June 13, 2012

Website Testing Strategy for Personal Website Owners

Once your website is up, you need to iron out a few kinks that focus mainly on how your website is rendered in different browsers and in different hardware platforms. This is to make sure that users do not experience problems in accessing and interacting with your website. With the growing number of mobile users, it is imperative that websites are tuned to perform well on small screen devices like smart phones.

Most website owners would probably create their content using the Windows platform. The website should be rendered well by at least two different browsers that run under the Windows operating system. In some parts of the world, Internet Explorer is bundled with the Windows operating system pre-installed when a computer is bought. With the addition of Mozilla Firefox, you would have a good enough tools at your disposal. Be sure that your website renders well on both the Internet Explorer and the Mozilla Firefox. And now that Google has joined the browsers fray, it would not be bad at all if you try viewing your website in Chrome.

The Mac is another platform that has a substantial number of users but perhaps not as numerous and ubiquitous as Windows primarily because of the steep price of acquiring a Mac computer. Safari is the default browser for Mac computers but maybe it would be worthwhile to install Chrome on the Mac just to see how your website would look like in Chrome running on a Mac.

Linux has come of age and is now slowly but surely gaining inroads into the home computer and business markets as well. Make sure that your website display well on Linux computers. Choose a Linux distribution that you like and install it on a spare computer or dual boot your Windows laptop with it. Mozilla Firefox seems to be the favorite browser for the Linux distros although there may be other browsers that you want to test such as Seamonkey, Konqueror, and Opera.

Android needs special mention because it is specifically designed for mobile Internet devices. A good 7 inch Android tablet would be a good testing equipment on how your website would render on a smaller screen device. Android has a default browser but you can also install Firefox and Dolphin just for the fun of seeing how your website would display on different tablet browsers.

For laptops, you may test your website on at least two different screen sizes: the notebook and the netbook platforms. Notebooks would have screen sizes of 14 inches and above while netbooks will have 12 inches and below. Most netbooks have 10 inches screen size. The text of your content should at least still be readable without much difficulty on netbooks.

Lastly, it may be worthwhile to access your website using a smart phone either a Blackberry or Nokia iPhone. These are the more common smart phones used by professionals which are required in their work. It would likewise be worthwhile if you could test how your website would render on an Android smart phone.

In testing your website, be sure to engage your website and test the tools and gadgets that you may have used in your website. You should take note of areas for improvements and make minor changes based on the results of your testing. Of course, desktops and laptops may still be the majority platforms used in accessing your website. But tablets and smart phones are slowly gaining ground as platforms for accessing the Internet. It would be to your advantage if your website could be made more friendly to these new Internet devices.

Study your analytics to see which platforms are mostly used in accessing your website. Make minor modifications to ensure that your website render well on these devices and platforms. However, look for the trends on which segment is getting stronger and stronger. Your website must be able to cater to those devices in the future.

May 22, 2012

Ensure that your Website Works Well with Small Screen Mobile Gadgets

More and more people are using mobile gadgets to look for information in the Internet. As most of existing websites were developed with big desktop and laptop screens in mind, it may be time to review how your website will perform on mobile Internet devices. You may need to make a few adjustments in your page design to ensure that your website displays correctly and is easily manipulated by mobile device users.

Owners of personal websites usually do not have the resources and know-how to make a mobile version of their websites. What they can do is perhaps to ensure that their site follow a simple design and that their web pages are kept to the minimum in size. They could possibly trim down the contents of their web pages by removing unessential elements that only contribute marginally to the effectiveness of the web page.

If you're hosting your website on Google Sites, you may be pleased to know that there is an option that you can enable to make your website display correctly on small screen mobile gadgets. You can open your site on Google Sites, click on the More button, and then click on Manage site. Look for the option Automatically adjust site to mobile phones and put a check mark on it and then save your settings.

If you're hosting your website on Blogger, there is an option in your template page for showing a mobile version of your website which it seems is enabled by default using a default template. However, when I view a Blogger website on my 7 inch Android tablet, the desktop version is shown. When viewed from an Apple iPhone, the web page was exactly as shown on the preview.

The major thing that must be avoided at all costs is the failure of your website to be zoomed in when viewed on small screen gadgets. I have seen at least one major website whose web pages refuse any attempt to be zoomed in when viewed on a 7 inch tablet. I don't know for sure the reason for why this is happening but rest assured that if your website suffers from this same malady, you can lose a lot of page views from users of mobile Internet gadgets.

You website could be more easily viewed on small screen gadgets if the width of your page is controlled to a size that can be easily navigated on mobile screens. As with desktop and laptop screens, it feels easier to navigate the screen in an upward and downward manner rather than going sideways, that is to and from right to left and vice versa. Your website links should not be placed too close to one another. On tablets, for example, gadget users use their finger to tap on a link to go over to another page. When links are placed close together, there is a tendency for the user to tap on the wrong link and she is thus taken to the wrong page. This can be frustrating for the user of your website.

Be concerned that low-end Android devices do not have the ample resources that desktops and laptops have. Most low-end 7 inch Android tablets only have 1 gigabyte or random access memory. Care should therefore be taken not to make your web page too large in size due to large images and other embedded media. A simple design could go a long way in making your web page more easily usable on small screen mobile gadgets.

Be aware that small screen gadget users will be zooming in on your web page when they are viewing it on their mobile gadgets. Using different font sizes in your page could thus be annoying to the user since by zooming in on the small font text, normal font size text could grow to gigantic proportion. Perhaps other means could be used to show differentiation on text material like for example making the target text italic rather normal instead of reducing its font size.

Yet the best starting point for ensuring that your website will display correctly and perform well on mobile Internet devices is to get hold of a small screen device and use it to view and interact with your web pages. Identify and list down the areas that can be improved upon and then make some adjustments to the design and contents of your web pages. Thus you are making sure that a growing number of Internet users are able to view your site correctly and navigate your website easily. It is a way of future proofing your website since there may come a time when the majority of Internet users would be using mobile Internet devices for accessing information from the Internet.

May 21, 2012

Social Media may not be that Effective in Promoting Information Websites

I have two websites that are not performing as well as my other websites. I read and heard about the social media place where marketing winners and losers are decided on. I tried to use social media in an effort to salvage these two non-performing information websites. I did not succeed. But maybe these two sites are hopeless and should therefore be closed. However, I believe that these two sites contain interesting and helpful articles that could provide value to some individuals who might need the information that they contain.

In search engine optimization, there is an old adage that says that content is king. This aphorism seems to exude a profound truth that is difficult to avoid. No amount of promotion can ever substitute for relevant content. In the case of the two websites that I mentioned, people are simply not interested in what they contain. Thus it is very important for information producers to know what is it that people want to know about. Presumably, people may experience difficulties and may want to resolve a problematic situation. To guide them on what to do, they need information on what solutions other people in a similar situation have found to work.

Or, it could be that the particular subject matter on which the website is operating is just too much saturated with business-run websites that benefit from using paid content creators and search optimizers. Personal websites that choose to operate in such a competitive arena may be bound to suffer loses from more organized and well financed competitors

Or, there may be a weakness in the search algorithm used by the search portals in the Internet. And this should be discussed in relation with the optimization efforts applied to sites that are maintained by business organizations. There may be faults in the design of search algorithms which professional search optimizers are taking advantage of in promoting the websites of their clients.

No one believes that there is fairness or equality in the imperfect world that we're living in. It's every man for himself and if you find yourself in a losing situation, you just have to extricate yourself to avoid getting into more trouble than you can manage. The Internet is but a reflection of the real world that we're inhabiting. There may be reasonably priced and more superior products and services that are losing out to producers with a well-funded marketing effort. The real losers are us the customers who may have to make do with expensive and inferior products just because their manufacturers or providers have political clout and marketing machinery to outsell the competition. Is the idea that the Internet is a level playing field just a myth?

