This site functions as an archive of Conner's Blog, which was a blog from 2006-2014 located at http://connermccall.com. Images and links are likely to be broken.

7 Ideas for a Business Blog

  1. Connect your employees with your customers.
    • The best thing about being a customer of a small business is getting to know the employees. You can use a blog to accomplish this. Let them write posts about their work day, give advice related to your business, or show off a recent success. You can let them write as much as they want and moderate and post the best content.
    • You may be lucky and have employees that are excited to write If you don't though you can still get great content. Pay your employees or reward them with gift cards for every post that is published. Remember you control the publishing so they don't just post stuff to just earn the incentive.
  2. Let it go out as a newsletter
    • Many of your customers probably aren't web savvy. RSS and blogs are probably not something they are familiar with. It's trivial to setup a system that emails your latest posts to a list of permissive users. Let them sign upand send it out at a pace they are comfortable with.
  3. Don't advertise
    • The worst thing you can do is turn your blog into a advertising mechanism. If it's well done it should be an advertisement in itself without being an advertisement. Don't promote your specials, "exciting new products", or write other forms of sensationalism. Your blog should be an attempt to leave the old ways of marketing behind. So what should you write about. Consider these options: how you choose a new product that fills your customers needs, the solution to a common problem your customers have, useful news from your industry, profiles of your employees or even your customers.
  4. Don't force it on anyone
    • This is a form of permissive marketing, it is not to be sold like a used car. Put up a sign somewhere in your store that your customers can see, don't have your sales people promote it. The best marketing is spread by your customers.
  5. Don't feel forced into the standard blog format
    • You don't need to write daily. You don't need to allow comments, In fact, I would hesitate to allow them as an irate customers is more likely to comment then a content customer. If you do allow comments, only allow customers to comment; having a sign up code on your receipts or invoices is a perfect way to accomplish this.
  6. Do not let your marketing department or public relations department write your blog.
    • Most marketers will kill any chance it has of being fun. Gimmicks, marketing slang, and PR spin is death to the personality your blog should develop. Ask an employee to edit posts, but let your writers be themselves. Marketing and PR will not let your employees passion for their jobs get through
  7. Don't let someone like me design your blog.
    • Hire a real designer and make sure your site looks professional. If you can't afford a designer find a template that is clean and can be customized to let your companies image take center stage.

An Ultimate Linux Server Introduction

This site is run out of a server that sits in my basement. I used to host my websites on a shared web host like GoDaddy, but after spending almost $100 a year and having very little control over my hosting service, I decided that I could run most of my sites from my home. Of course I don't get a lot of traffic so this is possible.

Recently however I started to attract some extra traffic here and there. Nothing major, maybe an extra 25-50 hits a day, but it got me thinking about what would happen if I happened to claw my way to the front page of Digg . A massive spike in traffic would most likely result in my site crashing. I can protect myself from this the best I can; tune apache, setup opt-caching, setup caching on Wordpress, and other modifications. Unfortunately, these can only help so much though when my server has a Sempron 2800+ with less than a GB of memory.

So I decided that something had to be done, I considered a few alternatives, but as I looked over the software and hardware landscape, I decided to focus on virtualization. I decided to purchase some additional memory and setup a Xen hypervisor. There are several benefits to this.

  1. If my server was brought to it's knees, I am be able to ssh into my system and hard reboot remotely.
  2. Improved security as I currently run numerous services on my server. I can isolate my internal services from the external services.
  3. I can setup monitoring, and receive alerts if a service or host fails. Without Xen, if my host failed I wouldn't receive alerts as the monitoring system was down.
  4. A great learning opportunity and a chance to write about it.
  5. It makes sense financially. I spent $50 on memory, which is cheaper than most hosting programs.

For those of you who don't know, Xen is a virtualization technology that allows you to host "Guest" operating systems on a single piece of hardware. You have your initial OS that you boot into as you normally would, then you can boot additional systems on top of the original system that independently. These systems are fully operational and can do pretty much anything a non Guest OS can do. The systems share the available hardware resources but the performance hit is minimal.

