All posts by Holly VanWert

Holly is an intersectional feminist, cat enthusiast, gamer, and stress baker living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She is a longtime blogger, sporadic poet, and the founder and editor of Woman Tribune.

Tackling Comment Spam for Good

Blogs are everywhere today; just about everyone has one and because so many people of various backgrounds, cultures and personal interests are involved with the caring and keeping of personal or entertainment websites, they have easily become the leading form of web media when it comes to attracting spam.

Web publishers need to constantly be on top of their comments, checking for spam and getting rid of it promptly before viewers see them and suddenly think we condone the buying and selling of illegal pharmaceuticals or we are unnaturally concerned about their personal and intimate relationships. Spam comments are equally bad for everyone involved in a particular website. They are irritating for the webmaster, having to check sometimes daily or even multiple times a day for comments that are inappropriate for the website and are offensive to readers and it also shows readers that a website may not be as professional as it would like to be seen. If a website fails to look the part of a multi-faceted, entertaining and above all, polished and mastered website, it does not matter how well your website does stat-wise, your viewers will not be interested and potential-advertisers will not take you seriously.

Dealing with spam comments can quickly become a second job for a webmaster, especially since the bigger a website gets, the more spam it attracts. The secret is to finding an efficient and user-friendly spam comment program to help eliminate the worry of unprofessional and inappropriate spam. If you are running WordPress, you are most likely still running the spam monitoring system Akismet that came with your original WordPress install; however, there are other programs out there, for WordPress in particular, that I have found to work much better than Akismet.

Defensio anti-spam Defensio is a comment spam monitor and eliminator whose entire mission is based off of outsmarting evil spam, which it does miraculously. In my opinion, you cannot get any better than Defensio for taking the edge off when you’re thinking about how your website is doing and if any spam is leaking through.

With its innovative technology, Defensio actually adapts to the content you post and is proven not to work in the exact same manner for two different bloggers; instead, it adapts to the webmaster’s specific way of managing their comments and follow suite. Every comment that is posted on your website is given a level of “spamminess” and is determined whether or not the level it is given is low enough to be posted. On a personal level, I have seen comments with a spamminess level as low as 20% be held for moderation, just to make sure that it wasn’t someone trying to plug their site or a company looking for some shameless exposure.

With 99.77% accuracy, Defensio definitely gives you the security you need to be a successful, professional and efficient webmaster with absolutely no worry about back doors being left open for spam comments to get away with accessing your content. It tackles comment spam for several different user interfaces such as WordPress, PixelPost, Mephisto, Text Pattern, Movable Type and Drupal. It is also supported by several different web developer platforms such as Ruby on Rails, Java, Perl, PHP (4 and 5) and Python; all of which can be downloaded here.

Earth Hour 2008

Earth Hour This Saturday is a big day for helping the Earth out a little bit in your every day life. March 29, 2008 is Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund and is a day where for one hour (8PM to 9PM–your local time) you will join other people across the world in turning your lights off to raise awareness about global warming.

Last year, Earth Hour was an event in Sydney, Australia and had over 2 million participants and had over 2,000 businesses power down their light sources. This year, Earth Hour is making this a global event–No matter where you are located, turn your lights off from 8PM-9PM and help to fight climate change.

“Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.

But what will you do for a whole hour without your lights? Crunchy Domestic Goddess has some ideas, including talking with your kids about why all of the lights are turned out and educating them about the Earth and global warming.

What will you be doing with no lights during Earth Hour?

Here are some other ways that you can help the Earth after March 29th:

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Turn off appliances when not in use.
  • Unplug your electronics when they are not in use.
  • Use less hot water.
  • Switch to green power.

What are you doing in your every day life to help fight global warming?

Get Involved with StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon StumbleUpon is by no means a new tool, however, I have found that a lot of people who should be all over this, webmasters in particular, have no idea what it can do for them.

StumbleUpon is an extremely unobtrusive toolbar that lets you rate websites as well as find new websites that would be of interest to you. There are several very targeted categories that you may look under to find sites and best of all, it helps you promote the sites that you love so that others will be able to enjoy them as well. Now, when you think about it, if StumbleUpon lets you promote websites, doesn’t that mean that you can also promote your own website with it? Why yes it does.

