FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Battletoads as Business Metaphor

Struggling daily deal site Groupon fired CEO Andrew Mason on Thursday. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. The company posted a terrible fourth quarter and the conventional wisdom has taken a dim view of Groupon’s business model for a while now.

Instead, the chatter focused on Mason’s epic farewell message. In it was found one of the surest signs yet that the Nintendo Generation has truly come of age: a reference to the ‘90s video game Battletoads.

Specifically, Mason compared his journey to the heights of entrepreneurial success – and subsequent fall – to making it to the infamous Terra Tubes level without dying. Wired unpacks the semiotics of Battletoads – and just what Mason meant – pretty well in this article. You can also check out Terra Tubes in their unedited glory on YouTube.

I never imagined I’d think about Terra Tubes again. Actually, that’s not true, because I’ve never even thought to think that I’d never think of Terra Tubes again.

But now that the memories are rushing back to me, I can’t come up with a better example of struggling against impossible odds in a ruthless digital world. My seven-year-old self aspired to defeat Battletoads above all other games. I even cleared Terra Tubes (although not without losing many, many lives first). But hey, the next level is called Rat Race (another great metaphor) and I never did beat Battletoads.inflatable air dancer

If the self-esteem movement brought us participation trophies and scoreless soccer, ‘90s video games were still there to teach children what it’s like to strive in the face of perpetual failure.

Not a bad lesson for budding entrepreneurs.

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Oh, the Things You can Print

They say you can find anything on the Web. Thanks to 3D printing, that’s truer than ever. The kinds of stuff you can download just got a lot cooler and, in some cases, much freakier.

For the uninitiated, 3D printing involves laying down successive layers of material – often plastic or a liquid resin – to create solid, three-dimensional objects. For now, these printers are mostly the domain of the tech-savvy DIY and Maker crowds because they’re great for rapid prototyping and other design projects, but the time is probably not far away when affordable desktop 3D printers will be available.

Put simply, sometime in the near future, it probably won’t be that unusual to print an iPhone case. Early adopters are already doing it.

Clients take note: If your business makes something – as in an actual, physical thing – 3D printing has the potential to change your industry. Forever. I’m talking as much as blogs and social media have changed this former print newspaper reporter’s trade.

How and when this happens are up for debate, but there are plenty of innovative companies in this space. MakerBot and Shapeways are two notable 3D printing companies based in New York.

But enough about the business end of things. It’s FreakyFriday, and you were promised freakiness. Well, 3D printing can deliver on that front, right in your home, in successive layers of resin. Here are three of the coolest, weirdest and/or freakiest things being done on 3D printers.

1) Your face. Or your mom’s face. Anybody’s, really.

This one probably wins. Tech blog Gizmodo had an article this week about Brooklyn artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg, who is printing theoretical 3D faces of strangers from their discarded DNA. That is, she’s lifting genetic material from cigarette butts, wads of gum and stray hairs found on the streets of New York, creating rough likenesses via computer based on ethnicity, age, gender and other factors and then printing them out.

And you thought Facebook’s facial recognition was freaky.

2) Magazines.

As in high-capacity gun magazines. Austin-based Defense Distributed is spearheading what it calls the Wiki Weapons project to develop printable firearms and ammunition. This week, Talking Points Memo reported on its IdeaLab blog that the organization demonstrated that it had successfully created a working, printable gun magazine be named in honor of New York’s pro-gun-control governor, Andrew Cuomo.

3) Human organs.

This one is still down the road, but, according to Mashable, Scottish scientists are working to create a 3D printer capable of replicating human organs via stem cells. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but for lack of a better sentence: Wow – science!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – The Great Norwegian Cheese Disaster

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

So, everybody knows that fat and sugar aren’t good for you in large quantities. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that they could be downright dangerous. And not just to a diet.

Yes, according to Reuters, some 27 metric tons of flaming cheese blocked a road tunnel in Norway as it burned for nearly a week. The fuel: a fatty, sugary Norwegian delicacy known as Brunost. It’s a caramelized, brown concoction made from the whey of goat’s milk, which doesn’t really make it cheese, according to the blog Nordic Nibbler.

Either way, it’s potent stuff – about 30 percent fat – and according to Norwegian officials, the high concentrations of fat and sugar make for a highly combustible mixture that burns like petrol.

Some other interesting Brunost facts via Nordic Nibbler:

– Brunost has a slightly salty, sweet flavor, but is reminiscent of goat cheese. Think of it as goat fudge.

– It’s best eaten as a spread – perhaps on a slice of bread or a waffle – although it can be used in a variety of recipes.

– Curious Americans can apparently find Brunost at certain Whole Foods locations sold under the Ski Queen brand, although I couldn’t find it via a quick search of the Whole Foods website.inflatable arches

Just don’t transport it in large quantities. That would be a serious fire hazard.

Photo Credit: Smabs Sputzer

 

 

How to Give Your Website a Checkup

Welcome to the depths of winter, iCopyInsiders. We hope everyone is staying healthy with flu season raging (don’t forget to wash your hands, folks). And of course, America’s own version of seasonal affective disorder is swiftly approaching with the end of football in two weeks.

