Would you look at that, it’s been 4 weeks already! From the day I started this Blog, I knew it would be an interesting foray into the unknown for me, and I have been proven correct. I have enjoyed this experience and would encourage others to give it a shot. However there are a few questions that need answering.
1. Success? Or Snooze?
This all depends on what you call success. As this blog is written entirely to satisfy assessment requirements and gain me high marks for this assessment item, I would say that success would be determined by a high final result. Of course the measure of success is completely skewed in this case. In reality, success can be measured by anything really – it depends on what you want to get out of the blog yourself. Personally I do believe that, the more you put into it, the more you will get out, and that a blog shouldn’t be just a vent for you to let out steam or to voice your opinions with no concern for what others think. I believe it should be an open discussion platform for anyone who is interested to partake in and enjoy. It doesn’t matter what content you cover in a blog, it should just be something you are interested in and can enjoy writing about.
2. Keep on truckin’ ?
Personally, I don’t believe I will continue to blog, on this blog at least. As I mentioned previously, this particular blog is badly skewed towards an assessment model that has little to do with what I would wish to write about in reality. There is a significant potential for me to continue writing a separate blog in the future on topics I decide on, but this would of course depend on my University workload and various other factors. Previously I don’t believe I would have had this opinion, due to the fact that I had little interest, knowledge or motivation for blogging.
3. Biggest mountains to climb?
Number one would be the writing style. To write on such a public platform, as opposed to an essay to be handed to your lecturer or a letter to a family member, is a difficult thing to comprehend. Your words must be able to get your point across meaningfully, while at the same time catering to a wide audience. Of course, there are plenty of niche blogs out there that only cater to very specific topics or areas of knowledge – these are quite fine for people who are interested in those specific things. But to acquire and hold a relatively large audience, or even to garner any initial interest, your writing style must be very careful – trying to be as inclusive as possible, not using technical terms when avoidable and trying to relate the content back to people in an interesting, funny or meaningful form. Other than that, the only real other hurdle was the motivation factor – getting my ideas together in a sensible fashion and actually committing them to bits.
4. Fresh ideas?
As I have previously mentioned, because this blog is designed to be assessable, we must of course adhere to the questions we are asked and address them accordingly in the posts. However, presenting the information in a unique and interesting way proved to be a challenge. It is quite easy to just write a boring report on research you have performed on a specific question or topic, but to make readers actually interested in what you are trying to tell them… well there is a completely different story. I have tried to do that as best I can, and I believe I have somewhat achieved it. 🙂
5. New perspectives?
This is the first ever proper blog I have created and written in – however I have created websites of my own and contributed to several other websites in the past. It does give you a different outlook on the entire process for sure. The typical first image of a blogger is an overweight, glasses-wearing kid sitting in his parents basement, glued to a computer screen. This is hardly the case in reality, as major companies all over the world have blogs that are contributed to by their staff and, of course, their readers. It is a fantastic and easy way to communicate ideas, thoughts, opinions and creations with the world at large, or just the sections of the world that you want to see it. I wouldn’t call myself a blogger after this experience, but I am glad that I tried it, and look forward to potentially continuing this in the future.
Some huge blogs to check out:
engadget.com – A website about Gadget news and reviews, but in essence, it is still a blog
Building windows 8 blog – A blog run by Microsoft to keep consumers informed and aware of the changes in the development of the next version of Windows
Houston Chronicle Blogs – A set of blogs run by a major US newspaper: The Houston Chronicle
Money. It’s what drives our day to day lives, what makes us get up for work in the morning and what makes us have to go back again every day. But, can you make money from Blogging? Sure you can! There are plenty of ways to make a ton of money from your website or blog – all you need to do is implement them. Most of us remember the early days of internet computing in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s – you couldn’t move for flashing ad banners everywhere and, “Click the Monkey!” pop-ups wherever you turned. These methods of monetization still exist of course, but there are much subtler, nicer and less excruciatingly annoying ways to get your audience to generate some revenue for you.
Of course, one of the first things to realise before even considering any kind of money making plans – you need traffic first! Without a stream of incoming viewers of your content, it doesn’t matter if you have concocted the greatest monetization plan of all time – there’s no-one there to click your links or follow your clever strategy. Once you do have a decent audience to sell to though, there are many avenues you can pursue with relative ease.
