What To Do About Pings

If you’re just starting a WordPress blog, you may be in the dark about those comments you get that are pings. Do you delete them, approve them, or just ignore them and hope they go away?

Ping Defined

A ping or pingback (trackback) is a way for the authors of other blogs to leave comments without visiting your blog. These pingbacks or trackbacks are citations of articles found on other blogs. When a blogger cites an article from another site in his own articles, this is a ping, and it allows online conversations to be easily maintained among various site users and websites.

A technical definiton: a ping is a packet of information, a program, that allows a computer to send a request to another computer somewhere else on the network or the Internet in order to determine if the computer exists and is responding. It pings to a specific address and waits for the appropriate response, like a submarine sonar that makes a sound when it bounces off physical objects.

What To Do

Hit Delete, and it goes away. Hit Accept, and it gets posted as a comment. In the case of Pings, “it” is the URL from which the ping originated. The URL link takes you to where your article URL is posted on the other website. Also, you’ll see the domain name, and you can run a whois check if you wish.

Some people spend a lot of time checking the site that originated the Ping. They want to know the PageRank of the site, the credibility of the domain, the Alexa rank, the identity of the blogger, what the profile information says, etc.

Bad Neighborhood

That’s a lot of time spent researching something as simple as a Ping. Of course, their concern is that they may be posting pingback spam, but I guess I value the time spent in researching more than the possibility that I might get listed by Bad Neighborhood for having pingback spam on my websites.

In fact, when I was first getting acquainted with pings, I spent nearly 2 hours trying to find a link on this blog that they said qualified me as a bad neighbor. It was some link to an Amazon product, and I never could find the post where the bad link was located. If you read this blog often, you know that I review a lot of books, DVDs, etc. With more than 700 posts on this blog, finding 1 bad link is like looking for the old needle in the haystack. That’s when I decided this was just another time suck that would make you crazy if you obsessed about it.

Sane Policy

I adopted the sane policy of clicking the trackback, taking a quick look at the website that had posted the link to my blog post, and immediately either clicking Approve or Delete. I Approve just about anything except sites that conflict with my stated Editorial Policy, i.e., Adult content etc.

Knock Yourself Out

If you want to obsess though, visit Bad Neighborhood or OneCoolSite. You can check any of the popular PageRank sites if that’s a concern and Google the site owner if you’re really interested.

Takeaway Truth

Be reasonable, and beware the time sucks that steal away your day.

6 Research Tips

Let’s start the month with tips to help you Write Better and Write Faster.

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, these research tips will lend authenticity to your writing.

1. Take a class.

Whether you have a sleuth who is a knitter or a hero who is a winemaker, what better way to learn all about the subject than to take a class. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time to do this. However, if you’re writing something because you already have a deep and abiding interest in it, this is the way to go, especially if the writing is the first book in a series.

2. Subscribe to periodicals.

There are print and online magazines that cover any subject you can imagine. If you’re writing about collecting thimbles or grooming dogs, peruse a couple of magazines about the subject because they’ll show you what is of interest to people who do these things as well as the kind of advertisements targeted to these people.

3. Look it up. You can research online and/or in printed books. Make sure you have a depth of subject matter and that the facts can be cross-referenced and verified. Printed books are usually fact-checked whereas material on the Internet is not. You might want to get a Firefox addon called Google Scholar to help you research faster.

4. Talk to the reference librarian. By all means, visit your local library and talk to the reference librarian who can point you toward applicable research materials.

5. Ask an expert. Take advantage of the knowledge and experience offered by an expert in the field. Book an interview with the police department liaison or with a cosmetic surgeon if that’s related to your writing. There are experts everywhere and most of them light up when you say you’re writing about their field.

6. Observe for yourself. Want to know what it’s like to work on an assembly line? Visit a manufacturer for a tour. Want to know how long it takes to drive from city hall to a museum? Make the trip and log the info yourself.

Takeaway Truth

Authenticity in writing is the hallmark of the professional.

Art Resources for Indie Publishers

Welcome to this week’s installment of Exclusively eBooks: *Everything you always wanted to know about eBooks but didn’t know who to ask.