Throughout the next few weeks I will be putting up a series of posts that will describe the steps it takes to create what in my opinion is the ultimate Linux server.

Vikings Reaction and Fantasy Results( Week 1)

After watching the game last night, I' am starting to reconsider my position on the Vikings. Very little about the game was reassuring. For a variety of reasons, their defense was not impressive. They didn't pressure Rodgers nearly enough, they let Ryan Grant go off for a 50+ yard run, and Rodgers was running all over the place looking like vintage Duante Culpepper.

The offense looked the same as last year. A.P. was running well, but once the Packers were reassured the pass game was still atrocious, they started stacking the box. I will not even discuss the end of the game. I am not writing them off yet, but if Childress doesn't figure out a system that allows Jackson to complete more than 50% of his passes, the Vikings will not win eight games this year.

As for my Fantasy results, I won my first week. I started Willie Parker, Reggie Wayne, Joey Galloway, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Cooley and Hasslebeck. I also had Shayne Graham and Pit D. This netted me a total of 67 points, 24 coming from Willie Parker alone. The only roster change I should have made was starting Dwayne Bowe over Galloway, but I let the experts convince me that Kansas Cities offense was inept. I picked up Eddie Royal, Matt Cassell, and Jamarcus Russel. Cassell may not be a great pickup, but I cannot believe he will not perform well with that much talent around him. Royal will supplement Brandon Marshall well, and Russel was a pickup based on last night’s performance and the fact that Oakland is going up against a poor Kansas City Defense next week.

I Hope everyone enjoyed the first week of the season, looking forward to living and dying by my players for the next 15 Sundays.

Updates and Thoughts

Sorry for neglecting the three of you that visit, I'm trying not to write about politics and it's about all I have followed in the last two weeks. Hopefully I'll come up with something while driving around for work today. In the mean time here are a few random observations from the Interwebs.

Why would EA put such invasive DRM on Spore? This will only limit sales, and result in mass pirating.

I got mentioned on Scoble's blog due to a comment I left on Twitter.

Everyone is freaking out about the recent poll numbers, haven't they heard of a convention bounce? (Sorry couldn't resist)

I recently purchased a pro account on Flickr, check out my photostream for some great photos from Montana.

I'm working on a new theme for the site. It's going to be a lot cleaner and lighter. I'm working on it in an attempt to develop my wordpress skills more than anything so it may be awhile before it's ready for primetime.

The Logic of the Surge

The McCain campaign, it's surrogates, and some media members enjoy prodding Barack Obama about his stance on the surge in Iraq. They constantly attempt to force him to state he was wrong for opposing it. The fact of the matter is that they being illogical. They can state that Obama was wrong all they want, but the logic just doesn't support their argument.

Their first statement is the surge in troops worked. This isn't an easy thing to answer. Defining "worked" is like trying to define "happy", there are just too many variables. Did the violence in Iraq go down once the surge began, yes is the obvious answer. And I will assume that is the definition of "worked" in this case.

Can you really state that the entire decrease in violence was caused by our troops? And that we wouldn't have reached the current levels of violence without it? For the argument in questions to work you have to be able to answer those questions. To be honest though we could say that the Sunni Awakening is responsible. I tend to come down on the side of our troops and state that they were a big part of the decrease in violence. Obama has already stated that he agrees the troop surge was successful. And the fact violence is down it's easy to see. The logic of the McCain camp fails though when they say he was wrong to oppose the surge because violence is now down. To make that conclusion, they need to successfully state that without the surge, violence would not have decreased. That is a failed assumption. The only way to prove this is to be able to go back in time, not implement the surge and see the results. If violence remained at the same levels or accelerated Obama would be proven wrong. And inversely, if violence decrease Obama would be correct.

Unfortunately this is impossible. It may be that without the surge the Sunni Awakening along with the existing US troop presence would have decreased the violence. You could argue that it would have taken longer, but you could also argue that there would have been less US troop casualties without the surge. So that is a double edged sword.

