The Internet is Making Readers Out of All of Us

Over the years, we’ve heard so many people complain that the Internet is bad for our children. People aren’t reading enough books anymore, they say. Kids are writing in txt. And I’ve always pretty much thought it was hog wash.

Now there’s some science to back up my feelings. A recent article from LiveScience starts off:

“Widespread Internet use will actually improve the reading and writing skills of the world’s population, most experts agreed in a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.”

The article goes on to discuss a survey that indicates, among other things, that a lot of people believe that the Internet is actually making people more literate than ever before. And you know what? I buy it.

Has book reading declined over the years? I’m not sure. I think that a case could be made either way. But what I do think is true is that there are more people, especially young people, who are reading a variety of different material on a daily basis thanks to the accessibility of information on the Internet.

We have access to more information than ever before. Kids who would never have watched the news before have a general idea of what’s going on in the world because of updates on various sites including their favorite social networking sites. Kids who never would have written long letters to their friends are constantly articulating things to them online and via text messaging.

Yes, undoubtedly there are some drawbacks (as there would be with anything). Text and IM may hinder spelling abilities. At the same time, you have to admit that the fact that your computer tells you when you’ve spelled something wrong makes it a lot easier to see your errors and learn how to fix them. So, pros and cons, maybe, but I’m in the camp of people who thinks that the more people who are reading – whether they’re reading books or reading Twitter status updates – the better.

What do you think about this issue?


Learning About Hydraulic Hammers

One of the best things about the Internet is that it allows you to rapidly read up on a topic that you don’t know much about. I love this because it means that I can explore new interests without having to invest a lot of money (or even much time) in finding information about them. I think this lets me learn about things that I wouldn’t take the time to learn about otherwise.

One of the things that I’ve been researching recently is hydraulic hammers. Just a few short weeks ago, I didn’t know anything about hydraulic hammers. Now I have a really good understanding of the purpose of these tools (which are primarily used in the demolition of large buildings).

The hydraulic hammers that I’ve been looking at recently are Maverick Hammers. This company seems committed to providing high-quality demolition equipment at a fair price. They also provide tech support which I’ve learned is important since the average buyer wouldn’t know what to do if this type of heavy equipment wasn’t working properly.

What’s been really interesting for me about this research though has been the chance to learn about the issues related to manufacturing heavy equipment. One of the biggest issues seems to be the fact that a lot of this work has been outsourced to developing nations. This has put local workers out of jobs and created changes in the industry.

Maverick Hammers has been active in bringing the business back to the U.S. Reading about that has allowed me to learn about the things that U.S. businesses can do to reduce their own costs so that it’s cost-effective for manufacturing to take place here rather than being outsourced.

See what happens when you start to research something online. You start with one topic and end up learning a lot of other great information. Without access to the Internet, I might never have learned about these things!


Business Should Invest in SEO Training

Almost all businesses have websites. Businesses that want their websites to get noticed already know that they need to make sure that they use SEO / SEM practices to get the attention of online traffic as well as web search engines. It’s just a “must” in today’s business world.

Most businesses hire someone to handle their SEO for them. That is a really smart move since there are a lot of things involved in SEO. It’s really a full-time job to make sure that you’re staying on top of all of the content writing and social promotion that goes into promoting a website so that it stays active on the web.

However, businesses shouldn’t give the whole process over to someone else to handle for them. At least, not without knowing what the SEO situation is all about. A smart business person wants to be capable of doing the SEO work of (s)he has to even if (s)he plans on hiring someone full time to take care of the work.

For that reason, businesses should think about investing in SEO training. This is where an SEO company comes in and teaches you all about how to do proper SEO. This would empower the business to do some or all of its own SEO work if the company so desired. Empowerment is always good!


Find Friends on Niche Social Networks

We’re all using the major social networks today to stay in touch with people. Many of us are even meeting new people through these sites. However, it’s hard to form true friendships with strangers when you’re communicating on a huge network like Facebook or Twitter. People who are interested in really connecting with others online may find that the key to doing this is to work on niche social networks that really link you to people who share your interests.

For example, let’s say that you really enjoy shopping and saving money with online coupons. You can join the niche social networks on Internet coupon sites which allow you to connect with a community of people who all share these same interests. You’ll converse with them about this specific topic which allows you to really form a bond with these people. Your online conversations will be much more meaningful because you’re linked through something that you are truly interested in.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on niche social networks but you do like the idea of having these improved online connections then your best bet is to work with the groups that are available through sites like Facebook. By joining and participating in groups that reflect your interests, you can improve the quality of your Internet conversations and start to make long-lasting friends.


My Favorite Social Bookmarking Sites

People who do a lot of social bookmarking to promote their own web writing will almost always focus their efforts on promotion through Digg. While it’s true that Digg is a great tool for driving web traffic to a site, I tend to prefer to focus my efforts on smaller niche social bookmarking sites. These sites are easier to gain a following through and that following tends to be more highly focused on the areas about which I’m writing which means that the traffic that is generated through the site is targeted and tends to create longer-lasting followers of my work.

Three of my favorite smaller social bookmarking sites are Mixx, StumbleUpon and Tip’d. Mixx and StumbleUpon are relatively large for social bookmarking sites. They allow for general posts on a diverse range of topics but they are still considerably smaller than Digg which makes it easier to use them to drive traffic to specific types of articles. Mixx has a really great setup for its groups which helps the community feel smaller than it is (in a positive way). Tip’d is a niche social bookmarking site specifically for finance topics which I find to be useful when promoting those types of articles.

