Make the Web an Interactive & Profitable Experience

When I was a child, I kept a flashlight under my bed. It wasn’t to ward off boogie men, but rather so that I could read after my parents turned off my light when I was supposed to be asleep.

I am a voracious reader, and have been one for as long as I can remember. My mom says it’s because she read to me when I was a kid. In college I self-imposed a ban on books not listed in a syllabus – otherwise, I’d pick up a romance novel and not put it down until the happily ever after was fully secured.

Today, I’m still reading, and, as I mentioned in a previous column, I’m ripping, too – meaning that if I’m on a plane or waiting in a doctor’s office, I rip apart the magazine I’m reading. Then I file the ripped-out articles. When I pull out my Kitchen & Bath Design News file, it reminds me of the information or the Web sites I want to share with you. This month, I’ve put together a collection of some of these tips and thoughts to help bring you up to date on some new technology and terminology, along with some tips for using the Internet more profitable.

Splogs and Wikis
Let’s start with a couple of new tech words being bantered about. The first new word is: splog. Splogs = spam + blogs. Spam, of course, is junk e-mail. Blogs, which are increasingly popular, are basically online journals. They’re written by “pajamaed” journalists who are now making their living off the money from the Google ads placed on their blogs.

Blogs are also used as a marketing tool by companies. For example, a company such as AOL could post a Steve Jobs blog. In that blog would appear information about upcoming product launches or AOL’s position on controversial Internet legislation.

As a kitchen design firm, you could write a blog on your Web site. Start one by writing about unusual kitchen design jobs you’re tackling, how you’re handling them and why. (By the way, you could be the first to do this; I haven’t seen anyone who is doing this yet!) It’s a new twist to online marketing.

Search companies such as Google or Yahoo! pay people to put ads on their blogs. When a fake blog is created to bring in these revenues, it’s called a splog.

The second word of the new year is: Wiki. A wiki is a page on a Web site that anyone can add information to. Basically, it’s a chalkboard just waiting to be filled. Rip out this article so that the next time you’re online, you remember to visit squidoo.com. Not only is this site a great place to post your expertise, it’s a hobby that pays – just don’t quit your day job.

At squidoo.com you can research topics by visiting what is called a “Lense.” Or, you can “Build a Lense” and post your expertise on a subject, such as kitchen design. It’s actually a great move if you post writings about kitchen design, as you are positioning yourself as an expert on the topic. (In fact, you could post similar writings on your Web site.)

Anyway, Squidoo.com will place Google ads on your Lense. When the profits from the ads come in, Squidoo.com will split those with you. At the time of this writing, there were no lenses on the topics of kitchen design or remodeling.

Cautious Tones
Next is a word of caution. When my Grandma War was alive, I was always very worried that she was going to be taken in by one of those people on television asking for money. I’m quite certain that my eyes are wide open when it comes to scams.

Recently, though, there were two that caused me to pause, and another that almost got me.

Hmmm… I saw right through that one. But I do know that a lot of people are falling for it, otherwise the scammers wouldn’t be doing it. Even if the email does look professional, and you think it might be okay, contact your credit card, bank or whomever by phone prior to responding. An extra 10 minutes to make the call is a lot less time than it will take you to clean up the mess of identity theft. Normally, banks and credit cards do not send out e-mails such as this one.

Another attempted scam came to me through a rental Web site. I’m renting out my home at the moment, and a person was e-mailing back and forth with me. He wanted to rent the house and told me he’d send a big check. He asked me if it was okay for him to write it out for more than the amount and then send back the amount above what was needed to rent the house. This is a common scam – don’t be lured into it.

Keyloggers are also something to mentally note. These are very, very bad! I’ve never done it myself, but I understand that it’s pretty simple to build a keylogger software program. What happens is that once one of these is deployed on a reputable site, such as a banking Web site, the program records the keystrokes that you type. Simply put, the software can record your encrypted password and other data by recording the order of your keystrokes. The bottom line is that you should not visit banking Web sites and the like if you’re not sure if there is an updated firewall!

On the Bright Side
Now, onto something a little more fun from the technology front.

In the city of Chicago, you must be hands-free when it comes to chatting on your cell phone – something we all seem to do more and more in order to stay in touch with clients and staff. I bought a hands-free Bluetooth earpiece, but I really don’t like the thing – I just don’t like the way it sits on my ear, and I can never remember where I left the darn thing.

Well, someone at Oakley must live in a hands-free city, too, because it’s developed sunglasses with a Bluetooth wireless headset attached! You can find out more at www.oakley.com.

While you may be headed back to the drawing board, I’m off to my reading pile. I can see my “to read” stack just to the right of my desk, and I can see I have hours of contentment ahead of me.

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