Tag Archives: amatomu

Scooping up the blogosphere

MYSCOOP: South Africa’s new blog aggregator with promise

WHEN the blog was born it was met with mild curiosity in the online world. Suddenly every web user had the means to voice their opinion and views and, in effect, have their very own website. Needless to say, the idea caught on, and there are now thousands of bloggers fighting for popularity and page rank on an ever growing blogosphere.

What was needed was an effective method of categorising the huge influx of blogs and creating order out of chaos. The result was the development of blog aggregators — websites that could track certain blogs and make them more accessible to readers.

These have become the height of entrepreneurial endeavour online, as well as some of the most popular stops for web browsers and bloggers alike. In South Africa we had the emergence of Amatomu — a South African blog aggregator started by the keen minds of the Mail & Guardian online. Amatomu fell in and out of use before officially becoming null and void toward the end of last year. The creators stated that the site had become too much to handle and are currently trying to sell the website.

Then we saw the birth of Afrigator — a uniquely African aggregator founded by a man named Justin Hartman. Afrigator has shown great promise and has spawned several digital offspring, such as Gatorpeeps and Adgator — a micro-blogging service and a South African advertising service respectively. Afrigator has proved to be extremely popular — winning a bronze award in the Publishing Integrated Campaign category at the second annual Bookmarks awards ceremony in November last year.

But with the untimely death of Amatomu there was a large, online shoe to be filled by a new, uniquely South African blog aggregator. Thus came about the emergence of my­Scoop — the latest blog aggregator to take to the rough waters that is the blogosphere.

myScoop logo

What is myScoop?
myScoop is the latest addition to the SA blog aggregator family and also operates as a social bookmarking tool. Created by 25 year old South African web entrepreneur, Nicholas Duncan, myScoop is showing great promise within the blogging arena.

“I use a lot of social bookmarking sites and noticed that South Africa is lacking in this department,” says Nick Duncan. “It was never meant to be a blog aggregation tool at all, but, when I noticed the downfall of Amatomu, I decided to give it a bash and out popped [myscoop.co.za]”

myScoop is also a great example of how the multitude of social networking websites available today are starting to integrate and merge. myScoop specifically makes use of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID and Blogger accounts — all of which can be used to join or sign into the site.

Nick Duncan is constantly improving myScoop and recently created a badge and ranking system. The site now has the ability to keep track of blog hits, as well as provide information as to what specific pages users are accessing on your blog.

The ranking system keeps track of what blogs are the most popular and which posts receive the most traffic within a day or a month. There is also a dedicated stats section that shows users how many hits their sites had on different dates.

“Right now we offer “live stats” (which is still a bit buggy, but all problems will be ironed out in due time). Once sponsorship is found for hosting, I will be able to develop greater tools for myScoop,” explains Duncan.

myScoop features:

  • Blog profile: Each blog entered has a profile displaying its latest posts.
  • Blog aggregator: myScoop has a blog aggregator that allows you to create a profile and add your blog.
  • Topic stats: There is a very easy-to-understand stats page for each article that shows users the daily clicks for the topic.
  • Community: The overall vibe of myScoop is informative and friendly, which is what all social media platforms strive for.
  • MyPage: Each member on myScoop gets a myPage area where they can follow others blogs and keep up-to-date with what is happening in their areas of interest.
  • Social bookmarking: It has a very easy-to-use social bookmarking platform that categorises and rank submissions according to the number of unique clicks each topic gets.

Unique features and future developments?
The development and functionality of blog aggregators rely heavily on user feedback, which is something that myScoop both encourages and is doing a great job of — by implementing ideas and suggestions offered by its users.

“I would like to make myScoop more community-driven … user input is absolutely vital in any website and I would like to let the actual users steer the ship as to where they want myScoop to go,” says Duncan.

In terms of future developments, Nick Duncan is constantly creating and implementing new features and aims to create a unique user experience: “The ultimate goal is to create something “unique” in a sense; it’s no good having two or three of the same websites floating around … I’d also like to create a platform where users are able to develop their own programs by pulling information off the server. [However] this can only be possible once stable hosting is found,” explains Duncan.

myScoop challenges
A major challenge concerning South African blog aggregators is becoming overwhelmed with online traffic and maintaining connectivity speeds. This is largely what led to Amatomu’s early retirement. Tied in with these issues is local bandwidth — specifically the costs of bandwidth and the lack of it in SA.

“There are a number of factors that hamper the snow-balling effect we all would like to see when it comes to our new startups, such as advertising, hosting and bandwidth costs, says Duncan. These all can limit potential growth, but I feel that, as a young web entrepreneur, staying positive and keeping the momentum, while keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your users, can ultimately lead to your success.”

