

3rd World countries aint no more

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This video will change your life. And not just a small part of your life; it will change how you see South Africa; it will change how you see ‘developing countries’; and it will change how you see America.

Watch how Hans Rosling, professor at International Health at Karolinska Institutet  and the director of Gapminder Foundation, talk about how 1) ordinary people rarely talk about government data and 2) how ‘developing countries’ have made far bigger advances than we would like to give them credit for.

[ted id=92]

Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

November 6th, 2009 at 11:17 am

The internet is no meritocracy

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Meritocracy, noun, “a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.” — Merriam Websters.

The internet is not an equal playground. I thought this is obvious to all but I was wrong. Many think that as long as you’re online, you are just a line of text. And that your awesome content, eg, will rise to the top. This thinking claims that we cease to exist as men and women, white and black, African and American; we become citizens of the net. And that we can all be achievers, if we’re good enough.That’s what the Internet Founding Fathers thought back in the beginning.

But that isn’t true. There is plenty of misogyny online; POC bloggers are still left behind or shunted off to virtual reserves; and expensive bandwidth still prohibits many people all over the world from becoming active on the internet. It helps to be a white man in a white collar job who has access to fast broadband that doesn’t switch off every half an hour or so. It really does.

So please do not think the internet is the Great Big Hope. Yes, sure, we can’t see that someone is fat but when you write a fat acceptance blog or when you write a personal blog that upset people — for whatever reason — you do put your safety at risk. Even  software programmers can receive death threats.

This myth of meritocracy is so entrenched that very few are aware of it. Similar to fish swimming in water. Or the Matrix. And everyone has been born into this prison for the mind.

Racism on the internet

Blogging While Brown isn’t always fun. Whenever someone at a newspaper or an online media house makes a list of the top blogs, chances are that the list will feature very few POC bloggers. Gina McCauley, a WOC blogger,  said that

“Black bloggers link to other black bloggers, and progressive white bloggers link to other white progressive bloggers,”

There are few such studies on this subject, and David Sasaki’s blog post caused a big fuss in SA last year. But it’s true that white bloggers have mostly white blogging friends to whom they link. Either that or they just tend to read blogs that other white people write. There’s no branching out to read voices other than theirs, with experiences that differ to theirs. These apologists will claim that they read the best of what the web has to offer, regardless of who the author is. And they’ll probably also use the all-too-familiar catchphrase to ensure that we know they aren’t racist — “My best friend is black, ya know?”.

Sexism and the internet

Women are slut-shamed for the tiniest thing. Many comment threads — on blogs and on forums — start off  civil but  descend into chaos. Few of the tops users of any social community are women. Why? Could it perhaps be that men still have greater access to technology and that they still have more free time than women do? Women still do most of the household work and this means they have little time left for themselves, never mind editing Wikipedia.  But, I forget — “There are no women on the internet.” And the few women who are on the internet — who aren’t men with boobs, or boys — tend to get demotivated when they constantly observe how male-centric, ie,  old boys club,  the intertubes is.

And yes, social conditioning is also at play here. How often do young girls not feel that they aren’t qualified to speak or write about a topic? I see it in myself, too. I’d far rather edit a Wikipedia article than post a new one. Unless it is client related, of course. And most of the time I would only correct the grammar, not the facts. So perhaps it is based on personality and on gender. Not sex. Gender constructs shape our world and we all have to dance along; gender is a performance. And the perfect version of female gender — as per 1950s magazines and books — is unfortunately passive, coy, intellectually dull, and sexless.

Internet economics

Bandwidth isn’t cheap in most developing countries, some websites are considering limiting content to developing countries, and sometimes that interesting video you want to watch isn’t available or can not be viewed in your region. Other sites that restrict access based on geographics are Hulu, Pandora and Spotify. Techcrunch did a great article on how to get around these restrictions; however, the people who read Techcrunch are still an elite minority.

Lo-fi sites and broadband access

Computers are as big an indicator of economic success: not everyone can afford a Mac; fewer still can afford or be bothered to get proper software.

So yes, our hypothetical internet user has a 3G-enabled cellphone on which to use the internet. But the screen is tiny and the keyboard is as tiny; 2 things that might deter them from commenting on blogs or writing their own blog to promote their brand. Yes, they benefit by being on the internet already but very many things deter their full enjoyment of what the internet can offer: Flash websites, web browser compatibility, censorship, broadband cost.

Mobile web browsers are far more advanced than they had been 2 years ago. But they’re still getting a couple of things wrong. And the general public does not know that these browsers exist. Especially not with companies building  ‘lo’ versions of their sites. These versions are supposed to bring the internet to the masses. Um, OK.  How will that happen when the masses can only access a ‘lo’ version of a news site?

