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SEO isn’t dead, but these five SEO techniques are…

SEO isn’t dead, but these five SEO techniques are… published on No Comments on SEO isn’t dead, but these five SEO techniques are…

Wait a minute. I read the Internet. The Internet says “SEO is Dead!”

Yes, I’ve heard it too but, like Samuel Clements, the rumors of SEO’s death have been greatly exaggerated. What is dead is SEO as we once knew it. The days of looking for technical “tricks” to work around the search engines algorithms are over and the days of any sort of automated content generation, magical link building, or SEO-by-posting-comments-other-peoples-blogs are seriously numbered (probably to minus 1 day and falling).

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What is SEO?

What is SEO? published on No Comments on What is SEO?

SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”.

If you’re bought this series, you probably already know what that means – or at least you think you know what it means. If what you think it means is “How do I get my website to number 1 on Google?” then the very first thing that we need to do is realign your expectations of search engine optimization.


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Is Gamification in ToDo Applications broken?

Is Gamification in ToDo Applications broken? published on No Comments on Is Gamification in ToDo Applications broken?

Gamification, e.g. adding point scoring, competition with others, rules of play, etc. is a popular way of adding “fun” to productivity and work tools in the hopes of boosting user engagement. In some instances this is done to increase the user, and team’s, productivity by rewarding “good” behaviour. But with so many to-do list and workflow applications competing for all important users, many have turned to gamification as a way of hooking us in.

And hook us in it does.

I’ve been using Todoist for almost a year and I’ve amassed a score of over 12,000 “karma” points. It can be addictive and whilst ensuring that you tick off a configurable number of tasks each day is a decent enough way of ensuring you have an eye on how much you’re getting done each day, there are some flaws in the system.

Not all tasks are created equal

“Buy the milk” and “Write up year end status” are both tasks that don’t necessary need to be broken down into individual sub-tasks, but that in terms of the time required to complete them and their value in terms of productivity are very different. Equally “Chair team meeting” is a one-line task that could easily take up several hours, but still only exists as a single line on your task sheet.

Whilst there is the ability to prioritise tasks, this doesn’t have significantly noticeable affect on karma scoring.

The net result is that big tasks, difficult tasks, and important tasks, do not necessarily increase your karma any more than buying that milk. Whilst I didn’t fall into the trap of completely gaming my karma score, it’s often the case that you “fail” to meet your self-assigned goals on a day when you’ve actually been very productive whilst a less productive day can qualify as an easy pass.

The net effect of this is worsened when the karma score is high; one bad day may not affect your score that much but it can break your “streak” – the number of days and weeks that you’ve met or exceeded your goals. I realised there was a problem with the system when I caught myself entering things I had done already and then ticking them off not because I wanted to have a record of my activity, but because I didn’t want to break my streak.

You get points for using, not for doing

Using Todoist’s advanced features – dates, priorities, etc. garners you extra points.

I see this as quite a glaring example of where the gamification is not being used to enhance the productivity of the user, but the increase their engagement with the application. Using these features is not a guarantee of me being more productive, but if I use them my karma score will go up.

It’s the gamification equivalent of free sandwiches and drinks whilst you lose your shirt at the blackjack table.

The Bottom Line on Gamification

The bottom line is that if you are using a gamified system to track your productivity and performance, make sure you understand how the scoring system works so that you can make sure that it is working in your favour.

Lifehacker has a good list of gamification options for adding games to most aspects of your life

How to fix gamification in to-do list applications

Gamification can be an immensely powerful tool for encouraging and maintain good habits but for it to work it has to be user-centric, rewarding the user when they do things that are in their best interest as opposed to the best interests of the application.

