Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What new hell hath sonos brought me?

Chapter two in torture by Sonos.
Sonos: What's Wrong in this Photo?
What's Wrong in this Photo?

So my house was redone and my systems dismantled. Now I have Sonos speakers all over the house.

1. How does sonos talk to my computer for routine audio like Youtube or sites like www.spellingcity.com.  I believe that there is some special software to install on my PC. Anyone? I'm currently running a second set of speakers for listening to my computer. (Which is the two little speakers pictured on the right).

2. How does Sonos become a front end for my Alexa? Right now, they sit right next to each other on my desk.  I've heard some sonos speakers have mics in them but are they Alexa-compatible and what do I have to install where to make this happen? This is why Alexa sits next to the Sonos speaker. Maybe they'll become friends and start working together.

3. How to play my computer library of music through sonos? For my music on my computer, I use to use iTunes and my speakers.  Now I gather that I point sonos owards my music on my computer. The problem is that sonos doesn't recognize the music folder. Each album (and speaker and playlist) needs to be independently listed into sonos. Shit!

4. Podcasts from my phone.  While I have figured out how to play my phone music across Sonos (use the Sonos app!) from my phone, I'm still turning my phone volume all the way up to listen to podcasts while I listen to podcasts from my phone.  Any ideas?

Want to read about Chapter one in my tortured move to Sonos and this next gen of technology?

BTW, I have checked the sonos website which apparently written by a marketing agency or other people removed from reality and who believe in hype and lots of adjectives: "easy-to-use...Alexa built right in (editor:  huh? Built right into what? I've yelled alexa at several different types of Alexa speakers and none of them have glowed colors and talked back)....looks good, it sounds big, and it's more flexible than any other smart....etc"

Of course, I'm just being sardonic since I haven't taken enough days to read all the how-tos which are surely hidden somewhere on their website.  T  But, the fact is, I'm probably about 10 hours into trying to get this stuff all connected.

8/22 - Week three of these speakers. I've figured out that there are for my purposes two types of sonos speakers. Ones and others (beams, play ones, play fives, and playbars). Only the Ones have built-in Alexa.  I just found one, flipped it over, and photographed it (which allows me to see the bottom and what it is!). It's a Sonos one. Why doesn't it do act like an Alexa? How do I activate it?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Sonos, Itunes, Spotify: Oh My!

So my house was just redone and all the speakers and Alexa devices removed. I use to have my computer connected to a set of speakers in my office and my musical life was simple and good. I could listen to music with iTunes on my iPhone. Play music with iTunes from my computer through the speakers. Or tell Alexa what I wanted to listen to and she played.

Today there's Sonos speakers all over the place. The Alexa speakers are gone. My kids have created a Spotify account for me and left for college telling me I'm going to love it. So this morning, I sat down with my computer and iPhone and tried to figure out the relationship between by three devices (iPhone, iMac, and Windows computer), these Sonos speakers, and the software for Spotify, iTunes, and Sonon.

I'm sixty years old. Is this my Waterloo? I'll tell you one thing, the F*ing World Wide Web is NOT serving up any charts or explanations that help me understand it so here I am trying to puzzle it out.

Starting with the Sonos speakers, they seem to be wifi enabled and on our home wifi network.  There' s an indeterminate number of them and someone has given them names which are sometimes helpful such as office and kitchen.

Current puzzle: I'm listening to the Dixie Chicks played on iTunes on my computer. It's playing through the feeble speaker built into my windows PC. How do I get it to play through the Sonos speaker? Do I go into iTunes and get it talk to the Sonos? Do I go into Sonos and get it to talk iTunes?  It's interesting none of these programs seem to live in a browser, they all seem to be apps that have to be installed on the computer. I wonder why?

Stay tuned.....

And I quote from the Sonos community forum:

Q: When playing music in iTunes, the music comes out my computer speakers. How do I change it where iTunes on my computer will play on my Sonos speaker?

A1 You don't really "change it". On your sonos under settings...music library settings...you point sonos to the location of your iTunes music. Sonos then goes to that folder on your computer and indexes all the music and makes it available then to you on Sonos.

Okay thanks. I was controlling my music from iTunes on my computer and whatever song I choose, I wanted to play on my Sonos speaker. So it doesn't work this, it only works from Sonos to iTunes and not iTunes to Sonos?

Yes Sonos has to go out and fetch the song from iTunes (it actually makes it more robust and better quality as it fetches the song file directly and plays it directly on device vs. it streaming from a source).

