Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why the Music Industry is Lying to You

According to TorrentFreak, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) last week released their latest report, summing up the digital music landscape at the start of 2008. The IFPI claims in the report that for every legal music download, there are 20 illegal downloads taking place. Or in other words, illegal downloading is happening at a rate that is 20 times that of legal downloading. This, says the IFPI, lead to US$3.7 billion in industry losses. But there are some big holes in that claim.

I'm not going to argue that piracy doesn't causes losses for the industry -- I am very certain it does. But I do think that the recording industry is vastly overstating those losses and misleading the public. TorrentFreak lays out some of the reasons why illegal downloads should not be equated with lost sales.

  1. Not all P2P downloading is illegal. Some people may be downloading a digital copy of an album or single that they own, a practice called format-shifting that the recording industry has said they won't sue for (and theoretically exists within fair use guidelines).
  2. Do the numbers include fake MediaDefender files people are downloading? If a person downloads 5 fake tracks before finding the one they're looking for, is that 6 downloads or 1?
  3. Some people download solely to improve share ratio on BitTorrent sites, but don't actually have any desire for the files they're downloading.
  4. People are obsessed with discographies and might download an entire set of albums when they really only want one or two songs.

I would add that there is a fifth reason that TorrentFreak failed to mention, which is perhaps the most important reason why illegal downloads don't equate to lost sales. People download music they wouldn't pay for. Not all of the music people download from P2P networks is music that they would buy in stores or via legit download sites were the downloading option not available. Many times people download music that they hear in passing simply because they can, but not because they like it enough to buy it (in fact, it is precisely that they don't like it enough to buy it -- just enough to hear a few more times -- that they download via Kazaa or BitTorrent instead of pay for it).

In fact, I'd go so far as to guess that the majority of music people download via P2P networks is not music they would buy in stores. Further, a recent study showed that P2P downloading actually leads to more purchases of CDs in stores. We've set up a poll below to test that theory. For anyone who has ever downloaded music illegally via a P2P network, please respond to the anonymous poll below.

There was one thing the IFPI definitely got right in their annual report. "Progress in the digital music market is being hampered by lack of interoperability between services and devices," they wrote (emphasis mine), hinting that DRM that ties consumers to a specific devices or service is bad for the industry. This is something that consumers have long been aware of, and that the record labels are finally starting to catch on to.


Consumer Apps: 2007 Year in Review

"Consumer apps" is a rather broad topic to tackle, so rather than try to recount everything that has happened across the entire cosmos of consumer web applications in the past year, we'll focus on two areas that have had perhaps the most impact overall in the way we conduct our day-to-day lives: social networking and personal publishing.

Each of those spaces has been led the past year by an innovative, game changing company. In social networking, it was Facebook, in personal publishing, it was Twitter. Indeed, no two companies have impacted the consumer apps space as profoundly this past year as Facebook and Twitter. That's a large reason why ReadWriteWeb named them this year's "Best Web BigCo" and "Best Web LittleCo," respectively.

Social Networking

Social networking has been making headlines for the past few years. In 2005, News Corporation made a huge splash in the social networking market when its Fox Interactive Media division purchased MySpace for a cool $580 million. However, though MySpace remains by far the largest social network on the web, it has been new kid on the block Facebook that has been stealing all the headlines since fall of last year when it opened up beyond the college audience that had been its bread and butter. 2007 was an especially good year for Facebook and the company has made a number of moves that pushed the entire social networking market.

According to Compete, MySpace actually saw traffic fall this year, while Facebook enjoyed a 111% up tick in monthly unique visitors (in the "people count" metric, Facebook showed similar growth). Facebook nearly caught up with its rival in search volume, and overtook MySpace in press mentions by the end of the year.

To what does Facebook owe their amazing growth? In part, perhaps, because of the launch of their platform in May. The platform allowed outside companies to hook into Facebook's massive user base. Almost immediately we began to hear the success stories, such as iLike, whose application was added by 10,000 users in the first 10 hours of the platform's existence and by nearly 5 million in the first two months.

Facebook now has over 100,000 application developers working on platform apps, and over 85% of their users have added at least one app to their profile. The success of Facebook's platform initiative compelled other social networks to consider their own platform strategies. The rumors started to fly. First LinkedIn was getting a platform (which they have finally made good on). Then it was MySpace's turn. Finally, and most impressively, the world's second most valuable technology company announced their plans to compete with the Facebook platform.

Google's OpenSocial arrived in November with some of Facebook's biggest competitors as launch partners: Ning, LinkedIn, Hi5, Friendster, orkut, bebo, and the big daddy of the them all, MySpace. However, many of those companies have continued to build out their own platforms and Google's initiative has so far failed to deliver anything very concrete. Facebook may have had the last laugh when it announced last week that it was opening up its platform architecture. Facebook's first partner? bebo, an OpenSocial participant.

So influential has Facebook been on the Internet in 2007, that Microsoft agreed to invest $240 million in the company for what amounts to about a 2% stake. This deal shot Facebook's paper valuation into the stratosphere and gave it the cash it needs to take on competitors like Google and MySpace.

But not everything is rosy for Facebook. Following the launch a controversial new advertising system last month, Facebook faced a backlash from the media and consumer advocacy group Even though it appears that Facebook put the issue to rest with an apology and policy change, as Danah Boyd notes, this is the third time in the past couple of years that Facebook has pushed the envelope on privacy issues. They are practicing a form of "slippery slope" software development, she says, and users may not continue to stand for it.

Look for social networking to continue to play a major role in our lives in 2008 as the platform war brewing between Facebook and Google (and the others?) heats up.

Personal Publishing

The other area in the vast consumer application space that was extremely influential this year was that of personal publishing. No one company has been more disruptive than our top LittleCo, Twitter.

A pioneer in the area of "microblogging," Twitter is, as Alex Iskold recently wrote, a natural evolution of personal publishing that fills the gap between blogging and social networking. Twitter really picked up steam at the SXSW conference last March and has since become something of a phenomenon. In fact, people are even talking about "Twitterdiction" to describe how passionately some users feel about the service.

As we wrote when naming Twitter our best LittleCo of the year, the company truly "stands out as being something that has captured the imagination and become a new hybrid of chat, social networking and blogging." But perhaps one of the most interesting things that has come out of Twitter, is how it has pushed the creation of an entirely new type of personal publishing.

Probably the second-most talked about microblogging app after Twitter (which some might not really classify as a microblogging app at all -- but lets leave semantics aside for now), is Tumblr. Tumblr takes the traditional blog form, and strips it down to a sort of stream of consciousness inspired state in which posts are meant to be short and to the point: a single photo, video, quote, link, or thought. Tumblr certainly wasn't based on Twitter (it was based on "tumblelogs" like projectionist or Anarchaia), but Twitter's success really opened the door for more microblogging apps to be developed.

