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Sunday, August 16, 2021

yes comment
There’s no getting around it: I’ve drunk the Twitter Kool-Aid. Why else would I have installed on this blog not one, but two WordPress plugins specifically for Twitter-interfacing purposes? And this is someone who doesn’t mess with plugins: Up until recently, I’ve only had one other non-spam-filtering plugin installed, and that covers the entire time I’ve had this domain up and running.

Anyway, CommenTwitter is today’s new add-on, and its presence is apparent in the comment-box section of each blog post (and the comment pop-up boxes, should you prefer those). Hopefully it’s a simple concept: Fill out the comment fields as normal, then click on that link next to the Twitter icon to fill in your Twitter handle and password, so that when you hit that “Say It!” button to submit, your comment will appear on this blog and also in your Twitterstream. Two birds with one stone, sorta (hey, the bird motif fits with Twitter, anyway…)

CommenTwitter appealed to me because it’s one more way to spread blog linkage via tweets. This method spreads that linkage beyond my own Twitter account, to that of my engaged readers. A short-URL link accompanies this comment-tweeting, so hopefully that drives a few more eyeballs back thisaway, to read beyond the first 140 characters of feedback if nothing else. I’ll be curious to see how much it’s used. Extending the conversation is a constant aim in this bloggin’ biz…

CommenTwitter is the overt way to plant permalinks from this blog into the Twitterverse. The under-the-hood way is via WordTwit, the other dedicated plugin. I’ve been using that one for months, pretty much when I first jumped aboard the tweet-train. It’s an auto-generating push-to-Twitter tool that shoots out a tweet every time I publish a new post, with the title and permalink included. I can’t say it’s generated a ton of traffic back to the blog mothership, but it’s passive enough that it’s worth maintaining.

No one’s more bemused by this Twitter devotion than me. After years of spurning the other social network hangouts, for some reason the little bird-brained site snared me aboard. Of course, if it runs its course in similar fashion as the other community-based online fads, I can always deactivate the plugins and go back to lone-blog-in-the-wilderness thing…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/16/2009 10:51pm
Category: Bloggin', Social Media Online
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Monday, July 27, 2021

I’ve got two testicles too many to have taken part in this past weekend’s BlogHer conference in Chicago. But enough of my Twitterstream was attending, and tweeting updates, that I got the gist of it.

Attendees go to these things as much for the peer-to-peer contacts as for the sponsoring product/services presentations (and giveaways, naturally). For brands that want to associate themselves with outspoken new-media women (and thus pick up a good deal of women-centric business), BlogHer is the place to be. One participant, Kathy Casciani of DeVries Public Relations, identified with this product-consumer outreach so much that she actually requested additional corporate pitchers to sell to her:

Sponsors I’d personally like to see at next year’s #blogher: Advil, Red Bull, Metronaps, Dr. Scholls, Band Aid

The request for Advil, a pain reliever, in this X-chromosome context reminded me of another woman-targeted pharmaceutical: Motrin. An over-the-counter drug that’s still somewhat on the outs among a notable segment of the BlogHer community: Mommybloggers, who famously triggered an online “Motringate” backlash over some patronizing advertisements.

I’m sure the Motrin folks have been making amends ever since that episode, but here’s how to complete their atonement: Become a sponsor for next year’s BlogHer conference.

Having the Motrin brandname so intimately linked with the same consumer segment that they formerly offended would do wonders for repairing the damage. And the media buzz, both online and offline, such a move would generate would be priceless, for both Motrin and BlogHer. Both sides would get a boost from such a reconciliation (no matter how self-serving it would be).

I know Motrin’s corporate parent, Johnson & Johnson, was already a sponsor for BlogHer ‘09. But it’s not the same thing. Planting the actual Motrin brandname into that list of sponsors makes this visible, and signifies the intent. Since J&J has an existing relationship with the conference, it shouldn’t be hard to get Motrin into the lineup for BlogHer ‘10. It’s just a question of whether or not J&J wants to take that step; if nothing else, it would shut out the competing Advil (which, like Motrin, is basically just ibuprofen).

I see big potential for this, and fully expect to be reading about this “twist” in consumer-retail/online PR damage control a year from now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 07/27/2009 11:33am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Business, Women
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Tuesday, June 23, 2021

The party’s over for many a freebie-addicted blogger as the Federal Trade Commission plans to include blogs under its consumer-oversight aegis:

Mandatory disclosures could change how reviews are perceived online because many Internet users might never imagine that bloggers get compensation.

“I don’t think, for the average reader of a blog, it immediately comes to mind that they actually have a relationship with the company,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “You think about (blogs) as personal, informal, off the cuff and coming from the heart — unfiltered, uncensored and unplanned.”

