Lee's 'Better Communication Results' blog

A blog to help YOU communicate better for better business results!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

New and improved blog now live

Well, I might as well release it now - there's only a few things that need tidying up and no doubt you will all forgive me if I attend to them shortly.

My new and improved Better Communication Results blog, hosted by the fantastically helpful Ben Hamilton over at his hosting company, Dynamic Web Hosting, is now ready for your perusal.

No need to adjust your feed reader - I will have Feedburner switch over from this site to the new site's rss feed shortly.

And yes, I know there is a slight difference in how Firefox and Internet Explorer render the site - if you are a css guru I'd love to know what is going wrong.

Brickbats, bouquets, suggestions and glaring errors -- please let me have them all.

Friday, August 19, 2005

CSS expert required - can anyone help me, please?

Fingers crossed!
G'day

I'm designing my new blog that Ben Hamilton is kindly hosting for me. One of the challenges I am facing is that my page looks slightly different on Firefox than in IE.

If there's a friendly neighbourhood css expert who can advise me what's going on I would be really grateful. Cheers!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

WordPress and my new improved blog: Steep learning curve ahead!

Phew! I've just realised what a steep learning curve I have ahead of me. WordPress is a huge program, and someone used to bending and tweaking Blogger, as I am, is almost totally unprepared for the magnitude of learning required to prepare my new blog.

Yes, a new blog is on it's way -- and so far only two people in the whole world know its location. (are you excited? didn't think so... it's not quite up there with a Harry Potter launch, is it?)

Congratulations on making the digerati

My congrats to both Shel and Neville for making it onto Feedster's Top 500 list of influential blogs. Well deserved recognition, chaps!

DataFace: oh how wrong can you get it?

Joshua Manishankar put me onto this site from his interesting article on Deception via verbal and nonverbal gestures.

I don't normally slam someone's efforts, after all we all started somewhere and slamming someone doesn't help them grow.

But...

DataFace is so atrociously bad as a website that I almost cannot link to it, for fear that I might drive traffic to them for all the wrong reasons. As Thomas à Becket once asked, "Is it better to do the right thing for the wrong reason, or the wrong thing for the right reason?" But here's the link anyway - viewer beware.

What is so wrong with the site? Well, go there and tell me what level of professionalism, trust and ability to solve your headache they are communicating? ('music', for goodness sake!)

Allan Jenkins and I have been enjoying a series of emailed reminiscing moments about the early days of the web -- gray backgrounds, TimesRoman text, no Internet Explorer just Mozilla... I thought sites like DataFace's disappeared over 6 years ago.

Take away thought:
If you don't update your website's look and feel every 18 months you risk being taken for an amateur. Increasingly web-savvy guests to your site will compare their experience on your site with the hundreds of others they visit -- if you don't meet the standards they have come to expect then they are much more likely to click away from you. Very quickly.

Your Jewish Neighborhood: Mrs Shel podcasts

Forgive me for my slight irreverance, but when I heard that Shel Holtz's wife is 'Michelle', I just had to laugh -- what if Shel in fact isn't married, but has a double life?

Completely not true, of course, as you can immediately tell when you listen to Michelle's new interview-format podcast (or should I say Godcast) on Reformed Jewish issues - Your Jewish Neighborhood.

I've just listened to the first show and I have to say I'm impressed. Okay, I don't have to say it, Shel's a friend after all, but I actually am.

If I cast my memory back to the first podcasts of Shel & Neville, Heidi Miller and myself, we were all pretty amateur. But we had passion, we had heart and we had a mission. Now look at us. (Some would say one of us (aka me) is still amateur, but that would be unkind.)

So the same will happen with Michelle Holtz - and she has the benefit of her husband's substantial experiences and expertise, the result of which is that her first podcast is a considerable cut above the first few shows I put out, for example.

I look forward to hearing many more and expanding my knowledge of a religion and culture that has had such an impact on our world.

