Open-Source Software Comes To The White House

This is far from a political blog, but in this article from the NY Times today, I was THRILLED to see that WhiteHouse.gov is now run by the open-source software package called Drupal.

For me as the Internet Farmer, I love open-source. The software is free, and after using it for over 15 years I’m pretty good at helping clients use it.  It is the basis of most of my business.  Without it, I would have no choice but to charge high fees that farmers may not afford.  Using free software allows me to focus on service, and that is what client’s pay for.

Personally, I don’t use Drupal.  It’s a much larger package than me or my clients need in most cases.  I keep it simple by using two open-source packages that do most of what anyone needs. I use WordPress for my Blog Newsletter, and Zen Cart for E-commerce.  That covers 95% of what anyone needs for their website(s).

What is “open-source software”?

You can find the details of what open-source software is technically here.  It can be quite technical and focus on distribution and the code itself, when you get down to it.  For me, the keys to open-source are these simple principles:

  • It’s free to download and use
  • You can change the code to make improvements as long as you are willing to share those changes
  • We all benefit from the improvements that we and others make

It’s a real do-it-yourself thing, and it is supported by thousands of programmers and users around the world.  People writing software like this are literally giving back by letting the community use, and improve upon, their software.  That last part is key… improve upon.

When you make the software better and share it with people, we are all better off for it. I think that idea goes a long way here.  Not much different than two farmers sharing ideas is it?

If you are ready to start using open-source software, contact me today, or start some discussion below.

Constructo-tweeting from the MTA

An article written yesterday in the NY Times made mention of what the Internet Farmer will call a “fantastic use of Twitter”.

The article points out a great reason for the MTA to be using Twitter.  Actually, two reasons:

  1. To communicate quickly with a large number of people
  2. To be transparent with the tax-payers who pay for the system

Are these the only good reasons to Tweet?  No.  But they are two VERY good ones.

The first point is about solving a problem. The MTA is a public utility that hundreds of thousands of people use each day.  There are accidents and changes that keep MTA workers busy, with little time to properly communicate the changes to those thousands headed for the subways at 5pm.  Using Twitter, many of those people could be alerted of alternate routes and the reason for the issue.  As a commuter, that knowledge is the power to get home on time.

For the MTA, it’s the ability to notify a large audience for the time it takes to write a memo, which in turn creates a safer and more fluid environment among the chaos of New York City.

Will everyone in New York City get that notification on Twitter? No.  But lots will, and the major congestion can be avoided.  It’s a win-win situation.

Let’s also take a quick look at the second point.

Again, the MTA is traditionally a large and not so friendly organization from the outside looking in.  By using Twitter to discuss the details of construction and other news of what they are doing to solve problems, they make themselves public. I think we can all agree that when someone, or an organization, is more upfront about how and why things happen, we are more likely to be tolerant when trouble strikes.  So for the MTA, opening some communication can only help, and I think Twitter folks in NYC are happy to hear them.

The MTA claims to only be experimenting with using Twitter now, but with the growth of iPhones and smart phones that make Twitter available anytime, the Internet Farmer thinks they’ve found a great way to use the medium and should proceed. But to really give them advice, having a blog with an RSS feed that publishes to any of these services including your own website is the key to doing it all in one keystroke. (anyone can do this with the Internet Farmer’s Blog Newsletter Publisher)

For me in Portland, I’m on the Parking Ban email list, so I get an email when there is a parking ban in the city.  Without making a call, or guessing, I get the note and move on accordingly.  Personally, I like getting emails, but I believe they publish the same information on Facebook and Twitter as well.  So you can get it any way that works for you, and that’s a great thing.

In looking at my own behavior, the point would be that each of these techniques for publishing is in fact a specific channel, just like TV or radio. In the end, the best chance for you to succeed in today’s business world if you have a lot of customers is to be everywhere your customers are, and give them the choice of how to consume what you have to say.  That said, even the Internet Farmer is headed for Twitter eventually, but not today. :)

Are you Tweeting?  What are you Tweeting about?  Is it personal or business?  Share your stories with the Internet Farmer and those who read this blog.

10 Tips to Build Website Traffic

NY Times had a nice article today listing 10 tips to building website traffic. As an online marketing specialist, this is the basic idea no matter who you are or what business you are in. Maybe you are a larger company that can spend more on advertising to grow traffic, but overall online success is brought by doing these types of activities.

http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/10-ways-to-build-traffic-to-your-site/

Did you learn anything new? Is this list depressing because you realized it’s a lot of work?  Or is there success you have found from exactly these techniques?  Tell me your stories!

The Challenge of Recipes on Twitter – NYTimes.com

Twitter gets many different responses. Some good, some bad. But first, a brief definition for those who have no idea what this means…

It’s like having a blog or website to write in, but you can only type 140 characters at a time. You might even hear it called “micro-blogging”, and it is to some degree. Some people “tweet”, random nothingness and it is more about friends, but others have put it to work for business.

