What is RSS and How to Use It

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” which is a powerful publishing tool used by websites that frequently update their content. When you’re surfing the internet you’ll notice just about every site has the orange RSS feed logo. Without getting too technical, it’s nothing more than a feed of that site’s most recent html content. If you click on it you’ll see something like this:

Screen shot of browser after clicking on RSS feed

Someone who doesn’t know what an RSS feed is would be very disappointed when they click on the link – it just looks like gibberish. In order to take advantage of a website’s RSS feed, you need a feed reader. There are a ton of feed readers available and they’re almost always free. The first step to using a site’s RSS feed is to have the reader so go get one. The second step is to insert the website’s RSS feed url into the feed reader. This is easily accomplished by right clicking on the RSS feed icon, selecting “copy link” and pasting it into your feed reader. If you do this, you have just subscribed to a website. Subscribing to a website is free and you’ll have an up to the minute account of that site’s latest content. Additionally, with the feed reader, you’ll have the ability to quickly view all of your favorite web sites in a glance. After this helpful how to subscribe to an RSS feed article now is a good time to practice what you’ve learned and subscribe to the site you’re reading right now.

How to Take Better Photographs With Any Equipment

As a photographer, I am occasionally asked “how can I take better pictures?”  My stock answer is “put yourself in front of more interesting subjects.”  This is usually not well received by the asker and I have to go into further detail.  There are several points to take into consideration to move beyond taking snapshots.  Here are several tips for taking better pictures.  These are some fundamentals that will help your photography.

1.  Get Closer to Your Subject

We’ve all seen throngs of tourists with cameras around their necks, pointing the camera aimlessly, snapping up whatever image is in front of them.  Hundreds of pictures are taken and boring slide shows ensue.  You’ve probably seen a vacation slide show – picture after picture of boring landscapes, tiny people next to big objects, buildings – not much in the way of personality.  The idea here is that you are seeing something with your eyes that is appealing to you – either light, texture or whatever – it is a subject.  The snapshooter stands 6-10 feet away from the subject and snaps a shot.  What I’m suggesting is that you do is move forward 5 steps past where you feel comfortable.  You might think you’re crowding or invading your subject’s space.  If you feel that sensation, go even further, take a couple more steps.  Find the most interesting thing about your subject and frame that in the lens.  If it’s a human being, it’s most likely their face, particularly their eyes and mouth.  There are usually pictures within pictures everywhere and if you get closer, you’ll find interest within your subjects and your photographs will be better.

2.  Photography is all about Light

Cameras record the reflectivity of light – that’s really all they do.  There are better qualities of light which can turn a snapshot into an artistic photograph.  The first and last light of the day is the best light to transform an otherwise boring image into an artistic expression.  The middle of the day is that absolute worst time to take outdoor photographs (unless you’re in open shade and use fill flash to illuminate a face).

What is REALLY happening on Associated Content (AC)?

Scott, I saw your article about relaxation on Associated Content (AC) and I read a little about writing for AC.  It looks like a fair opportunity to make money working at home.  What kind of money do you think I could make writing a few good articles a week?

Paul B., Minn.

Thanks for writing Paul.  I have written a few articles for AC and found them to be prompt in paying.  If you submit your content requesting an up-front payment, they review your piece and make you an offer within a week or so.  I haven’t been offered anything staggering for any piece, about $3 per article.  I made more money selling one item from the last storage unit auction I bought at but hey, it’s all about multiple streams of income, right?  One of the things I occasionally do to put things in perspective is to ask myself, what is really going on here.  It forces you to peel through multiple layers of reality.  To answer your question, I asked myself, “What is REALLY going on at Associated Content?”  Let’s look at it together.

Here’s Associated Content‘s vital statistics:

Associated Content, Inc. is a privately held Delaware Corporation.  This is only significant in that AC does not have any public reporting requirements as publicly traded corporations do.  Read – they do not have to publicly state their income – no biggie, right?  What they earn is their business.   According to Silicone Alley Insider, it is estimated at a value of $65 million.   The Associated Content site has a traffic ranking of 773 according to Alexa – compare eHow at 476.

According to AC,

  • Associated Content publishes authentic, useful and informative content on nearly every conceivable topic, produced by real people sharing real-world expertise from diverse perspectives.

Anyone who knows anything about the internet knows that “Content is King,” and AC has an army of Content Producers (CPs) constantly churning out articles on just about any subject or topic imaginable.  The site is covered in advertising links which generate impressions and clicks leading to advertising revenue.  I suppose it is remarkable that they pay writers anything since it seems people will submit content to many popular websites that don’t pay anything.  And this formula works – the payments keep many people actively creating content which draws search engine, direct and organic traffic to the site.