Side note:
As part of my Masters studies on Christianity I spent a bit of time wandering through the Old Testament; are the Israeli Jews who didn't permit that marriage (discussed in Michelle's podcast) similar in style to the Inter/New Testament period Sadducees and Pharisees? What IS a reformed jew? Why are they different from, say, orthodox jews? Is the difference based on 'flavour' such as is found in Christianity with its Catholics, Pentacostals, Charismatics, Lutherans, Protestants, and so on... one house of God but many rooms?

I wonder if I can record a comment to/for her show? Will it be played?

Nonverbal communication: getting it so very, very wrong

I had to laugh when I read Chico's experience of someone who had read a little too much pop psychology. I mean, I also read Psychology Today, but I don't assault people at a bus stop with it!

Chico's story is a fantastic reminder that when attempting to interpret people's motivations by their nonverbal signals, we need to interpret a cluster of signals, not an isolated, one-off gesture.

The 7-38-55 Myth

No doubt all of us in the business of communication have at one stage or other heard of the three percentages of communication reception: 7%, 38%, 55%
  • 7% - the received percentage of the message communicated by the words you use
  • 38% - the received percentage of the message communicated by your vocal tone
  • 55% - the received percentage of the message communicated by your non-verbal gestures

Ever wonder where those figures came from, other than perhaps from the top of someone's head? Robert Befus clues you in on the actual research that drives those numbers.

Robert's conclusion? The studies used to generate these venerable numbers are too tiny and specific to be generalised across to we working communicators. We should stop holding them up as a 'written in stone' artifact.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ben's amazing offer

After much deliberation and forum discussions, I am going to take Ben Hamilton up on his incredibly kind offer.

Ben is launching a hosting service in Queensland, Australia (Dynamic Web Hosting) and has offered me free hosting in exchange for an unbiased view of his service.

I am free to blog praise or blame, whichever I feel appropriate. Having established a bit of a relationship with him, and been a long-time reader of his own blog (even in it's previous incarnation - which I will let him point to if he wants), I have the feeling that the hosting service will be a great experience.

All I have to do now is decide which is better:
  • have 'leehopkins.com' point to the blog
  • have 'blog.leehopkins.com' point to the blog and keep 'leehopkins.com' pointing to my website

If you have any views, please post them here. Naturally, I will pop a redirect on this blog to divert all traffic to the new WordPress blog (and Ben will help me import all of my blogger posts onto my new blog).

With the news that blogger is in the sights of at least one search engine (thanks, Shel) the timing is sweet.

Yes, Allan and Constantin, my blogger days are numbered.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ken Evoy misses the point

As part of a running forum discussion on blogging, and why Ken Evoy of SiteSell fame won't consider adding a blogging engine to his hosting offering, I posted in the SiteSell/SiteBuildIt forums about how blogs are now becoming far bigger than he originally dismissed.

I still think he is missing an important piece of the pie by not considering adding blogging software into SiteBuildIt. My little old blogger.com account sends me a significant % of my site's traffic. I have replicated my blogger.com posts as static pages on my SiteBuildIt site - they draw nothing. I am drawing interest via my podcast, my blog and my SiteBuildIt website's articles (as per SiteBuildIt's raison d'etre) --- how wonderful it would be if I could incorporate the two textual elements into one.

At which point, a fellow Australian SiteBuildIt! site owner weighed into the fray, asking:

Am I confused with what a blog is only I thought it was like a daily diary. I have a blog (well thats what I call it on my website) and when I add to it I ping the new addition so those with RSS can see what has been added. Is there more to blogging than this, am I missing something?

To which I posted the following:

G'day, X.

Blogging can be many things, depending on how 'into it' you get.

At the basic level, yes, it is a journal. But blogging can be so much more.

For example, with my own blog I belong to a vibrant community of business communicators and PR professionals. We discuss issues relevant to our industry and grow our own personal sphere of influence (aka market reach).