These tools are important because they are highly accessible. Microblogging apps like Tumblr and Twitter are pushing personal publishing into the mainstream in ways that probably hasn't been done in the past. Though disputed, Forrester Research reported that 6% of US adults use Twitter regularly. That's remarkable for such a young service (and one that actually has something of a learning curve to really "get").

Just how important is this new form of personal publishing? Important enough for Google to purchase Twitter rival Jaiku in October for an undisclosed sum.


Facebook and Twitter weren't the only things to happen in consumer apps this year, just the most disruptive and influential.

IPTV: Another of the most anticipated and talked about startups of the year was Joost. Founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom (you know, the Kazaa and Skype guys), Joost is an IPTV service that delivers streaming, on demand television over the Internet using P2P technology. Though they have signed a number of major content deals, including Adult Swim, Warner Bros. Records, the National Basketball Association, and CNN, Joost has yet to really capture the attention of the mainstream. See our full review of Joost, which compares the service to competitors Babelgum and Zattoo and be sure to check out last100's 2007 Internet TV review.

Politics: Also in 2007, web 2.0 began to play a big role in US presidential politics. Following the trail that Howard Dean blazed in 2004 with his innovative use of blogs and to mobilize grassroots support, this year saw candidates utilizing social web apps as never before. Having a profile on top social networking sites became almost mandatory -- almost every major party candidate had a presence on MySpace and Facebook, and some also utilized LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. YouTube held candidate debates with CNN and MySpace got in on the act with their Candidate Dialogues. Some candidates even began broadcasting live on UStream (like Dennis Kucinich or Chris Dodd, for example). The use of consumer web apps in politics is only likely to heat up in 2008 as applications continue to reach more mainstream Americans and the presidential races progress in the United States.

Web Office: Another hot area in the consumer apps space in 2007 was the web office. Because Richard MacManus already wrote a detailed year end wrap-up of that entire market, I'll be brief in my comments. With the continued maturation of online office suites, especially Google Apps and Zoho, and with Microsoft finally starting to show its online office hand, web office is a very hot sector. And while enterprise customers are who the real battle will be fought over, many of the current crop of offerings are mature enough for home use. Consumers already have access to fairly reliable, fairly complete online word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and email applications. Be sure to check out Richard's write up for a more detailed overview of what went down in the web office this past year.

iPhone: Finally, I will take a moment to mention the Apple iPhone. No other product launched this year has captured the imagination of the press and the public like the iPhone, and with good reason. The iPhone has the potential to be a truly game changing gadget that forces other mobile device manufacturers to make a quantum leap in cell phone functionality. One of the areas that the iPhone can make the largest impact is in the adoption of the mobile web via its ability to so elegantly bring the entire Internet to your pocket. Be sure to read Alex Iskold's list of reasons he loves his iPhone as well as his follow up wish list for the device.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stop Wasting Time Checking All Your Social Profiles, Get 8hands


If you maintain accounts on multiple social sites (say Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace), consider using 8hands - a small Windows software that monitors your social circle and will bring some peace to your otherwise chaotic online life.

With 8hands, you'll instantly know (via desktop alerts) when friends upload new pictures on Flickr, or there's a new comment on your Flickr photos, or when you have private messages on Facebook or new tweets on Twitter - no need to manually check profiles on all the different websites.

Now Flock too offers similar features but 8hands, a standalone app, has two main advantages:

1. 8hands will automatically guess your top friends with whom you communicate most frequently across all social networks - so it becomes all the more simple to reach them again.

2. 8hands maintains a complete history or log of all your friend's activity. Very useful when you are looking for Facebook messages, Flickr photos and Twitter tweets ever published by a close friend.

8hands is in alpha but worth giving a try. It's been running in my system tray for a few hours now and am loving the notifications. - Thanks Stefanos. Great find.

Dominos With 1500 Hard Drives

This woman sets up a line of 1500 old hard drives and knocks them down.

Dominos With 1500 Hard Drives - Watch more free videos

With friends like these ...

Facebook has 59 million users - and 2 million new ones join each week. But you won't catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal information - not now that he knows the politics of the people behind the social networking site


Friday, January 25, 2008

On Wednesday, CBS and will announce...something

CBS has alerted media that on Wednesday morning, the company will be announcing "a new unprecedented service" involving social music service, which it purchased last year. On hand will be Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of the CBS Corp.; Quincy Smith, president of the CBS Interactive division; as well as Felix Miller and Martin Stixsel, two of's three co-founders.

So what is this "new unprecedented service?" PaidContent says it's hearing that CBS plans to use's social recommendation engine (its "scrobbling" technology) and apply it to online video as well. Other suggestions being tossed around have hinted that it may be integrated into the CBS Audience Network, or into CBS Radio, or perhaps into some new property that hasn't been unveiled yet.

Last year, when CBS purchased, we wondered what the media giant might want with it . Some observers hinted that CBS was likely interested in the "scrobbling" technology that fuels the music recommendation service, whereas others suggested the $280 million price tag was for a highly engaged community of music fans. Right now, it's looking like the former. After all, Les Moonves will be there--this will undoubtedly reach beyond CBS Interactive.

Recently, CBS Interactive has "taken action" with another one of the Web properties it acquired--finance video blog Wallstrip. Lindsay Campbell, the actress who had hosted the show since its inception, left last week in order to move onto a new CBS Interactive project called

Apple Reports First Quarter Results

Best Quarterly Revenue & Earnings in Apple History

Mac, iPod & iPhone Sales Break Previous Records CUPERTINO, Calif., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2008 first quarter ended December 29, 2007. The Company posted revenue of $9.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.58 billion, or $1.76 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $7.1 billion and net quarterly profit of $1 billion, or $1.14 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 34.7 percent, up from 31.2 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 45 percent of the quarter's revenue.

Apple shipped 2,319,000 Macintosh® computers, representing 44 percent unit growth and 47 percent revenue growth over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 22,121,000 iPods during the quarter, representing five percent unit growth and 17 percent revenue growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone(TM) sales were 2,315,000.

"We're thrilled to report our best quarter ever, with the highest revenue and earnings in Apple's history," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We have an incredibly strong new product pipeline for 2008, starting with MacBook Air, Mac Pro and iTunes Movie Rentals in the first two weeks."

"Apple's revenue grew 35 percent year-over-year to $9.6 billion, an increase of almost $2.5 billion over the previous December quarter's record-breaking results," said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO. "Our strong results produced cash flow from operations of over $2.7 billion during the quarter, yielding an ending cash balance of over $18.4 billion. Looking ahead to the second quarter of fiscal 2008, we expect revenue of about $6.8 billion and earnings per diluted share of about $.94."

