SitePoint Podcast #84: Live from BlogWorld Expo 2010

Episode 84 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week, the recording of our live broadcast from BlogWorld Expo 2010, with your hosts Patrick O’Keefe (@iFroggy), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), Brad Williams (@williamsba) and Kevin Yank (@sentience).

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Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

  1. Blog Action Day 2010
  2. Alex Russell: “IE 8 is the New IE 6”
  3. IE Market Share Falls Below 50%
  4. Xmarks User Petition Prompts Purchase Offers
  5. Twitter Boosts Conversions by 29% With Extra Steps

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/84.

Host Spotlights

Show Transcript

Kevin: October 22, 2010. IE8 is the old browser of the future, Xmarks rises from the dead and extra steps mean extra conversions. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #84: Live at BlogWorld Expo.

Hi, this is Kevin Yank from the SitePoint Podcast, and we’re coming to you live from BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas. We’re actually streaming this live on the Internet as we record it, and hello to all our USTREAM viewers and also hello to all our listeners at home who are listening to the recording of this after the fact. This is a momentous day because for the first time all four of us are in the same place at the same time. Hello Patrick, Stephan, and Brad!

Brad: Howdy!

Stephan: Hi.

Patrick: Hi. I didn’t know what you looked like until now. (Laughter)

Kevin: Hello, hello!

Brad: I expected Kevin to be much shorter. (Laughter)

Stephan: Much taller in real life, yeah.

Kevin: Well, at least he didn’t say better looking (Laughter).

So, yeah, this is amazing, I don’t know if you could tell at home before usually Karn and Carl do great editing so it sounds like we’re all in the same room, but this is the first time we’ve all actually met. And we’ve been hanging out for roughly 24 hours at this point, where this is day two of the BlogWorld Expo. It’s the first day that the Expo Show Floor is open and you can probably hear a bit of that noise going on in the background. That’s what’s going on, there’s hundreds of people, thousands of people walking around checking out booths and we’re here in the thick of it, and we have a list of stories to get through guys. But who of you has been to BlogWorld Expo before?

Patrick: I have, yeah.

Stephan: I have.

Brad: I’m a newbie, first time.

Kevin: Okay, I’m a newbie as well.

Patrick: This is my third, yeah.

Kevin: I have an excuse, I live in Australia; what’s your excuse Brad?

Brad: I have none.

Patrick: He only attends WordPress conferences, that’s the excuse.

Brad: I’m branching out.

Kevin: So you guys have done this before, what’s this year like compared to previous years?

Patrick: Well, we’re about halfway through now I would say, and I mean it’s a good event, it’s one of the most important events in the industry I would say for blogging, new media, social media. I’ve been enjoying it, just spoke this morning, or this afternoon I should say, and yeah, it’s been great, I think my favorite part of it is always the networking, getting to meet obviously Kevin for the first time and hanging out with Brad and Stephan and meeting a lot of people like Ted Sindzinski, Ted S. from the SitePoint Forums, I’ve known him for years but met him face-to-face for the first time last night at the SitePoint/Learnable/ProBlogger party.

Stephan: Yeah, it’s been good so far, it’s a different venue than last year because last year it was at the Convention Center, so Mandalay Bay is a little bit further away.

Kevin: So, is this bigger?

Stephan: Yeah, it’s a little bigger. I think it’s a lot easier to get around too.

Patrick: It’s a lot easier with the hotel.

Stephan: It’s good to have the hotel here.

Kevin: Well, we’ve got a few stories that are sort of in the blogging vein, and the first one that I’ve got on my list here is Blog Action Day. This will be over by the time people are listening to the recorded version of this podcast, but if you’re listening live today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day. And this is something that happens annually where bloggers are encouraged to blog about some social issue of importance, and the issue they’ve chosen this year is water—the access to clean safe drinking water that is increasingly becoming an issue worldwide. Have you guys heard about this Blog Action Day at all at the conference yet?

Patrick: At the conference, I don’t know, I’d have to say no I haven’t, but I have heard of it before, previous iterations of it in previous years, yeah.

Kevin: Yeah, so taking a look at the site just before we recorded this there are 5,180 blogs that have registered to post today on the subject of water and clean drinking water and raising awareness of that issue. It’s amazing to me that we can be at what is arguably the Mecca of bloggers and yet something as big as this is going on in the blogging world. It tells me that blogging is just huge, and there are people who come to conferences and there are people who don’t, and there are people who get involved in this kind of thing and there are people who aren’t; it is bigger and more diverse than we could ever see even at an event this size.

Stephan: And things always slip through the cracks kind of it seems.

Kevin: Yeah.

Stephan: It should be mentioned here. It should.

Patrick: I think if you were planning on participating in this you probably would have written a post before coming here; if you were coming here you would have had it scheduled, right? Yeah, so that’s what I would say. I don’t know, I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it but I did see an email this morning right before I left, and an email with our show notes came right after, but yeah, Blog Action Day, so.

Brad: It’s actually the first I’d heard of it, but it’s interesting; I’d say I probably haven’t heard anybody talk about it because I’m more hanging around the developer crowd versus the actual bloggers, so the bloggers may very well be talking about it and just because I haven’t had the chance to mingle with them yet is why I haven’t heard of it.

