Monday, December 01, 2014

Live Long and Prosper This Cyber Monday

Happy Cyber Monday.

The Cyber Monday phenomena occurred early in the evolution of ecommerce when few people had home computers. Workers would window shop on Black Friday, then buy the items they wanted on the Monday following Black Friday. Some ecommerce shops saw more sales on the Monday following Black Friday than on Black Friday.

Home Internet access is now common and the Cyber Monday effect has vanished, but ecommerce shops use the day to launch their holiday shopping season.

While the focus of Cyber Monday is big ecommerce, it is actually quite easy for small blogs and web sites to get in on the action.

Today, I want to look at a company called "Prosperent" of Denver.

Prosperent might best be described as a link aggregator. They have affiliate relations with over 4000 leading merchants. If you join the program you can make commissions on sales from any of these 4000 sites which list several hundred thousand products. (I will write a program to list all the merchants after I finish this post)

With prosperent, you join just one affiliate program and can get commissions from over 4000 of the top ecommerce sites!

Prosperent has a referral program. If you join Prosperent through this link and end up making sales; I will get some sort of reward.

After you join prosperent and are approved, they will give you a public and private API key. My public key is 44b70e82e2cec9e8e105be57e63664ab.

The links have the awkward format:

http://prosperent.com/api/linkaffiliator/redirect?apiKey=44b70e82e2cec9e8e105be57e63664ab&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zappos.com

The link above goes to Zappos.com which sells shoes. I can link to any of the 4000 web sites listed at Prosperent just by replacing www.zappos.com with the merchant's URL.

I can also link to individual products. The sample below links to Burton Snowboards. The program will look up all merchants that sell such boards and send me to a random merchant.

http://prosperent.com/click/api/phraselinker/apikey/44b70e82e2cec9e8e105be57e63664ab/sid/12345/phrase/Burton+Snowboards

Prosperent has a full API. I could write a program that queries all of the stores carrying Burton Snowboards and list them by price.

The Prosperent site has full documentation for the links and API. If you decide to join, let me know and I will send you some PHP code for accessing the API. Click Here to Join Prosperent.

I am highlighting Prosperent today for two reasons. One is I want to see what happens if someone joins the program through my link. The second reason is that Prosperent highlights one important aspect of affiliate markets.

There are thousands upon thousands of merchants playing the affiliate game. It is easy to join the programs. Because there are so many you can usually find online ad programs to help fund your web site without having to cowtow to the merchants.

Lets say you came across a product that you really liked. You could write a review about the product. Put up an ad next to the product and you might make some money.

Lets say I wanted to sell Lego building blocks from my web page about building a Lego castle. I simply create a prosper ad block using the code.

<script type="text/javascript">
  var _prosperent = {campaign_id: '132654ea61dc9841adda5d3e22e944ad'};
</script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="//prosperent.com/js/prosperent.js"></script>
<div class="prosperent-pa" style="width:480px;height:360px;" pa_sid="blog" pa_topics="lego"></div>


Prosperent produces an ad for a merchant selling Lego blocks that looks like:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Business Saturday

Happy Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday is an advertising gimmick dreamed up by American Express in 2010. The event takes place on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday as a way to work small businesses into the holiday sales mix.

There is a little irony in the fact that Small Business Saturday was created by one of the thirty stocks in the DOW Industrial Average. I guess we are also suppose to glance over the fact that a large number of small businesses are closed on Saturday.

Here is an interesting historical note: In the 1980s AMEX wanted to expand in the financial service sector. It acquired Shearson, Lehman Brothers Loeb, EF Hutton and other firms to create a leading brokerage system which it spun off in 1995. So, the multinational that created Small Business Saturday had created one of the investment banks that went belly up in the 2008 financial crisis.

In the last few years, small business has gotten smaller, but it is good to have events that recognize the role that small business plays in the economy.

I realized early on that small business plays a central role in the economy and that small business was getting systematically squeezed out. What I've done through the years is to create and maintain a collection of local directories under the brand Community Color. These directories give free links to small local businesses. I fund the directories through the affiliate programs of big ecommerce shops.