To make a sports comparison, the logic that Obama's detractors are using is the same as stating that without that mid-season trade, a sport team would not have made the playoffs or won the championship. Everyone can see that the trade was successful, but to state that without the trade they would be out of the playoffs is impossible.

Another comparison would be stating that without a book being chosen by Oprah for her book club the book wouldn't be successful. Once again, Oprah choosing the book makes it a best seller, but who can say that without Oprah selecting it, that it wouldn't have become a best seller on it's merits alone.

Anyone who is willing to look at the logic can see stating Obama was wrong about the Surge is a fallacy. Arguing that the supports of the surge were also wrong is illogical by the same token. Obama hasn't done this though, he has admitted that the surge worked, but to admit that he was initially wrong would be to state that without the surge we wouldn't have seen progress, and you can't prove that without a flux capacitor.

Logic in Error Messages, Not necessary

CNN loves to mess with me in the morning. You have to love logic in error message.

Sarah Palin - An Inexcusable Pick

Next time you speak to your neighbor ask yourself, "If he suddenly got interested in politics, was able to win the hearts and minds of voters for a few elections, and ended up as Governor of my state in ten years, would you want him sitting in the Vice President's office?" If you answered yes to this question then you should stop reading now, if you said no, then continue on.

By choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain isn't empowering women, he is using a woman to get what he wants; the desk in the Oval Office. From what I have read, it looks like Palin is a very smart, courageous, and hard working woman. She attempted to clean up one of the most corrupt state governments in our country, and did it while raising five children. This is an impressive achievement and she deserves all the credit in the world for working for the causes she believes in. I don't agree with her policies, but her policies are the least of my concerns.

Here is one example of why it scares me she will be running for VP. She admitted a month ago that she does not know what the Vice President does on a daily basis. I will be the first to admit that I don't know what our Vice President does on a daily basis, but I'm not being picked as a running mate of the presumptive nominee of a major party. Should Palin have known what the VP does? Maybe not, but by admitting she doesn't, she showed her disinterest in government at the Federal level. Say what you want about Obama and his inexperience, at least he actively pursued the office he is running for, and I feel confident that Biden can answer that question. Palin on the other hand was chosen as a political prop, she had shown no interest in the position until she was chosen by McCain to preempt the reaction to Obama's speech.

There is going to be a lot of spin and a lot of excitement for the next week or two centered around Palin being the first female VP candidate on a GOP ticket. Then things are going to turn sour. She is going to get crushed by Biden in the debates. If you really think she can hold her own on foreign policy and national issues against the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, think about your neighbor going up against Biden ten years from now, even if he was extremely active in government. Keep in mind those eight years are spent in your state's government, not at the federal level.

This was a desperation pick by McCain, and is an insult to women. There were plenty of female candidates who are more qualified to lead this country than Palin. McCain appears to have chosen her because she is a pretty face and will shore up support on the right. I believe she is going to end up looking like a fool, and when the McCain/Palin ticket fails and Obama/Biden take office, do you really think our good old boy, Senator McCain, is going to take the blame. I would be shocked if he doesn't shift the majority of the blame onto Palin.

So what are we going to get out of this pick. To me the answer is clear, we now have what is going to be the running joke of the campaign. Being a woman didn't get Hillary Clinton off the hook, and if you have seen any of the footage of Palin taking shooting practice, how much fun do you think the Colberts and Stewarts(below) of the world are going to have with that. We are getting a inexperienced candidate who is going to make mistakes, and I think she is going to look foolish more than once during this campaign.

What I really worry we are getting, is a situation where a woman is going to fail in her pursuit of high office and it's going to be a failure unlike Hillary's. It is not going to be lauded by the members of her party when the ticket fails. She is going to get the blame for the failure, and they are going to ruin her career. It's a shame because those 18 million cracks could have been shattered, instead they are going to remain just that, cracks, and it's going to mean the next woman running for president is going to have to hit that ceiling harder than she would have had McCain not decided to play political games.

