Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

The Yahoo! Style Guide. For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to purchase this book and use it as a reference.

However, instead of just referencing the guide as needed, I read it from cover to cover. And it is a fantastic guide.

Writing Online

So for most people, the act of writing online seems to mainly consist of ejecting words and hoping that they will somehow collide in a manner that is coherent or at least semi-understandable. The Yahoo! Style Guide, instead, serves to provide some well-needed guidance.

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide
Cover of The Yahoo! Style Guide via Amazon

Rather than displaying seemingly antiquated grammar rules, the guide provides logical explanations. Hence as the guide says on Page 50,

“Scan an article reading only the headlines. If you can understand the flow and substance of the story, your content passed the test. If something seems confusing, you may need to rewrite the headings or even reorder some paragraphs.”

So to my mind, this makes infinite sense. Consider how quickly we all skim articles and newspapers these days, whether online or in dead tree format. Headlines and graphics grab our attention. Perhaps they are more fraught with meaning than they should be, but those are the current rules of the game. Therefore, writers on the Internet need to understand that headings, image captions and the like are important to the human reader.

In addition, and unsurprisingly, these elements are also important to machine readers, e. g. search engine bots.

Worth the Price of Admission

And then on Page 4, the guide talks about eye tracking. Yahoo! has surveyed users, and they have come up with an understanding of a general pattern as  to how people browse websites. Here’s what they said:

  • “People scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer
  • They make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds
  • If they decide to stay, they pay the most attention to the content in the upper top part of the screen”

So you’d better get your pages and posts in gear, and pay particularly close attention to headings and the content that sits above the fold. Because the guide shows you the way.

Review: 5/5 stars.

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple, a Book Review

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple

Michael Fleischner‘s SEO Made Simple is a terrific book about search engine optimization.

Michael Fleischner's SEO Made Simple

First of all, written in a straightforward and engaging style, Mr. Fleischner makes his point: in order to dominate search engine listings, you need to make yourself known. Furthermore, you need to get your keywords into your website (but not stuffed there!) in a logical and natural manner.

Yahoo and MSN

Mr. Fleischner’s sole focus is Google but he does talk a bit about Yahoo and MSN. Furthermore, the reason to zero in on Google is made immediately apparent by the fifteenth page: Google is dominant. Here’s how the percentages of search stack up (he got his numbers from comScore for SearchEngineWatch.com)

  • Google: 43.7%
  • Yahoo: 28.8%
  • MSN: 12.8%
  • AOL: 5.9%
  • Ask: 5.4%
  • Others: 3.4%

Hence Google matters – but so do Yahoo and MSN, particularly when you consider that, combined, their share is nearly identical to Google’s. Yet don’t worry: many of the techniques Mr. Fleischner advocates will help with your placement on those search engines, too.

White Hat

White hat techniques abound, everything from adding unique keywords on each page to making sure that your page’s overall design doesn’t keep the spiders and crawlers from doing their thing. And that’s just on-site optimization. In addition, he also covers off-site optimization, e. g. writing and distributing articles, or generating press releases.

Furthermore, interestingly enough, there is little to no information on working the social media angle, e. g. Tweeting the existence of new blog posts or announcing page updates, adding similar information to one’s LinkedIn or Facebook statuses, or creating a fan page for your work (or, better yet, getting someone else to do that). However, that is, in part, a function of this being a book and not an e-book – there’s a time lag between going to press and the actual production of a paper book. Hence information is sometimes not as fresh as desired.

Instincts

However, there’s still plenty in here, for the serious web entrepreneur and the hobbyist. In addition, for someone like me, one great piece of it was some validation that I’ve got pretty good instincts when it comes to my own social media website. Oh, and if you’re paying attention – you’ll see that I just practiced two of his techniques in this very paragraph.

Dominate Google and get noticed. It’s that simple.

Rating

4/5

… And Facebook for All — Your Home Page

… And Facebook for All — Your Home Page

Your Home Page. Log into Facebook, and it’s the first thing you see. It’s your Home Page. Here’s what’s in it.

NOTE: Facebook constantly A/B tests. Features move around, change, are renamed and resized, or disappear all the time. These are rolled out in stages; your neighbor may have a different-looking Home Page from yours. And this is 100% normal.

Column One

First of all, column one (left side, top):

Your Home Page
Facebook (Photo credit: Scott Beale)
  • Groups
  • Pages
  • Friends
  • Create Group
  • A small list of your most recently accessed games

Column Two

And column two (center):

  • Status messages on friends’ pages
  • Other friend activities

Column Three

Then column three (right, top):

  • Events
  • Friends’ Birthdays
  • People You May Know
  • Targeted Advertisements
  • A list of friends available on chat

Let’s start with Column One:

Groups

This is a list of the groups you have joined.

Pages

These are pages you are following.

Friends

So pretty obviously, this is a way to access your entire list of friends.

Create Group

You can create groups for any reason. And this includes to support a beloved entertainment figure, promote your business or just complain about people wearing Crocs. I’ll get into the specifics later in this series.

A small list of your most recently accessed games

These will rotate as you access more games, depending upon recency.

Now for Column Two:

Status messages on friends’ pages

This is the actual News Feed itself (also access in Column One). And you can comment on others’ statuses (statii?) or posted links.

Other friend activities

First of all, you are served everyone’s activities. Facebook can be a tsunami of data. However, a lot is aggregated; you are usually shown that six people joined a group, rather than separate messages on all half-dozen.

And Column Three:

Events

A way to see the calendar. So if you’ve got upcoming events and you haven’t RSVP’d, they’ll show up here, but you can jettison them by clicking the x on the right side. Note that you’ll be invited to all sorts of stuff, including sponsored activities and openings by commercial ventures. And RSVP’ing is not strictly necessary. However, as an event organizer, I have to say it’s appreciated so as to at least get a handle on headcount (and know who not to expect). You need not RSVP for commercial store openings or whatnot.