I personally foresee great things ahead for myScoop and would encourage all South African bloggers join in on the debate and follow its development. myScoop is also a great example of a good South African online service and Nicholas Duncan is one of the most reliable and decisive web entrepreneurs I have come across on the Internet.

About Nick Duncan:
I started playing with PHP about three years ago, but have been into HTML since I was about 12 years of age. I am engaged to a beautiful woman and recently experienced the birth of my boy, Logan. (This of course hampers development time, but is absolutely worth it)! I have two good-as-gold step kids aged five and eight that keep me on my toes. I welcome all feedback regarding the myScoop project, which can be directed at nick@myscoop.co.za. You can also follow @Nicholas_Duncan on Twitter.

Related article: A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging

Don’t knock it ’till you try it

You can read the first part of this beginners guide here.

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BLOGGING – PART 2
I’ve been in possession of a snazzy new phone for about three weeks now. It’s one of those navigator phones that not only helps you out when you get lost, but it’s also a music player, video camera, game console, portable modem, photo editor, and (almost forgotten) a phone.

I have never owned anything as remotely high-tech as this device, and after three weeks, I honestly don’t know how to deal with it all and use it properly. I’m almost afraid of it, and there is often a voice it my head telling me I’ll never grasp how to use such technology.

We all experience techno-fear. Most believe it happens when we reach a certain age and is a defining moment in our lives when we reject the new and clutch onto the old. We feel comfortable with what we know and feel that we simply can’t cope with change or keep up with the rapid advance of technology.

Well I’m here to tell you that techno-fear has nothing to do with age. I have felt it as a twenty-something who embraces technology. It is rather a matter of trying something new and feeling comfortable with it after enough practice.

On that note I wish to assure you that it is the same with blogging if it is new to you. It has been three weeks since I introduced blogging here, which I trust is enough time for those interested to have set up a blog, or to have at least thought about it. Here are some more tips on how to do it.

Blog writing
There are a few things that are unique to writing for the web, which differ from the way one writes for print. While these rules are not cast in stone they have proven to be more effective.

For starters, it is always a good idea to write in the inverted pyramid format – with the most important bits at the top. The first few lines of a blog-post are usually your make-or-break moment, and determine whether people will continue reading.

People’s attention spans on the web are even more shocking than they are offline. With this in mind, it is important to keep articles short and use lots of short paragraphs and sub-heads if possible.

A blog-post can range anywhere between 200 and 2 000 words, but it is important to re-read your writing and cut it down as much as possible. Get your point across quickly or write an enticing introduction depending on the context of your post. It might also be wise to break longer posts into two parts.

Illustrating your blog
The average time that someone spends looking at a blog is probably no more than 10 seconds. This is because most online readers make a judgment about a new website (before reading anything) based on its looks.

Sadly it’s a shallow world online and this is why your posts not only need a catchy (and relevant) headline and enticing first line to rope readers in, but also as many visual aids as possible.

Pictures, graphics, pull-quotes and even videos are useful for breaking up the body of a post. You are able to bold and italicise words, create quotes and upload or embed pictures and videos from your toolbar that appears when you click on “new post” from your blogging dashboard.

Note: in WordPress the “dashboard” button appears in the top-left hand side of the screen and the top-right as “customise” in Blogger. Within this dashboard are further options for adding widgets, editing or changing your blog’s theme, and several others depending on which blogging service you are using.

Have you ever wanted to write a book or have started writing one but given up, thinking that it would never get published? Start a blog dedicated to your book and discover what people actually think. Describe in detail what your blog (i.e. your book) is about and who you are as an aspiring author, then offer either daily or weekly excerpts or chapters. Encourage people to comment on it and see whether you can generate a loyal audience. The two site aggregators (mentioned below) will offer you statistics on how many people are reading what you write and help guide you in the right direction.

Technical bits
The array of options and things called “widgets” are enough to give any new blogger a headache, but you only need to know a few of them at first.

An important one is the option of switching between “visual” and “html” in the top-right of the box in which your write your posts. Each mode offers different tools. However, if you are not familiar with html, this would be rather incomprehensible.

However, if you write your articles using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, ensure that that the html view is open when you copy and paste your text. Word processors are full of invisible text formatting that will look a little pear-shaped if copied directly into a blog.

The other important feature to notice is the “tags” box (found at the bottom of the “new post” box in Blogger and to the right of the box in WordPress). Tags are keywords which describe what your post is about and is what Google uses when people do a search.

Tags are important for ensuring that your blog shows up in Google searches. These words should also appear in your blog post and preferably be used more than once. Bolding keywords (which you add as tags) also improves your blog’s chances of being found when someone searches Google using those keywords.

Promoting your blog
Getting your blog “out there” and getting people to read it has a lot to do with self-promotion. This involves more than just telling your family and friends, but promoting your blog online to an unknown audience.

Once you have written a few posts and are happy with the way your blog looks and functions, you are ready to present it to the world and gather a readership. The first thing to do is register your blog on blog aggregator sites. The two essential ones that I’ve mentioned before are www.amatomu.com and www.afrigator.com.

These will ask you to describe your blog and will notify users when you publish something new. Users also have the option of subscribing or following the blogs they like and sharing articles with others. Blog aggregators also categorise your blog and point potential readers in the right direction.

This is where your new posts will appear, but only your headings and the first few lines or post summary. It is also where your tags come into play. Post headings, summaries and tags are therefore the three most important aspects to familiarise yourself with and eventually master.

Otherwise, promoting your blog in other ways is completely up to your own imagination. Add a link to it on your Facebook profile or any other website you have subscribed to. Comment on other people’s blogs, which will usually link back to your own. Make connections and write consistently. Interact with the blogosphere. Most importantly, don’t knock it ’till you try it!

You can read the first part to this blogging guide here:
A beginners guide to blogging part 1

Top 9 stops on the web

There’s been a lot of talk on the interweb about elitism and how a few have come to dominate the web space and dictate what counts as interesting or useful or not. To this end, less ‘web-optimization-orientated’ individuals who are trying to compete in the cyber-games are often shot down for offering old news or something that ‘everyone’ has already seen or heard of.

Well I take a more humble approach. I specifically write my blog with the ‘un-savvy’ reader in mind. I try to offer well-informed readers something interesting and new but write in a way that any newbies would be able to appreciate and understand. It’s all about sharing knowledge and appreciating people’s efforts for trying.

So with that out of the way here are my top nine things to do on the web! Whether they be new or old to you, I’m sure you’ll at least find something to amuse or entertain yourself with. (In alphabetical order they are):

1. Abandon Games
As an avid gamer (and history lover) I’m a firm believer of being familiar with the past in order to fully appreciate the present. Abandongames.com offers a collection of golden oldies that are no longer sold on the shelves. I like to refer to these as the kind of Games Grandpa Used to Play and are available for free download. You can read reviews of some of my top ones here. Ahhh the nostalgia…

Two other great games (which you can play for free online and kill some time) are table tennis and what I simply call the bunny game. The latter really does wonders for one’s peace of mind with some good soothing music and an indestructible fluffy bunny rabbit.

2. Blogs (Afrigator, Regator, Amatomu & Technorati)
With a multitude of blogs available on the web it becomes tedious trying to find interesting and exciting ones to read. There are several blog aggregators around that try and simplify this process by providing categories and lists of top blogs, top posts, or popular reads by calculating their popularity based on the amount of traffic they receive.

Amatomu attempts to provide the above by tracking South African blogs, Afrigator: African blogs, and Technorati: blogs from around the world. Regator attempts to take this a step further by cordially inviting blogs that are nominated as being the best on the web to feature on their site. It all depends on what you’re interested in, but here’s a list of 15 well-written blogs to get you started.

3. Digital Blasphemy
The ultimate place to go for artsy wallpapers, digitalblasphemy.com offers original hi-res 3D-rendered desktop wallpapers, as well as links to some of the best computer art sites on the web. Created by Ryan Bliss – a self-taught 3D artist, digital blasphemy has a free gallery for non-members to download some incredible digital artwork with no strings attached. You can read more about it here. Digital Bliss! 😀

4. Muti
Muti.co.za has got to be the top place to go if you’re looking for something new and interesting on the web without having to do any browsing. Dominated by a few web-savvy users, muti allows registered users to post links to anything they have found interesting/ inspiring/ controversial on the web and comment on each others posts. Things are made even simpler by letting users vote for posts – thus making it easier for visitors to get an idea of what is generally thought to be worth reading/viewing on the web. Often generates some stimulating conversation too.

5. Peegly
A good way to vent your anger or simply get something off your chest: peegly.com is an entirely anonymous service that requires no registration and lets you speak your mind or share a story relating to love, fear, sins, hatred or anything really. Readers can then vote and comment on the sentiments of others or just read a few to perhaps realise that your life isn’t that crappy after all. A good opportunity to play Dr Ruth and help out a few complete strangers.

6. Questionable Content
Web comics can be a great stress reliever and very therapeutic when having a rough day at the office. There are some really great ones available, but my favourite of them all has to be questionablecontent.net. It follows the life of an emo, indie lad named Martin and his anthro PC Pintsize, and makes use of clever humour and really talented drawings. A good story about nice guys getting ahead in life. Takes a little while to develop.

Another site (which has sadly gone dormant) but has a collection of brilliant comics with intellectual humour is the Perry Bible Fellowship. Highly recommended for a good, full-hearted laugh.

7. The video-web: local is lekker
YouTube may dominate the market when it comes to web-videos, but myvideo.co.za offers a great range of content for video fans. It is basically the South African equivalent of YouTube but with far less traffic and content to sift through, making it more user-friendly in my opinion. The majority of the videos available are proudly South African and it’s great to see how much talent South African video-makers have in this department.

8. Ultimate Guitar
For guitarists (amateur and professional); ultimate-guitar.com offers guitar chords and tablature for just about any song you can think of that’s played with six strings. Maintained by guitarists who have figured out the tunes of their favourite jams, users are able to vote for their top versions of different songs (as there is always more than one way to play a song), and download the tabs of the ones they wish to learn.

9. Zoopy
Your ultimate social media site: zoopy.com is rapidly growing in popularity and offers blog posts, videos, podcasts and an array of photographs. Users get a chance to vote for content they enjoy, post comments, and share their collections with others. It has a great local flavour and has recently optimized its data handling – making uploading and viewing content faster than ever before. A great example of the awesomeness that is South African social media.

PS: I was going to create a top 10 list but found that I couldn’t actually think of a 10th site I visit often (besides the obvious – e.g. facebook, gmail etc). I’m hoping this will encourage the web gurus out there to create their own lists. Otherwise please add links to any great sites you can think of below and lets all share in the wonders of the www!

Related posts:
Digital Blasphemy
Games Grandpa Used to Play
The video-web: local is lekker

Web statistics 101

WEB STATS: The difference between hits, page impressions, user sessions and unique visits

EVERYONE with a website or blog should be interested to know just how well they are doing in terms of generating online traffic. However, the value of website statistics lies in the interpretation of trends rather than concentration on precise figures.

While some site aggregators focus on ‘hits’ and ‘user sessions’, others offer insight into ‘unique visits’ and ‘page impressions’. Below is an attempt at distinguishing between these terms in order to better understand what the dots and lines on web statistics mean.

HITS:
The idea of measuring website traffic using hits is becoming rather old school due to its inaccuracy. Technically speaking a page hit is the term for any requested file, including each of a page’s images or graphics. It is the retrieval of any item, like a page or a graphic, from a web server. Any time a piece of data matches criteria you set, in a Google search for example, it’s recorded as a hit.

The problem with hits however is that when a visitor calls up a web page consisting of several graphics, each one is recorded as a hit plus one for the html page. For this reason, hits often aren’t a good indication of web traffic.

PAGE IMPRESSIONS/VIEWS:
While a hit is a single file request from a web-server, a page impression is a combination of one of more files sent to a user via that user’s request (such as a search). In other words, it is the viewing or downloading of a website in its entirety by one user.

In web advertising, the term ‘impression’ is often synonymous for ‘view’, and is usually what advertisers use to determine how and where to advertise online.

However, the accuracy of this data will depend upon whether or not the user’s PC is ‘caching‘ the files integral to that page, or whether the user clears the cache after each session. In other words, whether or not the page has to reload each time.

Page impressions therefore become meaningless on framed sites. If a framed page has a separate frame for the header, the top border and the main text area, for example, a visitor will create a total of four different page impressions rather than one.

page impressions

 

USER SESSIONS:
In tabulating more accurate statistics for website usage, user sessions are often used for counting the number of times a particular user visits the site. This is determined by the visitor’s IP address and thereby solves the problems of repeat visits to pages.

These are calculated by the presence of a user with a specific IP address who has not visited the site recently (typically, anytime within the past 30 minutes). For example, a user who visits a site at noon and then again at 3pm would be counted as two user sessions or visits.

UNIQUE VISITORS:
A related term for user sessions, a unique visitor refers to a person who visits a website more than once within a specified period of time.

Different from a hits or page views (measured by the number of files that are requested from a site) unique visitors are measured according to their unique IP addresses. These act like online fingerprints, and unique visitors are counted only once no matter how many times they visit the site.

One could think of unique visitors as your loyal readership or website users. Treat them well!

Hope this was helpful. Please add any additional insight or info you may have below.

Links:
Hits and impressions 
Site measurement FAQs