Alternatives to Google for Searching the Internet

One source for Google search alternatives is alternativeTo. The listings come from people on the Internet, using sites, services, and software and deciding which they like to use best. (Of course, software developers, businesses, and marketers are also free to post on the site too). Overall, the alternativeTo site is not so popular that marketers have flooded it with junk. So, the site is a really good source for software reviews and alternatives to try.

A few to get you started: 

Google Knows Where you Live and They Want to Tell Everyone

Did you know Google keeps track of everything you do online, with any Google products, software, etc. You can’t make them stop, not really. (You would have to eliminate Google from your life). Also, if you do want to control how much they know and share about you, the most you can do it pause it. There is no stopping Google.

Google is not the only option for web searches. Even if you are only looking for your own site to see where it comes up in a search – why are you only looking at Google?!

The following screen captures are a mess due to problems with software I was using. Right now I don’t want to fix them. But, they tell the story, as messy as it is.

Fixing The Open Directory Project?

People who think they know how to fix something should make sure they have the experience to understand how it worked before they judge it. I was annoyed to read a post about how to fix the problems with dmoz, The Open Directory Project on DirPopulus today. Here is what I wrote:

I read your Problems & Solutions. Some of what you have written about dmoz is incorrect and based on the viewpoint of someone who did not see how the directory worked in reality. Although I understand your biased point of view, it is annoying to read someone making incorrect assumptions and judging the directory I spent over ten years working on.

Looks like you are using the dmoz software, or something based on it. So, that won’t help me really. I don’t want to deal with that. We had volunteer editors trying to fix that, not staff. AOL decided to dump dmoz because no one there was interested in supporting it. For the last few years dmoz was run entirely by volunteers while the AOL staff forgot the directory existed. In the end they did not find any value in keeping it on their servers but they did feel the domain and the dmoz/ Open Directory name were worth holding onto.

The main directory, with some active editors, is being set up on Curlie. Other projects were started and discussed but that is the one which has the best chance of becoming active again. Most of the volunteers who worked on the old dmoz software went to Curlie and have been working on the updating the software.

As volunteers we did not send out notifications every time we reviewed, edited, or added a site to the directory. We were already running with few active editors so trying to send out notices for every submission would have meant the end of getting any reviews done. Waiting for three editors to approve (while good in some ways) would also mean submitted sites would take ages to be listed.

We did have bots checking links and moving them into unreviewed for volunteers to check the links. Some bots were able to check for things like the new http:// versus https:// so an editor just needed to verify the change and re-list the site. We also had bots which checked for general link rot and expired domains. These doubled the amount of links to be reviewed leaving editors which huge amounts of links waiting for attention. Also, dmoz had a feature giving people a chance to leave a note about their link, letting us know if a correction was needed. This was a very seldom used feature and yet the first thing I would check when I began reviewing links in a category. Often this was abused and suggested changes were about spam, deleting another site’s listing, or some other junk.

Also, we were able to check links with the Wayback Machine and Google’s archived version of the domain/ link. This was a good help in tracking down an old submission/ broken link. I often found broken links, one way or another. It was one of my favourite things to do.

Reviewing submitted links took hours, especially in categories involving businesses and, of those, anything involving marketing became so flooded with junk submissions it was too much for a volunteer editor to want to deal with. When I tried to work on these categories my computer slowed down to a crawl just trying to load the page with all the sites to be reviewed. It was aggravating to work there when most of the submissions were junk – the link was already listed and descriptions were full of keywords, CAPITAL LETTERS and so on. Of course, these are the very people who complained about dmoz and dmoz editors the most. They did not understand we were running as a directory for the public to search, not for businesses to be listed. The priority was not listing every business or service but to have resources for people searching for a business, service or information (with the Regional listings to help people find local resources).

There are duplicate listings for some sites because they fit into more than one place. Also, sites could be double listed in Regional and the topic or business. Once you get into organizing and deciding where sites (you call them resources) should go you will see it is a much more complicated project than it seems from the outside looking in. We had a forum just for ontology issues. Due to many opinions from active and inactive volunteers, making category changes was time consuming and tended to get lost along the way.

I wish you best of luck with your directory. But, you have a lot of years to go before you should judge how another directory was run.

Five Types of Content Curation

In a nutshell, content curation is about gathering information, formatting it and adding your own editorial, comments, or something to it. The point is, you add something to the collection of information. This is what makes it curation instead of just a collection. It is a planned collection, with a purpose and information to (at least) explain why the information was collected, a point to it all.

Five types of content curation:

Aggregation – Aggregation can be a top ten list. Often information collected this way uses software of one kind of another. Too many people pull together information this way and dump it in a pile, without adding anything to it. Don’t do it this way. Add something of value to the collection of information. You could just explain why or how you collected the information.

Distillation – Planning a collection involves deciding what is and is not important or relevant enough. Taking a collection of information and filtering through it for the best resources helps build a better resource. Likely your readers could search Google themselves, so planning and condensing information, with your own added thoughts, saves readers time and gives them better insights.

Elevation – Adding something to a collection of information to make sense of it all. This could be in how you present the information, the formatting, or information you add to make the collection of information a resource for readers.

Mashups – A combination of anything and everything with a less organized format/ presentation. The real point to a mashup is the information you bring to it yourself. The resources are quoted but the real point of the curated collection are your own thoughts, opinions, discoveries, reviews and etc.

Chronology – Information presented in order of timelines, presented by date from start to finish or from the end result going back to how it all began. This requires research and filtering and planning the format. Keep it tidy, easy to read and navigate.

Can you think of other styles or types of content curation?