This is the heart of it. You can spin the practices any number of ways, from firms encouraging “sponsored conversations” to the formalization of “word of mouth” marketing, but it all boils down to the same dynamic, to wit:

Readers perceive blogs to be first-person journals, and thus assign a certain level of personal trust to them that they withhold from recognizable commercial messaging. Advertisers covet the opportunity to penetrate this trust field with their sales pitches, because they feel the message will be more effective coming from this more-intimate voice.

There are plenty of caveats: A blog is really a format more than a medium, corporate and media blogs aren’t necessary regarded the same way as personal journals, certain campaigns work better than others via this method, etc. But basically, marketing via third-party bloggers involves co-opting a less-formal media channel and disguising the formal commercial arrangement from the audience.

There’s a lot of hemming and hawing about just how the FTC is going to implement its proposed enforcement over a blogosphere of billions. Obviously, it’s only got to worry about the U.S.-based bloggers, and even then, will rely on direct consumer complaints versus specific sites. Ultimately, it won’t bother to probe obvious splogs and hole-in-the-wall blogspot outlets; the blogs with recognizable traffic and reach will be the ones to watch.

I view this development with full acknowledgment that I’ve dipped my toe into this product-shilling. I’ve never been offered three thousand bucks for a glowing post, but I’ve agreed to free footballs and energy drinks, among other trinkets. I’ve always disclosed the arrangement with the advertiser, both because it was always stipulated and because I wouldn’t do it otherwise even if asked.

But in a sense, each individual post on this blog, or any other (for that matter) exists in a vacuum — an explicit disclaimer on a “bought” page doesn’t cover another page where some commercial product may be featured, even in a less-than-flattering light. In some ways, any mention is suspect, because of the precedent established by PayPerPost and other blatant content-hijackers. When the field’s already not level, an overarching policing agency — even if it is the FTC — will help to reset the table, with an assumption of transparency.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/23/2009 11:15am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Politics, Society
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Thursday, June 11, 2021

There’s no shortage of blogs chronicling “Sims”-generated storylines. But Alice and Kev takes frivolous avatar-watching to a more sobering level:

This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. It’s based on the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3’s living neighborhood features.

I’m no “Sims” expert, but I’m guessing those “living neighborhood features” are meant to emulate real-life human societal interactions. If so, I’m sure the other characters in this “Sims 3″ scenario will encounter Alice and/or Kev sporting some new trinket, and automatically assume that the homeless bit is a scam

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/11/2021 07:10pm
Category: Bloggin', Creative, Society, Videogames
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Saturday, May 23, 2021

Clutch Tees delivered! After I blogged about the Caddyshack “Bushwood Country Club” t-shirt my friend sent me as a birthday present, I promptly emailed the permalink to get a gift certificate for another Clutch shirt. Sure enough, they sent back the $25 voucher, to be applied toward the purchase of another tee.

And I chose the one pictured above, which I’m wearing right now. Frankly, it was the only other one in their collection (aside from the Bushwood one I already have) that I could see wearing without incurring lost-youth embarrassment. The “Give Peas A Chance” tagline is cutesy, but I can live with it, and I liked the simple smiley-faced green sprites. They look good against the light-blue cloth, too (which is much darker in real life than in the photo here). Worth the minor-grade blog shilling.

So the net result is that I got two birthday t-shirts. I guess I could submit this post for yet another gift certificate, but I think I’ll stop at just two.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/23/2009 06:49pm
Category: Bloggin', Fashion, Pop Culture
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Monday, May 18, 2021

If you’re the type that still clings to a TV news anchorman as some sort of authoritative voice to deliver you the news, then the idea of that same talking-head grooving as a music blogger is probably jarring. But that’s the incongruity you’re stuck with, should you come across BriTunes or Amplified, the pop-culture side projects of the two frontmen at NBC News and ABC News:

[ABC's Dan] Harris, 37, anchors ABC’s “World News” on Sundays and is a general assignment reporter who spent six months in Iraq. He has a “Nightline” piece coming this week on children in the Congo being accused of witchcraft and subjected to abusive exorcisms. [NBC's Brian] Williams, who turned 50 last month, is a news traditionalist with such a formal manner on “Nightly News” that his bosses once worried that viewers would have a hard time relating to him.

Their musical credentials were met with some suspicion in the rock world. “There is sort of a feeling of ‘What are these interlopers doing in our special little space?’” Harris said.

If the hard news business ever goes soft, I suppose Harris and Williams could apply for jobs at Pitchfork

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/18/2009 11:07am
Category: Bloggin', Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV
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Wednesday, April 29, 2021

fly away
This was all pre-Oprah, but there’s no reason to think that it won’t persist for the immediate future: A Nielsen study finds that Twitter is less sticky than other online hangouts, with 60 percent of new users abandoning their accounts within a month.

“It is clear that a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure,” [Nielsen VP David Martin] said. “A high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite. There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.”

