As of Today, We Are Into The Last 100 Days Of The Year

Today, September 23, marks the beginning of the 100 day countdown until the end of the year. This means that as of this evening you have 99 days plus a few hours left to finish out the year strong.

(Read my original post on why 100 Day countdowns are meaningful and actually work here.)

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken an extended hiatus from blogging this summer. This was large due to my Dad passing away a few months ago, and things being quite topsy-turvy and sometimes emotionally exhausting since.

But I am back, and determined to finish out the last 100 days of 2009 STRONG, which includes posting regularly again.

BTW, since the beginning of this year, I had experimented with capturing shorter, "Quick Hits" Business Mindhacks posts to my Posterous blog at

http://alexschleber.posterous.com

Bringing key excerpts along with quick comments and footnotes through Posterous to my Twitter followers has proved useful and popular (feel free to peruse the archive).

And it also helped me keep the "blogging flame" alive in the past few months, when I didn’t have the energy, or Tech/Business World events moved too rapidly, to work on the kind of longer, more integrative posts that had been the staple of this blog so far.

Combined with my other social media activities on Twitter and FriendFeed, my Posterous posts in some way closed a gap between "micro-blogging" and "long form". Call it mini-blogging.

But the experiment also has come with real drawbacks:

Because Google penalizes duplicate content, I didn’t want to simply forward my Posterous posts to this blog. And this over time has led to too few posts for Business Mindhacks, and too much of my content "held hostage" on a service I don’t control.

Now mind you I have been an early fan and evangelist of Posterous, and I still believe that it is a great service to get anyone started with blogging and/or what has been called "lifestreaming". And I congratulate Garry Tan and Sachin Agarwal on all of their success so far (they finally unveiled "themes" and customization in the last few days).

But the small team has taken longer to add functionality than would have been preferable in my view (in part holding themselves back by wanting to control everything a little too tightly), and in either event many issues around the ideal blogging/lifestreaming/curation platform still remain, as Robert Scoble rightly pointed out yesterday.

So, I’ve decided that as of next week, and after finally updating my blog from my custom/rogue WordPress 2.3.3 version to the latest 2.8.4, I will create those Posterous style posts in my own blog instead, using WordPress’ "Press This" bookmarklet to do so.

This will mean more frequent posting, and more raw, immediate, and shorter posts. Which, given the pace at which things are moving, should be a good thing:

One example, I have long promised the follow-up to my "Search Literacy" post, covering FriendFeed Search and Google Search in depth tricks and techniques.

While I was also side-tracked by personal events as mentioned above, things have changed so rapidly (FriendFeed was recently acquired by Facebook, mostly for its founders’ engineering talent, putting its continued long-term operation into some doubt), that some of the content I had already written became outdated before I could even publish it.

So, the lesson is:

Rapid, shorter posting = good.

Outsourcing it away from your self-hosted blog = likely bad.

(Of course I’ll still make time for the longer-form posts every week or two. And yes, the Search Literacy Post, Part 2 is coming as well.)

OK, back to the 100 Day Countdown and finishing the year out strong:

Decide right now what you want to accomplish until then in your business and/or personal life, and you’ll be doing yourself a much bigger favor than if you were waiting around to making those typically flimsy, rapidly forgotten New Year’s resolutions on December 31.

As SelfGrowth.com editor David Riklan recently wrote in a newsletter email:

What if I were to follow you with a camera crew for the next 100 days while you went for your goals? I bet 3 things would happen…

1) You would START doing the things you say you need to do.
2) You would STOP doing the things you know you shouldn’t be doing.
3) You would MAKE monumental performance gains and change your life.

Here’s to your finishing strong!

Best wishes

– Alex Schleber

10 Reasons To “Roll Your Own” TinyURL Using WordPress

My experiment with the WordPress-Theme-based Redirect Engine/URL shortener (REUS) has kept me rather busy for almost a month now, but additional valuable insights were gained in the process. And even though this solution is initially a bit more labor intensive (taking only about 35 minutes or so to set up), creating a “Roll Your Own” Tinyurl-like service using a separate tweaked WordPress install can immediately begin to pay dividends in a variety of ways:

1) I found a stats plugin to use that works well with the REUS install after a few custom tweaks. Some minor modifications to the database calls and the reporting page to allow for more tracking on recent links, and the WP-Shortstats plugin has been performing flawlessly. I have included it with custom changes in the new REUS .zip package (link at end of this post).

