You Might Be Able to Flex Your Way to a Fatter Paycheck

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that flex-time telecommuting is on the rise.

The agency studied U.S. flex-time telecommuting trends from 1997 to 2010 and found that the percent of the U.S. workforce that worked at home at least one day at home rose from 7% in 1997 to 10% in 2010.

The percentage of employees who spent the majority of the workweek on the job at home rose to 4.3% from 3.6% between 2005 and 2010.

Check out some additional stats from the study:


  • 10% of flex-time telecommuters were over the age of 65.
  • Roughly 25% of telecommuters come out of the management, business and financial industries.
  • The computer science sector saw the largest climb in telecommuting workers, at a growth rate of 69% from 2000 to 2010.
  • The most widely used days of the week for flex-time telecommuting? Monday and Friday.
  • A U.S. flex-time hot spot? Try Boulder, Colo., where 10.9% of the working population telecommutes.

In addition, the Census Bureau reports that people using flex-time telecommuting earn bigger salaries than employees who work at the office. According to the report:

Median annual household income and personal earnings differed by work-at-home status. Median personal earnings for mixed workers were significantly higher ($52,800) compared with onsite ($30,000) and home ($25,500) workers. While home workers had lower personal earnings than onsite workers did, respondents that reported working at least one day at home had significantly higher household incomes than respondents that reported working only onsite. Median household income for mixed workers was $96,300, compared with $74,000 for home workers and $65,600 for onsite workers.

Are on-site staffers OK with the financial arrangement? Apparently so. One school of thought is that nontelecommuting worker appreciates the structure and discipline of working on-site and see the office as a clearer path to advancement than being “invisible” at home. Others rely on “face time” at the office to solve problems and feel like they’re part of a team.

Telecommuters like the independence of working at home and say they save money on car expenses such as gasoline, tolls and parking.

Working at home isn’t for everybody. Obviously, hospital surgeons and manufacturing line workers can’t get away with it. But if you appreciate working alone and don’t mind missing out on office-space collegiality (and office politics), flex-timing may be right up your alley.

And, if the Census Bureau is right on the money, there could be a fatter paycheck in it for you.

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UN Wants More Spying on Internet Users

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

“Potential terrorists use advanced communications technology, often involving the Internet, to reach a worldwide audience with relative anonymity and at a low cost.”

That’s according to Yury Fedotov, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which released a report last week that calls for greater surveillance of online civilian channels, such as Skype and other instant-messaging services.

The report, entitled “The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes,” cites “the lack of an internationally agreed-upon framework for retention of data held by ISPs” (Internet service providers), calling that an impediment to “all law enforcement agencies.”

The U.N. report ponders the “utility” of requiring ISPs to monitor customer traffic when Internet cafes “offer criminals (including terrorists) the same access opportunities and are unregulated.”

The report goes on to mull over the use of location data “by law enforcement to exclude suspects from crime scenes and to verify alibis,” and suggests benefits if services such as Skype would log “communication over the Internet, such as chat room postings.”

This week’s report is not a proposed law, and the U.N. cannot dictate the domestic policies of any of its member states.

But it gives ammunition to civil libertarians and democracy advocates who fear that the U.N., backed by Russia, China and other powerful countries, would like to take control of the Internet away from the United States government.

The U.S. has ignored previous U.N. policy recommendations regarding the Internet, but that hasn’t stopped American politicians from proposing rules similar to what this week’s proposal advocates.

The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act, which would require ISPs to retain user records for 18 months, cleared a House of Representatives committee last year but has since been stalled.

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Microsoft Is Right About Touchscreen Computers

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

Not a Touch Screen

I miss my touchscreen computer. Trapped in my house, thanks to Hurricane Sandy‘s dismantling of the NYC transit system, miles away from the Microsoft Surface tablet I’ve been testing, I’m reduced to poking at an unresponsive Windows 8 Ultrabook screen and left wondering why every single computer doesn’t include a touchscreen. Spend enough time with the Windows RT-running Surface or any of the myriad Windows 8 computers arriving over the next few weeks and you’ll realize that the end of dead-screen computers is upon us.

Two-Faced Interface Now Makes Sense

When I wrote about Windows 8 over a year ago, I was unconvinced that the interface formerly known as “Metro” and traditional Windows Desktop could exist side-by-side. The difference was — and remains — stark. Back then Windows 8 still had a Start Button. It was a rudimentary shadow of the robust Windows 7 version. Now, that Start button is gone. Or is it?

One of the things I was slow to realize is that Metro (Windows design interface) is the Start button, just an exploded view of it. So it turns from a constricted pop-up window that disappears as soon as you click off or mouse away from it into an immersive environment. It’s still one giant, boundless Start button, but with a lot more relevant and real-time information on the surface.

