At Drupalcon

My hotel is only 5 blocks from the Verizon  Convention Center in Washington, D.C. So it’s an easy walk in the cold morning sun. But today, day 2 of Drupalcon, as I got to the Convention Center door I realized I forgot my pass to Drupalcon. So I hiked back to the hotel, and the back to the center. 15 blocks already today.

So far this morning I’ve been to a session on the Semantic web (geeky but really inspiring to see what’s possible and whats coming) and a great talk by an Internet philosopher, David Wineberger: Is Drupal moral? Uh, yes. Happed to sit next to Dries (originator of Drupal). Thought he looked relieved by the conclusion by Mr. Wineberger. Kidding. I think he was already convinced.

I am waiting for the next session to start, so I have a few moments, but not enough to offer any details. However, in 2 days, I have learned a great deal about Drupal that and its possibilities both as a technology platform and a social platform, that I will really need to find some time to synthaize some of this while I am here, and not wait until I get back. I also know I am missing some good sessions as I can only go to one out for 4 each hour. But I discovered where they are storing the videos of all the sessions.

What I Should Be Doing Instead of Watching the Super Bowl

Movement on Still Water

Idle Kayaks

Idle Kayaks

The equipment thing is a huge hassle. First, of course, are the boats themselves. I understand there is a new contraption that lifts your boats to the top of your vehicle, but I still hoist mine on the rack with my arms and back, tip them on their sides then have to climb up on the truck tires to get the straps over the boat and cinch it down. Then there are the paddles,  life jacket, water bottle, spray skirt, water pump, spare paddles, paddle jacket, hat, sunglasses, sun screen, whistle, tow rope, paddle float, floatation bag, dry bag, emergency kit, wet suit, booties, helmet if I’m going in the surf or into the rocks, have I forgotten something? I am sure I have. I usually discover what that is once I’ve unloaded the boat and all this crap at the edge of the water. Oh yeah, water. To put in the water bottle. Duh.

So, then after paddling a few hours I load all this stuff back up, drive home, unload it, but I have to wash it all down and dry it before I can store it way in my cluttered garage in such a way that maybe next time I will remember everything because it’s all right there in one neat pile.

And the cost! All of this equipment costs a bundle. And there is plenty more I could buy. Or upgrade. I really should get that new boat. Boat envy is a terrible thing as I stand on the beach at Trinidad Head gazing at the gleaming sleek, brightly colored kayaks next to my battered, dull blue plastic boat. Or maybe I should finally move from my barely protective farmer john wet suit to a dry suit like the cool kayakers have and feel good about sloshing in the icy waters of the north coast like seal.

But finally, at some point, I put aside all these thoughts and waddle my equipment burdened body toward my boat, gingerly climb in, being careful not to tip it on its side, find the foot pedals, strain to stretch the elasticized spray skirt over the cockpit and then, like a beached seal, hump my way across the sand into the water…at last.

As I paddle out in to the bay, cutting through waves into open water, all of the clatter and bustle of preparation disappears. The lumbering awkwardness gives way to fluid motion. I am suddenly immersed in ocean life, the smell of the sea, the huff of the wind, gull cries, seal barks, the eternal rise and fall of the swells touches something deep and primordial inside me.

I’ve paddled into huge rising flocks of geese whose wing beats sounded like the distant hooves of wildebeast on an African plain. I have paddled in deep mountain lakes so still that each slow stroke felt like shattering glass. I have ridden surf into a beach that so lightly demonstrated the immense power of the ocean I screamed with exhilaration. I have paddled around sea stacks and rocks covered with tiny birds that rise up and angle across the sky as one mind and past white beaches darkened by fat lolling bodies of herd of seals.

So it is that each time I finally make it on to the water, whether it’s the ocean, a bay, a slough, a lake, or a lagoon, I remember why I put up with all the work, the expense, the doubt, the pain that goes in to sea kayaking. When I finally make it on to the water I remember the inner peace and strength that comes with being so immersed in that water world. And I wonder, as I struggle out of the boat and back on to land if I can carry  enough of that memory alive inside me to push me through the whole cycle again some time soon. Very soon.

