Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organic Consumers Association (Website Recommendation)

I've recently stumbled upon the Organic Consumers Association website, and I just love it. Just about everyday they link to articles from varied sources about food, climate and the environment, genetic engineering, Fair Trade, and other key topics.

In their own words they are "an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability."

Below are two stories they featured today that I found interesting and that demonstrate the type and caliber of content to which they regularly link:

Toxins Make Halloween Face Paints Scary
- sourced from HealthDay

Is organic food a consumer scam? *
- sourced from Examiner.com 

* This one deftly refutes some recent studies that claim that "Organic food is not nutritionally superior to conventional food."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog Visitors

I've previously mentioned the recent redesign of this blog. Through that process, I also spent some time looking at visitor metrics and usage. I did this first out of curiosity, to see what visitors to this blog were looking at and what they weren't. Beyond that, I also wanted to double back to the original goals of the blog and guage if the site was serving its intended purpose.

Roughly stated, I conceived and maintain this blog for the following reasons:
  • to comment about books and movies, for my friends and anyone interested
  • to provide general commentary, for my friends and anyone interested 
  • to stay connected better with my friends
  • to write and generate content
  • self-expression and indulgence
Looking at the analytics from the last two years, I was struck by a few prominent leading indicators:

Most of the visitors (81%) to this site come from search engines

No big surprise here. I suspect this is the same with most blogs that have been on their feet for more than a few months.

Visitors aren't interested at all in posts about books or authors

This one surprised me a bit. No so much that there's less interest in books compared to other blog topics, but that visitors regularly access my other (non-book) posts, but almost never continue their site visit by checking out a book post.

Given that the majority of my posts have historically been about books, it was revealing to see only one book post score in my top ten of all-time most viewed posts.
Further, the lone book post seemed to attract visitors -- based on the referring keywords -- from searchers looking for information about the upcoming film adaptation of the text.

While of course many people are interested in books and authors, it appears that a lot of this traffic directs through Amazon and similar portal sites that for a long time now have featured reader reviews embedded with book listings.

Some of my posts score high on Google and bring in lots of visitors

This makes sense when you think through how Google is setup, but I found it pretty odd how some random, hastily authored posts brought the bulk of the visitors to the blog.

My ability to retain visitors is weak

This blog isn't a commercial venture, and I make no effort to guide visitors down some path for conversion. Still, it's clear that many first-time visitors hit my blog looking for specific information (e.g., about the HP Photosmart C4380), read what I wrote about the topic, and then leave and never come back.

Conclusions

I'm still assessing this data and am mulling making some further changes to this blog and what I post about.

While the blog is a success in some respects in that it allows me to connect with friends and express myself, the relative lack of visitor interaction dampens my ongoing motivation for continuing in the same fashion.

I'm unsure about the way forward. I might stop posting book reviews, or maybe I'll continue as I have.

International Domain Names

Updated (30 October 2009): ICANN Approves International Web Addresses

ICANN Bringing the Languages of the World to the Global Internet

Hebrew, Hindi, other scripts get Web address nod

##

It's been talked about for years, but it looks like all the hurdles have been passed and we may see web addresses written in languages other than English as early as next year.

This is very interesting and really cool, although I wonder about the implications for translating existing domains and for the many people without language packs on their machines. Will all addresses have an English base, so you get the specific domain name based on your regional language settings? Will organizations start migrating away from some of the country-specific domains, like .jp and .cn? Time will tell.
One of the key issues to be taken up by ICANN's board at this week's gathering is whether to allow for the first time entire Internet addresses to be in scripts that are not based on Latin letters. That could potentially open up the Web to more people around the world as addresses could be in characters as diverse as Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Hindi and Cyrillic — in which Russian is written.
Internet set for change with non-English addresses (Yahoo! Tech)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walmart Family Moments

During today's Bills-Panthers football game on CBS, I noticed a number of Walmart spots highlighting "family" moments. Apparently, because you can save money at Walmart and buy more stuff, you're happier and consequently spend more time with your family. The commercials I saw featured family members happily and wholesomely playing video games.

The spots I did not see were of Walmart's own employees engaging with their families, happy and living better on a Walmart salary. I also didn't see any commercials revealing the family moments of Walmart's legion of overseas outsourced labor.

Maybe we'll see these spots during the holidays.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AddThis

As part of my blog redesign, I wanted to add utility links beneath my posts to allow visitors to share content easily. I'm on different computers throughout the week and like to use services like del.icio.us to bookmark and send links back and forth, so I appreciate it when sites provide these convenience links beneath posts.

After some research, I discovered AddThis, an awesome sharing tool that's easy to use and incorporate into websites and blogs.

I'm interested in what others think, first of utility links in general beneath blog posts. Are these becoming standard? Do you expect or want these links beneath news articles and blog posts? Regarding AddThis, has anyone else used this tool or anything similar?

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Blog Design

I'm in the process of updating the look and feel of this blog. It's not a drastic change, but things should look cleaner and tidier as I finish the update.

Credit to Deluxe Templates for the "Slidely" template which I am customizing for use here.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bill Simmons on Being a Parent of Young Kids

I don't read his column regularly, but I was browsing through ESPN.COM over the weekend and came across this gem from Bill Simmons. I don't think you have to be a parent to appreciate this, but it might help. My wife and I were rolling on the floor laughing!
Important note: Being a parent of young kids sucks. Don't let anyone tell you differently. About six months ago, I wanted to start a Twitter account of quotes my wife screamed in the heat of those my-kids-are-driving-me-crazy-moments such as these: "If you don't stop crying, I am going to stick you in the microwave!!!!" and "Fine, climb up the stairs again; I hope you fall down, I really do!" She wouldn't let me because she thought child services would arrest us. The truth is, every parent snaps from time to time. We can't help it. Our kids' job is to suck all forms of life from us, frighten us, embarrass us in public and prevent us from sleeping until they turn 4. We pretend it's not so bad when, really, it's mostly horrible and even somewhat indefensible. But -- and this is a big but -- they parcel out just enough, "Wow, I'm so glad I had kids" moments to make it all worth it. And that's what Halloween is: an entire "Wow, I'm so glad I had kids" day. At least until they eat too much chocolate and wake us up at 5 the next morning because they're Exorcist vomiting. But I digress.
Link to Full Column

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can Luck Be Learned?

As someone who believes that effects in our lives are often due to unknown causes that make things seem like chance or luck, this article about behavior affecting luck rang true.

Be lucky - it's an easy skill to learn

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies by Arthur Goldwag (Book Review)

Sometimes I think an author has a great idea but misses on the execution, and that's my read on Arthur Goldwag's Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more.

While the author covers a full range of cults and conspiracies, including all the bigs ones -- like the Freemasons, Area 51 and Roswell, the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, and the 9/11 Truth Movement -- his propensity to provide the information in encyclopedic, itemized entries, even though he states that this is not his intent, detracts from any larger narrative and interconnections he could otherwise explore.

Bottom line: Interesting to peruse, especially for some of the esoteric entries, but also a missed opportunity to go deeper and tease out the sociological and cultural implications behind the desire and need to believe.