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The Web’s Prisoner’s Dilemma, by Greg, DigitalTonto

The Web has become the most consequential force for the spread of information and innovation since the advent of the printing press.  The debate over its future is heating up, so it was inevitable that its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, would eventually weigh in.

He did just that in an article in Scientific American in which he lays out the facts as only he could.  The online world as we know it is under dire threat from a variety of special interests who seek advantage at the expense of the rest of us.

The issues, although abstract, are far from esoteric and there is truly a lot at stake.

 

What Tim Berners-Lee Created

The World Wide Web has become such a pervasive phenomenon that it’s hard to believe that one man created it.  What is even more incredible is that, for all of the untold billions that it bestowed on investors and entrepreneurs, he never tried to get rich from it.  From the beginning, he made the code free, open and public.

What makes the current debates confusing to many is that there is a substantive difference between the Internet and the Web.  The Internet existed decades before the Web came along, but it was less valuable because we didn’t use it very much. At first, it was mostly for academics, then became available to consumers only through closed services like AOL andCompuServe.

Berners-Lee designed the web to run on top of the Internet architecture.   It has two salient characteristics that changed everything:

Universality: The web enables information to be accessed on any device, no matter who built it, what software it runs or who created the content.  If it is converted to HTML, we all can see it (and converting is very easy, you can even save Microsoft Office documents to HTML automatically).

Connectivity: Once a page is on the Web, it is theoretically connected to every other page.  It becomes part of the whole ecosystem.  Furthermore, linking allows us to vote for what we think is important.  Links, after all, form the basis of how search engines like Google and Bing help us find what we’re looking for.

The Expanding Web

In addition to creating the Web, Berners-Lee presides over the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), whose members include major corporations, government agencies as well as educational and non-profit institutions.

The main focus of the W3C is to come up with standards, called recommendations to ensure that the web’s capabilities stay relevant and universal.  These standards are open, meaning that anybody who wants to use them can do so without having to get permission or pay a license fee.  Nobody owns them and everybody profits.

In short, the Web is a non-commercial entity that enables commerce as nothing that has come before.

The Web Under Siege

You can imagine Berners-Lee’s consternation that the Web’s core principles are now being subverted.  His article in Scientific American lists three major threats:

Net Neutrality: As I noted above, one of the founding principles of the Web is that it is universal.  You can access any information you want regardless of what device you own, who produced it or how you access the Internet.

Now, those who provide us with Internet service want to have a say in what pages we go to.  If you go to the sites that they own or are affiliated with, you are put in a “fast lane,” while to access competitors sites you get stuck in the “slow lane.”

If those who provide us with our connection to the Internet are allowed to give preference to some Web services over others, universality becomes a sham.  A useful analogy is the electricity grid.  Imagine if your electric utility could charge you more for using some appliances than for others.

This is more than just a theoretical debate and, as this Washington Post column explains, it will hurt consumers and threatens free enterprise and innovation.

Snooping: Another issue of increasing importance is snooping.  This is different from how Web sites can collect “cookies” to monitor our habits and save our preferences for next time we visit.   Most web browsers have privacy modes that allow us to surf anonymously or we can turn off cookies entirely.  It’s fairly easy to protect our privacy from cookie tracking.

More nefariously,  Internet service providers can now track “packets” of information that go between us and the web sites we visit without our knowledge or approval.  They can access data about whether we’ve recently looked at information about heart disease, an upcoming pregnancy or what political views we subscribe to.

Imagine that you’re interviewing for a job and your prospective employer is able to pull up information about what you’ve surfed or that you’ve been stopped for a minor traffic violation and the research you’re son was doing for a school report on terrorism comes up.

Again, this is no mere tech issue and, unlike cookie tracking, there are not even any theoretical benefits to consumers.  Basic tenets of liberal democracy are in peril.

Closed Applications: Another area of concern are closed Internet applications or “apps,” like those on devices such as iPads or iPhones and, to a lesser extent, on web sites like Facebook.  These are designed to be proprietary and undermine the connectivity of the Web.

It is important to note that this is completely separate from the issue of whether or not people should pay for content.  The Web allows plenty of options to restrict use.  If you feel that only paying customers should be able to access your content, then that is a reasonable position you have a right to take (although, in the past, I have argued it’s usually unwise).