- Advertisements: Ah, good ol’ ads. We all know how they work, and a lot of internet companies make a fortune with advertising, either buying or selling ads. However, this is actually a fairly old media revenue model, and even if your site has an incredible, regular volume of traffic, it is still quite possible to earn next to nothing on the ads. This is especially true when you consider the fact that advertising is in fact, one of the most labour intensive ways of monetization on a website/blog. You have to drive a significant amount of traffic to make the ads worthwhile to begin with, and make sure to keep the ads as relevant to the content you’re posting as you can, to ensure a high click-through.
- Membership Programs: The so-called “Freemium” models that are being widely adopted today. Many websites are offering a certain amount of their content for free, and requiring the rest to be paid for, either with subscription plans or a pay-per-view system. Although this may sound a little off putting, it works surprisingly well – if the prices are reasonable.
- Affiliate links: If you are posting content about a certain topic and there are products that cater to the audience of your content, you can recommend or advertise those products to your audience – when anyone buys the product you showed, you can receive a cut of the sale. This is also highly effective, and can make a significant income, again depending on the relevance of your strategy (Don’t sell Cat food on a Dog lovers website!).
- Ask the audience: While not exactly the most reliable or effective method of gaining revenue, there are options to ask for donations, if you feel that advertising just isn’t right for your context, or if you just don’t want to make your audience pay anything more than what they feel like. Often, suggesting that the money is going towards a certain goal, or that they are simply buying you a cup of coffee for your hard work is more effective that just a simple “Donate money here” button.
Monetization is easy. Good monetization without driving away your audience is much more difficult.
In comparing these two specialised search engines, you must approach any findings from a very different perspective that, say, a comparison of Google search and Bing search. Whereas pretty much every search term and subsequent result from the latter two search engines can be quantified down to which one actually yields more relevant, accurate and useful search results, a comparison of Wolfram Alpha (I’m not going to write it with the “|” in between every time, that will get very tedious), the Computational Knowledge Engine, and Mahalo, the People Powered search engine, is not so easily ruled out and defined.
At the most basic level, a search on either site will only really be relevant to the topic you are searching for. Say for example you searched for, “Pythagorean Theorem” in Wolfram Alpha and Mahalo respectively (Click the links to do so). On one hand, Wolfram Alpha returns a straight forward, scientifically precise set of results, mostly because it is a simple theorem and it is the very sort of thing that the website was designed to handle and help with. It provides exactly the salient, factual points about your search term if it can and nothing more. When we look at the results gathered by the Mahalo search however, we see a very different picture. An entire list of content is presented to us, from video demonstrations of the theorem in action, history about it, related images, questions others have previously asked regarding the theorem and other similar material. In and of themselves, both searches have yielded perfectly valid results, with plenty of information about the requested subject. But depending on what you wanted to know in particular about your search query, one site’s results may prove vastly superior in this case.
Let’s take another example, to be fair to Mahalo, which was never really designed with such scientific purposes in mind. A search for “Cats” on Wolfram Alpha and Mahalo respectively yields these results. Again, although Cats is not a particularly scientific search term, Wolfram Alpha does its best to be as specific as possible in every given detail about this term, providing scientific names, the names of various breeds of cat, basic physical and biological properties as well as species information. Nothing about Cats being cute and cuddly, or even simply that cats can be pets. Looking at Mahalo’s results another story appears. A short blurb is presented to us, describing Cats in a more casual way, using superlatives and flowery adjectives in the descriptions. There are also abundant links to resources for cat owners or potential cat owners, links to books with more information (on sale at Amazon or other online book retailers) and even includes a funny cat video (as if there weren’t enough on the internet to begin with!). Once again, if you were, for example, doing scientific research on Cats, the Wolfram Alpha results would be more likely to fulfil your needs in searching for that particular term, whereas if you just were curious as to how to care for your cat, the Mahalo results are infinitely superior.
All in all, by their very nature, specialised search engines of any kind cannot be compared in a black and white sense – the deciding factor of quality of results will always be the context in which the results were searched.
Here are some other posts to consider on this topic: