Sunday, December 31, 2006

Veotags Improves Vlog Searchability

First off, what is veotag?:

veotag is an exciting new service that lets you display clickable text, called “veotags,” within an audio or video file.

Your audience can see the veotags whenever they play your file on the web. Clicking on a veotag lets your audience jump right to that part of the file.

Sounds like veotag will be a way for vlog producers to make chapters in their video much like DVDs. I haven't really got into video blogging yet but judging from the press and the sites description this is definitely something that should make vlogs and videos published on blogs a bit easier to navigate.



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AdMonsters Job Site Goes Live

AdMonsters, the leading online ad sales membership group, has recently launched their new job site, AdMonsters Jobs. I think with time this has the potential to be one of the top job boards for many different fields of technology but particularly blog networks. Now the prices seem a bit steep if I understand them correctly ($499 for one slot) but it will be an interesting venture to keep an eye on as they grow and develop.

Update: After I wrote this post I was contacted by Jennifer Siegel from the site who was able to clarify some things. First, she told me that admonsters is:

the only association exclusively dedicated to professionals in online advertising ‘operations’. By maintaining our exclusive focus on ad operations, AdMonsters provides a much richer forum for our members and others either seeking employment in ad operations or wish to announce an available position to this highly targeted audience.
She also informed me that members of admonsters are able to post two jobs for free. The $499 price tag for one job listing was confirmed although they do offer package discounts for people who frequently post jobs.

Now that I can confirm the price tag I would have to say that if I was a blogging startup I would utilize ProBlogger's job board before I would jump up into such a big investment as this is. The ProBlogger job board is $50 for 30+ days which is about $450 cheaper than admonsters.

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Blogsmith Blog Platform to Launch in Early 2007

Blogsmith, the blogging platform behind Weblogs, Inc. is set to launch in early 2007. Little is really known about it beyond its prior use, although if it good enough for a blog network of that size to use I would venture a guess that it is going to make some waves in the blogging community.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Performancing Blogging Plugin Rebranded as ScribeFire

Left behind from Performance's sale to PayPerPost was perhaps the most well known Performance attribute, it's blogging plugin. Many wondered what was going to happen with the plugin and Performancing stated it would be rebranding the popular service. Well the day has arrived very quickly when Performancing announced they have retitled it ScribeFire. They currently have up a landing page, although it can still be downloaded at it's original location.

I have never tried the plugin but it is on my list of things to try. In fact I downloaded it tonight and will "fire" it up tomorrow so check back soon for a review.

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Multiple Amazon Associate IDs Possible, But Are They Worth It

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.net writes a post discussing multiple Amazon Associate IDs. The idea behind this thinking is that multiple IDs will enable you to track your campaigns effectiveness and this does indeed hold true. Many other programs like Adsense and Chitika already allow users to create multiple tracking IDs on their website with all of the money from the sales/clicks going into the same account. With Amazon's tiered system, however, sales on multiple IDs are reported uniquely of one another and will hinder you from reaching the top levels.

To get another unique Amazon Affiliate ID all you have to do is write to associates@amazon.com and tell them:

1. Your main Associates ID.

2. “I would like to receive XXX Associates tracking id’s to track multiple campaigns I am planning to run.”

That’s it. XXX can be any number up to 1,500. You will receive an email within 24 hours with your tracking id’s.

Tracking id’s will look very much like your Associates ID but a bit different. If your Associates ID is “MyWebSite-20″, then your tracking id’s look something like “MyWeb1-20″ through “MyWeb1500-20″.

You will then be able to use your tracking id’s in the same place as you would use your Associates ID.

I definitely feel this will be useful to some who really need to track the effectiveness of new campaigns or who are distant from reaching the next tier. For those who want to earn the highest percentage from their sales however, I recommend sticking to one ID and simply following an increase or decrease in your sales numbers. Keep an eye out on Amazon changing this in the future to allow for tracking IDs that all contribute to one system.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Presedential Hopeful Uses YouTube To Announce Bid For Presidency

John Edwards, the presidential candidate and running mate of John Kerry's from 2004 has used YouTube to announce his bid for the 2008 presidential election. The move is a first for a major politician to make a major announcement on the social media site. It will be interesting to follow YouTube leading up to the presidential election in '08 to see what impact it plays.



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Microsoft Sparks Controversy By Giving Away Laptops

Microsoft's decision to give away free Ferrari Acer laptops has sparked a storm in the blogosphere. The laptops are loaded with Window's Vista and were given to be reviewed but could be kept by the blogger. Here is the text of the email to bloggers about the opportunity:

I’d love to send you a loaded Ferrari 1000 courtesy of Windows Vista and AMD. Are you interested?