Correct. What you're doing with Sonos is telling the system where your iTunes library exists. You then use the controller app to tell the "player" on the speaker where to go and get the music from. 

At that point, you're not really using iTunes at all, you're using what appears to be a Sonos player app.

This sounded good so I went into Sonos, pointed it towards my music folder and was terribly optimistic when the music, after a few minutes, showed up in the Sonos app. So I picked play on some Paul Simon music but am not stuck with this message.
Sonos unable to play itunes music from windows computer
Sonos unable to play iTunes music from windows computer

So, I'm still stuck.....

First Principle: Forget iTunes for playing purposes. Going forward, point Sonos towards the music library and play with the Sonos player.

Great, onto questions about Spotify and Alexa and how they relate to Sonos. Also, audio and video input.   Can the Sonos speakers be a front end on Alexa? Do I have to use my phone or computer as an Alexa front end?  My computer use to rely on my speaker/microphone set up for audio input. Now that the computer is essentially in a drawer and all the audio attachments are gone, how do I video conference on my computer?  How do I run telephone conversations across my computer? What a pain in the neck?

Friday, August 03, 2018

Google Classroom: SpellingCity classroom provisioning

As best I can tell, Google Classroom is now being used in about a third of the K12 classrooms. One of the cool features is the ability for a teacher to provision her third party apps with the students roster including an ongoing sync from Google Classroom.  This also includes the ability to update the roster when new students enter the class.

Read about how SpellingCity and Google Classroom provision

Friday, July 27, 2018

Lay down and think about the power of song and links...

I sometimes read Grammar Girls materials which are great and sometimes I read Miss Susy's prose on grammar which is also pretty good.  Both have written on the mysteries and complexities of the English words: lay, laid, layed, ly, lie, and lie.  Both did it with wit and humor and double entredres. At least one made references to Dylan's song: Lay Lady Lay.

Miss Susy said: First off, if Mr. Dylan were truly trying to get the lady in his big brass bed, he would have told her, "Lie Lady Lie" and, captured by his exquisite grammar, she might have given in. Doubtless, she left immediately upon hearing the phrase and Mr. Dylan was forced to work on his songwriting all by himself. Perhaps he devoted his lonely time to co-writing the lyrics for Mr. Clapton's song Lay Down Sally, as both of the songs erroneously use lay for lie

Grammar Girl puts it like this:   If you're more of a Bob Dylan fan, you can remember that "Lay Lady Lay" is also wrong. The lyrics should be “Lie lady lie, lie across my big brass bed.”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

schwab: a little stupid on customer UIX

I tried to make sure that all my statements from the schwab brokerage house are paperless and not sent to my house. It looks to me like I've done it yet they keep arriving.

So I log into the Schwab account, take a screen grab of the setting, combine it with a picture of all the statements that just arrived, and put it in a message in their secure message center.

Twenty minutes later I get a Schwab email! I'm excited. So I got get my password, login to Schwab, and the "Secure Message" is that they got my message.

Can anyone tell me why they didn't put that in the email?  Instead, here's what the email said:

You have a message in the Schwab Message Center

You have a message from Schwab in the Schwab Message Center. To view your message, log in at schwab.com/message_center and review your new message, which will appear in bold.

Please be aware that the Schwab Message Center cannot be viewed on Schwab's mobile site or mobile apps.

If you need immediate assistance, please call 800-435-4000 to speak with a Client Service Specialist.

Thank you for choosing Charles Schwab.

And here's what the "secure message" said:

Customer Service


Thank you for contacting Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. This automatic reply confirms we have received your message and attachment and will review for processing.

If your request is in any way a time-sensitive or trading related issue, please contact a Schwab Alliance Representative at 800-515-2157

Thank you for choosing Charles Schwab Advisor Services.

Modernizing FIFA and Soccer

I spend a fair amount of time worrying about one of my life-long true-loves: soccer.  I'm played and watched for fifty some odd years now and I'm saddened by the fact that soccer is just not keeping up with the times.

First of all, I'm a soccer lover and a traditionalist. I think the game is great. But it should keep up with the times and its pace of rule changes is just too slow. I agree with almost all the changes in the last 50 years many of which have been more about referees interpretations of rules than fundamental rule changes.