An “app” driven online world, however, would be a throwback to the days of AOL and “walled gardens.”  The owners of choke points such as Apple and Facebook could eventually use their market power to extract a toll from anybody who would like to offer us a service.

Think about that.  You buy a phone because you think it looks cool or join a social network because you want to connect with friends and somebody you’ve never met gets to have a say in what you read, what music you listen to, etc.  It’s outrageous!

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The dynamics of the current situation are a classic case of a Prisoner’s Dilemma like the one shown below:

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Both benefit from cooperation, but left to their own devices will end up worse off

In this example we have two prisoners, Henry and Dave (the numbers vary slightly in different versions, but the principle stays the same).

Each is offered the same deal: if one confesses and the other doesn’t, he will get only one year in jail while his friend will get five years.  If they are both loyal to each other, they will get only two years each and if they are both rats, they will each get three years.

They are much better off collectively if they can trust one another.  However, each is better off individually by screwing his buddy.  The overall effect is that the most likely scenario is the worst case: They both confess and get a total of six years in jail between them.

The situation with the open Web today is very much the same.  There is a clear benefit to universality and connectivity.  However, individual corporations stand to benefit if they can rig the game towards proprietary solutions (i.e. screw their buddy) .  If that happens, we are back to the “walled gardens” and diminished potential of the pre-Web age.

What Does the Future Hold?

Regular readers of this blog know that, in the past, I have espoused two views.  On the one hand, I strongly believe that the Web will prevail over apps.  Connectivity is a fairly transparent benefit and as long as the web exists, it presents a clear alternative to walled gardens.

Net neutrality and privacy, however, are more problematic. The open Web is similar to open trade.  While free trade clearly benefits all, well-entrenched interests benefit from restricted trade.  The cost of various subsidies and tariffs cost us billions each year.

One thing is clear:  An open Web is not a matter that the market can work out itself.  As a public good, it is a market externality, which pertains to everybody collectively, but no one individually.  Therefore, the only way to protect the Web is through consumer activism and government action if we are to preserve a marketplace that remains competitive and innovative.

As the issue is currently being played out in the US Congress, we should realize that we all have a stake in this and be vigilant in our opposition to a balkanized Web.

Brand “U.0”, by David Armano

5 Ways to Make Your Blog Stand Out From the Crowd

By Nathan Hangen

http://nathanhangen.com/

Published December 9, 2010

It’s no secret that the amount of new bloggers entering the blogosphere has made it both incredibly competitive and difficult to stand out.

Now, this doesn’t mean that blogging isn’t useful and effective, but it does mean that you have to treat your blog a little differently than you did in the past.

In this article, I’ll show you how to make your blog stand out from the crowd. This is important not just from a branding perspective, but also from a traffic and monetization perspective.

As the competition for attention increases, it’s going to become more important than ever to find a way to stand out from the crowd and be unique.

Yes I know, being unique is a buzzword that doesn’t always translate to everyday business terms, but even if your business is vanilla, it doesn’t mean that your blog has to be.

Let’s get started.

#1: Design
Premium themes have never been as abundant and inexpensive as they are now. You can get a nice-looking theme from Theme Forest or Elegant Themes for under $30, and if you’re willing to go a bit further, you can get a framework from Thesis or Woo Themes for just under $100.

The good news here is if you do that, you’re ahead of the game; but the bad news is that you’re not far enough ahead to really make a difference.

If you spend enough time surfing the web, you’ll notice the same themes seem to keep popping up everywhere, and if you don’t want to look like everyone else, then you’ll have to:

Pick a theme that you don’t see anyone using
Hire a designer to customize your theme so that it looks original and unique.
Regardless of the theme you use, I recommend that you spend some time customizing it to best fit your mission.

For instance, David Risley recently spent quite a bit of time creating something special over at PC Mech, while my favorite musician, Oleg Mokhov, rocked the heck out of a Theme Forest theme for the entrepreneur’s podcast, Lifebeat.

Another option is to have a designer custom-build a theme from scratch (much like Social Media Examiner has done). If you’re a serious business, then I recommend you strive to get to this point. It may be costly, but it’s worth it to treat your blog like a business.

