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Coming Next Week…

Written by Scrivs on April 23, 2008

Hump Day = Let’s Get the Obvious Out of the Way

Written by Tyme White on April 23, 2008

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the obvious things a site should have. Honestly, there are a number of things that could added to this list but I’m not trying to write a book here. 🙂 Let’s do this…

Design

Yes, we are 9rules, the home of beautiful designs. Mike does a wonderful job designing but we don’t expect everyone else to be designers. A beautiful design will not blind us from content that lacks quality. We aggregate content so this means we’re basically recommending blogs to our readers. When someone goes to a site the design shouldn’t be so bright it burns the cornea of their eyes or the print so small it is unreadable. Browser compatibility is very important.

Navigation

Your readers shouldn’t have to struggle to move around your site. If they click on an inside page they should be able, no matter where they are on the site, to click back to the front page. Topics should be easy to find, along with archived articles. Speaking of archives, we like dates on articles. There are some bloggers that do not put a date on articles so it is less clear how often the site is updated. When we spot this, we move on to the next site. If you use tags or categories on your articles list them some place. Very simple but key things a site should have to help the reader browse your site.

Don’t Widget People to Death

I’m not talking about built in WordPress abilities (or other content management systems). I’m actually talking about 3rd party content you’re integrating to your site. Keep in mind that when you add content hosted elsewhere to your site it slows it down and for some viewers (depending on their internet connection) the slow down can be considerable. It makes perfect sense if you host your pictures on Flickr and integrate them on your site. If you host your videos on Blip, to embed them into your site. You created quality content, hosted it elsewhere and you are adding it to your site.

MyBlogLog, you know that community you haven’t visited in months, on your site is one of those that makes me scratch my head. Especially since the majority of the people I interact with detest the widget. Why? Let’s say you just visited a site just checking it out and it sucks, royally. You don’t like it at all, but your face is plastered on it until more people visit the site. Snap is another irritating one that people can’t stand but web site owners just love to use. We don’t recommend irritating things to our readers.

My point? Make some decisions on the content you add to your site. Is it relevant? Is the user benefiting from that content? No? Remove it.

How Do I Contact You?

An amazing amount of blogs do not have contact information. For some blogs that is fine, but we are aggregating information, meaning, the goal is for people to read the content. This is the social media (I really hate that term) era and people enjoy talking to one another. A reader might want more information on an article, want to request an interview, want to hire you for something…the reasons are very diverse. Don’t make readers jump through hoops.

Who ARE you?

Who are you? What is your site about? You don’t have to tell your life story but your name (or your anonymous nick name), perhaps the state you are in, some information about the site, your goals for the site…something. You’ll be surprised how many people look for this information and, if unable to find it, leave with a negative impression (lower credibility).

I Know, I Said I Wasn’t Writing a Book

These are common things people might overlook when taking an objective look at their site. It’s good to do that, or even better, ask a complete stranger to look at your site and see their expression. I’m serious. I’ve gone to the library and asked random people to view a site just to see their reaction (that is always educational). If you’re looking for more tips, you can find previous articles I’ve written here.

Increased exposure = more criticism. Deal with it.

Written by Tyme White on April 21, 2008

One of the benefits of having more people read your articles: increased exposure. The problem: many writers do not realize the increased exposure brings praise and criticism. Most people love the praise and unfortunately some people honestly cannot deal with negative criticism, particularly those that are not used to negative criticism. The average writer does not receive any type of feedback on their site in the beginning (and this can last for months) so this situation is completely understandable. As more people read your articles, listen to your podcasts, view your images, etc. negative criticism will come (in this example look how calm and professional the person being criticized responded). To be clear, I am not talking about trolls.

This is the Social Media Age!

Social media is the new buzz-term. Now more than ever people are getting online, sharing and talking about whatever hits their head. That doesn’t mean people are thinking about what they say before they say it, care to be considerate about how their words are coming across or even take the time to make sure what they are saying is accurate. In a perfect world when people critique something they would say what they dislike and what they like. For example, if a writer receives praise that consistently mentioned how great the featured articles section of the site was, the writer/site owner would know the featured articles are a draw to the site and might even receive suggestions through the praise on how to improve that section of the site. Negative criticism works the same way.

Negatives Viewpoints Don’t Have to Stay That Way

You can’t please everyone simply because it will come to a point where what is being asked of you will go against the goals of your site or the requests begin to conflict with one another (for example, some users request more articles about science and another group of readers prefer the site stay as is). This doesn’t mean negative criticism should be ignored. Many times ways to improve can be found in negative criticism.

For example, I recently wrote an article that clearly is negative criticism (ironically I wrote about negative criticism and how someone reacted to it just before that). In my article I stated my initial thoughts and I gave points to support my position. I wasn’t mean in my article, matter of fact I had compliments in the article about the people in general (vs. the business practices I was speaking of) but my article was negative criticism. After Scoble responded, I responded and asked my audience what they felt would be a good way to improve the situation (84th comment). The article started negative but turned into everyone trying to come together to help. By posing the question I flipped the situation from negative to positive. Good/positive energy can come from an originally negative review. How one responds to the negative feedback makes all the difference.

