What I Learned This Week For March 14 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 07:50 AM with 2 comments

screenshot of the CentUp newsletter

Though today is March 21, 2014, I am finally publishing what I learned for the previous week. Just as I was about to pass on the list from last week and focus on this week to be current, I get the latest newsletter from CentUp, which featured several items from the last few What I Learned posts! Needless to say this piqued my interest in finally typing up last week’s list. And the ego stroke wasn’t bad either.

  • The Pringles brand of potato “crisps” is now owned by cereal giant Kellogg’s and has been since 2012. Is it only a matter of time when the Pringles breakfast cereal comes out?
  • I pre-ordered a domain name with one of the new global top-level domain names (gTLD). I won’t say what it is as I don’t want to jinx it in case others registered it. But if I get it, it will be put to major use.
  • I don’t know who Victoria Carpenter is, but I have no idea why or how she is liking my Facebook status as being “so cute” over and over and over again, especially as I quit Facebook over a year ago. Yes, I realize it is spam, and it’s clearly not working.
  • A new app was announced to pay for parking meters in Chicago. Where it will offer the convenience of adding more time to your parking from the app remotely (aka not running back to the car), I can only imagine the problems that will come from this. Currently in Chicago you buy a paper receipt to put on your dashboard for your time to park. Even with this “foolproof” system, many parking tickets are issued to people who have paid for parking – I know some personally. The only way to fight it is to go to court. I have no idea what the app or software that the meter checkers will use, but I can only see more headaches for parkers.
  • Most people do not know how to take a screenshot or screen capture from an iPhone, let alone a PC or a Mac.
  • Despite what Dr. Seuss wrote in his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” Bliss Street does not intersect with Mulberry. I know, as I used to live near THE Mulberry Street in Springfield, MA.
  • The domain name digital.com is up for auction. It’s last major use was as the primary domain name for Digital Electronics Corporation, or DEC for short, the former mini-computer and PC manufacturer based in Maynard, MA. As someone whose first mini-computer was a DEC PDP/11 and grew up knowing many people who worked for DEC, it is sad to see it for sale. At an opening bid of US$100,000 I am not sad enough to buy it myself.
  • I have been asked to be part of a career-mentoring group for a trade organization in Chicago. The group is one of several “pillars” the group is building to work with young people starting in their careers. I am excited to get started with it and will surely report more on it soon.
  • The week before I mentioned my good friend Andrew Cornelius who is a talented actor, comedian and improviser. He has created a new demo reel of his work, and present it for your viewing pleasure. I would have included it in the last installment, but it was trumped by the Name.com video featuring me. There’s that ego again.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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CentUp Offers A Unique Profit Model For Writers

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 at 11:54 PM with 5 comments

How much would you pay to read this blog post?

CentUp logo

Ok, I hope you are still with me and not rolling on the floor in laughter. In all seriousness, I am asking the question – how much would you pay to read this blog post, or any blog post for that matter, here on The Hot Iron? No, I am not going to put up a paywall and start charging people to read here as I don’t believe in such a thing.

As it takes time to come up with ideas, write them, edit them, come up with some original visual to go with them and post them to the site, that time is some value to me. That being said, I do not do this for direct financial gain. Where I do enjoy doing so, getting a little something in return can’t hurt. And for good measure, how about help a charity in the process?

What I just described in the last few sentences is the idea behind CentUp, a service which has been around for almost a year, which provides a button – similar to a social sharing button – where you can contribute a few cents to a few dollars to a content writer directly on their site. If you scroll to the bottom of this post at The Hot Iron you will see a CentUp button below the row of social media sharing buttons, so I can speak to CentUp with first-hand experience.

Click a Button, Help a Writer and a Charity

The end-user experience of CentUp is very straightforward, and its elegance comes from its simplicity, as you can see in the embedded Vine video above. If you cannot see the video, you can view the video of me pressing the CentUp button at Vine. You simply click on the CentUp button on a Web page or blog post that you would like to give to (or pay to or contribute to or whatever term you deem appropriate). Half of whatever amount you choose will go to the publisher, and half goes to a charity selected by the publisher from a list of charities affiliated with CentUp.

To use the button, you need an account with CentUp. If you click on the button and don’t have an account, you can sign-up on their Web site, put funds in your account, then log in and contribute. As I have the button on my site, I have an account with CentUp, and whenever I see the button and providing I liked what I read, I will give at least 10 cents to a publisher. If you’re thinking, “not another account to setup,” read on as you’ll learn more of the value a CentUp account delivers.