As I blogged today, once you get past the 'entry level' stage of community building, you start to understand the power of comments and more importantly 'trackbacks' -- the latter is particularly powerful in generating incoming links to your site.

I honestly look forward to being corrected, but I don't see that the money I have invested in SiteSell has given me the tools to create trackbacks on any of my pages. I would expect to have such fundamental tools available as part of my package these days -- after all, I could easily host my site at one of any thousands of webhosts for a fraction of my SBI annual fee. But I choose to stay with SBI precisely because I believe Ken has the right business model for online content and thus deserves to keep my business as a 'thank you'.

With blogs now very much part of the mainstream of online promotional activity -- driving, as they do for me, a significant proportion of traffic behind the search engines to my SBI site -- it would be fantastic to be able to incorporate them properly into my site, with commenting, trackbacks and dedicated urls.

And if anyone doubts the power of blogs to capture Google interest, might I suggest you conduct a search on Google for these two search phrases: kensington locks .... and ... "kensington locks"

In the first example you will see the 3rd place goes to a blog; in the second the 4th place goes to a blog.

What's in the blog? Commentary about how the blogosphere has found that kensington's laptop locks are about as secure as a piece of tissue paper.

And it was the acknowledged power of the blogosphere that cost the bike lock manufacturer Kryptonite over US$10m because they failed to pay attention to a conversation among 20million bloggers. There's currently around 32m bloggers, with a new post being created every 2 seconds, according to the leading blog search engine Technorati.

Most of the major PR agencies around the western world are now incorporating blog watching in their monitoring activities. As I mentioned earlier, the NY Times has announced that it takes blogging seriously, in a recent editorial.

Quote:
"It's natural enough to think of the growth of the blogosphere as a merely technical phenomenon. But it's also a profoundly human phenomenon, a way of expanding and, in some sense, reifying the ephemeral daily conversation that humans engage in. Every day the blogosphere captures a little more of the strange immediacy of the life that is passing before us. Think of it as the global thought bubble of a single voluble species.” —New York Times editorial Aug. 5, 2005

Blogging CAN be just a simple journal, a listing of one's random thoughts.

But it can also be a whole lot more -- and it behoves the leading hosting company on the web to consider them more fully and offer it as a fully-supported part of their offering, not as a third-party add-on.

=====================

Do you think I went too far, or not far enough?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A challenging week - and a solution at hand!

G'day fine and gentle readers. The past week has been a challenging one for me, and in the interests of helping others escape potential mental health problems, I will outline some of my challenges --- forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

As you know, I added trackback facilities to my blog a few weeks ago, courtesy of haloscan (as blogger.com accounts don't have a trackback feature). It worked fine for me --- I started trackbacking to other people's posts and all is well, albeit with a few hiccups along the way as I learnt to link to the main post, not the trackback code (oops!).

But then I saw that folks were commenting on my posts but the posts weren't showing up on my blog - they were being captured by haloscan.

Yet whenever I looked at my blog and attempted to add a comment to see what is going on, I was able to leave a comment on blogger's comments engine - hence the comment shows up on my blog, the number of 'comments' on a post clearly visible from the front page of my blog.

At first I wondered if it is was Internet Explorer versus A.N. Other browser issue.

It turns out it's not.

Constantin Basturea and Allan Jenkins have both suggested in the past that I should look at moving off blogger, but as I have commented to them privately before, I have my reasons for staying with a free service - one of which is the considerable leverage I get from having a blog address with 'bettercomms' in it.

"Bettercomms dot blogspot dot com" rolls very nicely off the tongue - handy for listeners to my podcast remembering where to go to post a comment or read my blog…

So any move to another service would HAVE to involve a strong consideration of the pnemonics of the new address.

So, a cry for help on this blog brought immediate responses from three exceptionally kind folks: Constantin, Andy Beacock and Rob Baillie.

