Mormons rule on the Web

Go to Google and type “church.”  (Go ahead.  We’ll wait.)  How close to the top of results was Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (a.k.a., the Mormons)?  Now try a search for another word like “Friend.”  Or “Old Testament.”  Note how the Mormons keep coming up towards the top of the search.  (For that matter, note how often they come up in the Google ads on this blog!  I suspect this post will attract a lot of them!)

This phenomenon is noted in a Washington Post article by Michelle Boorstein, who writes about the Mormon PR machine and the way it makes use of the internet:

In the age of the Internet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found a way to dominate what is arguably today’s most important information source: the search engine.

It’s all about Mormons controlling their own image, church officials say. They’ve been doing that for a century or more. And now, with two of their own vying for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential race, and a Broadway hit and reality television generating huge interest in the denomination, much is at stake. . . .

They have always stood apart in the religious world when it comes to marketing. Savvy and aggressive, they were among the first to have a public relations shop, run public-service announcements and have a 1-800 number. The church at one time changed its logo to highlight the words “Jesus Christ,” then shifted to “Mormon” and even tried to trademark the word once it became better known. . . .
Image experts and researchers who study how people search the Web have been impressed by the church’s powerful use of the Internet. The site lds.org is the most-visited of any faith group, and Mormon church-wide conferences sometimes rank at the top of Twitter while they’re underway.

The Mormons also are the subject of publications and conference lectures for techies who specialize in the complex business of online searching, called “SEO” or “search engine optimization.”

These SEO experts debate how the church has managed to dominate the search engine box.

“They have infused SEO into their culture,” said Justin Briggs, a consultant who wrote a well-read blog post called “Breaking Down the Mormon SEO Strategy.”The church has run multiple campaigns to educate its flock about the power of search engines, and it produces high-quality information on spiritual topics such as the New Testament, Briggs said.While the details of the church’s Web strategy are proprietary, outside experts agree that the Mormons’ success is a combination of investment, focus and an unusually tight faith community. Adherents almost always attend their assigned local church, check in with official church announcements and zap anything written about Mormons around their very own blogosphere, called the Bloggernacle.

Some SEO experts say the church and grass-roots groups of members also conduct “link-building campaigns,” rallying lots of people to click on a link, and thereby raising its placement in search-engine results.

LDS officials declined to comment on the church’s specific SEO plan, but some of its strategy is laid out on a site set up to help church members become more SEO-savvy. It asks members to help boost traffic to a different site about church teachings on self-reliance, which covers a variety of topics, such as the importance of keeping a three-month supply of food and water, creative ways to find a job and adoption services for people considering abortion.

The SEO advice site says the church is trying to snag Google users who type in general terms, such as “employment” and “debt management.” Among other things, it recommends that people write articles that can include LDS links.

But the Web has not been the sole focus of the Mormons’ image strategy. Last year, the church launched a marketing campaign called “I’m a Mormon,” using television ads, taxi and subway signs, and billboards to introduce people from a range of backgrounds as Mormons.

via Mormons using the Web to control their own image – The Washington Post.

America’s last space ship?

Last Thursday, July 21, the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed, ending the United States’ Space Shuttle program. And it may mark the end of manned flight, at least as far as the United States is concerned. Russia will still be able to send people into orbit, and American astronauts can hitch a ride with them to get to the International Space Station, another program whose days are numbered.  But there are no plans to update manned spacecraft  or start any more manned space programs.  See Shuttle Atlantis Final Landing Completes U.S. Retreat from Manned Spaceflight – IT Infrastructure – News & Reviews – eWeek.com.

So does this mean all of those science fiction fantasies about space being the final frontier and all that were just a blip of technological and imaginative optimism?

Any Kindle suggestions?

I’m becoming a regular high-tech kind of guy, though at least I’m a late adopter.  I now have a Kindle.  (My wife wanted one for Mother’s Day, so I obliged, whereupon since I was always borrowing hers, she bought me one for Father’s Day.  Our devices are hooked up to the same account so that when either of us buy a book it is “archived” on the other’s device, allowing us to download each other’s books for free.)  I carry around with me some 22 books and they don’t weigh a thing.  That makes it great for the traveling I have been doing lately.  The device will even read the book aloud to you, in a technology I do not understand.  (If anyone does, please explain it to me.  Also explain how the voice feature on my GPS device–see!  more technology!–works.)  That makes it a good treadmill companion, helping me not be  so bored as I pursue physical health.  Then I learned that I can increase the size of the type so that I can read it myself on the treadmill.