Friends’ Birthdays

Whether they’ve made the year apparent is their own business. But if they’ve got the month and day up on Facebook, birthdays will show up here. And of course you’re under no obligation to wish people a Happy Birthday, but it is kind of nice.

People You May Know

So this is based upon some sort of an algorithm whereby Facebook looks at things like your current friends list, their friends, your location and possibly also your school(s) and workplace(s). However, I don’t believe the latter are included at this time. If you have any mutual friends, Facebook lists them as well. Facebook does not always get this right, or it gets it wrong in interesting ways, e. g. Facebook says I “may know” the spouse of someone I attended High School with. Well, unless I went to High School with the spouse (over 30 years ago), then there isn’t much of a likelihood there.

Targeted Advertisements

Well, they’re as targeted as Facebook can make them. This is apparently based on your click activity, your likes, your friends’ likes and whenever you click on an ad to get rid of it. Again, sometimes Facebook can get this wrong in rather spectacular ways; for example, when I wrote this post originally, it showed me an ad for Toyota. And I have neither owned nor contemplated owning one, ever.

A list of friends available on chat

It should go without saying that you should never click on links from chatters you don’t know well. And you’re under no obligation whatsoever to answer anyone’s instigated chat.

A big part of the Facebook experience is not only playing games but also sharing them with others, or sharing status or links. The way you see and can participate in this sharing is via your Home Page. It is, essentially, a bulletin board between you and your pals.

Next: Your Account Settings

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM501 – Search and Algorithmic Surfacing

Search and Algorithmic Surfacing

In Google We Trust

We trust Google. Or, at least, it seems that way.

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM501 – Search and Algorithmic Surfacing In Search Engine Society (pp. 85-117).

Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. [Library Catalog Entry | Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard], Lavais says, “In examining how adolescents search the web, one research study (Guinee, Eagleton, & Hall 2003) noted their reactions to failed searches. Searchers might try new keywords, or switch search engines, for example. One common reaction was to change the topic, to reframe the question in terms of what was more easily findable via the search engine. The models of search suggest that searchers satisfice: look for sufficiently good answers rather than exhaustively seek the best answer. Because of this, the filters of the search engine may do more than emphasize certain sources over others; they may affect what it is we are looking for in the first place. It is tempting simply to consider this to be poor research skills – or worse, a form of technical illiteracy – but simple answers do not fit this complex problem.” (Page 87)

Whether we search for a local pizza parlor or the best place to go on vacation or for a gynecologist, search engine rankings and how webmasters address Google’s complicated algorithm all shape what we see. Inevitably, we end up trusting these results. Yet are they the best possible results? I would argue that they often are not.

Bestsellers and White Hats That Might Be a Little Grey

Consider the case of New York Times bestselling authors. Google the term new york times bestselling author, and you’ll get the actual list and two Wikipedia entries and then you’ll get the website of Carly Phillips. Just below that is a Forbes article about how to buy your way onto the list.

Wait … Carly who?

I went through the first ten pages of results (further along than most seekers would) and didn’t see JK Rowling, George RR Martin, or Stephen King. I do not believe it is search fraud or any other form of black hat SEO. As was written by Battelle, J. (2005). The search economy. In The search: How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture (pp. 153-188). New York: Portfolio.  [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard], “Among the first-tier companies – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft – search fraud is already taken extremely seriously, and efforts to combat it are intensifying. ‘We’ll never rum a blind eye to this,’ says Patrick Giordani, who runs loss prevention at Yahoo’s Overture subsidiary. ‘Our goal is to stop it all.’” (Page 188). Like I wrote, I don’t think that’s what is happening here.

Getting There is Half the Battle?

If Phillips can get to the top of search rankings, then more power to her, assuming that she gets there using white hat techniques only. But just because she hits the top of the search results says nothing about the quality of her prose or even the number of times she’s hit the New York Times bestseller list.

The New York Times bestseller list was, for years, considered to be an objective measurement of popularity. But not necessarily quality. However, when EL James (author of Fifty Shades of Grey) doesn’t make it to the top ten pages of search results, that means something. When Phillips gets there via search engine magic, it says more about the quality of her SEO than of her fiction writing. For seekers who accept the first few results without question (albeit possibly after rewording their searches a few times), the algorithm pushes content to them that isn’t necessarily truly serving their interests. And, much like we saw with recommender systems, that might even be driving users’ reviews and maybe even their personal preferences.

Alibaba looking for a $1B IPO

Alibaba looking for a $1B IPO

According to Boston.com, Alibaba GroupChina’s leading e-commerce company, filed papers on May the 6th of 2014 for an initial public offering of stock seeking to raise at least one billion dollars.

Alibaba looking for a $1B IPO

This would be the technology industry’s biggest initial public offering since Twitter, which was back in the autumn of 2013.

As ecommerce has taken hold in China, it has brought with it access to consumer goods. This has proven to be quite a change for a society that, in the 1980s, sometimes still required ration tickets for some supermarket goods.

Alibaba IPO Could Net 150 to 200 Billion Dollars

While the timing is not necessarily the greatest, as investors are skittish, the Alibaba Group’s initial public offering is still expected to earn its investors at least ten billion dollars. They will likely then sell stock at a price that will give the fifteen-year-old company a market value of $150 billion – $200 billion dollars. If these predictions hold water, Alibaba Group will rank among the biggest initial public offerings of all time. 

And if that is the case, the a $1 B IPO could very well look like a bargain, in retrospect.

Look to the east.

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