The changes have been (as I can think of them):
  • a minor tweek to how kickoffs work
  • Tightening of rules on fouls, professional fouls, and faking fouls
  • Limited use of video playback for referrees
  • The card system got tweeked a few times
  • Offsides now only counts if they are involved in the play. Also, the tie now goes to the offense
  • A limit to when passes back to the goalie can be picked up. And how goalies can move with the ball once they catch it.
  • The shootout for tie breaking and an additional player during the overtime (it use to be that ties were resolved by extensive OT or who had the most penalty kicks or by replaying the game. Rule changed in 1978 I think)
What should they change?

The worst games are when one team goes into a defensive posture and keeps all 11 players back in a dense almost imprenetrable system that is dull to watch and frustrating for the players. Solution: don't allow everyone to go back on defense.  Create new lines, 10 yards off the center line and only only  8 of your players to go back on defense behind the line. This is derivative of a lacrosse rule and it would really open up goal scoring and attacking.  

Those same lines could be used to tweek the offside rule again so that it only comes into play after passing the line.  We could also, to reduce the lines that have to be drawn, get rid of the center circle and have the defense wait behind their line on kickoffs.

A penalty box much like hockey and lacrosse.  Players could be sent off for 5 minutes for various infractions which creates new possibilities to supplement the card system. And having one team up a player for 5 minutes would be really fun to watch.

What if we outlawed all passbacks to the keeper from outside the penalty box? 

What are your ideas?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

How to start a hashtag?

I just saw a post by a teacher on Twitter, a new user. She asked:

Does my school district have a hashtag? Should it?  

I think it's a great question. Sure, some people create lots of hashtags but I've never read anything that addresses this context.

First of all, hashtags are like words. Anyone can create one just by using it. But mostly, they don't get picked up and create much of a discussion or community

Most hashtags that people create are pretty limited and don't get picked up.  I've seen hashtags like #wearingabowtie , #fellonpurpose , and #HSMP (homeschool me, please!) which did not get much popular use. Then there's the ones that have gone viral such #metoo

Also, it's a little different for a teacher who wants to create a hashtag for her district since the obvious hashtag, the schools initials, might have compliance or IP issues about it. For example, MiamiDade Schools (near where I live) are routinely known as MDCPS (Miami Dade County Public Schools). Their Twitter handle is @MDCPS.  So, would a private individual who starts using MDCPS as a hashtag be infringinon a copyright or trademark? I think yes if they used it for anything other than the obvious but also, there is virtually no enforcement so there's nothing to worry about. 

But, what if you were a new teacher working for MDCPS, should you then take a chance to start using #MDCPS

School districts of course are pretty strict hierarchal places and I'd be a little careful as a new teacher in doing such a thing. I might ask the district twitter account, perhaps by PM, what they think.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Rescuing Content, Building Clusters

Want more info on primary science programs, Game-Based Learning, or Word Study?
This line was on a site as the primary navigation to some pages. I rescued it from the dust bin and am recycling it here so that those pages get some link love.

And I'd like to revisit my complaint from the previous article about Google's poor word choice so taht we are all talking  about Content Pillars.

Terrible terrible word choice. Could I do better? Sure, why aren't we thinking about: Content Clusters!?! it sounds so so so much better.

And what's with the "pillar" metaphor? What are these pillars holding up?  I think a cluster, pulled together from different sites and pages, is far more magical and multidimensional.

Remember, content can be belong to different clusters at the same time.  (pillars makes it sound like this is impossible).

A red sedan convertible hybrid could be part of a set of clusters about cars, sedans, convertables, and hybrid or electric.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Content Pillars

Google seems to have the entire SEO industry talking about Content Pillars.  I'd like to complain about the word choice.  Why aren't we thinking about:

  • Content Clusters
  • Content Segments
  • Topic
  • Subjects
And what's with the "pillar" metaphor? I think the idea is that there is a single collection of source material such as a book, study, or white paper which can be used to provide bite-size pieces of content for social media and to fill up a number of webpages, perhaps each taking a section from the book, study, or white paper. 

There’s a big difference between a blog with uninspiring poor content and one that’s ripe with interesting and intriguing relevant information.  Good content is designed to appeal to an audience and answer their questions and respond to their interests. Poor content has no editorial success in culling together a coherent framework of info

Curious About the Mountain of Traffic

Sometimes, I look at my blog statistics that are built into Wordpress.

Today, for the last 20 days, I see this Wordpress reporting of HITs:

Naturally, I am curious about that mountain of traffic this past few days but since the WP data is so flakey, I jump to Google analytics for that blog and look at the last 30 days:

hmmm, no sign of any traffic event in the last few days.​

Looking back at the WP data, I notice that while visits had the mountain, the visitors did not. So there was maybe one person who returned to the blog over and over and read the entire blog a few times creating lots of visits but not lots of visitors.