So there are a myriad of reasons for websites not performing as expected. The first of these of course is that the content may not be relevant and most people don't find any use for them. Contributing to that reason is the presence of too many competing sites that may be run by businesses that have enormous resources with which to promote their websites. Then there may be a few weakness on search algorithms that search optimizers are using to get the websites of their clients to the first few pages of the search results.

No amount of social media promotion and for that matter white hat or black hat optimization can improve a website's lackluster performance if the website does not provide relevant content. In my websites' analytics reports, search engines are the major source of web traffic and not referrals from other websites. Even in my worst performing websites, it is still the search engines that top the traffic sources. In such a circumstance, optimization may provide a better result and social media promotion may not generate encouraging results.

January 31, 2012

A Few Guidelines on Writing Translation Friendly Articles

The guidelines for writing readable English are valid and applicable to writing translation friendly articles. Using the active form of the verbs, preferring concrete rather than abstract terms, avoiding pompous discourse and using as few words as possible are a few of the advices that we heard from our writing teachers or editors in our work places. Hence, even before thinking of making our write-ups translation friendly, we must make sure that our writings adhere to the time-tested principles taught to us by our English teachers.

A good number of language translators have sprung up to help us read articles that were written in a foreign language. Google Translator appears to be one of the best well-known free translation services available in the Internet. Unfortunately, most of these translators at best can only provide dismal results. This is because the words are simply translated verbatim using a two-language dictionary and arranged in the same manner as in the original. This in most cases does not work. Results lack cohesion, are often confusing, and difficult to comprehend. And yet, people around the world had to make do with what these translators can deliver if they need the information urgently.

Writers may be able to help mitigate the translation problem by firstly writing in a direct and simple way and by avoiding passages that make automatic translation fail. Software cannot yet approximate the power of the human mind in translating from one language to another. But if we craft our written works in such a way as to make automatic translation more effective, then we could have contributed much to a greater understanding among the world's population. Here then are a few guidelines that may prove useful.

When writing articles that may later be translated, be explicit in writing your sentences. Avoid omitting understood words in English. One of the most omitted words in English is the preposition that. Editors may sometimes strike this word out in your write-up in the interest of economy of words and for the reason that the meaning of the sentence remains the same even if that word is omitted. However, retaining this word can make the translated version clearer and more readable.

Idiomatic expressions are a bane for software translators. Only a human mind can correctly interpret the meaning of these words. As computers are not yet able to experience living in a particular culture, they are unable to interpret idioms correctly and insert the corresponding correct translation in the target language. It is true that our write-up may lose the flavor and glamor of our articles if we avoid using idioms. However, we have to refrain from using them if our writings are to reach a wider audience.

As much as possible, writers need to use standard English in writing articles that are destined to be published in the Internet. Our slang terms and colloquialisms may not have acceptable equivalents in other languages. Hence, these words should not find their way in the articles that we are writing. Using a thesaurus could hopefully help us find a more standard version that can be readily translated in the target languages.

If you're writing in another language, your language may have regional dialects that use different terms for the same meaning. Avoid using dialect terms and stick to the form used in the standard national language. Dialect terms may not be present in the dictionaries used by translators and will thus remain as is in the translated version.

Use complicated sentence structures sparingly. The thought of the sentence could easily get lost when long winding and complicated sentences are translated to a language that may have a different sentence structure. This may make your writing a little terse so you may have to compensate on other means of making your write-up interesting. What you want to accomplish is the preservation of the thought or idea behind the sentence when translated by a machine. Assume that your work will be translated by an idiot with an immense vocabulary of words in the source and target languages.

The Internet has opened up an effective medium by which we could communicate our thoughts and ideas to a world-wide audience. Unfortunately, our languages are vastly different and it is regrettable that a large number of our audience are not able to read our write-ups simply because they don't understand the language that we have chosen to write on. Let us help our foreign readers more fully understand our written works by making our articles easier to be translated in other languages.

Read my other article on writing faster and controlling the length of your web article with phrase outlining at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/write-faster-and-control-length-of-your.html.