Martin pointed to MySpace and Facebook.

“[When they] were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high,” Martin wrote. “When they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.”

I’ll point out right away that this parallels the traditional abandonment rate for blogging. I can’t find a straightforward update on the latest activity rate — for instance, Technorati’s “State of the Blogosphere” is fairly convoluted and limited — but as of a couple of years ago, roughly half of all newly-minted blogs would be abandoned in under three months.

No surprise in that similarity. Twitter is routinely described as a “microblogging” service, although after having used it for a good spell, I reject that characterization (I’ll expand more on that at a later date). But the common thread is that both formats demand regular (if not copious) posting of content, primarily writing. And for most people, it comes down to that: Even the shortest form of text exposition seems too laborious to bother doing regularly.

So, with that dissuading demand, is Twitter nothing more than a fad? Earlier this decade, blogging was projected to flame out due to the same dynamics. It sorta did — but only the notion that everyone and their mothers would maintain a personal blog. The blog scene evolved to the point where the format and medium is a routine part of the Web media landscape; the separate, mainstream activity that was supposed to be focused on blogging is now directed to social networks. Sort of a division of labor.

Twitter might very well evolve along the same lines, even though it’s a more centralized entity than the general blogging movement. The current dedicated Twitterers will continue to populate the site and drive expansion to other platforms and more focused tweet-groups (professional associations, etc.). Meanwhile, more casual users can experience 140-character expression via other clients like mobile devices, with output integrated into Facebook and MySpace pages, among others.

More than anything, this retention study is a cue for Twitter’s braintrust to start implementing the refinements that will encourage more people to stick around longer (and make the ultimate, and inevitable, monetization easier). Like it or not, it’ll spur changes, to the point where Twitter 2.0 won’t bear much resemblance to the current version.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/29/2009 10:00pm
Category: Bloggin', Media, Social Media Online, Society
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Wednesday, April 15, 2021

I don’t have any hard data to back this up, but from my anecdotal observation, I’d say that the average 10 corporate blogs tend to break down this way:

- 7 are largely neglected dumping grounds for press releases and other excess marketing junk;
- 2 are well-maintained outlets for corporate communication between the business and its customer base;
- and that last one is, well, usually like the one kept by Incase, an Apple accessory maker.

That would be something that’s ostensibly a company blog, in that it’s part of the company website and so would be expected to publicly represent the business, its products/services, and the people behind the company. But instead of containing much in the way of useful information on the aforementioned, it’s filled with a bunch of irrelevant posts about music, sporting events, and holiday parties. In the case of Incase, all that stuff represents the interests of the personalities that work there. So at best, their blog consists of an employee newsletter — pretty much a vanity HR exercise that’s better suited for internal consumption.

Basically, Incase has lost sight of the purpose of a company blog: To sell the company and its services. That doesn’t have to mean hard-sell tactics in every post — but it doesn’t mean post after post of unrelated fluff (sponsorship opportunities don’t really count). It’s great to get a glimpse at what the crew is up to, but not at the expense of learning more about what the company does and offers.

Obviously, this is coming from my less-than-satisfying experience with Incase.com. I visited the site to see what it offered in the way of iPod Touch extras. I didn’t find much in the current product line-up section, so I tried the blog in the hopes of finding out about any upcoming and in-development wares. Having to wade through two pages of bulletin-board material without finding anything really pertinent to my buying something from them seemed pointless (and keep in mind, 99 percent of potential customers aren’t going to bother digging even one page deep before giving up and browsing away).

So Incase goes into my new-media consulting file for how not to do a corporate blog. Would I rather see companies go as loosey-goosey with their blogging as that, versus the stultified treatment that those other 7 corpblogs get? No, because either way, it’s a poor use of what’s supposed to be a dynamic two-way channel between company and customer. And in fact, such ultra-personalized company blogs are probably harder to turn around, because it’s harder to convince their curators that the passionately personalized postings are the wrong way to play it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/15/2009 06:38pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Business
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Tuesday, April 14, 2021

It’s come to this: The most recent piece of comment-spam for this blog — that was snagged instantly by Akismet, naturally — was delivered in the form of an honest-to-goodness joke. And here it is:

Two old ladies were outside their nursing home, having a smoke when it started to rain. One of the ladies pulled out a condom, cut off the end, put it over her cigarette and continued smoking.

Lady 1: What’s that?
Lady 2: A condom. This way my cigarette doesn’t get wet.
Lady 1: Where did you get it?
Lady 2: You can get them at any drugstore.

The next day… Lady 1 hobbles herself into the local drugstore and announces to the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms. The guy looks at her kind of strangely (she is, after all, over 80 years of age), but politely asks what brand she prefers.

Lady 1: It doesn’t matter as long as it fits a Camel.

find cheap cigarettes.