Tweetbar and Hahlo - The perfect Twitter setup

Sorry for writing another Twitter post, but it's currently my favorite application. I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to find the best Twitter client. As I run an AMD64 version of Ubuntu, many of the great Adobe Air client's are not available to me. And to be honest, the Twitter clients that are available for Linux just aren't that great.

I fought with Adobe Air for a while but finally gave up. Hopefully Adobe releases a 64bit version of Air soon because I would love to try out some of the apps on that platform. In the meantime I discovered a wonderful way to use Twitter in Firefox. I started using Hahlo last week. I also have Twitterbar installed in Firefox. Until today I was using Hahlo in a tab, but I realized today that this website was a perfect candidate for being loaded in the sidebar. How do you do this you may be asking. First add Hahlo as a bookmark. Then go to the bookmark and right click and choose properties. You will see an option on the bottom of the screen saying "Load this bookmark in the sidebar". Check that box, load the bookmark, and you have the result on the right.

Now Hahlo is great, it has a few small issues, but nothing major. For some reason whenever I start following someone in Hahlo device updates get turned on. But for following your twitter storylines it rocks. You can tweet in Hahlo but I don't really like the interface for some reason. To remedy this I installed Twitterbar. This extension allows you to post to Twitter using your address bar in Firefox. Just type your tweet into the address bar and hold your mouse over the dot on the right side. You will get feedback on how many characters you have left. Click the dot and it posts to Twitter. This makes more sense than it sounds I promise. Give it a try, you might like it.

Oh and follow me at Twitter http://twitter.com/sloped

Twitter, DNC, and Popcorn

I spent tonight sitting in front the TV watching the Democratic National Convention, Following Twitter, and eating Kettle corn popcorn. I'll leave the political analysis to the experts. But I do want to recommend twitter to anyone who wants to follow the convention online and don't want to jump from blog to blog. Ton's of good content there.

Anyway here is my recipe for Kettle corn. It's easy and tastes just like the stuff you get at the Fair.

I use a 6 quart saucepan to pop popcorn, use whatever size you want but know I screwed up 3 times in a row trying to make this previously and burned the sugar to the bottom of the pain. So don't use your best pan.

  • Add just enough oil to the bottom of the pan to 1/2 cover a layer of popcorn.
  • Add 1/2 cup of popcorn and about 3-4 tablespoons of white sugar and shake or stir
  • Cover and turn the heat on medium high to high
  • Shake frequently about once every thirty seconds to keep contents from burning
  • Once the kernels start to pop, shake once or twice more and then wait until popping stops
  • Dump in to bowl, add a bit of salt if you would like and enjoy.

How Twitter brought me back to Social Networking

Funny story, as I started writing this post I tried to go to Twitter and guess what, Fail Whale. You can't make this stuff up.

Yes, the Fail Whale is irritating, but Twitter is the best thing to happen to the web in a long time. In fact it got me interested in the Web, when for a long time I had no interest in anything other than reading the news and mindlessly perusing the top stories on Digg.

Not that I "got" Twitter at first, in first actual tweet was on May 6th of 2008, but I signed up in July of 2007 to utilize a web service that interfaced with Twitter. Then Twitter got big, at least around the tech world. For a while it was all you heard about, so I decided that maybe using Twitter would be a good idea. So I started following some of the more prominent twitterers. Suddenly I started so see the usefulness of Twitter along with the fun in Twitter.

How cool was it that I could sms a message to Twitter and get an answer from the cloud, of course for this to work I had to build my network. To build my network I had to make some connections, so I started using Twitter on a weekly, then daily, and then sometimes hourly basis. Sometimes it was to post link I found interesting, other times pointless observations, or maybe to microblog a Twins game.

So my network started to grow, I now have 33 followers, and have updated almost 200 times. The funny thing is that as I started using Twitter I found it easier to blog, and then I started to participate in online discussion more frequently. One thing led to another and soon I'm participating in the web instead of just observering. And it all started with a simple service that let you post short messages. Now I participate in numerous networks including Linkedin, Digg, Flickr, and Facebook. I hope someday this pays off in some useful way, but for now I am glad I'm actually participating instead of just consuming content.