All clicks of the CentUp button on The Hot Iron are shared between myself and the Women With Drive Foundation, a great organization who provides women with transportation means to get to their jobs. I truly did not do them justice with that boiled-down description and I encourage you to visit their Web site for more information. There are a number of charities that content publishers can choose from and this list has expanded over the last year I have used CentUp.

The Point Is Not Early Retirement

By so far earning under a dollar per blog post, I am not considering CentUp part of my overall retirement strategy. But that is not why I use CentUp. First and foremost, I believe there is plenty of content out there on the Internet that is of value. This includes blogs, news sites, and Web sites in general. That being said, I or anyone else is not going to go through the process of registering for every site out there and paying some amount of money for content of what quality I really don’t know until I explore and read it.

In other words, if I read something and find value in it, I can offer payment for it, a true value-for-value model.

CentUp offers a one-stop payment method for Web content. I don’t need all of those accounts and logins and passwords, and sharing my credit card information all over the place. I also don’t need large sums of money to register for varying content. If I like something, I can give them a little bit of money. If it is good content, many people will do that. Right next to the button is how much money has been given so far, which is a transparent way to see how potentially popular and relevant the content may be. CentUp is a simple model that makes sense, and one I have embraced.

There is no fee to join, and adding the button to your blog or site is technically straightforward. You can tag an entire site or individual pages or posts on a blog. Again I am not doing CentUp the best justice they deserve, and I encourage you to explore the CentUp site for more information and if you have any questions on it conceptually or technically.

Unique Community of Content

There are several dozen sites now using CentUp and that number grows whenever I check back on the site. CentUp has taken advantage of this collection of content and has built a community of writers and publishers, including a newsletter of curated content on a regular basis. I have now started to subscribe to many of their RSS feeds of these blogs and sites to read their content directly. They recently added a reader app to their site within your account, but I still prefer my RSS reader for aggregating all of my content.

Do you use CentUp? Have I piqued your interest in it? Would you avoid it like I avoid Facebook? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to ask any questions you may have about CentUp as I may be able to help, or someone from CentUp may even respond themselves as they are readers as well.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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What I Learned This Week For February 28 2014

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 09:20 PM with 1 comments

photo of a CFL bulb with an install date on itI literally took a page out of my blogging notebook – a blank one – to log what I learned and observed for this the last week of February.

  • It almost seemed like for a while I was replacing CFL bulbs almost monthly, like they just weren’t lasting anywhere as long as they were supposed to. As this was a hypothesis, I decided to record the date on them that I I actually changed them, and this past week the first of them went out. Maybe I need to write install dates on a lot more things I own?
  • This past week Jim Lange, known best as the host of The Dating Game, left this mortal coil at the age of 81. Interestingly, most of his peers – game show hosts from the 70’s and 80’s – are still alive and kicking, including Wink Martindale.
  • Three words – beer pretzel caramels! This past week my lovely wife and I stopped by The Nosh at Block 37 and she saw someone she knows from our old church who now has her own confections business, selling at such events and online. The only problem with these caramels is they seem to disappear pretty quickly.
  • Amtrak announced this past week that it was starting a residency for writers to write aboard train trips. I think this is genius, as I personally have written many of the posts here at The Hot Iron aboard the Hiawatha train between Chicago and Milwaukee, and I once took the Metroliner from Boston to Washington, DC and got a ton of reading and work done. The seats they will be offering probably would have gone otherwise unused, so what is the added cost, compared to the benefit, for having someone aboard ideally plugging the fact they are on an Amtrak train. This would also extend nicely to my friend Arie’s HugTrain as well as what my friend Leyla did when she took the train west for vacation.