I didn’t start writing on AC to make money – I can make more money in a weekend selling goods than in a whole year of writing for AC – I wanted to promote my website.   AC allows you to put your website after the article, which I thought was great as I would be in essence, backlinking from AC to scottrasher.com – which could only improve my website’s search engine ranking.  I discovered today that this is not the case.

I went straight to the source code of one of my article pages.  Here is a snipet of code relating to my website:

[<li><a rel=“nofollow” href=“https://scottrasher.com” class=“link_383838”>scottrasher.com</a></li>]

No follow?  Apparently, AC does not want search engine robots to not follow the link.  So the only benefit of having the link is if someone reads the article and follows it – which is a potential although my stats don’t show any referrals from AC.  My website isn’t getting any search engine benefit from AC links.

Another thing I realized today is that I’m on my own promoting this content.  I’ve never seen it show up anywhere on the site. A google search of Associated Content revealed this discussion which you might be interested in reading.

It’s interesting to read through the disclaimers/terms of use you agree to when you sign up at AC.  You get paid for the page views where an advertisement impression occurs.  Here’s what AC says about that, “*Page View. means one view of a single page of Content on the Site containing an advertising impression. AC shall in its sole discretion determine the type, frequency, and category of advertising impressions served on the Site in general and any content page in particular.” and “3. Your Acknowledgments. You acknowledge that:

a. You understand that the data presented in the Beta Program may not be accurate, and that you will not rely on those numbers in any way“(emphasis added).”

I guess the lawyer in me just can’t help but be fascinated with the disclaimers we accept without even reading.

Paul, it seems there’s a little bit of money to be made but if I were you I’d get a hundred monkeys to each type ten articles a day and submit it to AC, then you could really make some dough.   It’s all a numbers game really.

Good luck!

Is it AADHD or just boredom?

Lately I’ve been having a hard time concentrating, focusing and relaxing. Every time I start a project, I get sidetracked and follow a path away from my goal of the moment. I know this isn’t uncommon in ordinary adult human beings but the extreme end of it is a medical condition referred to as adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AADHD). Reading a number of websites on the topic has made me wonder if I’m a candidate for this condition. I’m also acutely aware of the self fulfilling prophecy aspect of this. People can give themselves medical conditions by thinking and believing that they have it. Part of me wants to say that this is just a bunch of crap – the other part makes me wonder if there’s some great meds out there. Would it be a condition that could get you a medical marijuana card in a state that offers such a thing ie. Washington or Montana (but not Idaho?) Is there a connection there with Mormonism?

The fact that I can’t coherently write an article about AADHD is proof that I might have it. Is rambling a symptom of the disorder? According to wikipedia, which is always true since it’s an encyclopedia, incessant talking is a symptom of this neurobehavioral developmental disorder.

Really we’re just talking about “monkey mind.” Perhaps it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes it or maybe it’s just the nature of being unsettled that creates the chemical imbalance. I also wonder if diagnosing it as a bona fide disorder relieves the social stigma of poor behavior resulting from the monkey mind. I Imagine many apologies are made for individuals with Tourette syndrom, “Sorry, my child says ass repeatedly because he has a disease.” “Sorry, I didn’t hear a word you just said Honey because of my AADHD.” Just like depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), I wonder if it’s really just a bunch of made up stuff to explain various states of malaise or the condition where someone just can’t accept things the way they are.

I still don’t know but I definitely feel better getting it off my chest. Wait, what was I doing? I can’t remember – forgot my damn alzheimer’s medication again.

Obama Announces Plan for Credit Amnesty

At an unexpected White House press conference this morning, on the heels of the gate crashing scandal, President Obama announced a bold, new economic stimulus plan he called the Credit Amnesty Plan of 2010.  According to Mr. Obama:

“With 16 million Americans unemployed and no foreseeable recovery, I am advised to take bold action.  The top economic advisors have informed me the only viable option to stimulate pre-crash vigorous commerce is to relax the credit standards used by lenders today.”

Republican opponents of the proposal, dubbed the Credit Amnesty Act of 2010, “a fool’s folly,” stating, “relaxing lending standards is exactly how this country found itself in this financial disaster in the first place.”