So, the directories will have free links to all of the small shops and an affiliate link to Walmart ... the employees of Walmart are members of the community too.

The directories get 5000 page views a day but the affiliate programs no longer collect enough money to pay the hosting fees.

I have directories for Utah (where I live), Colorado (my home state) and one for Arizona.

I admit, I have a rather quaint idea about community. I believe that everyone in a community should be considered part of the community ... even if they don't belong to the State's religion.


The idea behind local directories is that people could link to the directories and help support independent businesses in their community.

As you see, the whole point of the internet is links. If we want small businesses to succeed in the information age; small business has to be linked in. The best way to link them in is other small businesses.

My directories link to all the businesses, blogs, charities, government agencies and church groups that I can find.

I've been working on the directories since 2000.

Sadly, In 14 years I've yet to have anyone express even passing interest on the Utah directories. (There is some interest in the Colorado and Wyoming Directories. I happen to be a third generation Coloradan. My ancestors moved to Denver in the late 1800s.)

Anyway, Let's say you wanted to do something for small business this small business Saturday and you lived in Grand Junction. You could write a blog post that included a link to gjct.com. This would send a little bit of web traffic in the direction of Grand Junction businesses. A miniscule amount of traffic might go to the affiliate programs that fund the site.


If you aren't in a small business mood. I have tumblr galleries with pictures of Arizona, Colorado and Utah as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Age Plus Plus

I needed a quick birthday jingle for a data geek; so I tapped out this to sing after the Happy Birthday Song:

Age plus plus; update; commit;
The years spin round and round.
Age plus plus and so it goes
We're happy you're in town.

I assume programmers prefer age++ to "Happy Birthday" since incrementing the age variable is more efficient than legacy birthday systems.

Anyway, geeks seem to appreciate the age plus plus bit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Salt Lake Startup Weekend

I was getting prepared for the Salt Lake Startup Weekend scheduled for tomorrow. I logged on to check the address for the event. To my dismay, the program was moved back a week to avoid conflicts with Labor Day Weekend.


Scheduling startup weekend for the Labor Day Weekend was not the best move. People who are working on start ups often have to give up holidays. Giving up Labor Day didn't register as a concern for me, but it may have reduced participation.

Delaying the event might prove to my advantage.

I plan on giving a pitch related to the recreation industry.

The pitch is the type of thing that might appeal to students. So, I am really happy about the change in venue from an office downtown to the Junior Achievement section of Discovery Gateway. If you are young and want to make a little money in recreation, I have a great opportunity.

So, the more I think about it, I am happy with the change in time and location of the event.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Denver Color Crosses Million Hit Mile Marker

My directory for the Mile High City (Denver Color)  just crossed the million mark. The directory has 4300 active links. I've deleted 1380 broken links through the years.

Sadly, a million hits doesn't mean much in Internet speak. My ad revenue has fallen to about four dollars for every hundred thousand page views. Fortunately, the most popular page on the site is the shopping directory which is the one page that has the most potential.

To celebrate crossing the million hit mark, I created a page about the the founding of Denver. My original hope was to add a large number of pages about local history, but without an adequate funding source, I've been unable to accomplish that task.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Startup Weekend

I just plunked down $50 to attend the August 28th Start Up Weekend in Salt Lake City. I am going to pitch an idea and I am hoping beyond reasonable hope that there will be a few people at the event wanting to jump in on the ground level of a really fun low cost opportunity with a tremendous upside.

My big fear is that the event will be overloaded with idea pitchers and few working bees. Even worse, I fear that winning pitches are decided before the event, in which case I will be left brooding at an empty table.

But who knows. There might be people there wanting to coach start ups or others attending the event to network in which case I might succeed in starting up a business.

I will have only a minute for my pitch, but my pitch is strong and offers a world class opportunity for all takers. (HINT: It involves playing games, taking photos and traveling. Imagine making money to help pay for travel!)
 
If you are wanting to get in on the ground level of a multi-billion dollar new industry; You should sign up for the Salt Lake Startup Weekend on August 28th. If you are going there to pitch an idea; don't bother, as everyone will be flocking to my idea and you will be left brooding at an empty table.