Kevin: I tell you even if you’ve got a development blog it would be great to post about this issue because I think that’s the idea that no matter what your blog is about you take today and you post about this issue and it spreads awareness beyond people who would normally be following these sorts of issues.

Stephan: Yeah, not a normal subject for people.

Kevin: Yeah.

Brad: It’s a great idea, and this is a yearly thing?

Kevin: Yeah, it’s an annual thing, if you want to check it out it’s at blogactionday.change.org; blogactionday.change.org, and if you missed this year maybe sign up for next year. After this podcast I’m going to have to remember to go and ask our bloggers at SitePoint to maybe put a post up if they can get time to do it before the day is over. Our next story is a perennial favorite here on the SitePoint Podcast, and that’s Internet Explorer (Laughter).

Patrick: There goes the visit, there goes the traffic. If you say Internet Explorer on USTREAM … whoosh!

Kevin: Sometimes we have good news about Internet Explorer, a lot of the times we don’t have good news about Internet Explorer. The news is probably not great this time, the story that prompted this is a blog post on Alex Russell’s infrequently.org blog. Alex Russell is a name that’s typically associated with the Dojo Project, that popular JavaScript Library. I’m not sure if he’s still working with them but he’s a big name in web development, well respected for his opinions, and he’s posted that while we’re all busy bellyaching about Internet Explorer 6 at the moment there’s a sleeping giant and that’s Internet Explorer 8, and that if we don’t do something about Internet Explorer 8 now, then in five years time Internet Explorer 8 is the browser we’re all going to be moaning about. And we should be making, rather than, you know, spending our time trying to kill off that last little bit of Internet Explorer 6—I know you love doing that Brad—maybe we should be taking proactive action now to try and get ourselves in a position where Internet Explorer 8 won’t be this ball and chain for years to come.

Brad: Yeah, it’s an interesting article and it’s not something I’d really thought about and he makes a good point. I guess my thought process on it is if there’s always going to be that browser that’s behind, it’s just always going to be there, and whether it’s Internet Explorer 8 or a few years from then Internet Explorer 10, there’s always going to be that one that people are complaining about or doesn’t work as well as the rest or doesn’t follow all the standards, so I think it’s just inevitable, it’s always going to be there. It’s certainly something it would be nice to be proactive about but let’s kill off IE6 first and then we can run towards IE8 with the pitch forks.

Stephan: What does he suggest we do about IE8?

Kevin: It’s a tough issue. First of all he suggests that if we get the opportunity to speak to a Microsoft representative rather than grilling them about Internet Explorer 6 and why it sucks so much for so many years, ask them what they’re doing about IE8, what’s their plan to phase it out because Internet Explorer 9’s release is right around the corner; how are they going to get people off IE8 onto IE9? This is an especially big issue because IE8 is the last version of Internet Explorer that will run on Windows XP, so people who are sticking on Windows XP now, even though Windows 7 is out—and if you like Windows, Windows 7 is not bad at all—they’re going to be stuck using Internet Explorer 8 for years to come. So, what’s the strategy there? The other thing he suggests is to deploy Google Chrome Frame which is this plugin you can put on your site that if people come to your site with an older version of Internet Explorer rather than using the Internet Explorer rendering engine it replaces the whole page with a plugin that loads the Chrome rendering engine which is, as you’ve said many times Brad, kept up to date automatically through auto updates. What version are they up to now, 15?

Brad: Yeah, getting close, I think 6 actually just came out not too long ago, so I’m sure 7 is right around the corner.

Kevin: Well, the good news about Internet Explorer, depending on your perspective, this may not be too much of an issue for too much longer, because Internet Explorer in the past week dropped below 50% according to StatCounter’s statistics, so worldwide usage of Internet Explorer, all versions, according to them is now less than 50% of browser traffic.

Stephan: Depressing for Microsoft, I would say.

Patrick: And Microsoft shareholders—like myself.

Kevin: (Laughs) Well disclosed, Patrick.

Patrick: Yeah, thanks. Thank you. Is IE8 really that bad?

Kevin: No, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good, but –

Patrick: It’s the current version.

Kevin: It’s the current version, but in five years time we’re going to be going, oh, it’s the only browser that doesn’t have Canvas support, that doesn’t have this or that, and all the other browsers will have it. And, yeah, it’s just that –

Patrick: Are we worried about Firefox 3 point — no, I don’t know.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Patrick: I mean 3.6.3 or something, I mean I don’t know.

Stephan: What is Firefox’s usage rate right now?

Kevin: I wish I could— Oh, hey, hey, look, I have the numbers right in front of me! Thank you Stephan; well prompted. Firefox all is up to 31.07%.

Stephan: So there’s no one now with 50% market share.

Kevin: Right, exactly. And I love that. This is exactly where we want to be as web developers, no browser has the majority, they’re all vying for their own segments of the market. I think this is the ideal climate that we want to be in.

Stephan: You don’t think it’s bad for developers to have so many different browsers that are being used out there? To me it seems like, okay, now I have even more browsers to develop for.

Patrick: Would developers love it if there was an international government standard on browsers? It never will happen but wouldn’t that be the best since you wouldn’t have to worry about any other browsers.

Kevin: Well WebKit is close because half of these browsers that we’re talking about use WebKit as their rendering engine, and that’s even more true in the mobile space. But I think it’s the role of Web Standards to make sure that web developers have an easy job, not the role of a browser to take over the market.