Overall when it comes to business, it works if 1) your audience can and will use Twitter at all; and 2) if you can speak about something vital to your customers about your business.

A few weeks ago, I heard a story about a food cart guy in Los Angeles. He “tweets” the location of his lunch cart each day. People seem to flock to this guy no matter where he is, so they get the inside scoop by subscribing to him, and he gets the core of his business… loyal customers.

When texting or chatting, people say OMG(oh my god), or brb(be right back), or LOL(laugh out loud). It shortens things, but we understand. What if we could communicate even more complex information in just 140 characters?

The following article is what spurred this blog post. Not business related unfortunately, but a creative approach to communicating complicated instructions in under 140 characters. Read the article and you’ll see what’s possible.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/dining/22twit.html

What are your feelings on this whole Twitter thing? What might you “tweet” that could connect your business? Is this a waste of your time? Comment below…

Be It Twittering or Blogging, It’s All About Marketing

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/business/smallbusiness/12social.ready.html

Being the guy who says “I don’t build websites, I build communication and marketing systems”, this article stuck out at me during breakfast.

The article is short and simple, explaining the idea of how blogging, podcasting, twittering(a.k.a. tweeting), facebooking are all different forms of making a connection and communicating. And for the majority of clients, it’s all about the free price vs. traditional ad models.

For me, as the article also says, these activities involve time, which we have less and less of these days. I’m taking time to write this post right now! I like to try and keep it short, but it’s tough to manage writing anything of worth in 20 minutes. For this online marketer, doing it any way you can is better than not doing it at all, you need to have realistic goals. I mean if your customer isn’t on Twitter, don’t go signing up for an account just because you heard it’s “the new thing”. But I know my readers would never do that, right? Right! :)

So what’s my technique with social networking? Well, I just started this blog not too long ago. I’ve had a few blogs in my time, but the Internet Farmer is the one I’ve chosen for my work, and I’ve made a commitment to keep up with it in my marketing. It’s fun, a little catchy, and makes a nice statement about who I am (1/2 geek and 1/2 farmer wannabe). I Facebook personally(when I can), which sometimes bring a new project here and there. I don’t use Twitter for myself or my business, but I probably will for my upcoming Maine Farm podcast(still in development) to broadcast Maine food-related headlines as they develop.

Are you using any social marketing techniques? If so, which ones? How much time do you spend doing it vs. the payoff? Please leave comments below, and email me if you would like to discuss this professionally.

WordPress.tv

WordPress.tv.

WordPress continues to rock and roll in the online world of blogging and site management with the launch of WordPress TV, an online video site filled with tutorials for using WordPress.

For clients I work with, I always teach them the ins and outs of how WordPress works, and give them processes for easily updating their website and posting to their blog.  But I could never teach them every single thing that WordPress might be able to do, because the list is never ending.  This site is great to dive in, and learn the basics, as well as more advanced topics to see what is possible.

For partners I work with, this is a wonderful resource to help clients.  Why make your own tutorials when it was done by the people who made the software?

What do you think of the site?  Do you like online video tutorials or do you prefer to read?  Chime in below!

Free Newspaper Venture Depends on Local Blogs – NYTimes.com

Free Newspaper Venture Depends on Local Blogs – NYTimes.com

In pondering the idea of printing various blogs in a newspaper format, I think it fits quite well and has great potential for the local paper business, but also for any marketer.  Personally, I would rather stick to something electronic that isn’t consuming paper, but that’s another story for another blog!

Back to what this idea means to me in marketing…

I could see any industry expert, company or locality, all creating a paper-versions of topic-specific blogs to suit just about any business plan.

  • A consultant in medical technology compiles blog posts from his industry as a part of his sales kit.
  • A company publishes something internally for employees who may not be interested in reading everything online.
  • A free local paper in need of something different publishes blogs about that location where they do more editing than writing.
  • Heck, as a birthday present, I’m sure you could create a fun birthday news-blog-paper with some topic that amuses you and your friends.

The idea translates to just about any topic, and you can have fun with it, or take it more seriously.  Obviously, you don’t want to use a blog post about the kid who’s underpants ended up at the top of the flagpole in your business’s newsletter, or do you? :)

In the bigger picture, compiling just about anything from the Internet is a great way to deal with marketing in many cases. For those who are not avid writers, but are interested learners interested in sharing what they learn, a newsletter or blog could be entirely based on someone else’s writings.  You, in turn, are creating a “lens”, or niche to the marketers out there, for your audience to enjoy.  To me, where the Internet is a vast hole of information, a little focus helps us all.  And if you choose to print it for off-line consumption, I think that’s great too. (but please use recycled paper!

How would you approach the blog-paper idea?  Please leave comments below.