Articles by Shane Ede

About Shane Ede

Shane Ede is an IT guy by day and a Entrepreneurial Blogger by night. You can follow him here on Thatedeguy or over on Twitter and Google+.

Is Technology Becoming Too Ubiquitous?

As a techy, and self-proclaimed geek, it pains me a bit to ask this question.  Are we too enamored of our technology?  I’m not quite old enough to remember when television was black and white.  But, I am old enough to remember when cellular phones were new, and people still had land lines in their homes.  My household hasn’t had a home phone for over a decade.  And, do you remember when a cell phone just performed phone calls?  I do.  Now, I have a phone whose secondary purpose is to make actual voice phone calls.

Even smart phones, it seems, are on the precipice of becoming outdated.  Every new technology announcement seems to have some talk about new technology that’s integrated into this device or that device.  Watches that operate as phones, and who knows what else.  I even saw a shower head with an integrated speaker.  And the hottest new electric car, the Tesla Model S, has it’s own internal Ethernet network, that Tesla seems to monitor in some way.

When is Too Much Tech, Too Much?

At what point does this stop?  Do we get so far as to have networked devices implanted into our skulls that integrate with a mini, flexible display surgically attached to our eyes for a heads up display?  When does the six million dollar man come into play?  It’s not that far in the future.  If I, not quite middle aged yet, can remember a time when technology required a 28.8kbs connection to a modem, and storage was measured in Mb, not Tb, how far are we really from implantable devices?  How far are we from being so dependent upon our technologies that we cease to remember how to function without them?

What Happens When Tech Fails?

And if we’re right around the corner from a world where tech is so ubiquitous as to be a part of us, literally, what happens when that technology fails?  What does a BSOD do to an implanted system?  I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that it potentially could be bad.

Even now, with our smart phones and iPads seemingly attached to us, we sometimes find ourselves out of sorts if we suddenly lose our data signal.  We’re lost in an analog world that seems disconnected from our perceived “real world”.  If we integrate our technology that much further into our lives, and it fails, do we too fail?

Let’s assume that the next Tesla model uses it’s internal network to control it’s voltage to the batteries and engine.  When the internal switch fails, the car fails.  Unless there’s some sort of failover switch.  Worst case scenario, you’ve got a really expensive lawn ornament.  Maybe Tesla fixes it eventually.  But, if the implant in your brain decides to malfunction and sends a surge into your brain, you could become the lawn ornament.

Is It Time to Break from Tech?

As geeks, I think we all try and stay on the cutting edge.  We like to have the newest devices, the newest software, and find the best ways for them all to work together.  My generation hasn’t always had technology, but we’ve spent the majority of our time with some form of technology.  The youngest generations have grown up with technology that is leaps and bounds above what my generation had.  They’ve got more ram in their watches than I had in my first 3 or 4 PCs.  Possibly combined.

If you look around, the proliferation of tech has also brought about the proliferation of people looking to get away from it all.  There’s a new article, seemingly every other day, that talks about how refreshing taking a weekend (or week, or month, or year) away from technology is.

Technology is cool.  Technology is awesome.  Technology gives us the ability to do things in ways that we’ve never been able to do them before.  Heck, farmers can literally program the layout of their fields into a tractor, set the computer to plow, and then just ride along to make small corrections.

Because technology is always entering new spaces, in new ways, we always clamor to give it a try and to make it useful.  Rarely do we question what the cost of it is.  Of course, I don’t mean the monetary cost.  But the cost of what we lose in the process.  As texting becomes more and more used, many of us forget what it’s like to have a face to face conversation.  Or we forget what it’s like to have to wait an hour or two to know whether we have new email or not.  That’s the simple stuff though.  If self-driving cars become as widespread as smart phones, will we also forget how to drive?  It’s all well and good until technology fails.

It’s time we start using and adopting tech in a conscientious manner.  It’s time we make an effort to not forget what it’s like to have to do things without technology.  Even if you don’t have entire days set aside to be free from technology, maybe an hour or two here and there to spend without technology, doing something easily done with technology.  Write a letter.  Remember what it’s like to do things the “hard way.”  Most of them really aren’t all that “hard” anyways.

What do you think about the proliferation of technology?  For the better?  For the worse?  Or, just meh?

Are You Doing Social Wrong?

No matter where you look online, there are experts that are saying that, if you want to win online, you must win in social.  And the truth of it all is that they are right.  You must win at social if you want to win online.  More and more content is being digested there.  More and more people are using social as the only source of information.  Unfortunately, many of you are doing social very wrong, and risk losing what foothold you have.

How you’re doing social wrong.