Read my other article on a generalized article writing template for something that you want to write about at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/03/generalized-article-writing-template.html.

January 29, 2012

How Disciplined Note-Taking Can Help You Write Articles for your Website

One of the most difficult problem in writing articles for your website is the lack of ideas or topics on which to write on. This is a type of writer's block that a handful of article writers may suffer. One way to solve this problem is to have a good documentation of the thoughts and ideas that enter your mind. Essentially, what we need is a disciplined note-taking system that is tailored to the way that you write the articles for your website.

Mind mapping is a tool that can be used for creating long documents that discuss a fairly complex subject matter. But it could be somewhat superfluous for writing short articles that focus on simple and highly specific topics. Efficient note-taking may be a better alternative. To be sure, there are software applications that help authors make structured notes that are easily and quickly searched. But then again they tend to be too much sophisticated for the needs of an article writer.

If you're using a Windows computer, the Notepad program would do well to implement your note-taking strategy. As there could be a lot of subject matter that you want to write on, you could maintain two types of notes: general notes and particular notes.

The general notes contain all of the thoughts and ideas that come across your mind that you think should be noted and preserved for future use. This type includes a mix of everything that you thought could become a subject matter for an article. The general notes are updated when something comes up in your mind either as a new idea or additional thoughts on one topic that is already listed in the notes.

When you feel like writing again, you can open your general notes and read again what topics have been written there. Sometimes, you don't have anything to add or your mind may refuse to cooperate so you just simply close the notes and move on to other things that you need to do. Other times, an additional idea or two may hit you with respect to a particular topic you have noted there. The additional thoughts may be of sufficient substance that you think you can come up with a new article for your website. You open a new Notepad window and proceed to write a new article.

Most of the time, though, you may just add new thoughts on one or a few of the old notes that you have written in your general notes. You then just close the general notes and continue doing the other pending activities that you have.

The other type of notes is the particular note. The particular notes contain only one subject matter that you have written on the general notes and that you have decided to make a note of its own. This note is used for promising topics that you think you have enough ideas on but feels that the thoughts and ideas that you have regarding this subject matter is not yet complete. You open this note once in a while to see if you can come up with an additional idea that will render this particular note ready to be written on. Once this needed thought comes up, this particular note can then be turned into a new article. Sometimes, though, that additional idea just hits you and then you can go directly to a particular note and proceed on turning it into a new article.

As you can see there are many ways by which a new article can be written. It may happen that a sufficiently good idea comes up and then you just go on and write a new article about it. But this could happen only rarely and hardly could be depended on for coming up with new articles for your website. The use of notes gives you a hint to stimulate your thinking and could produce better results.

But the key to implementing this strategy successfully is to always be thinking of a new article to write on. Your mind can sometimes be a lazy creature that refuses to work and enjoy doing nothing. You can repeat the idea over and over in your head and most of the time, your mind will come up with something that you could work on further.

You should always have a few ideas that you should be thinking about and asking if one or more additional thoughts can come up to make that topic ready for writing an article on. You should also busy yourself with other things that are unrelated to your article writing effort. Keep your mind active and don't worry that you don't have any new articles for your website. The required thought or idea will ultimately come to you. And your notes will help you facilitate your article writing effort.

Read my other article on how taking notes or outlining maybe the cure for writer's block at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2012/01/taking-notes-or-outlining-may-be-cure.html.

Read my other article on writing faster and controlling the length of your web article with phrase outlining at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/write-faster-and-control-length-of-your.html.

Keep your Laptop Away from These Three Dangers to Make it Last Longer

Laptops have become indispensable tools for creating documents and multi-media materials for our professional or office use. They are not cheap and can be considered an investment that can be used to make money or earn a livelihood. They are expensive to repair or upgrade and need to be taken to repair shop if they are broken. You realize how important your laptop is to your life when it breaks down and you lose access to data that you need in your work.

