My Website has a Secret

I need to tell you a secret about my website.

I don’t pay for hosting (Instead, I pay $12 per year to redirect my domain name).  If I have technical difficulties or, God forbid, the site gets hacked, really smart web professionals work on fixing it immediately–sometimes before I realize there is a problem.  Those same people work year around to make sure the security of my site is such that downtime is very, very rare.

I pay these people nothing for their work. Continue reading

Be Not Afraid: Blogging inspiration from an African Missionary

 

Learning to Blow Bubbles

 

Let me introduce you to my favorite cause-related blog.

It’s not fancy.  It’s not self-hosted.  Heck, it’s not even spell-checked.

And yet, I never miss an entry.  It regularly makes me cry.  I recently made my first donation, and I’ve considered tagging along on a future mission trip.

Why do I love it?  When I read I feel as if I’ve stepped  into Ashley’s shoes.  I can feel her love for the children.  I understand her heartbreak about not being able to fix everything that needs fixing–and am so awed by her willingness to keep “showing up” to do the part that she can.

What makes my infatuation with her blog even more amazing is that I am, in many ways, sooo not her target audience.  I am not a member of the church through which she does her work.  In fact our faith traditions are about as far apart as two Christian outlooks can be.  Prior to reading her blog, I spent little to no time thinking about Africa at all.

But those details don’t matter.  The blog doesn’t approach her work  from an intellectual level and she never tries to convince me of anything.  She simply opens a window into her world, shares why she does what she does,  and lets her obvious love (and she would say Jesus) do the rest.

Where’s the learning for me?

Passion is more important than precision.  By a lot.  If you scrub every post until it is technically perfect, adequately researched, and ready for peer review you have missed the point.

The purpose of your blog isn’t to show the world how smart you are*.

The purpose of your blog is to show your potential people how much you care.  And, if you are lucky, to give them a chance to walk a moment in your shoes so they can prepare themselves to join you on the path.**

*At least, it’s not if you are blogging for a cause, arts organization or other nonprofity something or other.  If you are blogging for Mensa, I suppose that would be different.
**Why yes, that is, at least in part, a euphemism for “give you money.”

Are You Afraid of your Website?

Remember Catherine?

She was here offering free website consulting and then later talked to us about the power of positive language.

Today is her birthday*. (Happy Birthday Catherine!!)   It’s also the day she’s launching a very cool new thing that helps people overcome website fear.

If you work for an established organization with no website angst, and are getting all of your “I want to make the world better” needs met through your work for that organization–this might not be the thing for you.

BUT:

If you are just starting out, or work for an organization with a horrible website, or have an idea for how you, personally, are called to save the world and need some help getting started, The awesome fear wrangling guide might be just the thing.

I’ll let her tell you all about it.

*Catherine’s birthday is May 28th which has already started in her Australian home.

What’s up with the tiny nonsense links on Twitter?

photo credit: Gideon Tsang

If you spend any time on Twitter, you’ve likely noticed most people post links using a very short string of seemingly nonsense letters.  If you’ve wondered why people do that–or how you can do it yourself, you are in the right place.  One of the goals of this blog is to help you catch-up on some of the (relatively) new tools the internet has to offer.   (Remember when we talked about RSS?)  In that same spirit, today we are covering link shorteners.

Lots of websites offer the service, but the basic concept is the same.  You enter your long link and the website generates  a link that redirects back to the link you entered.  The main value of these links is fairly obvious–they are shorter.  On Twitter, where you only have 140 characters to make your point, a very short link is a very good thing.  In plain text e-mail, or other places where you have limited ability to format your links, a shortened link can clean up the look of your message and avoid losing part of the link to a line break.  If you use the right service, these links can even help you track how many people click on your link and who else is sharing the same information.

How to shorten your own links

Several websites offer a link shortening service, but as a beginner, I suggest you use http://bit.ly.  It’s  popular (which means it probably won’t go away anytime soon),  it’s free and easy to use,  and it offers link tracking.*

Here’s what you do:

  • Highlight and copy the URL you want to shorten (from the address bar at the top of the page)
  • go to http://bit.ly (note, no www and no .com)
  • paste the URL into the large box labeled:  “Enter your long link or file here:”
  • Click  “shorten.”
  • copy the newly created link and paste it where you would have normally used the regular link.

Bonus:  Link Tracking

If you are interested in how often your links are being clicked, and who else is sharing the content you share (and you should be), don’t stop with just creating shorter links.  Take 30 seconds to create a free bit.ly account and start tracking link statistics.  (Bit.ly will track links you create without an account, but you will only be able to access the stats on the computer you used to create them.)

To create an account, click “sign up” in the upper right-hand corner of the page, pick a user name, enter your e-mail address and pick a password.  If you use Twitter it’s also helpful (but not required) to connect your Twitter account.

After you create links they will show up in a list beneath the shorten bar (your history).  Click on the Info button below the link for detailed information on the number of times your link has been clicked, the total number of bit.ly links pointing to the linked page, what people are saying about the link on Twitter, etc.

When not to use bit.ly links

Once you start using Bit.ly you may be tempted to shorten all your links all the time–all that extra information about click-throughs can be addictive.  Please avoid this temptation–especially under the following circumstances:

When you post a link to an outside news site

In this post, I recommended you post links to your blog on news aggregators like Idealist News and Association Jam.  When you do so, do not use a bit.ly link.  Idealist News/Reddit, specifically list using any service that masks a link’s destination as a “don’t” on the redditquite page.  This is primary to keep spammers from gaming the system and tricking people into clicking onto their sites.  I know you are not a spammer–but the best way to keep it that way is to avoid spammer-like behavior.

To trick people

Some of the link shortening services list “hiding your affiliate link” as one of the benefits of  using the service.  Not a good idea.  Even if we set aside the intrinsic value of being transparent with your people, most interpretations of the new FTC laws indicate that it is not only illegal to purposefully hide your affiliate links,  but you must also take steps to  clearly disclose them.

In any case, if you are using a bit.ly link in hopes more people will click if they don’t know where the link leads, you are wrong on many levels.

Your turn

Was this information about bit.ly helpful?  Too basic?  Too advanced?  Is there anything else you’d like to see covered under “Internet Basics?”  As always, let me know in the comments!

If  this post was helpful, please sign up for e-mail updates at the top of the page, or add this blog to your RSS feed .

*For an impressive overview of available link shortening services and the pros and cons of each, check out Danny Sullivan’s in-depth review of services on Search Engine Land.