Here are the things that I’d change in Todoist’s karma calculation:

  1. Give the importance of a task more weight so that completing high priority tasks rewards you more.
  2. Weight scoring so that completing a task ahead of time garners bonus points.
  3. Remove bonuses for using certain product features – if you don’t need them to be productive then you shouldn’t be penalised for this
  4. Add the ability to enter the duration of a task, or characterise a tasks as “quick/small/slow/long” etc. Completing longer, more complex tasks should out-weigh small and simple tasks.
10thology cover

10thology reviewed by Starburst

10thology reviewed by Starburst published on No Comments on 10thology reviewed by Starburst

Starburst Magazine reviewed 10thology here –

One story you will read at least twice is the non-linear Devolution. Chris Lynch has written a perspective-bending tale of time travel by giving different time periods to five wildly different artists, combining them into a plot told in panels that can be read left to right or up to down while still remaining coherent. No mean feat and, while the first read through can be confusing, the more you go back, the more you glean about the story beneath the story. It’s not quite perfect and can be jarring in places, but still qualifies as a technical triumph. Nazi bombs travelling through time to explode over modern-day Cardiff, Vikings stalking past the Wales Millennium Centre, monks worshipping a licence plate spelling DE1TY in the car park where once sat their monastery … Devolution has got it all.

Starburst is one of the longest running and most respected sci-fi magazines in the UK. A technical triumph? Yes, thanks, I’ll take that.

Kris Karter reviewed 10thology too!

UK comics own Kris Karter might have summed it up best though, at

“Devolution”, which certainly lived up to its title, pushing the medium of comic-book storytelling in a wacky way (presenting a book that can be read page by page or fully left to right as a double page spread. I know, I know, mind-fuck city!)

Import/Customs Duty on Crowdfunded Products

Import/Customs Duty on Crowdfunded Products published on No Comments on Import/Customs Duty on Crowdfunded Products

In my earlier article about Kickstarter and VAT, I highlighted the need for anyone running a crowdfunding campaign in or from the UK to be mindful of their exposure to VAT and other taxes.

Turns out buyers need to be thinking about their tax position as well. If goods are being shipped to you from outside the UK, you may find that Customs and Excise apply an “import duty” on your parcel before you are receive it. Imports of the Pebble SmartWatch were affected by this last year and there’s frequent and vibrant discussion over on Money Saving Expert about this as people periodically cry foul over import duties on their Kickstarter-ed goods.

Whilst a gift from someone overseas is not considered taxable, the majority of people running crowdfunding campaigns are reluctant to risk potentially misrepresenting the contents of the parcel as a gift when sending it. Payment gateways, such as PayPal, and Customs and Excise have all done their best to establish the clear rule – pledging to a crowdfunded project in return for a reward is buying and any goods you receive as a consequence are liable for all appropriate taxes.

Shipping and handling are also included in the value of the item when it comes to duties so be wary of just where goods are being shipped from and how this affects the value of your item.

The Tax Man Cometh: Kickstarter and VAT

The Tax Man Cometh: Kickstarter and VAT published on No Comments on The Tax Man Cometh: Kickstarter and VAT

NBC are carrying a story today warning artists and entrepreneurs using Kickstarter that the IRS could be looking into the money they’ve raised through crowdfunding.

Whilst Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and others are emphatic that what you are giving are “donations”, the IRS are taking a different view…

“The way these sites work makes it sound like: Donate to this cause, this project, this hobby…”

“It sounds innocuous, like nothing tax-related would come up. But any time money changes hands, the IRS is going to find a way to tax somebody.” – Chris Barsness, a business attorney at BarthCalderon in California.

Whilst individual situations can, of course, vary, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that you have to treat your Kickstarter campaign as a business.

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The Psychology of Giving – Why do people back crowdfunded projects?

The Psychology of Giving – Why do people back crowdfunded projects? published on No Comments on The Psychology of Giving – Why do people back crowdfunded projects?

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, anthropologist, or even much of a proper scientist (computer scientists don’t count, ology or not). I am a monkey with a magic typewriter that makes my words appear on your screen. Read on.

In my last few blog posts I’ve taken a look at crowdfunding efforts that have failed and measured some of the fallout from these. The conclusion that I’ve come to so far is that whilst funding a project isn’t the same as buying a thing, a lot of people don’t understand that. People are putting money into projects because they expect to get something out, and they cry foul when they don’t. I consequently don’t believe the crowdfunding platforms do enough to ensure that backers understand the risks and I think they should shoulder some of the responsibility when a project fails.

