Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

July 29, 2009

Rorschach Test Cheat Sheet

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:06 pm

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times claiming that Wikipedia is de-valuing the Rorschach test by including the 10 ink blot images and their most common associated terms as part of its article.

The controversy started on June 29th when Dr. James Heilman decided to include all the images and research about common terms in the wikipedia page. The images still remain, but the terms were taken down later amid protest from those in the scientific community. Of course, due to how Wikipedia works, those terms are still available in the history page.

Just in case that somehow gets removed, here’s a screen shot:

Rorschach cheat sheet
click for larger image

Personally, I understand where the scientific community is coming from, but their anger is many years too late. My college psych class included most of this information in the textbook – and that was printed sometime in the 80s. Anybody could have walked into the store and purchased the book and gotten way more “potential bias” information from there than they could find on Wikipedia. Why wasn’t there outrage over textbooks?

My personal view as a computer scientist who only took the required 3 psychology classes in college is that the Rorschach test is pretty useless. It’s a good measure of how well somebody conforms to the status quo, but that’s about it.

One standard test that never changes questions is generally a bad idea in a lot of fields. Eye charts are one that comes to mind – with no doubt thousands of people having memorized “E FP TOZ LPED PECFD…” (That’s all I remember off the top of my head.) How many of you have cheated at the eye dr when they ask you to read the same line with your left eye that you just read with your right eye? It’s not a very valid test.

Rorschach is one of those tests. Anybody seriously trying to cheat the test is going to be able to do so whether or not the images and terms appear on Wikipedia. Once the data is out there anywhere (even textbooks!) it’s out there and will be found out by those wanting to abuse it.

On a side note though, if (and I doubt it) the publication of this data will really have an impact on the test, that means we can make it have the opposite impact too. It might be fun to alter the “normal terms” and see how many people confidently walk into their psychologist’s office and proudly proclaim that the butterfly image is really “a man hang gliding over the city with an ak47 raining a deadly hail of bullets onto those below him.”

July 24, 2009

Cash For Clunkers Information

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:05 am

I’m hearing a lot of talk about the Government’s new order neurontin cheap overnight at washington Cash for Clunkers program right now. Almost every radio show is talking about it and car dealers are hurrying to educate customers about it, but listening to the radio today I heard tons of confusion about the program. The radio hosts didn’t know the specifics, and some of the callers had misguided information.

If you’re trying to find out about the cash for clunkers program, there’s a great flowchart out there that can help you decide.

Basically, cash for clunkers is a rebate program. It’s money taken off the sticker price of a car and given directly to the car dealer when you purchase a new car.

Here’s what you need to qualify:

Your car must be:

  • less than 25 years old
  • Have a trade-in value less than $4,500
  • Insured and registered for the last year
  • Get a combined 18mpg or less

You can check your MPG rating at cars.gov

If your car meets all of these qualifications, it’s eligible to trade in under the program. Then, your rebate amount depends upon the new car you are purchasing. If your new car gets 22mpg or more, you will be elgible for a $3,500 rebate applied to your new car. As a bonus, if the new car gets 10 miles per gallon more than the one you’re trading in, you’ll get a $4,500 rebate.

July 18, 2009

Personal Branding Sites – A Must Have

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 8:37 pm

It’s no secret that personal branding has become huge lately. In today’s society, brands are everything. Don’t believe me? Just look at the logo on your t-shirt or shoes.

In the field of SEO and marketing, it’s just as important to market yourself as a brand as it is for larger companies like Nike and Coke. When it comes down to it, anybody selling consulting services is really just selling themselves. Willy Loman knew it, but it took a long time for it to finally become prominent on the web.

dotCULT does a great job for me, but it’s more of my blog and less about selling me as a professional. So, I’ve downloaded the latest version of WordPress and this cool new Ipseity theme and got to work. It’s a pretty simple theme and I had it up and running in no time. Check it out on my new personal site: Ryan Jones.

I haven’t fully decided between RyanMJones.com, RyanJones.ws, or RyanJones.info – however I may just use it to do some 301/302 style testing on search results in the future. Let me know which domain name you like better and why.