Taking good care of your laptop not only saves you money by avoiding repair work or early replacement. Extending the useful life of your laptop gives you more time to save for replacement or upgrade. Having a well-maintained laptop saves you from losing clients or business when it suddenly breaks down. There are three dangers that you should keep your laptop away from to ensure that your laptop can provide you with more years of useful life. These are heat, dust, and shock.

Heat is the number one nemesis of laptops. Do not expose your laptop under direct sunlight. Not only would you be unable to see its display but you could unnecessarily heat its case. Your laptop could overheat and destroy its processor or hard disk. Ensure that there is enough clearance between your table and the underside of your laptop to enable cool air to flow freely underneath it. Do not use or leave your laptop on top of the bed or car seat. This could prevent cool air from entering the vents or warm air from escaping from them.

Invest in a laptop cooler that can keep the underside of your laptop from getting too hot. Get a good quality cooler that can last long and with good quality fans that are quiet and turn smoothly. Keep away from cheap coolers that can only destroy your laptop with too much vibration. Periodically clean the fans of fibers and other dirt that may accumulate on them. Choose a cooler that does not consume too much power from your laptop's battery.

Dust can attack your laptop in two ways. Too much dust accumulating underneath your keyboard can cause some keys to malfunction. Dust can also accumulate on the vents and air exhaust of your laptop, preventing the smooth flow of air inside and cause your laptop to overheat. Regularly remove dust from your keyboard with cloth or portable low power vacuum cleaner. Do the same for the vents and exhausts underneath or on the side of your laptop.

Your laptop's keyboard is not as durable as the standard keyboard so you should tap the keys more lightly than when you're using a standard keyboard. To protect your laptop's keyboard from dust, you can cover it with a clean cloth and use instead an external standard keyboard connected to one of your USB ports. Always close the cover of your laptop when you're not using it.

You can use cotton buds or USB-powered vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the vents and air exhaust of your laptop. If you think too much dust had already entered your laptop, you can take it to a laptop repair shop and have it cleaned. When you touch your laptop and feel that it is getting too hot, clean the vents at once or have it cleaned by a technician so you can use your laptop again in a normal operating environment.

Shock or too much vibration is the third worst enemy of your laptop. Strong shock hitting your laptop can damage its hard disk. Hard disk failure will render your laptop unusable. Do not use your laptop inside a vehicle when you're traversing a bumpy road. Don't use your laptop in places where there is high vibration like using your laptop beside a loud speaker. Large speakers should not be placed on the table where your laptop is resting. The strong vibration from the speakers may damage your hard disk. Store your laptop on a stable surface to prevent it from falling down. Use both of your hands when carrying your laptop from one place to another.

Save money and get more value from your laptop by taking good care of it. Keep your laptop away from heat, dust, and shock to enjoy more years of service life from it. Maintain your laptop in top shape to make it more reliable and safe from breaking down when you most need it.

January 24, 2012

Use Longer Search Term to Find More Relevant Results in Google

While others may disagree, I believe that using longer search terms for the Google search engine leads to more relevant search results. Thus, I favor an iterative search strategy that starts with two-keyword searches and progressing toward more-keyword searches until the exact information being sought is found.

The research part is closely integrated with the search portion in the sense that as you are searching, you are learning more and more about the topic of your search and consequently more able to specify more accurately the information that you are looking for. Hence, you start with a short search term and end up with a longer one that more precisely describes what you are interested in. The process is iterative in that what you learn from reading a few articles are then subsequently included in the next search that you are going to make.

Suppose I'm interested on how I could setup Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) in my DLink DIR-300 wireless router. I could use the search term setup dhcp dlink dir-300 wireless and find exactly what I'm looking for. But that's because I already know how to do it and I already know of one particular article that I'm sure will appear on the first page of the search results. But how do I go about finding that particular article if I don't even know what DHCP is all about?

I would probably start searching with a single term DHCP and see what information I could find. Reading a few of the articles that appear in the search results would give me an idea of what DHCP is all about. Then I might do another search using the term dlink dir-300 and see what information I could get. I might find the DIR-300 Wireless Router Manual and browse on the contents of the manual for any information about DHCP. What I will get is a picture of the DLink DIR-300 router configuration page and a terse instruction on how DHCP is setup on the router. Now I have a new search term and I try the search term dlink dir-300 dhcp settings and see what comes up. On the search results I find an article on how dhcp is setup on the DLink DIR-300 wireless router and my search is now ended.

