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This site is so infrequently updated, I just have to wonder who (if anyone) still subscribes to it via RSS. I was looking back and there is some decent content on here though a fair bit of it is outdated as well. It might be about time to pick up and start over on a real non-WordPress hosted domain with solid tips, news and commentary related to social media, blogging and other related tech topics, but perhaps not just yet.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that social media is corrupt and that social media success is based on knowing the system or having friends with clout. Well, how is that different from regular media? In normal journals, newspapers and magazines not just anyone gets published, right? It is about your credibility and who you know. So why do people complain so much about corruption in social media? Did you really expect it would be fundamentally new and different?

The difference, as I see it, isn’t related to democracy or egalitarianism. Rather, the difference is participation. More and more mainstream media publications are adding blogs and comments, following the lead of social media sites. However, the basic paradigms and earned hierarchy and contact-based success haven’t changed. Is that so wrong? Do you really want to sift through the thousands upon thousands of stories submitted to Digg on a daily basis?

The reality is: any media source needs a way to sort information ahead of time prior to publication. In the case of newspapers, editors and the position held by reporters control what the public ultimately sees. In the case of social media sites, users vote for stories but they also vote for submitters. Either way, there is an element of content as well as an element of author (or submitter) trust.

So what can we take from all of this? Social media isn’t, perhaps, as different from regular media as we might have assumed, expected or hoped. However, it might be a step in a new direction. So instead of complaining about the details, we should, perhaps, all take a step back and think more broadly: are we at least moving in the right direction? Even if this kind of media isn’t fundamentally new, is it at least an improvement?

Much like front-runner political candidates, mainstream social media sites often get more attention than up-and-coming ones. There are, however, compelling reasons to look at newer beta and/or less well known sites. Some sites provide new services or features, or recombine old ones in unique ways. Others compliment or build on the functions of existing social media or other sites. The following four websites are ones that social media site users and bloggers alike should be aware of, and that already successful social sites should look to for new ideas.

(1) Romlet is a great way to build a reputation online as well as valuable PR and traffic via (free) backlinks. The Romlet widget combines and condenses some of the best aspects of a variety of useful and successful widgets. It also has the potential to develop into new kind of social network. The widget itself is part stats counter, part brag badge and part social bookmarking tool. Similar to the MyBlogLog recent visitors widget, the Romlet widget shows where visitors came from. These sources are displayed as favicon links to the referring source, which also work like AddThis bookmarks. Romlet users can also choose to display the number of visitors from each source, like a FeedBurner stats widget. Users can also visit their custom Romlet homepage to see more information and statistics about their own site or about other Romlet user sites and articles. Click here to see an example of Romlet in action.

Romlet

Romlet is still short on some potential community-building functions, a by-product of how new the site and widget are. Over time more functionality should certainly be added to encourage greater interaction between Romlet users. Social news and bookmarking options could potentially build on the already successful aspects of the widget. As with Peopleized, however, Romlet‘s creators continue to develop new functions based on user feedback.

(2) Peopleized is a relatively new social networking site where people interview one another in order to build up popularity and network with other people in an area of interest. Many of the site’s current users are bloggers, but not all. People can post or quote their interviews or others on their own website or social networking profile. These interviews serve multiple functions: building up PR on an established website, getting exposure to new audiences and developing press release information and skills for future use.

Peoplized

Probably the biggest limitation of Peopleized right now is that the functionality is not completely built out for hosting interviews and other information on remote sites. Most of the action takes place on the site itself, which is a good start (considering the site’s high levels of traffic) but could be expanded upon. Fortunately, the creators of Peopleized are already working on expanding its capabilities on major social networking sites such as Facebook.

(3) Plime is a social news site with a fairly complex and successful system for organizing and presenting content in various categories. First, there are more ‘offbeat’ categories than on most social news sites, including WTF and weird. Each story submitted can be easily tagged with an image, something Digg and Reddit would do well to take notice of. Plime voting also works in a fairly innovative way: votes are automatically given to new stories based on how many users have upmodded the user who submitted that story. Like StumbleUpon, users can also indicate categories of interest. In short, Plime integrates some of the best features from major social news sites.

Plime

The biggest downside right now is that, due to a lack of users, the site seems to recycle a lot of the material presented on said major social sites. The biggest upside for content creators is that the site doesn’t seem to put a lot of weight on where a story is submitted from – favoring content over existing URL popularity, making it a great place to submit stuff (yours or that of someone else) from lesser-known websites.

(4) Shoutwire is another social news site that has been around for some time but is relatively under-appreciated, particularly by people who want to get their content out into the world. The site works a lot like mainstream social media sites, but is perhaps less well organized. To compensate, however, it offers more options for user-submitted content – including forums for discussion and on-site editorials. Also, ShoutWire sends a significant amount of traffic to sites that successfully get voted to the front page. Admittedly, the traffic volume doesn’t compare to sites like Digg, but anywhere from a few thousand to over ten thousand hits from 20 votes is nothing to scoff at.

ShoutWire

Usability and ease of navigation seem to be the major drawbacks of ShoutWire. It is somewhat hard to find anything but the front page and almost-popular or newly-submitted upcoming articles. Something like Digg’s cloud view or more obvious category searches would greatly improve the existing site. That being said, for someone either casually looking for front-page news or hoping to get some traffic to a less-established site: ShoutWire is easy and user-friendly.

These are, of course, just a few examples. What underrepresented or under-appreciated social news, networking or bookmarking sites do you enjoy? Do you use some of these already? What is your take on them?

OK, I’ve added some pretty new bloggers (but with interesting blogs and blog concepts, so check them out!) to the blogroll here so I feel a little compelled to throw out some tips for getting started with blogging. Yes, you can find tips for blogging all over the web but most sites will try to sell you something – and if you haven’t noticed: there are exactly 0 ads on this site. So here goes:

1) Find blogs you like, subscribe to their feeds, fave them on Technorati, and leave comments on them. Make those comments relevant. Feeds and faves will help you easily keep track of new posts on these blogs you like, plus if you feed/fave a blog it helps their rank – so tell them when you’ve done it! Some blogs with ‘do-follow’ will give you a PageRank boost for your troubles, but in other cases it’s just a way to get a feel for the blogosphere and will help you get to know bloggers who you can ask questions of and get tips from.

2) Don’t overload your blog with ads and buttons too early. Put a few things up, the things you really want people to click, and add and subtract as you go. Too much stuff looks spammy and can make it so people won’t click anything. If you watch your Google or MyBlogLog analytics (both of which you should be signed up for by the way,  with an MBL widget on your site too!) you can watch what people click, where it is on your page, and adjust accordingly. Also, think about your goals: you probably aren’t going to make a ton from AdSense right away, so think longer-term and put up buttons like Technorati faves and FeedBurner buttons like you see on this site to build up the readership and popularity you’ll need to earn more in the future.

3) Carefully choose your blog tagline. This has two incredibly important functions: it both tells your readers right away what the page is about and helps Google and other search engines know as well. It is much easier to rank for things in your blog title – so choose those phrases carefully, and change them as the content of your blog changes. For more keyword/SEO tips see recent posts on this blog.

4) Link out to get links in. Linking to relevant blogs and websites will help get their attention. Most veteran bloggers have various ways to see who is linking to and talking about them, and they will perk up and pay attention if someone new comes into that mix. However, don’t expect linkbacks from big-time sites like TechCrunch, of course – look for successful bloggers who still interact with their readers.

5) Get the right bookmarking and stats tools on your site. I recommend checking out the beta test for the Romlet blog widget, which is a brag badge, bookmarking tool and stats counter all rolled into one. If you’re not getting many visitors you can opt out of the public stats portion, but the widget will help you track in real-time where your traffic is coming from. Ther’es nothing worse than getting a big hit from a social news site and finding out about it too late to vote for it or ask your friends and fellow bloggers to! The MyBlogLog Recent Visitors widget is also a must-have – it lets you see who is visiting, then trackback to them and thank them for showing up. Together these two widgets cover a lot of the basics, and are better than cluttering a blog with all sorts of stuff.

That’s it for now – feel free to ask questions or add to this list!

A lot of bloggers and others working to develop SEO on websites frequently report writer’s block. Personally, I find enough relevant content in any given day skimming my usual sources and branching out through links – enough to write posts on between 1 and 6 blogs or websites a day! So how do I do it? Well, I use a few different resources, which gives me both a variety of content to choose from and a number of perspectives on any given issue. Blogs, Google news, and prominent websites in a given subject area are all good places to start, but here are some other ways of finding content on relevant subjects that many people don’t (but should) take advantage of:

1) StumbleUpon by Keywords: sure, a lot of people use Digg and Reddit to find content, but it’s pretty hard. Neither of those sites have nearly as good precision search capacity as StumbleUpon. Many Stumble users don’t realize that (right on their toolbar) they can choose to Stumble by keyword. This taps into sites both new and old with information related to the search term, and usually yields results that are significantly different than search engines

2) Technorati Blog and WTF Searches: Technorati is another great resource, particularly if you’re looking for up-to-date information you aren’t finding on Google. For example, when I was looking for information on the upcoming Google PageRank update, most of the Google searches seemed to turn up out-of-date information about the last PageRank update. Technorati, however, shows recent blog posts on the subject which were more helpful

3) Forums and Newsgroups: of course people who are really passionate on issues usually end up posting on various sites online. If you’re writing about niche subjects be sure to seek out relevant forums. These are also places you can ask questions if no one is writing specifically about what you need to know.

4) Other User-Submitted Content Sites: Sites like Associated Content and Yahoo Answers can be good places to look for subjective content. You probably can’t trust these (as with Wikipedia) to be definitive sources, but there is also more interactivity than a static resource – like forums, you can ask questions and get community answers.

Of course there are many other ways to find relevant content, but if you use these kinds of resources to keep informed you’re sure to have more ideas for subject matter you and write about!