It turns out that when I auto-installed the haloscan comments and trackback wizard and then manually edited out the comment code so that I could use blogger's comment software, I didn't remove ALL of the code. So if you go to the front of my blog you can see my most recent posts and post a blogger comment there via the comment link.

BUT, if you come to a post of mine via a link to a permanent page (for example, from someone else's blog or from a search engine) then you get to see the haloscan comment software.

Now, here's where it gets even more 'interesting', if 'interesting' is the word for it.

Constantin quite rightly pointed out that blogger.com is great for beginning bloggers, but once you have got a reasonable grasp of the underlying culture of the blogosphere, especially including trackbacks, then one should really look at a more 'grown-up' service. And I know that Allan Jenkins has long been suggesting to me that I move off blogger.

Constantin suggested I have a look at blogsome.com, which uses the WordPress engine for its free blogs. And yes, trackbacks and comments are integral parts of the blogsome offering. Fantastic! So I signed up bettercomms.blogsome.com and prepared to import all of my blogger posts onto blogsome (and along the way pinch some of Allan Jenkins' ideas for my own blog, such as the 'Subscribe' page and the Code of Ethics).

Except that it turns out you cannot import. So I am faced with the dilemma of either sticking with blogger and asking Andy or Rob to very kindly tweak my template to remove any haloscan comments code, and I continue to have the 'uncool' pairing of blogger and haloscan, or else I move to blogsome and have integrated trackbacks but no history other than from the first post I make there.

And, to top it off, "bettercomms dot blogspot dot com" is really easy to say and remember; "blogsome" can easily be confusing -- is it some as in "s. o. m. e." or "some" as in a mathematical sum?

So the point of all this?

Yes, there IS a point to this rant…

If you haven't started your own blog yet, but are thinking of it, then carefully consider your hosting service. Blogger is FANTASTIC as a beginner's service -- great-looking templates, easy to get up and running, easy to pronounce and remember, free.

Other blogging services, free or not, might be more daunting to the beginner -- what with trackbacks and so on -- but eventually you will probably want to take advantage of these advanced tools.

If you have good reasons, as I do, for sticking with a free service, then shop around and consider your options. Blogger is still, I reckon, the best service to start off with, but if you start generating a bit of a community and traffic, moving from blogger to another service may not be as headache free as you would like.

I have learnt this, to my cost.

Oh, and Ben Hamilton quite rightly asked me why I don't host my own blog as I have my own domain name. It's because my website hosting service is SiteSell, which doesn't offer either a blogging tool or access to the server to plop some blogging software on it.

I tell you, what with the hard drive failure, the collapse of my podcast host and now these blogging issues, it's enough to drive a communicator to drink.

I'll catch you next week, but for now I'll have one pangalatic gargleblaster, please, go easy on the ice and ditch the cocktail umbrella…

Update: Fellow aussie and all-round good guy Ben has just emailed me and offered hosting space on his server. This could well be the answer to my prayers! He will let me use WordPress or any other blogging engine on there. I'm not sure how that sorts out the "bettercomms dot something" issue, but all will be revealed in the fullness of time, I am sure. Many many thanks, Ben! Bless you!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Update on comments and haloscan

A-ha!

Thanks to the superb investigative work of Andy, Rob and Constantin I now know why it is doing what it is. It seems that when I auto-installed the haloscan engine (which was both comments and trackback) and manually removed the comments code I obviously didn't remove all that I should have.

Apparently, and I have replicated it, the comments links on my home page are blogger, but if you come to any of my posts via a direct link you get the haloscan comments. Argghh!!!

Constantin has put me on to blogsome.com and I've registered a "bettercomms" blog. It comes complete with trackback and commenting in the one place, based as it is on WordPress. Many thanks again, Big C, for your help.

Constantin also looked at my website css, and there are a few issues there. But on reflection, the design is 18 months old anyway, so it's probably due for a new paint job. Now that Allan has shamed us all with his superb offering, I guess I have no option but to re-look at my site. Damn your hide, Jenkins!! I'm telling mother... {smile}