Apple will provide live streaming of its Q1 2008 financial results conference call utilizing QuickTime®, Apple's standards-based technology for live and on-demand audio and video streaming. The live webcast will begin at 2:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at and will also be available for replay.

This press release contains forward-looking statements about the Company's estimated revenue and earnings per share. These statements involve risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ. Risks and uncertainties include potential litigation and government enforcement actions that may result from the matters investigated by the special committee of the board of directors and the restatement of the Company's consolidated financial statements; unfavorable results of legal proceedings; the effect of competitive and economic factors, and the Company's reaction to those factors, on consumer and business buying decisions with respect to the Company's products; war, terrorism, public health issues, and other circumstances that could disrupt supply, delivery, or demand of products; continued competitive pressures in the marketplace; the Company's reliance on sole service providers for iPhone in the US, UK, Germany and France; the continued availability on acceptable terms of certain components and services essential to the Company's business currently obtained by the Company from sole or limited sources; the ability of the Company to deliver to the marketplace and stimulate customer demand for new programs, products, and technological innovations on a timely basis; the effect that product transitions, changes in product pricing or mix, and/or increases in component costs could have on the Company's gross margin; the effect that product quality problems could have on the Company's sales and operating profits; the inventory risk associated with the Company's need to order or commit to order product components in advance of customer orders; the effect that the Company's dependency on manufacturing and logistics services provided by third parties may have on the quality, quantity or cost of products manufactured or services rendered; the Company's dependency on the performance of distributors and other resellers of the Company's products; the Company's reliance on the availability of third-party digital content; and the potential impact of a finding that the Company has infringed on the intellectual property rights of others. More information on potential factors that could affect the Company's financial results is included from time to time in the Company's public reports filed with the SEC, including the Company's Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 29, 2007 and its Form 10-Q for the quarter ended December 29, 2007 to be filed with the SEC. The Company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements or information, which speak as of their respective dates.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

© 2008 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, iPhone and QuickTime are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.


(in millions, except share and per share amounts)

Three Months Ended
December 29, 2007 December 30, 2006

Net sales $9,608 $7,115
Cost of sales (1) 6,276 4,895
Gross margin 3,332 2,220
Operating expenses:
Research and development (1) 246 184
Selling, general and
administrative (1) 960 714

Total operating expenses 1,206 898

Operating income 2,126 1,322

Other income and expense 200 126

Income before provision for income
taxes 2,326 1,448

Provision for income taxes 745 444

Net income $1,581 $1,004

Earnings per common share:
Basic $1.81 $1.17
Diluted $1.76 $1.14

Shares used in computing earnings
per share (in thousands):
Basic 875,860 857,691
Diluted 900,054 883,297

(1) Includes stock-based compensation
expense as follows:
Cost of sales $18 $6
Research and development $39 $16
Selling, general and administrative $53 $24


(in millions, except share amounts)

December 29, 2007 September 29, 2007


Current assets:
Cash and cash equivalents $9,162 $9,352
Short-term investments 9,286 6,034
Accounts receivable, less allowances
of $45 and $47, respectively 1,939 1,637
Inventories 459 346
Deferred tax assets 993 782
Other current assets 4,350 3,805
Total current assets 26,189 21,956

Property, plant and equipment, net 1,870 1,832
Goodwill 38 38
Acquired intangible assets, net 311 299
Other assets 1,631 1,222

Total assets $30,039 $25,347


Current liabilities:
Accounts payable $5,366 $4,970
Accrued expenses 5,169 4,329
Total current liabilities 10,535 9,299
Non-current liabilities 2,700 1,516
Total liabilities 13,235 10,815

Commitments and contingencies

Shareholders' equity:
Common stock, no par value;
1,800,000,000 shares authorized;
878,628,867 and 872,328,972 shares
issued and outstanding, respectively 6,046 5,368
Retained earnings 10,684 9,101
Accumulated other comprehensive income 74 63

Total shareholders' equity 16,804 14,532

Total liabilities and shareholders'
equity $30,039 $25,347


(in millions)

Three Months Ended
December 29, 2007 December 30, 2006

Cash and cash equivalents, beginning
of the period $9,352 $6,392
Operating Activities:
Net income 1,581 1,004
Adjustments to reconcile net income
to cash generated by operating
Depreciation, amortization, and
accretion 106 74
Stock-based compensation expense 110 46
Provision for deferred income taxes 22 73
Loss on disposition of property, plant,
and equipment 14 5
Changes in operating assets and
Accounts receivable, net (302) (369)
Inventories (113) (33)
Other current assets (550) 36
Other assets (253) 28
Accounts payable 484 495
Deferred revenue 1,048 199
Other liabilities 640 255

Cash generated by operating
activities 2,787 1,813

Investing Activities:
Purchases of short-term investments (6,127) (2,581)
Proceeds from maturities of short-term
investments 2,129 934
Proceeds from sales of investments 758 655
Purchases of long-term investments (9) -
Payment for acquisition of property,
plant, and equipment (224) (142)
Payment for acquisition of intangible
assets (8) (115)
Other 19 15

Cash used in investing activities (3,462) (1,234)

Financing Activities:
Proceeds from issuance of common stock 179 101
Excess tax benefits from stock-based
compensation 315 87
Cash used to net share settle equity
awards (9) -

Cash generated by financing activities 485 188

(Decrease) increase in cash and cash
equivalents (190) 767

Cash and cash equivalents, end of the
period $9,162 $7,159

Supplemental cash flow disclosure:
Cash paid for income taxes, net $251 $114


(in millions)

December 29, 2007 September 29, 2007

Deferred revenue-current:
iPhone and Apple TV $816 $346
AppleCare 467 430
Other 812 634
Total deferred revenue-current 2,095 1,410

Deferred revenue-non-current:
iPhone and Apple TV 624 290
AppleCare 529 495
Other 40 45
Total deferred revenue-non-current 1,193 830

Total deferred revenue $3,288 $2,240

Apple Inc.
Q1 2008 Unaudited Summary Data

Q4 2007 Q1 2007 Q1 2008
Operating Segments Units K $M Units K $M Units K $M
Americas 965 $2,928 625 $3,521 841 $4,298
Europe 499 1,339 491 1,712 705 2,471
Japan 72 255 70 285 91 400
Retail 473 1,251 308 1,115 504 1,701
Other Segments (1) 155 444 112 482 178 738