With that post-script of cheap cigarettes, of course, delivering the spam-link payload (which I’m obviously not going to reproduce here).

Really impressive. I recognize the joke, as it’s a rather old one, so in a way, this is not much different than the typical content-scraping spambots do in their attempts to break through the filtering technology. But at least it beats the usual gobbledygook of words/characters that usually shows up in the caught-spam queue. And take note: Combining cigarette-keyworded joke material with a cigarette-related hyperlink is an attempt at Google-like relevance — God help use, the spammers are becoming SEO-conscious!

Not that I’m condoning this activity. Spam is an established pain in the ass, and the less of it that even originates, the better. But as long as it never successfully lands on my site, I can afford the luxury of marveling at this, one of the more creative attempts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/14/2009 10:53am
Category: Bloggin', Comedy, Creative
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Monday, April 06, 2021

If you still want to get in the running to win the big No Fear “Earn Some Cred” Prize Pack — too late, sucker! I picked the winner earlier today, as scheduled, and commenter Chris W hit the $100-worth jackpot.

Both Chris and I should be receiving our swag (I’m getting only a 12-pack of No Fear Bloodshot Energy Drink and a t-shirt, while Chris gets that plus the extra trinkets) within a couple of weeks. Thanks again to Tara for setting up this little blog-targeting promotion.

A brief postmortum on this contest, from the blog/marketing/SEM angle:

- I now know that mommybloggers aren’t fans of No Fear. That group was the driving force behind participation in my previous product giveaway, the Pepsi Ultimate Super Bowl Park Pack. I should have hoped that constantly-frazzled stay-at-home mothers would have craved the freebie caffeinated 12-pack, if nothing else.

- Relating to the above, I’m thinking that a specific event-oriented promotion would draw more searchers and determined contest-seekers. The Earn Some Cred campaign doubtless resonates with the subculture that No Fear already cultivates, but beyond that niche, not enough interest to draw the broad audience that this blog regularly attracts. Thus the paltry total of only four entries/comments, versus more than 50 for the Pepsi Super Bowl prize.

- I once again relied mainly on organic SEO and SEM to bring in traffic to the post, including a sitewide sidebar image/text link. It generated decent enough numbers, although again, nothing like the Super Bowl promotion.

- I did toss out daily Twitter tweets linking back to the post for the duration of the contest period (about a week and a half), in an effort to tap another audience. At least one of the entries did come as a direct result of those tweets. But as with the overall efforts at visibility, Twitter as a promotional channel was fairly underwhelming.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/06/2021 10:35pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Food
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Friday, February 20, 2021

Finally, an actual enticement for me to get on Twitter: The prospect that it’s replacing RSS reading for many people.

This is where Twitter as a feed service comes in to play. Take an honest inventory of your [RSS] subscriptions. How many of those do your really want to follow every day? I’ve worked very hard to build a community. There are folks who are regular visitors and commenters on my site and we have interaction on nearly a daily basis. I want to know when they post something new, I want them to know when I’ve posted. In addition to my community, there are some sites outside of my clan that I like to pay attention to. All of these folks are on Twitter.

Yes, I realize that using Tweets as nothing more than a feed-output channel — that posts a hyperlink, to boot — violates the spirit of the microblogging service. But really, it’s all about going where the eyeballs are. Bottom line, people can subscribe and login to as many online outlets as exist, but the intake of all that media is severely limited to what’s absorbed via the head (usually the eyeballs, when talking about the Web). If people have only so much screentime, and they choose to spend it checking Twitter, then that’s the place to deliver blogging updates.

My perspective on this may be somewhat unique, as I’ve eschewed both Twitter and RSS up to this point. In rejecting both, I see the similarities in them: They’re intended to send and deliver limited, stripped-down bites of content, in the interests of quick consumption. True, RSS feeds don’t have to be limited in length like Tweets and their hard-cap of 140 characters; but from a site-publishing perspective, I prefer truncating feed outputs to an excerpt that will satisfy a feed subscriber looking for a quick-fix update, while also enticing them to click through to the full-site post.

So it’s easy to see why a lot of people easily trade their feed-reading time for an all-in-one Twitter experience. Ultimately, it’s just a choice of a particular channel through which to get the same push information.

I’m going to venture a guess that adoption rates are going to define this choice: People who never got on the feed-reader bandwagon from a few years back will more likely bypass RSS reading for Twitter updates. Similarly, oldschoolers who swear by RSS readers will stick with them, even if they also use Twitter for its more conventional purposes.

All of which comes back to me… As inappropriate as it might be to join Twitter for no other purpose than blog-pimping, that’s the only reason I can see for picking it up right now. So if I start Tweeting all over the place soon, it’ll be primarily/exclusively in the form of short-linked URLs consisting of the latest, greatest post from these here parts. Be forewarned!