photo of Goldfish cracker ingredients

  • The first ingredient listed for Goldfish crackers is smiles. Can your product make a claim like that?
  • I find myself making product buying decisions based on whether they have Box Tops for Education on them or not.
  • After several months of driving by it while it was under construction, I was eager to see the inside of The Godfrey Hotel here in Chicago and we visited it last weekend. It is a beautiful space with an amazing indoor/outdoor patio with an amazing skyline view, a great restaurant with cocktails that are made in the kitchen, and after a great meal we asked for a tour of the hotel room and got to see some of the very stylish rooms. I am looking forward to a staycation getaway there some weekend.
  • Puffs Plus Lotion facial tissues are just right. Puffs Plus Lotion with the scent of Vicks is way too much.
  • Words that came up in conversations pronouncedly this past week include eminence and polymath – something I am hoping to achieve high levels of both.
  • Seeing is believing, and I learned that when I saw first-hand the craft of Gentry Design Company which makes handcrafted gemstone jewelry. It is run by a colleague’s wife, and when he told me about it I was like, “ok, she makes jewelry” until I saw some of the pieces she has made and I was extremely impressed Of course what I wrote here doesn’t do the same justice as seeing the photos for yourself on her site.
  • GiveForward is a Web service based here in Chicago where you can contribute to the medical expenses of people. It can be compared to a KickStarter or IndieGoGo but for quality of life. I met someone who works there and as I don’t know anyone who has a fundraiser on the site I did a quick search on “liver” and saw many real stories of people’s medical needs. If you are looking to make a donation to truly affect someone’s life, I recommend visiting this site.
  • I have been trying to write at least 2 blog posts a week – my “what I learned” posts as this one is plus one other. This past week I did write one on the Web service CentUp which offers a unique revenue model for bloggers, writers and publishers while also helping charities. The only problem was the first draft was dry as a bone, and would not do justice to this amazing Chicago-based start-up. Especially one which would make a great video as they did for their IndieGoGo launch last year. So I will work on the blog post for next week and in the meantime you can watch it embedded below or watch the CentUp video on Vimeo.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Finally Ordered Personal MOO MiniCards

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 07:26 PM with 2 comments

So I got me some of those MOO MiniCards.

photo of my MOO MiniCards

When it comes to business cards, some people always carry and offer them, others feel it’s 2014 so we should just digitally connect only, and probably the majority of the people out there are indifferent to them. As someone who is of the first group, I try to always carry cards with me, as you never know who you will connect with and where.

As the name goes, they are business cards, and those cards are all, well, business. It has my business title, phone, email, etc. It doesn’t list my blog, my Twitter account, or have other identifying information about me, personally. So if I meet someone personally and want them to reach me personally – or the converse for business – shouldn’t I have separate cards for that?

That was my thinking when I ordered MOO MiniCards. Now these slim cards – which measure 2.75” x 1.10” (or 70mm x 28mm) – are nothing new, and I began getting them from people as far back as 2008, and maybe even earlier. I felt these cards would be perfect to share the basic info I want to offer to someone, as well as the best identifying information about me, my face. Someone doesn’t need my home address when they first meet me, and if they want to send me a Christmas card, they have my email address to ask me for it. I also thought it would be a good idea to get MOO cards before I turned 50.

In the past I used to carry personal business cards, even before the days of free business cards from the likes of VistaPrint came along. But that was also in the 1990’s, when texting someone your contact information was not an option, for most likely the person you met didn’t have a cellular phone.

For full-color, good stock cards MOO MiniCards are affordable. You can get 200 cards, full-color and double-sided printing, for under US$40. I also chose the optional rounded corners. You design and order the cards through their easy-to-use Web site at moo.com. Of course you can find an online coupon code or get on their email list for specials. They sent me a coupon code with my order – 2RB2CK – for 15% off. I don’t get anything if you order, that is unless you give me one of your cards.

So did I convince you to also get MOO MiniCards? Do you already have them? Do you think they are not worth it, or are you indifferent? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Thank You For Seven Years Of The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 11:58 PM with 4 comments

Today, December 30, marks the 7th anniversary of the very first blog post on The Hot Iron, appropriately titled, Hello World.

photo of Heaven on Seven sign

Rather than getting mushy about the past, I’d like to thank you for reading, whether this is the first time you have read something I have written, you for some reason have been with me for the past 7 years or you are somewhere in between.

It has been an up and down journey, but aren’t they all? This past year I have gotten re-energized about blogging, and I hope to keep it up in the coming year. Only time will tell.

As I have in the past, I have wanted to have some photo to accompany the years, and this year I chose Heaven on Seven, an amazing New Orleans-style restaurant in Chicago. If you come to the Windy City, you must try it. They have 2 locations – one on the Magnificent Mile and one on Wabash Avenue, where this sign is located in front of. Go to the latter – the feel is more authentic.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Long-Lost Boston Radio Commercial Debut From The 1990’s

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, September 22, 2013 at 09:08 PM with 2 comments

photo of cassette tape for Fleet Bank Boston Red Sox commercial

When going through a junk box of stuff recently I found the above-pictured cassette tape. After pondering what was on it for a bit, I realized what it was.

