My Website Circa 2003

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I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to reminisce about my old website days. I decided to the internet archive website to look up some of my old ones. For those of you who don’t know, the Internet Archive is a website that archives websites at various periods in time. Here’s what my old website ppongpaet.com looked like back in 2003.

ppongpaet.com website circa 2003

In the words of Keanu Reeves: “Whoah”, like just “Whoah”. There really wasn’t much there. I figured I would create a website that I would go to everyday for me. Thus it had my favorite websites on the right. I wrote some neat JavaScript tree folders to organize the bookmarks. On the top right you could even directly search Google. On the top left you could change the theme of the site. There’s even a blurb about my first Mortal Kombat game: Deadly Alliance. I had done the mocap back in 2002 and the game finally came out in 2003 or late 2002. I was pretty excited. I had my resume up and a photo section that used a photo gallery tool that my friends and I wrote.

The highlight of the site had to be my journal section. Back in those days, I don’t think the word blog even existed yet. I didn’t update it very much, but that journal section was a WSYIWYG content management system that my friends and I wrote. Had we made it public and let the world use it for free, things might have been a little different. We were too naive and held it too closely to us thinking other people would steal our idea or something.

I’d show you my first website that I made for my EECS 101 class back in 1995 but the Internet Archive has no record of that. The cool thing back then was background images, blink tags and animated GIFs. Imagine a dark marble green tile texture with bright yellow bold italics size 24 font text, images with thick yellow borders and you have an idea of what my first website looked like. Give me a break, I had no idea what I was doing back then. It was a stupid assignment and I got caught up in the technology and basically threw every new tag I knew in there back then.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Yelp.com – Stop Being Evil, A Commentary on Today’s Social Review Sites

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Yelp.com, for those of you not in the know, was started by 2 former PayPal employees. It’s a website that features reviews of local businesses submitted by users of the website. Yelp has some great social networking features as well as a reputation system that encourages users to stick to the site and submit more and more reviews. It’s actually quite neat.

Let me preface this with the fact that I started out loving Yelp. I came to rely on it for every restaurant I wanted to try out. I even introduced my wife to it who then proceeded to go on a Yelp rampage. Within a period of a month she had written about 60 reviews and proceeded to become a Yelp Elite member – a status bestowed on users who are both prolific and write good quality content.

My love affair with Yelp started to turn sour when I used it not from the point of view of a review consumer, but as a business owner. I teach Chinese martial arts (aka wushu) at one of the most reputable schools in Chicago. Working in technology, I realize the importance of having an Internet presence that extends beyond just having a static website. In order to build a good online reputation for the school, I asked all my students to write their review of the school on Yelp. Most of the students aren’t so Internet savvy and hadn’t even heard of Yelp. I was basically recommending Yelp to this group of people.

I got a total of 28 students to review the school. Everybody wrote their honest impression of the school. I didn’t force or coach anyone to write what they didn’t want to write. I just told them to get on the site and review us. My thought was that if you were looking for a wushu school in Chicago on Yelp, you’ll gravitate to the one with the most reviews provided that the reviews were meaningful.

Do No Evil

This is when the problem began. After a few days, the reviews started disappearing one by one on the Yelp site until I went from 28 reviews to 18 reviews. I was pissed. I know you can flag reviews, and I suspected that maybe a competing business who’s reviews weren’t so glowing was flagging my students’ reviews. I emailed Yelp, and they didn’t tell me anything useful. Their response was a cookie cutter legalese mumbo jumbo saying that their only concern was the quality of the site and that they had final say of what when on the site. Since my wife was an Elite member, I thought maybe she would have more pull. Again she was given the exact same cookie cutter response. I wasn’t ready to give up on Yelp just yet and found out a friend of mine in Palo Alto knew a Yelp employee. I contacted that Yelp employee and ran into the same brick wall. At that point I just threw up my hands and said screw it.

Nowadays I never go back to Yelp for any reviews. They’ve totally lost me as a visitor. I just can’t help but wonder what other perfectly good businesses reviewed on there have totally been shafted. When you have a lot of reviews, losing a couple here and there is not a big deal. But if you had a small business and all you had were 4 glowing reviews and 2 of them got deleted, that could make the difference between the visitor going to you or to the next guy with 2 equally good reviews.

Social review sites are popping up all over the net. All the major players like Google, MSN, Yahoo, and AOL have them. We’ve reached the point where users no longer trust in traditional marketing and advertising. Proclaiming you’ve got the best tacos is town is not enough. People want to read what other people have to say about your tacos. In the future, as people get more and more net savvy, the differentiating factor of these review sites is whether the user can trust these reviews or not. As for Yelp, they’ve totally lost my trust and until they make it right I’m going to keep telling people not to go there.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Make Money On Your Blog – As An Amazon Affiliate

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Every blogger’s dream is to either to have a large readership or to make money blogging. Until your an A-list blogger with crazy traffic and advertising deals, you’re going to have to find easy ways to generate what little income you can get.

My blog is a little over a month old and I can tell you right now what’s worked for me is being an Amazon affiliate. Last month when I just barely started my blog, I had just 1 Amazon referral. That referral was a direct word of mouth recommendation to a friend of mine who ended up buying it from my blog as a thank you for recommending it. It wasn’t surprising since I pretty much had no traffic. This month however, traffic picked up via a couple of social bookmarking sites and has already resulted in 8 Amazon referral fees. A couple more of these and my hosting for the month will be paid for. You can imagine with enough traffic to your site, you could earn a nice chunk of change.

So let me tell you a bit about the Amazon Associates program. Now I don’t have anything to do with them; I am not an Amazon employee. I get no benefits from you joining the program. I just whole heartedly think it’s a cool program and since I shop at Amazon all the time and like their online store, I figure many other people probably do too.

Basically the Amazon Associates program is an affiliate program. What this means is that if you successfully refer any business to them, you get a little kickback. You can earn up to 10% in referral fees. By joining, which is free btw, you get access to the Associates site which provides you with tons of ways to create links and widgets to Amazon products on your blog. What’s cool about this is say you recommend a product: If your visitor clicks on the link and does not buy that product, but browses Amazon and ends up buying another product, you still get a kickback. The visitor can even close the browser and start a new session. If they come back to Amazon on the same day and buys something, you also get a kickback.

Now you think wow, I can just load up my site with tons of Amazon products. That’s probably not going to work for you. Think about it, if I saw a page like that, wouldn’t it be easier for me to just go to Amazon? What I do is review the products that I’ve actually used (or at least experienced through a friend) and think they are worth recommending. Part of this is your reputation. If I recommend a crappy product, people are less likely to trust me and/or buy the products I recommend. If I recommend good quality products that I genuinely believe in, people are more likely to buy it and I’m more likely to make money. It’s that easy.

Here’s an example of a widget you can add to your site:

Here are some examples of what I did:
5 Ways to Accessorize and Customize Your New MacBook Pro
Buzzmarketing Book Review

So what are you waiting for silly blogger? Join the Amazon Associates program now.

Popularity: 2% [?]

The Internet Is The New Resume

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Quickly Google my name (I know, I’m vain), and you’ll quickly find that I work at Accenture Technology Labs as a researcher, I’m credited in 2 Mortal Kombat video games on IMDB, and I was in the cast of Theatricks, all within the first results page! A little further digging will reveal that I am a martial arts instructor at Chicago Wushu, I did .NET programming back in 2004, and I’ve messed around with listserv back in the day.

A resume is just not enough anymore. It just not remarkable. How do you stand out? With so many technologists blogging, heck, even a blog isn’t enough anymore. It’s just as essential as having a website or your own business cards nowadays. Please keep in mind that I’m speaking from the perspective of a technologist or an IT worker. Obviously a blog won’t help someone who flips burgers at McDonald’s or a construction worker as much.

You can’t hide from the Internet anymore. You have to be careful of what you do on the internet. An employer does not need to potentially see your galavanting on MySpace. Nor do they need to see from your Facebook feed that you’ve just spent hours on Kongregate playing video games during work hours. Photos from that spring break trip or Mardi Gras are probably best kept off Flickr. Your Internet trail paints a picture of you to an employer. Whether it’s a positive or a negative impression depends on what activities you choose to do on there. This is especially true with the Internet Wayback Machine which archives the internet and takes snapshots of websites at different points in time. Even if you choose to clean up your act, your trail is now written in stone.

You may say, well crap, how about I don’t do anything on the Internet. Well you can keep your head in the sand while the world is moving forward and leaves you behind. Lots of other technologists and IT workers are choosing to embrace the Internet and leverage it in a positive way. They are contributing source code, writing informative articles, answering questions in forums, and generally displaying that they are knowledgeable.

Popularity: 1% [?]