UPDATE: Just in case, I’ve gone ahead and reserved my corner of the Twitterverse: @popstat. Next up is finding a WordPress plugin to automate pushing this blog’s latest posts links out as Tweets. The adventure begins…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/20/2009 12:51pm
Category: Bloggin', Internet, Social Media Online
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Sunday, January 25, 2021

Today was the day I marked for picking a winner for the $250-valued Pepsi Ultimate Super Bowl Party Pack, with all the football-flavored trinkets as pictured above.

And so I did. I ran the comment number-designators through the list-randomizing utility at Random.org (a site which, incidentally, provides way more about true-random versus pseudo-random generation than you’d ever want to know — unless you’re like me, and are interested in such numerical minutiae). The result: Comment No. 17 by Melissa came out the winner. A result I couldn’t have picked better by my lonesome, since I consider seventeen to be my personal lucky number.

So the upshot is that Melissa will be receiving the stuff sometime this week. Congrats, and thanks to all who chipped in.

Some wrap-up results from this giveaway process, for my own edification:

- The majority of the entries came from mommybloggers. I didn’t get the connection at first, because I was thinking that this sort of thing would appeal primarily to football fans. But it makes sense, obviously: Super Bowl Sunday is a big family-to-family gathering, so moms would gravitate toward themed presentations of the day’s snacks. I also get the impression that Pepsi directed much of the blog-marketing for this promotion toward the mommyblogging niche — which means I was the odd duck in the rotation.

- As usual, the SEO marketing is what drew the most traffic toward this offer. Disappointingly, the special sidebar image/text link ad I threw together resulted in practically no clickthroughs — which tells me that the sidebar in general is probably not the best-optimized piece of the screen for this blog. On the other hand, the text within that ad generated keyword optimization site-wide, and did indirectly draw some extra traffic from searches containing Super Bowl-related queries.

- Similarly, I get the feeling that the entries that did come in came from searchers who were explicitly looking for Super Bowl contests, often specifically this one. I know a couple of forums tipped off readers about the presence of my post. In other words, practically no casual/organic entries — pretty much everyone who participated was on a mission to enter a contest (no complaints from me, just acknowledging it).

- I braced myself for multiple-entry attempts. I had plenty of default metrics to detect any such shenanigans: IP addresses, traffic logs, etc. There were indeed a couple of easily-noticeable attempts, and a few more questionable ones. Ultimately, I decided not to worry about it too much; I made allowances in the selection process without actually disqualifying anyone. Pepsi’s criteria for giving this away was fast and loose, so if they weren’t going to worry about it, neither was I.

- Geographic spread of the 52 total entries was pretty wide. I didn’t bother keeping a map, but for such a small pool, it was varied enough, with people from coast to coast participating.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/25/2009 06:49pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Food, Football
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Friday, January 09, 2021

pass the helmet
The Super Bowl approaches on February 1st, so it’s shillin’ time here at Population Statistic. Courtesy of my blogging compadre Tara at When Tara Met Blog (who previously hooked me up with some Thanksgiving M&M’s).

This time though, you will profit from this corporate giveaway! Well, one of you, anyway. Read on:

Super Bowl parties are one of the top at-home party events of the year and have become much more than a gathering of football lovers, but a time to dissect the ads, eat party snacks and hang with friends. In fact, many people attending these parties do not necessarily love the teams playing as much as they love the excuse to get together with friends after a very cold month. So whether you are a diehard NFL fan or just want to party, Pepsi, the sponsor of the NFL Rookie of the Year, would like to offer your readers the chance to win an Ultimate Super Bowl Party Pack valued at $250 for their own at-home viewing parties!

Sweet deal, sounds like. Party Pack pictured above, consisting of:

- 1 football
- 1 beverage pail
- 1 snack helmet (my favorite!)
- 2 keychains
- 2 hats
- 2 t-shirts
- 5 Pepsi 24-pack coupons
- 5 Frito Lay coupons

Yes, you’re thinking the same thing I am: Nothing says “par-tay” like FREE KEYCHAINS! (Actually, they do look big enough to serve as drink coasters…)

But seriously, this is a legit giveaway. Pepsi is promoting its National Football League sponsorship, along with its new logos/look, dubbed “Refresh Everything”. (For the purposes of this little contest, you can disregard my previous disparaging assessment of this soda makeover — not that anyone checks my archives…)

So if you want a shot at this big-time pigskin swag, just leave a comment in the space below. I’ll randomly pick the winner on Sunday, January 25 (get your comment in by Saturday, January 24 at the latest). I’ll need a way to get in touch with you, so leave your email address where provided (don’t worry, it won’t be public). If you win, I’ll send on your mailing address to Pepsi so they can ship out the goods in plenty of time before game kickoff on February 1. And that’s that!