Except, GA shows no corresponding increase in either page views or sessions that supports this idea.

- I go back to WP stats are flakey, they are counting some sort of bot activity that GA does not
- WP stats are flakey, what the heck is a "hit" anyway and why when I look closely, are they reporting last 20 days?

Friday, March 02, 2018

SEO Agency Update to Marketing

The GURU: JL 2/28/2018 visited us fresh from pubcon. Here's the update.... 

AMP - accelerated mobile pages - BIG DEAL Costly in terms of maintenance Image work amp dot ig - <?> 

Structured snippets - Increased emphasis on schema.org Typically events Tickets News Location Reviews Breadcrumbs Questions by us. 

Impact of Voice search. Relevant? Secure pages - Oct https rollout was moved out to April from October. Good to have both in search console, Get both verified. Compare. I’ll check on https for blogger. Rewarded across the board. 

New search console - Fully rolled out in January. Old features not all there, ie fetch and render. Now has a YonY data and we still need to archive after 15 or 18 months. Has great features on what to fix. But now it requires fixes. Page speed tool removed and now integrated into lighthouse thing. Testmysite with Google will be page speed measure. Lighthouse: good for 1st look at what’s wrong with a website. Visual and quick. 

Question of what Google is really measuring. Is it first render? Full paint? What’s the right measure? Pay attention but more towards problems 

PPC - microPPC - Frequency that a person sees it. If you are trying to save budget, limit to a few a day. Set up an audience to improve quality. Example, layer in “female” and “mother” . There’s also interest categories. Bing serves ads in the timeframe of the user. <weird> Low time on site audience - block them. Block spam bots. Rev.com will do closed captioning for $1/minute and translations and transcripts. 

Chat bots - Huge capabilities. Mobilemonkey is an example only on Facebook (will it go cross platform with paid version?).. This is the future. Awesome. Home advisor. 1800 flowers. Like a progressive web app. John is 100% on board with it. Mitsuku per Brett. Super user friendly. Zootopia marketing was around it. “Skills” - like Alexa skills. Looks futuristic. Skills are like apps. Roger. Tie Alexa into sdk of student planner. 

2017 Big SEO Initiatives 
Mobile friendly - still a big deal. What is the real measure? A technical check (the mobile friendly label no longer works) with the Google checker. 
Https Speed Schema and answer box - Get the answer box results. There are now tools for monitoring. What are they? SEO traffic spikes usually links back getting an answer box. Lots of sniping to beat each other for key searches. 
Organic search is down….on mobile, the ads just win. But the search volume seems solid. “Homeschool” broad match - is it down by 6% - Why not ask Google reps? $1.5M paid search in Google. Netplus. Give credit to JL and the agency for our spend. Get direct access to google team for questions 
Segments & filters to distinguish between brand traffic and real search Can’t do it in console Can do it in GA Filters are for forward. Will segments or channels work going backwards? 2013: Dropped details in GA with https. Keep marketing your brand. And buy your name.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Where are the battles being fought?

A Better Title (and I think this deserves to go viral):

Where are the battles for iaudiences being fought in 2018?

Remember, you saw it here first. "IAUDIENCES".  Not a typo. Read it as "EYE audiences." It's an update to the tired talk of eyeballs which always seemed ghoulish.  Iaudiences is far more streamlined. Feel free to use it but do give credit to blorum.info).

For almost 15 years, I've been leading a consumer online marketing war in which we battle for market share. Over the years, I have had success by being nimble and lucky about fighting on the right fields at the right time.

When I started, the online fights had been about positions in directories and banner placements and optimization.  I however immediately focused on search engine position primarily natural search but also PPC. The trends were in my favor and I rode this for a decade benefiting from the tailwinds and fighting the right battles right up until 2015. Then the tailwinds of search growth seemed to have stopped.

We were big with the rise of email running both long term branding emails and timely newsletters. Very efficient until we felt that we had to switch to advanced nurture campaigns through the use of marketing automation systems where the complexity of the campaigns made, at least to the manager, the writing and effectiveness somewhat opaque versus the simplicity and transparency of old world stats (ie 470K on the last, 32K now at the 45th monthly email and still getting a 15% open rate!)

I also fought social media battles. We were early in working with mom bloggers and we even developed our own system for converting our mom fans into mom bloggers through our own training courses of blackbeltblogger.com and then the blogwritingcourse.com.  We were big on mom forums working both with our own and independent forums.