It is my Boston radio commercial debut, dating back to the mid 1990’s.

The commercial is for Fleet Bank, and it was aired during radio broadcasts of the Boston Red Sox, throughout the Boston area as well as in other parts of New England. Thanks to a couple of friends I converted the audio to a YouTube video and you can watch the embedded video below, or listen to it directly from this link to YouTube.

So why was I in a radio commercial for a bank for my baseball team?

And Now For The Rest Of The Story

It was a summer night in Boston and I was going to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Prior to the game, as I would do for most games, I would have a pint or two of fresh-brewed beer at Boston Beer Works, a brewpub across from the ballpark. This night – and I forget the exact date or even the year – I recalled seeing some people with a digital audio tape recorder and a microphone. Being the former college DJ that I am (was?) I approached them and asked them what they were doing. They explained they were with an ad agency recording stories from fans for a series of radio commercials for the Sox for Fleet Bank, and then they asked me if I had a story. The story you heard in the commercial is what I told them, with a little editing I am sure.

After I recorded the story a couple of times for them, they asked me to sign a form with my name and address, indicating if they wanted to use it they would contact me. They gave me $10 for my time, and went on to talk to other people, as I went to the game. Several weeks went by, and one day I got a voicemail message from the ad agency, Arnold Fortuna Lane, saying they wanted to use my story and needed me to sign paperwork.

What? Me, on the radio? Cool! I called and confirmed my information, and they sent me a non-union talent contract to sign. They said in a few weeks the spots would run on the air and I would even get paid. What? Me get paid for being on the radio? Cool!

The next thing I knew, people were calling to tell me they heard me in the radio spot. I then made a point of listening to entire games on the radio, and there I was, telling people this story. My Mom, who was an avid listener of Red Sox games on the radio, would call me to tell me each time she heard me. Another friend said her Mom almost drove off the road when she heard me. The ad did not run every game, and as it aired later in the season it stopped its run in October. For my voice talent and my story, I got paid US$150.00 - surely not enough to retire on, but a nice bonus nonetheless. They also sent me the copy of the commercial on cassette tape.

That Was Then And This Is Now

I recall it was the mid 90’s as Fleet Bank had just bought another bank in Boston, Shawmut, and was making a big radio campaign with an end-goal of customer retention. Fleet later merged with BankBoston which was later acquired by Bank of America. The ad agency is now known as Arnold Communication. Unfortunately for me the phone did not ring seeking my golden voice endorsing other products, but I went on to a career in the Internet that has led to this recording being unearthed and released for all to hear once again. The Red Sox made some changes since then as well.

Special thanks to 2 distinguished gentlemen who helped me get this cassette to the Web. My good friend and DJ extraordinaire Eric Patel transferred the cassette audio to MP3 format, and veteran Chicago filmmaker and historian Floyd Webb took the audio and made it into a video.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Why I Quit Facebook

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 09:22 PM with 4 comments

Nine months ago I did something that, looking back now, was both a brilliant and educational moment in my life.

No, not “that!” Instead, I quit Facebook.

Mike’s last Facebook photo

What did you say Mike, quit “the” social network” Yes, I did. I had thought about it for a while, and when I heard of other smart people I know also getting out of the closed ecosystem like my good friends Jen Hanen and CT Moore, I decided it was time for me to stop the madness myself.

And you read that correctly – I had been thinking about quitting Facebook for a while. Why? The reasons below are many. Blended together, they got me to cancel once and for all.

Nothing Personal

Quitting Facebook had nothing to do with any specific person, people or event. I did not do it in retaliation to anyone for any specific act. Rather, my decision was based on trends around how and what people communicate, actions that were moving in a direction by just about everyone who was using Facebook that I was connected with (and others who were friends of friends) that I did not like. I also count myself in with that grouping of people.

Even though I had amassed quite a large group of “friends” over the years, the quality of communications was not there, only the mass quantity of it. The fact I disconnected from them on Facebook doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, it was the pool we were all swimming in that I didn’t want to be in.