And in the interests of full disclosure: I’m not getting paid by Tara nor Pepsi for this. I will, however, get my own commemorative logo-emblazoned Super Bowl XLIII football for my troubles. Which I’ll probably promptly hand off to one of my little football-crazed nephews. Everybody wins!

UPDATE: I checked, and only U.S. residents are eligible to win this giveaway (yes, that means no Canadians, either). So sorry to Alex Scott, who commented below. Just when the NFL was whipping up overseas enthusiasm with those European games, too…

UPDATE 01/25/2009: AND THE WINNER IS… - I ran all 52 comments through the list randomizer at Random.org, which is as random as random can get. The one that came out on top was No. 17 by Melissa! She’s already replied back to me with her address, so the Pack will be sent on its way to her this week. Thanks to everyone for joining in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 01/09/2021 11:39am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Bloggin', Food, Football
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Wednesday, January 07, 2021

fighting words
Congrats to David Singer, HockeyFights.com founder and a frequent visitor to this here blog, on being interviewed by Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy regarding the recent death of amateur hockey player Don Sanderson during an in-game fight.

Fighting in North American hockey is a recurring point of contention within the sport (it’s generally not in the rules in European leagues and prep/college play). So the Sanderson tragedy naturally has become a lightning rod for now-increased calls to have sanctioned fisticuffs banned from the NHL on down.

As you can guess, someone who runs a site called “HockeyFights” isn’t going to fall on the anti-fighting side of the debate. And the broadbased popularity of David’s site attests to the continuing support for five-minute penalty bouts on the ice. That support clashes with overt efforts to eliminate sanctioned fighting within the game, along with the more subtle de-emphasis by the NHL in rule refinements and marketing efforts that avoid mention of this aspect of the game.

Myself, as a fairly hardcore hockey fan? I can live with the status quo, in that I accept fighting as it’s currently codified in the NHL. If it’s popular enough with some of the fanbase that banning it would upset them, then leave things be. That said:

I’m not much of a supporter of fighting, and wouldn’t miss it if it were outlawed today. Hanging onto an activity that’s considered an ejection-worthy penalty in other team sports strikes me as antiquated. And as iffy as it is to judge any sport by the standard of another, I have to note that basketball, football, and other contact sports manage to function without the “outlet” that flying fists supposedly provides. Not to mention that this argument never ends, with re-flares coming at regular intervals — frankly, I’m tired of rehashing this debate when the value of it, for me, diminishes with each round.

The upshot? The situation brings to my mind Thomas Jefferson’s “wolf by the ear” comparative:

“But, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.”

Granted, the slavery issue that Jefferson was struggling over was of considerably more importance than how a sports entertainment league governs itself. But the scenario is comparable: Hockey is confronted with a contentious problem, and whichever course of action taken by its guardians will lead to problematic consequences.

Fighting in hockey is indeed a wolf. Keep it or banish it, the resultant course won’t be easy to deal with. Eventually, the NHL and other leagues will make their choice, and hopefully we can all move on from there.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/07/2021 11:44am
Category: Bloggin', History, Hockey, True Crime
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Tuesday, January 06, 2021

While author Neale Donald Walsch can hack it with the best of them when it comes to “Conversations with God”, he’s a bit more challenged when it comes to conjuring up original material for his Beliefnet blog. So it is that he was caught plagiar-blogging an inspirational Christmas story originally written by Candy Chand:

Walsch wrote on his blog Tuesday he was “truly mystified” about what happened and apologized. He said he had been telling the story for years in public talks and “somewhere along the way, internalized it as my own experience.”

“As a published author myself, I would never use another author’s words as my own,” Walsch wrote. “Yet I have apparently done just that — although with no deliberate intent to do so.”

Chand, of Rancho Murieta, California, said she did not believe Walsch’s account.

“It’s pretty difficult for me to believe that someone has a memory lapse that is word for word my story,” she said. “He deleted the first paragraph. That’s it.”

I love how email-forwarded material gets “internalized” so readily. Not to mention re-blogged with abandoned.

I guess God Himself needs to doublecheck Walsch’s material now, just to make sure His end of those “conversations” weren’t “internalized”. Although I guess that’s the ultimate aim anyway, in a more spiritual sense.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/06/2021 11:19pm
Category: Bloggin', Creative, Publishing
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Friday, November 14, 2021

Nearly a month ago, I switched hosting companies for this blog from BlueHost to HostGator, due to BlueHost’s increasingly unreliable service, i.e. downtimes of at least several minutes throughout each day.

Turns out all that downtime wasn’t the only thing BlueHost was screwing up:

I noticed right away a speed boost in page rendering under HostGator, mainly in the WordPress backend — posting, in particular, went from taking nearly a minute to just a couple of seconds. I was less aware that this slowdown was affecting the entire site. But it was, and the traffic increase I experienced immediately after moving to HostGator’s servers proves it: Discounting a couple of atypical spikes during that time (the result of linkages from bigger and badder blogs than this one), daily visits have risen a good 20 percent.