As the weather gets dreary and frigid temperatures set in this week, it’s as good a time as any to stay indoors, heat up some soup and give your business website a checkup, as well.

And when we say checkup, we mean checking in on some of the key indicators of a healthy, vibrant website – one that potential customers will actually find on Google and other search engines.

Now, as we’ve written in the past, a successful content strategy takes a dedicated investment of patience, commitment and resources to see serious return on investment. But you don’t need to hire an expensive firm to get a basic idea of whether your site is doing well or poorly. There a number of free search engine optimization diagnostic tools that can give you a broad idea of how to improve your site’s SEO efforts.

Here are some of our favorite free diagnostic tools.

Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Both Google and Bing offer a ridiculously useful set of free tools for diagnosing the health of your website. Both of these should be a starting point for any site checkup, because they can be used to quickly see how the two search engines view your site, including the search terms customers are using to find it. They can also be used to figure out malware and website glitches such as crawl errors.

Copyscape

Google punishes duplicate content in its search rankings. And it’s no secret that plagiarism, whether you are aware that your content producers were committing it or not, is a guaranteed fast way to tank a reputation. That makes Copyscape – which scans the web for duplicate content – one of our go-to tools here at iCopywriter. We run everything that our writers produce through the service, but even if you’re an iCopy client, it’s worth checking out if you’re posting material on your own or from other bloggers.

Google Page Speed

Website load speed is an underrated factor in your search rankings. You don’t want to waste users’ time with a clunky, hard-to-load website. Also, they’re more likely to click away from a site that doesn’t load quickly. Luckily, Google has a set of Page Speed Tools that can be used to assess how quickly your website loads.

Site Grading Tools

There are a number of sites that can give you a quick, letter grade assessment of how your website is performing. We like HubSpot’s Marketing Grader. It’s a great resource for figuring out a few jumping off points for improving your website.

Social Mention

One of the big trends for 2013 will be social media’s increasing importance in search rankings. Bing is incorporating more Facebook chatter into its search results and Google Authorship is going to give more weight to socially influential content creators. Use search engines like Social Mention to get a quick feel for how and where your brand is registering on social media.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: FindYourSearch

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Of course, if you find yourself behind a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other glowing rectangle today, we’ve got you covered with our weekly reading list.

If you’re attending an Inaugural Ball tonight, you may even think about asking your social media butler to retweet a few of them.

Without further adieu, check out these SEO and copywriting links.

1. We harp on it a lot, but if you want further evidence that social content is becoming more and more relevant to search, HubSpot has a good article about how Bing is adding more Facebook content to its search results.

In other words, it’s a good time to clean up that company Facebook page.

2. Maybe I’m in a social media mood today, but I also liked this piece from Entrepreneur about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for search. You’ve got expertise, but can the people who need it find you online?

3. I initially chuckled at this new series from Copyblogger called The Writer Files, which will feature regular interviews with some of the Web’s foremost content producers. I mean, we’re not exactly The Lives of the Poets. But it’s actually an interesting window into what kind of workflow some of the Web’s best bloggers use.

4. I guess we have to give a nod to mighty Google because this is an SEO blog. Here’s an interesting piece from Slate about how the company keeps its employees happy with the world’s most sophisticated HR department.

5. Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a lazy Monday. I recommend reading (or rereading) Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the text of his immortal I Have a Dream speech. His words remain powerful, inspiring and even revolutionary.

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Let the Strangeness That is the Presidential Inauguration Commence

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Regardless of your politics, mega-events like next week’s Presidential Inauguration tend to bring out the weird. At its noblest, the inauguration is an inspiring symbol of the grandeur of the Republic and the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

But lest we forget, it’s also a giant party. Drunken revelers famously trashed the White House at Andrew Jackson’s, although history has long forgotten who committed the first presidential party foul. For real history geeks, the Senate website has a good rundown of inaugural highlights. My favorite so far: President John Quincy Adams’ precedent-setting decision to wear long trousers rather than knee breeches to his 1825 inauguration.

This year, of course, features its own quirks. Salon has a good slideshow of the most random inaugural souvenirs, including your very own inaugural dog sweater. In more urgent news, there is a looming shortage of Port-A-Potties for this year’s festivities.

And here we were thinking the Fiscal Cliff was a crisis.

But the winner for inaugural weirdness goes hands down to Victoria Devine, who is pioneering the job of social media butler as part of a lavish hotel inauguration package. The job is what you might expect. Devine tweets, sends Facebook updates and Instagrams the entire weekend – although hopefully no anguished statuses about searching the National Mall for a Port-A-Potty.

Although, come to think of it, that’s not a bad opportunity for crowdsourcing. Or maybe some kind of geo-tagging app.

Startup wizards, you know what to do.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: joewcampbell

 

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, friends. Now that you’re adequately caffeinated, it’s time for your weekly serving of brain food. This week’s Web roundup features the usual brew of the best SEO, social media and content conversations, plus the Monopoly guy getting ready to lay off his iron (or maybe the wheelbarrow).

