More Impressions Of ScribeFire QuickAds Beta

After a couple of days of being tied up with various “Grandma” duties, I finally sent the grandchildren packing. (Bless their little hearts … ) Now I can sit down here and finish figuring out what makes this program tick.

My last post received a very helpful comment from Fred, who’s the product lead over at ScribeFire. So, be sure to check that out. Following his advice, I’ve got an ad block showing on this blog now. At the moment, the ad being served up is AdSense. It doesn’t look bad at all. The theme I’m using here has a white background (although I may have changed it by the time you see this), so the white ad fits in well. I’m not too crazy about having a border around my AdSense, but can live with it.

Apparently the various programs that want to get their code snippets in on the same spot at the end of the </BODY> tag are going to get along without fighting. They just have to share that spot and it doesn’t much matter which comes first.

There was one fairly important issue I thought of the other night after finishing that last post. I got to thinking about that lovely check I would undoubtedly receive … (turns out they use PayPal) … anyway, how are they going to know where to send it? I tried to remember, did I fill out the particulars at any point in the sign-up process? Couldn’t remember having done that. But then, my memory is not what it used to be. So, after a little looking around, I found the place where account info is shown. And, no, I had not entered any of that.

Chances are, when the final version of the program is released, there will be some sort of mechanism that won’t let you place any ads until that’s on record. But, right now, if you’re also a beta tester don’t forget to enter your account information.

You can find the place to enter it on the ScribeFire website. What seems to me as the easiest way to get there is right from the ScribeFire entry window. Click the “Monetize” tab on the far left side (second from top — green dollar-sign), then from that screen click “See your earnings in more detail”. That takes you to the ScribeFire Dashboard. In the menu along the top, open “Account” and fill in the necessary information. Then you’re in business!

While there on the Dashboard, take a look around. It appears to have a nice spread of stats to check. Nothing better than checking your stats with your morning tea! If I can find just a few more stats to look at, I won’t have to get to any actual work until noon. (The experienced marketers and mentors say, “Don’t get hung up on watching your stats!” … But, who can resist?) And since you know you’re going to be watching them anyway, isn’t it nice to have an attractive and readable interface?

So, that’s about all I can say on the technical side of this application. Yes, it’s still in beta and still has a few little rough places. But, I expect the system is going to function pretty well. Now, where will this all fit in the business world? Of course, time will tell.

I’m sure an experienced professional webmaster can squeeze more money out of a site by choosing, testing, and placing his own ads. But what can the person who doesn’t have the experience or inclination for all that expect to earn from this? There’s no way to answer that question — just too many variables. But one fact stands out; they don’t have much to lose by trying it.

The advice I’m giving to a couple of young ladies (relations of mine — you know who you are) who’ve expressed a desire to earn some extra cash online is: Start a free Blogger blog. Pop on some QuickAds. (Well, first get your name on the list to be a beta tester for ScribeFire QuickAds.) Do it for fun. Do it for experience. Do it with no expectations. (Unrealistic expectations have killed more businesses than any other factor.) Make course corrections as you go. Keep going.

I really think that would be a great way to get started. They could have their first sites up and running — and monetized — in less than an hour. And with no monetary investment.

It’s not just the beginners this program is likely to appeal to. The established webmaster who has more sites than time might use this as well. How about the dedicated writer who has lots to say, but no patience for messing around with the technical stuff?

Kind of an interesting feature is that you can use your own AdSense account, or go with their in-house account. For people who have had a problem getting an account, this could be very helpful. Even if you do have your own account, there might be cases where you don’t want to use it. If you have a site that’s marginal in attracting nice focused traffic, it might be counter-productive to use your AdSense on that. What happens (or so I’m told …) is that a site producing clicks that don’t convert well prompts Google to “price” your account — your whole account. That means they set your account to get paid on their lower economy price tier. So your sites that were getting one-dollar clicks suddenly start getting three-cent clicks. Yes, all of your sites, not just the crummy one.

This whole issue is not something I can address from experience, so keep in mind that this is just speculation. But if the above is correct, then it would seem logical to use their AdSense account for sites you weren’t too confident in and save your own for your best sites. To do that, you’d have to use a different system to place ads from one of the accounts. When you set up your QuickAds account, you have to choose one or the other — yours or theirs.