There’s no other reason for this to have happened. Referral source for that traffic continues to be search engine (basically all Google) queries. The only conclusion I can reach is that BlueHost’s servers were crapping out even more than I’d suspected, including taking several seconds too long to render pages, resulting in potential visitors quitting a page before they could view it.

So BlueHost was costing me traffic pretty much every second of every day. Bad enough, but it gets worse:

My Akismet filter would regularly contain a cache of a few thousand comment-spams, with a couple hundred getting caught per day. I didn’t think this was so unusual, even for a fairly small site like this one; in fact, I practically bragged about it.

But in the three-plus weeks I’ve been on HostGator, that Akismet spamhole has steadily shrunk. As of this writing, it stands at 159 saved entries. Maybe a half-dozen are added per day.

Again, there’s no other way to account for this significant drop, other than the switching of hosts. I can’t quite figure out why BlueHost would be such a spam magnet, but it is. The only positive is that it didn’t materially matter, in that the vast majority of that caught spam was indeed caught, and didn’t appear on the blog. Still, I’d just as soon not have all that cruft punch through in the first place, even if it does land in the Akismet queue.

So, in a nutshell: BlueHost not only significantly depressed traffic to this blog, it also put more strain on its backend by attracting more comment-spam toward it. Quite the combination in webhosting incompetence.

I pretty much never revisit negative customer-service episodes, especially when they’re primarily all about me; I’d said my peace in my previous post on the matter. But discovering that BlueHost’s service was this bad, even worse than I originally thought, practically compelled me to write this follow-up. To state that “BlueHost sucks” doesn’t cover it. I had already resolved to not use them again for myself, nor to recommend them to anyone, on any level. In light of all this, that resolution is hearby underlined, with extra emphasis.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/14/2008 11:48am
Category: Bloggin', Business
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Saturday, November 08, 2021

With (almost) everyone on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr et al, and the growing professionalism to be found on permalinked-posting sites like Huffington Post and Valleywag, it seems like the traditional personal blog is passe.

Social multimedia sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook have since made publishing pics and video as easy as typing text. Easier, if you consider the time most bloggers spend fretting over their words. Take a clue from Robert Scoble, who made his name as Microsoft’s “technical evangelist” blogger from 2003 to 2006. Today, he focuses on posting videos and Twitter updates. “I keep my blog mostly for long-form writing,” he says.

Twitter — which limits each text-only post to 140 characters — is to 2008 what the blogosphere was to 2004. You’ll find Scoble, Calacanis, and most of their buddies from the golden age there. They claim it’s because Twitter operates even faster than the blogosphere. And Twitter posts can be searched instantly, without waiting for Google to index them.

As a writer, though, I’m onto the system’s real appeal: brevity. Bloggers today are expected to write clever, insightful, witty prose to compete with Huffington and The New York Times. Twitter’s character limit puts everyone back on equal footing. It lets amateurs quit agonizing over their writing and cut to the chase.

I know flame-bait when I read it, particularly since this is coming out of Wired Magazine. So I’ll refrain from a detailed defense of blogging. Just a couple of points on why I’m not about to shutter this site:

- Relying solely upon non-text media to “express yourself” is a dubious choice. Sitting through videos, podcasts, etc. is time-consuming, versus allowing your audience to read a post at their own pace. Delivering micro-chunks via Twitter (or SMS or any other constricted short-form text) is even more annoying. And the lack of true hyperlinking with other sources around the Web hinders this means of expression.

- If Internet-style searchability is the aim, there’s no worse way to get that than with multimedia instead of text. Tags help, but that in itself can be writer-like work — especially to those who don’t like to write in the first place, i.e. the assumed post-blogging crowd — and is bound to be incomplete. Like it or not, Google and other search technologies rely upon keyword recognition, and until that changes, text-driven sites like the typical blog will do better.

- Finally, on the overarching notion that the social network sandboxes are the way to play in Web 2.0: I’ll just reprint the stage-by-stage lifecycle that digital walled gardens have, and will have by the time the Age of Facebook runs its course (note this list wouldn’t convey well on Twitter):

1. They launch amid much hype over attracting groups of enthusiastic, hip, pretty young things

2. They attain a critical mass of a couple million members

3. They start to cross-promote and sell ads like crazy, cashing in on what’s assumed to be a captive audience

4. They roll out premium add-ons for nominal fees

5. They get so large and ad-driven that they turn off the very members that flocked to them in the first place, leading to defections and a loss of cool-cachet

6. They sputter on, devolving into purely affiliate-marketing/spam-generating subscriber rolls of questionable value

And so on, until a new crop of sites roll out. What I can’t figure out is why people continually buy into them, swallowing the hype about how they’re new and innovative, when they’re far from it. Maybe the average joiner goes into it knowing that it’s got a short shelf life.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/08/2021 06:11pm
Category: Bloggin', Social Media Online
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Tuesday, October 21, 2021

…We’re back. In case anyone noticed this blog was down for the better part of today.