This would be a review machine, so I’d love to hear your opinion on the machine and OS. Full disclosure, while I hope you will tell others about your experience with the pc, you don’t have to. Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away to your community, or you can keep it. Just let me know your opinion on Windows Vista and what you plan to do with it when the time comes.
There are several different laptops going out but the blogger had the option to return it to Microsoft, pass it on to someone else, or to keep it for their own use. After the controversy started to emerge Microsoft sent out another email revising their previous policy about keeping the laptop. Here's what they had to say:
As you write your review I just wanted to emphasize that this is a review pc. I strongly recommend you disclose that we sent you this machine for review, and I hope you give your honest opinions. Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding of our intentions I’m going to ask that you either give the pc away or send it back when you no longer need it for product reviews. Since you are a Mac user, I’m assuming you don’t have a Windows Vista pc. Feel free to hold onto this loaner as long as you need a Windows computer for reviews.
I think this recent revision should quell some of the initial controversy that surrounded the idea of bloggers being tempted to write a positive review of the OS in exchange for the free laptop. This policy probably should have been implemented from the start but live and learn is the policy of most companies and we can just hope this event serves as a lesson to Microsoft and other companies in the future.

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PayPerPost Purchases Performancing

PayPerPost, the controversial program used by many small bloggers who are paid to promote a product or service, is in the news again. This time they will be announcing their acquisition of blogging tools and services company Performancing. The acquisition is based mainly to obtain Performancing's 28,000 customers who can now become potential customers of PayPerPost's. Performancing's popular Firefox plugin will not be part of the purchase and will be used to start a new brand.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Advertisers Using Deceptive Practices, Buying Off Bloggers

Laurence Benhamou from news.com.au is reporting that some advertisers are using pay for blog services to deceive customers:

THE curtain has been pulled on a deceptive new advertising tactic in which companies camouflage ads as product praise masquerading as independent blog postings.

Several companies have been exposed for launching fake blogs - known as “flogs” - in a practice that coincides with an increase in the number of real bloggers secretly paid to endorse products.

Online firm Technorati reported it was tracking more than 63 suspicious blogs.

Wily marketers have infiltrated the blogging world, paying for favourable commentary on products.

However posting product commentary without alerting readers that bloggers were compensated for their opinions is unethical and potential illegal, according to US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules.

I think this post kind of steps over what is actually occurring quite a bit. Now I know that there are a fair share of companies that do indeed use this tactic fully knowing that it is deceptive and potentially illegal and are just hoping to not get caught. However I disagree to an extent on the illegal part of this article. If the company is indeed using the blog in such a way intended to deceive customers into purchasing something that is either misrepresented or falsely stated. The article seems to imply that simply not telling readers you are paid is illegal which is just not the case, yet. The FTC ruling from a few weeks ago was simply an opinion and not a law or rule the FTC has imposed but could in the future.

To be safe and avoid any legal or non-legal backlash as a result of being paid to blog simply disclose your affiliation with a disclosure statement or a line in the post indicating you are being paid.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Media Studio Announced

Andrew Michael Baron, the founder of Rocketboom and VoIP entrepreneur Jeff Pulver are launching a network studio called Abbey Corps. Baron has promised a slow reveal about the project on his blog: "My next clue will reveal which other shows are a part of the studio and then I will go on to explain why I believe it’s a much better business than Podshow or Podtech." The studio will be a direct competitor to Revision3.

It has been suggested the new studio will probably include Zadi Diaz, Amber Dawn MacArthur, and Steve Garfield. In the past Pulver had discussed launching what would amount to another Rocketboom, although in the end he went with the founder on a new venture. Should be an interesting project to keep an eye on as more and more is revealed about it.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Microsoft Attempts To Patent RSS

RSS is a method to syndicate your sites content to others in an either full or partial fashion. Microsoft has applied for two patents that cover RSS (located here and here). The patents cover the ability to 'subscribe to a particular Web feed' and 'efficiently consume or read RSS feeds using both an RSS reader and a Web browser.’ Remember those are drawn directly from the patents but the whole attempt wreaks of shadiness on Microsoft's part. Why? Microsoft didn't invent RSS or RSS readers and is just attempting to steal a product designed and marketed by others but that hasn't been patented yet.

Word of Microsoft’s applications drew fire from Dave Winer, a self-described co-inventor of RSS. “Presumably they’re eventually going to charge us to use it,” he wrote in Thursday morning’s dispatch at his site, Scripting News. “This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS.”
CNET has more on the story.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Reviews and Predictions Submissions

Here is a list of all of the submission to ProBlogger's recent Reviews and Predictions Group Writing Project:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What Gets Dugg The Most...