Hello Again

I’ve been running this site, in one form or another, since 1998. At some point I bought this domain and since then it was known as Word Grrls. Ten or so years later that feels like an outdated name. But, I don’t want to keep blogging. I am looking at some new ideas. I spent most of this year trying new software, mostly other CMS’s. Eventually, I wound up loading up WordPress again (image files are all broken) just to give a home to what I have done in the past.

This is going to be here as an archive. I’m working on other sites, not blogs, so this one is going to be quiet while I discover where I go next.

My main site is laurabrown.ca

News Posts Need Dates

I wanted to read about a building project ongoing locally. I found a post about it on the website for the local newspaper. But, the post did not have a date. So, I could not tell how relevant the information was. The post mentioned the years the project had been going and how much time it was expected to continue. Without a date to reference however, the information was not useful.

Not only news posts need dates. Anything which relies on being current should have a date (when it was written about) for reference. Software comes to mind. I’ve started looking for software reviews or information with the current year added to my search terms. It helps eliminate the older posts and those without dates, which may or may not be older.

News needs a point of reference. Any post providing information should really have a date. Information becomes dated. Readers need to know the information they are reading is still valid.

Did Disqus Kill Commenting?

When you think about it, did Disqus kill blog commenting? I stopped commenting on other sites because of Disqus. Having to register for their service and even then most of the time I would have to login with it only to have it not find my account. Far too much trouble when something like Twitter was so much simpler. Now I just leave a note on Twitter, with a link referring to whatever I wanted to comment on. Much easier, less stress, and it works.



By the way, Disqus is now spamming you but you can pay for it to stop. Or just stop using Disqus. People might start commenting on your site again, or not. I think the days of leaving comments on blogs are gone. Too much hassle to deal with software, like Disqus

How Software Changes Your Mind

I’ve had so many ideas and from those ideas I spin off into making them reality and find even more options. More than I can keep track of. Software, it’s advances, limitations and quickness to become obsolete/ unpopular, changes how you end up doing things. 
I wanted a web directory. But, keeping links became unpopular due to the SEO/ Google fanatics. WordPress and Joomla both stopped including their link management plugins/ extensions in the core software for the CMS. In the case of WordPress you can still download a plugin, Restore Lost Functionality, to bring back links and other features.  Joomla still offers Web Links as an extension, but further development seems very limited, if any.  
So, I could use Web Links with Joomla, I did upload and install it. But, I can’t use it to import my links from WordPress. (I’ve noticed WordPress does not work well with other CMS). Also, there is no bookmarklet which I would have used to make keeping the web directory supplied with new links as I find them while using my web browser. Anyway, I spent a few days banging into road blocks with this and then I got the idea to change software. 
I did have PHPLD (PHP Link Directory), paid for it a few years ago. But, the support forums are gone. Possibly the software is no longer supported as I could not import my links even when I finally did manage to create a CSV file (which was frustrating in itself). There is an option to pull links in from ODP (but dmoz/ ODP is gone) and Google. This feature had an error and did not work. So, I have now ruled out PHPLD.
I’ve tried other web directory software, even considered other premium (not free) software. But, so many are old and seldom updated or lacking any support at all. I did upload, install and try several but they all had errors. Some would not even install at all. 
Now I’m looking at the idea of just creating pages of links. Not my preference, but, you have to work with the software (unless you know how to create your own, or can afford to pay someone to do it for you). 
There are page builders. I looked at lots of them when I was still using WordPress. Joomla also has a large amount of them. But, I’m not sure which are page builders, template makers, page editors, or something else similar with a different name. They seem to meld together and use the same description even when they say they can work as add-ons to each other. It’s confusing. I don’t like being confused. I think of myself as being an experienced web publisher. But, I am confused. 
Of course, none of them really have anything special for links. So, I can’t say I’m eager to install any of them. It’s a bit make-do at this stage. 

Selling Greeting Cards Online With a Subscription

I still want to sell my art as ecards, online. Today I found someone with a good plan, selling the cards with a paid membership to the site. Ojolie offers a free account, to send the ecards she offers without charge. But, I think, I would rather make the ecards a subscriber only thing. Art online is just too easy to rip off. At least I could get a year’s subscription before giving access to the art. Of course, I still don’t know what software to use. Something like a catalogue, but then it needs to send a png file, or pdf. I think I would include envelopes too, a bonus should people print the cards. So much to consider when you start to think about all the details. 
This (see below) is a screenshot from Ojolie, how her pricing works. I’m mainly posting this for myself. So I can look back and remember what I thought I would do.

Repurpose Unwelcome Old Books

I am a book hoarder. I knew I had passed the collecting versus hoarding limit when I needed a second bookshelf for the non-ficiton books I mostly have not read yet. All those good intentions can’t last forever. So I have at least a dozen books about computer software which have not been relevant for awhile. Libraries and second hand bookstores do not want them – computer books in particular they tend not to accept at all. But, I can’t just throw them away! All that idealism that went into picking them for whatever project I had in mind. All that stuff I wanted to learn but didn’t finish… before it became outdated. 

Some books are just obsolete. 

Just because you can’t find someone who wants that old book about Windows ME, doesn’t mean it’s not worth more than the paper it’s printed on. There are people who would be glad to have those old books for art projects. Consider donating them to schools for children to use in craft projects. I’m thinking paper mache but I’m sure teachers working with young people could think of other uses. Artists working with paper could use the pages of your books for practicing, creating a mock up/ rough draft of a project – of cleaning their paint brushes. 

There is hope for your old books so stop keeping them all yourself. 

(Image from Good Housekeeping).