Total Operating Segments 2,164 $6,217 1,606 $7,115 2,319 $9,608

Rev Rev Rev
Units K $M Units K $M Units K $M
Product Summary
Desktops (2) 817 $1,195 637 $955 977 $1,515
Portables (3) 1,347 1,908 969 1,455 1,342 2,037
Subtotal CPUs 2,164 3,103 1,606 2,410 2,319 3,552
iPod 10,200 1,619 21,066 3,427 22,121 3,997
Other Music Related
Products and Services
(4) 601 634 808
iPhone and Related
Products & Services
(5) 1,119 118 - - 2,315 241
Peripherals and Other
Hardware 346 297 382
Software, Service and
Other Sales 430 347 628
Total Apple $6,217 $7,115 $9,608

Sequential Change Year/Year Change
Operating Segments Units Revenue Units Revenue
Americas -13% 47% 35% 22%
Europe 41% 85% 44% 44%
Japan 26% 57% 30% 40%
Retail 7% 36% 64% 53%
Other Segments (1) 15% 66% 59% 53%
Total Operating Segments 7% 55% 44% 35%

Sequential Change Year/Year Change
Units Revenue Units Revenue

Product Summary
Desktops (2) 20% 27% 53% 59%
Portables (3) - 0% 7% 38% 40%
Subtotal CPUs 7% 14% 44% 47%
iPod 117% 147% 5% 17%
Other Music Related Products
and Services (4) 34% 27%
iPhone and Related Products &
Services (5) 107% 104% NM NM
Peripherals and Other Hardware 10% 29%
Software, Service and Other Sales 46% 81%
Total Apple 55% 35%

(1) Other Segments include Asia Pacific and FileMaker.
(2) Includes iMac, eMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, PowerMac and Xserve product
(3) Includes MacBook, iBook, MacBook Pro and PowerBook product lines.
(4) Consists of iTunes Store sales, iPod services, and Apple-branded and
third-party iPod accessories.
(5) Units consist of iPhone handset sales; Revenue is derived from handset
sales, carrier agreements, and Apple-branded and third-party iPhone

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RSS Feed Etiquette

The arguments continue to rage over the ambiguities in the RSS specifications. But the fact is: RSS is here to stay, and the current defined RSS 2.0 specification is likely going to be as good as it is going to get. Attempts have been made to create "best practice" documents and specification clarifications. We felt it would be helpful to provide general guidelines for those constructing an RSS 2.0 feed. In general, the following are guidelines for constructing an RSS feed. It is good to get into the habit of validating the RSS feed, either with software, or with an online validator.

Here are some general guidelines for creating RSS Feeds:

1. Enclosures

Include only one enclosure per item for maximum compatibility. The RSS 2.0 specification does not clearly state whether multiple enclosures are allowed or not, but most RSS readers will only support a single enclosure. Therefore, it is best to conform to the readers, and only include a single enclosure in each RSS feed item.

2. Date Formats

Date formats can be very tricky; be sure that all dates are properly formatted.

3. Encoding

Encoding is required for certain characters. If you are using software to create the feed, it should handle character encoding for you.


While the specification is not explicit, it is generally a good idea to not use HTML coding within the Channel or Item titles. For maximum feed compatibility, the only place you should use HTML is in the RSS Feed Item Description.


GUID (Global Unique IDentifiers) are not required. However, publishers are encouraged to use a unique string in the GUID field. Many RSS readers look for GUID changes to determine if new items are available in an RSS feed.

6. Images

If you are including an image with the feed, the suggested image size is 88x31 (the maximum allowed size is 144x400). If you are including an image in the RSS feed's Item Description or Enclosure fields, there are no size limitations, but keep in mind that excessively large graphics will negatively impact the amount of time it takes to load the feed.

7. Favicons

Some RSS readers and search engines will display the favicon of the hosting domain beside the listing for an RSS feed. In order for your feed to stand out, be sure that you include a favicon in the root directory of your website's domain.

8. URLs

Use "absolute" URLs for images, websites, and links, instead of "relative" URLs. The intent of RSS is to syndicate content, so the RSS feed may not always be local to the person viewing the feed. As such, the full web path to all images, websites, and links should be used. In other words, do not use " ../imageurl.gif ", but instead use the full URL " " when linking to any content.

9. Titles

Use a meaningful title for the Channel feed and RSS feed Items. Most RSS directories and search engines use the words in the Channel Title and Item Title to classify the RSS feeds.

10. Mime Types

If you are including a file in the enclosure field of an RSS feed, be sure to properly define the "file size" and the "mime type" of the file enclosure. A list of proper mime type formats can be found here - .

11. Auto-Discovery

Include RSS feed "auto-discovery" code in your HTML page header. This will allow certain browsers and RSS feed readers to automatically know that an RSS feed is available for specific content.

Tool to Create AutoDiscovery Code -

12. Volume

The number of items contained in a feed is important. Establish a history and expand the feed on a regular basis. Prune the RSS feed if it becomes excessively long; this will help make the RSS feed load faster.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.

wordpress:Free Space to Three Gigabytes

Much of the work we do at Automattic is behind the scenes, infrastructure you'll (hopefully) never notice or see, but we're always thinking about how the improvements we make to the foundation of the site will allow us to build more interesting things on top of it.

Today, one of those developments comes to fruition — everyone's free upload space has been increased 60x from 50mb to 3,000mb. To get the same amount of space at our nearest competitor, Typepad, you'd pay at least $300 a year. Blogger only gives you 1GB. We're doing the same thing for free.

Our hope is that much in the same way Gmail transformed the way people think about email, we'll give people the freedom to blog rich media without having to worry about how many kilobytes are left in their upload space.

How are we able to do this? Over the past year we've developed our file infrastructure, replication, backup, caching, and S3-backed storage to the point where we don't feel like we need to artificially limit what you folks are able to upload just to keep up with growth. We're ready for you. :)

What about the space upgrades? They're still important. You still need a space upgrade to upload certain file types, like movies, and we're also increasing the limits of the paid upgrades, so if you bought a 1GB upgrade before it now adds 5GB for no additional charge.

by Matt Mullenweg

All The RSS Icons You’ll Ever Need

This is a collection of free RSS icons from around the internet. This may help those of you who have been looking for some of those " 2.0" RSS icons. They're all free of charge.
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25 Ways to Get More from RSS