With social bookmarking sites like Digg.com being able to drive massive amounts of traffic to pages nearly instantly knowing what is most popular can help you form some of your content and keywords to please the masses. Here is a table by StatisticsFreak that analyzes the most popular topics on the Digg social bookmarking site:
So tech industry news and Apple take up nearly 50% of the most popular topics. Quite an interesting chart not only for what is on here but for what isn't, regular news.

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Amazon Payments Go Monthly

The Amazon Associates program will be switching from quarterly to monthly payments in 2007. Instead of getting the previous 4 checks, direct deposits, or gift certificates you will be receiving 12. The amount of time that must pass after a pay period is now 60 days meaning you will be receiving your January payments in April. Now this is an increase over the previous 30 days but it all works out in the end with the more frequent payments. Here are the new tiers for commission as well:
Great new rates for Affiliates. The old tier system required over 9000+ items to be shipped to reach the highest tier. Now it is just over 3000+ so its giving quite a bit more on all the tier levels. Amazon also had some news for those who are still receiving checks:

“Lastly, effective January 1, 2007, we are increasing the Check Processing Fee for US-based Associates from $8 to $15. The minimum check amount is still $100. We encourage all US-based Associates to choose direct deposit (EFT) or Amazon.com Gift Certificates as their payment method to avoid this fee. The minimum amount for these payment types is $10. Visit Associates Central to change your payment method.”
Overall great news for Amazon Associates and things are looking good for 2007.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How Does Google Handle Duplicate Content

So just what does Google consider duplicate content and how do they handle it. It's more lenient than I expected and explains what would happen to blogs reproducing free content or ripping off other people's writing. They explained in detail what they consider duplicate content and just what they do about it on their official Webmaster blog. Here is some of the key points from the post:

“What is duplicate content?
Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Most of the time when we see this, it’s unintentional or at least not malicious in origin: forums that generate both regular and stripped-down mobile-targeted pages, store items shown (and — worse yet — linked) via multiple distinct URLs, and so on. In some cases, content is duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or garner more traffic via popular or long-tail queries….

What does Google do about it?
During our crawling and when serving search results, we try hard to index and show pages with distinct information. This filtering means, for instance, that if your site has articles in “regular” and “printer” versions and neither set is blocked in robots.txt or via a noindex meta tag, we’ll choose one version to list. In the rare cases in which we perceive that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. However, we prefer to focus on filtering rather than ranking adjustments … so in the vast majority of cases, the worst thing that’ll befall webmasters is to see the “less desired” version of a page shown in our index….

Don’t fret too much about sites that scrape (misappropriate and republish) your content. Though annoying, it’s highly unlikely that such sites can negatively impact your site’s presence in Google. If you do spot a case that’s particularly frustrating, you are welcome to file a DMCA request to claim ownership of the content and have us deal with the rogue site.”

This all puts me a little more at ease because although I receive back links from most blogs republishing my articles I sometimes wonder if it affects my Google ranking. Turns out is unlikely these instances have much affect on my blog but I know also have an outlet to use if I am worried about repetitive or frequent offense.

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Will 2007 Mark The End Of Digg?

Digg underwent a major upgrade yesterday but does this revamp mark the revamp of the brand or the beginning of the end. Digg is familiar to most publishers as a place to see not only what's hot and what's not but also as a site to detect your own viability in the online market by the number of Diggs something you are involved with gets. 2006 marked the explosion of Digg as one of the premiere social bookmarking sites but could 2007 be its downfall.

This explosion went beyond just an expansion in its service but Digg became known to not only all web masters and content producers but average Joe too. This Digg explosion could have gone two ways. The first involves an increase in ethical use of the service as a way to show others what they should be reading. The other, the way it went in my view, was the unethical way. Webmasters and businesses caught wind of this Digg explosion and looked to exploit it.

Getting Dugg to the front page of Digg means thousands upon thousand of free page views. Now this promotion is great if garnering Diggs is done properly but news has surfaced recently that this may not be the case. Companies as well as others are paying pennies on the dollar to get their pages Dugg by foreign companies that specialize in various form of web fraud. This traffic technique sure beats PPC programs like Adsense in cost per visitor so why not participate in it? The reason is simple: techniques like this undermines Digg validity.