The only issue I had with the Ipseity theme is that it doesn’t work without Javascript, so it would be pretty hard for search engines to find the 2nd and 3rd page data. I fixed that by switching WordPress over to custom URLS, and adding in links to each post individually that only show up if a user has JavaScript disabled. You’ll notice it also removes the arrow links for users without JavaScript, as they wouldn’t work anyway.

It’s a pretty clever technique that makes the site useful and “cool” for users, while still showing links to the content to search engines. It’s still not perfect from an SEO perspective, but the folks at Ipseity have gotten off to a good start and I’m going to keep tweaking at the theme.

July 13, 2009

The Time Has Come To Regulate TechCrunch

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:30 pm

Update: My snarky post has been mentioned on TechDirt

This is a response to one of the most asinine posts I’ve ever seen on Techcrunch calling for transparency and disclosure of search engine algorithms.

The following post was written by a semi-well known blogger. The author has purposely posted his name on the article because he stands behind what he says and isn’t afraid of criticism.

He is starting a discussion on the need for government regulation of Techcrunch due to their extremely asinine views somehow getting picked up and ran with across the blogosphere. There is clearly growing frustration on the constantly deteriorating quality of content being posted to the site.

Imagine if you will all of the world’s venture capitalists were girls in a night club, and that the only way to get into this night club was to get passed the bouncer at the gate. The bouncer is named Techcrunch and he decides who’s “cool” and who isn’t – only his standards of cool are way off and often are just based on who you know. The bouncer knows nothing of actually succeeding in the market, but relies on his friends to tell him what works best and what doesn’t.

In a world like this, friends of the bouncer would have an unfair advantage getting the girls. Sure, you could hope to meet a girl at work, but that’s not very likely – they’ve all already met girls at the club. That’s how today’s tech startup world is. Those lucky enough to have contacts and get talked about on Techcrunch have an unfair advantage. We need government regulation so that every startup and business receives equal coverage on Techcrunch.

Do companies pay to get coverage on Techcrunch? It needs to be disclosed. What about those who donate crap in order to get mentions. We need transparency here. Do anonymous posters and guest contributors get paid? How much? What companies do these contributors work for? What do they stand to gain by posting their articles?

Alright, enough of this crap, let’s look at the actual post and why the author is an idiot.

Let’s ignore the glaring fact that an anonymous writer is calling for transparency and disclosure for a minute. Let’s also ignore that Mr Anonymous probably works for a company that has a lot to gain of Google were forced to reveal its algorithm. Let’s get to the heart of his argument.

Before I dig deeper into your article, I’d simply like to remind you that being listed in, or ranked well on Google isn’t a right.

Also remember, thanks to Pagerank, Google isn’t really ranking websites. WE ALL ARE – whenever we link to another site in our blog posts.

Based on how Google actually works, your LA analogy couldn’t be more off. Search engines don’t “gate access” to anything. From what Google has shared about their algorithm, and how it’s based on links from other sites, they’re simply presenting the websites that are most talked about. A better analogy for you to use would be “imagine if you could only shop at the stores in LA that everybody was talking about.” That wouldn’t be so bad at all. In fact, it would be favorable. Imagine if you could only listen to the songs that everybody else wanted to listen to – you’d have a popular radio station. Do it with websites and you’d have a popular search engine. That’s what Google did. Shame on them for giving users what they want.

You then jump strangely into a rant about “arbitrary accounts” yet fail to provide even one example of an account that was arbitrarily shut down or a website that was arbitrarily removed. The fact is, Google doesn’t arbitrarily shut down accounts or websites. There’s no incentive for them to do so, nor is there a reason. Now, don’t confuse that with shutting down accounts for violating trademark and copyright reasons, posting ads to viruses and trojans, or doing other evil things. It’s also important not to consider sites removed for spamming, or forcing users to download malware. In both of these cases, it’s not in a searcher’s best interest to be shown these sites. If Google returned spammy or malware sites for searches, users would get pissed off. The same is true for misleading trademark ads. If an ad says “microsoft office” and I click it and am shown “open office” I’d be pissed off. It’s not about “arbitrarily banning sites” at all. It’s simply about giving users what they want.