Stephan: But it’s also the role of the browser developer to make sure that they’re using the Web Standards, right?

Kevin: Yes, yes.

Stephan: And that’s where the issue lies.

Kevin: Yeah. And I kind of like where it is right now that if you’re building a web application that you want to make sure the technology that you’re building on is a good investment in the future you’re going to limit yourself to the finalized standards, you’re not going to jump on the HTML 5 stuff just yet because it’s not positive that it’s not going to change at the last minute. But if you are the kind of developer who’s working on something that you know you’re going to be working on for a few years to come that you can actively update, you can embrace those draft standards and play with them and give your feedback to the browsers, so yeah, I think it’s a great environment. And we’re seeing, we’re seeing the benefits just in what we’re getting with Internet Explorer 9; this browser’s going to have Canvas, rounded corners, box shadows, it’s got it all.

Stephan: Ooh, rounded corners (laughter).

Kevin: Well, it’s a big deal for Internet Explorer developers, let me tell you.

Patrick: Rounded corners coming back. Justin Timberlake is bringing rounded corners back.

Stephan: And drop shadows, I’m excited.

Patrick: That sounds like a parody just waiting to happen. SitePoint Podcast parody.

Kevin: So, Brad, you’ve said before you can’t wait for Internet Explorer to die, I may be taking some artistic license there.

Brad: (Laughs) My hatred is more towards IE6 I think. I’m obviously not a huge Internet Explorer fan, I’ve actually been enjoying IE9, I fire it up on occasion, I don’t use it all the time but I think I like where they’re going with it, like you said. So, I’ve always said I’m not— I may hate a specific browser but I always keep an open mind because I never thought I’d switch off of IE, I never thought I’d switch off of Firefox, and here I am on Chrome and I feel like I couldn’t live without it. So, I’ll always keep an open mind; if something else better comes out I will switch, so it’s really like you said, whoever’s going to be top dog.

Patrick: Does that apply to blogging platforms?

Kevin: Does that apply to blogging platforms (laughs).

Brad: Ah, that’s yet to be seen. We’ll see.

Patrick: Are you open to the next big thing? Five years from now Brad Williams will not be on WordPress.

Brad: Hey, if something better comes out better than WordPress I’ll keep an open mind.

Patrick: That’s why it’s Webdev Studios and not WordPress or WPDev Studios.

Brad: Platform independent (laughter).

Kevin: You heard it here first, folks, Brad is open to alternatives, so yeah, I expect the blogging platforms to be beating down our doors for interviews now.

Brad: We’ll see.

Kevin: We’ll see. An update on a story we covered a few weeks ago, and this is the Xmarks story, which we filed in our dead pool never to be heard from again, and they’ve gone and surprised us. I think I was a naysayer, I was saying they’re gone. To recap, Xmarks, someone want to fill—

Stephan: It’s the bookmarking tool.

Kevin: A bookmarking tool, yeah, yeah.

Stephan: That has like a plugin or a bookmark lit for your browser and it’s a website, centralized website, with all your bookmarks similar to Delicious, maybe a little bit more feature rich than Delicious, and it’s heavily used by developers, right? I mean it’s kind of a nerd community, would you say that?

Kevin: Delicious for nerds? I feel bad now because we use Delicious to collect stories for this broadcast.

Stephan: Yeah, that’s what we use, that’s what I use, yeah.

Brad: That’s why we need to switch over.

Kevin: I’m not enough of a nerd, so (laughter).

Stephan: We’re just geeks.

Kevin: So, Xmarks threw, well, can you remember, did they throw up a pledge page?

Patrick: Yeah.

Kevin: They announced they were going under, they couldn’t figure out how to make money off their two million user base and the community—this was on their blog—the community commented en masse and said come on, we love your service, give us a chance to support it. So they put up this site where you could pledge that if they opened up a premium subscription option you would come and pay for the Xmarks service. And they got some number, I don’t have it in front of me here, but they got a certain number of people come and sign up. And although they haven’t yet reached their target, what they said they would need to sustain the service, they’ve posted a new post on their blog and it says, let me quote here, “The past 10 days have been an amazing lesson in the power of community, not in the Web 2.0 social graphs sense, I’m talking about old-school community with users speaking up, speaking out and banding together. Thank you Xmarks users, you told the world it was simply unacceptable for our service to shut down, and it worked. Thanks to your passion Xmarks now has multiple offers from companies ready and willing to take over the service and keep making browser sync better and better.” So they say it’s not a signed sealed deal yet, but they’ve got people who have made offers, there’s offers on the table, Xmarks is going to continue. Whether or not people are going to be required to fulfill their pledges, I mean I think if you made a pledge it’d be right to do so. I for myself didn’t pledge, but it sounds like the community has come through here.

Stephan: Yeah, sound good; it’s good news for Xmarks.

Brad: Just in time for Halloween, Xmarks back from the dead.

Kevin: I wonder if this has got other free services out there thinking, you know, we should announce that we’re shutting down and the money will flow.

Stephan: Play the game.

Kevin: Yeah.

Brad: Going out of business sale.

Kevin: Facebook should try that! (Laughter)

Stephan: That might be the funniest comment all week.

