Category Archives: Web Stuff

What It Takes To Play Empire Avenue

Back in October, I wrote about this kind of interesting online stock market type of game called Empire Avenue. It’s like playing the stock market, only it’s based on social media, or some of it. At the time I had only been playing a couple of weeks, so the jury was still out. I thought it was time for a follow up on the whole thing.

Basically, this is how the game works. You are judged based on how you participate in social media. When I initially joined, I thought that a part of its purpose was to help you make connections through your social media outlets; that’s not quite true unfortunately, although I have made some. Instead, there are things you’re kind of expected to do in order to get your stock price, since everyone has a price, to go up, thereby encouraging others to invest in you, which is also what helps your price go up.

A bit more detail. When you create an account, the expectation is that you’re going to link to all of your social media outlets. This means Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, your blogs, and other accounts if you have them. This is how they track how much you’re participating in social media.

They also then track how much activity you have on the game itself. This second part doesn’t seem to impact your growth at all, but instead impacts whether you’ll fall or not. By this I mean that it helps the worth of your account, which they track in eaves instead of a true monetary thing, go up or down. You can acquire great wealth in game terms; I’m worth more than $3.5 million at this point, but its virtually meaningless because wealth is only how you get to gauge yourself; it’s not anything that people use in evaluating whether or not they should buy your shares.

What makes you valuable? How much you participate in certain ventures. Blogging on self hosted platforms means virtually nothing because, like Klout, they don’t have a real way of evaluating its importance. For instance, I have 5 blogs and occasionally I’ve had 5 blog posts on the same day. But it’s not counted for almost anything so I could pretty much eliminate my blogs from consideration without having it affect the game. However, if I had a WordPress.com blog, or a Tumblr blog, for the game those can be measured, and thus people with those platforms get a lot of juice; the same probably can be said for Blogger blogs, but I’m not as sure about those.

What I’ve noticed is that if I post a lot of things on Facebook my growth the next day is, well, growth, and good growth. This more I post, the higher it is. Posting things on Twitter don’t count as much unless you’re posting things and including their name in on it; that’s why you see so many people with these things flying on Twitter all the time; it promotes the site, they like it and reward you for it. I’m a big user of Twitter for the most part, and thus you’d expect that my score would reflect that but it doesn’t unless combined with a lot of things being put on Facebook.

I have to do that because I don’t have a lot of activity on LinkedIn, I don’t have a Four Square account, I don’t have a Flickr account and I don’t have an Instagram account. Other than Twitter, I’m really not someone out there posting stuff just to be doing it, and I only know about the Facebook thing because I did an experiment. Truthfully, if you participate minimally on Empire Avenue but a lot elsewhere, you’ll benefit a lot. Actually, the game pretty much ignores LinkedIn as well unless it doesn’t have anything else to look at; that’s in their rules as well.

A prime example is the account for Chris Pirillo, who many people know as one of the top social media personalities in the country. I have him on my watch list because he’s in the top 3 for highest stock price, and is almost always in some manner of growth. His most recent week (as of Sunday) looked something like this:

* 31 Empire Avenue Actions this week

* 81 Facebook Posts, 1393 Comments, 2866 Likes this week

* 214 Tweets posted this week

* 4 upload sets to Flickr this week

* 63 Videos posted to YouTube this week

* 42 blog posts this week

Notice that he barely participates on the site? But look at everything else; which of us as an individual could even think of coming close to doing this much stuff? I can match the tweets, but that’s about it.

In the long run one has to determine what they’re playing the game for. If it’s to try to get a really high score you might have to think about what else you’re willing to give up to get it done. I have read where some people say they spend 3 to 4 hours a day working on trying to get their stock price up; that’s just incredible. I almost dropped this game a month ago because I was thinking that it’s way too much work. I mean, I play games to win, and now that I know the commitment it would take to win this game, I know I’m not up to it. After all, I have to try to make money right?