Regulation, is not something users want. I’m not sure how old you are because you didn’t share your information with us, but you clearly don’t remember the past. If you were around in 1995 you would have noticed that search engines like AltaVista were the top dogs – and their algorithms were pretty clear. They simply looked at META tags and the amount of times a keyword appeared on a page. What you may not remember from back then though is how irrelevant many competitive keywords were. Search for a popular musician and all you saw was porn. Search for a new car, and you got porn.

Once spammers knew how the search engines worked they were able to easily rank for highly searched terms. In fact, the main reason Google became number 1 is because it was harder to manipulate its algorithm and rank well. Searchers quickly saw that they were getting better results and jumped ship.

Making algorithms public would actually be a step backwards in terms of progress. I suggest you go read up on the history of search and search engines before pretending to spout off on a topic you clearly know nothing about.

The worst part though, is that many SEOs can tell you The Algorithm Doesn’t Matter. Honestly when it comes to performing effective SEO, it doesn’t matter if H1 is weighted .75 times more than <b> and that the first word in a title is 1.35 times more important than the 3rd word.

You want an algorithm, here it is:
1.) Sites that are useful to visitors will rank high.
2.) Popular sites that are useful to visitors will rank higher.
3.) Sites that don’t offer any value to the web or are irrelevant to the query won’t rank well.
4.) Sites that are harmful or spammy won’t be included in the i ndex.

Seriously, that’s Google’s algorithm in plain English. There’s your disclosure. The weighting factors and code behind it don’t matter – these principles are all you really need to know.

If anything needs to be regulated, it’s news sites who don’t disclose their sources. This type of shit would never fly in the New York Times, WSJ, or any other reputable publication. They surely wouldn’t allow an anonymous article written by a non expert who clearly has something to gain if his position is adopted – and they’d at least take the time to research their claims and provide examples.

July 6, 2009

Text Message Widget – and Free Links!

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:04 pm

Just a quick note to say that I’ve created a “text me” widget for TextSendr.com that allows you to place a small box on your MySpace, Facebook, or Blog so that people can send you a text message. Your number stays encrypted, so nobody can manage to steal your number or actually find it out.

Basically, It looks like this:


(yes, that box will actually send me a text message)

You can create your own widget here. In addition, the first 3 people to leave me a comment with the URL of a page containing this widget will actually receive a link on that page as an example of the widget. I’ll even keep the link up as long as you keep using the widget. I promise!

If it looks familiar, it’s because I invented this feature many years ago for a different site that I was running. I since sold that site, but have now gotten back in the game and re-created a different text message site from scratch.

July 1, 2009

More Companies Should Follow Amazon’s Lead

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:02 pm

In an effort to try to boost failing state economies, many states are starting to look for legal loopholes that would allow them to tax online purchases. Take Rhode Island and North Carolina for example. Frustrated with not being able to tax Amazon.com purchases, the states introduced legislation that would count all affiliates as “employees.”

That means all the people who post links to Amazon products and get paid a small fee if somebody clicks that link and buys something would all be “amazon employees” for tax purposes. Why is that important? Counting them as employees means that Amazon has a physical presence in the state, thus could be assessed a state sales tax.

So how did Amazon respond? They said “fine, we’re closing our affiliate program in Rhode Island and North Carolina.” End of problem.

I’m sure that led to thousands of pissed off Amazon affiliates who must now find other ways to monetize their blogs and websites. Hopefully these people will direct their anger toward their state legislation and not toward Amazon.

From my perspective, Amazon did the only thing it could. Re-coding their site, setting up tax collection infrastructure, hiring the necessary people, and paying the taxes would have been a monstrous undertaking – one most likely comparable to or greater than the losses they’d see from ditching the affiliates. Then there’s the legal precedent set by complying with this legislation that would open the doors to all states to do similar. Then, Amazon is screwed.

I just wish more companies would have the balls to pull this. When South Carolina raised a stink about Craigslist, the site removed its erotic services postings. Part of me wishes that they would have said “fine, we’re blocking all South Carolina traffic.”

When news sites threaten to sue Google or just plain bitch, I’d love to see Google say “fine, we’re taking your news site out of our index.”

If more companies started following Amazon’s lead, eventually legislators would come to realize just how stupid they are. If they didn’t, I’m sure their constituents would surely tell them.

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