When new social media started getting big, we were a little slow.We were wildly successful with our forum and we wanted that to be the one and forever social media. That would have been nice.  Having wasted some time on MySpace, channels and vlogs, we were consistently late and clumbsy to the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin,Pinterest, and Snapchat worlds. Just as we got good with Facebook and were driving huge engagement and traffic (VSC), we invested with Facebook to grow our tens of thousands to two hundred but they tweeked the algorithm so we started seeing views plummet to the current dismal ~1%. Sigh.  We did however ride the Yahoo groups popularity and made good use of it for many years after everyone else seemed to have forgotten it.

On the school side, we were OK with Edmodo and Symbaloo when they were young and easy to work with but haven't had much success once they got to the big time.

Our usage of Youtube has been minor.
Our success with Podcasts insignificant.
Our ebooks on Amazon and iTunes insignificant.
The entire app movement came and went and with the exception of one app that we built as a web-client substitute, we have not been a player.

We remain very SERP and SEO oriented.
Lets look closely at how this is playing out with secular homeschool.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Unsubscribe Button on Gmail - NEW!!!

Prior to the Can SPAM act, email growth and spam was totally out of control.
It seems like since then, there is usually an unsubscribe link hidden at the bottom of most emails.
There's also the mail handler's SPAM button which I guess makes all future emails from them go into the SPAM folder.

But this button is new on Gmail. It's not there all the time but when it is, it's cool:

Are all the emails handlers putting it there? Is it a generic new protocol? If so, I like it. Will everyone have to support it to be bulk emailer and not considered spammy at some point in the new year?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Joystick Nation: 20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago, I was living in London and running a company called Argonaut Games. It was a wild time, they were an amazing collection of talent and a totally screwed up business. But that business story and the games that we produced (Croc, Legend of the Gobbos), well that's another story.   It was also 1997 which was an exciting time in the tech industry.

One night, I was home reading an email on my Mac and an email - I was on Compuserve for home use back then -  talked about a book about video games. A book called Joystick Nation. So I clicked on a link and had my first big experience with the World Wide Web. I clicked through to Amazon to read a review of the book.  And then on Amazon, I found that I could order the book.  It was written by a lady name J.C. Herz.

I then found that I could actually listen to an interview with the author. I think I needed to download Real Audio or something else that from that era but it worked!  I read an email, clicked thru to find out more about a reference to a book. Read a full review, listened to an interview of the author, and then ordered it online.

Incredible. I even read the book and I think I might have emailed the author. Her email was included in the book. It was the true start of the digital era for me.  Never mind that I had used email since 1988 at SGI, was deeply involved in the 3D synthetic imagery revolution, spoke in the 80s on VR, and was immersed in the video game world. Things actually first connected for me over JC Herz's book.  I think it was Memorial Day weekend back then.

And for those of us that are struggling with FutureShock, check out some vintage education technology from the 20th Century such as filmstrips, record players, and mimeograph machines.

Monday, November 06, 2017

SEO Strategies that the Tool People Don't Tell You

There are many spectacular SEO tools such as SEOMoz, Spyfu, Constructor, BrightEdge and so on and so on. They all treat keywords as commodities that they throw at you sorted by volume or cost or some other area. What they never tell you is how to work with these keywords in an efficient logical way to product valuable content that can be produced cost effectively.

If you are in the K12 education business, you might get a keyword list that is like this:

  • nouns
  • 2nd grade
  • fourth grade worksheets
  • learning games
  • printable worksheets
  • grading systems
  • dyslexia challenges
  • writing practice
  • spelling
  • spelling words
  • word games
  • vocabulary words
  • math facts
  • five paragraph essay
  • reading comprehension
  • compound words
  • 3rd grade arithmetic
  • writing practice
  • geography
  • test prep
  • literacy activities
  • etc etc

I know, I've looked at lists like this for decades. They are not efficient to work with but many SEO workers will try to work with this random data and product chaotic results.

A more efficient way to work is to stare at the data and create some patterns.  Then create content in a systematic organized fashion.  Staring at the above list of keywords, I might decide to write pages as follows:

  • Grade pages:  Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, etc
  • Subject pages:  Language arts (including grammar, vocabulary, writing, spelling, reading etc), Math etc. These can be divided ever more finely into say, vocabulary types such as parts of speech, 
  • Learning materials: games, worksheets, activities
  • Blog: The mayor of VocabularySpellingCity blogs!