Patrick: Yeah, but we have some news we can break here on the SitePoint Podcast, the new owner of Xmarks is … Microsoft.

Kevin: No!

Patrick: No, it’s not, it’s not.

Kevin: Not true.

Brad: Good thing you own stock. (Laughter)

Patrick: That’s how I know.

Stephan: You’re a rich man now.

Kevin: This has got me thinking. I’m always the one playing devil’s advocate here, so let me say, let me put this to you: someone has come in, they’re going to buy Xmarks, they are going to change the service or they’re going to make it pay only.

Stephan: It’s going to have to have something to do with advertising. It’s going to have to be some kind of ads-based or a subscription service; I could see a subscription.

Kevin: Maybe. Because I think what the community was hoping for is they would come and say, look, I’ll pay and so the Xmarks people would say, oh, there is money in this, we’re going to stay in business, we’re going to keep running this site, the people you know and trust are going to keep your bookmarks safe. But it looks like what’s going to happen is they’re going to sign a piece of paper, hand over the application and the user base, and what’s going to happen?

Stephan: So do you think users are still safe? If it was me I would still be moving my bookmarks somewhere else.

Kevin: You would?

Stephan: I would, just in case, you never know.

Kevin: Moving or just backing them up?

Stephan: Back them up, back them up, yeah, just in case something happens.

Kevin: Okay.

Stephan: You never know what the other company’s going to do.

Kevin: Yeah, I would definitely be doing that.

Stephan: It might just be a data mine, let’s get some users.

Kevin: Okay. So it’s a victory for the community, but we’ll wait and see what rises from the ashes. Alright, well, congratulations anyway to the Xmarks community. I was a skeptic and it looks like you’ve done it, so congratulations, yeah, let us know how it goes. If you’re an Xmarks user out there tell us how you feel about this deal because we’d love to hear from you. Alright, we’ve got one more story here and then we’re going to go to our host spotlights, which I understand you have very well prepared (Laughs).

Stephan: Yes, spent hours on it.

Kevin: The last story I have here is from Twitter and it’s a design story that comes out of Twitter. Twitter recently redesigned their sign-up process; has someone read up on this story, you want to fill the people in? I’ve done a lot of talking but I’m happy to cover this story.

Brad: Have at it.

Kevin: Have at it. Alright. Twitter apparently has increased their conversion rate on their signup process—someone goes to twitter.com, that’s the person coming in, to someone signing up for an account, they’ve increased that conversion rate by 29%—and the way they did it was by adding an extra step to their signup process. This goes completely against all logic. I know at SitePoint our marketing guys are always trying to cut steps out, you know, the checkout process, how can we get one less step in there, can we automatically create a user account for them and email them about it rather than asking them to create a username and password; what can we do to reduce the number of steps and therefore increase the conversion rate? But what Twitter found is that in order to— by adding an extra step they could create a more customized, a more personalized experience, and that increased conversion numbers. So, what they did specifically is previously you went to create a new account on Twitter and the last step it would say here’s the most popular people to follow on Twitter, and invariably it was a bunch of celebrities, Kanye West, Britney Spears, so on and so forth. And what they found is for most people that’s just a random sampling of celebrities, that doesn’t mean a lot to me, if anything it could put you off and make you leave and not complete that process. What they did is they added an extra step that gave a list of common interests: I’m interested in gardening, I’m interested in design, I’m interested in technology, you tick the boxes you’re interested in and then on the next step the people they suggest you follow are customized to your interests, and suddenly this is a more engaging service, it gives you a peek into the world of Twitter that you can actually follow people that you’re interested in, and if you complete that process and your account starts feeding you Tweets from people that are actually Tweeting about stuff you’re interested in, you’re more engaged and that’s where that 29% boost came. Can you guys think of any signup processes that we could make more customized in this way?

Stephan: I mean I’ve seen it in other places, similar things, I’m trying to think of where. I think it was maybe it was the old LinkedIn back when LinkedIn first started, they asked you your interests or what you do with your hobbies and categories like that, but other than that I haven’t seen it.

Brad: Technorati might have something similar.

Stephan: Technorati, too, yeah, so that you got blog recommendations.

Patrick: Some recommendations can backfire though, I mean inundate people with data. I don’t know, I guess like you said it flies in the face of conventional thinking. But, I don’t know, I guess that’s why people test, that’s why you have split-testing, that’s why you try different things and always experiment so you can improve and maybe you need to think of it both ways not just making it shorter but maybe making it meaningfully longer.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly.

Brad: I think it’s a great idea. The old process, like you said, it was a random list of celebrities and it meant nothing to you and you just joined Twitter because everybody’s talking about it, then all of a sudden you have a Twitter account with no followers, you’re not following anybody, nobody’s following you; what do you do at that point? Like that’s I mean, you know, so at least it starts you off with something, like you said, that interests you. And in turn they’re going to go out and probably find more people to follow and next thing you know they’re addicted like all of us.

Kevin: Yeah. I’ve also heard the argument that even if it’s not a personalization step just breaking down something into smaller steps that are less intimidating…

Stephan: Easier to chew.

Kevin: Yeah. It’s that ‘don’t make me think’ approach to design that if you ask people 10 questions one question at a time it’s going to work way better than asking people 10 questions all at once. So, yeah, I think there’s lots of opportunities to stretch things out and create more pages. Hey, if you bill by the page as a web developer this could be a gold mine.