I’m posting this book as a serial with bite-sized chunks of information to help you in your quest to publish an eBook. Check out the Table of Contents for the other chapters that have been published.

This week’s installment continues the discussion of the art required for a book. So welcome to Chapter 3: Art, Part 3, Art Resources for Indie Publishers. If you’re going the DIY route, this may help you.

Stock Photography

Stock Photography is the term applied to photographs licensed for specific purposes. Thanks to the Internet, professional photography is available to anyone who’s willing to register, search through images, and use the photo in keeping with the applicable Image License Agreement.

Just about everyone refers to the above as stock photography, but, in actuality, microstock photography services is what non-professional users access. The two terms have become more or less interchangeable. Getty Images and Corbis are the most well-known stock photography companies, but the Internet offers many microstock photography websites with searchable databases. For our purposes, I’m just going to refer to this affordable photographic art as stock photography.

Some photographs are offered free for use on eBook covers. Others may require a minimal fee for use. Best of all, you can find the images by searching the site’s database, purchase them, and download them instantly.

Remember

1. You must register in order to use the site’s images.

2. If a fee is required, you may have to purchase a subscription plan or purchase a block of credits.

3. Most images that request a fee are priced according to size with the lowest price for X-small, and the highest for X-large image size.

4. In downloading the image, you want the highest resolution image possible. If all you need is a thumbnail image, the smallest size image will work.

5. Royalty-free does not necessarily mean the image is available without cost. Some stock images are offered by the artist free of cost. Other images require a fee to be paid to download the image. Royalty-free means that you don’t have to pay a fee each time you use the image. If it’s free or you pay a fee, the image is yours to use as often as you wish. Check the Image License Agreement to know the limits of your usage.

Image License Agreement

Generally speaking, the following represents a usual Image License Agreement at most Stock Photography websites. Read the agreement for whichever website you plan to use and make sure what you want to do is offered by the Image License Agreement. Always follow the agreement and the Terms and Conditions of Service of the website.

Sample — You May Use The Image

* In digital format on websites, multimedia presentations, broadcast film and video, cell phones.
* In printed promotional materials, magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, flyers, CD/DVD covers, etc.
* Along with your corporate identity on business cards, letterhead, etc.
* To decorate your home, your office or any public place.

Sample — You May Not Use The Image

* For pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, for spreading hate or discrimination, or to defame or victimize other people, societies, cultures.
* To endorse products and services if it depicts a person.
* In a way that can give a bad name to the Stock Photography Website or the person(s) depicted on the Image.
* As part of a trademark, service mark or logo.
* Selling and redistributing the image either individually or grouped with other images is strictly forbidden.

Contact The Photographer

The Use and Do Not Use sections are usually followed by a statement to contact the photographer if you want to use the image in any way not specified by the above, for example, some of the uses listed below:

* In website templates that you want to sell or distribute.
* For creating printed reproductions that you want to sell.
* On “print on demand” items, i. e., tee shirts, postcards, mouse pads, mugs (products personalized on sites like Cafepress), or other mass-produced items.

Stock/Microstock Photography Websites

Stock Exchange says that they are the leading free stock photography website. I know I use them a lot, and I always include a photo credit embedded in the image to recognize the photographer who made his work available for free. Stock Exchange is now owned by Getty Images.

Reflex Stock offers a subscription plan but also has individual pricing that’s affordable for many images.

Big Stock Photo, owned by Shutterstock, is also affordable and operates on a credit system as does most of the websites where you have to pay a fee for images.

Cutcaster is very low-priced and very user friendly. I’ve uploaded some photographs there and so has my daughter the artist.

Clipart Graphics offers high quality clip art, and there are some book covers that might call for that kind of design.

Free Digital Photos offers free and fee-based images.

StockVault offers free stock photos and images for personal, educational and non-commercial usage. Read their agreement to see if you can use them.

FreeImages offer free images and only request a credit line.

Dreamstime is another site I use frequently because they have a good selection, and they’re reasonably priced.

Shutterstock is the largest subscription-based stock photo agency in the world. These are a bit pricey, but if the perfect image is here. . . .

iStockPhoto touts themselves as “the web’s original source for user-generated, royalty-free stock photos, illustrations, video, audio and Flash.”