The outcome of that could be that your weak site might run AdSense with their account and earn three-cent clicks, which you’d be perfectly happy with. Something is better than nothing, and there would be no stigma placed on your other sites. Or … maybe their system can determine if a site is not a good choice for AdSense and will place other types of ads there, and thereby the AdSense that they do place will perform right up there with the best. Or … maybe Google has different standards for this kind of account and wouldn’t “price” their account with so many users of all levels. Or … maybe the whole concept of “pricing” is a myth made up by old marketers to intimidate the new ones. Hmn … well, let’s wait and see.

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First Impressions of ScribeFire QuickAds

Today I was excited to receive my beta invitation for the new ScribeFire QuickAds. ScribeFire is well known as a blog editor. My previous post talks about that. QuickAds is a new service for bloggers which will let you very simply monitize your blog with ads. You wouldn’t have to sign up with different affiliate programs, or AdSense, or any such thing. It all goes through ScribeFire’s program. They serve up the optimal ad from whichever affiliate their system picks out as best. Then you get one check, which combines earnings from all the ads.

The main charm to this is the simplicity of implementation. A serious professional blogger probably likes to have more control over these things. But for a beginner or a hobby blogger, it brings the ability to put some ads in place with only a couple of clicks. Then all they need to do is blog — and (hopefully) take the monthly check to the bank.

Okay. Sounds good. Now the question is, how does it work?

I followed the link from my invitation. It tells me that, if I’m already using ScribeFire, I should download the beta version which contains the new functionality. Did that. And … uh-oh … it’s an .xpi file. What do you do with that? (Yes, I realize that probably the whole world — other than me — have known the answer to that forever. But I’m fairly clueless about these things.)

However, as luck would have it, only last week I had been experimenting with another beta Firefox add-on. The developer of that one kindly included instructions on how to install it. Otherwise I would have been stalled before ever making it out the gate! In case there are any other dummies like me out there, here’s what you do once you download your .xpi file:

  1. Open the Firefox browser.
  2. From the File menu, choose “Open File”
  3. Browse to wherever you saved the download, and select it.
  4. The regular box for installing add-ons will appear, and from there, just choose “Install” as usual.

Simple enough to do, but if you didn’t already know how, you’d be left scratching your head.

So, I got it installed. When ScribeFire is opened, there’s a new tab on the left side. The second tab from the top (with a little green dollar-sign) opens the QuickAds page.

In “Step 1”, you’re invited to add a blog to your account. Clicking that opens a box where you can choose from the blogs you already have attached to ScribeFire. First I chose this blog (which is a WordPress blog). After working on it a few seconds, the setup fairy returned with the disheartening news that this blog could not be configured automatically — I’d have to do it manually. It provided a little snippet of code I was supposed to copy and paste into my blog just before the </body> tag. Okay …

I copied the code and went in search of the tag. I opened my blog’s admin section and went to the “Theme Editor” (found beneath the “Design” tab). There I examined every file in the Theme Files … to no avail. I went back to the view of my blog’s site, and used Firefox to view the source (under View menu, “Page Source”). There, sure enough, down towards the bottom, is a </body> tag. But where does it come from? How do I insert anything just above it?

And that brings up another question. I notice that just above that tag, there’s a snippet of code placed there by another program I’m testing (Woopra — I’ll write about that one of these days) which also wants it place immediately above the </body> tag. If I recall correctly, Google Analytics also wants the same position. So, what are you supposed to do about that? And does the Woopra code already occupying that spot have anything to do with why QuickAds couldn’t automatically configure the site?

Well, this is turning out to be something of a cliffhanger. Stay tuned …

So, in the meantime, giving up on this blog I turned my attention to my other one — a Blogger blog. I repeated “Step 1” with that one. And it worked.

Moving on to “Step 2”, I selected that blog and clicked “Manage Ads”. That opens the selected site, ready for the next step.

In “Step 3”, I chose from the three ad sizes available, then moving my cursor to the blog, indicated where the ad should appear. It took a couple of tries to get the hang of this, but it was pretty intuitive. The problem here was that none of the choices fit very well into the theme used on that blog. I ended up with a skyscraper on the left side which has just a smidge shaved off the edge where it runs into the body text. Also, a white ad block surrounded by a black border sticks out like a sore thumb on the tan background of my site.