Stephan: It’s a 30-step process to register.

Brad: But you won’t have to think.

Kevin: Alright, so before we get to our host spotlights we’ve been recording some interviews around the place, I know Patrick, Brad, you’ve recorded some and I think I spoke to Derek Featherstone, maybe just as a preview of what you can expect coming soon on the SitePoint Podcast feed we’ll be editing these up and putting them out over the weeks to come. So I spoke to Derek Featherstone about accessibility— Well, that’s what he’s known for, you would expect him to talk about accessibility, but actually he’s here at BlogWorld Expo just because he kind of fell out of blogging and is looking to get back into it, and I think that’s true of a lot of people, and we had a great conversation and talking about why he fell out of blogging, what’s still exciting about blogging and how you can make it into something that you can actually do ongoing. So, yeah, look forward to that talk with Derek Featherstone. Who did you talk to Brad?

Brad: Yeah, I talked, of course I went the WordPress route, so I talked with Grant Griffiths from Headway Themes, they have a really cool premium theme, a lot of drag and drop visual stuff, so he’s kind of telling me about that. They have a new version 2.0 that’s coming out I believe in about two weeks, so he’s giving me a bit of a preview on that. I also talked with Josh Strebel from Page.ly which is a hosted wordpress.org solution, so think of wordpress.com but with the flexibility of dot org. And then I spoke with Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner.com, so all those interviews will certainly be coming out, and we had a great time and I’m looking to do a few more tomorrow.

Kevin: Cool.

Patrick: Yeah, we also spoke with Amber Naslund and Jay Baer, the co-authors of The Now Revolution, they talked about Business at the Speed of Now more or less, they are veterans; Amber is this VP of Social Strategy at Radian6, a social media monitoring company, and Jay is Social Media Strategist for convinceandconvert.com, both very smart people, very sharp, and a lot of social media for business advice in there. We also spoke to Team Lijit, lijit.com, kind of known as a search blog company more than anything else, replace your blog search with something else, but I mean at the end of the day they’re more of just a general search platform, they provide some tools for publishers to monetize their traffic, not only search traffic but web traffic, display ads and so on. So those are the interviews we’ve done already that I can remember, and I was meaning to pull up the chat room here and take advantage of the chat room while we’re live.

Kevin: Cool. And who have you got coming up?

Stephan: And I’m hoping to get an interview with his name is Paul Thompson, he works for Southwest Airlines, he’s kind of their social media guy, he helps out with some of their stuff, the Flickr Group, runs the Flickr Group for them and kind of just fell into it, so I thought that would be an interesting conversation to see how social media has affected them as an airline. You flew Southwest, right?

Kevin: Yeah, I flew Southwest to get here; I have no complaints.

Stephan: Yeah, it’d be interesting to hear because they have a very viral community, so I would like to hear how they do it and stuff.

Kevin: Yeah. There’s a lot of those kinds of people wandering around here at BlogWorld, the social media people for companies.

Stephan: Big companies too.

Kevin: Big companies. And some people who work for sort of consulting firms and they handle social media for like 14 different companies. I love asking them like what software do you use to handle 14 different Twitter accounts and where your job is to be immediately responsive to all of those. And I’ve heard HootSuite is mentioned a lot.

Stephan: CoTweet I think was another one.

Kevin: CoTweet, yeah, that’s the one that we’ve used at SitePoint, I really liked it, I haven’t tried HootSuite. Do you guys have multiple Twitter accounts?

Patrick: I do, I use TweetDeck to manage them.

Brad: Yeah, I use TweetDeck.

Patrick: TweetDeck allows multiple accounts and Facebook accounts, it’s grown a lot, really powerful the last few big versions, yeah, they’ve added a lot of the functionality to not only Twitter but FourSquare, Facebook, I guess MySpace, I don’t use it for that; MySpace updates in other platforms as well so it’s really powerful.

Kevin: Cool. Alright, well, that brings us to our host spotlights. So I’ll start it off here, you guys if you don’t have anything prepared you could talk about something you’ve seen at the conference, if you’ve got nothing you got nothing, so be it (laughs). My host spotlight is called Free .htaccess Redirect Generator. And if you host your website using Apache you have dealt with .htaccess files before. These are the files that let you modify the configuration of your web server for a particular site or even a particular directory of your site, and I don’t know about you but even as an experienced programmer .htaccess files are something that I have to deal with once every six months or so, which means I have always completely forgotten everything I know about .htaccess files by the time I have to edit one. And so I’m always like digging up the Apache documentation, making my web server crash with 500 errors for about 10 minutes until I get the syntax just right, and this service, well it’s really just a web page that’s got a list of the 20 most common things that you might need to do with an .htaccess file. Things like rewriting the URL to point say the sitepoint.com to www.sitepoint.com, you want to make sure that people can type either version of your URL in and get your site, so you can put that in your .htaccess file. If you need to redirect from a particular URL with a 301 redirect, or even an entire directory, if you want to set up caching so the JPEG files on my site should be cached for one week, for example, it’s got that; password protection, hotlink blocking, custom 404 errors, blocking bad scraping bots, all of these things you can just tick the box, fill in the form, click generate the code and it generates, it gives you the .htaccess file that you can copy and paste into a file. So, yeah, if you’re stuck with trying to edit an .htaccess file once every six months, Brad I know WordPress comes with an .htaccess file that I can rarely make sense of.

Brad: It sounds like something I’d definitely bookmark, you’re right.

Kevin: Cool. So check it out, the URL will be in the show notes. Who’s got something?

Brad: I do. A website called armystrongstories.com, and they’re actually set up right across from us. I was talking to them earlier and it’s an interesting idea. Basically the Army has set up a social network where—and it’s not just for soldiers, it’s also for civilians, veterans—that you can join and then blog about either your experiences in the military, your past experiences, or if you’re a civilian maybe you’re looking to join the military what you expect and what’s that process…

Kevin: So it is public facing, it’s not a closed network.

Brad: It’s public facing, yeah, but it is all tailored around stories about or blog posts about the Army and about all around the Army. It’s kind of an interesting idea, and obviously the overall goal is a recruitment tool, but it’s really neat seeing a unit as big as the Army using these kinds of blogging techniques and here showing people the network they have set up, it’s really a different train of thought, and I wouldn’t think somebody like the military would be that far ahead of the curve I would say.

Kevin: Yeah, it’s kind of a heavy subject, too, I don’t know; my connotations with your experiences in the Army, it’s not usually something people want to talk about even necessarily to their family let alone the general public, but I could see it being a really positive thing.

Brad: Yeah. And I don’t know, I’m not sure of the type of moderations, I’m sure there’s obviously some kind of moderation at some level, but yeah, it definitely looks interesting and it’s kind of a neat concept; it’s the only branch that I know doing that, however, one of the guys I spoke with said they’re looking to branch it out so the Navy and Marines can take advantage of it as well. But it’s a pretty neat concept so; again, the website is armystrongstories.com.

Kevin: Stephan?

Stephan: So, I’m going to plug two things if that’s okay.

Patrick: Give me one.

Stephan: (Laughter) The first is I just recently bought the new Kindle, the new third generation.

Kevin: The little black one.

Stephan: The little black one, I bought that one and so I’ve been getting into — I use Instapaper all the time at home, and I’m even more hooked now with having the Kindle because I can download all the stories in .mobi format onto my Kindle, take it with me, so on the airplane I had 100 stories and I mean I read, it was like reading the newspaper. And so I can’t stress how awesome this tool is that Marco Arment has built called Instapaper. Instapaper.com, and it’s a great tool, makes everything plain text so all long-form stories I put through it now, just about everything.

Kevin: If you’ve got an iPad or an iPhone there’s good apps for that, yeah, I’ve talked about a tool for pairing Instapaper with the Kindle before, I know they have built-in support in Instapaper and it really depends on how you use it. The stuff that’s built in to Instapaper is really cool because you can like put a bunch of stories into a folder and then export that whole folder as a .mobi file that you can read as a book on your Kindle. If you use it more as just bits and pieces of content there’s this great piece of freeware for the Mac called Ephemera, I think I’ve spotlighted it before, but what it is, is you run it on your Mac and it detects whenever you plug in your Kindle, when you plug it in it automatically goes to Instapaper and downloads all the new stories since it last synced, creates .mobi files out of them, puts them on your Kindle, and then as you read them on your Kindle you can delete them on the Kindle and the next time you sync it detects which ones you deleted and it goes back to Instapaper and marks them as archives.

Patrick: That’s a lot.

Kevin: It’s really cool and it’s free. It’s incredible.

Stephan: That’s awesome. What was it called?

Kevin: Ephemera.

Stephan: Ephemera, okay, well let’s check that one out, too, then, it’s cool. And the second thing is Skimlinks, and Patrick I know you can talk a little bit about this too, we talked to the Skimlinks girls last night, they’re here. They actually moved to San Francisco just recently from London. And Skimlinks it creates, what would you say, they’re affiliate links on your website based on you submit them your site and it takes it and kind of crawls your website and turns your links into affiliate links for different things, right; is that the way you would explain it?

Patrick: Yeah, well, no. Yeah, basically, but the way I explained it is that they give you a little piece of code, little piece of JavaScript, you put it on your page, you put it in your code, whatever, and what they do is if you link to a site that has an affiliate program they will associate that link with the affiliate program and get you credit for a sale. So, if you think about just writing blog posts and not thinking about affiliate links, you’re just writing, your linking out and you’re just doing it naturally. And if one of the sites you link to has an affiliate program and someone clicks that, they make a sale, you get credit for that.

Kevin: So you don’t even have to create an affiliate account on this third party site. And you don’t even have to know the site exists.

Stephan: It’s all tracked through them, yeah, it’s great.

Patrick: And it’s powerful beyond blogging because you look at online communities and forums and there’s a lot of product links in there, a lot of sales generated through some forums, and I use it on a couple of my forums, karateforums.com being one of them, and it doesn’t make a ton, it makes a little extra. I think it’s an interesting idea because it works as it should, its seamless, its quick, it doesn’t slow down the page, there’s no redirection page, there’s no top bar, no Digg bar, nothing like that going on. It works exactly like it should, the page you link to is the page you go to, nothing gets changed or tricked or anything at all, they just goes through a little simple redirect that is basically invisible to the casual visitor, you know how that would be done with onmouseover and all that stuff, and you can even do it from your own domain, and like my links are redirected through something.karateforums.com for that site. So it’s really powerful, works as it should, free to sign up.

