What’s That Microsoft?

how often do you find yourself getting to a website these days and something is asking you to install ActiveX or something else? What is happening and why is it necessary?

(Yes – I’ve changed this entry. I dug a bit and it got more interesting.)

I’ve been on my hobby horse recently about the majors (and indeed web users oursleves) paying lip serving to “taking privacy seriously” but then going through a wholesale move in the other direction, I have been getting more and more concerned about little messages when reading web pages that ask me to install extra bits of software.

The most common is “ActiveX” at the moment, but others seem to be coming out of the woodwork all over the place. Microsoft seem to be behind most of them… “Silverlight” is a new alternative to flash – but since it requires me loading software, who’s checking that  the software is protecting my rights? But at least I know what “Silverlight” is. Yesterday I downloaded a web page and found Microsoft installing new stuff . What does Microsoft think I should do when something called “data access services” is requesting access to my computer?

.Microsoft Installing New stuff

My suspicions that all the players are paying lip-service to privacy is more than a little reinforced when we hear that W3C had to publish its Platform for Privacy Policy (PP3P) recommendations without Browser support. The P3P Specification Working Group took this step as there was insufficient support from current Browser implementers for the implementation of P3P 1.1. That is an appalling state of affairs. W3C’s members (the ones that refused to back the policy) include Google, Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft.

DoubleClick’s Personal Privacy Invasion

In the light of the British Government losing the Bank and National Insurance records of half the population, my mind cannot help but return to the corporate identity theft issues on our very doorstep. At SMX London the other day, the engines reiterated their commitment to protecting personal identities, but the truth is very different. Take Next’s website, for example – Indeed you can possibly take any website using the DoubleClick advertising platform that Google is trying to buy. Here’s what happens to me on EVERY PAGE of Next’s website at the moment:

Doubleclick security problem

This happens to me all over the web… and long may Spybot Search & Destroy keep picking up these invasions of privacy. What is happening here is that DoubleClick is trying to track my (personal) behaviour across multiple websites by setting third party cookies. In other words… it is one thing for Next to be able to know how I interact with their brand, but it is quite another for DoubleClick to be able to match that up with what toothpaste I bought or what concert I went to last week.

The future of online advertising and marketing is moving inextricably towards this profiling of your habits and interests. The new Facebook Social Advertising platform was a case in point. I am now able to target (and I quote from my Facebook campaign):

“liberal and moderate women between 18 and 65 years old in the United States who like acting, agatha christie, diagnosis murder, dressing up, gaming, going parties, murder by death, murder by numbers, murder she wrote, party, partying, partys, playing games, sherlock holmes, or theme parties.”

Put it another way… if you are trying to recruit a sadistic, murdering ex-con with suicidal tendencies… Facebook probably knows how to touch base with them.

People where saying that Microsoft were mad to value Facebook at $15 billion when they bought 5% the other week. But that’s not all they bought. They bought exclusive rights to the advertising platform and that – presumably – means they have access to this API data. That’s valuable I would say! They have all the information they need to profile a widget building republican from Ohio without any risk of being sued for using it. Sure, someone can sue Facebook – providing they can wade though Facebook’s privacy policy but I doubt more that a dozen of Facebook’s millions upon millions of users read that lot when they signed up!

DoubleClick, however, may be altogether more sinister in my opinion. My guess is that many of the sites using DoubleClick have their own attitudes towards privacy. Next’s starts with: “Next Directory take on-line security very seriously”. I doubt the lawayer writing that had any idea that Next had effectively sold their user data down the river by using DoubleClick. In fact… They talk about all sorts of things in their policy, but not about DoubleClick:


Now I know what you are thinking… 

  1. I am going to get letters from lawyers of Next and DoubleClick? well – maybe – but I think they should work towards a solution, not start with idle threats, because I didn’t fake those screenshots.
  2. You are saying that you’d NEVER do a thing like that.

Oh yeah?

  • what tracking system are YOU using?
  • What ISP are you using?
  • What WiFi connection are you accepting visitors from?
  • What Plugins are you recommending?

Nobody is taking personal privacy seriously – let alone ourselves. Big Brother is now pretty well anyone willing to pay for the data and yet we all point the finger and say “but that wasn’t MY fault”. In the meantime, I buy the Facebook profile targeted adverts and still try to claim I’m a white hat SEO. In the meantime – I’ll let you know if Next or Doubleclick or Facebook would like me to modify this post.

SEO Presentations Diary

Quick update on where I plan to be over the next few months.

Pubcon: 4th-7th December 2007 Las Vegas. I am moderating on a few sessions and also I am repeating the “Link Clinic” that got a bit of attention last year.

SES London: 19th-21st February 2008. I was down to do some training, but that seems to have gone by the by. I’ll still be there if Mike gives me a break! Mind you… the 21st is my 10th wedding anniversary, so I’ll be leaving promptly for the weekend!

SES New York: 17th-20th March 2008. Again, I’m hoping to be doing a training session and with a bit of luck a presentation. It’s always a long way to go without an engagement of some kind to woo the directors at Receptional with. But then Alan’s parties are to die for.

