Monday, April 27, 2009

Ads or No Ads on our Website?

A little dilemma here. At, a website in which I am helping update and revive with some friends, there is no income. It is a free online community website, and we want to keep it free for people to use. However, there is a lot of time put into it and we must pay some expenses such as web hosting and domain registration. How do we earn an income on this website without having to charge it's users a service fee?

The obvious solution is advertising, but we are torn. Web advertising, in our opinion, cheapens the website and does not yield very much. Users have become accustomed to ignoring advertising, and rarely do they click on ads. Also, the payment for # of page impressions alone is often very low - much lower than clicks.

We are trying Google Ads (Adsense) on only the Classified pages on a trial basis to see how it goes. Our users will probably be more tolerant of ads here, because the content itself is advertising and we allow free browsing and free posting of Gwagen related ads. So far, after a few weeks, we have only yielded a few dollars even though we get hundreds of visitors a day from all around the world. Like many other free websites out there, we are looking for alternatives to web advertising to generate income.

I would like to hear about any success stories with Adsense (or similar services). I imagine that you must have many websites, each with many visitors, in order for it to be viable.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reduce your Recycling

(Belated Earth Day Post)
I noticed sometime last year that my household had made such a great effort to recycle and compost, that we had hardly any trash -- but our recycling bin was always nearly full when it was time to put the trash out. Surely there is something wrong with that! One of the things that seemed to really fill it up fast too was glass and plastic bottles from sparking water.

We drink sparking water - a lot of it. I used to buy cases of it at Trader Joe's and have to carry it out to the car, into the house, then eventually out in the recycling. We found a great alternative to all that hassle and extra recycling: Seltzer Sisters!

Seltzer Sisters delivers sparkling water in those old-fashioned containers (except these are plastic instead of glass). They drop off 2 fresh cases (6 to a case) every few weeks, take the empties back, and reuse them. The water is purified and delicious, and we have a lot of fun using the bottles.

I get the impression they are a small operation, as the delivery guy only comes through every so often - but they call to remind you to put your bottles out when it's time. They are in Redwood City but deliver to me in SF, and pretty much the whole Bay Area.

You have to pay an initial deposit on the bottles, but you get that back when you eventually end up canceling. Bottles are $2.75/each and there is a $6 delivery charge every time they come. It ends up being about $3.50 a bottle. I have 2 cases in rotation (the minimum), but you can always order more if needed (ie: a party). Overall well worth it for the convenience, the great water, and the reduced recycling!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0

After sending a perspective employer my resume for an open job opportunity, they responded by asking me to answer a few questions via email. This seems to be more common these days as it's happened to me a few times. The next step after sending a resume to an employer used to be a phone interview, but now there seems to be an "email question" phase between the "initial resume" and "phone interview" phases.

Most of the time, the employer is asking for more information about your experience pertaining to the position - however, they sometimes throw in a curve ball question. One employer asked me for a funny story. Another asked me what I've been reading lately. And today I am faced with another curve ball question, one that I have enjoyed thinking about and answering: How would you describe Web2.0 and what is your vision of Web3.0?

Before giving my answer, I of course did some research to see how other people have answered. Of course, there is a lot out there on Web2.0 as it is now a pretty widely used term. To my surprise though, there are not a lot of people (after a quick and simple search) who have tried to define Web3.0. Here is my shot at a definition:

Web 2.0 is the proliferation of interaction between user and web app. Prior to Web 2.0, web applications were a one way street. Web apps posted content for users to view, but there was no way for the user to interact with what they were viewing. People have used Web 2.0 capabilities to build communities and to become more transparent over the Internet.

Web 3.0 is commonly thought to be the process of using the information already provided by users in Web 2.0 applications to create new information. However, I see Web 3.0 differently. I see Web 3.0 as the proliferation of mobile Internet technology. Web 3.0 will be the ability to use the Internet from any location reliably and for this ability to become more accessible to the public.

Part of what has made Web 2.0 applications (for example; Twitter) so popular is the ability to use it from a mobile device. Mobile Internet technology, though, is still “clunky”. It is expensive, it is not available everywhere, it is slow and unreliable, it requires special hardware, and the capabilities are limited compared to that of a laptop or a desktop computer. Web 3.0 will be the widespread availability of the Internet from any location, and where the lines between using the Internet from a mobile device or a “fixed” device are blurred.
I know I dream of a world where I don't have to wait until I get home to my desktop computer and my Internet connection (or walk around looking for wifi with my latop) to do what I need to do. The iPhone doesn't always cut it.

Web 2.0 Map image courtesy of Markus Angermeier (11/11/2005) based on the article "What is Web2.0" written by Tim O'Reilly (9/30/2005).

Update 1/8/10:
Great Web 3.0 slideshows here:
Web 3.0 Concepts Explained in Plain English

Monday, April 20, 2009

Motorcycle Blessings

My Mom & Dad called from their home in Eastport, Long Island to let me know that the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island near their house had a "Motorcycle Blessing" last Sunday. Bring your moto, ride past the priest, and receive divine protection. Where can I get that in SF?

Photo courtesy of Bill Given.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Consulting Keeps Me Going

Something that has really helped keep me going during this downturn in the economy is independent consulting. Since my day job dried up in January, I've been spending more time consulting. It has handed me a wide variety of projects and introduced me to many new people. While consulting probably won't ever replace the security and benefit of working a day job, I thought I'd take a moment to list some of the projects I have been working on as an independent consultant since my last day job freed me up.

1. Peas Of Mind ( Jill and Kelly continue to think of creative ways to market their products. Aside from the monthly Recipe updates and occasional Press updates I post to their website - some of the more exciting things I've gotten to do for them include creating a custom CMS, a Widget, adding a Podcast, and linking them to Facebook. We are already working on some new social networking enhancements that I am excited about. They certainly keep it fresh! (A note about their products; my nieces and nephews love Puffets - and frankly, I do too. I ate a whole box of Carrot Risotto Puffets over the course of a few days. Add a Puffet to a little arugula salad and you've got a gourmet vegetarian lunch!)

2. Pacific Shaving Company ( Stan at PSC throws me more technical curve balls than most. We've created data forms that gather information into a database, added new products (The Nickstick), and most recently changed web hosts - but we handled it so seamlessly and professionally that downtime was minimal. I don't think the website users even noticed. I also learned a valuable lesson with Stan about only taking on the "right" projects - that not every project is right. While it is easy to want to say yes to everything and to please the client, sometimes as a solo consultant you have to know your limitations and seek help early on. Stan was a great guy about this, while I learned the hard way. (A note about their products; shaving oil works just as well, if not better, than shaving cream ! I especially like it because the small bottle of oil goes a long way and is small enough to be TSA approved at airport security.)

3. The Green Zebra ( Anne and Sheryl have a great idea and a mindset dedicated to improving awareness of the environment. They are on their 3rd annual coupon book and they seem to be growing, as I am dealing with new staff members all the time. They are probably one of my most challenging clients as their website is very graphic but we've been able to do amazing things with PHP, MySQL, and Salesforce. (A note about their product: Their annual coupon book is not only informative and fun to read, it easily pays for itself in coupon savings. I've been able to get discounts at restaurants, carpet cleaning, yoga, & groceries - just to name a few.)

4. *anonymous*: In probably one of the more interesting projects I've worked on, I helped a website owner deal with hacking...yes, HACKING...on his website. Someone was using SQL Injection via PHP to access the back end databases of this website and delete content, change content, and otherwise cause havoc. I needed to perform a security audit of his website which included changing all of his host and FTP passwords to something more secure, adding server side password protection to his Admin UI, and adding code to prevent SQL injection to all database facing web forms. That, along with creative and tactful communication with the hacker solved the problem. (Note: I decided not to link to this website to protect his identity and prevent him from being targeted again. He gets plenty of hits so he doesn't necessarily need my link.).

5. Dr.David Smith: I'll preface talking about Dr.Dave (founder of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic) by noting that he is my father-in-law. However, he has a small army of projects that he is working on at all times. I am helping build out (not ready yet as of this post), have built for a 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love event in 2007, and most recently cataloged, organized, and copied dozens of DVD's about drug addiction or the 60's for future use, as well as documented (with images and video) construction on several building he has an interest in that are undergoing renovation. Dr.Dave is hoping to one day build a 60's culture museum on Haight Street and I look forward to helping him fulfill that dream.

6. Adam's 100% ( Adam is the guy who introduced me, and probably many others, to the mangosteen. I had never even heard of one until he and I were introduced. We are continually trying to find ways to present an increasing amount of information on his website in a clear and concise manner. The product continues to make its way into more and more store locations, all of which get listed on the website. (A note about their product: A small glass of Mangosteen juice a day is very good for you. I add a small amount to smoothies and other drinks. A single bottle is big and a little expensive but it goes a long, long way)

There are several others I could mention, but these have been the most interesting consulting projects - and all of them are great products (or people) that I recommend. It definitely helps to work on a website for a product you can get behind - and the people behind them are all innovators. It's inspirational to work with them, and they are helping to keep me going during these tough times on many levels.