The single biggest thing that most of you can’t seem to figure out is that social is, well, social.  Mostly, those of you that are playing the game as if it were traditional marketing.  It’s not. Social WrongThis isn’t newspaper, or television, or even radio.  You don’t get to just develop your marketing plan, and push your marketing out and wait for the customers to roll in.  It won’t happen.  Not only will it not work for you, but it’s very likely to convince many of the users to disengage from you altogether.

Too many of you are performing the equivalent of hit-and-run social media.  You sign in long enough to drop your promotional tweet, facebook post, or other self-serving post, then running off to go about your business.  And yet, you can’t seem to garner any real growth or conversation.

Maybe you have even gone beyond that and are trying to return some value to your customers by posting coupons and giveaways.  I’m sure that your level of interaction really jumps when you do that too.  But, if it’s dropping back down to normal levels on your other posts, you’re still doing it wrong.

How you can start doing social right.

For the love of all that is digital, start being social on social.  If you really want results, you must start the conversation.  Interact with the people you would have as consumers.  They aren’t just wallets walking around, but actual humans with human thoughts and emotions.  And, for the most part, humans are social beings.

If you’ve ever been to a large social event, you’ll have noticed that the people at the event usually fall into immediate groups.  Maybe it’s the person they met right away in the hotel lobby, or someone they know from another event.  What you won’t notice are people just walking up and introducing themselves to each other.  Sure, there’ll be one or two people that do this, but for the most part, they’ll be sitting in their small groups, or alone at their tables, not really interacting with anyone at all.

If you want to grow your network at an event like this, those are the low hanging fruit.  You can walk right over to the table, introduce yourself and ask if you can sit down.  It’s not so much different on social.  The majority of the people are not going to “walk” up to your social account and interact on a regular basis.  Instead, they’ll wait until they have a problem with your product or service and you’ll know when they start blasting you.

Truly taking advantage of social means being proactive, and reaching out to customers.  Not when they have a problem with your company (although that’s also important), but when they don’t have a problem.  When they’re the ones sitting alone at a table in social, maybe they’ve mentioned your company or a product that’s similar to yours, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.

Which doesn’t mean you immediately start blasting them with promotional talk.  An actual conversation.

Consider; You have two people who want to sell you something.  One of them is a friend, and the other is not.  Which of them is more likely to get your business?  The friend.  Why?  Because you have an existing relationship with the friend.  To some degree, you trust the friend to not sell you up the creek and to treat you right in the transaction.

I doubt that you’ll ever reach the point where a social customer is going to consider you a true friend.  But, you can build relationships that will build trust in your company and your brand that give the customer the same trust.  If that relationship exists and the customer truly can believe that you aren’t going to disappear as soon as the sale is made, you’ll earn a lot more business through social.

Building those relationships doesn’t have to take all of your time.  Unless you’re rolling out a social team for a major corporation, you maybe don’t even need a full-time employee to manage the accounts.  With the right tools, you can set up alerts to notify your social media manager of mentions of your brand, mentions of similar products, and even certain activities.  When those alerts roll in, it can mean a quick 5-10 minute run through to respond, to open up the conversation, or answer the questions.

With the right social media strategy, you can be building up relationships with customers by reaching out and having real interactions with them.  Those interactions will grow the number of people listening and can help you grow the loyalty of your customer base.  It’s only a part of the overall business equation, but as more and more people migrate to the social platforms, it’s becoming an ever increasingly important part of an overall business marketing plan.

What are you doing right on social?

Are Blog Carnivals Negative SEO?

I recently read a post from Mike on Jim’s site Microblogger that shows some pretty irrefutable proof that blog carnivals are dead.  Or, at least that using them for link building can have the opposite effect that you might like to have on your site.  In the article, Mike goes through the work he did, and explains how he then used the Google Disavow tool to disavow some links.  Most of those links were from blog carnivals and blog festivals.  The results he gets are pretty spectacular, really.  He’s got some nice graphs to show it, but I won’t be stealing those, so click on the link above to see them.

Hurting Your Friends with Google’s Disavow Tool

One of the first things that popped into my head when I read the article on Microblogger was that I had hosted a few blog carnivals on Beating Broke.  And what would happen if, instead of first requesting the links be removed, someone that had been included in those carnivals just decided to go straight to the disavow tool and disavow the link?  Would it negatively effect my site?  What if I followed the advice of the article and asked for links to be removed and then disavowed the rest?  Would I be negatively effecting the owners of those sites?

In short; would I be hurting my blogging friends by disavowing links from carnivals they had hosted on their sites?
Blog Carnivals Negative SEO

Google’s Disavow Tool and Negative SEO

As is usual when I have a question about something like that, I go straight to Google and start doing some research.  What I found was somewhat reassuring.  Eric Ward wrote for Search Engine Watch about asking Google specifically whether disavowing a competitor’s links would hurt the competitor’s search rankings.  He details the answer he got, but the general gist of it was that using disavow would not hurt the competitor’s search rankings.  Eric goes on to give a little more detail and explanation as to his understanding of the answer.