Fotosearch has been around more than 20 years, and they’re another resource that’s pricey.

Join me next time for Chapter 3: Art, Part 3, Freelance Graphic Artists, a resource listing for professional book cover design.

In the meantime, check out the eBook reviews and/or Kindle lessons which I post on Saturdays. Why Kindle? Because it’s my favorite eBook reading device, and I’ve learned a lot about the cute little toy. Kindle rocks!

Want your own Kindle? Just click here.

Takeaway Truth

The future is bright for writers who brave this new world of publishing. Join me as I follow this virtual yellow brick road. Destination? The Emerald City, named for all the greenbacks waiting for successful indie authors upon arrival.

Dog Life Jackets? Yes!

The ongoing recession has seen many dogs abandoned. Unable to be adopted, they’re cruelly left to fend for themselves. Orange Dog, a Canadian charity, is rescuing these pets from California and flying them to Canada for adoption. You can support this operation and help fund them by purchasing an item like dog life jackets from the store on their website.

Why Orange?

Orange is the official color of dog rescue, and all profits from Orange Dog go to pet rescue. Their website store is filled with unique pet products like their flotation devices for dogs. These life jackets are perfect for the four-legged friend who goes boating with his or her master.

After all, even though dogs can swim, and love to do so, a capsized boat or an accident in a stormy sea, or a placid lake, might result in your dog swimming until overwhelmed with exhaustion. No animal can swim endlessly. Why not protect your furry friend?

Takeaway Truth

Dogs give unconditional love. Honor these loyal, loving animals by supporting rescue groups.

Review: How to Make Money with Social Media by Turner and Shah

How to Make Money with Social Media: An Insider’s Guide on Using New and Emerging Media to Grow Your Business

Authors: Jamie Turner and Reshma Shah
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 990 KB
Print Length: 224 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
ASIN: B003ZUYIZU
Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (43 customer reviews)

Disclaimer

I believe, as Danielle Steel once said: “A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.” I never want to demolish anyone’s best effort so I carefully compose a book review.

Based on the long descriptive title of this book, I simply can’t give the content of this book a glowing review. However, there’s still a lot of basic information about traditional and online marketing that may make the book valuable to beginners.

Amazon Product Description

“Want to earn big profits from social media? Now, there’s an authoritative, up-to-the-minute resource you can trust–and use.

This in-the-trenches guide is written by experts who’ve developed money-making marketing campaigns for many of the world’s largest companies. Jamie Turner and Reshma Shah, Ph.D., combine practical strategies and proven execution techniques to show how to avoid crucial pitfalls that other companies have encountered, how to make the most of limited resources, and how to strengthen your brand instead of placing it at risk.

Turner and Shah present realistic guidance for setting objectives, assessing competitors, crafting strategies, selecting platforms, integrating social media into broader marketing programs, and effectively measuring results. Whether you’re a marketer, executive, or entrepreneur, this book will help you drive maximum business value from social media–starting right now.”

Praise

The book is written in a conversational style that makes it accessible to just about anyone. Much information is presented about traditional marketing concepts, contrasting them with online marketing concepts.

For someone not currently on Facebook, Twitter, et al, the book is a primer that will acquaint the non-user with social media.

Room For Improvement

I’m afraid the book just doesn’t live up to its title. The text is a bit redundant. Innumerable times, we are told that social media is a dialogue. That’s repeated often, like sound bites from a TV infomercial. In fact, the text rather reminds me of an infomercial in that you’re repeatedly told that you’ll learn how to make social media work for you, but the concrete, step by step, details are never revealed.

Most of the book reads like a teaser: tells you what you’re going to learn, tells you about traditional marketing facts, theories, and concepts, tells you why those don’t work, tells you again that you’ll learn about using social media, gives some generic information about social media, then seemingly repeats the process in the next chapter. You get pulled along, looking for the solid information that the title leads you to expect. Unfortunately, you never get a payoff of specific ways to make money with social media.

In Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the authors know social media, but they don’t effectively transfer that knowledge to this book. I think if the authors changed their slant and marketed the book to beginners that they’d get far better feedback and reviews.

