Sam Harrelson





ShareASale’s Month of Interface

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The ShareASale team is really stepping up to the plate and doing some great things to improve the user experience for both affiliates and merchants.

Welcome to a string of blogs that will introduce features from our “Month of the Interface” which begins today, February 1st. 🙂

Each business day we will introduce a new feature or report, some will be “big” changes, some “little” ones.

As we go along, some of the reports we are introducing in stages so that you can get used to a new feature’s basic use before going deeper into the report…

Today’s new feature is the “Merchant Timespan Report,” which is a nifty AJAX powered summarized report on numbers, per merchant, over a chosen timeframe. Head over to their blog for a screen shot.

Some of you may recognize the technology used behind the report as “Ajax” which we have used in an attempt to make the report more interactive, faster, and easier to use (no reloading of the page).

Great job and idea, ShareASale. I’m incredibly excited to follow along throughout the month of February to see the rest of the new features and reports coming out. Coming right on the heels of Affiliate Summit, which pumped us all up again, this sort of serial installment of updates (including in house blog coverage) is sure to create some buzz and positive bumps!

Keep raising the bar!


Content Usage for CostPerNews

Content scrapers are horrible.

For example, here (love the AdSense check… you stay classy!) and here (you are a Tara Hunt fan as well?) are two sites that make use of the content on CostPerNews for their own profit. I’ve contacted both of those sites, along with about a dozen others, who are simply scraping the content here for their own AdSense dollars.

I’ve had no success in getting a response from them, so I’m formally posting a usage policy here in order that I may proceed with legal actions against these sites. So, if you read this and you’re scraping the content without attribution or for profit from CostPerNews… stop. I’ve contacted my attorney over the issue and he’s advised me to display the “Content Usage Policy” and Creative Commons license which CostPerNews has operated under since day one in order that we may move legal action ahead.

So, here is the entirety of the “Content Usage Policy” page now displayed over in the sidebar and an explanation of the Creative Commons license which CostPerNews operates under…

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I wholeheartedly hope that you find the content here thought-provoking enough to write about it on your own blog, website, forum or email conversation.

You are free to take the content here and mash it up, play with it, fold it 7 times and use as you see fit. However, if you do that, please give proper attribution. And please please please do not use the content provided here for your profit.

This blog is my lively hood and I simply cannot allow others to scrape content without any sort of attribution for their own profit.

If you do pull the content from the full feed I provide or from the site itself and put it on your own site, blog or forum for profit or without attribution, I will exercise my legal rights as the original content provider to stop you (see the Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Not only is it not fair to me, it’s not fair to my readers here or to users on the web searching for quality content.

You are free:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
  • to Remix — to make derivative works

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
  • Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
  • Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

See here for the full permissible uses of content from CostPerNews.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me or call me (+1 803-413-6834)


Snow Day

Got up at 4:30, took the pups out, got dressed, had my coffee and was ready to go for a day of teaching at GWU.  I’d repeatedly called into the University’s weather hotline all last night and this morning and according to the nice sounding lady’s voice on the recording, classes were still being held today.

So, I get into my car and make it about 40 minutes down the road from Asheville.  When I hit the Saluda grade, I decided to call the hotline once more just to make sure we were having classes because NPR was reading out all of the closings in the area.  Sure enough, classes were cancelled.   Ugh.

I’m glad for a day off, but at this point, I’d rather go ahead and teach!  We were covering the Exodus today and had a reading quiz scheduled, so this puts us yet another day behind (I spent too much time on Genesis 1 and 2).  Squeezing the entire Old Testament into one semester is unbelievably hard, especially when you have so much passion for the topics we are covering (and the students are beginning to ask good questions about the Documentary Hypothesis, etc).

Anyways, I’m kicking back with some Neil Young, hot chocolate, Josephus and Schaefer today.  I’ll send pics to Flickr if things get fun outside.

Enjoy your day, whereever you are!


Sociable Plugin with BUMPzee

I’m not sure how many of my readers use social bookmarking sites, let alone which network they use. I’ve used the Sociable plugin in the past to help you bookmark content here, but wasn’t sure of the plugin’s effectiveness.

Through an email from Jonathan (Trust), I discovered Andy Beard’s awesome alteration of the plugin to include BUMPzee as a choice.

So, that was incentive enough for me to bring back the Sociable plugin (see at the end of the post).

If you don’t use a bookmarking site or social network, I do recommend it. I use del.icio.us for my personal bookmarks and Ma.gnolia for CostPerNews bookmarks, which show in the site’s feed. Which is a great reminder that you should subscribe to the site feed here because there are many things I read and tag through Ma.gnolia that I don’t write about… and feed subscribers get a daily digest of those links. It’s a nifty way for me to say “hey, look at this” without having to email or post.

So, let me know what you think of the plugin and try out the BUMPzee option since I added it in to the php file, so it’s not officially supported.

Thanks Andy and Jonathan!


No Snow Yet

We’re supposed to get one heck of a winter storm today.

Nothing so far, and it kinda feels warm outside for 5:30am.

Hopefully it will roll in (but before I get back from GWU at 4pm)!


Widget Geography According to Yahoo

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Yahoo has a nice looking widget blog that it does a horrible job of keeping updated and current. Let’s face it… widgets are hot topics and Yahoo should be taking enormous strides to let people know what it’s doing behind the scenes to improve widget adoption and user experience. Yahoo has invested heavily in widgets by buying Konfabulator and there are currently about 3700 widgets that the Yahoo engine supports. Why aren’t they blogging more??
Then again, judging from the quality of posts, it’s probably a good thing they don’t update the blog frequently.

Nonetheless, they show some promise of actual insight and suggestions for new widget users with today’s post.

So, which Widget platform should you use?.

The simple answer to that question is “it depends”.

What are you trying to accomplish? How much (or little) power do you need? Will it be a web-only Widget, or will it run on the desktop? Do you have existing code you want (or need) to reuse? All of these factors can influence your decision.

and later…

Why choose a desktop Widget?

The advantages of a desktop Widget over a web Widget include:

Lives outside of the browser
Access to local resources
Potential for offline use & background downloading
Greater interaction with the rest of the system through standard desktop interaction.Desktop Widgets blur the line between the web and the desktop by pulling the content out of the browser and integrating it into your desktop.

Within the world of desktop Widgets there are several choices.

Apple Dashboard
Microsoft Windows Vista Sidebar
Google Desktop Gadgets
Yahoo! Widgets (Konfabulator)

Good stuff, Yahoo Widget Blogger (the author is “Ed”). Keep it up.

There’s going to be an incredible need for widget insight, information and tutorials as more people switch to Vista (and as more Mac users begin to make use of them). Vista is pushing widgets heavily as Gates and Co. attempt to bring people back to their desktop and away from life-inside-the-browser (or GoogleLand as I refer to it).


Anti-Social Media

Loren Feldman hates “social media.” Why should you care? Because he makes good points about crowd mentality.
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I would get into semantics and explain how social media and wisdom of the sheep/crowds are two different things, but it’s irrelevant to the point he’s making. He does make some very valid points about the place of creativity and individuality. Of course I strongly disagree with him on some issues, but you’ll have to make your own mind up on where you stand.

I think the categories he uses below the video are the best part. Ze Frank? Mark Cuban? Nice.

The following link may contain strong language, tattoos, gold chains, half naked unshaven men and vitriolic hyperbole offensive to some viewers and will make any children nearby cry (and pay no attention to his LinkedIn or MyBlogLog links on the right or the YouTube logo in the video)…

Loren Feldman on Social Media


Affiliate Networks Should Allow Tagging: 28% of Online Users Agree

Lisa Picarille, Shawn Collins and I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the usefulness and potential monetization of inventory made available by users tagging content on today’s AffiliateThing podcast, but we should have. We covered widgets and general monetization strategies for web2.0, and tagging is a key component of such a strategy. Shawn and I did play a “word association” game, and that should have been my opening to hop into a short tangent about the power of tagging, or the power of allowing users to tag.

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Tagging is nothing new in terms of concept, but web2.0 platforms such as Flickr, YouTube, Ma.gnolia, del.icio.us, and even our own beloved BUMPzee community have opened up the world (or at least the online world) to the power of tagging (or “labeling” as it is called in Google Reader, Picasa and GMail).

In effect, tagging enables end users to classify and partition content according to their own word associations. While a seemingly minor and semantic point, tagging has an incredible potential for any type of program, because it places the power of classification in the hands of the user, rather than artificially imposing classifications of date or categories by an authority.