I have connected with a few people, but I think I’ve only really talked to 2 of them. As I stated in the previous post, conversation on the site is pretty much nonexistent. I did join a community here and there, but either the group was fairly dead or it involved people mainly posting links here and there but not getting any comments and not commenting on anything. Frankly, I’d rather take my chances with the blogs. 🙂

What will I do? It’s something I have to consider within the next couple of weeks. I do have some fun, but now that I know that participating in the game as far as buying and selling shares of others really has no impact on my price, and knowing that I’m tired of posting things to Facebook just for the sake of raising my score on Empire Avenue instead of because I found something in my travels that I think others might want to see, it might be time for it to go the way of Klout for me and just stop playing and take my attentions elsewhere.

Definitely something to think about. After all, I have gotten some Twitter followers out of it, and about 75% of the meager number of people subscribed to my YouTube account came from this game. But without any interaction is it really reaching my objectives for the amount of time I’d have to put into it? If you play, do you have any thoughts on this?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

What Does Your Site Look Like On All Browsers?

Last week while I was over a friend’s house, I wanted to show him my local Syracuse blog. He uses Internet Explorer (seems there’s still a lot of those out here lol) so I pulled up the main page and all looked fine. Then I pulled up an individual post and… ugliness!


bad code

I forgot about it until I was reading a post on a blog called IBlog4Dollars titled 35 Serious Blog Design Mistakes That You Should Avoid At All Costs written by Dennis Marshall. I got to #10, where it talked about making sure your website is cross-browser compatible, and then I remembered the problem I was having with IE.

I pulled it up on my IE and I had the issue like my friend did. I then went to work, and for the next 4+ hours I went through all the CSS code and checked all the PHP files, looking for something. I ran it through the W3C CSS Validator, which found some errors but nothing causing the issue. Man, was I frustrated.

Luckily, I play chess with Mitch Allen, so I threw the question out to him via one of my chess moves. He came back with a diagnosis that it was some javascript in the code, probably the Google Analytics script.

As I’d been researching the issue, I had come across something where it had been predicted that javascript could cause issues, but it never occurred to me it could be that one.

I went to the theme and then had to search for where I’d put it. Most of the time Google Analytics script works best in either the header or footer, but I realized I’d put it somewhere else, and then I remembered why. For some reason I can’t save many of the files on this particular theme. I get sent to a 404 page after attempting to do so, which was irksome. I found the script in a PHP I’d never put it on anywhere else because it turned out to be one of only 2 files I could actually save.

Once I removed it the site came back to life for IE8, which was great, but I still had a problem; how to get that Google Analytics code in. After all, if I couldn’t track my traffic, I wouldn’t know how I was progressing or digressing right?


good code

Then I remembered that sometimes you can fix things through your FTP program. I use something called WS_FTP for that purpose, so I opened that up, went to the plugin file and clicked once on Header.PHP. Then I right-clicked and went to Edit, and I popped the code in and saved it.

Came back to both my Firefox browser and IE, ran my tests, and all is working perfectly still. Just to make sure I also tested it in Chrome and Opera; looks good so far. Whew!

You can pick up things from other blogs, that’s for sure; heck, even this one I suppose. I had obviously taken time to see what that blog looked like before, but only the main page; that was a mistake, one I need to remember not to do again. One little code; with IE, sometimes that’s all it takes to mess stuff up.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Using WordPress To Create Websites

Over this past week I’ve been helping a local business colleague build a new website. Actually that’s kind of a misnomer, as it’s actually more of a sales page of sorts, only it looks a bit like a website. Don’t ask. 🙂 Anyway, she wanted to know if I could do it using WordPress software, something I’d never done before, and I decided to take up the challenge so I could see what it might all be about. It’s possible one of you that reads this will have done it and may have gone about it differently than I did; let’s find out.

The one thing I think I knew was that it wasn’t WordPress one modified so much as it was a blog theme. In this case there’s one theme in particular that I’ve used for multiple blogs that I decided to work with because I’m familiar with it. This theme has two sidebars already with content in the middle, like this blog only I didn’t use it for this blog; maybe one day I’ll update it (yeah, right! lol).

The first thing I did was to go into the Privacy area under settings and told it to not let search engines go through it. I knew that as soon as I loaded the WordPress software onto the site it would send a message to the world that a new site was being born, and I didn’t want that to happen before it was ready to go; actually it’s still not really ready to go as we’re now in tweak mode. After that I loaded the theme I mentioned about, and for all intents and purposes it looked like a blog.

I went under Reading in settings and changed the tab to Static Page; that’s what makes it look like a website with two sidebars instead of a blog. The difference now is that instead of going under posts to get content to the site, you go under Pages instead. You can add a blog page later on, but this isn’t her intention; at least right now it’s not.

You have to be ready to do one of two things. One, you have to be confident enough to go into the CSS settings and start altering things, because you know your client, or even you, aren’t going to want everything looking like it does as its blog theme. You’ll probably change fonts, width of columns, colors, etc. Some of it’s big, some of it’s minor, but I’ll say up front that if you have any skill with CSS it’s much easier already having it there for you.

Two, you have to be confident enough to go into the PHP files and remove things when necessary. This takes guts, but luckily, if you’re smart you’ll have two things. One, you’ll set up a file of some kind where you note everything you remove and where you took it from. I opened a Notepad file, named it after the client, and put everything in there. Two, you’ll have your original file to look at some of the things you might have removed if you can’t remember exactly in which spot something you took out was in. I had to do that when she wanted to see what the site looked like without sidebars, then decided she wanted them back in there and I knew which PHP file I took it out of but not exactly where it was. The thing is that it doesn’t have to be in the exact position all the time, but sometimes there’s a lot of “div” tags and you don’t want to get caught putting stuff between the wrong ones.

The wildest thing is that instead of writing a lot of code and then trying to figure out if you closed all your tags, this time you’re looking for things to see where they are, what they are, and how you can alter them. I found that because I use Firefox, I could open up the source code, do a search for what I was working on, and it would tell me which CSS container I needed to work on; that’s pretty neat.

In overall time I’ve spent less on it than if I’d had to write code. I can’t say everything’s easy, and I also can’t say that it handles everything the way I could get it to fit if I’d coded things. For instance, her initial drawing had different items on the sidebars on different pages, and as you know, when you go from page to page the sidebars are almost always the same. I had a plugin I tried to use, but it turned out it only worked on posts and not on pages. If I were coding each page separately I could have made the change, but she decided to deal with it.

It’s been an interesting process. The best part is that in this case I really don’t have to worry much about the content because she’s already used to using WordPress, as she has it for a different blog, so once we get the tweaks done I’m done, and she can go about her business. I’m in an odd place trying to figure out if it’s easier to do that code so I’ll say this. Since I’d normally have to create a frame before doing anything else, this was easier because the frame is already done. The CSS already being done works well also. However, I’m thinking if this had been a site with a lot of details and complications I’d have wanted to just write the code for it. I also don’t know if I’d have known how to add a fancy background image to it, or where I’d have put it. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with it.

How many of you have tried creating a website from WordPress from scratch, and what have you encountered?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

Are You Keeping Your Browsing History?

Have you ever wondered why, when there are raids on businesses and individuals by the police, they always take the computers with them? It’s not always because they hope to see what files there are on those computers; they want to see what your browsing history is like, see what you’ve been looking at, to see if what you might be accused of is sitting right there waiting for them.


via Flickr

Back in the day we all worried about cookies.txt, a file that supposedly tracked all the websites you went to and a file that was easy for virus folks to access. That’s not a big issue anymore but it doesn’t have to be because they can steal pretty much anything they want from your browser, no matter what it is.

We all hear about security, but very few people take any real time to look at their settings or even just take a look through some of their programs to see what’s in them, or what they might be doing. For instance, if you never clear out your temp files, or files of programs you upload, someone with even a little bit of savvy can see what you’ve added and when, because many programs leave something residual behind, and sometimes those files are large.

Let me ask you this; beyond a day or two, why would you ever want to keep your browsing history? I had this conversation with my wife and she said it’s because she sometimes doesn’t remember a site she visited and needs to go back through to find it. I asked her why she doesn’t just bookmark those pages instead; she said she hadn’t thought about it, and now that’s what she’s doing. It became a topic because, like many people, she sometimes does some searching through her computer at work, and even though the IT people have ways of seeing what people do, I knew she’d be appalled if her coworkers had easy access to seeing what she might be looking at, even if it was work related.

