Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Most Affordable Places

I just found out that my county was ranked number one out of Forbes' "Affordable Places To Weather the Downturn" earlier this month. I do find that interesting since I keep hearing people in town saying "what recession?" At least two people this month have said to me that you certainly can't tell there's a recession going on by the amount of crap people are buying. Stores are still packed and people are buying plenty this season. Here are some other crazy accolades.

In other recession news, however, the McNews is in trouble. I talked to a reporter from our local paper last week, and he was very antsy about layoffs in the industry. I don't think our paper has had them yet, but even a seemingly recession-proof area may not be able to weather what the new media is doing to newspapers. Of course, the McNews is owned by Gannett. It's not the worst chain in the world (I've worked for the worst one), but it's certainly not the best. Our local paper is owned by Newhouse, so I do expect them to fair better.

The Recession vs. The Web

And the winner is... the Web! If you've been worried about how the recession will hit your Web business, fear not. Online ad spending is growing steadily. Web advertising is forecasted to "withstand the storm."

That pretty much reflects what I've been seeing. There are plenty of ads to support sites, plenty of Web traffic and plenty of money still being spent online. Web writers should be able to continue eating and having electricity throughout the recession. (fingers crossed)

Friday, November 21, 2008

ALWAYS Save Your Files

I am just now calming down from an alarming experience. I emailed a half-completed file to my laptop and completed the file there. I then emailed the completed work to the client. I was paid and then a couple of hours later got an alarming message that the file was only half completed. At the very end there was some of my naked research and notes, just as it has been when I emailed it to myself.

No problem, I thought. I just sent the wrong file. Unfortunately, the actual completed file was never saved on the laptop and was somewhere squirreled away in a temp file that was almost impossible to get to. Getting to it actually took my shouting spouse awake to help me find it. I was sweating the whole time, thinking I'd have to do that part of the work again from scratch. Fortunately, it was found after about a half hour of searching and cursing. I was worried that the client might think I had done it on purpose or that I was really just that incompetent.

Normally I am less of an idiot, but the danger of losing a file is always there with any writer. I am going to be the most vigilant file saver in the history of the world from now on. If this hasn't happened to you, take this as a lesson. Point and laugh if you must, but always, always save your work often.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Smaller Search Engines

I'm generally a firm believer in only worrying about Google and Yahoo for marketing and SEO purposes. I won't mess with submitting to the 56,214 smaller ones and I certainly won't pay anyone else to do so. But, a reader sent me this page that lists a number of interesting, smaller search engines. I'm having fun with God Checker right now. One of my offspring is named after a Norse god, so I'm finding it interesting.

There is also PicSearch, which could end up being pretty valuable when trying to find specific copyright-free pictures, or when you're wasting time looking at crap online. Fellow freelance writers might also be interested in the Writer's Web search engine for quick information.

Some of these smaller, more specialized search engines can be good for finding specialized information quickly, but I'm not sure that they are much good for marketing. I may end up using a few of them, but I don't think that time spent submitting to them would be spent well. The vast majority still search using Google and Yahoo. Interestingly, more people apparently use Yahoo than Google. I don't know anyone who uses Yahoo, but apparently millions of people do. Who are these Yahoo people?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I guess we all expected Obama to win, but he really stomped McCain in electoral votes. I had expected a closer race than that, but I also had different expectations. I expected the independent vote to be far higher than what it was. This election had the lowest independent voting of any election I can remember. That last numbers I saw showed a whopping one percent.

I try not to post anything political here because politics is simply too complex and too convoluted for anyone to have the exact same opinions about anything political. There are simply too many aspects to look at and too many opinions regarding each one. But, I do wish that more people would vote for independent candidates.

The two party system means that you have two guys and each only has to show that he is better than the other guy. The candidates rarely have to resort to their actual voting records, their history of creating jobs or their economic viewpoint. As long as they are marginally better than the other guy, they will usually win. In a system with three or four main parties, however, I think the process would be a lot different. A campaign showing the faults of two or three other guys would look ridiculous.

The candidates chosen by each party would actually have to be good politicians who have done things with their careers. Parties would be forced to find better candidates and the campaigns would actually be run based on what the candidates have done with their political careers. They would have to be in order for a candidate to get enough attention to beat two or three other candidates.

I don't think that the Italian-style system of millions of political parties would work here, but three or four main parties is sorely needed in this country. So who is my candidate? At this point, with so little independent turnout, it doesn't really matter much. I can't vote for the bipartisanship, so I generally vote for the same candidate every time. Why? This is why.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Editors" Who Don't Actually Edit

The problem with some of the companies that I write for is that they hire low-priced "editors" to look over the incoming articles. These aren't editors in any real sense of the world. They aren't required to actually edit anything and they don't have a hand in deciding the content for the site, they just look over incoming articles to make sure they conform to house style.

When you come from print publications and are told that every article you send through is sent to an "editor," you might be foolish enough to believe that these people actually fix the occasional typo or that they have any kind of idea about grammar, punctuation, at least one specific writing style, etc. This is no longer the case. When these companies hire people to "edit" an article for $2-$3 per article, what you get is random words being thrown in, the occasional ridiculous headline change and sometimes grammatical errors inserted into the text.

Just recently I discovered that one such article in my name was edited to add parentheses around a word in a subheading for no reason. Oh, and did I mention that a question mark was added in those parenthesis? Yeah. The subheading wasn't a question and there was no discernible reason for the additions. The crazy part is that the article wasn't flagged, i.e., I wasn't notified that an editor had any problem with it or that any changes were being made. So, I had an article sitting there for weeks with that crap on it and I had no idea.

On another site, I recently had an "editor" reject an article that was supposed to be a piece about what an internship is. The reason for the rejection? The article relied too heavily on the point that an internship is a way to get experience. Seriously. About a year ago on yet another site, I had an "editor" add a few words to an article, one of which she misspelled. She then flagged the article for me to fix the misspelling. Some days I'm almost as irritated as Otto.

Here's the thing- a lot of people are stupid. A lot of them have no business writing or "editing" anything. Those people often get jobs that I can't get and sometimes they end up having power over my work. Why? According to my brother, it's because my writing sample website doesn't have any graphics on it. Personally, I think that it's possible that it comes down to who may or may not be giving other people blow jobs, but that's just speculation.