SEO traps in WordPress

Using Wordpress for SEO may not be the weapon you think if you use it with only half an eye on SEO.

WordPress may not be the SEO weapon you think if you use it with only half an eye on SEO. Out of the box, WordPress is great, but what tends to happen is that people start to use it without setting it up first for good SEO. In doing so, they are starting to create something that cannot easily be repaired. Even when you are all set up correctly – if you are anything like me  you may find yourself getting every new post interpreted by the engines incorrectly if you pess that “Publish” button too fast. Here’s some of the traps I noticed when setting up dixonjones.com last week.

1. I ignored the site that was there before. I had rather poor site up at dixonjones.com for about a decade. Written in Front Page 97 as I recall. Only about 10 pages of not very useful stuff – but it had link juice, for sure, and I ignored my own advice to 301 l the internal pages on the old site to the best new equivalent. As such, I am slowly bleeding link juice now that I have deleted pages that were of value. The result is links into 404 messages from around the world. I can (and will) fix that now, but once done, there is a slowly irrecoverable loss of link juice until it is fixed.

2. Fixing the Friendly URL settings before you start writing. There are many ways to ensure the URLs in WordPress are extremely SEO friendly. None of them are the “Quick SEO fix” that WordPress offers out of the box. For me, you need to set up something a bit dangerous. The danger being that if you write two posts with identicle titles, you will break WordPress.   I was debating the ideal wordpress URL with Mikkel the other week and he fixes this by adding “-idno” (e.g. article 677 on this article) to the end of the url, where 677 is the database article number. I, however, went for the juggular, So my urls for the permalinks incorporate the category and the page title (or a slug if I am less lazy). That themes the articles much better, but offers no safety net. Others use the date, but that’s a poor excuse for a theme in my view. My solution, though brings me on to problem 3…

3. I should have thought up the categories BEFORE starting to write stuff. There is a feeling that WordPress is forgiving, that you can have every post uncategorized and then sort that out later. But that’s not very clever. When you publish an article, Google scans it in seconds. Seconds! the damage of publishing an article without setting up the categories first is instant. Even if you change the category just a minute later, Google has already often made its crawl and put a page in the index. If you change the category in WordPress, then (assuming you have SEO friendly URIs like I have set up) you change the URI when you change the category. Now you have another page indexed in Google that will return a 404. The damage in 30 seconds… one more 404.

I’m sure there’s many other traps. These three are good ones to start with!

The Outlook of the web for Marketers

Here are the slides from Dixon’s presentation at the Affiliates 4U event last month. Thanks to all the people that showed up, including: Andre Alpar; Mike; Sebastien Lahtinen; Robert Kelly; Alison Beaven; Andrew Champion; Mike Hampton; Sue Carter-Phillips; Richard Guttfield; Tim Taylor and others.

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If anyone’s links are wrong – please let me know.


New Facebook Social Ads Review

I saw that Facebook today (or was it yesterday?) launched a new advertising platform. Well – two actually – but the first is called “social advertising” and I managed to get my first ad campaign running on a PPC basis in about 10 minutes flat. Some observations and screenshots along the way for anyon interested. I have also put all the links through my own affiliate tracking software, so after a few weeks I’ll be able to tell you some conversion data as well.

 The first great thing is that Facebook makes it even easier to target specific demographics and interest groups. I started off with a massive audience (everyone in the United States) but soon decided to target my adverts to women – because they tend to buy my murder mystery games more than men – by about 2:1. I was also forced to choose one country (BOO… don’t you know I’ve sold a murder mystery games to the Antartic Expedition via the web? I really HAVE targeted every continent!) but I guess I can set up other adverts for other regions in due course.

I could also type in keywords and interest groups popped up as I went. Here is the targeting I ended up with – how “plain English” is that? I AM impressed. 

Facebook Targeting

So now I have set up my target audience and limited to 125,480 people across America. I’ll get the Brits and the Canadians and the Aussies on the next few passes. Right – what was next?

Next was writing the advert – and to my joy I was allowed to upload an image! The text and layout of the advert came alive on the screen. Unfortunately it didn’t give me much clues as to how many letters I could use and it turns out that if your domain is more than 20 letters long (mine was www.murdermysterygames.net) then you won’t be able to use it in your text creative.

Here was the advert creative Screen – again really simple:

How an Advert looks in Facebook

And then game the pring and payment. I was again delighted. I can choose between PPC OR CPM based delivery and I can set the maximum PPC. They are not starting greedy – the default is 10 cents but the minimum is 1 cent. (I went cheap, on the basis that I was likely to be early on the band wagon).

One error or bug here. You are allowed to set campaign start and end dates. I tried to do this – giving myself a great run from now until well after Christmas, which is my peak season for Murder Mystery Parties. The campaign system only allows me to run a campaign up to 30 days in the future. WHOOPS 🙁 “shome mishtake Shurely???” as we say in fashionable London clubs). Never mind – I went for full delivery and set the budget at $50 a day. I figure that if they give spend that at 3 cents a click I’m on a winner! I expect I may have to raise the CPC bar a bit soon. Here’s the pricing screen options:

 Facebook Pricing Screen

And that was it! My advert is now up and running (OK – I had to get the credit card out too). I’m tracking every click to sale, so let me know if there’s any questions you’d like me to report on.

