burnurl logoBurnURL is a new URL shortening service that brings a very exciting and new aspect to the field int he form of easy social sharing.

There has been a glut of URL shortening services in the market for some time, but the vast majority of them just did the following where they turned something like this:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html?eref=rss_tech

into this

http://tinyurl.com/ahjs53

While it still may not roll off of your tongue, it’s still a lot simpler to share with someone else.  The problem is that these services have all been a dime a dozen, doing the exact same thing, and adding nothing new to the space.

Well, last week BurnURL launched and it brings several new features with it that are welcome additions that add greatly to the utility of such a service.  The first change you’ll notice is the addition of handy coding for pasting the new URL into both HTML coded pages and forums that use BBcode.

burnurl links

Once a person clicks on the link you make for them, not only will they be taken to the page you linked, they will also be presented with a toolbar at the top of the page that provides them with social sharing tools.

burnurl bar

With this tool bar in place, you can share the page you are reading on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, FriendFeed, Mixx, Reddit, Delicious or StumbleUpon as well as rating with the BurnUrl site.  The bar will also tell you how many pepople have liked the page, how many people have clicked on the link and also what the actual URL of the page is.

Go aheadand give one a try by visiting http://burnurl.com/JZ24lZ that will take you back to this very site.

(Disclosure: BurnURL is partially owned by Adam Ostrow with whom I work with at Mashable.  This post however was in no way influenced by our working relationship, it’s just a great service)

Categories: Web 101, Web Browsing   
 

helpWhile people always say that you can turn to the Web for help with just about any subject, first you need to know where to go to look.

I was reminded of this lesson last night when something went very wrong with my personal blog and I had thousands of odd characters appearing in my entries.  As I didn’t want to take the time to hand correct thousands of posts, I started looking for help on the Web.

The first thing you always need to do is try to find a troubleshooting guide for whatever it is you’re having problems with.  Barring finding your answer there, as not everything has a troubleshooting guide, then you need tofind a message forum related to the item you are having trouble with.  You can usually do this by going to a search engine and searing on the name of the item and forums.  Say it is a problem with your cat, then you simply enter “cat forum”, or get more specific with terms like “cat health forum”, “cat obedience forum” etc, etc.  If it a product by a specific brand, say a Dell monitor, then you would need to include the brand name in the search as well.

So, you found the forum, what do you do?  First thing you should always do is use the forum’s search feature by looking for terms associated with your situation.  This will always be asked once you post a message, so you might as well get it out of the way.  Once you have done that, if you don’t find any information that seems to correct your problem, then you need to register with the forum and make a post about your problem.  Remember when people reply to always be kind as most of them are doing this for free to help out their fellow man.

I think you will find most forums can fix your problems, but not all.  Also don’t be surprised if you don’t get a reply right away as most forums are run for free, and by volunteers, so there will be times when no one is around to reply.

The other thing you can do is something that is fairly new, and that is to say something to your Twitter followers.  I was amazed at the quick response I got, and one kind Twitter user, @oscargodson, even whipped up some JavaScript coding for me to fix the stray character problem in my posts.  I found a simple and quick solution in the meantime, but I was floored by his generosity of doing such a thing, and I think it also goes to show what a community Twitter is turning in to.

There are always ways to find answers on the Web for the majority of life’s problems, and I am sure we will revisit this topic to give you even more suggestions.

Categories: Web 101   
 

google logoGoogle, the leading search engine in the marketplace, has come up with a new tool that gives you more control over what you see in your results.

According to Google Operating System, the search giant has launched a new service called “Preferred Sites”.  The new service is currently in early testing, so it is not yet avaialble to every one, but you can read more about it on a help page Google created.

Essentially what the service does is allow you to dictate sites that you would like to have priority anytime you conduct a search.  Say you would like to include your local newspaper any time you went to search on a news story, it would now be given priority to show up on your first page of results with a marker underneath of it that says “My preferred site”.

preferred site

If this feature ever goes live to all users, which seems likely, you would be able to make a list of sites that you find authoritative and trustworthy, and this could possibly be used to influence their regular rankings in the search results based on the number of people who choose each site.

While there are certainly some uses for such a service, we at StarterTech find it a bit worrisome that it might someday influence search results.  While it could be bad enough that individuals use it and just continually go to the same sites over and over again, never discovering new sites, this becomes really bothersome when you think of everyone on Google being influenced by this.  Say that PopularSiteX.com gets listed by thousands of people, and their ranking in search results goes up because of it, what happens when WannaBePopularSiteX.com starts up in the same niche topic and can’t get a toehold on their area of expertise because the other site has been pushed up so far in the results?

This certainly may be useful to some individuals, it could also possibly unbalance the way the Web works today, making it even harder for new blogs to ever be discovered.

Categories: Google, Opinion, Web 101, Web Browsing   
 

While you may have stressed over How To Pick A Domain Name, sometimes it takes a completely random act of fate to make a name into a huge thing.

In the third 2008 presidential debate, there were numerous references to “Joe the Plumber”, which was in reference to a plumber named Joe Wurzelbacher who had asked Senator Barack Obama a question about taxes last Sunday.  (video here)  Mr. Wurzelbacher became a centerpiece of the debate, and his fame has quickly shot up.  As people flocked to the Internet to look up Joe the Plumber, they actually ended up at JoeThePlumber.com, owned by a plumber named Joe Francis of Amarillo, TX.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Mr. Francis’ website received thousands of hits by the next day, over 100,000 emails, orders for tshirts, and an offer of $800,000 for his domain name.

Yes, $800,000… that wasn’t a typo.

While there have been some crazy prices paid for domain names, this one is one of the silliest in my opinion.  Joe the Plumber is hot as a catch phrase right now, but once the election is over no one will even remember it was ever said.  How anyone could expect to make a return on their investment in the amount of time left is beyond me, but oh well.

Always pick an easy to remember domain name when setting up your website… and then hoe a presidential candidate says it over and over.

Categories: Web 101   
 

The InternetIt would seem Finlandis working towards offering universal 100 Mbps broadband access accross the country according to CED Magazine.

To put this in perspective, unless someone in the USA has a fiber optic Internet connection, they probably are lucky to go at speeds of 8 – 10 Mbps.  Fiber optic customers do see speeds in the range of 30 – 50 Mbps, so while they are faster than the average American, they still would be left in the dust of what Finland is discussing doing.

Certainly this is partially explained away by the size of Finland compared to somewhere like the size of the United States.  Japan also has a similar system in place for several years now that guaranteed 30 Mbps service to every house, but most exceed that by quite a bit.

While most people think of Internet speeds only in a matter of how fast they can do things at home, governments are beginning to see it as a serious isse to the future of their countries.  Harri Pursiainen, the permanent secretary for the transport and communications minister of Finland said,  “Data connections are no longer entertainment but a necessity.”  Mr. Pursiainen also said,  “regional, equal communications infrastructure will not come about without state action.”

The United States currently comes in at 15th place on a list of countries with the most high speed access, but we may begin falling even more due to things like this.  The issue with this is that would lead to us losing out on future contracts with companies that demand higher Internet speeds.  It certainly is not the #1 issue on everyone’s minds right now, but it it is one we will need to be looking into as time passes, and the sooner the better.

(via SpeedMatters and PodcastingNews)

Categories: Web 101   
 

Google Chrome, the popular new web browser from Google,looks like it may soon be adding support for extensions and scripts.

The ability to add extensions to a web browser, that is to add new functionality to a browser that is not built-in the original package, has been a hallmark of the Firefox browser.  According to a recent article over at Information Week, Google is looking to bring support to their fledgling browser, but they want to do it in such a way that they do not compromise the stability of the program.  While Firefox has been a popular browsing alternative for years now, the rapid climb of Chrome as a contender can more than likely be attributed to the stability issues with Firefox.

No timeline was given as to when we might see this new feature, but I must say it can’t come soon enough.  The lack of extensions is what has kept me from making a complete switch to the new program.  Google will have to strike a balance though as people are singing the praises of the browser due to it’s speed and crash management, so they can’t afford to have those positives disappear from the mix.

It will certainly be interesting to watch how this develops with time.

Categories: Web 101   
 

The Internet can be used for any number of purposes, and getting information on pending storms is just one of them.

You can look up just about anything online these days, and detailed information to prepare for a natural disaster is no different.  With Hurricane Gustav preparing to hit the United States, there are any number of places to get information that may be important to people in the path of the storm, or those who have loved ones in the line of fire.

General

Flickr.com -Popular photo sharing site that allows you to tag your photos with keywords, making it easy to see images associated with Gustav.

Google Earth Overlay – The popular Google Earth tool for looking at satellite imagery of the world from Google has an overlay that shows you the path of Gustav.  The data is updated every 10 minutes.

Technorati.com – The leading blog index aggregates entries from thousands of blogs and makes it easy to look up those tagged with Gustav.

Twitter.com – People can mark messages related to Gustav with #gustav, and then using a tool such as Twemes.com, you can see all the messages being posted about it.  You can also follow GustavAlerts for automatic alerts from the weather services.

YouTube – People will be posting videos of the hurricane and it’s aftermath as it happens.

Information Resources

FEMA.gov -The Federal Emergency Management Agency site in case it is needed once the storm has passed.

Gustav Information Center – A quickly assembled social network on the Ning network is laboring to bring you information.

RedCross.org – If you are in the path of the storm, the Red Cross can tell you where to go, and if you just want to assist with donations, their site can help you with that also.

Weather Sites

AccuWeather.com – Hurricane center on AccuWeather.com has numerous maps and projections.

Intellicast.com – Has a wide assortment of maps specific to winds, precipitation, storm tracks and more.

MyFoxHurricane.com – A sub-site of the Fox affiliate station in Tampa provides lots of information on incoming storms.

Weather.com – The website of the Weather Channel has detailed analysis and maps.

Weather.gov – The official website of the National Weather Service.

WeatherBug.com – A popular desktop client for weather information offers information on their site and mobile devices.

WeatherUnderground.com – The popular weather site has a page set up dedicated to maps and projections of where the hurrican will land and with how much force.

Categories: Web 101   
 

If you’re like every other Facebook user, you despise receiving invitations, and you hate hitting up your friends with them at the same time to get an application to do things for you. We’re going to cover how to deal with both sides of this problem for you today.

First off, as you can see in the image to the right, I receive an insane amount of application requests.  While not as bad as some, it is still an excessive amount of requests, and honestly, I never accept any of them.  I don’t like a cluttered profile, and if I want an application added to my account, then I go out and find it for myself.  It amazes me that more people don’t notice the “Ignore all” at the top of the requests column, but it is doubtful that Facebook wants you to.  As the name implies, you click that simple pair of words and all of those invitations will disappear.  Sure you could just never click them, but it does get annoying to see them all sitting there everytime you go in to deal with friend requests.

So how do you keep from doing this to your friends?  Quite often when you have an application, they want you to send out invitations to other members to get your results of a quiz, or unlock special features.  Called “Skip Forced Invites”, this is a bookmarklet which means you click on it, and while holding your left mouse button down, you drag it up to your toolbar.  Once there, you can just click it anytime you need to send invites and it makes Facebook think you sent the invites without actually doing it.

As the page says, Facebook no longer allows forced invite situations, but they do still allow them when you want to unlock more features or possibly earn points in a game application.  Once you get to the page where it asks you to spam your friends with invites, you click the bookmarklet and no friends get spammed with all of these annoying invitations.

Don’t get me wrong, I think applications are a great idea, but only when used responsibly, and I don’t really need to play Taxas Hold ‘Em on Facebook.

Categories: Facebook, Web 101   
 

DeliciousDel.icio.us, which we described a while back to explain what exactly the service was.  Well, we did that just in time for them to launch their redesign!  Nothing like good timing!

For the most part the site still does the same thing it always did, which is work as a social bookmarking site, but it did get an overhauled interface.  They also added some new sorting features to make it easier to search through your bookmarks for what you need.

The biggest change has to be the domain name.  While they formerly went with the creative Del.icio.us, now they are just Delicious.com.  How… common.

If you hadn’t tried the service yet, now is the perfect time to jump in and give it a try!

Categories: Web 101   
 

jailbirdWith every social networking site encouraging you to post your pictures of yourself, it is up to you to you to use discretion in what you post, or it could come back to haunt you.

The latest case of someone using the poor choice of posting an image that will haunt them for years to come is Joshua Lipton, pictured here to the right. (image credit to Valleywag)  Mr. Lipton was on trial for hitting a woman while driving drunk.  Before his sentence was handed down, he chose to party in an orange prison jump suit that said “JAIL BIRD” on it.  The prosecutors found the image and the judge agreed this showed he had no remorse over the incident.  He got a prison sentence of two years for his actions.

While this may be an extreme case, it is a lesson in that you never know who may be looking at the images you post to your accounts on sites like MySpace and Facebook.  In May of 2007, a woman sued her college for $75.000 over their issues with an image she posted to her MySpace profile. The day before she was due to graduate with a degree in education, Millersville University determined that a photo of her in a pirate costume, drinking from a Mr. Goodbar cup at a Halloween party promoted underage drinking.  They decided this was not in accordance with their ethics, and her college career was wiped from existance over one picture.

In November 2007, Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank, told his employers on October 30th that he had to head home to New York City for a family crisis.  On November 1st, Mr. Colvin received the following email from one of his bosses:

Kevin,

Thanks for letting us know–hope everything is ok in New York. (cool wand)

Cheers,

PCD

It seems Mr. Colvin had lied and actually attended a Halloween party dressed as a fairy, complete with the wand his boss referred to.  He then posted an image to his Facebook account, and his bosses discovered it.

The basic rule of thumb is that you should only post pictures that have no chance of coming back to haunt you.  The only pictures I have ever posted of myself online have been from work events, portrait style or once when I had a full beard and I was asking people if they thought I should keep it.  Essentially you have to think of any images you post online as becoming public domain, no matter if your account is set to private or not.  Many celebrities with profiles have had them hacked and then had embarrassing images released to the world.

Basically, always think twice before posting an image online… and then always err on the side of caution.

Categories: Facebook, Web 101   
 
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