PS: If you don't want to spend the money on the weekend but still want to get in on the opportunity, could just contact me and I will deal you in. If I find support at Startup Weekend, I will be hosting free events after the Startup Weekend.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Independent Web is Failing

I've been building independent community directories since 1999. To my dismay, I've seen the vast majority of small independent web sites fail.

The failure is not limited to poorly designed, content free sites. Well designed and content rich sites are failing as fast as other sites.

The reason for this high fail rate is simple:: No-one links to small independently owned sites.

The web is all about links. If no-one links to you, then you fail.

For some odd reason, people simply are not willing to link to small independent sites.

I want people to succeed.

I figured that the best solution to this problem of rapidly failing sites is for people like me to create and maintain dedicated local directories. I created a selection of directories for the Mountain West with town centric sites that cover Arizona, Colorado and Utah.

My site for Grand Junction is gjct.com. My site for Moab is iMoab.com. These directories actively seek out local sites. The open directories list every site I can find (with the exception of pornography and hate sites). The directories include free links to small businesses, blogs, churches, and campaign sites from all parties. I list a ton of independent photo sites, artist web sites and more.

The idea behind an independent directory is that people who want to support locally focused web development can link to the directory without all of the hassles involved in maintaining a directory.

Maintaining a links page is a big hassle. As mentioned, sites have a high fail rate. Through the years, I've listed 10,000 links on Salt Lake Sites. I've pulled out 4000 broken links so far. There are still several hundred broken links among the 6000 links listed on the directory.

Unfortunately, independent local directories are bound to the same fate as all independent sites. If no-one links to the directory, then the directory fails.

That said, I still think that small, independent, locally focused community directories are still the best hope for maintain a vibrant web full of diverse ideas.

By linking to an independent directory, one supports the local community with a minimal amount of effort.

I think I've done a fairly good job of linking to a rich selection of sites in the Community Color directories.  These directories focus on the Mountain West. I fund the site by linking to affiliate programs by the big chain stores. I have links to Walmart.com. My Walmart affiliate links have pulled in $130 in revenue which helps me cover my webhosting fees. I clearly mark all the affiliate links..

Because the links go through the affiliate program, the links to the chains are seen by search engines as advertisements and not as organic links. The revenue does not detract from the local focus as much as one imagines.

Many pundits are predicting the demise of locally focused directories and geodomains. But, I believe that, in the long run, such sites are still the best hope for maintaining a robust independent local web. I would encourage anyone reading this post to search out and support independent local directories in their community.

It is very simple exercise. Google your town and the word "directory." I Googled "Salt Lake Directory." Not surprisingly, my site (Salt Lake Sites) no longer shows up in Google's listing. What really disappoints me is that, in 20 pages of listings, I found only one inclusive local directory.

I found multiple cookie cutter sites that reprint the Yellow Pages and White pages. There are a few associations that show only links to members of the association, but the search term "Salt Lake Directory" no long pulls up any independent inclusive directories.

There used to be 20 or more good locally owned geodomains for the valley. They locally focused geodomains have all been systematically purged by Google. The fact that my site was purged just tells me that I haven't done a good job. The fact that all independent geodomains have been purged tells me something is wrong with Google.

The last few years have been hard on small business. If you happen to be a supporter of small independent businesses, a positive step that you can take is to drop links on your blog or web site to geodomains that link to small businesses and independent sites.

The heart of HTML is the hyper-link. Linking to independent sites is something that we can all do to help encourage independent web development and small business.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Going Live with Local Deals

I stumbled on a company called "Prosperent" out of Denver.. This is a technology company that aggregates data for affiliate marketers. They have a huge database of products and deals from thousands of merchants.

I am interested in developing Geodomains in the mountain west. At this point the domains are basically a local directory and calendar. My problem is that I haven't found a way to fund the sites. If I can't fund the sites, I can't expand them.

So, I decided to try Prosperent API to see if I can make some compelling ads.