But, after all, this is a beta. I’m sure the final version will smooth out a lot of these wrinkles.

As for the ads served, I can’t make much of a conclusion on that. The site where I put this is my personal blog. It’s not really optimized to any subject. Even I’d have a hard time saying what it’s about. So you can sort of see the program struggling to figure out what kind of ads to serve. I can’t say much about earnings either, because there’s virtually no traffic to that site.

For the sake of experimentation, I’ll add this to a couple more sites that I have. (Not that they have any traffic either!) But, that can wait until tomorrow.

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Trying Out ScribeFire

Mozilla FirefoxImage via Wikipedia

I’ll see if this post will get to my blog. I’m using ScribeFire, which is a Firefox plugin for making blog entries. It has a lot of nice features, but seems a little short on documentation.

It mentioned on the homepage that you can drag and drop formatted text from the web. Nowhere (that I can see) where that is elaborated on. Guess I’ll just try it and see what happens:

Other Features

Additionally ScribeFire allows you to:

  • Categorize and tag your blog posts
  • Upload images
  • Set timestamps
  • Save works-in-progress as notes
  • Post an entry as a draft
  • Share your posts on social websites
  • Upload files via FTP

Okay, I just dragged-and-dropped the above bulleted list. That could be useful at times.

I could save this as a draft or publish it. I could also save a “note”. I tried clicking the “Save Note” button. Don’t know if it did anything or not. My question at this point is, if you save a note where does it go? And, more important, how do you get it back?

Aha! I found the answer to that question. In the right section of the ScribeFire window, there are a row of tabs at the top. The second tab, “Entries”, will give you a second row of tabs, “Posts”, “Notes”, and “Pages”. These will show you lists of — you guessed it! — posts, notes, and pages.

That right-hand panel is also where you configure the connection to your blog (or blogs — you can have a number of them). On the first shot of setting up my WordPress blog, it returned an error that XML-RPC services were disabled on the blog. To fix that, you need to log in to the blog’s admin area. Click “settings”, then “writing”. About halfway down the page, find a checkbox labeled “XML-RPC”. That needs to be checked.

Now I’ll try publishing this. I’ll edit in a few more comments … assuming it works … later.

(Next day)

Yes, it published. Now I’m wondering what will happen if a re-open the post in ScribeFire (by finding it in the right panel under “Entries” –> “Posts”), add some more text to it, and publishing again. Now I see two options below the text entry area: “Publish as Edit” and “Publish to Online Grandma”. I suppose that pretty well answers that question … I’m publishing this as an edit.

Here’s my next experiment. What if I do some editing right on my blog? By working in the WordPress editing page, my cool Zemanta plugin (another Firefox addition that I talked about previously) gets activated. Using its suggestions I can easily choose links, tags, pictures, and related articles to beef up my post.

OK. Did that. Now re-opening ScribeFire to see what it thinks of this development.

Far out! That didn’t bother ScribeFire a bit! When I open the entry just like I did before, there it is — complete with all the new additions, links, pictures, related articles and all. To see the categories and tags I added, I have to look in the right pane under the “Categories” tab — and all are present and accounted for. Obviously, this is where I would enter them when doing that from ScribeFire.

This has the makings of a very nice system. Here’s one obstacle I ran into, though. Zemanta didn’t find a link for a fairly crucial term to this article — “ScribeFire”. It would have been pretty easy to just put it in there the old-fashioned way. But, since I’m playing with tools, I used another of my standbys — Linkify. (I’ve written about that in this blog as well.)

Linkify is a little script-thingy that you keep in the bookmark toolbar of your browser. So, it won’t work in ScribeFire; you need to go to the editing screen on your blog. From there, you have to get into the HTML view. Then select the words you want for your link, click on the “linkify” bookmarklet, and a sidebar with search results will open. Choose the result you want and click “create link”. (I’ll admit this is a bit of overkill if you already know the URL, but it’s useful if you don’t.)

There’s another aspect of ScribeFire that sounds very intriguing. They have recently added an ad serving program, which is in closed Beta at the moment. I put my name on the waiting list to give it a look-see. When I find out more, I’ll make a post on that. But, I must say, indications are favorable. They have information on their website.