In my experience searching with Google, I realize that the more I know of the topic of my inquiry, the longer my search term gets. This is because intuitively I know of other information regarding this topic and I don't want information that are irrelevant and won't help me. Therefore, I more precisely specify what I'm looking for and normally find the particular information that I need. It would take me a longer time to find the right information if I start with a shorter term and I could probably get lost in the process.

When you feel that you're beginning to get lost, it could be that the next term of terms that you added were not the right ones so you have to go back one step and read a few more articles on that stage and try to find new terms that would hopefully lead you to the information you're looking for. Remember that a good search strategy involves and integrates research into the topic you're interested in. It's a learning process designed to more accurately specify the information that you're looking for.

The world has become ever more complicated with the fast pace of new technological developments. There are more choices and better alternatives that are coming up as time passes. Short search terms will lead you nowhere if you're on the lookout for specific data that you need for solving a particular problem. The use of longer search term would hopefully lead you to the correct information that is relevant to the challenge that you're facing at the moment.

The coming of the Internet has brought about the ready availability of vast amount of information to the ordinary people. More and more data are being added to this reservoir of knowledge everyday and there is no sign that the generation of new information is abating. Consequently, we must be prepared to use longer terms in our searches if we are to find the right information that we need immediately. In situations when we are not yet fully familiar with the topic we are searching on, we could start with a shorter term and progressively use a longer search term as we know more about the subject we are searching on.

January 20, 2012

Three Skills that you Need to Develop if you want to Improve your Personal Website

Say that despite the dangers that lurk in the Internet, you have decided to create a personal website on one of the free website spaces available in the World Wide Web. You have started your very own website and posted a few articles to get the ball rolling. You have a few more articles in mind that you plan to write about very soon. You're well on your way toward becoming a website author of note or an outstanding blogger.

You had good expectations about your website and are even thinking of making a few bucks out of it by putting some advertisements on your site. You try finding out if your posts would appear in search engine results page. You type the title of one of your articles in the search bar but your article is nowhere to be found not even on the 50th page. Now you're in for a rude awakening. Having a website that the search engines will favor is not a walk in the park. After all, of what good is a website if no one could find any of its pages.

Here are a few skills that you need to develop to give your website a fighting chance in the chaotic world of the Internet. These are by no means all that you need. They are rather the major ingredients that I find useful if your website is to find some footing in the highly competitive world out there. Remember that big companies are spending a lot of money on research and expert skills to give their web pages competitive advantage in the Internet. But you only have your intelligence and creativity to fight your way out in cyberspace.

Better than Average Writing Skills and Unending Devotion to Write

You need to generate a lot of articles on your chosen field of interest if you are to make a dent in the eyes of the search engines. For this reason, you need to have greater than average writing skills. You cannot allow yourself to get stalled in writing wrangling over how you could overcome the writer's block that can hound you every time. Not a day should pass without you generating at least one article for your website.

Internet users are fed up with articles that are mere regurgitation of what already had been repeated so many times in other articles. What they are looking for are original ideas that are based on your own personal experience and not what you can copy from someone's work that is already published on the Internet. They are looking for substantive and helpful information that works and that you already have tried and worked for you.

You can get along with poor writing habits if you're only writing for your colleagues in the office but sadly this would not be acceptable if you're publishing to the world. Your writing should exhibit correct grammar and exude clarity like a morning in the meadow that is bathed with plenty of sunshine. Boring and sloppy writing has no place in any publishing business.

You cannot succeed in this endeavor with just a handful of motivation in your pocket. What you need is all-consuming passion that urges you to go on even if you don't see any progress in your movement. Without it, everything comes to naught and what you will end up with is a complete waste of your time.

