Only Genuine People Need Apply

This comment from “Veronica S” was in the comment queue this morning.

I’m not really to sure how using blogs work but I heard that by leaving my comment it can help inform and help people with information I know about. So here we go. I used the services of [URL removed] that really helped me get work in Canada. I wanted to write this message here so let people know that these guys are really good and fast. I got my gob confirmed in just 11 days. I hope they find a job in Canada for anyone looking there as well.

Spammers just seem to be getting smarter and smarter. The comment was submitted to my “Best Websites Built on WordPress” post. At first glance, the content appeared almost relevant to the post. The comment made it past Akismet and I had to read the comment twice to be sure that it wasn’t a genuine comment.

The giveaways? A hotmail address that consisted of an alphanumeric string that would be a very secure, very tough to remember password. But surely not an email address. Oh, and for good measure, the Website URL provided was the same as the link embedded in the email.

But here’s an irony for you: The company’s slogan displayed in prominent red font on their home page: “Only genuine people need apply.”

Only Genuine People Need Apply

Now, that’s got to bring a smile to your face.

Meet WordCamp Toronto Organizer Melissa Feeney

WordCamp Toronto 2008WordCamp Toronto is happening this weekend. And like all great community events, it will only happen as a result of the efforts of volunteers who give generously of their time and effort.

I caught up with Melissa Feeney at Third Tuesday Toronto. Melissa is one of the founding organizers of WordCamp Toronto, along with Mathieu Yuill.

She told me that WordCamp has been programmed to be of interest not just to developers and people who use WordPress, but that the sessions will be of interest to anyone who has any interest in blogging, including students, people in the PR industry and even those who have just discovered Perez Hilton. :-)

And where did they get the idea to organize WordCamp in Toronto? Melissa says that they attended WordCamp in Dallas and were impressed with the concept. They decided that WordCamp would enrich the community in Toronto. And bingo. Here we are.

Thank you to Melissa, Mathieu and all the organizers who have invested so much of themselves to make WordCamp Toronto something that we all can benefit from.

Your favourite WordPress plug-ins?

WordCamp Toronto 2008In my presentation at WordCamp Toronto this weekend. I’d like to illustrate how WordPress plug-ins have extended the power of WordPress as a publishing platform.

Plug-ins that stand out

What do you think are the best plug-ins for WordPress? What are the most innovative? What extend its capabilities as a platform? What make it easier to use?

What my Twitter Friends Say

Here are some of the answers I received when I asked my Twitter friends what their favourite WordPress plug-ins are:

Jason Prini, @jasonprini, suggests two plug-ins: He says “you should never have a WP install without am XML sitemap generator” and “for bilingual blogging qTranslate is the BEST I’ve found yet.”

Andraz Tori, @andraz, volunteers “Dopplr, Disqus (and Zemanta naturally).” Andraz is the founder of Zemanta. I just discovered the plug-in thanks to his tweet. I haven’t tried it out, but I’m really intrigued by it. (Malcolm Bastien, @malcolmbastien, also suggested Zemanta. Thanks Malcolm.)WordPress

Aaron Wrixon, @aaronwrixon, says “I’m a fan of WP-SpamFree for catching and killing spam comments.”

Melanie Baker, @melle, and Stephen Davies, @stedavies, make sure I don’t forget about Akismet. “I would have probably stopped blogging without it. Almost quarter of a million spam comments stopped.”

Daniele Rossi, @danielerossi, endorses PodPress and cforms

David Jones, @doctorjones, thinks “WPtouch and WordTube are great.”

Greg Godden, greggodden tells me that “Another good one is SimplePie and the SimplePie Core, used for handling RSS feeds.” O.K. I’ve got to be honest. I don’t get this one. Can anyone who is using SimplePie explain it to me it language a non-coder can understand?

@TanMcG from Praized asked me to check out the Praized plug-ins. And heck, they’re a great Montreal-based start-up who will be at WordCamp Toronto. So, I’m not embarrassed to help them promote their plug-ins with a plug.

John Biehler, @retrocactus, says “I just spoke at WordCamp Vancouver about FAlbum (randombyte.net)….it’s not super common so many may not have heard about it.”

Jordan Behan, jordanbehan sends me to look at, among others, flickrRSS and WP-Polls.

Finally, Brian Longest, @longest, pointed me to a post he’d written earlier this year identifying his top 10 WordPress plug-ins.

What do you think?

If you have a WordPress blog, please tell me which plug-ins you use and which you rate most highly. Are there other plug-ins that you find indispensable? What are your favourites? I’ll do another post following the presentation detailing the plug-ins I included and linking to the bloggers who suggested them.

Thank you for helping me with the research for this presentation.

One last thing:

As I look back at this post and the wealth of pointers people provided to me via Twitter, I realize that how lucky I am to have built up a community on Twitter of other people who share my interest. Mark Evans is SO right when he calls this “Twitter’s killer app.”

Someone please tell Canada…

I’m sitting in Seattle at 8 AM local time (11AM Eastern) and this item has just come through in my Google Canada News feed:

Please tell Canada...

Field Narrows for Obama’s Running Mate? Field Narrows? Boy, if that’s what Canadians are fed as up to date news, no wonder we have trouble with our relations with the U.S.

When I woke up two hours ago, I was greeted with this video from New Media Jim taken from Joe Biden’s front yard.

Sheesh. It’s 2008. We can all know what’s going on at the same time.

Hey Google, news should be timely. Not yesterday’s story posted today.

AideRSS' PostRank measures engagement

AideRSSAre you interested in a tool that will help you sort through the flood of new posts to find the most interesting and talked about content in your RSS subscriptions?

Are you a writer or content creator who wants to figure out which content others have become most engaged with?

Are you a corporate communicator or marketer who wants to understand which content and authors are having the greatest impact on issues and online conversations that matter to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on.

A Time Saver for Readers

Since AideRSS first launched just over a year ago, I’ve used it to identify online content that others have also found interesting and engaging. AideRSS provides a simple calculation of what they call PostRank which analyzes the frequency and type of interaction with online content and provides a relative score of how interesting and relevant people have found it to be. By sorting the posts by PostRank, I can easily spot those that seem to be generating the highest levels of engagement.

On days when I’ve let the posts in my FeedReader accumulate, I can spend more than an hour scanning them all (more time than I should invest), delete them all (What if I miss something that really matters to me?) or I can filter them with AideRSS so that I can review only those with the highest PostRank. I’ve installed AideRSS’ Firefox Extension for Google Reader to incorporate PostRank right into my RSS aggregator. A great time saver.

Measuring Engagement

From the outset, I was impressed by AideRSS’ approach to measuring what’s important in social media. It struck me that AideRSS-Co-founder Ilya Grigorik’s PostRank algorithm was a smart way to begin to measure engagement. When AideRSS launched, it wasn’t important whether Ilya had the definitive algorithm. What was important was that he was working toward a holistic calculation that incorporated both offsite and onsite interaction.

AideRSS’ CEO, Carol Leaman, participated in the Toronto Roundtable on Social Media Measurement this past spring.  During the day, she made some thoughtful contributions, both in the things she suggested and, equally importantly, the questions she asked. As I listened to her, it was clear that the folks at AideRSS were also thinking through their place in the social media metrics and measurement puzzle.

I didn’t have to wait very long to see what Carol, Ilya and the AideRSS team were working on.

PostRank: A New Standard?

A couple weeks ago, AideRSS launched PostRank on a its own site, PostRank.com. The site highlights PostRank’s utility for measuring online engagement. It also offers a set of APIs to encourage developers to incorporate PostRank in their own Web Apps. At the same time PostRank.com was launched, AideRSS also introduced Thematic PostRank to enable the PostRank calculation to be applied to any collection of content assembled from a variety of feeds and sources (not just blogs, but Twitter and others services.)

AideRSS is attempting to promote PostRank as a standard measurement of online engagement. And to date, the AideRSS approach to measuring engagement is the best I’ve found.

Have you used AideRSS or PostRank? What do you think of them?

More on AideRSS and PostRank

TechVibes: AideRSS -Now it Gets Interesting

Video of AideRSS co-founders Ilya Grigorik and Kevin Thomason demonstrating AideRSS at DemoCampToronto14.