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Zemanta Pixie
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Testing a New Blog Posting System

I’m using the editor that comes with the Flock browser for this. I wonder of Zemanta can be worked in somehow. I just sort of like it. This is just a very basic editor without very many bells or whistles. But I guess I might use it at times. Maybe.

Blogged with the Flock Browser
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Testing Zemanta

Confucius (illustration from Myths & Legends of China, 1922, by E.T.C. Werner)Image via WikipediaAll day I’ve been working on rearranging my various blogs and sites. I signed up for a second Reseller Hosting package, this one with ResellerZoom. (The first one is with HostGator.) The reason for this is the old “eggs in one basketphilosophy. Also, I now have a couple of pieces of software that need a cPanel on the hosting package to work.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been dabbling with internet stuff so that I’ve ended up with hosting here and hosting there, and there’s been no plan or system to it. I’m consolidating everything onto these two Reseller Packages in a nicely organized way. (That’s the plan anyway … )

However, it’s easier said than done. Today I’ve been pulling out my hair trying to move a WordPress blog — this one, as a matter of fact. (Here’s a little side note for anybody thinking of starting a blog … Pick out the host you really want before you start. It’s a royal pain to move it later.)

Well, enough of that. The real purpose of this post is to test a service called “Zemanta“. In order to see how it works, it’s necessary to enter a bit of text into your blog’s editor. When it has enough to figure out what you’re talking about it starts giving you suggestions.

There’s a sidebar to the right showing relevant pictures from Flickr and articles that it finds from … wherever (?) At the bottom, there are links and tags that I can apply with a click.

Cool! I just clicked on one of the more relevant pictures, and — just like that — there it is in my post!

Guess I’ll see what happens when I click on one of the articles. Here goes … Okay, it places the link in a “Related articles” box at the end of the post. For each article, there’s a little “visit” link so you can check them out before adding them. I suppose one ought to do that. I’ll stick another one in here so the first one won’t look so lonely.

Next, we’ll experiment a bit with the links it’s suggesting. It’s found ten things to make links of in this post so far. You can check the links it comes up with to see where they go, and use them or not. Seems that mostly they go to Wikipedia. For the sake of this experiment, I’ll choose the “Apply all” selection. It very helpfully provides us a definition of “philosophy” and information on the meaning and origin of the term “eggs in one basket”.

Well, you never know … People frequently don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.

To finish up this test, I’ll also apply all the tags suggested without changing them. This has been fun. Even marginally helpful. I’d recommend having a look at it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
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“Linkify” Bookmarklet

The “linkify” bookmarklet is a handy little gadget — one of those small things that makes life a little easier. (Kind of like having a decent can-opener or a sharp paring knife.)

When you’re writing in a text area, you can quickly create a link by selecting some text, clicking the bookmarklet, choosing the URL from the search pane that opens, and — Bingo! — link created.

Make sure you’re really in a text area when you try it. If what you are using is actually some kind of WYSIWYG editor, it won’t work. To use in WordPress posts, use the “Code” tab on the default editor.

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I’m Baaaack …

I started this blog over a year ago in a great burst of optimistic enthusiasm. As it turns out, it was probably over-optimistic. Before very long the project was crowded out by the demands of everyday life. I discovered that the amount of work and commitment needed to maintain a blog was more than I had expected. I found out that what I thought would be hard was easy — and what I thought would be easy turned out to be hard.

I was worried about figuring out the technical aspects. But I’ve found that, with enough persistence, I can usually make things work. That part has actually been fun.

Writing, I assumed, would be a piece of cake. I write all the time. I’ve kept a personal journal since my teens. It now fills boxes and boxes! I keep a work log detailing my daily travails. I was an English major, for Pete’s sake! But the writing part turned out to be agony! It’s not that I can’t write … and it’s not that I don’t have anything to say. Rather, it’s like sitting in a large seminar where the moderator unexpectedly asks you to come up on the stage and say a few words. I just wasn’t prepared for that reaction.

So my blog has been essentially abandoned for almost a year. The idea behind it, however, has still been simmering along on the back burner. Even though my optimism has been dented just a tad, my enthusiasm has managed to hang in there.