Kevin: And I imagine they must give you reports about where your revenue’s coming from, so if you see that a particular affiliate program is giving you a lot through Skimlinks you can go then sign up for the affiliate program yourself, get that extra little cut, and it can be a good sort of thing to tell you what affiliate programs you should be in.

Patrick: That’s a good point as well. Yes, it does do that; they have reports that will go by day, of course, date, site, your site its referring from, the site it goes to, the affiliate program, what happens then, clicks, sales, they probably have a click through rate on that, I don’t know the conversion rate, and then the money that you made from that particular merchant, from that particular site on that particular day, so there is a deep drill down there of data as well.

Kevin: Cool.

Patrick: And also I pulled up this Xmarks thing real quick because I was curious, and Xmarks pledge page is at pledgebank.com/xmarkspremiums, still online, the deadline to sign up was October 15, 2010 which is today, yeah. And they were looking for, this Xmarks founder said “I will commit $10.00 to $20.00 for Xmarks sync but only if 100,000 other people will do the same,” that’s the pledge. So as of now it says, I don’t know, it looks like you can still pledge, and it says that 33,752 people have signed up, 66,248 more needed.

Stephan: So they’re a little behind then.

Patrick: Apparently then don’t need it anymore.

Kevin: They fell short of what it would take for Xmarks themselves to keep the business, but it was enough to get a buyer, so congratulations. Do you have a spotlight?

Patrick: My spotlight was the first one, didn’t you hear it? You did mine first, it’s over.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Patrick: Thanks Kevin. No, I’m going to go ahead and the book, we spoke to Amber Naslund, Jay Baer, like I said, their book The Now Revolution, it seems like a really cool book, I’m quoted in it, and that’s not the reason I’m spotlighting it, but it seems like a really cool book, they’re both very smart people, I have no doubt the book is worth the money, it’s nowrevolutionbook.com, so I’ll throw that out as my spotlight. But before we finish up maybe we should freestyle on something here, you know, since we’re in person, like throw something out there. What’s going on, the conference, let’s talk about something, I mean I don’t know, the conference, talks, everybody looks at me dumbfounded.

Kevin: I want to get to the room next door and see the Sony Google TV.

Stephan: Yeah, it looks pretty awesome.

Kevin: Because they’ve got their Sony Internet TV’s, it’s got the Google TV platform built into it; I’m hoping they’ve got a 3D TV over there because I still haven’t seen one of those.

Patrick: Me neither. But how does that work, what’s Google TV; what’s special about it?

Kevin: Well, Google TV, and I’ll be honest, I’m kind of a skeptic about it, I’m probably not going to buy one unless it bowls me over, but from what I’ve read it’s not. It is basically an internet connected TV and you can either buy a Logitech box to add the Google TV to your own existing TV or you can buy one of these new Sony TV’s that have it built in. But the idea is rather than being limited by the broadcast schedule of whatever cable package you have, you just go to your TV and just like on Google you type in the name of a show you want to watch and the Google TV software goes and checks your local TV listings and says you can watch it at this time, it also goes and finds live web streams or archived web streams so if you search for The Daily Show it will find the archived video that you can watch on Comedy Central’s website. The idea is it will find whatever video you’re searching for automatically, pull it back into search results that you can browse on your TV. It’s also got the web browser on your TV, and it’s got kind of an app platform, I’m not exactly sure how it’s related to the Android OS, but it does have a developer component so that if you are a content creator, you know Major League Baseball has been doing a lot of stuff with apps on various platforms, I have no doubt they’ll have something on Google TV where, rather than buying the MLB subscription as part of your cable package, you give your money directly to MLB.com and suddenly you can watch the shows through your Google TV directly over the Internet.

Stephan: Simplifying the stream between.

Kevin: Yeah. So, and this would then appear as an app icon on the homepage of your TV. So it’s kind of exciting, but as with most things Google, the design is not bowling me over having a look at it. Like the remote is copping a lot of flack, it’s sort of this shape, it looks like someone broke the keyboard off the bottom of a first generation Kindle and made that your TV remote; this is what I’ve heard it described as.

Stephan: Does it have alter keys on it too?

Kevin: No, I don’t think it does, but it probably has every other key you could imagine. And I saw that remote sitting in there, it’s a bit of an eyesore like everything else in your TV setup is going to black, for some reason this is a white plastic remote.

Stephan: Makes perfect sense.

Patrick: It’s interesting because I think was it Vizio, it’s kind of a low-cost TV manufacturer, they were kind of promoting the fact they had an app for it, was that them, do you remember?

Stephan: I think so, yeah.

Patrick: I think it was Vizio that was doing that. I have, well my parents have, Panasonic VIERA Cast TV, new HDTV, very nice, and they have what they call apps, but more or less what it is, is that they add them if they want or they have something when they update the firmware on the TV.

Kevin: Yes, I have that same thing on my Panasonic TV, it’s got apps, but there’s only the YouTube app and the Panasonic app and that’s it, and a photo gallery app.

Patrick: Yeah, I think the one that they have has Picasa, Picasa app, it has Amazon on Demand, it has actually a Twitter app was a new one; I sent a Tweet from the TV and it was totally not worth it, it was like playing with my cheap phone because it was like the keyboard had letters and numbers like this and boom, one, two, three characters.