Seriously, You Can’t Please Everyone

Some suggestions you receive may go against the goals you have for your site. This is a decision everyone eventually has to make – whether to continue on with your goals or change them to please your audience. The guys and I do not sacrifice our core goals but we will implement feature requests if they are not in conflict.

An example of changing – going back to the original 9rules. This is something we felt current members would benefit from since people associate the leaf with a blogs not conversations. To stop the brand confusion the 9rules site will be returned to member only content April 30th. Our current members earned it. Of course it gives us a reason to have a brand new design. 🙂

An example of not changing – the participation agreement change. We knew it was going to tick some members off. We thought about it, realistically thought of the reactions to it, how it would impact our long-term objectives…then sat on it for awhile. Came back to it weeks later, the decision still felt like the right one, I drafted the revised member agreement as per our conversations and sent it to the guys to review. I held onto it for almost two weeks before sending it out just to make sure it still felt like the right decision. Then we waited for the reactions we knew were going to happen, and we were about 90% accurate on that so there weren’t any surprises. We knew some people wouldn’t like it but we also knew some would understand where we were coming from so we stuck with our core values and goals for 9rules.

Social media jobs at SND

Tyme, Why Are You Writing This?

Every round I have to remove sites because they didn’t realize how the increased exposure would impact their site/life. Every round…I’m serious. Let’s try to avoid that this time, ok? So here are some tips:

  • Realize that some people might like your site and some might not. Focus on those that support what you are attempting to accomplish but be very aware of the negative feedback.
  • Take a neutral look at the negative criticism and see if there is validity to it. For example, if people complain you have a zillion widgets on your site and it slows their browsing experience down, take that very seriously, even if you do not experience the same results yourself.
  • Realize that your boss, your parents, in-laws, ex-boyfriend and girlfriends, people you detest, your elementary school teachers, the bully that used to beat you up in school, the person you’re having an affair with, your nosy neighbors, etc. might one day find your site. Consider your worst case scenario (the people you don’t want to find your site) and imagine they found it today. Would that be ok?
  • Remove the things you never thought anyone would see because no one reads your site or the people you talked about that you thought never would find your site. Or the link to your best friend’s site that has a link to their Flickr profile which has pictures of you hanging with the your friends on the night you told your significant other you were at your parent’s house.
  • Think very carefully about the personal information you have on your site. Do you REALLY want strangers to call you? If not, remove your phone number. Do you REALLY want strangers to stop by your house? If not, remove your address.

Increased exposure can bring drama to your life. Be careful what you wish for.

Original content is key

Written by Tyme White on April 18, 2008

On Wednesday I wrote about the 9rules Member Agreement, which is a key basis on determining whether 9rules would be a good fit for your site. The next set of articles I will discuss some of the key features we look for in a site. Original content is single-handedly the hardest aspect of a blog to consistently deliver. Let’s talk about that a bit.

News Blogs

News sites (for clarification, a site that “reports” on a topic) has a double-edged sword. If the news site breaks the story their site will be the first to have it. Being the first to report a story is extremely hard work (to consistently deliver breaking stories) but the work pays off in being “the” source people will go to first and you’ll benefit from the links to your article. Most sites do not fall into this category.

Many reporting sites take news found elsewhere and regurgitates it. Let me give you an example. I took a random article on CNet. This is what many blog entries look like (shortened to save space):

Title: Google beats pessimistic predictions!

Google reported on Thursday their net income of 1.31 billion, a 31% increase. This was a surprising result considering their stock plunged to $525, a significant decrease from their all-time high of $724.24 in November:

Excluding $1.49 billion in partner commissions called traffic acquisition costs, Google’s revenue was $3.7 billion. That result was 46 percent greater than the year-earlier amount and about $100 million more than the $3.6 billion analysts expected.

Google increased revenues by showing less but more relevant ads and kept their operating expenses in line. The majority of their revenue comes from advertising. Despite their success they still have hurdles monetizing social media sites due to the sheer amount of inventory social networking sites create. You can read more about Google’s profits here.

We are not looking for sites that publish that type of content. We are looking for the site that will take that article and try to get an interview or will put a different spin on it. Examples: an article on mobile advertising and the challenges faced or the difficulties advertising networks have filling inventory on social media sites. Another route, if the site reports on social media news look at how other social media sites are filling their inventory and research suggestions to aid those sites. There are many ways to spin the article into original content.

**Accuracy plays an important role as well. If you write online long enough an error will happen. I look for how news sites handle corrections, meaning: does the site update their article to inform their audience they screwed up?