For a beginner who wants to dip a toe into the pool of social media, this book would provide a good, general overview of the subject, enabling those new to social media to grasp the concepts and get started. Unfortunately, for someone who already possesses general knowledge of social media, this book just doesn’t deliver what the title says.

I read the Kindle Edition of this book. (Love my Kindle!) Want your own Kindle? Just click here.

Takeaway Truth

A good book is a little vacation from the cares of life.

Online Banking Safety

I’ve been reading a lot about online banking security because a friend had been hacked. I posted some of this on SlingWords, my other blog. This is important so I thought I’d pass along these tips about how to be safe and secure when online banking to my readers here.

Of course, if you’re older than a gnat, you know that nothing is ever 100% safe. There’s just no way you can achieve that. However, it is possible to manage the inherent risk in online banking.

You won’t be surprised to know that most financial institutions invest a great deal to make their websites secure. That’s why hackers and scammers usually don’t attack the bank’s website. They go to the less secure customer who uses the website.

Cybercrime Growing

Cybercriminals try every way possible to gain access to the customer’s bank account by using malware or by tricking the customer into providing confidential information in a phishing scheme. In 2009, in the UK, more than 59 million pounds were defrauded through online banking scams, and that was a 14% increase over the previous year.

Here in the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported scams resulted in $150 million loss for bank customers, small to midsize businesses, and that happened in the fall of 2009. Just the fall!

Don’t Get Phished

A typical phishing scheme is to send an email that says your bank needs some of your account information updated. If you click on the enclosed link, you arrive at what looks like an official page, but it’s really a website put up by the crooks. Any information you enter, i.e., login name, password, PIN, etc. will then be used to empty your account and then used for identity theft crimes like obtaining credit cards.

Then there are the Trojans that install keylogging software on your computer just because you opened a bad email or visited a rogue website from clicking a link that was in the bad email.

Everything you keyboard gets logged by the bad guys, and that means your bank info, credit card numbers if you go online to make a purchase, logins and passwords for everyplace you visit and so on.

Secure Practices

1. When accessing your bank account online, purchasing anything online, or entering private information, always make sure “https” precedes the URL in the address bar. A lock icon should also be shown.

2. Always remember that banks, credit card companies, and the Social Security administration will never email you to confirm or update information. If you get such an email and you think that it’s really legit, call them or go in person to verify. Do NOT click any kind of email link.

3. Regularly scan your computer with a good security software that you keep updated with the latest virus definitions.

4. Keep your software and browsers updated when notified of patches available.

5. As I wrote in 3 EZ Security Steps, do not use the same password for all your accounts.

Takeaway Truth

You can’t achieve absolute safety, but you can minimize your risk by taking these steps.

Customize Your Kindle

When you first get your Kindle set up, you’re ready to read. You don’t have to wait to use it, but you may want to immediately take these tips to protect your new toy. Some may call this accessorizing the Kindle, but this goes beyond pimping out a Kindle. This is about protecting the handy little gadget.

Must Have

ClearTouch Anti-Glare Screen Protector will keep your Kindle screen from getting scratched. You know, the kind of clear protective cling you place on a SmartPhone to keep it from getting scratched. I’ve included a link, but you can search Amazon or Google for retailers who sell these if you want to shop around.

Silicone Skin Case Gel Clear Cover will protect your Kindle from bumps, bruises, and other mishaps when you toss it in your purse or backpack. Or even drop it occasionally. It also provides a non-slippery surface so I can prop it up just about anywhere, and it stays in place.

These come in colors and clear. I first bought a mint green one first. Then, my daughter, ever the artist, ordered a design skin and installed it when I wasn’t looking. So I replaced the green silicone cover with a clear one so I could see the pretty design.

GelaSkins Protective Kindle Skin are decorative vinyl skins like the one my daughter gave me. You just peel the vinyl off the paper and stick them on the appropriate hard surface area of the Kindle.

There are fancy leather covers, but the silicone cover works better for the way I use my Kindle, and the way I haul it around.

Next time I’ll list a couple of more accessories you might need for complete round the clock Kindle reading – any time, anywhere.