For just $39, you can access nearly 50 premium WordPress themes via ElegantThemes.com.
#2: Make Your Blog Social
For many of you, this might be old news, but I repeat it for the sake of completeness. If you don’t make it easy for people to share your content, then they won’t… period.

Millions of people are on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon, so why not get your content in front of them?

Here are my favorite WordPress plugins for doing just that:

Twitter RT Button (Official): I like this one because it not only looks professional, but you can also use Tweetmeme.
Facebook Like Button: Just months ago, this button didn’t exist. Now it’s a staple on every major blog I know of.
Sexy Bookmarks: This is a great way to add a variety of essential social sharing icons. It looks great and is easily customizable.
If you aren’t on WordPress, that’s not a problem. There are other versions of these plugins for almost every blogging platform.

Notice how easily you can share this post via the various social sharing buttons?
#3: Take an Angle
If I see one more blog on the topic of social media, I’m going to explode. The same goes for almost every vanilla niche out there. You won’t want to hear it, but there are already dozens of great blogs on almost every topic, so why compete with them?

Instead of taking an ordinary angle on an ordinary topic, why not pick a side and give people something different to think about?

Red Head Writing does a great job by offering a snarky take on all subjects digital marketing, while Jordan Cooper does the same with his “not a pro” take on blogging.

There are only a few people capable of dominating a niche; i.e., Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan or Jay Baer. However, there are an infinite number of takes available to you if you’re willing to pick one.

If you sell cleaning supplies, don’t talk about the business of cleaning supplies; instead, talk about the effects of chemicals on the environment and how your company, and others, fix it.

Pick a fight, share an opinion. Don’t preach to the choir, convert people!

Erica Napoletano is well-known for dishing out some social smack. Rather than shy away from the attention, she embraces it.
#4: Use Images and Infographics
Two of my favorite marketing blogs are Flowtown and Kiss Metrics because they offer detailed and insightful infographics for me to learn from.

Infographics are a great way to present data because they’re attractive and easy to read. Most people aren’t going to read through a 2,000-word case study on product spending, but if you take the time to quantify it in an infograph, suddenly you’ve got a great piece of evergreen content.

If infographics aren’t your thing, I recommend you take the time and select attractive images for your blog posts. Check out some design blogs for ideas.

For example, try Smashing Magazine or PSD Tuts. You’ll get great help on selecting images and how to display them so they look fantastic. Two other sites are Site Sketch 101 and Freelance Switch.

Great feature images work well to increase conversion from front page to post page, and in-post images keep readers scrolling to the end.

Take a look at your favorite blogs and see how they’re doing it. Look at the difference between a great image and a poor image—it may be subtle, but it’s there.

So where do you get great images? Try Shutterstock or iStockPhoto. As a last resort, you can perform a Creative Commons search on Flickr and find good images until you have enough money to invest in stock photos.

If you’re going to use screenshots, please take the time to make them look proportionate and give them a nice-looking border.

This is just the first 20% of a recent infographic created by Flowtown. Notice the quote from our very own Michael Stelzner.
#5: Create Evergreen Content

Here’s a list of popular content from Social Media Examiner. Notice the post titles. It doesn’t get any more evergreen than that.
Evergreen content is valuable 24/7, whether it was written last year or 5 years from now. Many of the basic principles of search engine optimization (SEO) have remained unchanged over the past several years, and blogs like Search Engine Land have done a great job of creating content that lasts for years.

The same goes for any niche, be it digital marketing, social media, blogging, etc.

Someone who does this extremely well is Glen Allsopp, founder of Viper Chill. If you take a look at his average blog post, it’s well over 2,000 words of extremely useful evergreen content.

Why does evergreen content matter so much?

It makes it easy on you by letting old content bring new readers up to speed, so you don’t have to keep repeating the same message over and over again. It’s also great for search engine rankings and long-term traffic.

Evergreen content is easy to monetize because it’s always going to be valuable to advertisers.

Wrapping It Up
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. The blogging rules are changing by the day and the techniques that worked in the past—like guest blogging, commenting and even social media—don’t work well unless you’ve done at least 75% of these things right.