Merchants are using tagging, but what I’d really like to see in affiliate marketing is a network that allows affiliates and publishers to tag offers within the network. That way, when an affiliate logged in to a network, they wouldn’t have to sort through the hyper-confusing maze of CJ or DirecTrack navigation, but could quickly and efficiently get to the offers they had previously tagged by just a few keystrokes. It’s a seemingly small tweak, but it could make the world of difference for your program. Affiliates could even share their network offer tags on their own blogs or sites via something like a del.icio.us tag cloud, thereby promoting the network to an even larger audience. Win-win.

Expanding the scope a bit, there is an interesting report out by Pew Internet research shows that 28% of internet users have tagged something…

Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information.

A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.

The report features an interview with David Weinberger, a prominent blogger and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

28% of internet users. That’s huge.

Tag indexing search engines such as Tagbulb are popping up to serve the need these users are developing and established sites such as Technorati are heavily reliant on tags.

If you’re a merchant or a network, brainstorm ways to implement tagging features and options for your end users. You’ll see the difference quickly.

View PDF of Report


1099 Form: It’s that Time of the Year Again

1099.jpgOnly two things in online marketing are certain: high conversions and net 15 payouts.

Wait… that’s not right.

I meant to say taxes and server crashes.

If you’re an affiliate, you should have received a 1099 form for each network or merchant that you’ve done over $600 in business with by Thursday February 1. If you’re a network or merchant, you need to make sure that you’ve got your 1099’s mailed out.

From the Wikipedia entry on 1099’s:

A notable use of Form 1099 is to report amounts paid to independent contractors (in IRS terminology, such payments are nonemployee compensation). The ubiquity of the form has also led to use of the phrase “1099” to refer to contractors themselves. U.S. tax law requires businesses to submit a Form 1099 for every contractor paid more than $600 for services during a year. This requirement usually does not apply to corporations receiving payments.

Many businesses and organizations must file thousands of 1099s per year. Thus, payers who file 250 or more Form 1099 reports must file all of them electronically or magnetically with the IRS. For further information refer to Publication 1220, Specifications for Filing Forms 1098, 1099, 5498 and W-2G Magnetically or Electronically or Publication 1187, Specifications for Filing Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1220.pdf) The IRS no longer accepts 3 1/2-inch diskettes for filing information returns, and is phasing out other magnetic media. Electronic filing will soon be the ONLY acceptable method to file information returns at its computing center in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

I’d argue that we all need an educational discussion on this topic because it’s becoming more and more complex to follow the rules due to affiliate marketing’s increasing reach beyond just revenue sharing. For example, a current thread over at ABestWeb is discussing the validity of claiming PPC losses on individual taxes. Interesting.

Some hosted solutions such as MyAffiliateProgram are even offering to handle the composition and delivery of 1099’s for partnering merchants, making the whole process a little less painful and time-consuming. That’s an very valuable and mature business selling point.

Carsten Cumbrowski has posted some helpful info here and here is an interesting thread discussion from ABW in 2002 about 1099’s and Linkshare.

So, what do you say, Shawn? Affiliate Marketing and Taxes discussion at the next Summit?

How much trouble do you have to go through to follow the tax rules?

Have affiliates adequately figured out the proper procedure for claiming earnings and losses?


CostPerBandwith

Wow.

May I take a minute of your time to give you thanks?

I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate the amount of visits since CostPerNews officially launched back on November 1 of 2006.

In fact, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds.

We’ve actually grown so much that on Saturday night at 2am I was awaken by a call from my trusty hosting company, LivingDot, with a warning that CostPerNews was within a few megabytes of going over its bandwith limits for the month… which was something I hadn’t planned for this early.

So, I’ve doubled the bandwith for the site in order to keep this from happening again while CPN continues to grow. However, I simply cannot tell you how incredibly happy I am to have around 300 active daily feed readers along with a Google PR of 5 and a Technorati rank within the top 40,000 this early. For a blog only three months old, those are impressive numbers, and it’s all because of you.

In other words, please keep commenting, emailing and letting me know ways to make CostPerNews a better site. Bandwith is not cheap for someone who is attempting to make all of their income from a blog, so if you have any ideas on improvements we could make or would like to contribute to the CostPerLove fund, please don’t hesitate to contact me!