RSS may sound like a distress signal along the lines of SOS, but its real purpose is to make accessing Web information simple. An abbreviation for Really Simple Syndication, it allows you to get all the updated headlines and podcasts in one place, without having to sift through individual Web sites. You can put all your feeds together in an RSS reader, which will become your all-in-one destination for news and information. Here's our advice for getting the most out of RSS on your PC or mobile phone.
1. Create your own start page
Viewing your RSS feeds on desktop software is a good solution if you use only one computer. But if you use more than one PC, a Web-based RSS page containing all your feeds will let you see your news from anywhere. You can sign into a browser-based reader, such as Google Reader or My Yahoo, from any Web browser and get all your RSS feeds.
2. Organize your feeds with tabs
Having all your feeds on one page can get pretty confusing. Netvibes and similar sites let you create separate tabs for your feeds. Keep your sports scores away from your market news by categorizing your feeds into tabs. You can switch between them in one window and personalize them with icons and colors.  
3. Put it in a widget
If you want everything to land on your desktop, an RSS widget will do the trick. Simply add the RSS/XML address to Vista's RSS sidebar gadget or Mac's Dashboard widget. You can also download Yahoo Widgets and add any of the RSS feeds they have in their catalog, or you can create your own.  
4. Receive feeds in your e-mail lets you get any of your RSS feeds via e-mail. Instead of having to visit your reader or the feed itself, the service lets you input the address of the feed and your e-mail address, and it will send the information to your Inbox as frequently as you want.
5. Don't leave the browser 
If you don't want to leave your current Web page, you can get your favorite RSS feeds delivered right to the sidebar or toolbar of your Firefox browser. The Feed Sidebar ( is a great add-on for Firefox; it transforms your browser's sidebar into an RSS reader.
6. Keep up with your team 
Add a feed to your page that provides news on only the sports team you care about. For example, if the Yankees are your team, you can subscribe to their news feed at You can do the same for NFL teams at If you're specifically looking for scores, try Totally Scored.
7. Build your own feed from a Google search
EvilRSS ( turns a Google search into an RSS feed. Simply type in the search term and EvilRSS will turn that search into a feed that you can put in a reader of your choice. The file comes with a disclaimer saying it may be against Google's terms of service, so download at your own risk. Google provides its own RSS feed option for its news search, so you can get many sources on one subject in one place. Simply search for the topic in Google News and click the RSS link on the left side of the page. This will generate your RSS feed.
8. Create a personal calendar feed
You don't have to use RSS for the breaking news. You can make your own RSS feed with a list of upcoming events, deadlines, or even birthdays. To do so, create a free Google Calendar account and put your information into the calendar. Click on the Calendars tab under Settings, select your calendar, and then click XML.
9. Forget updating V-Cards
Turn your contact information into an RSS feed so your friends and colleagues can keep up with your ever-changing info. Kunekt creates an RSS feed with your information. You can post a Kunekt button to your blog or simply send out the address to your contacts. When you update your Kunekt information, it will go out to those who need to get in touch with you. 
10. Get the latest flight delays
Subscribing to lets the business traveler stay on top of the most recent flight delays. The feed includes a list of U.S. airports reporting FAA delays, as well as a brief description of the delay and links to more information.
11. Mix them all up
You don't have to keep all your feeds separate. If you prefer to get your news in a long list from lots of different sources, you can mix several RSS feeds into one big feed. There's no need to do this manually; Feedblendr  can do it for you. Enter two or more feeds and blend. You can put the new feed title into any reader.
12. Sick of text? Get pictures
RSS isn't just for text. Flickr lets you get photos of the people or things you care about the most via RSS. You can subscribe to your friend's Flickr feed and get all their latest photos in a feed. Flickr also provides RSS feeds for group discussions and specific tags.
13. RSS without the Internet connection
If you're about to jump on a plane but want to read the latest headlines, you can use RSS2PDF ( to convert your feeds to PDF. You simply type in the feed address; the site will automatically convert it to a clean and readable PDF. Save it to the desktop and read from your seat.
14. Create a local movie-listing feed
For those who are constantly going to Moviefone's Web site to get the latest movie showings, has made things a lot easier. Click on "Favorite Theater Feed" and simply type in your zip code and select the theater you want, and you've got an RSS feed with the latest showtimes for that location. Plug the feed into your reader and you will never have to worry about fighting for a seat.

15. Find the feeds you want
It can be time-consuming to go to all your favorite sites, find the RSS address and add it to your RSS reader. Syndic8 makes finding all the RSS/XML feeds you want easy. Just type the topic or the name of the publication into the search engine, and the RSS address will appear.
16. Stay on top of new music
Keep up with what's being added to the iTunes Store at Select the type of information you want to receive, such as New Releases or top iTunes songs, and the site will generate a feed. When you add the feed to your reader, you won't have to keep visiting the online music giant.
17. Track your eBay bids
The best way to keep tabs on an eBay auction is to closely monitor the bidding. RSS Auction lets you create an RSS for a certain item or item number you're watching (or selling). It will generate the feed address for you and will disappear once the item has been sold.
18. Stay in the social loop
Facebook allows you to subscribe to your friends' updates via RSS. Click Status Updates on your profile page and click the Friends' Status Updates button to obtain a RSS feed of the statuses. Add this link to your reader or your browser's bookmark folder to quickly view all of your friends' statuses.
19. Don't miss a job posting
If you're looking to stay on top of a job search, subscribing to Monster's RSS feeds can keep you in the loop on openings in your fields. Visit the RSS site ( and subscribe to feeds in your professional area or in your geographic location.
20. Listen to your feeds
For those who have a hard time reading on screen, or who want to get the news while doing something else, NewsAloud will read your feeds out loud. Download the program and plug in your feeds; hit the play button to have the feed read to you (in a robotic voice). 
21. RSS to TXT
If you don't have access to the mobile Web on your cell, ZapTXT steps in to offer a mobile RSS solution. ZapTXT lets you pick the site or RSS you want to monitor and sends the content to your phone via SMS. Register at ZapTXT with your phone number and determine how often you want to receive alerts. You'll be getting texts from your news sources when you need them the most. 
22. Access your reader from your mobile
Accessing your RSS feeds on the go doesn't have to be complicated. Google Reader's mobile site allows you to log into your Google account and access your feeds on your phone. My Yahoo, Netvibes, and NewsGator offer similar mobile sites that are clean and easy to access.
23. Mobile widgets for feeds 
Mobile widget applications, such as WidSets, let you have your own mobile widget platform in your pocket. WidSets is compatible with Java-enabled phones, so you can download widgets and subscribe to a number of RSS feeds or create your own right from your cell phone. 
24. Get a good mobile browser
One of the most noteworthy features of Opera Mini 4 is its RSS support. You can subscribe to feeds through the browser and get updates every time you connect. You can sort articles by source or date.
25. Ultimate RSS for your iPhone
Google's iPhone application is a simple way to access your feeds. Clicking an RSS feed in Reader will load the full story in a few seconds. Much like in the full version of the Reader, you can also star stories for later or share them with other users who subscribe to your feed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

TwitBox for Twitter

Current Version: 0.9.3
Released: January 18, 2008

For those of you who don't know what Twitter is the best thing is to hop over to the Twitter site and have a look around, maybe set yourself up with an account and then come back here and grab the newest version of TwitBox. TwitBox is a Windows client for interacting with the Twitter service rather than having to deal with the web interface for it.