Commentary/Opinion sites

These sites have it the easiest so there really isn’t a reason not to have original content. In this niche the pitfall is not clearly defining the writer’s thoughts. Most people have an opinion about things and that’s great. If your blog is based on opinions, back them up with some facts or state why you have the opinions you have. I view sites daily that recap an article and their entry is basically, “that sucks!” without having any basis for the opinions. If you think net neutrality is good/bad state why. If you think Comcast sucks, back it up with some proof.

We do not have a problem with strong opinions. We realize that some niches almost automatically spark strong debate. We are looking for sites that, when they express their opinion, their is a foundation to back those opinions up.

Personal Sites

This is another easy niche that has a pitfall. A blog about you is unique because there is only one you, right? The pitfall (I know, how can there be one when the blog is about you)? You might be boring. Yes, I said it. Sharing your life is fine and we strongly advise against lying but the presentation and delivery of “your life” makes all the difference in whether the content is interesting. A blog entry about you getting up and wanting a cup of coffee isn’t interesting (unless something happened while making coffee). A picture of the cup of coffee you made with the simple description: “It tastes as good as it looks” might cause your readers to stop what they are doing and make a cup of coffee or prompt comments like, “Damn you, now I’m hungry! :)”.

Get the picture?

Hopefully this will give you some ideas on what we are looking for. Original content isn’t easy to consistently deliver but there are ways to inspire original content.

The 9rules Member Agreement

Written by Tyme White on April 16, 2008

With the round and launch announcements out of the way, let’s talk about the next thing I am often asked: what changes were made to the 9rules member agreement? Upon acceptance each member must agree to the 9rules member agreement. You can read the member agreement below. First, let me answer some common questions:

  • Will you be inviting or automatically adding previous members to 9rules?
    As stated in a SuperStream, no, we will not be automatically adding or inviting previous members to 9rules. Previous members are more than welcome to submit their site during a round. Their previous 9rules status has no bearing on acceptance (meaning: just because the site was in 9rules before does not mean it will be added back and we aren’t holding a grudge against anyone).

    We realize there are some people who feel previous members should be added back. As stated in the SuperStream, going back to our roots has absolutely nothing to do with anyone who left and everything to do with current members along with the future plans the Triad has for the sites. Some of the previous members have hung out with us while we did SuperStreams, which was very cool. Good times were had.

  • What about the one content network agreement?
    That clause has been removed from the agreement.
  • Do you accept Blogger/BlogSpot sites?
    No, unless the site owner has their domain.com pointed to it without the random site banner at the top.
  • What if you removed my site for lack of of updates? Can I still come back when I start writing regularly?
    We realize things come up and the site cannot be a high priority. Members that fell into this category contacted Yes, those that fall into this category know who they are. Just send me an email. 🙂
  • What do you mean by an articles only feed?
    We are only interested in original content (articles, images, videos, audio, etc.). We are not looking to aggregate Delicious, Twitter, or other third party content. Ads, legal disclaimers, third party content, etc. should be removed from the feed given to 9rules.

  • Can I give 9rules a partial feed vs. a full feed?
    Sure. 9rules never displays the full article.

One quick point before moving on the agreement. We’ve been asked why the blog has the default WordPress theme. The old 9rules templates were deleted. The new design is essentially done, but, well, if we put it on the blog then you guys would see it early! I’ll talk to the guys about possibly putting a header up or something. No promises!

On with the member agreement. It’s short, sweet and to the point, which makes Scrivs a very happy guy…

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Member Agreement

Recitals

Once accepted, 9rules will display portions of your articles throughout the 9rules site. 9rules will not display your full content on the site. Members will maintain the quality of their sites and update their sites regularly (continue doing what you are already doing). Unless notified, 9rules will remove sites lacking updates for 60 days. We understand situations arise and will work with members concerning site updates (inform Tyme you are experiencing a problem as soon as possible).

The topics you write about determine placement in Communities. In the event you decide to change the topic of your writing, notify 9rules of the change and your site will be moved to a new Community. 9rules management reserves the right to remove a site that has content viewed as pornographic, sexually explicit, discriminatory, or racially derogatory.

For your content to show in Communities, 9rules will need the link to your articles only feed. Our system will check your feed periodically for updates and display your updated content automatically. It is important to notify 9rules if the URL of your feed changes.

9rules will provide members with a link to the 9rules member badges. The 9rules badge should be displayed on all pages of your site with a link back to 9rules. You can alter the color and size of the badge to match your site. The overall shape of the leaf should remain unchanged. If you redesign your site, remember to move the linked leaf to the new design.

9rules members are responsible for keeping informed on community and member news. 9rules will post updates in the private member’s clique or on the 9rules blog.

Upon acceptance, you will receive access to the private 9rules area. Conversations that take place in this area are private. Violating this trust will lead to removal of your site from 9rules.

Voiding Agreement

Either party has the right to void this agreement at any time, effective immediately. If a member would like to remove their site from 9rules, the member should use the contact form to request removal.