The longer I think about it, the more reasonable it seems that using the disavow tool would not cause the domain of the disavowed link any real harm.  After all, think of what that would open up as far as black hat negative SEO options!  It’d be no time at all before the disavow tool would be devalued by all the excess noise and wouldn’t present any kind of reasonable signal for the algorithm.

Disavow Tool as an IQ Test

While I was reading more on the subject, I also stumbled upon this post from Danny Sullivan where he has a Q&A with Google’s Matt Cutts.  Matt is the head of the web spam team at Google.  In the Q&A, Danny specifically asks if the disavow tool could be used as a negative SEO tool.  The answer he gave is somewhat interesting, and gave me pause.

Right now, we’re using this data in the normal straightforward way, e.g. for reconsideration requests. We haven’t decided whether we’ll look at this data more broadly. Even if we did, we have plenty of other ways of determining bad sites, and we have plenty of other ways of assessing that sites are actually good.

We may do spot checks, but we’re not planning anything more broadly with this data right now. If a webmaster wants to shoot themselves in the foot and disavow high-quality links, that’s sort of like an IQ test and indicates that we wouldn’t want to give that webmaster’s disavowed links much weight anyway. It’s certainly not a scalable way to hurt another site, since you’d have to build a good site, then build up good links, then disavow those good links. Blackhats are normally lazy and don’t even get to the “build a good site” stage. 🙂

As usual, Matt is somewhat vague when he’s giving his answers.  But, I found it of note that he doesn’t directly slam the door on the disavow files to be used as a part of the algorithm.  The second part of the answer is even more interesting.  “If a webmaster wants to shoot themselves in the foot and disavow high-quality links, that’s sort of like an IQ test and indicates that we wouldn’t want to give that webmaster’s disavowed links much weight anyway.”  He goes on to call Blackhats lazy, which may or may not be true, but that’s besides the point.  What he’s really saying is that blackhats are unlikely to put all the effort into building up a good site, with good links, and then disavow those good links.  In that regard, he’s right.

But, we bloggers aren’t blackhats.  We certainly aren’t lazy.  We have put a lot of effort into building up our good sites, with good links.  Are we failing the “IQ test” by then disavowing some of those good links from carnivals?  The answer to that really depends on whether those links from carnivals are considered good links or not.

What is a good link?

I’m sure there are many indicators that Google looks at to determine what is a good link or not.  I also think we can probably look at a few indicators that can give us a pretty good guess as to what Google is going to think of that carnival link.

  • What domain does it originate from?  If the domain is loaded up with terribly written posts that are stuffed with keywords, bad English, and not very helpful, chances are Google doesn’t think much of it.  On the other hand, if the domain is an informative site that’s well respected in the community, Google probably knows that too. Most blog carnivals are probably hosted on pretty decent domains.
  • What is the link density of the page with the link?  How many links are on the page?  In the case of a carnival, there probably are no fewer than 50.  Some of the more popular carnivals receive hundreds.  Before, this might have just devalued the amount of “juice” you got from the link, but it may be penalized further based on the results that the Microblogger post showed.
  • What is the link neighborhood like?  If there are 100 links in the carnival, are they all good links?  Chances are that they aren’t.  Chances are the host of the carnival didn’t take the time to fully vet and edit the links.  Most are probably O.K., but there are going to be quite a few more nefarious links in there too.  You’ve heard the saying that “one bad apple spoils the whole lot”, and this is a case of one bad link spoiling the whole carnival.

There are many other indicators that Google is going to look at, but I think those three factors are the ones that are most relevant to the blog carnival discussion.

One other small note here; As time passes, the answers to all three of those indicators could change.  Blogs die every day.  What might have one time been a very upstanding, informative blog might get recycled by a spammer after the domain fails to get renewed.  That’s a good reason to continue to be vigilant about all of your incoming links, but especially ones where all those factors could make the carnival a very bad place to be linked in.

Disavow Carnivals or Not?

With all of that being said, should we disavow links from blog carnivals, or not?  From a strictly SEO perspective, I think the answer is a resounding yes.  Ask to have as many of them removed as you are able.  Those that aren’t removed, add to your disavow list.

I still think it’s a bit hazy from a blogger’s standpoint.  The disavow lists aren’t being used as indicators of domain quality.  Right now.  Cutts leaves that wide open for future use in his Q&A with Danny Sullivan (link above).  So, are we doing harm by adding quality sites (just not necessarily quality links) to our disavow lists?  Honestly, I think only Cutts and Google really know the right answer to this one.  Site SEO changes pretty rapidly.  At the moment, adding low quality links from high quality sites doesn’t appear to do any harm to the high quality site, so I think it’s probably fine to disavow links from those high quality sites that we think are low quality links (like carnival links).