Too Much Information All The Time

Social media is all about sharing. But when everyone is sharing as much as they are, all the time, it can get overwhelming. I was getting drawn into Facebook and was spending too much time separating the wheat from the shaft to find relevant or useful information or engage in somewhat meaningful conversation. A visit to Facebook.com or the app on my mobile device was a time suck, as I was compelled to keep scrolling through until I found something of interest, even though many times I didn’t.

What I was sorting through was another matter altogether. They say that kids say the darnest things, well adults on Facebook are even worse. Just when I thought I had seen and read it all, I would read more and more detail that one wouldn’t normally post to the world, let along share in a whisper. Yet there it is, posted for all to see on Facebook.

One Hot UX Mess

To make matters worse, when Facebook went to the 2-column format, it became far too much for me. It was completely unusable, and compound that with the aforementioned volume of content and it makes for something I found very difficult to read and enjoy. Why subject myself to a (user) experience I did not like? I don’t visit some Web sites because of design and functionality flaws, so why should Facebook be any different.

One thing positive I will say about Facebook is the powerful engine behind that user experience. How often do you get a real error on Facebook? Years ago I attended a local conference and some developers from Facebook were there talking about the architecture of the site, and afterwards I had the opportunity to talk with them one-on-one. I was extremely impressed with their background, experience and the technology behind the site. How it was presented, at least to me, did not live up to what was powering it.

Living McLuhan’s Words

To me, Facebook lived to the letter of the words of Marshall McLuhan in that “the medium is the message.” I had written about this a couple of years ago in a post here on the Hot Iron titled Streaming Awareness By how I lamented about missing the birth of friends’ kids that were only announced over social media, and I never saw the original post. Needless to say, it continued. There were more I missed, though each time I did bring it to the parents’ attention my dismay – once it even compelled someone to send old-fashioned birth announcements by postal mail!

This changing of how we communicate feels almost like a cheapening of the interaction between people. Miss a small couple of word post on someone’s wall and you could miss out on seeing someone visiting town, and then the person who posted those few words thinks you are ignoring them. Yes, that happened to me once. Now I am not saying we all need to grab our quill pens, ink reservoirs and parchment paper and write long letters. Any tool of communication can be used wisely or poorly. Where changing your relationship status to “single” can inform the world of a divorce or major break-up, there are certainly classier, more tasteful ways to do so.

There was at least one time when Facebook put in a chance to only display the posts of people you recently communicated with. Huh? Yes, so if I was communicating a lot with 20 people, I would predominantly see the posts from them, and anyone else I may not see at all. When I heard about this I was shocked and undid the setting, and low and behold I was hearing from everybody, as I should be. It’s one thing if I make such a setting change, but I certainly don’t want someone telling me what I read and do not read.

And Now A Word From Our Investors

I will certainly not say that I predicted the snooping and tapping of electronic messaging on networks and social media sites by the US government. When I read the article in Time magazine when Mark Zuckerberg was named Person of the year in 2010, there is a direct mention about US FBI Director Robert Mueller walking in on the interview -. Why was the FBI Director at Facebook headquarters? I’ll leave it at that – read the article for yourself.

Nobody Seemed To Notice

Over the last 9 months, I have only heard from 3 people who said they tried to reach me on Facebook but could not find me. There were some that I told about my decision, and I certainly mentioned it more than once on Twitter. I had changed my Facebook picture and banner to the image at the top of this post, but once thing I did not do was inform people through Facebook that I was going to quit. Why? More so out of curiosity if anyone would realize I was no longer in their “stream” of consciousness. This experiment in social media was correct, but sad in its own right.

Don’t Call Me Anti-Social (Media)

Though I am not on Facebook, I am not shying away from social media. I am on Twitter @thehotiron, and this blog is my primary channel for longer form writing, longer than 140 characters anyway.

I have been drawn to Twitter because of its simplicity and binary nature – what I put out there is out there, and what I send as a direct message, which I use infrequently, is not. I find it easy to have conversations with individuals and on occasion with groups, though I don’t often participate in Twitter chats which are commonly driven by a unique hashtag. I also find it easy to pickup on a conversation and continue it later with the medium. My Twitter client of choice is HootSuite on the PC, though I am using the Twitter.com Web interface more and more as it has evolved tremendously. Twitter for me is like the water cooler or barstool in the local pub.