I’ve had a lot of interesting responses to these blog posts, especially when they have been linked to from Reddit and a few other online forums and social networks. One of the recurring themes in the responses is that “funding” a projectused to be just that – funding. Not buying a level of reward or investing in the hope of some future gain (which is how I think crowdfunding is best described today).

It’s indicative of the speed at which things evolve and change on the internet that just a few years after the launch of Kickstarter (April 2009), people are referring to the “good old days” of crowdfunding in the same warm and nostalgic tones that people normally use when talking about the cartoons of their youth or the pretty girl in school that they never kissed but always loved.

That made me wonder – if we could get back to the original crowdfunding, the pure “giving” without promise or guarantee of reward, what would motivate people to give in the first place? Is this even possible?

That question was the start of an interesting journey. It turns out that I’m not just a horrible old sub-human cynic. According to anthropologists, giving is hard-wired right into our brains… but so is receiving in return.

Continue reading The Psychology of Giving – Why do people back crowdfunded projects?

Another Kickstarter project fails: The Rise and Fall of YogVentures!

Another Kickstarter project fails: The Rise and Fall of YogVentures! published on No Comments on Another Kickstarter project fails: The Rise and Fall of YogVentures!

Hot on the heels of my article on why Kickstarter, and all other crowdfunding platforms, need to take a role in protecting the investment of project backers, another very high profile project has gone kaput.

The project is (was?) YogVentures! and Polygon have some of the most in-depth coverage of the failure

Crowdfunded to the tune of $567,665, the project was the brainchild of the team behind the “YogsCast” podcast. The plan was to build an infinitely customisable virtual world for multiplayer adventuring.

Yogventures is going to be an open world sandbox game designed first and foremost as a multiplayer experience. The game will allow you to create and shape worlds, then easily share them and play with friends! We’re going to take the idea of “build your own adventure” to the extreme. Yogventures will provide simple-to-use tools to design worlds that match your imagination and are packed with thrilling stories and epic treasures.

The development work, and a budget of $415,000 (the balance of the Kickstarter after payment gateway and Kickstarter fees), were handled over to “Winterkewl Games”. Although they boasted a roster of “top flight” talent, this was the be Winterkewl’s first ever title.

I didn’t read their Kickstarter page until after things had gone wrong but, coming from a long software development background, I can see red flags all over this project.

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What Happens When a Kickstarter Project Doesn’t Deliver?

What Happens When a Kickstarter Project Doesn’t Deliver? published on No Comments on What Happens When a Kickstarter Project Doesn’t Deliver?

There is no guarantee that people that post projects on ButterStarter will deliver on their projects, use the money to implement their projects, or that the completed projects will meet backers’ expectations.

Sound familiar? It’s actually from “ButterStarter”, a tongue in cheek project shared on Kickstarter by Peter Serafinowicz’s alter ego “Brian Butterfield”. Whilst it might be for fun, and continues Butterfield’s trademark of being late to just about every business and technology idea ever, its description of how “ButterStarter” will work shines a pretty harsh light on Kickstarter itself and the risks inherent in backing a project.

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Should I Pay to Promote my Crowdfunding Campaign?

Should I Pay to Promote my Crowdfunding Campaign? published on No Comments on Should I Pay to Promote my Crowdfunding Campaign?

So far, 0% funded on the IndieGoGo campaign. So, what have we learnt?

Well, the first thing I’ve learnt is that crowdfunding is as rife with corruption as most other online endeavours. Over the past 48 hours I have received multiple offers from people who will fund my campaign and let their friends know about if I pay them to.

Most of the offers link to profiles over on Fiverr.

There are a mix of services available. Some are genuine offers to advise and guide you on your campaign, others are offers to advertise your campaign on a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, etc. This are all pretty much straight forward and amount of paid for advertising. Nothing nefarious here, although seeing some blogs I know here was a bit of a surprise.

The seedier side of things consists of the people who are offering to back campaigns if you pay them.

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