C. Crane Co. at RTC Meeting

This weeks RTC meeting is a little different and should be lots of fun. The featured speaker will be Jessica Gillette of Fortuna based C. Crane Co. Gillette will spotlight some of C. Crane’s newest gadgets, including a wi-fi radio that picks up web stations (11,000+ stations at current) and plays them at a nice fidelity, and their LED lighting system, which produces the equivalent of 60 watts at 7-9 watts and doesn’t contain any

Other gadgets include LED Flashlights, CCrane Radio and possibly more. C. Crane has been around for 25 years as has a catalog chock full of cool gadgets many of which they have designed or had a hand in designing.

The meeting is Thursday, 5:30 PM at the Humboldt Area Foundation Community Center. 373
Indianola Rd. (Google Map). Meetings are free and open to the public.

SEO Magic!

I’ve spent a lot of time reading and studying the esoteric arts of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the voodoo that seems to make some web sites come up at the top of the lists at Google or Yahoo when people search on certain combinations of words. I long ago came to the conclusion that the real secret is actually rather simple: have good content and get a lot of incoming links to your site. But some folks like to make it a mysterious and complicated process. Mainly, I think, so they can charge a ton of money for not doing much. I’ve written before trying to make the process simple and fairly straightforward. But  this cartoon sums it up really well.

Not long ago a client whose site we had built called and asked if we could get them to come up on the first page in Google for a certain phrase. Seems they’d attended a workshop and the workshop leader had typed in the phrase, which, on the surface sounded like an obvious term for someone looking for this kind of a company. It included the word Eureka so they were localizing the search. None of the local companies in this industry came up on the first page. I looked at this client’s site and sure enough, the word Eureka was not mentioned. In ten minutes I added the word Eureka to the title tag and built a header on the home page that included the phrase. The change didn’t appreciably alter the content of the page and wouldn’t confuse or distract a human user. Within a week, the company’s web site came up number one on Google for that phrase. It’s still there. Oooh! Magic!

Now, of course, no work was done to see if this was a phrase that people actually use to find insurance brokers in Eureka. Nor was any follow up done to see if incorporating this phrase actually increased traffic to their site, and if so, did they sell more insurance as a result. These things, too, are not that hard to discover. Perhaps another day…

How to Get Traffic

We work with a lot of small businesses. But small or large the one question that everyone always asks is: How do I get people to find my web site? Not to be flip about it, but there are two ways:

1) Do a good job providing search engines what they need to have your site show up in organic search results. That is, if someone types in a phrase at Google or Yahoo or MSN , you want to come up at minimum in the first 3 pages of the search results, but best would be on the first page. This is not easy. It takes research, it takes structuring your site properly, it takes writing lots of good content and it takes building incoming links. Read for some straightforward tips on how to implement Google’s webmaster guidelines for getting good organic search results.

2) Spend money to market your site. This includes using pay-per-click services like Google’s Adwords, Yahoo’s Search Marketing and other services. It also may include off line marketing such as buying ads in newspapers, magazines and yellow pages that include your web site address. It could also mean radio and television advertising.

That’s it! I’ve boiled it down to 2 big categories. There is some overlap such as paying sites to link to you which would fall in to both categories, but in general, that’s all there is to it. It’s the specifics that get hard. Getting these things done can cost you a lot of time, or money. Sometimes both. So, whenever we talk to clients about a new, or redesigned web site, we always talk about the marketing. What are the expectations for the site? How will those expectations be met? Do you have staff and a budget to help meet those expectations?

But say you have some time and not very much money. Say, you only have $100 or $250 to spend. The blog SEOish offers the views of 7 top web marketers on what they would do with a limited budget. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them. They don’t agree with each other! But it makes for an interesting quick read.

One of the tips that I do agree with use some of that money to buy some good books in order to learn all you can about this field whether you hire someone to help you or not. Among the books mentioned several times is one of my favorites, Aaron Wall’s SEO Book. (Disclosure: That’s my affiliate link, so if you click this and buy the book, I get a little reward). Get it. Read it. Read his blog.