How I Spent My Summer (Not Working On My Blog … )

The little brick and mortar shop that has provided my meager subsistence for all these years has been on a slow slide to oblivion for several years now. That’s what inspired me to get started on all this internet stuff in the first place. Part of the problem (one problem among many) has been that the old building on our family farm where my shop is located has been about ready to fall down over my head. Neither my store nor the farm has had the income needed to fix it. Finally, this spring I convinced my mother and sister that we ought to sell a few acres and fix the roof before it caved in and left us with a lot bigger problem on our hands.

So, we listed the real estate. And, on that basis, the bank agreed to give us a short-term note to fix the roof. (It really was to that point — do it now, or lose the building!) Promptly after we listed our land, the real estate market took a nose dive. At this point, we have the land and no buyers in sight, with the note coming due all too soon. But we do have a roof.

That project, which I thought would take a month, just totally consumed the summer. It was decided that, since we were doing the roof, we should add insulation under it. But, before doing that, wiring needed to be roughed in for the large upstairs space. And, before that, the door we had always thought the area needed would have to be installed. And, if you have a door leading out onto the roof, it really needs some kind of landing. And when you’re rebuilding a large south-facing roof, it’s the perfect time to add a simple solar heating system.

After consuming the summer, the project went on to Continue reading

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I’m blogging!

I’m so excited! I’ve gotten my first blog installed, working and (almost) figured out.

I feel just like the first guy who invented the wheel! In fact, there’s a 50-50 chance that first “guy” was a woman — maybe even a grandma like me. I can picture her jumping up and down, crying “Ooga-booga!” I know just how she feels! And her next thought was probably “I’ve got to tell the rest of the tribe about this! This has possibilities …”

Well, when she invented the wheel, she most likely didn’t really “invent” it. She found a nice log and figured out how to use it. What I’ve figured out how to use is the blogging program called WordPress. (And available for free!)

I’ll be giving the blow-by-blow description of what I learn as we go along.

At this point, I imagine there are some people saying, “Oooo! Cool!” and others saying, “You’ve figured out how to install WordPress … have you also figured out how to tie your own shoes?” Continue reading

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Decided I Prefer WordPress to QuickBlog

After getting this all set up in QuickBlog, I’ve changed my mind. I think I’d be better off with WordPress. It’s more complicated, but also more options. Apparently you set it up from the same screen where we set up Joomla earlier. (On the GoDaddy hosting account Control Panel, it’s under “Value Applications”.)

The thing I don’t see how to do right off the bat is how to get my domain switched from the QuickBlog.

One other thing to consider — I guess you could make a blog on Joomla, since I’ve decided to learn that program. Maybe there would be advantages to just learning one software.

(Evening)

I’ve spent most of the evening and afternoon reading about WordPress. The next thing will be to figure out how to change the blog over from the other one. I think maybe that will be done by just canceling that blog, and then … (?)

I’m installing WordPress (WordPress 2.0.4) to my practice domain. Here’s what it wants:

  1. Admin Username
  2. Admin Password(10 characters max)
  3. Admin Email
  4. Blog Name = (?) (Wonder how hard this will be to change later?)

OK. Setup is pending. It takes it a few minutes to install, then it’s ready to go.

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Starting My Internet Projects

The time has now come for me to start taking some kind of action on my
internet projects. It’s quite confusing and actually scary. I’m not
sure what I want to do … nor how to do it even if I did know what I
want to do.

My idea is that, for now, I’m learning the mechanics of all this. So
financial results are not the main consideration.

They say you should decide on your approach and then concentrate on it.
But at this point, I just don’t feel like I have enough information to
know what I’m going to do — ebay? create a digital product? affiliate
marketing? public domain publishing? something I haven’t even
thought of yet?

Well, it boggles the mind to get too hung up on all that. So for the
moment, my objective is to create a blog and get Adsense on it. Then my
next objective is to create a webpage using Joomla and figure out how
that works.

I’m not even sure where to start … The blog I have in mind will be a
continuing record of a rather clueless non-techie’s journey to a
position of making a living online. I was searching for available
domains the other day and the name I came up with was
“onlinegrandma.com”. Haven’t registered it yet. Continue reading

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