Monday, May 30, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Applicability: The venerable Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien coined this term when badgered one too many times about whether or not his beloved fantasy series was supposed to be a World War II allegory. It wasn’t, but he thought readers could easily apply such an interpretation to the text without losing anything.

Literary Terms You Should Know

Apostrophe: Beyond a term for daily punctuation, apostrophe also pulls audiences aside to address a person, place or thing currently not present. O, Shakespeare! Such a sterling example of apostrophe use!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Short, sweet little sayings expressing an idea or opinion are familiar to everyone — they just don’t always know the technical term for them. Dorothy Parker was a particularly adroit user of aphorisms.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten tips for choosing a good domain name

Ten tips for choosing a good domain name
Tim North,

What makes a good domain name? Well, it's a subjective issue, of course, but here are ten tips to point you in the right direction.

1.  Good domain names are easily memorable and easily typed. Generally this means keeping them short.

2.  Hyphens should be avoided if possible. When I chose BetterWritingSkills as a domain name, I deliberately didn't include hyphens. I agree that it would have made it easier to read (, but the problem is that it is more difficult to *say*.

If someone asked me for my web address and I said "better hyphen writing hyphen skills dot com" I certainly wouldn't expect them to remember it.

The bottom line with hyphens is that most domains don't include them. So, when you tell someone your domain, they'll probably try typing it without any hyphens.

3.  Use a plural form if this seems more natural. If you're selling toy trains, I'd go with "" instead of "".

4.  Domain name search programs can help you to choose variations on a name. One such program is "Mozzle Std" which you can download for free from this address:

Programs like this are a great help when you're trying to think of a new domain name. (Mozzle's "Advanced Search" feature is particularly useful.)

5.  If you're marketing your products and services primarily to users in a single country (other than the US) then seriously consider using that country's top-level domain.

For example, if you're retailing products primarily to New Zealanders then choose to end your domain with ".nz". In Australia, use ".au" etc. This will help to identify your site as a local one.

On the other hand, if you're marketing your products or services globally (or if you're in the US), use ".com" as your top-level domain.

6.  Don't use words that are tough to spell. Similarly, don't use words that are spelled differently in some countries. For example, "" may confuse those of us in the Antipodes who would probably expect "".

7.  Ensure that there will be no trademark or other legal problems with the domain name you choose.

8.  Brand names (e.g. may be preferable to generic names such as "". For many years, it was assumed that generic names were hugely valuable. (Indeed during the late 90s, some generic domain names were selling for millions of dollars.)

These days, many analysts argue that a domain name that features your brand name is more important. For example, if you've invested time and effort building up your brand name (Toyota, for example) you'd be better of using Toyota as your domain name, rather than something generic like "GreatCars".

9.  Avoid domain names that are too similar to existing ones. Not only do you want to avoid legal issues (tip 7), but you want your brand to be distinct from that of your competitors.

10. Remember, you don't *own* your domain name. You're merely renting it for a specified period. Don't let your domain name expire, or your competitors may snatch it out from under you.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Successful small-business on the web

Successful small-business on the web
Tim North,

Stripped of all the hype and hard sell, it's still realistic for the average small business to expect to make money by selling products or services on the web.

Don't expect it to be easy, though. Making money on the web is (and always was) hard work. This article discusses how to avoid the many pitfalls that await you.

Choose your field of battle

If you're looking to make money from the web, there are four main offerings that you can provide:

1. You can sell physical products like books, videos or CDs. Clients visiting your web site order these online using credit cards. You then post out the products.

2. You can sell online products like software, e-books or subscription-based newsletters. Clients can purchase these online using credit cards and then immediately download them.

3. You can advertise in-person services in which you meet face- to-face with your clients. Such services include accountancy, plumbing, gardening etc. Clients then pay in-person, not online.

4. You can advertise online services for which you don't need to meet the client, but can deal entirely via e-mail; e.g. proofreading.

The first step to making money on the web thus requires you to choose which of these offerings you plan to provide. You may decide to specialize in a single one, or you may try to cover all four.

Find a niche

It's almost certain that whatever product or service you're going to sell, a lot of other people are selling it too.

A remedy for this situation is to specialize.

Find a niche that's little covered. For example, if you wanted to sell music, you might specialize in Australian music or even Australian country music.

By doing so, you're lessening the size of your audience, of course, but you're also lessening the number of people you're competing with.

The trick is to find a niche that will have a large enough audience to sustain you yet is specific enough that you have few competitors.

Achieving success

Having decided what products and services you want to sell – and researched how much competition you'll have -- there are still a few major hurdles remaining:

1. If you're going to be selling online, you'll need to be able to accept credit card payments.

2. You'll need to be able to set up a web site.

3. You'll need to be able to market it effectively.

Good luck and best wishes with your new venture.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spam: why is it so bad now?

Spam: why is it so bad now?
Tim North,

E-mail has become tremendously frustrating.

Spam (i.e. junk e-mail) has risen to nightmare proportions. Some sites have reported that 98% of their incoming e-mail is spam.

It's worthwhile taking a moment to explain what's going on and what we can all can do to help control the problem.

What's causing all this junk e-mail?

First, let me quickly define a couple of terms:

    A VIRUS is a computer program that can attach a copy of itself to another program (or document) on the same computer.

    A WORM is similar to a virus but has the added ability to copy itself to other computers. (It's a "super" virus.)

    A program with a virus or worm attached to it is said to be INFECTED.

Here, a little simplified, is how a typical worm works:

1. You receive an e-mail message with an infected attachment.

2. You open the attachment thus infecting your computer.

3. The worm program in your computer's memory now starts quietly e-mailing copies of itself to people whose e-mail addresses are stored on your computer; i.e. your friends and colleagues.

4. These people each receive an e-mail message with an infected attachment, and the cycle starts over for each of them.

To make matters worse, many worms put a fake address in the "From:" line of the infected e-mail they send. For example:

1. Alice's computer is infected with a worm. It searches her address book and finds addresses for Bob, Cathy, Don and Eric.

2. Without her knowledge, Alice's computer e-mails infected attachments to Bob, Cathy and Don, but the "From:" line claims they're all from Eric.

3. Bob, Cathy and Don abuse poor Eric (who is blameless).

4. Alice is blissfully unaware that SHE remains the source of the problem.

How can I stop getting all this spam?

Short answer: you can't.  :-(

As long as other people (like Alice) remain unaware that their computer is infected, you'll continue to receive infected e-mail from them.

Okay, what *can* I do?

Be *certain* that your machine is uninfected.

Let me repeat that: be *CERTAIN* that your machine is uninfected.

Remember, the Alices of this world are a problem because they don't *know* they're the problem.  You might be Alice.

How can you be certain? Simple: always use an anti-virus program. There is an excellent free program called "Microsoft Security Essentials" that is available here:

The fewer people whose computers are unintentionally infected, the less spam we'll all receive.