The reason: I was changing hosting companies for PopulationStatistic.com, and the move from one server to another had to take place somewhat piecemeal. Unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of taking the day off just to attend to this little ol’ blog.

But the job’s done now. At least as far as I can tell. There’s always some nagging little detail to miss when it comes to moving or upgrading a WordPress installation, but it appears to have come off cleanly. If anything snafus, hopefully I’ll catch and fix it forthrightly.

With that, I’ll give a thankful shout-out to HostGator, the new hosting provider hereabouts. I needed their tech support to complete the import of my WP MySQL database backup (I guess it’s fairly large at 17MB), and they did it for me quickly and cleanly. To boot, the site already feels a lot zippier, especially on the backend. I’m crossing my fingers that the experience stays positive. The fact that they run on green energy, and let you know about it, is an added bonus (as expressed by the “Hosted By” button tag I’m displaying in the lower-left sidebar on this page).

That’s the yin, here’s the yang: This switcheroo was necessitated by the crappy service rendered by my now-former Web host, BlueHost. This was my second year with the Utah-based company; the first year was fairly trouble-free. But this year, I’ve had consistent uptime problems since April. They started small and basically accelerated to the point where, lately, this site’s seen downtime of several minutes at various points during each day. As far as I can tell, BlueHost is embarking upon a massive expansion of its client base, and they simply can’t handle additional strain on their equipment — i.e., they’ve gotten too big for their britches. I’ve sent a couple of trouble tickets their way, and even directly emailed CEO Matt Heaton, to no avail. I’m not one to waste much time and effort in that avenue — I realize it’s fruitless. So after giving BlueHost ample time to address its growing pains, I washed my hands of the deal. Summation: BlueHost sucks. And there’s no way I’d recommend it, for personal or (especially) business projects.

That’s that, as far as this chapter of the blog housekeeping goes. I’m crossing my fingers I won’t have to address this again anytime soon. Justify my early-stage love, HostGator!

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/21/2008 06:25pm
Category: Bloggin', Business
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Thursday, October 16, 2021

By odd circumstance, over the past few days I’ve come into contact with a handful of former acquaintances, all formerly from Tampa Bay, like me.

Yes, some have websites/blogs: Rachel, who had a penchant for drawing online controversy; Dave Pinero, a quieter participant in the Bay area blogosphere; and Blunted On Reality, who’s just relaunched his blogging machine.

Rachel and Dave are making their way in/around the Big Apple, and have recently transplanted themselves. Blunted is now finds himself in the Philadelphia area. And there’s another member of this ex-Florida reunion who’s not so active online, so I guess he doesn’t count ( ;) ); but he’s in Brooklyn and has been for a while now.

It’s funny that I’d hear from all these folks in so short a timeframe. Must be something in the air.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/16/2008 12:24pm
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin'
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Monday, October 06, 2021

Power editrix Tina Brown did a soft-launch unveiling this morning of her latest project, The Daily Beast.

This is an online-only beast, pretty much designed to be a more editorially-refined version of Huffington Post. Chief way to have that concept shine through is to have Brown herself blogging on the site (although by her own admission she won’t be posting on a too-frequent schedule).

It’s a slick-looking production, as it should be considering IAC is fronting the money. I don’t have much use for any online news aggregators, but I could see making this one a regular destination. If for no other reason than the Evelyn Waugh inspiration for the site’s name.

One thing, though: Perusing though it, I don’t see a sports section. Maybe it’s laughable to suggest that a Tina Brown production include something as low-brow as primetime athletics, but hey, it would pull in another audience segment. Besides, it’s no more frivolous than the requisite celebrity-watch. I’ll put a call out to Ms. Brown now, since I wasn’t invited to the big Empire Diner staff-formation meeting: I’m available to serve as inaugural Beast Sports Editor! Hit me up, babe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/06/2021 12:08pm
Category: Bloggin', Celebrity, Media, Sports
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Tuesday, September 23, 2021

Well, I think I’ll abandon my crackpot efforts to score a spot on the annual John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” list. Because the 2008 edition was announced today, and of course, I didn’t get the coveted phone call.

It’s not so much that I wanted to get my grubby little hands on that $500,000 no-strings-attached grant money. No, really. It’s that I feel the world is just a little bit poorer for not having a MacArthur Foundation Blogging Fellow in its midst.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/23/2008 11:46am
Category: Bloggin', Creative
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