More than Mere Familiarity with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You don't need to spend years studying SEO and become an SEO consultant but you should develop a deep understanding of how it works and how it can be deployed effectively in your website. What is important is finding out what works and what doesn't in particular situations and circumstances. SEO is an ongoing concern that you fine-tune and adjust as the search engine environment changes.

You should be mindful of the fact that SEO can wreck havoc on the readability of your articles. You need to find some balance from SEO implementation and the concern for ease of reading by your audience. Wise SEO implementation should never get in the way of good understanding of the thoughts and ideas that you are expounding in your write-up.

By implementing and monitoring SEO results, you would be able to develop your own style of SEO implementation that would be appropriate for your website. Through a process of trial and error, you would hopefully find a style of implementation that works for you.

Making the Most of the Free Google Website Tools

There are a lot of free Google tools that you can use to analyze how your website performs. There are invaluable insights that you can gain through the use of these tools. You should play around with these tools and develop an improvement strategy for your website. You would get to know which metrics to use based on the particular needs of your website.

Your website will go through a process of development that will hopefully show a constant improvement in all factors that are of importance at a particular time. Websites that are just starting will require a different set of analytic tools than those that are already performing well. You would choose which metric would be most helpful based on the present status of your website and the improvement strategy that you have adopted for your website.

I cannot assure you that your website will occupy the number one spot in your targeted keywords once you develop skills in these three areas. I can only promise that your website will have a better chance of performing well if you have found how these skills could be most effectively deployed in your own website.

January 15, 2012

Save Time and Get Value by Managing your Internet Surfing with Google Alerts

You go to the Internet once in a while to search for specific information related to the pressing problem that you are confronted with at the moment. You then use your intuition and common sense to make sense of the variety of information available and select the source that you think provides you with helpful and original data that can aid you in solving your problem. Most of the time, however, you don't have anything specific to search on and wander aimlessly from one site to another, without any direction at all. This could result in a complete waste of time with no valuable insight gained in your web surfing.

To be sure, big search engines allow you to customize a web page based on your interests. You can, for example, go to your own My Yahoo and customize the page based on what you're interested in and on what Yahoo can offer. You can pretty much do the same thing with Google and MSN. However, much of what the search engines are offering may not be suited to your liking or not particularly tailored to your needs. There is very little that you can do customize the information that you want to receive on a regular basis.

You wanted the variety and flexibility of information that you get when you do a search on your favorite search engine. You wanted the most popular and the most current information on your particular subject of interest. And you don't want annoying advertisements that you cannot remove from your customized portal page. Now, say goodbye to wandering aimlessly in cyberspace and to the limited flexibility in creating your customized search engine page. You can make most use of the limited time you have for Internet surfing by focusing on the specific topics that you want to be updated regularly on. If you have a Google email address, then you already have the only thing you need to stay on top of your topic of interest.

Go to www.google.com/alerts and logon with your Google email address. On the Create Alert page, try different search queries for your topic of interest and once you find the best results, go ahead and create a new alert for that topic. You can select what result type, how often you want to be alerted, and how many results you want to receive.

When you have had a few alerts already working, you can modify or remove alerts by clicking on the Manage your alerts button. Click on the Edit button to change any parameter for that particular alert. To remove an alert, put a check mark on the alert and click the Delete button. Make a new alert by clicking on the Create a New Alert button. Click on a search query to check on the latest results without using your email.

The key to getting the best quality information available is to carefully craft your search query to most closely match the information that you're looking for. Try the different formulations and permutations of your search query first and examine closely the initial results that Google Alerts gives you. When you have found the best initial results, you can go on and create an alert for that particular subject matter.

Use a few Google search operators to more precisely target the search results you are looking for. You can for example put your search query inside of double quotes to tell Google that you want the search phrase to appear exactly in the document that you are looking for. Putting a minus sign before a word in your search query tells Google to exclude documents where that particular word appears. To limit the search on a specific site, prepend your search query with site:. Look for more search operators that you can use by making a Google search for them.