1. Digital Journal asks some good questions about the future of SEO. Hint: Unique content is going to be as important as ever.

2. Even if you’re hiring an outside firm like iCopywriter, it’s worth knowing the nuts and bolts of search engine optimization. The ever-reliable Search Engine Journal has a good breakdown of online SEO resources for beginners.

3. On the social side, Pinterest isn’t just the land of cupcakes and tea cozies (although you can still find a lot of them there). If you’re interested in what the service can do for your company, check out HubSpot’s marketer’s guide as well as SmartBlog’s primer on Pinterest for business.

4. Fast Company has one of my favorite business articles of the week, about Dropbox employees taking a hike. Literally.

5. What do you think about this promotion? Hasbro is sending one of its iconic Monopoly tokens to jail for good, and it’s asking users to pick which game piece will get the boot. The boot, perhaps?

 

Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day – Tri-Freakta – The Hermit Kingdom Revisited, Smart Silverware and Digital Parenthood

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Man, 2013 is off to a weird start. So weird, in fact, that we’re bringing you a triple dose of FreakyFriday, all crammed into one freakishly compact post.

1. Google chief searches North Korea

First, the seriously freaky: In our last episode we touched on Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s visit to North Korea. As an update, Schmidt did right by Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” credo and called on the Hermit Kingdom and its leaders to embrace the Web.

I don’t know if anyone is hopeful that the world’s most authoritarian regime will find much use in supplying its people with a massive, open source of information that encourages personal expression. But, hey, somebody had to say it to Kim Jong-un’s face, because I don’t think the guy has a Facebook. Either way, Eric Schmidt walked around North Korea looking at things, which is apparently what you do in North Korea if you’re important, at least according to Tumblr.

2. The age of smart cutlery is here

The gadget powwow 2013 International CES was held in Las Vegas this week. In the last couple years it has actually been just as popular to write about why CES isirrelevant – and there is a strong case when Apple and Microsoft don’t even bother to attend – but, all the same, it’s usually good for at least a few interesting tech curios.

Our favorite this year: the smart fork. Yes, the HAPIfork is a utensil designed to help you lose weight by letting you know when you’re eating too fast. The HAPIfork is making at least some people sad. The news and culture site Salon declared that the smart fork is a sign that civilization is doomed. We’re not prepared to go that far, but hey, the fork goes back to at least the eighth or ninth century, and it’s been working pretty well ever since.

You should probably stick a fork in this idea, and into some healthy food, if you want to really lose weight.

3. Parenting 2.0

This is destined to become a question on Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me. A Chinese father, tired of his son playing video games instead of looking for a job, hired virtual hitmen to assassinate the kid’s character in online video games – the idea being that eventually he would get tired of constantly losing and quit playing.

It’s an ingenious example of crowdsourcing, but, alas, it didn’t work.

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Everybody shake off the holiday hangover? At least for me, the second week of January is when the year really feels like it’s getting underway (although, if you need a break, there is always football).

So, to get your brain revved up and back in the swing of things, here are five great reads out of the world of SEO, copywriting and one just for fun.

1. We’ve touched on some of these in the past, but there are some good reminders in this Entrepreneur piece about the five deadly sins of SEO and online marketing.

2. Does your website load quickly? It’s pretty important. Search Engine Journal explains why in this article about load speed.

3. Persuasive writing is the cornerstone of good copywriting. Copyblogger breaks down the five most persuasive words in the English language.

4. Cursive writing is becoming obsolete. Will we miss it?

5. We’re linking to this story on the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist on Businessweek for its amazing headline and because we love syrup.

Happy Monday and happy reading!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Google Chairman Reportedly to Visit the Hermit Kingdom

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

This week, we take you to a land where search engine optimization is nonexistent, but if it did exist, would probably land you in prison: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, better known to the world as North Korea.

The regime is, of course, seen as one of the most repressive in the world. Watch the VICE Guide to North Korea or the Sundance film selection Kimjongilia. Harrowing, bizarre and tragic stuff. Web access is limited to only a few dozen elite families, while the rest of the country’s computers operate on a closed, heavily monitored Intranet.

So, heads naturally turned when it leaked to the Associated Press that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt will be visiting the Hermit Kingdom as part of a humanitarian mission. And the U.S. State Department is not happy, especially given recent tensions with the nation over a December rocket launch.

It’s a tale of tech intrigue if ever there was one. The visit is being kept under wraps – the U.S. has no formal relations with North Korea – leaving most to speculate what the Google chairman will be doing in North Korea. According to the AP, it likely won’t be talk about search, or even business, but possibly information technology. Kim Jong-un is reportedly making a push to modernize the nation’s technology infrastructure.

What that would look like – if it could ever happen, as North Korea is currently constituted – is a question I’ll leave to the experts.

Google isn’t commenting – implying that any such visit, if it happened, would be personal travel. But the leader of the world’s most visible search company landing in the world’s most technologically isolated nation is a significant event. Technology has the power to open governments and give voice to the voiceless, but it can just as easily be used to monitor, harass and persecute.

Let’s hope Mr. Schmidt takes Google’s code of conduct to heart.