When you join StumbleUpon, you are given a page of your own where every website you rank will show up on, so all of the people who view your StumbleUpon profile can browse through the sites that you have promoted. This has been a very influential tool for me thus far, running two websites of my own as well as lending my expertise to other websites in order to get them a bit bigger than they already are. A great tip when using StumbleUpon is that when you submit your main page, don’t just stop there. People may be interested in your site, but if your website has a splash page where you have to click enter in order to view it, or you believe people just must see one page on your website, you can submit them individually. What’s great about this for bloggers, specifically, is that while you can promote your website, you can also promote every post you write just by clicking one button in your StumbleUpon toolbar.

When using StumbleUpon, we must adopt the online realm of thinking when it comes to viewers. While submitting your site, all of your pages and all of your blog posts to StumbleUpon, that isn’t going to do much if you have no friends and you’re the only one who visits your page. While countless people use this tool on a daily basis, there are also countless websites being submitted to the same categories you are submitting to, so the likelihood of people seeing all of the great content on your website through this tool, is pretty slim. I also have the answer to that problem!

StumbleUpon groups, I can say from experience, are absolutely amazing. A StumbleUpon group is a group of people who send emails to other members asking them to Stumble a page they have submitted or would like to promote something to a wider audience. All that is needed from you is to go through the submissions and click the thumbs up button on your toolbar saying that you like the post and when you submit posts or websites of your own to them, they will do the same. There are many groups out there with a large number of participants, so gaining attention to your website has now become quite easier.

After installing the StumbleUpon toolbar, I also recommend that you join the StumbleUpon group, StumbleMe. Become involved with other bloggers and help them gain an audience while spreading the word about your site as well; it’s a win-win.

The StumbleUpon toolbar comes for Internet Explorer as well as for Firefox and can be downloaded here and don’t forget, once you’ve downloaded the toolbar, join StumbleMe and see your hits increase dramatically!

Marc Jacobs Knocks Off Department Store Nightgown?

Marc Jacobs mini dress I will never, for the life of me, even begin to wrap my mind around how Marc Jacobs became such a big name in fashion. Most of what I see from him, or most big names in fashion for that matter, just blow my mind–And not in that “Wow, that’s absolutely stunning!” way.

This dress is a new piece from Marc Jacobs, it is the Number 9 mini dress. It is said to be a take on the sports-couture look and consumers are told to wear it with heels for the “most balanced” look. Personally, I would say that for the most balanced look, this should be worn with a pair of pink fuzzy bunny slippers, since the dress looks more like what I’ve seen in department stores being sold as a nightgown. In fact, it looks as if this piece of clothing was taken from Target or Walmart, had one of its sleeves cut down the middle and someone threw a clutch purse and a pair of heels on the mannequin and said “There! That should give the customers a few laughs today.” The shoes, however, are great and I want them.

This dress was seen on the runway and can be yours for a mere $1,565.00.

Recipe: Natural Mango Banana Soup

mango banana soup Eating well is definitely a must and a big trend now among people is eating naturally. When you’re in the mood for something sweet, instead of breaking out the chocolate, it would be much better for you to indulge yourself with some fruit. Fruit is not only all natural and very good for you, but it has also been proven to making a person happier.

Here is a great recipe for all natural, Mango Banana soup.

You will need:

  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • ½ cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor, and puree. Test taste and add more sweetener if desired.

This is not only delicious, but during the winter months we tend to be attracted to the hot dishes and the filling stews and rolls. This will perk up your spirits as well as make you think it’s spring.

adgridwork Production Analysis

adgridwork

adgridwork is a new site that functions along the same lines as BlogRush. Their mission is to provide free advertising for websites.

The mission is outstanding. As soon as BlogRush launched, bloggers flocked to it by the thousands and they saw a turnout with blogger participation that they most likely did not foresee. The same goes for adgridwork. Bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon with this website because let’s face it, who doesn’t love free advertising? The more people being introduced to your website, the better and I’m no different.

I used to use BlogRush on this website, as well as another site I run and after a trial of 30 days, I logged in to see what my statistics were. Like many bloggers who have used this website, I saw no significant difference in the traffic I was receiving and decided to stop using the program. adgridwork has proved to be the same.

I tested adgridwork out for a trial period of 30 days at my other website, which already does decent with traffic, especially for being a newer website. After the 30 days, I logged into the website to check out my statistics.

adgridwork summary

As you can see from the summary above, an ad for my website was requested and shown on other websites several thousand times; however, the traffic received from using adgridwork was two hits.

When dealing with advertising, many factors must go into why (in most cases) ads prove ineffective.

First of all, people tend to spend a very large portion of their days online. What they do online includes checking their email. If you use an email provider such as Gmail, such as I do, or any other web platform email, you are seeing ads immediately and ads are displayed during the entire duration that you are logged in.