I can’t say I don’t prefer paper, but I’ve gotten used to reading on the Kindle.  In addition to reading what I consider “fun” books, I have downloaded some great classics for free or nearly so, including volumes of the complete works of G. K. Chesterton (one of my favorite writers of all time, but who has written lots of stuff I haven’t read yet) and Agatha Christie.  Also the complete Sherlock Holmes stories.  And I love my The Lutheran Study Bible on Kindle, which is set up so that you simply click the passages to read the notes, all in big and readable print.  Also my Treasury of Daily Prayer.  (Click the links to get them yourself.)

Many writers are finding that they can make their books available through Kindle directly without going through a publisher, taking all of the money themselves while also making their books cheaper for their readers.  The problem is, a publisher vets books, keeping out those that are unreadable, and also makes people aware of them.  It’s thus hard to know about worthy books that are electronically published, except by word of mouth.   So let’s have some word of mouth.

What are some good Kindle titles that you would recommend?

Spelling and the internet

The BBC reports that Great Britain’s online economy is harmed by bad spelling:

An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.

Charles Duncombe says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.

Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been “shocked at the poor quality of written English”.

He says the big problem for online firms isn’t technology but finding staff who can spell.

The concerns were echoed by the CBI whose head of education and skills warned that too many employers were having to invest in remedial literacy lessons for their staff.

Mr Duncombe, who runs travel, mobile phones and clothing websites, says that poor spelling is a serious problem for the online economy.

Charles Duncombe says poor spelling is costing the economy millions

“Often these cutting-edge companies depend upon old-fashioned skills,” says Mr Duncombe.

And he says that the struggle to recruit enough staff who can spell means that this sector of the economy is not as efficient as it might be.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics published last month showed internet sales in the UK running at £527m per week.

“I know that industry bemoaning the education system is nothing new but it is becoming more and more of a problem with more companies going online.

“This is because when you sell or communicate on the internet 99% of the time it is done by the written word.”

Mr Duncombe says that it is possible to identify the specific impact of a spelling mistake on sales.

He says he measured the revenue per visitor to the tightsplease.co.uk website and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.

“If you project this across the whole of internet retail then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes,” says Mr Duncombe, director of the Just Say Please group.

Spelling is important to the credibility of a website, he says. When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.

via BBC News – Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales.

This reminds us that information technology still communicates most of that information by language and therefore the classic skills of writing and reading well are still necessary.

Are there other cues that make you not trust an internet site?

Apps

OK, I realize that I am late to this particular party, but I finally have an iPhone.  I’ve used it for awhile and liked it, but recently my sister has introduced me to the world of applications.  That is to say, “apps.”

I now have apps to let me know the news, the weather, and sports scores.  I can listen to my favorite kinds of music.  Best of all, I have apps that use GPS data to locate everything from restaurants near me to where I parked my car.

But I know I have barely scratched the surface.  You readers, though, early adopters and savvy technophiles that you are,  know far more than I do about this kind of thing.   And maybe some of you have found an “app” that the rest of us would benefit from.

So what are some good apps?  (Not only iPhones have apps these days, so feel free to suggest those for Androids or whatever.)

The drone wars

The world’s military industrial complex–impressed with the USA’s ability to zap enemies from the air with remote-controlled mini-aircraft– is racing headlong into drone technology.  An article about the drones China is developing goes on to tell about the rest of the world’s drone rush.  It makes one suspect that the wars of the future may be waged with robotic aircraft controlled by video-game veterans posted safely at home.

Little is known about the actual abilities of the WJ-600 drone or the more than two dozen other Chinese models that were on display at Zhuhai in November. But the speed at which they have been developed highlights how U.S. military successes with drones have changed strategic thinking worldwide and spurred a global rush for unmanned aircraft.

More than 50 countries have purchased surveillance drones, and many have started in-country development programs for armed versions because no nation is exporting weaponized drones beyond a handful of sales between the United States and its closest allies.

“This is the direction all aviation is going,” said Kenneth Anderson, a professor of law at American University who studies the legal questions surrounding the use of drones in warfare. “Everybody will wind up using this technology because it’s going to become the standard for many, many applications of what are now manned aircraft.”

Military planners worldwide see drones as relatively cheap weapons and highly effective reconnaissance tools. Hand-launched ones used by ground troops can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Near the top of the line, the Predator B, or MQ9-Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, costs about $10.5 million. By comparison, a single F-22 fighter jet costs about $150 million.

Defense spending on drones has become the most dynamic sector of the world’s aerospace industry, according to a report by the Teal Group in Fairfax. The group’s 2011 market study estimated that in the coming decade global spending on drones will double, reaching $94 billion.

via Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities – The Washington Post.

So is this an ethical advance, with the military making war “safely” (for them), or is it an ethical regression, with warfare becoming even more dehumanized?


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