Is Hosting a Carnival Just as Bad?

If links from carnivals pointing at your site is bad, what about being the site that hosts the carnivals?  Probably just as bad.  For all the reasons that having that link pointing to your site is bad, hosting those links is probably just as bad.  In fact, it may be even worse.  After all, having those links pointing to your site is fixable by having the links removed, or adding them to your disavow list.  If the links in a carnival that you hosted are disavowed, it (probably) doesn’t do anything negative to your site.  But, you can’t disavow your own pages…  The posts and pages you host on your site are directly tied to your site (obviously) and if there’s reason to disavow a link on one of your posts, chances are that it is being taken into account by Google for your search rankings.  Hosting bad content with bad links is always bad.

Removing Bad Links and Blog Carnivals

If you own/run a blog, you really should be using something to check your site for broken or redirected links.  Spammers like to pick up used domains that used to have a lot of quality links because there are sites out there that don’t check for broken or redirected links, and those links can then be redirected or repurposed for their spammy purposes.  I use a plugin for WordPress called Broken Link Checker.  It automatically goes through and checks for broken and redirected links and then gives me the ability to work through the queue and delete or fix those links.

With the devalued nature of Carnivals, it’s probably a good idea to just go ahead and delete any that you hosted.  Especially if they’re older, or if you didn’t take the time to edit and vet the links that were submitted to the carnival.  It’ll probably also cut down on the number of emails you get from carnival participants asking for their links to be removed.

Have you participated in blog carnivals in the past?  What steps are you going to be taking (or not)?

 

Powerocks Magicstick Portable Power

Disclaimer: I was provided a Powerocks Magicstick in consideration of providing a thorough and honest review of the product.

If you’ve done any travelling at all, you know just how much fun (or the lack thereof) it can be when you forget a charger, or when your battery dies half way through your day.  It’s painful and unpleasant.

Lately, I’ve been seeing lots of my fellow travelers carrying portable power packs.  As they’ve come down in price, they’ve become a popular way to help keep your devices running by providing reserve power on the fly.  In fact, at the last conference that I attended, they were handing them out in the swag bags.  (I might have acquired one or more extra ones after asking the vendor representative.)

So, when Powerocks asked me if I wanted to take a shot at their Magicstick and give it a review, I took them up on it.

When it arrived, I opened the box to find exactly what you see to the right here. A Magicstick, charging cable, and a handy carrying bag for all of it. There was also a little sheet of instruction. There really isn’t much to these things, so you really don’t need much for instructions.

The Magicstick is a 2800 mAH power supply. According to the Powerocks documentation, that’s enough to give a iPhone 5 about 1.5 full charges. With a standard USB charger, it’ll take about 5 hours to fully recharge once you’ve used it all the way down. I’m currently using a Motorola Defy XT from Republic Wireless, and was able to use the device pretty easily.

With the Defy XT nearly fully dead, I think the Magicstick would give me about 2 full charges.  I say “I think” because I have this habit of not letting the device just sit and charge my phone.  My actual usage is a little less than ideal.   I tend to run the phone almost all the way down, then plug the Magicstick in and then continue to use the phone.  Depending on how much I continue to use the phone, my results range from getting about a 3/4 charge to a full charge.  That’s not a knock on the Magicstick though.  Remember, I’m using the phone while the Magicstick is trying to charge it.  That’s actually pretty good in my opinion.

One of the things that I really liked about the Magicstick is the design of it.  The ones I mentioned above that came in the swag bag have similar features, and even similar performance, but are square/rectangular in shape.  They have buttons on the top of one of the sides that turn them on/off and give you an indication of how much of a charge they currently hold.  That’s all well and good, but what ends up happening is that I throw them into my backpack when I’m traveling, only to find that somewhere along the way, they got jostled, the button got hit, and the thing discharged itself prematurely.  The Magicstick, in comparison, is much better designed.  On the end opposite the ports, there’s a button.  The button is inset just a bit into the end.  That’s the power and charge indicator.  Again, all well and good.  Simple and functional.  But, unlike the other ones, the button on the Magicstick isn’t as prone to getting hit while it’s floating around in a pocket or backpack, which increases it’s rank in my mind.

Overall, the Magicstick isn’t that much different from any other similar device.  Capacity is about the same, and the function is exactly the same.  The thing that set it apart from the other devices I have is the design of it.  It’s had a permanent place in my jacket pocket since I got it, and is likely to remain there for a while.