Social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook are also very large contributing factors as to why people spend so much time online. These websites are great time wasters and also (although MySpace has a much higher ad count than Facebook and other sites due to how extremely popular it is) display ads throughout their websites.

Another grossly large detail in ad campaigns is that almost all bloggers are looking to make money online. Blogging for profit has become extremely popular and those who are looking for blogging to literally pay off are latching onto websites such as BlogRush, adgridwork and many others in order to get free advertising to their websites so they move up in rank and then they fall prey to blogging for money resources such as PayU2Blog, PayPerPost, Text-Link-Ads and a myriad of others. In addition to these obvious-ads people are placing on their websites in order to receive income from their blogs, almost every blog right now has Google Adsense ads running on their websites, myself included.

Due to the amount of people in the blogosphere and those who are looking to get their websites known, once someone sees the same ad set up several thousands of times on several thousands of different websites, your mind become numb to them. The mind simply refuses to register that they are even there because of the amount of times you have already seen them–You simply do not notice them anymore. If you’re not even noticing that ads are on a website to begin with, what makes people think that others are going to click on their ads? To the random person, they are seeing your blog and reading what you have to say but they are not seeing your ads because of the amount of times the same, exact set up has been seen on many different websites.

With taking all of this into consideration, it is no wonder that while my ad had been displayed over 12,000 times, only two people actually saw it and clicked on it.

Another fact to mention is that when looking at ads that were being placed on my website through adgridwork, the same six ads kept showing up over the course of a month. So, perhaps when adgridwork takes the blogging world by storm and more people sign up, more ads will be displayed since that only makes sense, but when signing up with these free advertising websites, we must take into consideration that the outcome of them are most likely not going to be effective, as less than 1% of people are actually clicking on them in the first place.

I am taking the adgridwork ads off of my other website today and perhaps I will test out other programs to see if they prove to be any better; however, I am not counting on it.

The Holy Grail of Coffee Machines: Senseo Single-Cup Coffee Maker Review

Senseo If there is one thing that I am absolutely crazy about, it’s coffee. This love of mine started at a very young age and has fueled two prior full-time jobs of mine in cafes as a barista and the greatest caffeine tolerance I’ve come to know. I love coffee in all of it’s precious forms, flavors, consistencies and blends and am always interested in new flavors and concoctions that can be made from the comfort of my own kitchen. When a friend of mine hooked me up with Senseo, I was ecstatic, to say the very least.

Senseo is a sub-company of Sara Lee and makes an excellent coffee pod system that literally transformed the way I have my coffee every day.

The Senseo system makes absolutely delicious (and delightfully strong) single serving amounts of coffee with their innovative system that is so easy to use that once I took it out of its box, I was using it within minutes. While brewing my first cup of coffee, I realized that the Senseo actually made foam each and every single time automatically, which makes the coffee that you are brewing at home stand out even more so than a regular cup of coffee you would purchase at any coffee shop.

The coffee that the Senseo produces is also quite different than your average cup of regular coffee. The Senseo cup seemed to go down a lot of smoother than normal coffee does, even my boyfriend, who usually can’t stand coffee and its gritty behavior going down, will drink it if it is made with this machine!

One of the best things about the Senseo that I was also surprised to find is that the entire thing is set up so that it is an absolute dream to clean. There are no small crevices that you simply can’t get your hands into to clean, the back of the system comes right off so you can fill it up with water and sits right back onto the machine with ease. Best of all, the system uses individual coffee pods that the water goes through so they have completely eliminated the horror of coffee grounds winding up in your mug and also the grounds that tend to go everywhere during the cleaning process. Within just a short amount of time using the Senseo, I gave my fully-functional, almost brand new typical coffee pot to a friend of mine because I hadn’t used it once since using this this machine.

There are a variety of different coffees and even teas that are made specifically for the Senseo coffee pod system, so each and every coffee and/or tea drinker out there will benefit from this machine. You can order the Senseo coffee pod system as well as coffee and tea pods at their official online store, Target, Walmart, or even Amazon.

Special Promotional Offer

There is a special promotional offer going on with the Senseo machine right now. At Share Senseo, they are giving people the chance to receive a free Senseo single serve coffee pod system just by filling out a questionnaire; the only sum of money you will be responsible for, for this machine that is regularly over $70, is the shipping and handling of just $15.

What are you waiting for? Share a Senseo today.

*This is a limited time offer and is open to US residents only. Promotion ends June 30, 2008 or while supplies last.