Internet reception is one of the biggest factors that limit uptake. South Africans get different signals, depending on where they are. The signal could change from 3G to EDGE by just moving the cellphone around a bit. That messes with the user experience and could lead to frustration aka ‘watching paint dry’. A few European countries — France, Switzerland, and Finland — have either declared internet access a ‘human right’ or have declared it a ‘legal right’. Other countries that have short-term and long-term broadband speed plans are Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark and Taiwan. And the UK government has a 245-page pdf available on their Digital Britain initiative, which aims to introduce a universal 2 Megabit/s line internet access by 2012. And the Federal Communications Commission — US-based — released a 168-page report on how to get all American citizens wired up, and by when.

I’m not even going to contrast this to South Africa — with promises of broadband for the masses; however, there are a few private initiatives that wants the South African government to adopt a broadband strategy.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

October 29th, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I’m not bored of social media but…

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I was confounded when @PluginID told me he’s a bit off social media. This was only a couple of months ago. I couldn’t understand why but now I do: it’s draining. Not always but very often it feels as though you have to read, digg, vote for and tweet as much as possible. And that, friends, is draining.

Last week I tweeted that I may delete my MyFace account. Only @the_dre was in favour of me doing it; @sessa, @laurakim123 and @shahil were all rallying behind my keeping the account.

I deleted the account a half an hour after I had asked the question on twitter.

And I feel lighter. That MyFace account has seen too many misunderstandings between me and 2 of the people whom I were dating at the time. Yes, I caused the misunderstandings and fights by posting too many personal things on there but still.

So I think I’ll amend my social media mantra only slightly. I will lay off on Twitter, I no longer have a MyFace account, and I will blog more. I will still use Twitter, Friendfeed and whatever else is available but I will not use those channels excessively. Things have changed since I made a slip of the tongue  — too much of a good thing is not enough — my mantra. No more excess for this lady. A bit of mystique would do me good.

Update: It’s been nearly two days of no Twitter for me. And it’s been awesome.

Update on 28/02/2010: I deleted my Friendfeed account a couple of months after I wrote this post.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

February 25th, 2009 at 10:23 am

Joy-Mari’s social media mantra

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I <3 Social Media. I’m sure I was one of the first South Africans to get a Flickr Pro account [citation needed]. I make jokes that only other geeks would appreciate and I rush to try the newest Beta of whatever.

And I’ve matured slightly online. Slightly.

So here’s my Social Media Manifesto.

  • I don’t have to follow you back. I use certain criteria and decide whether I want to follow you. This could take 2 days, or it could take 2 months. Understand that it’s about me and my quest for information, entertainment and more information.
  • I won’t feel bad if you do not follow me back. iPromise.
  • This is me. I’m human. I make mistakes and I say st00pid things sometimes. So do you. But I also hand out champagne to my new tweeple
  • I tend to go overboard with a new service but that phase only lasts 2 or 3 months. (Which is actually a damn long time…)
  • I try to interact with my ‘friends’ and my ‘followers’. This does not me a stalker make.
  • I don’t do Facebook apps.
  • Connect with me on Twitter, Friendfeed, Tumblr or LinkedIn. But I’m iffy about accepting more Facebook ‘friends’, especially those whom I have never met IRL.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

January 15th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Digital stuff

I want to write too many blogs

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Back in Two thousand and great I had this crazy want; it isn’t a need. I want to have 4 or 5 well-written blogs. And I want to write all of ‘em. I’m well on my way there, too. But should I?

Two of my blogs now have a Page Rank of 4. W00t. I’m impressed with myself. But that isn’t all one should aim for, right? I blog because I like writing and because I’m fond of ideas, especially my own. Being included in international blog roles also help the old ego. Erm, the ideas. Well, I get these ideas when I’m reading others’ blog posts; I get them when I eat my All Bran Flakes in the morning; and I get them when I walk to work in the morning. They come easily most of the time. And then I want to share ‘em with the wwworld.

But how many blogs should one have? I have been reading Law and Letters for some time. Belle’s writing is … better than mine will ever be. And she manages to have a multi-discipline blog, so why can’t I, too? I have been thinking of combining all my interests — there are many, reader — into one blog. I would write about race, feminism, grammar, the digital life, economics and politics. In one blog. Is that too much? And hey, let’s not forget fashion theory. Just to shake things up a bit. Just to show my frivolous-cum-vulgar side. Oh, and ‘cum’ does have the same pronunciation as that-word-which-we-do-not-use-in-polite-company.

Sure, I can use Twitter to tweet my thoughts. It’s a great thing, this Twitter. But I think I’m renewing my love relationship with blogging during this Two thousand and fine. And I’ll consider having only two blogs instead of the five I had planned during the last few hours of Two thousand and great ;)

Happy Two thousand and fine!

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

January 1st, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Even Web 2.0 has a Digital Divide

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Back before the internet became mainstream in South Africa — 2004, I think — my then boyfriend got me to download Opera Mini for my k700i. I was reluctant to do so; I didn’t think I needed the internet on my phone, too.