Blogging is something I enjoy and don’t do nearly as much as I used to and not as much as I would like to. In one regard it is an outlet for the things in my head, and in another it is a way to share and start a conversation. Where my tweets tend to be forgotten over time, my blog posts are still out there, and older ones still draw comments (even real, legit ones too!) and are shared by others. The Hot Iron is like a fireside chat or sitting down with a scotch and cigar among friends.

Looking Ahead And Always Evaluating

Facebook is not the only game in town. If you quit Facebook it should not be the end of your social media activity or identity. I have written before here at The Hot Iron about managing your online presence and I will continue to do so. But at the end of the day, what you do online should be only a part of who you are. So whether you call, tweet or write longhand, you are greater than the tools you use to communicate.

Your comments, as always, are welcome and encouraged!

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Why I Sign My Email Messages As I Do

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 07:45 AM with 4 comments

It’s a question that comes up several times a year, and people have been asking me it for decades now. As many times as I have answered it, I have yet to write it down. Why I haven’t I don’t know for sure, but there’s no time like the present.

What is the question? Why do I sign my email messages as I do, with “mp/m”? And here’s a warning, it is a little retro-geeky!

photo of mp/m

When It Began

I have used this signature for my emails dating back to when I was a kid. Then, the messages I was sending were over dial-in bulletin board systems (I have included a link to its definition if you don’t know what one is!). I would typically sign my messages with my initials, “MPM.” But why do I sign it now in lowercase, and what’s up with the slash between the P and the M? Here comes the geek part!

There was a single user operating system for microcomputers popular in the 1980’s called CP/M. It had a multi-user version called MP/M. When I learned of this I was intrigued – it was the same as my initials! I thought of signing my messages with “MP/M” but didn’t want any confusion with the operating system name, so I made the letters lower-case, thus “mp/m” was born as my signature.

Dial-in bulletin board systems were replaced by dial-in services like CompuServe and AOL. Those were replaced by Internet email. Yet through the decades, my signature remained the same.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Go ahead – comment away on this, you won’t hurt my feelings!

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Why RSS Still Matters Despite What Google Does #VIVARSS

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 12:42 PM with 2 comments

In past posts here on The Hot Iron I have talked about Real Simple Syndication or RSS. Most recently in a post titled “iGoogle Shutdown And The Demise Of The Personal Home Page” I talked about how subscribing to various RSS feeds is replacing my iGoogle home page.

I Love RSS @thehotiron #VIVARSS

Since that post a major announcement was made this week that Google is dumping its free offering of an RSS feed aggregator, Google Reader, as announced on its official blog and subsequent post on its Google Reader blog. The service will be ending on July 1, 2013, just short of 4 months away. What is interesting is that Google gave a 16-month notice when it announced it was shuttering the also-free iGoogle service. Observing online sentiment over the announcement, there was more emotion over this than the news of the day before of the selection of a new pope!

So why the frustration? For me personally, as I switched to Fever last year, losing the service won’t impact my personal consumption of information via RSS feeds. Before I get into it I’ll offer up an explanation of what RSS is – if you are already in the know you can skip it or go ahead and read it to critique my approach to defining it.

So What Is RSS?

For those who are reading this please note I will not try to get too technical, rather explain the process. RSS is a method of informing of new content published, It is achieved by posting some or all of that content and related meta data, links, inages, etc. to a data file. This data file has a particular structure as it is formatted in the XML language (I won’t get into XML here, but if you must follow this link to learn about XML). That data file is placed on a Web server for anyone to access or subscribe to with a public Web URL (the file can also be private too, but I digress). Whenever content is added or any is changed or deleted, the publisher of the content can update the RSS file. As this file can change frequently, it is referred to as an RSS feed, as in feeding new content to the consumer of it.

The RSS feed in itself is not the only place where the power of RSS lies. Software, called an RSS feed aggregator or an RSS reader processes these RSS feeds that are subscribed to and organizes them to present the content to the consumer. There are a variety of RSS feed readers out there, from installed software, mobile apps, Web services (like Google Reader), as well as Web browsers and email clients. The reader also keeps track of what has been read, so that when the RSS feed is updated, it will show new vs. old content, among other features as linking to the source content on its Web site and social media and email sharing functionality. This concludes this RSS overview – let me know if it is clearer to you, or clear as mud.