I love my Kindle. Want your own Kindle? Just click here.

Takeaway Truth

Kindle makes reading possible – any time, anywhere!

R U Ready for Some Football?!!

Are you ready for some football? Some hoopla? Some hype? Some over-the-top promotion? Some really expensive commercials? If so, then you’re ready for this year’s Super Bowl.

No Grammar for Grownups today because it’s time to get ready for the big game.

Here’s your checklist:

1. Mountains of high fat, high salt, zero-nutrition chips and crackers, and crunchy snacks?

2. Oceans of even higher fat, salty dips and spreads?

3. Some protein dishes disguised as hot wings, fried chicken, smoked brisket, etc.?

4. Is an ice chest full of beer and soft drinks?

5. Brownies, cookies, cupcakes, and other sugary goodies?

6. Every television in the house tuned to the game?

Then you are indeed ready for some football! Let’s get ready to rumble!

Takeaway Truth

Super Bowl Sunday comes only once a year. Thank goodness!

Technology Says I Love You

Next week is Valentine’s Day, the day to celebrate love and all the goodness that love brings to your life. Now is the time to be shopping for a present for your sweetheart.

Today I’m giving you some gift suggestions — ways to use technology to express your loving sentiments. You probably think I’m going to suggest ordering chocolates or flowers online, but that’s too simple.

Let’s broaden our horizons and find different ways to use technology to express your love for your Valentine with technology gifts, and I don’t mean the usual “buy an iPod or camera” advice. These gifts are relatively inexpensive, super useful, and show that you have your sweetheart’s best interests in mind.

Outlet Man Surge Protector

A surge protector shaped like a guy. This grounded multi-outlet with circuit breaker switch holds up to 4 adapters of almost any size. On/off indicator light tells you when the limbs are receiving power. Sold by Kim Komando for $24.95, this useful and whimsical gadget is great for a guy or a girl.

RFID Protection for Guys and Girls

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are now found in many devices. Many newly issued credit cards now include this kind of communication chip with your personal information stored on it. Data on the card can be read from a distance, and the bad guys know this. Protect the private data stored on your cards by putting them in an RFID blocking wallet.

For men, here’s the RFID Blocking Wallet sold by Kim Komando for $29.95.

For women, here’s aCard Sleeve for your purse that does the same thing. This one sells for $9.95.

Mouse Hand Warmer

Do you know how cold your hands get in the winter? Especially your mouse hand. Select one of these mouse hand warmers, and you won’t have that problem anymore.

Takeaway Truth

Technology gifts not only say I love you but also they say I want to help you live better.

Easy Web Design Eliminates Difficulty

I’m always surprised when I discover a business that doesn’t have a website or a website that’s little more than a placeholder on the Internet. Usually, these business owners are intimidated by the whole web design process. They don’t know that there are ways to create their niche in cyberspace using an easy web design that’s affordable and easily accessible.

Today’s Business World

Let’s face it. In today’s business climate, you must have a website, and that website must give existing customers content of value that makes them repeat visitors. Your website also must recruit new visitors to become customers.

How do you do this? You make it easy for customers to purchase from your website by not just having a shopping cart, but a purchase protocol using the best in security to protect your customers’ data and privacy. You don’t want your customers wondering if it’s safe to buy something from you because that doubt loses sales.

Good Website Design

If you’re thinking about creating a new website or renovating an existing one, maybe you should start with the fundamentals. MarketJuice gives you the basic information you need to know from selecting the right domain name to designing the website with the functionality you need. Believe it or not, there are many options in website design from creating it to be an online brochure to a retail store front to an interactive resource where you and your customers can engage in a dialogue.

Hire Experts

Most successful business people know that they can’t possibly know everything about every aspect of business themselves. They know that sometimes you have to hire an expert. If you’re not a web design professional, then hire the expert help you need to make the most of your marketing and promotion dollars. They can point you in the right direction, and, often, that means they may have solutions out-of-the-box, so to speak, rather than expensive customization.

Takeaway Truth

A website means a store that’s open 24/7. “We never close” could indeed be your motto when you establish an effective, affordable website.