I also used to really like Hugg when it was around – it was a great place for sharing articles on green topics – but apparently it couldn’t stand the test of time and ended up fading away. That’s one risk that you run when you use smaller social bookmarking sites. The same thing seems to have happen with Wordsy which was the only books and writing focused niche social bookmarking site I knew of. Which sites do you use?


SmartChick at Yahoo! Answers: Online Scams

I spend a lot of time online. When I say a lot, I mean more than the average person. On any given day, I probably find myself online for a minimum of ten hours. Sometimes quite a bit more. This is due to the fact that I work online as well as play online.

Because I spend so much time online, I’ve had to learn a lot about being safe online. I know about every aspect of this from protecting myself from identity theft online to being aware of crazy online predators. And I also know a lot about online scams.

Perhaps that’s why I was able to successfully and thoroughly answer this question on Yahoo! Answers about avoiding scams when doing online shopping. I hope the tips that I gave were useful not only to the asker who chose my answer as the best one but also to others who stumble across the question.


My Love / Hate Use of Twitter (or How Twitter is Like Las Vegas)

I am active on Twitter. I post to Twitter daily. I have four different RSS feeds that add my blog content to Twitter throughout the day. I have about 400 Twitter followers and follow about that many people. I am starting to make use of Twitter clients and Twitter tools like TweetDeck. I link my Twitter account in various ways to other social networking sites that I’m on.

And yet, the fact of the matter is that I don’t love Twitter. Or maybe I do.

For the most part, I don’t enjoy Twitter. I don’t like the format that it’s in because it seems messy and complicated and overwhelming. Even with the use of Twitter clients, I don’t find Twitter to be friendly on the eyes (or the brain). I also don’t like that Twitter seems to be most effective as a tool for blog traffic if you’re following tons of people but that means that you’ve got to look at Twitter updates every few seconds because there are so many people posting all of the time.

But there’s definitely something that draws me to Twitter. It’s addictive. It’s interesting. I can see what people are thinking about all of the time. I get links to information that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. I feel connected to the world around me by virtue of the fact that we’re chatting online even though I see a level of superficiality to all of that online communication.

You know, come to think of it, my love/hate relationship with Twitter is a lot like my love/hate relationship with the city of Las Vegas. I don’t like Las Vegas much. It’s overstimulating and overwhelming and superficial in so many ways. But I go to Vegas fairly often because it’s a convenient vacation, most of what I want from a trip can be found there and the benefits of traveling there sometimes outweigh the negatives of the experience. Now if only Twitter had showgirls and slots … you know, I bet if I looked around, it might.


Be Smart About Avoiding Online Scams

I am often surprised by the fact that people continue to get trapped by online scams. I’m astounded that anyone would ever answer a Nigerian bank request in their email or click through on a highly promotional ad for genital enhancement or go ahead and call up to see if they’ve really won the lottery like that computer is telling them that they did. Because I am online so much, I am familiar with these online scams and I ignore their attempts to snag me. I assume that others do as well until I read about those people who are still getting scammed online.

Because I am online so much, I may be able to avoid these scams but I also do realize that the scammers are getting better and better at what they do. They are learning tricks to get even people like me by looking legitimate in what they’re doing online. It’s tough to avoid them sometimes. That’s why it’s important that we arm ourselves with knowledge about how to not get scammed online.

There are many basic things that the average Internet user can do to avoid online scams. Learning to ignore those emails and popups are a big part of the picture. Increasing computer security and trusting your gut instinct on the Internet are also things that we need to be doing. Make sure that you’re aware of the scams that are out there and that you do what you can to avoid them. You’re not only helping yourself but also making it harder for the scammers to stay in business which ends up helping all of us.


Launch of Google Voice

One of the things that is making headlines this week in the tech world is the launch of Google Voice which is a series of voice services that serve as an upgrade to a phone service that Google acquired a couple of years back. The original service, GrandCentral, served the purpose of uniting all of your phone calls and voice mail messages under one number. The new advanced features of Google Voice take that one step further.

Basically, the idea behind GrandCentral was that you could use one phone number for the rest of your life and it would reach you at different cell phones and landlines around your world. This streamlines your calling. Google Voice has added some interesting new features that further streamline your voice calls and messages to make life easier for you in terms of communication.

The main cool addition is that Google Voice will turn your voice messages into text message transcripts. This means you can read them instead of listening to them. It also means that you can archive them and then have the ability to search through them again later. This seems great on a personal level and also might be good in terms of legal or business issues that come up … if you can always go back and search for the thing that someone told you on a message then you always have proof of what was really said. Cool stuff!

Learn how to sign up for Google Voice.


Using Twitter and TwitterFeed

I’m still trying to get the hang of using Twitter. I really didn’t like the site when it first came out. However, since it was the online social networking tool that everyone was using, I realized that I needed to get on board if I was going to keep staying in touch with the people who I communicate with online. I signed up for an account and started playing around with it.

The truth is that I’m still adjusting to Twitter and I don’t know if I like it much yet. I feel like I don’t quite “get it”. I have a hard time staying on top of conversations with people on the site since updates are so frequent. But the more I use it, the more I get used to it so it gets easier to understand which makes me like it a little bit more.

One of the things that made me feel like the site had gotten easier to use was discovering TwitterFeed. Before discovering that tool, I was trying to update Twitter manually with all of my various blog posts and articles. It was time-consuming and kind of felt like a waste of time.

Now that I use TwitterFeed, the posts update automatically to Twitter. This way, I can use my time on Twitter to actually respond to people and to post updates that I actually specifically want to share with my Twitter friends.

I’m still learning the best tools for communicating on the site. I’m still playing around with when to use @Replies and when to use direct replies. But I’m getting there. Anyone who has specific tips on the use of Twitter in conjunction with blogging is more than welcome to comment here!