Blogging Basics: Do You Have What it Takes?

woman on computer This past year has easily been marked the year of the blog. Not only does virtually everyone keep a blog, whether it be on their own domain, their MySpace page or LiveJournal, but it is also the time where more and more people are realizing the amount of money that can be made by blogging. But here’s a tip for anyone looking to create their household income by blogging: It isn’t as easy as it looks.

There are many bloggers out there that are pulling in annual six-figure incomes. Some aren’t making as much, but quite a few are able to live a decent lifestyle by what they make through their websites. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger is one of the top people in the blogging world right now; just look at the domain name! His website is dedicated to blogging for profit and teaching others how to benefit from blogging. Amanda Harris of Pajama Mommy is another person who not only makes a significant amount of money from her website, but her business posts go into more detail on how to do so. Another one of my personal favorites is Courtney Tuttle, who is the blogging bible as far as internet marketing goes. So how are they doing it?

Each and every successful website has a webmaster behind the scenes who has spent hours upon hours (I cannot stress the amount of time enough) marketing their websites. When thinking of your new website, think of it as practically raising something. Your website needs a lot of love and attention and if you let it go for even a few days, you have potentially lost a great deal of readers.

It takes months to build up an audience for a website and when you succeed in doing that, you cannot stop. One of the drawbacks of the internet and the society we live in today is that we 1: want instant gratification and 2: have the attention span of a gnat. Your website must bring a lot to the table that appeals to a wide variety or a large group of people and always keep in mind that there are trillions of websites on the internet today–Why do these people want to read your website? What do they get from reading your work?

If you’re thinking about blogging for profit ask yourself these few questions:

  • How much time can you wholeheartedly dedicate to your website?
  • Does your website appeal to a large group or wide variety of people?
  • What makes your website different than the trillions already on the internet?
  • If this wasn’t your website and you happened to stumble upon it, would you visit again?

This is just the very tip of the iceberg but I plan to dissect blogging for profit in several steps so check back frequently!

Hair Accessories: How Much is Too Much?

Jennifer Ouellette satin and feather headband When it comes to women and fashion, there are simply no words to describe a feeling a woman gets when her eyes fixate on the perfect item that she knows will compliment her style and wardrobe to a T. There is definite swooning involved and even some cases of putting a store’s number on the speed dial to check on the price of the item weekly–I’m pretty much the same way when it comes to bath and body products.

The world of high fashion, as seen through the eyes of top fashion magazines, sometimes baffle me. I can’t necessarily get into the big feathers, the high and sometimes obnoxious collars, the crazy skirts and the list can really go on for a while here. And in the eyes of high fashion, Barneys New York has put together some items that make me look at that item then at the price and wonder to myself “Why?” or “For what?”

And that is exactly what happened when I stumbled across the Jennifer Ouellette Satin & Feather Knot Headband.

This $85 hair accessory would compliment what, exactly? The matching white feathered boa and matching skirt you have tucked away in the back of your closet waiting for that one, special occasion? This headband comes in the black and white shown here and also dark green and black.

What do you think of the satin and feather headband, and maybe more importantly, the price?

Photo via Barneys

Anti-Aging Miracle: No More Needles or Doctors

facial yoga For many people who are worried about aging, wrinkles or laugh lines, Botox and plastic surgery have been quick and easy fixes for most on the path to looking their best. But now, for those who are petrified of needles (such as myself–it’s a phobia,) don’t like doctors or don’t like the idea of plastic surgery, yoga enthusiasts are now swearing by a new way to not only look younger, but to fee younger and better about your appearance.

Facial yoga has been deemed the “natural Botox” and is being used by many yoga enthusiasts as a daily exercise. By making theatrical expressions and stretching and training your face in your daily exercise routine, in your spare time or while doing household tasks, within as little as a few session you can start to see not only the lines on your forehead and under your eyes fading, but you can also see the stress that most people carry in their faces cease.

Annelise Hagen, author of The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift, conducts weekly facial yoga classes and developed her own facial yoga techniques that she teaches to her clients.

Hagen’s facial exercises include the Smiling Fish (purse your lips and smile slightly), the Marilyn (blow kisses while keeping your forehead smooth) and the Satchmo (puff out your face and transfer air from cheek to cheek).

Not only can yoga make you look and feel better about yourself and your appearance, it has also been used to train injured faces to move again after an injury or stroke and is also said to help sharpen your mind. Above all, it can help bring out that inner child in you that doesn’t get to come out and play very often. Making theatrical and hilarious faces in the mirror can do wonders for your spirit.