This release is a mix of some code clean up and a couple of new enhancements. Among these is that the addition of the URL shortening service to complement the ones already supported. As well TwitBox is now being reported as one ofthe supporting Twitter clients in the posted tweet.

Feature List:

  • Support for Friends Timeline, Direct Messages and Replies Timeline
  • Support for multiple Twitter Accounts
  • Support for deleting your specific tweet messages
  • Launch selected posters home page, Twitter page and any embedded URL in their posted message
  • Supports capturing all embedded URLs to a separate URL list area and the ability to launch those URLs
  • Experimental support for #hashtag conversation markers - plus the option to strip the '#' markers from words
  • Options to customize Taskbar and Sound notifications for both general posted messages and those to you directly
  • Options to customize background and font for displaying posted messages based on user supplied keywords (Hot Flagging)
  • Options to use expandable short hand prefixes for writing tweets - i.e.: %b would expand to [BlogPost]
  • Ability to Add or Remove Friends from within TwitBox rather than having to go to the Twitter page.
  • Double clicking on a selected message will automagically have their name inserted in the text entry area with the '@' added
  • Experimental proxy support - still waiting on reports that it works as is.

Installing TwitBox:

TwitBox doesn't come with the typical installer program that a lot of folks are use to with Windows programs. It is all packaged in a simple Zip archive that you can extract to any folder you want. You will need to create you own shortcuts for starting the program.

Uninstalling TwitBox:

Uninstalling the program is as simple as deleting any shortcuts you have created and then deleting the folder where you have the program extracted to. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you enable the option to have TwitBox start when Windows boots up you will need to disable that option BEFORE deleting the program.

Supporting TwitBox:

For those of you who want it my Twitter page is here also for those folks who like showing their support by sending the occasional PayPal donation you can find the new donation button in the About dialog; or you can select the Make a Donation button located in the download section of this page.

Changes for Release:

  • ADDED: URL shortening service
  • ADDED: TwitBox will now be displayed in the posted tweets as the user client
  • ADDED: New keyboard shortcut (Alt + F) for copying an HTML version of the selected tweet to the Windows Clipboard
  • FIXED: Removed the message dialog box being displayed when the URL shortening dialog is used (ooppss)
  • NEW: A keyboard shortcut list dialog - available from the Options Menu or Alt+K keyboard shortcut
  • NEW: Support multiple link shortening services - currently URLTea and TinyURL

Main Keycodes

  • Alt + P - Show the Profile dialog
  • Alt + X - Close TwitBox
  • ESC - Minimize the program (Boss Key)
  • F2 - Switch to the Friends Timeline display
  • F3 - Switch to the Direct Messages display
  • F4 - Switch to the Replies Timeline display
  • F8 - Toggle the display og the Snagged URLs pane (still missing - ooppss I forgot about that one)

Timeline Section Keycodes:

  • Alt + H - Launch selected user's homepage in browser
  • Alt + T - Launch selected user's Twitter page in browser
  • Alt + L - Launch URL in the selected user tweet in browser
  • Alt + C - Copy the selected tweet contents to the Windows Clipboard
  • Alt + F - Copy an HTML version of the selected tweet to the Windows Clipboard
  • Alt + D - Insert the proper format for a Direct Message for the selected user in the text area
  • Alt + Y - Insert the proper format for a Personal Public message to the selected user in the text area
  • Alt + Q - Make the tweet text entry area the focus

Program Requirements:

  • Windows XP/Vista
  • .NET 2.0 Framework

Make a donation to support the work done on TwitBox

Download TwitBox Version 0.9.3

Downloaded a total of 113 times

Discuss the 0.9.3 version here

Previous Versions:

TwitBox - TwitBox (642) - Discuss the version here

TwitBox 0.9.2 - TwitBox (713) - Discuss the 0.9.2 version here

TwitBox - TwitBox (212) - Discuss the version here

A dangerous RSS trend

I've been noticing a trend that is showing its very ugly face in RSS feeds. Right now it is showing up on primarily the feeds from major blogs like Boing Boing and Valleywag; and it is a trend that most surely will piss off our readers to a point were they retaliate. It is a trend that is being driven purely out of greed and pushing blog monetization to the very edge of reader patience.

While the majority of blog readers might be willing to accept advertising when they visit blogs it is also a fact that many also run ad blockers that will strip the ads from the blog being read. It is a different matter though when it comes to RSS feeds as RSS clients don't currently incorporate any type of ad blocking. Due to this more and more blogs are adding advertising to their feeds as an additional way to monetize their work.

I am not against this happening as I do the same thing here (as you can tell when you read my feeds) but what I am seeing is that more and more ads of the banner type are showing up and on top of that they are getting increasingly larger. It is to the point that in some cases the ad is bigger than the actual content of the feed post. On top of this though these same sites aren't just happy polluting their RSS feeds with oversized ads but they are pushing reader tolerance even further by adding the typical sized banner ad as well. So you end up getting two ads and next to no content - talk about pushing your readers to the limit.

The real danger in this trend is two fold. One effect directly hurts the offending blog as pissed readers unsubscribe in growing numbers. Whether the number of unsubscribing readers will ever equal or pass the number of new readers subscribing is open to debate. It is a debate though that blog owners shouldn't even be having in the first place.

The second danger though is far more reaching in its effect as it could affect all blog publishers ability to add to their revenue stream via their RSS feeds. Just as browser users got fed up with excessive advertising and whose cries for help were answered by ad blocker software blog owners could find the same happening to RSS client software.

If there is one simple rule in the software world it is that if there is a need someone will write the code. So as RSS grows in popularity so will the number of readers who are getting sick of excessive advertising and it will be a short step to some author to be the first to include the ability to strip ads from the RSS feed. Once one program does it the rest will surely follow suit and all blog publishers will lose in the end.

It's too bad that greed trumps common sense and the majority pay for the excesses of the few.

2007 Crunchies: The Winners

A great evening was had by all tonight as some of the leading startups gathered for the first annual Crunchies, a joint production between Read/Write Web, VentureBeat, GigaOm and TechCrunch.

The ceremony went (mostly) smoothly with a couple of surprises amongst the results. For a full list of nominees, visit the Crunchies 2007 portal here.

Best Overall: Facebook

Facebook revolutionized the idea of what social networking could be.

Best technology innovation / achievement:

Earthmine picks up where Google Earth leaves off, bringing deep semantic data to 3D panoramas of the real world. Earthmine's system can keep track of the objects found in the real world and attribute information to each of them, such as latitude, longitude, elevation, and other attributes.

Best Clean Tech Startup:
Tesla Motors

Tesla's green sports car has captured the imagination of a public who had come to expect electric cars to be dull are boring. Due to be released this year, the company has pre-orders from some of the biggest names in Entertainment and Technology.

Best video startup: Hulu

Hulu put television online. Their broadcasting system was modeled on the success of social video sites and drawn the praise of its previous critics.

Best user-generated content site: Digg

Digg's simple voting system defined the emerging social media revolution. Getting "dugg" quickly became a badge of honor and established a coveted place in the geek lexicon.

Best mobile start-up: Twitter

Twitter, the new addictive microblogging platform. It wasn't until after the South by Southest conference that people realized the value of the incredibly simple microblogging platform.

Best International startup: Netvibes
Based in London, Tariq Karim and Freddy Mini's Netvibes has made waves in the U.S. as a top personalized web portal.

Best consumer startup: Meebo
Meebo made instant messaging ubiquitous by bringing it online. They then developed it into a platform where anyone could add chat to their applications.

Best enterprise startup: Zoho

Zoho's comprehensive online suite of 14 business applications ranging from document editing to CRM continues to lead the way in the move away from desktop computing to working in the cloud.

Best design: SmugMug

SmugMug is professional photo site. SmugMug's attention to detail and design can command as much as $150 per year from their users.

Best new gadget/ device: Apple iPhone. See the Apple acceptance speech here.

Best business model:

Looking for a Star Wars hat or memorable mug? Zazzle is an on-demand factory of consumer goods for top brands. It also lets consumers become producers by uploading their own images onto that T-shirt, mug, or mousepad. . Consumers can also receive a commission on products that they sell and design themselves

Best bootstrapped startup: Techmeme.
Founded and developed solely by Gabe Rivera, Techmeme serves as the front page of the tech blogosphere. The site's advanced algorithms identify the day's top stories by making sense of conversations across the web's best blogs.

Best Startup Founder: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Does this really need any explanation? At 23 Mark has built one of the world's leading online destinations that has recently been valued at $15 billion. A remarkable achievement for anyone, let alone someone at the still relatively young 23. A well deserved award.

Best Startup CEO: Toni Schneider (Automattic)

Schnieder has lead the company from its roots as a open source alternative to Movable Type into a multi-million dollar enterprise that saves the world from blog spam and offers a free hosted blogging solution that competes with Google's Blogger.

Best new startup: iMedix

iMedix combines search and social networking to change the way people find health information online. Users are encouraged to help each other by sharing health experiences and links from around the web.

Most likely to succeed
: Automattic(WordPress)

The open source blogging platform that powers the long tale and turned into a multi-million dollar spam fighting and hosted blogging service.

Best use of viral marketing: StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon's service lets users bookmark and discover new sites they love. With only a $1.5 million investment in 2005, StumbleUpon gew to over 4 million Stumblers and was bought by eBay in 2007 for $75 million

Best time sink site: Kongregate
CEO Jim Greer describes Kongregate as XBox live for casual games. This site hosts some of the webs most addictive casual games. Remember Desktop Tower Defense? Moreover, the games are not only played by users, but also created by them in exchange for a share of advertising revenue and other rewards.

Most likely to make the world a better place: DonorsChose

10 Remarkable (and Free) Wordpress Themes

The following post on great free WordPress Templates was written by Reese Spykerman from Design by Reese.

A search for free Wordpress themes yields thousands of results, some dull or cluttered, some utilitarian, and many inspiring and beautiful. Numerous other well-designed Wordpress themes are available to you, but these are 10 that stand out to me for various features including good usability, organization, attractive use of graphics, cross-genre appropriateness and even search engine optimization.

1. GridFocus Public

GridfocusSkellie can't be wrong: she uses this theme on both of her blogs.

Super easy to navigate and clear in its structure and hierarchy, GridFocus can impart a more serious, trustworthy tone to your blog.

Ideal for: ProBloggers, Frequent Bloggers, Minimalists, Authors, Internal Corporate Blogs

2. Blue Zinfandel Squared Enhanced

BluezinfandelWhen you want your words to stand out without unnecessary clutter, try Blue Zinfandel.

The main body text size could be increased for greater legibility (you can change this in the style sheet under style.css>#content p and add a rule for "font-size" (such as font-size: 14px;).

The classical look of this design makes it a good fit for journalists and other writers.

Ideal for: Journalists, PR Reps, Authors

3. BlueBird

BluebirdLooking for a lovely, classy little design for your personal blog?

3-column BlueBird fits the bill well, especially for female bloggers.

Life coaches and counselors on a low budget might also find this an appropriate theme for a promotional blog.

Ideal for: Personal Blogs, Life Coaches

4. Rockin' Biz Red

RockinbizredThis conservative 2-column theme works well for corporate, business and legal bloggers.

With plenty of whitespace and judicious use of the color red, Rockin' Biz Red is great for the business blogger who wants a bit more personality than some of the minimalist themes listed here.

The top header image of an office can be easily swapped out with an image of your choice.

Rockin' Biz Red is also available in a more robust 3-column version.

Ideal for: Business Blogs, Corporate Blogging, Legal Blogs, Finance-related topics (swap out the top header for a more appropriate image. Istockphoto has low-cost, high-quality images.)

5. Colors of Rainbow


For the obligatory "web 2.0 style" theme, TechnRoll uses popular colors and effects without going overboard.

Its top area can be easily rebranded with your personal or business logo.

The prominent location of the RSS feed link in the upper right can help drive subscriptions to your feed, so it gets a promotional and usability thumbs up.

Ideal for: personal blogs, business blogs, review sites, real estate blogging

6. Elite

EliteA design with dark tones can set your blog apart from the majority of white designs used on blogs.

Elite uses shades of dark gray, which are offset by friendly blue and green typography.

Although simple in its layout and usage of details, Elite helps your blog look both authoritative and approachable.

Ideal for: Review blogs, Tech blogs, Authority Bloggers, Personal Blogs, Gadget sites, Finance and Stock Blogs



Fresh is bright enough to make your readers stand up and take notice, but mature enough to brand you as a professional.

Well organized, easy to read and notable in its attention to small details such as icons and supporting graphics, Fresh is appropriate for just about anyone.

However, its blue theme may resonate best with male visitors.

Ideal for: Personal blogs, tech-related blogs

8. Blix


Many theme designers claim their code is search engine optimized (SEO), but Blix is one of the few that is created with SEO specifically in mind.

Blix's code uses best practices more than the majority of other Wordpress themes and is optimized for Google Adsense integration.

Blix is a good start if you aren't consulting with an SEO and optimization is your primary concern when downloading a theme. A version with greater optimization is also available for sale. (Note: Michael Gray has great tips on further optimizing your Wordpress blog for SEO.

Ideal for: SEO, Product-Based Sites, Monetized Blogs, Internet Marketing

9. GridLock

GridlockOrder and balance define Gridlock, which uses a lovely, magazine-style layout that makes for a visually stunning, clean and usable design for your readers.

When you want to look sophisticated and polished, this is the Wordpress theme for you.

Ideal for: ProBloggers, Writers, Corporate Blogs, Business Blogs, Anyone who loves order and balance.

10. Jello-Wala-Mello

JellowalamelloAlternative layouts beyond the usual 2-column or 3-column setup are difficult to find.

Jello-Wala-Mello turns your Wordpress blog into cubed, magazine-style format.

By featuring your latest entry as a large blurb on top, with blurbs from your prior entries below, this theme helps pull readers into your archives and decreases endless scrolling on your home page.

Top 10 US Social-Network, Blog, Web Brand Rankings Issued for Dec.

Perennial leader again tops the rankings of US social-networking sites, with 60.1 million visitors in December, up from November's 57.4 million unique visitors and from 55.3 million a year earlier, according to custom lists compiled by Nielsen Online, reports MarketingCharts.

Google's Blogger remains atop the blog site rankings with 35.8 million visitors, up from 33.6 million in Nov. and 24.1 million a year earlier.

And Google itself is the web brand rankings, accounting for 117.7 million visitors in December.

Top Social-Networking Sites

Ranked second among social-networking sites, Facebook increased the number of visitors to nearly 22.6 million, up from November's 22.0 million - and up 72 percent vs. Dec. 2006, whereas MySpace visitors increased just 9 percent year over year.

(Compare with Nov. social-network data.)

Top Web Brands

Yahoo follows Google among top web brands, with 113.2 million unique visitors in December. However, time per person on Yahoo properties is nearly three times that of those on Google properties: 3 hours and 5 minutes vs. 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Microsoft and its MSN/Windows Live occupy the third and fourth spots (combined, they would be atop the rankings).

A brand is defined by Nielsen as a consolidation of multiple domains and URLs that has a consistent collection of branded content.

Top Blog Sites

Among blog sites, top-ranked Blogger increased its visitors 48 percent from the year-earlier period, accounting for 35.8 million visitors in Dec., up from 33.6 million visitors in Nov.

WordPress maintained the No. 2 rank it first achieved in Oct., growing 202 percent from the year-earlier period. In December it accounted for 13.4 million visitors, up from November's 12.0 million - and up from 4.4 million a year earlier.

(See this table from Nov. to make month-to-month comparisons for blog sites.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stop Planning: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances Today

If you're having trouble coming up with one thing to do, I've put together a list of 50 ideas to get you started.

1. Fill out the paperwork to start a new LLC for the company you've always wanted

2. Sign up for a high yield savings account and transfer money that's just sitting in your checking account

3. Increase the size of your 401(k) contribution from every paycheck

4. Instead of going out to dinner tonight, use the money to pay down your Christmas debt

5. Setup a Roth IRA and schedule monthly contributions to eventually reach your annual maximum

6. Call your mortgage broker to see if you could save any money by refinancing your house (be sure to include fees in your calculations)

7. Give your boss a list of the ways you made or saved your company money last year and then ask for a raise

8. Figure out new ways to make or save your company money this year and start doing them

9. Audit your credit cards, figuring out which ones to pay off first and examining any other ways to save money

10. Cancel monthly subscriptions that you forgot you were paying

11. Cancel domain name renewals for URLs you no longer care about

12. Send a query letter to a trade magazine about writing an article for them that positions you as an expert

13. Start a blog that demonstrates your expertise and builds preeminence in your niche

14. If you can't find time to manage your finances, setup interviews with several financial planners that can

15. If you have a second home on the market and it's not selling, consider canceling the listing and putting a "For Rent" sign in the yard

16. Pull your credit report and examine it for ways to improve your score (helping you get better rates)

17. Remind friends and family of money they "borrowed" from you last year and propose a repayment plan

18. Call your 5 best clients and ask them for ways to improve your service or product this year

19. If they can't think of any, ask them for referrals to their friends (after all, your company is perfect)

20. While you're at it, ask those same clients to write a short testimonial or letter of recommendation

21. Then fire your 3 worst clients, dedicating your time to finding new and better ones

22. Fire the employee that's doing nothing for your company but bleeding you for a monthly paycheck

23. Register for an industry conference, where you can build relationships with powerful people

24. Offer to speak at the conference about a topic all of your peers would like to know more about

25. Hire a professional to rewrite your résumé and then go jobhunting

26. If your product or service clearly provides more value than it costs, raise your rates or prices and see what happens

27. Send out an e-mail to your friends, asking if they know of any killer job openings coming up that you might qualify for

28. Apply for an evening program to get your graduate degree

29. Write a proposal for ways your company can improve and send it to a higher up that cares

30. Talk to your spouse about going back to work, if there's no longer a good reason for them to stay at home

31. If your spouse isn't excited about personal finance, talk about going to a seminar together, and if they agree, register for one

32. Start a personal web site at and upload your résumé, portfolio, press clippings, articles, contact information, and anything else that you'd like others to see

33. Buy some business cards and put your personal web site on them, so you can hand them out to people that might want to hire you

34. Call a company that offers a complementary product or service to yours and ask if they'd like to promote your product or service for a commission

35. While you're at it, ask if you can promote their product or service for a commission

36. Instead of watching television tonight, read a few chapters of a personal-finance book

37. In fact, cancel your cable or satellite service. You don't need it, and you'll get a lot more done without it

38. Write a press release about something genuinely remarkable your company is doing and send it to the local media

39. If you've always wanted to write a book, buy a book about writing your proposal and set aside the time to read it

40. Join the Chamber of Commerce and network with other business leaders in your community

41. Schedule an appointment with a nutritionist to create a diet that will give you more energy to tackle your finances

42. Consider hiring a part-time housekeeper and dedicating those hours to starting your own company or bettering your career

43. Ask someone that's more financially successful than you are to lunch and get their advice on how to improve

44. Find an Accountability Partner and talk with them for 15 minutes every morning about what you're going to that day

45. Read (or reread) a few chapters of Getting Things Done and take an hour to put the principles in practice

46. If you're not already using a personal-finance software package, tinker with a program like Quicken or Mint and decide if it's something you can commit to

47. If you're unsatisfied with your accountant, send an e-mail to your friends and ask for recommendations

48. Put little reminders about your financial objectives beside your computer and on the back of your door, so you don't forget them

49. Take an hour to decide if those objectives are really important to you, and if not, revise them

50. Somehow, some way, take action today, moving yourself toward your financial objectives, instead of just thinking about them


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