Presentations from A4U and SMX Stockholm

I promised to get about four presentations up and I am a bit behind. Luckily, my new trusted aide, Michelle Moroney, is going to help me get this all a bit more organized by the end of the week. I owe you:

  1. My airy fairy talk in the future of the internet 
  2. Cutting Edge Linking tactics
  3. Search in a Universal world


E3 is a must in the Nimzo-Indian

I am learning very late in life that you need to learn the theory, not just think for yourself. Case in point on the ICC yesterday when I played a set of moves I always thought was obvious as white: 1.d4  e6 2: c4  Nf6 3:Nc3 Bb4 4:Bd2 d5 (Diagram below).  


Well – Dasher’s crafty had already been suggesting e3 instead of Bd2 on the previous move, but with a score of 0.01 at the moment it looks OK. That score, though, was assuming that I did do e3 this time round. Ignoring e3 now was an immediate disaster. I chose 5: cXd5 and guess what crafty thought of that?


Well – after 58.1 Million nodes tested, it gave a bit of a no-no. But if you are like me and a very average human chess player, the situation is much worse. Crafty was still saying -0.5 until it got thought that far down. Either way, not doing e3 was the start of a slippery slope. I lost.

Moral for the average player (like me): Develop at the opening instead of sacking things half-cock.

How to Analyse Chess Games

how I go about analyzing my online chess games after the event

I’m really no expert at Chess, but I think I have figured out how to go about analyzing my online chess games after the event. Reading games in newspapers is one thing, but it hurts my brain to be honest. But by using “Dasher” to play my games on the ICC it is really quite easy to see after the game where I went wrong. Dasher is one of the down-loadable clients that is used to play chess against other players there. It comes with “Crafty” built in – so you can play chess with a machine when offline. You can’t use the computer to play other people (at least I HOPE you can’t, that would be cheating!) but the system saves all your games for you. You can then select a game after the fact and bring up a few screens that will help you see very quickly where you went right (or where your opponent went wrong). I also have Fritz on a computer somewhere, but that doesn’t talk so easily with the ICC and that would mean I would probably have to import any game for analysis. Fritz does, however,  come with a graph of your score during a game, which makes it blindingly obvious when you cocked things up if you are a poor standard like me. Dasher, though, is just as easy to interpret once you know what it all means.

Here is a screenshot of a recent opening.

How to analyse Chess Games

It is me (white) to move and I am on move 4. The chess engine, “Crafty” shows the moves that I could realistically have made at this point. Nxd4 is shown as 66% (the red oval) with Bc4 only 26% or c3 at 8%. Now – I played Bc4 (Green oval) instead of Nxd4. I seem to have gone wrong on move 4. To  fair, that does not suggest I have gone wrong, but does show what the book moves generally are and unless you are WAY better than me, the book moves are all you need to learn for now.

So… 30+ years of playing chess an I can see that on a major line (Scotch gambit: Vitzhum attack according to Crafty), I am going off piste on my fourth move. Wow I have so much to learn!

But it gets worse just one move later. Until that point the “score” was marked as zero. that means that I had just done unusual moves, not bad ones. Look what it says after my next move:

How I can see I made a bad move

Now it is actually analysing my opponent’s next move, but in the process it has reduced white’s score from 0.00 (which means even or “in book” to -0.22. Now, anything more than -1 means I am about to go a pawn down, so I should go back and see why moving that knight to g5 was such a pants move. Looking at it now it’s obvious. You don’t start moving pieces a second time unless you’ve got all your pieces developed and your castle’s centralised or if you have a real good reason.

So that’s how I’m going to start to analyse my games. For the record, I lost the game a few moves later, even though I hung on until move 26, when my opponent forked my king and rook with a knight.

SMX Stockholm Roundup

It’s now the weekend after SMX Stockholm and I am just getting the chance to recover. I promise to get my two presentations up over the next couple of days, but probably most people only care about where the link was to the link trust comparison tool that Receptional has built. If you weren’t there, you won’t have a user-name and password, unless your blog searching skills are better than mine, but me and see me at SMX London later this November and I’ll let you in for a few weeks.

It was great to meet some of the regulars again. Kristjan who ran the Iceland conference was on fine form as usual and interviewed me and Andy Atkins-krugerfor Sempo TV (Anyone got a link there?). They were also prolific on the photos.

I also enjoyed meeting up again with Joost after the Affiliates 4u event in London. So many others to mention… They include Shari – who has now published her new book. Also Mel Carson and Tor from Microsoft, Mikkel (Danish Blog), Chris Sherman and Rand.

I know there were so many more, when I get the cards out – but my thanks also goes out to Thomas Bindle for the burger… which came just at the right time as the hangover was starting to take hold.