Leading economists speculate that a complete reversal of consumer credit ratings would bring consumers back to pre-2008 spending habits, ie. purchasing homes, cars and 1080p televisions that they cannot afford, thereby returning the United States back to the capitalistic utopia offered by the Founding Fathers of the country.

The Credit Amnesty Plan, according to Obama,

“Would set the clock back to zero on January first.  Every citizen of the United States would be given a credit score of 800.  How they choose to use it is up to them.  But, I have the utmost of confidence that my fellow Americans will use their new found credit status wisely.”

Congress is expected to debate the proposed plan as soon as legal proceedings are concluded in the White House Staff’s unprecedented claim of executive privilege surrounding the so called guest list and party guest screening, security debacle.  Of course, Congress is out of session until February of 2010 and legal proceedings on the executive privilege claims are expected to last until 2020 thereby essentially renaming Mr. Obamba’s bold plan, the Credit Amnesty Plan of 2020.  Skeptics have claimed that the end of the world is scheduled for 2012 thereby rendering Mr. Obama’s plan entirely moot.

The Numbers Game – Lessons From Mailbox Money

It’s All A Numbers Game – Lessons I Learned From Mailbox Money

Before the advent of the internet, get rich quick schemes were advertised in magazines.  These ads followed a predictable formula – there were pictures of expensive European cars parked in front of a mansion and an average, perhaps portly guy, with a polyester leisure suit and two hot blondes on either side and ad copy stating, “I make a million dollars a year without doing anything.”  It’s not at all unlike what is portrayed in internet get rich quick scheme ads today like the Rich Jerk.

I fell for my first get rich quick scheme at about age ten.  While other children were playing kick ball, I was dreaming about being rich.  Not just rich but filthy rich.  Funny money.  I sent the rich guy my ten bucks and waited on pins and needles for my very own blueprint for success to arrive in the mail.  What I got was a pamphlet telling me how to start my own get rich quick scheme.  The scheme suggested you write a pamphlet (or just photocopy his) and advertise it in classified ads.  He said if you charge five dollars for your pamphlet and spend two hundred dollars on advertising you should make roughly $2000.  He called it mailbox money because he said he opened his mail box and got money every day.

I never tried it and I fell for many more get rich quick schemes after that as I’m sure anyone who has been interested in getting “money for nothing and your chicks for free” has as well.  But the lesson I learned from all the various scams I was suckered into was this – IT’S ALL A NUMBERS GAME.

Take any method of making money and there’s at least a million of them to chose from.  The formula for success is how many times you actually performed the activity.  If it takes 100 sales calls to make one sale and you quit at 99, saying, “this doesn’t work,” you misunderstood the formula for success.  Another key component implicit in the formula is your belief in the method of making money you chose to engage in.  In other words, maybe you don’t have the personality (or the glamor shot photo) to sell real estate and you believe you are better adapted to, oh, I don’t know, how about shoveling dirt.  If that were the case and you honestly believed you should be shoveling dirt for money, the amount of money you make is directly proportional to how many times you shovel.  Even as a shoveler of dirt, you have to sell your service even if it means you have to go door to door with your shovel, asking people to hire you.  So to be clear, whatever we choose to do for money, we’re selling something whether it’s an idea, a product or our time.

So no more get rich quick schemes – just pick a method that actually makes money and do it over and over again until you have all the money you want.  That’s the lesson to be learned from mailbox money.  Good luck!

Google Real-Time Search in Action – Search Results Fast

I decided to do a little test to see just how well Google Real-Time search might work. It turns out it works pretty well for a blog post. Here’s what I did, I made a blog post about snow on I-90 in Coeur d’Alene. As soon as it was posted, I did a Google search for the terms “I-90 Snow at Coeur d’Alene”, switched the results options from “Any time” (default setting) to “Latest.” If you want specific instructions on how to use Google Real-Time search, read here. Surprise! Here’s what Google Real-Time search results served up:

Implications? Well, imagine you’re traveling through Coeur d’Alene this morning and you’d like to know what the weather is like on the I-90. If you used Google Real-Time search function, you’d have my weather report or anyone else who bothered to get out in the snow to take a picture of it.

It seems as if Google’s new real time search feature might put the right information in the hands of someone searching on topics that are time specific. It could also be that most of the search results will be irrelevant or spam.

For bloggers, or anyone regularly updating content, it’s an opportunity to bring time/date specific information to readers requiring such information. I just thought it was pretty cool that my blog post was available as a google search result within one minute of posting. I’m sure there will be much debate in the internet community regarding the relevancy of such searching.

How do you feel about Google real-time search?