I first went online somewhere back around 1987, I think. Back then is was through a Bulletin Board Service (BBS). My parents bought me a computer for Christmas. We open our present at midnight on Christmas Eve. After opening goodies, I put the IBM clone computer together and started playing with it. Next thing I knew, sunlight came through the window and it was morning.
It's pretty obvious that many people have found a similar all consuming experience with computers, all the stronger now with all the instant news, chats, e-mails, video and music available via the web.
For the most part, I see this as a very good thing. But sometimes, it requires a conscious effort to step back sometimes, and look at the world beyond the glowing computer displays. Even to know that world exists and has its own set of parameters.
Could take it more broadly really. As a philosophy graduate student I often had to stop and awe sometimes at the rigid walls and competition between academic disciplines.
The ownership of a computer and access to web is a pretty big wall between the web world and not. Easy to forget sometimes so much online is restricted by the digital divide. Often real world events brings that divide to focus.
I remember being utterly dumbstruck when after a terrible tragedy, online folk were ecstatic and slapping each others back over how well one form of technology relayed questionable details about the event online.
Besides seemingly failing to notice the real life hardship people faced, there seemed to be more emphasis on getting news FIRST rather than getting good news.
Just recently during the Southern California fires, I saw first hand how limited that information could be. A resident of Yorba Linda, where one of the fires burned, but five miles away, besides watching the smoke from my backyard, I kept my TV tuned to the local news broadcasts. I also watched things online, interested that for the most part, it sucked in comparison to the local TV news and shots from the news helicopter.
The day following the fire threat to Yorba Linda, my friend called from Northern California convinced I was about to burn. She noted all the sources online she'd read and insisted I read them too. I tried to tell her I'd been watching the news and following the story all day, but she was adamant I was about to burn.
Finally, I had to describe to her what I saw from the backyard that day verses the day before.
It's pretty obvious sometimes we just have back up and re-evaluate. Even though I make my living off computers, I still occasionally do week long zero computer fasts and pick up a book. It makes me wonder though about generations who jumped online so much earlier in life. Is separation already no longer an option to them?
The most common theme for a good web site is traffic. A site is nothing without visitors. Getting them is hard, providing what they need is harder and getting them to come back the hardest. Even the most popular topics, and most famous people still have no guarantee of a healthy flow of web traffic.
Planning on being famous, making a splash online, or having a famous child? Best to buy all relevant domains now. No joke. The moment a name becomes celebrity or buzz word starts glowing, there are sites going up to try to attract traffic about it. Some are of genuine interest and support, some are sleazy spam sites and domain squatters.
Either way, it means one thing: Search Rank Competition.
The tool to fight with in this competition is called "Search Engine Optimization" (SEO). However, everyone has access to this tool. The tool is only as good as it is utilized with effort, patience and consistency.
There are a lot of promises out there to get your site traffic or high rank in search engine results. One word: beware.
Good SEO is good SEO, but no guarantee. A lot of people, a lot of sites, have good SEO. Even great. And all are competing to be on the first page of results from search engines.
If anyone tells you different, you face two risks. 1) Paying out a lot of money, and even worse, 2) getting booted from the Google index (meaning you don't show at all!).
Though there are no guarantees to get high placement with google, there are guarantees how to get booted. There is good page rank, and there is negative page rank and there is no page rank. Negative page rank is really hard to shake.
The good news among all this treachery however, is that quality counts. A good site is rewarded. Good content is rewarded.
SEO is not a magic pill. It is a set of best practices that takes work and consistency to pay off. Elements of which will be discussed as this series continues.