Why is Social Media Examiner one of the most dominant blogs in the social media space? They’ve done almost every single thing on this list extremely well. In a sense, they’ve made this entire blog evergreen as a result.

It’s not enough just to be good, you have to look and act the part too.

Personal development Plan

For my fist Post I would be honored, and I could not resist to the temptation to offer you his wonderful way of expressing his ideas, to publish the thoughts of a someone who I really admire and that I feel intellectually very close. Thank you, Dinis.


To have a great life one needs to work in a good balance between our personal passions, needs and career, work. In order to make this self-development the first thing to bear in mind is to understand the intrinsic subtleties of our desires and personality first of all. It is necessary to set clear goals and goals, and write them down, read it very often and rewrite, adapt them from time to time. This is a continuous work. And the first question is what’s your biggest passion(s). What makes you awake every morning happy and with light in the eyes?
Also “as you think so shall you see!”. This quote has weighted in my balance and it gives me a sober look at things and it helps me to demystify any myth that I created because of my fears, scars, social background, cultural or religious environment, education and so forth.
How do we than organize a behavior program of personal development around concrete goals and needs, targeting what is really important. One does this being consistent with the real goals not other people advice/s, or suggestions. This is critical to remind ourselves, everyday that we just live one existence, our life!
Moreover it is of utmost importance to be completely open-minded. The world changes faster than sometimes our thoughts and the most important lesson is to be always looking to learn, listen, to continually educate ourselves and be ready to evolve around our own program and manage failures as part of an optimization process. Also you have to be ready to adapt and mutate but don’t (never) sacrifice the core values! In the end it is what one gets! This being consistent with promise, goals and please never wait for perfection, there is no such thing as perfection. What you have is finished projects, goals, dreams. But bear in mind be determined to deliver the basics and do focus on delivering! But step by step and don’t be obsessed about wanting everything at the same time. Things have their own time, create processes, be patient.
Some strategical questions to work out first:
Where you want to be?
Where you are today?
What are your special qualities, capacities, passions?
How can you develop and improve your skills?
How can you be in charge of your life, emotional, material, sentimental?
And what are the main gaps to get there?
Are you doing enough to get there?
A good exercise is to do a personal SWOT analysis:
What are your SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Do this without any kind of prejudice;
Try to be very humble, honest, objective;
Than on the top of each answer develop an action plan to each of these analysis / research.
Another set of questions important to ask first:
How do you see yourself in one year?
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
Also the most difficult of the questions, if you would die tomorrow how do you would like to be remembered?
Than the exercise is to think and work out how to get there. Research as much as possible thinking in ways of getting the key. Than one needs to set a precise list of tasks to get there.
Write minimum 20 to 30 tasks in order to establish a plan to get there. While writing the list you will find some things you never thought about it. Also you will realize if you are indeed working to reach these goals.
The critical question is are you going in that direction, have you been doing enough to get what you wanted?
The following exercise is more personal. It is a meditation about your personal in balance. You need to get to understand if you are in a bridge between the inner self, its scars, its memories, deceptions. The questions to ask yourself are something like this:
How are you dealing with your dreams, your biggest dreams did you think about it for a while?
What you dreamed when you were a child are you still working for it?
When you think about a perfect life are you doing enough to go there?
Write down you dream wish list and check what have you been doing to get that?
Have you been looking at the example of the people you used as models for your dreams?
Are you doing what they did?
Also important is to set clear goals for the next 10 months, for this week… This will set a clear path to what we want to achieve and create a disciplined method of approach and focus. Most of people that don’t achieve what they want is because they did not do enough to get it. Not that anyone is special over others. We are all able to reach our dreams. The main difference is that some of us work for it and most of the people simple don’t do enough to get it.
Than with this in mind look at the best ways of getting what you want.
What do you need material wise to get close to what you wandered?
Economically what are the jobs that correspond match to these reflection of yours?
What are the jobs that match your exercise?
Moreover who are the people that are doing these kind of jobs?
What did they do, where did they study, what courses, workshops are there to get those skills?
How did they reach there, have you been looking at case studies?
Are you talking with these people, have you tried?
Are they in your network, in your circle of friends?
Are you learning, interacting with them?
This will help you get closer to the trailer of the best ways to get what you want.