WordCamp is coming to Toronto

If you’re a blogger, if you’re interested in a day of good discussion about social media, or if you want to know more about the best blogging platform around, you’ll want to attend WordCamp Toronto on October 4 and 5.

WordCampToronto

WordCamp brings together bloggers, designers, developers, podcasters and all kinds of social media enthusiasts to learn, share, talk and explore the potential of social media and the WordPress publishing platform.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has been booked to speak at the conference. Matt has said, “WordCamps are my favorite events to go to because there’s something about the core WordPress community that attracts smart folks with good philosophies that are fun to hang out with.”

Other speakers already confirmed include Brendan Sera-Shriar, Mike Ellis, David Peralty and Michael O’Connor Clarke (Yes, that Michael OCC, my co-worker at Thornley Fallis.)

The preliminary list of session topics includes:

  • WordPress Talk
  • Business Blogging
  • Blogging for Boomers
  • Podcasting
  • 30 Tips to Make Your Blog Better
  • Social Media for Dummies
  • Running Your Blog Like a Pro
  • Vidcasting
  • Entertainment Blogging: A Panel Discussion

Centennial College Student CentreThe organizing group for WordCamp Toronto is being led by Mathieu Yuill and Melissa Feeney. The even is being hosted at the Centennial College Student Association‘s Student Centre at Centennial’s Progress Campus. (Disclosure: the CCSA is a client of 76design.)

Thornley Fallis and 76design have settled on WordPress as the best all round publishing platform available today. And because we’ve benefitted from the work others put into developing it, we’ve tried to give back by developing two free plug-ins, FriendsRoll and TopLinks, that we hope bloggers will use to revitalize their blogrolls.

I’m keen to attend WordCamp Toronto. Not only because the blog posts and Twitter stream from other WordCamps have suggested to me that I’ll be able to mix with a particularly smart group of participants, but also because I’m hoping we can get some feedback on FriendsRoll and TopLinks from this social media savvy crowd.

If you want to attend, WordCamp Toronto, you can register at Eventbrite. I hope I’ll see you there.

Not with a bang but with a whimper?

Mark Evans reflects on Jason Calacanis’ announcement that he’s done with blogging and asks the question, "Do blogs/bloggers have a ‘best until’ date? "

I think that sooner or later, 99% of bloggers will retire from blogging or at least their current blogs. There comes a time when anyone has said all they have to say and all that keeps them going is ego. If they can come to grips with the ego question, they’ll move on to something else.

That something else may be a different blog on a different subject matter and a fresh perspective. Or it may be to leave blogging altogether.

For some people, that will come with a dramatic declaration that "I’m outahere." For most, however, I think it will come about with less and less frequent until things simply peter out.

Not with a bang but a whimper .

What do you think? How long will you keep blogging before you shut down your current blog or walk away altogether?

Social media authorship is mandatory for credibility as an advisor

Tom Foremski strikes a nerve with his post, PR Firms that Don’t Blog Yet Offer New/Social Media Practices . Tom argues:

… I’ve always said that PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren’t using it themselves.

One way to check out if a PR firm understands blogging, etc, is to see if they have a blog of their own. Many don’t, or if they do, they post very infrequently, and usually after meetings abut what they will blog about. Yet nearly every PR firm offers a new/social media practice to clients and claims that they understand this medium. This is BS imho.

I think that Tom is absolutely right. Usually, I keep my views to myself on this. But Tom’s post and the comments in response to it really hit home.

So, this is a one-time post about this topic. And before I start, please excuse me if this reads as self-congratulatory. It’s not meant to be.

But it is meant to be a challenge to all those companies that are out there peddling social media advice from the safe distance of observers. People who say "you don’t need to be active in social media to be able to advise on how to do it right."

So, to you folks, I say:

You can’t understand the process of creation unless you’ve created something

I’m a big believer that you need to be a creator of social media to truly understand it.

Social media is online communications in which people switch easily from being audience to author – without the need to know coding (thank you social software!)

How can you really understand social media if you restrict yourself to the audience role? You are really only watching one half of social media. You have to experience the work, agony and joy of creation to really know both sides of social media.

Go to next heading if you want to skip the Thornley Fallis story

Have we put our money, time and effort where my mouth is? You betcha we have. Not only me, but all the people I work with.