We all have our secrets, things we’d rather not get out, or things that we just don’t want to deal with anymore. Every once in awhile you come across something that you weren’t searching for; I know I have since I do a lot of research online. Months down the line, if I were ever accused of something and there was someone who was very diligent in knowing how to find stuff, well, who’d want to have to try to remember what you were really doing at that time and then try to have to explain it? Doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, but in today’s world the concept of being innocent until proven guilty is gone, no matter what law enforcement tells you. Ever notice how the press talks all about people when they’ve been arrested for something, yet never publishes anything when you’ve been exonerated?

Think about changing your settings in your browser so it will erase your history at some point, and don’t go too far out. I’ve set mine to erase all browsing history after a day; if I don’t go searching for something after 24 hours I probably won’t need it, and I can always find it again. Something for you to think about to help protect your privacy.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

Empire Avenue – Social Media Or A Game?

After kind of being cajoled into taking a look at this thing, I finally decided to join Empire Avenue so I could get a sense of what it was all about.

What I was told was that it was a system that would help you measure your social media status because it would allow people to buy “stock” in your online performance. What it’s turned out to be is more along the lines of BlogShares, something I signed up for years ago, where people would buy stock on the progress of your blogs, with the intention of helping you get people to visit your blog and thus increase your visits and, ergo, your blog’s worth.

BlogShares seems to have fallen on hard times somewhat. I say that because it says I’m worth $146 billion (yup, you read that right) and I really haven’t done much over the years, and somehow when I went there a couple of months ago I didn’t even own any stock, including in my own blogs. It may or may not still be viable, and thus it’s probably how something like Empire Avenue jumped in and has taken off… to an extent.

Why do I say that? Well, I’ll say this; there are some fairly active people on the site. However, there aren’t as many people there that I thought I’d know. As a matter of fact, overwhelming people are buying stock into my site that I have no idea who they are. And when I try to find out more about them, I notice that many of them don’t even have websites, let alone blogs. That’s kind of freaky, but it’s not needed.

That’s because as long as a person has an account on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, they’re good. They can also have an account on YouTube, Tumblr, Flickr and a couple other sites and still be considered as legitimately taking part in social media.

I’ve been a part of it for two weeks now, and I’ll say this; it could probably be addicting for many people, and I know by reading some of the messages in the Facebook group for EA, as some of the folks call it (that makes me think of Electronic Arts so I probably won’t use it again) that some folks are taking it way too seriously. See, you buy shares in people whose stock price seems to be rising, just like the real stock market. But the other side of it is that some people will sell stocks if someone seems to be falling, and some of those folks are losing their minds thinking other people aren’t being, well, loyal. Y’all know how I am about loyalty, but it’s a game. And let’s face this fact; if you don’t know those people, then when was loyalty ever built?

To this end my stock price has risen pretty quickly, and it says I have a pretty good net worth. I think where I’m benefiting is that it lets you list up to 5 blogs and I have 5 blogs, 4 of which I write something fairly regularly. You earn a certain amount of points for every blog post; rather, they call them “eaves”, though truthfully I have no idea what this means.

For that part there’s a lot of things said on the site that I have no idea what they mean. And I guess it doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you this much. The site will give you a chance to get backlinks to your sites, including your blogs. You can check people’s About page to see if they have blogs, as some people will check yours, and if you’re lucky they’ll endorse your blog. If they actually visit your blog after that, it’s all good; I don’t endorse any blog I don’t look at first.

The site has what it calls “community pages”, which is more like lots of forum pages where you can join one for things that interest you. I’ve only joined two, one for Syracuse and one for books, and for now that’s all I’m joining because it’s hard following conversations; I don’t like that part, and wish it was more like a true forum where, if you click on the link that tells you someone responded to you or wrote on a topic you wrote on that it took you directly to that topic; nope.

I’ve also found that it’s hard to engage a person on the site. They have kind of an email system but I don’t want to use their email since I have my own. They also have what they call the “shareholder’s email”, which I think you have to pay for in either real money or eaves; I’m not really sure what that’s all about either but I turned that off.

In any case I’m hoping it might turn into something that actually becomes more social as much as a game, but I’m doubting it. I can tell you this; the site hasn’t cracked the top 25 for any of my blogs as far as referral traffic coming my way, which tells me that many people are endorsing my blogs but not visiting them. Hey, whatever floats their boat, right? If you go to the site think of it as a stock market game and nothing else, at least for now; then you might enjoy it for awhile.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell