xkcd @ Google!

[Adding an xkcd cartoon to my last post made me remember that I had this leftover post that I never published.]

I’m ruthless in pruning my work email down to the essentials. In particular, I auto-archive emails about different speakers at Google. So many neat/fun speakers are always visiting Google that if I started going to all those cool lectures, I’d never get my regular work done.

I’m at peace with that choice, but it does mean that sometimes I find out about awesome speakers at Google by reading about them on an outside blog.

I missed Randall Munroe, the guy that draws xkcd, which is a bummer. It’s one of my favorite net comics. Here’s my favorite xkcd:

Funny xkcd comic

My second-favorite is this map of the internet, because some real internet cartographers used the idea and made a real map of the internet with the same basic design.

If you like xkcd, Ellen has a great post about Randall Monroe’s visit to Google.

SEO Advice: Getting Links

[Note: This post was written in December 2005 (!). I’m going through some of my old draft posts and publishing the ones that aren’t too awful. Some of these “Leftovers” will be rough.]

Okay, here are some ways to get high-quality links without emailing, paying, or even paying attention to search engines:

Provide a useful one-time service. It really doesn’t take very much. Here are some examples:

  • Check out http://www.stclaire.com/go/industrial_signage/sb2/html in Internet Explorer. You have to sign up for a free account, but then this site provides an online interface to create ANSI-compliant warning signs, and you get PDF files ready to print. This site is great for making gag signs. Here’s one I made in just a few minutes:
    Watch out for falling spam!
  • Is that too much trouble? You don’t know how to create PDFs, or you don’t have safety clip art lying around? Okay, here’s a simpler example: everyone hates getting spam email. If you leave your email address lying out on the web, you’ll get more email spam. Here’s a site that lets you make a graphical badge instead: http://gsig.brightdev.com/index.php. That url is for Gmail, but http://esigs.brightdev.com/ lets you make sigs for Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL and others.
  • Is that too much trouble? Graphics mojo leave you cold? Well, you can also encode email addresses using JavaScript or character entities. For example, http://www.wbwip.com/wbw/emailencoder.html can turn a normal email address like user@example.com into something like
    that email harvesters won’t bother with.
  • Make a robots.txt validator.

Provide an ongoing service:

  • Web-based services like Bloglines are a great example.

Become a resource:

  • You can do this with a personal or company blog. Blogs are a great way to get link love or just to get your word out.
  • If blogs sound scary, start out with newsletters. Or studies. Or surveys. Or white papers.
  • Once a company (I’ll call them site A) that does language translations asked me why they didn’t rank as highly as another website (I’ll call them site B). When I checked it out, site A had very little content, just 5-6 pages with contact info and a short description of what they did. It was like an online brochure. So what did site B have? They offered a tutorial about the difference between Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji, plus they showed how to write a few characters. Who would you link to, the empty brochure site or the site with tutorial pages?

Provide valuable information.

Be the first. Be the first means coming up with a creative idea that catches the fancy of the web.

Who appointed Loren Baker the judge of the best search blogs? No one at all: he just saw a creative opportunity and took it.

Get an article written about you. Be aware that controversy gets attention, but can also affect how people perceive you. If you bait people too often, that affects your reputation.

Open up your product:

  • I bought a TiVo because I could hack it. I chose XM Radio because they offered they offered a device (the XM PCR) that allowed your computer to get analog satellite radio. And this sexy device has an open-source server so that you can stream RSS or almost any other info to the device in addition to playing music. Help people tinker and hack with your product. When I found out that a local computer store had a 160GB external hard drive that could be hacked to run Linux, I ran out and got one. I installed Linux on it (because I could, dammit!), and made it into a streaming MP3 jukebox. What did I do after that? I went down to the computer store and bought a spare! Buffalo LinkStation, you rule! And because I could hack around with the 160GB hard drive, now I’m eyeing their 1.6 terabyte TeraStation. [Editor’s note: I did get the TeraStation and it served me well for years.] All this because I was able to tinker/hack/mod a product.

[There you go. I think most of these ideas have aged pretty well.]