Don't waste your time by just relying on what you can find in your customized portal page or your browser's home page. Use Google Alerts with your email to keep abreast of the latest developments in your areas of interest. If you feel you are getting off-tangent information from Google Alerts, you can always modify your search query to change the results you're getting. You can easily delete an alert that you think you're no longer interested on and create a new one that reflects your current needs.

January 2, 2012

Taking Notes or Outlining may be the Cure for Writer's Block

All writers have experienced it in one way or another. You just suddenly stop writing as your mind struggles on what to say next. It seems that your mind just switched off and no words seem to be forthcoming in the immediate moments. However, with the thousand-fold increase in the writings that we find in the Internet, writers seem to be succeeding in overcoming it.

Different writers of course will have different approaches to the persistent problem. And different writers may experience the malaise in different ways. For example, my main problem is I don't experience writer's block not as much as I write but before I even started writing. My problem seems to be more of lack of anything to write about than being lost on how a write-up can be completed.

One possible way of beating it is not to confront it. You can stop writing and shutdown your laptop but keep the thought of the write-up in your mind. Do something else that has no relationship whatsoever to what you were writing about. Work on another project that has nothing to do with the article you were working on. Let time replenish your mind with thoughts and ideas that may find their way in the written work that you are creating.

Other writers may simply stand up, go somewhere else, make a cup of coffee or tea, or just go outside and smoke a cigarette. Some will look for another person to talk with and strike a trivial conversation about inane topics of absolutely no importance at all. Writers who may prefer to be alone would just look for another chair on which to sit on and think of a funny thing that happened a long time ago and yet still does not fail to elicit a few good laughs.

Another possible solution is to erase one or more paragraphs that you were working on before the writer's block struck and start over from the last point that you were making. Sometimes this will work and the writer realizes that he was inadvertently led to a road that leads to a brick wall. This could sometimes feel a little bit difficult to do as you think of the wasted effort on writing the passage that you are about to delete. But most of the time, it is the only escape from being stuck and the deleted parts are the price that you had to pay for letting yourself go astray.

But the best cure that I could think of for this dreaded experience is to ensure that you would never fall into such a situation again ever. By having a nearly complete notes or a nearly full outline of the write-up that you're making, you can completely remove the causes that may unwittingly lead you face to face with writer's block. Experiencing writer's block is very much akin to going without direction and getting lost in the process. Arming yourself with a map drastically eliminates your chance of losing your way.

A nearly complete notes include everything that you want to cover in your write-up. By just looking at your notes, you feel confident that the resulting article will have enough substance to warrant being read by your audience. With a nearly complete set of notes, you can already visualize how your article would look like and how long it would be. You become surer that you would be able to cover everything that you want to say about the topic you have chosen to write on. This thought gives you confidence, diminishes the pressure to finish the article on time, and lets you relax while you're writing the article.

Having a nearly full outline not only makes you sure that you would be able to cover all the relevant points in your write-up but also gives you the general plan of how your write-up is going to proceed. Your outline firms up the structure of your write-up and determines the position of each thought or idea in the overall map of the article that you are creating. In every step of the way, you know where you are and you know where to go next. Thus, there is no way for you to get stuck except at the end of the write-up, after you have summarized your points and stated your conclusions.

Experienced writers dispense with making full notes or complete outline when making relatively short write-ups like articles that are intended for posting to the Internet. They are able to do this because they have mastered their craft so well that they never lose control of what they are doing. But for not so experienced writers like us, it may be a good idea to use tools like note-making and outlining to guide us as we traverse the wonderful world of writing.

Read my other article on writing faster and controlling the length of your web article with phrase outlining at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/write-faster-and-control-length-of-your.html.

Read my other article on writing an article for your website as much like packaging a gift for a dear friend at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/12/writing-article-for-your-website-is.html.

Read my other article on good ideas about writing as a mental process at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/03/good-ideas-about-writing-as-mental.html.

Read my other article on practical ways to improve your writing skills at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/11/practical-ways-to-improve-your-writing.html.

Read an article on what and how to write an article for your personal website at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-and-how-to-write-article-for-your.html.