February 2009 Archives

Choosing a CMS

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As a college professor, I work with mostly junior and senior communication students who are interested in public relations, marketing and media production. Many are in the process of migrating their work online, whether it's for a portfolio or a client-based project.

I see a clear trend among the students. Even a year ago, there was intense interest in learning to hard-code web sites using Dreamweaver or a similar tool. Today, that doesn't happen. The students have learned and seen the value of using a content management system, or CMS. Most use WordPress, but there is a smattering on Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad or Movable Type. Some have skills with Drupal or Joomla.

All of these platforms have robust third-party support, whether its themes, plug-ins, widgets or community sites that answer technical questions. Most are free, and most allow you to host the content yourself if you want to.

It seems like WordPress is dominant, but a recent study of top blogs shows a plurality of leaders

The key point - find a CMS that you can live with, one that does 90 percent of what you want and need to do. Apply a theme, and then focus on what you do best: the content. Later on, when you want to re-skin the site, or reformat it for delivery to iPhones, or push it to your Facebook or LinkedIn account, you'll be glad you did.

There will always be a place for hard-coded sites, but once you've seen the advantages of a good CMS, you'll never go back.
What good is a web site if it just sits there? I'm hearing from more and more small businesses and non-profits who are ready to start taking measurement of their web traffic seriously. For these smaller websites, Google Analytics is a powerful and easy solution. Here's a treasure trove of support information from grokdotcom.com if you're just getting started with Google Analytics.

Here's a quick overview: start by creating an account with Google. Your analytics account can be created from your Gmail login. Google Analytics will then provide some code that you'll place on your website. Depending on how your site is configured, you'll put it on every page, or in one place that's served up with every page. When visitors hit your site, the code will "phone home" to Google. You'll view the results a day later on a very nice dashboard viewable from your Google Analytics account page.

If you're a Movable Type user like me, a good place to install the code is in your Footer template file, just before the </body> tag. You just need to put it on your site once, since the footer is served with every call to your site. And, since it's in the footer, disruption to the user is minimal, since it's served last. Note that this code is "off the page" text; it's not visible to your site visitors.

There's really no excuse to not measure your web traffic. It's not hard to get started, and the service is free. Do this today!
quote.jpg"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," goes the classic New Yorker cartoon.

Or a spammer.

Brandjacking is a growing problem online. On Twitter, both Motrin and Exxon-Mobil have had unknown individuals posing as themselves. And now, one of my favorite thought leaders in social media, Jeremiah Owyang, has been brandjacked. (Twitter has the problem under control).

This will continue because it's easy, there's no real penalty if you get caught, and there are lots of jerks out there, running lots of hustles.

So here's a modest proposal: charge for the service. Like $1 a year. A buck. Seriously.


It forces each user to provide a real name and real address, which is verified when the charge is run through the credit card companies. That alone would knock down the Twitter spam, which frequently comes from one individual using multiple accounts. A credit card also ensures the holder of the account is of a certain age. When the account renews yearly, it gives people a chance to get off the service. It would give Twitter a much richer database once the service is monetized.

A buck is just a speed bump, enough to slow down the spammers and liars, minimally disrupting legitimate users. It's a small lever that Twitter can use to protect its network.

And what would Twitter do with the money? It could make a modest donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or some other cause that improves the online experience. 

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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