Now Back To Our Story

Of all of the RSS readers out there, one of the most popular has been Google Reader, It’s power has been in its simplicity and robust formatting and sharing features, plus the fact it was from Google and integrated well into your Google account and that it was a free Web service. So when it was announced that what may be the most widely used RSS reader is going away in a few months, there was much shock and dismay, not only from people who use Google Reader to consume content but from content publishers as well, as an important channel may go away if those consumers of content do not find an alternative to Google Reader.

So why would content publishers be upset? They are still publishing the content so people can still seek it out to read it. First, I’ll give a perspective to who all of these publishers are. When one thinks of RSS feeds, they often only think of blogs and news. Most all blogging software includes out-of-the-box the ability to generate an RSS feed or multiple feeds, and typically you have to make an effort to turn this off. Many believe – including myself – that RSS feeds plus the ease of publishing have led to the popularity and success of blogs. News Web sites are a perfect match for RSS as they are constantly publishing content. This is why most sites not only offer 1 feed but many have a feed for each section of the site or content categories, such as breaking news.

Beyond blogs and news, many Web sites and information sources offer RSS feeds. A quick look at my own personal RSS feeds show job postings and news from company Web sites, weather forecasts, LinkedIn status updates for all of my connections, sports scores, discount shopping offers, Twitter searches and of course blogs and news.

As I talked about in the previously-mentioned iGoogle post, for me RSS is my main source for information. Moving from Google Reader to Fever has not diminished this at all. However what many fear is that people won’t seek out one of the many alternatives to Google Reader out there, and it could signal that RSS is no longer a viable technology or medium, just because Google is dropping Reader.

RSS Is Simply Not In Google’s Future

This past week’s announcement from Google is not the only activity they have taken against RSS. It has been slowly dismantling and marginalizing its FeedBurner service, which is an RSS “enhancer" providing analytics like subscriber counts, the ability to subscribe to a feed by email and other features to a “burned” feed. FeedBurner has always been a free offering from Google since it bought the eponymous Chicago-based start-up several years ago. Though it integrated inline advertising thru its AdSense service, it never really innovated the overall FeedBurner service or further integrated it like it has done with other acquisitions. Even FeedBurner's look and feel has barely changed over the years.

Recently Google announced it was shutting off the FeedBurner API as well as AdSense for RSS feeds. As a result there have been rumors abound that Google will shutdown FeedBurner altogether. Despite this Google has been silent on these rumors. Now with the announcement of Google Reader, people are biting their lip waiting for the other shoe to drop, and looking to other services like FeedBlitz to replace FeedBurner and keep similar functionality along with keeping their RSS feed live.

RSS Still Not A Household Term

By what I have described here regarding the power and simplicity of RSS, you would think that everyone is using it. However that is not the case. RSS, though a free open standard, has had an image problem in my opinion. It’s as though it’s too “techy” for the average person and as a result has not had universal adoption. Though it has a familiar orange icon and browsers and email clients now process feeds, it is not a completely seamless process to subscribe to a feed. Other than Google, not many large service providers with anywhere near the same name recognition have offered RSS readers. RSS has an identity crisis, with emphasis on the latter word ‘crisis.’

What’s Next For RSS?

RSS icon Just because Google Reader is going away, RSS is not. And in reality, it can’t! As it’s an open standard, as long as someone is publishing an RSS feed file and someone is processing it, RSS is more than alive and well.

Over the past few days I have seen a lot of activity online from those looking for alternative RSS readers such as Fever that I use. A am also sure that entrepreneurs are coming up with innovative alternatives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another major player makes a goodwill PR move into RSS feed reading as well. On another note, I predict FeedBurner will be eventually shutdown by Google, though that is a whole other blog post on the impact and recovery from that!

#VIVARSS! Do you agree? If so or not, I welcome your comments to this post. And if you do comment, please indicate whether or not you subscribe to The Hot Iron’s RSS feed.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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6 Questions with Arié Moyal of Hug Train USA

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:18 AM with 0 comments

Hug Train USA logoBack in late December, 2012 and early January, 2013, a small but might event occurred across the US – Hug Train USA. As the name implies, there was a journey across the country by train, stopping in major cities and offering hugs and raising money, all in the name of mental health.

Rather then telling the story myself, I asked Arié Moyal to tell it himself. The format is in the order of the 6 Questions I have asked in the past, but as a video. It was recorded on January 3, 2013 on his second stop in Chicago. If you can’t see the video below you can view it on YouTube.

If you would like to get involved with Hug Train USA you can learn more at their Web site or you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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