The API includes an interface for searching local deals. So, I made a local deals search engine for each of the sites. Here are entry points to the search by state: Arizona, Colorado and Utah. If you go to the state site, you will see a list of local communities. Simply press the Search button next to the community name and you will see the local deals.

I will receive commissions from local searches. Affiliate Networks report that earnings for local deal sites run from one to two pennies per click. I am hoping to get about 2000 searches year at and make $0.02 per click which would be $40/year income. I have my fingers and toes crossed. A more realistic expectation is 200 searches per year generating an average of penny per click, which would be below the minimum payment threshold meaning no money.

I don't expect the local deals to be enough to pay my hosting fees but, if I combine local deals with other  efforts, the sites might return to a state where the income covers the hosting fees ... which run about $100 a month.

The reason I went through the brain drain adding a local deals database to my sites is that I believe that it would enhance what I am doing with the sites. I am trying to create a structure in which local sites can get some traffic outside the huge search engines that dominate the market. The Local Deal sites allow local merchants and restaurants to list coupons and deals. LocalSaver gives a site a direct link along with the coupon.

BTW: I also have sites for Missoula and Cheyenne.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New URL CoDir.us

The URL colorado.CommunityColor.com was too long, so I bought a new short URL for my Colorado directory project. The URL is CoDir.us.

ArizonaColor.us is my directory for the Grand Canyon State and UtahColor.com for the Beehive State.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Embedding SVG

SVG is a graphic presented in text. It is possible to embed SVG in any site that allows you to post large blocks of HTML. This post tests this idea. This is a map of Arizona embedded in this blog post. If your browser supports SVG, you will see a map of the counties of Arizona. If not, you see something strange in a 500x584px box.

Gila Apache Navajo Cochise Coconino Yuma Mohave Yavapai Pinal Pima (Tucson) Maricopa (Phoenix) Greenlee La Paz Graham Santa Cruz Shape files from Wikicommons which were derived from TIGER

Monday, February 10, 2014

SVG Maps

I want to start including advanced features from HTML 5 in my web projects. I am interested in using SVG for graphing and mapping applications; So, I just added an SVG map of Arizona Counties to the front page of Arizona Color. Unfortunately, older browsers such as internet explorer 8 do not render SVG; so I put the graph below the fold.

SVG is a human readable and editable file format. This means one can build graphs from very simple shape files and manipulate them on the fly. For this graph, I copied the shape files from a public domain document on Wikipedia. The data for the file came from the US Census Bureau's TIGER project. So, the next step is to decipher the TIGER Data. Unfortunately, while the TIGER data is public domain, it is stored in a proprietary format.

Anyway: Here is the map.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Trailer Park with a View

If blogspot is considered a low rent district on the Internet; I think one should call Tumblr the Trailer Park of the Internet.

Like blogspot, the rent is cheap (free). The neighbors on tumblr are noisy and hooting it up all day with many engaged in "Not Safe for Work" activities. But if you can ignore the noise, Tumblr has a pretty view.

The site is set up for photo sharing.

Tumblr was designed for the world's creators. Designers (and the public at large) post their photos and media creations. Tumblr addicts "like" or "reblog" the photos they like. The best photos get hundreds of thousands of hits. Most get only a few page views:

I just happen to live in one of the prettiest places on earth: The Mountain West. So, I decide to make tumblr blogs for the states of the Mountain West. The blogs cover the following areas:
Each of these blogs contain a large number of photos from the state (about 500 photos a piece). My hope is that some traffic from Tumblr might find my collection of local directories.

The challenge of tumblr is that most people using the platform only look at sites from their dashboard. Since there are millions of blogs on the site, your actual blog will only get a few posts.

A year into this effort, I am seeing about 1 person per day visiting the blogs.

I thought about putting hit counters on each of the site, then having a race to see which gets the most hits. Since the blogs get very few views, I realized I'd be showing failure stats, not success states; So, I did something even more nefarious. I put ads on the site. Ads have internal hit counters.

Most people hate ads. But the most common conversation in the trailer park is: "How do we get out of this trailer park?" Ads are pretty much the only legal way to make money off the Internet.