Kevin: That’s one of the apps on the Google TV is Twitter and Twitter wrote the app themselves, it’s not Google, Twitter has done it, but I don’t know if it’s a limitation of the platform but the graphics, the user interface look really primitive, so you’ve got this amazing HDTV and it looks like 1980’s era TV menus.

Stephan: But isn’t that kind of Google though, it’s more the engineer’s side.

Kevin: Exactly, that’s what I’m saying, I think Google really needs to do something and put a little design into it.

Stephan: Hire Jonathan Ives.

Kevin: They’ve got some great designers at Google, and they do good stuff, they just don’t seem to do the good stuff on the new things, they like to tap the ugly version first.

Stephan: It takes a while, yeah. I’m looking forward, I kind of wanted to catch Leo Laporte, we passed him when we were in the lounge.

Brad: I was thinking about dragging him out here.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah. So, we’ll see if I can track him down.

Stephan: We’ll see if we can get him on here, it’ll be funny.

Kevin: No promises. Anything else going on you guys want to talk about?

Patrick: I was just thinking about what I’ve seen so far.

Stephan: Wasn’t there someone supposed to be dunked in cereal?

Patrick: It was, it was right over there, Ted Murphy from IZEA was in like a plastic kiddy pool and he was sitting in cereal being interviewed, like oatmeal or cereal. That’s the kind of thing, I don’t know if you know Ted, I don’t know him but I follow him, and he does those sorts of crazy things all the time, like at their conference, IZEA Fest, and at other events I think he does it’s called a cake plow where they have cake and he just jumps into it.

Kevin: (Laughs)

Brad: Quite a talent.

Patrick: Yeah, he’s just kind of a crazy, crazy guy.

Brad: They did make the world’s biggest cup of coffee earlier and broke the Guinness World Record, that’s a coffee cup over there. And tomorrow they’re making the worlds’ biggest frappuccinno or iced coffee.

Kevin: That’s not a coffee cup, that’s a vat of coffee. How did they froth that?

Stephan: We should have done it from inside of there.

Kevin: You need like a fire hose to put the frothing.

Brad: Apparently there’s a thermometer in there so it was properly temperature coffee, it couldn’t just be cold coffee it had to be hot.

Kevin: What does this have to do with blogging again?

Stephan: Hey, you need coffee to blog, right? I have a sign above my desk that says that. I heart coffee and blog.

Brad: Yeah, tomorrow is the biggest cup of iced coffee, so there will be plenty of ice in that cup I’m sure.

Kevin: (Laughs) How big are the ice cubes going to be. I saw over on the far side there’s a local casino that has a booth, and all I have to say is it’s nice to see that BlogWorld Expo is not above scantily clad women in push-up bras with black bunny ears.

Patrick: But I walked by there and that’s the whole booth though, there’s nothing else there, it’s a black silkscreen or whatever and then they’re just standing there.

Kevin: And there’s a lot of nerds giving it a wide berth.

Stephan: You are in Vegas though, Patrick, that’s kind of normal, right?

Patrick: Yeah, I don’t know if I fit in here. Rich folks walking by, yeah.

Kevin: This has gone really fast, but we’ve been going for nearly an hour at this point, so I think we’re going to close this off, call this episode 47.

Stephan: 47?

Kevin: 47, 87! Oh, my gosh! I’m selling us way short. I need some of that coffee over there.

Patrick: Or whatever it is. It might be 84. Isn’t it 84?

Kevin: Is it? Is it? … 84!

Patrick: It’s okay.

Brad: Don’t listen to us.

Patrick: You’ve got to understand how long it takes Kevin to get here.

Kevin: I’m going to sleep right after this.

Well, thank you for listening in everyone who listened live, and thank you for listening our regular listeners on the Podcast, glad we could get us all together for once and look forward to speaking to you again live from some other event some time soon.

Patrick: Excellent.

Kevin: Bye, bye!

Stephan: Bye.

Brad: Bye.

Kevin: And thanks for listening to the SitePoint Podcast. If you have any thoughts or questions about today’s interview please do get in touch. You can find SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, and you can find me on Twitter @sentience. Visit sitepoint.com/podcast to leave a comment on this show and to subscribe to get every show automatically. We’ll be back next week with another news and commentary show with our usual panel of experts.

This episode of the SitePoint Podcast was produced by Karn Broad and I’m Kevin Yank. Bye for now.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

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  • http://wydajnykomputer.pl ChrisPL

    Now that’s what I call good sound quality on a live show!

    • http://www.ifroggy.com Patrick O’Keefe

      Good to hear. :) The amount of equipment we used is not usually feasible, but it was provided by the conference and we had a volunteer, as well, setting it all up. So, it worked out.

  • MikesBarto2002

    No one mentions enough how amazing it is that Firefox has as much of the browser market share that it does. Being that Chrome belongs to Google and Internet Explorer and Safari are packaged with Windows and the Mac OS, they have really gotten by on the buzz that they created through the internet. I know when I first switched to Firefox, I did so because a web designer friend of mine had tried it and loved it. But back then if you weren’t a web geek, how did you know about it? I also can’t remember the first or last time I saw Firefox do any marketing of any kind. Way to go, Firefox!