My resistance didn’t last long and I have been using this browser ever since. I’m an Opera Mini Missionary. So I find it surprising that some people still choose to use the default browser of their phone. Unless you’re using a phone with Windows Mobile you should consider getting a proper browser.

But this isn’t my biggest gripe, actually. My biggest gripe is with companies who build these mobile sites. I’m not sure whether anyone tests it out first. Or perhaps the tester thinks the end-users won’t be interested in building content.

So this means that it’s difficult, nay, impossible, to edit a Wikipedia page by using the mobile version. I played around with the default web browser of my k800i yesterday. The page looks terrible and takes long to load. The information that gets displayed is perhaps only a quarter of what one can see on the ‘real’ web; the page on grammar is divided into three pages.

I also tested the local iAfrica site. I’m not impressed. The News24 site is even worse than iAfrica. The font is small and users cannot comment on articles. Is this the Web 2.0 Digital Divide?

Not even Opera Mini is perfect: it doesn’t recognise predictive text; however, the browser of my phone does. But Opera Mini just makes life so much easier. So I can’t imagine switching. Unless someone develops a new mobile browser that can use predictive text when typing in a Google query *and* doesn’t ever convert sites to the mobile version.

But not many people know about Opera Mini or alternative mobile browsers. Hell, most people do not even know that any WAP-enabled phone can connect to the internet.

So what does this mean for us in South Africa? Most black people do not have access to the traditional web. But almost everyone has a cellphone. The purpose of the internet is no longer just to get information; it is to get information, be entertained and create content. And it is pretty damn impossible to create any type of content with a mobile browser.

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Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

December 30th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Last night’s Heavy Chef session was meh

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I forgot to wear my name badge to the Heavy Chef thingy last night. I only realised it when I got home and my circa 2006 Kauai name badge fell out of my laptop bag. I wear it to work sometimes – today – to freak my colleagues out. It works so well!

But back to the Heavy Chef event. @Winterboer and I got there at almost exactly 17:30 and settled down to some socialising. Well, actually, I didn’t socialise much last night. I’m shy so I prefer smaller groups of people. But somehow @eyespy managed to get a few good shots of me. ;)

I finally met @Amabacha and met @frichter again after 7 years – we were waiters at the Mount Nelson Hotel back in 2001. I started talking to Matt, another SEO copywriter, and Bruce Wade before the talks started.

Simon Leps, David Duarte and Jon Cherry talked about Mobile, what we can expect in 2009 and how marketing is changing. It was my first such session so I was excited.

I’m sure the evening was informative to some people; however, I didn’t learn anything new. I connected wif a few new people  but the evening was disappointing. Perhaps I was expecting a more digitally savvy crowd.I kept thinking that we all probably read the same blogs: Seth Godin, Six pixels of seperation, Micropersuation, Digital Immigrant and all the rest. Are we still only regurgitating international ideas? And does this mean South African marketers only have to read those blogs to be above average?

People were taking notes on notepads! Isn’t that blasphemous? Where were the se.ri.as.ly. digital okes? Other people were handing out business cards. I still can’t understand that. I will forgive someone like Sybil Sands. Her business  ’card’  is beyond awesome. But if you’re not Sybil why are you still handing out business cards? Your website should contain all the links to your internet persona: what you do, your Twitter, your Friendfeed, your LinkedIn and your Pipl. Come on, people, it’s not that difficult.

Something else that I noticed last night: where were the questions that challenged? @cluckhoff, @eyespy and Matt, the copywriter dude who sat next to me, were among some of the only people who were asking intelligent questions.

What surprised me most was these okes’ research. I expected more. Why not mention Trendwatching 2009? There are a myriad such trend reports out, one of which is IAB Smartbrief. I get their weekly newsletter and it’s always an interesting read. Another report that has created interest this year was the Opera Mini State of the mobile web.

Also, I do not use Mxit much but I do know a bit about it. Mxit has been trying to integrate with as many IMs as possible: mobimii, MSN, GTalk, AIM, QQ, GaduGadu. Hell, I’ve never even heard of these last two IMs before. Yes, there have been problems with MSN integration but that is supposedly sorted out now. Not that anyone still uses MSN…

And finally, I wished we could have had more time to discuss teh supposed ‘evil’ of Google and Facebook Friend Connect. My issue wif this? None at all. I live a transparent life. Well, mostly. My internet life is open to all, except for my Facebook. I don’t know why but that’s that.

What did I like about the evening? It was a chance to flirt wif ouens such as @Amabacha and LOL at the T-shirt that @wikidknickers was wearing. And I will most certainly wear my name badge to the next Geek event. It’ll confuse everyone: “So, Joy-Mari, you work for Kauai?” And I’ll laugh and say that no, actually I am a Word Whisperer ;)

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Update:

Thanks to Gabrielle Rosario for telling me Simon Leps, not Grant Fleming, spoke to us last night.

Written by Joy-Mari Cloete

December 11th, 2008 at 12:14 pm