Back in ’04, we began experimenting with social media behind the firewall – with both a Wiki to replace our traditional intranet and a blog. (I started out with an MSN Spaces account restricted only to the people in my MSN friends list – social media on training wheels.)

In ’05, I came out in public with the Pro PR blog . Shortly after that, Terry Fallis along with David Jones (then a Thornley Fallis employee) launched the Inside PR podcast .

At the same time, we encouraged all of the people in the company to get involved in blogging (that was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter). And as people began to post, we redeveloped the Thornley Fallis Website so that the most recent posts from each of our employee blogs are front and centre. In this way, we give visitors a chance to know our company through the thoughts of the people who work here, not through "brochureware".

Today, if people come to our Website, they can read the views and insights that our team shares each an every day through: Michael O’Connor Clarke’s Uninstalled , Michael Seaton’s The Client Side , Bob LeDrew’s FlackLife , John Sobol’s The Talking Shop and the collectively authored blogs of the women in our Toronto office, PRGirlz , the folks in our Ottawa office, Capital PR , and our 76design team, shift+control .

Last year, Terry Fallis self-published his novel, the Best Laid Plans, and promoted it by reading it in a podcast series on his blog. Not only did he explore a whole new model of publishing, but his novel was awarded the Leacock Award for Humour . (And now he has a traditional publishing deal which will see his novel published and hit bookstores in the autumn season. Way to go, Terry!)

We also created some apps – FriendsRoll and TopLinks – which we hope will help revitalize the blogroll and bring a greater sense of community to blogs.

And along the way, we’ve played with all the Shiny New Objects. We’ve learned which are simply really neat technology and which have real utility. And we actively participate and generate content in those that we find useful. Twitter, Facebook, Dopplr, del.icio.us and many more.

Oh yes. We also took our social media involvement back into the real world. We’ve helped to organize the Third Tuesday social media meetups to provide a place where we can meet in the real world with others who share our passions for social media.

Bottom Line: Social media authorship is the entry fee for social media credibility.

Where does that leave us? Well, when someone asks me a question about social media, I never have to preface my response with "They say…" or "They believe…" I can always say, "In my experience, I have discovered…" And that gives me real confidence that the advice I am providing is solid.

I listen to people who have never posted to a blog pronouncing their views and presenting themselves as experts in social media. And usually I politely keep my opinion to myself. But I’ll say it here. Very few of the people who aren’t active creators of social media really understand the nuances of the social media culture.

OK. That’s the end of my rant. What do you think?

My Blog Comments Policy

The best part of blogging is receiving comments. Not only does it provide instant feedback that someone has actually read what I have written, but it provides an opportunity to listen to and learn from the views of others. Through comments, we can have our views challenged, supported or augmented. Comments are indeed where the conversation really happens.

So, I want to receive as many comments as possible. And I want to approve every comment I receive.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to publish every comment that has been submitted. Some have included content that wasn’t in keeping with the kind of place I want my blog to be.

This hasn’t happened often. But it has happened. And when it did, I realized I need to have an explicit comments policy on my blog that will provide you, my community, with guidance on what I will or will not approve for publication on Pro PR.

So, here it is. My blog comments policy.

Pro PR’s Blog Comments Policy

This is my place. I try to be civil and I’d ask commenters to be governed by the spirit of civility.

I moderate comments. I want to approve all comments. So, to be sure that I approve your comment, please:

  • Provide your real name, social media URL and email address in the comments form. I do not accept anonymous comments. My name is on all my blog posts. You know who I am. I’d like to know who you are.
  • Be civil in your comments. I will not approve comments that contain insults, threats, attacks on a person’s character or use abusive or profane language.
  • Be on topic . I will delete SPAM and off-topic comments.
  • Do not include private or personal information about another person .

What do you think?

So, there it is. My blog comment policy. Does this policy seem reasonable to you?

Acknowledgments: I reviewed the several people’s blog policies and posts about blog policies. I’d like to thank all of the following for providing guidance and inspiration for my blog policy: Lorelle Von Fossen , Lee Odden , Joyce Carpenter , Matt Craven , and Gina Trapani .

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