Users see Digg as what is popular with others. Not what some click bank was paid to make look most popular. The undermining of Digg and other social bookmarking sites is the beginning of the end of sites that claim to be "public favorites" with little or no moderation. The problem can be solved easy enough with the addition of moderators but this presents them with another problem. Digg is proud of the freedom they grant users in submitting content yet relies on them to distinguish spam and invalid Diggs from their valid submissions. Something needs to change before Digg falls too far behind services that use extensive moderation (think Netscape) and falls out of the race for the top social bookmarking service.

2007 could be a turn for a better or for the worse for Digg. With scandals of paid users and paid Diggs becoming ever more common unless something changes soon Digg will have some bumpy roads ahead. So will 2007 be remembered as the year Digg shines or the year Digg dies: You decide.

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Blogger Beta is Beta No More

Blogger Beta, now known as just Blogger, was released today. I have been using Beta here since I began blogging and can attest to its ease of use. Now if customization of templates and universality was just as good as Wordpress, Blogger might just have a good thing on their hands.

"The new version of Blogger is metaphorically bursting with features, from the big guns like drag-and-drop template editing and post labels (which are perfect, by the way, for indexing the 131 historical figures you may have written about), to little polishes like a better-designed Dashboard or that you no longer need to solve a word verification CAPTCHA to post a comment on your own blog."
Now I have experienced this personally but I think splogs are just too darn easy to make on Blogger or any free service. I have experienced this accidentally because I have 4 blogs on blogger and each gives me a link. Nothing is stopping anyone from creating 100, 200, 400... blogs all linking to one blog thereby increasing their SE ranking as well as their Technorati ranking. Now Google does have guards in their system to prevent against this but it makes me wonder how many publishers have boosted their clout using such techniques. Just an interesting thing to consider.
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2006 Weblog Award Winners

Congratulations to the luck 45 winners of this years Weblog Awards. Next years awards are set to be announced, in person, at the Blog World & New Media Expo in Las Vegas in November 2007. Again congrats to all those who won or who were even nominated for such an honor.

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Top 10 Acquisitions of 2006

AdAge has a list of the top acquisitions of 2006. Interesting list, some of the deals don't seem, to me at least, to have the impact worthy of this list but hey all top 10 lists have some opinion to them. It is a good list over all with Google finding it on there 3 times which isn't surprising given the impact they have in the online community.

  1. YouTube by Google , $1.65 billion
  2. Massive by Microsoft, $200 million-$400 million
  3. Atom Films by Viacom, $200 million
  4. DMarc by Google, $102 million
  5. Xfire by Viacom, $102 million
  6. Platform by Comcast, $80 million
  7. Grouper by Sony, $65 million
  8. JotSpot by Google, $50 million
  9. Petfinder by Animal Planet, $35 million
  10. Wired.com by Conde Nast, $25 million
What do you think, any acquisitions you think should have made the list? Spout out in the comments section.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Google Announces "Top Searches" for 2006

Google released it's annual Zeitgeist Report for the top searches of 2006:

Google’s top searches for the year:

1. bebo
2. myspace
3. world cup
4. metacafe
5. radioblog
6. wikipedia
7. video
8. rebelde
9. mininova
10. wiki

The top searches on Google News:

1. paris hilton
2. orlando bloom
3. cancer
4. podcasting
5. hurricane katrina
6. bankruptcy
7. martina hingis
8. autism
9. 2006 nfl draft
10. celebrity big brother 2006

Other Zeitgeist links to check out:
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99 Tips for Bloggers to Market on the Cheap

So you've created your web site and you are just waiting for the traffic to pour in. Times have changed and marketing must be done to create a popular website:

The days of setting up shop and automatically getting traffic just by being online are over. Today, if you want to have success on the web you need a unique angle and a reputable brand so that visitors have something to remember you by.
Branding gives you your own name and distinguishes you from other online competitors. Few webmasters have heard of or participate in branding practices which loses them potential sales and traffic. Among the 99 tips:
  • Build an influential site
  • Go niche and dominate
  • Concentrate on one domain, not 10
99 Tips for Poor Web Startups

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Confirm Your Site's Google Status

Have you ever wondered weather Google got around to indexing your website or perhaps you are curious as to how often Google crawls your pages. Google has a tool for such a purpose. The tool, part of Google's Webmaster Tools, tells you if your page is indexed and, if so, when it was last crawled. Great tool for content developers to track their search engine performance and optimization.

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Google Defines "Good and Bad" Links

Loren Baker from Search Engine Journal has written a post about Google finally defining link building and the value of link popularity. Google uses an algorithm that ranks pages in its search engines based largely upon links to it from other pages. Loren says that any link earned from hard work such as quality, ideas, originality, and building an authentic site will count highly and favorably in the Google ranking algorithm. Here is some more info about the definition from Google's Stefanie Ulrike Dürr:

Discounting non-earned links by search engines opened a new and wide field of tactics to build link-based popularity:

* Classically this involves optimizing your content so that thematically-related or trusted websites link to you by choice.

* A more recent method is link baiting, which typically takes advantage of Web 2.0 social content websites.

* One example of this new way of generating links is to submit a handcrafted article to a service such as http://digg.com.

* Another example is to earn a reputation in a certain field by building an authority through services such as http://answers.yahoo.com.

Our general advice is: Always focus on the users and not on search engines when developing your optimization strategy. Ask yourself what creates value for your users. Investing in the quality of your content and thereby earning natural backlinks benefits both the users and drives more qualified traffic to your site.

The policy reaffirms what has been said for a long time. Focusing on making a quality site for readers will lead to better search engine ranking through ever-increasing links. Link building has a variety of goals that vary between content creators:
  • Build targeted traffic
  • Attract valuable and positive user intent driven links
  • Attract users who will essentially follow a call to action
  • Establish the site as a resource amongst other resources in its field
  • Engagement of thoughtful discussion or debate
Now what exactly is bad linking then?

We’ve always taken a clear stance with respect to manipulating the PageRank algorithm in our Quality Guidelines.

Despite these policies, the strategy of participating in link schemes might have previously paid off.

But more recently, Google has tremendously refined its link-weighting algorithms. We have more people working on Google’s link-weighting for quality control and to correct issues we find.

So nowadays, undermining the PageRank algorithm is likely to result in the loss of the ability of link-selling sites to pass on reputation via links to other sites.

There you have it straight from Google: Good linking vs. Bad linking.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Adsense Clarifies Policy of Placing Ads Near Pictures

In the past I had talked about positioning Adsense ads near images but needing a border to separate the two. Now at the time I wrote that post this was the accepted policy as no formal policy had yet been released by Google. But today, Google and Adsense posted on their Adsense blog a clarification and definition to their policy. Here is the text of the post:

"Ad and image placement: a policy clarification

We've recently received a number of emails from publishers asking how we feel about the placement of images near Google ad units. There's been some confusion on this issue, and so we turned to our policy team to set the record straight.

Can I place small images next to my Google ads?

We ask that publishers not line up images and ads in a way that suggests a relationship between the images and the ads. If your visitors believe that the images and the ads are directly associated, or that the advertiser is offering the exact item found in the neighboring image, they may click the ad expecting to find something that isn't actually being offered. That's not a good experience for users or advertisers.

Publishers should also be careful to avoid similar implementations that people could find misleading. For instance, if your site contains a directory of Flash games, you should not format the ads to mimic the game descriptions.

What if I place a space or a line between my images and my ads? Would that work?

No. If the ads and the images appear to be associated, inserting a small space or a line between the images and ads will not make the implementation compliant.

Does this mean I can't place ads on pages with images?

You can definitely place Google ads on pages containing images -- just make sure that the ads and images are not arranged in a way that could easily mislead or confuse your visitors. For example, if you run a stock photography site with a catalog of thumbnail images, don't line the ads up with the thumbnails in a way that could be misleading. Consider using a full border around your ads or changing your ad colors, for example.

What do unacceptable implementations look like?

Here are some examples that wouldn't comply with our policies:

































In summary, don't arrange your blog so that it looks like the pictures and ads are associated with one another and you should be fine.

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You are Time's Person of the Year

Yes, You. Each and every one of you. Time named user-generated media such as blogs, social media (think MySpace and Facebook) and video-sharing sites (namely YouTube) as their "Person of the Year". Here's a selection from the, well, selection:

“And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.”
The move is smart because what will most user-generated sites do? Link straight to the Time article sending their traffic through the roof.

P.S. - Thanks to Darren at ProBlogger for the link.

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How To Blog About a Popular Topic and Get Noticed

Darren Rowse, one of my many inspirations and resources, has written a post about how to blog about an overly blogged or popular topic and still get noticed. He recently wrote a post about Time's Person of the Year announcement but with a slight twist. His humorous look at the decision made his post stand out form the crowd of thousands of others. Here are his recommendations to stand out:

  1. Find a Fresh Angle
  2. Be Fast
  3. Be Controversial or Humorous
  4. Use Striking Images
  5. Promote Your Post
In Darren's post he has commentary to go along with each of these so a read of the original is well worth it. On the "Be Fast" note, I was the first to email Darren about the story so I got some promotion out of his popular article too. I recommend giving the post a read and putting the tips to use in your own future blogging.

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