Best thing is, the stats data belongs to YOU, no one can hold it hostage (unlike e.g. Budurl.com, which wants to only allow you to download your stats with a paid account). Also note that many 3rd party services’ stats solutions tend to lack good comparative screens, overviews, or ordering by e.g. “all-time highest clicks”, and so forth:

With REUS you can watch your clicks roll in in near real-time as shown here (you’ll have to hit refresh in the “Admin > Dashboard > Shortstats” screen to update). No fancy graphics like world maps, etc., but the information you really need to assess the success of your links:

2) Using your own short domain looks custom and gets attention. As you can tell from the above screenshot, people get curious about your custom/novel shorterner URL, and navigate to the “/” root quite often on first use. To make this useful/profitable for you, one key manual update that needs to be made to the “/wordpress/wp-content/themes/redirect_engine/index.php” file is to set up redirection of “/” to your blog or other page of your choice.

So in my example an inquisitive user would type in “http://3on.us/”, which for my set-up redirects them to the original REUS post on my blog.

3) You can create links that you completely determine the URL appearance of, both as to the domain (which will seem pretty custom vs. the publicly available services), as well as to the link extension, which can now be at least semi-sensible:

Keep in mind that a non-sense link is harder to process for the brain, and “a confused mind always says No!” as they say. So people are less likely to click. Meaningful URLs do have higher click-through rates from what I can tell so far, and marketing savants such as StomperNet’s Brad Fallon seem to agree (and guys like him test everything!).

Here is another bit of proof. This screen cap is a stat taken from celebrity Internet marketer Joel Comm’s TwitPwr.com URL shortening service:

What it shows is that the total average click-through for all TwitPwr.com links is just under 8 (about 160k / 20k), and his list of user includes some pretty illustrious company with largish follower counts. As my own stats screenshot from above shows, my REUS links have been pulling well above that on an average of about 1,000 followers over the last 4 weeks:

147 links have been clicked 3438 times on Twitter and a few other sources, for an average of just under 24 clicks per link. Not bad (and yes, I did subtract out the “/” root inquiries and robots.txt hits; and robots.txt disallows all further search engine bot access).

Granted there are many variables that come into play that make a simple 1-to-1 comparison difficult, including the fact that Twitter users may be slightly more reluctant to click on TwitPwr.com links due to the slightly, shall we say, “promotional” nature of that service. But the numbers are still pretty convincing, especially given the follower advantage for many TwitPwr users.

4) URLs can be shortened further on the fly due to…

Continue reading “10 Reasons To “Roll Your Own” TinyURL Using WordPress”

Building Your Own TinyURL In Less Than 1 Hour Using WordPress

2nd UPDATE: Since this post came out, I have written a follow-up post digging deeper into my subsequent findings and explaining 10 Reasons To “Roll Your Own” TinyURL Using WordPress, and have also created an “install instructions only, no rationales” version for your convenience.

OK, haven’t posted in a little while, in part because I had been working on some pretty cool techy stuff. Here is the first result from it:

Have you been using URL shortening/redirection services like TinyURL, is.gd, etc. in order to send lengthy links to friends in a shorter format, or to fit them into the space-constricted posting fields on micro-blogging services such as Twitter?

If you have, and you’re a marketer, you have probably been wishing that you could track the number of clicks on those links you post to Twitter, or improve the appearance of the link text, etc.

While there are some services available that allow you to do some of that, such as Tweetburner.com which creates a trackable “http://twurl.nl/…” style link, they almost all have one drawback or another, e.g. they 1) don’t allow for custom link text (Tweetburner), 2) sometimes truncate your original link’s # anchors if present (is.gd), 3) don’t allow for tracking, 4) want your Twitter credentials to allow for tracking, and 5) they all end up kind of owning your data.

So I figured, if there was a fast/cheap solution to set the same thing up for yourself, so that you control all of the variables, that would be a good thing, no? You will see in a moment how it can be accomplished using a basic WordPress 2.7 blogging software installation. Now you’ll likely still use other services to auto-shorten links as well, but when you want to make it count, and want your shortened link on your terms, I bet you’ll like what I have cooked up for you.

The Instructions

Let’s take it step-by-step. Note that I won’t get too in depth with basic technical explanations, I’ll assume that you are familiar with FTP and have already done a standard WordPress install before. If you’re new to WordPress, I’d recommend hiring someone to do these steps for you, they should bill you for at most 1 hour as you will see.

I am posting the expected time to complete with each step:

1) You will need to buy a .us domain to install as an add-on domain with one of your existing hosting accounts. I used a http://Bluehost.com account for this, they have reasonable prices and service, but use any hosting/domain provider you would like. Note that it’s not worth getting a separate hosting account just for this engine, and an add-on domain should only cost about $8-10 per year.

Search for short, 3-4 character .us domains, as you’ll obviously want to save space. I found that there are still plenty of 3 character semi- to non-sensical domain names available with one or two numerals in the name, e.g. I picked 3on.us for my test case.

Once purchased, …

Continue reading “Building Your Own TinyURL In Less Than 1 Hour Using WordPress”