Just like the old one, it has all your applications (Metro, I mean, Windows design-style and traditional desktop apps), Search, file access. It’s all there, but instead of diving in and out of expandable sub menus, it’s laid out and navigable. This, obviously, is a perfect design for a touch interface. Use your finger to swipe the tiles this way and that, pinch to zoom way out so you can see all the live Tile boxes.

It’s also a winner for a mouse-driven interface. As I mentioned in my review of Microsoft Surface, there really is no difference between Windows RT and Windows 8, aside from the fact that you can’t run legacy Windows apps on RT (which only runs on ARM-based systems). As a result, I get virtually the same design and user-interface experience on, say, an Asus Ultrabook, as I do on the Surface.

The Asus does not have a touchscreen and, though I sorely miss it, I can use many of the same tricks as I did on the Surface to move about the Windows 8 system. The corners are hot, so instead of touching with my finger, I just move the mouse there. The upper left corner is to running tasks and switch between them; the lower corner, where the Start Button once resided, is to access the Metro or “Start” interface. The right side is the Charms bar, which I access by moving my mouse to the right and dragging it quickly down along the screen edge.

Yup, it all works, but when I used it with the Surface and tried it out on myriad touchscreen laptops, it was even better.

Some who read my Surface review criticized me for spending so much time with the tablet connected to its Touch Cover keyboard and blue-tooth mouse. I spent an equal amount of time on it without either of those devices, but I have to admit, I loved using it in the former mode.

I know this is hard to believe, but it was completely natural for me to switch back and forth between the keyboard, mouse and touching the screen with my fingers.

The Argument

Steve Jobs once argued that’s it completely unnatural to touch the screen on a PC. He reportedly said people’s arms would fatigue and called the idea “ergonomically horrible.” He actually argued that the touchscreen was meant to be horizontal not vertical. This might make some sense if you’re talking about a touchscreen on, say, a more traditional desktop or maybe an All-in-One. Yeah, that might get a bit tiresome, lifting your arm up to almost eye level to control the screen. But most people aren’t buying desktops or even All-in-Ones any more.

At the recent Windows 8 launch event, there were no traditional PC Boxes, a handful of All-in-Ones and dozens and dozens of touchscreen laptops, convertibles and tablets. The latter few categories are used on your lap, at a table and are generally on-the-go devices that sit much closer to the user. No tiring arm extending going on here.

The idea that the man who popularized touch control on the revolutionary iPhone and iPad rejected the same natural interface for “vertical” screens never really made any sense to me. Jobs, however, often said one thing and did another. He actually once said Apple had no plans to build a tablet or a phone.

If Jobs truly believed touchscreen computers and laptops were a bad idea, I think he was also ignoring the fact that people like touching their screens. Even before we could control our interfaces with touch, the average CRT monitor and LCD display were covered in fingerprints. People point, touch and tap screens; it’s simply our way of drawing attention to something.

I Want to Touch It

I grew so accustomed to touching the screen while working with the Surface tablet that it ruined the Windows 8 experience for me on my Asus Ultrabook. I would type and mouse for a while, then touch the screen, smiling sadly when nothing happened. Even more startling, I learned Microsoft’s Windows gesture metaphors so well that I absentmindedly tried to use them on my Apple iPad. I kept trying to change tasks by sweeping my fingers from the left side of the screen.

I used to think Microsoft had made a dangerous left turn by killing the Start button, introducing a dual-screen interface and then spiting OEMs by building its own Surface tablet. Now it’s clear to me that Microsoft is not dangerously out of step. It’s finally leading the way, building the future of our touch-computing existence.

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Ecommerce set to be large part of UK retail sales in future

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

Online retailers are becoming increasingly common among consumers in the United Kingdom, as shoppers turn to the internet for convenience and easier product comparison. The trend is expected to become more widespread in the future, as more customers will be purchasing items and services via the web.

According to recent research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, approximately one-third of the retail sales in the U.K. will happen online by 2022, reports Internet Retailing. Currently, about 10 percent of purchases from retailers take place through the internet. As shoppers move to web buying, retailers will attempt to accommodate these consumers by integrating digital resources into their operations, including the use of point-of-sale kiosks, smartphone applications and other forms of new media.

“The opportunities for retail over the next decade and beyond are enormous,” said report author Jon Copestake. “But where the future markets will reside and the way in which we will buy goods will change dramatically.”

Internet Retailer states that recent online retail sales in the U.K. have seen significant growth, according to a study by e-retail trade group IMRG. In September, British consumers spent £6.4 billion ($10.25 billion) through the web. This represents a year-over-year increase of 16 percent.

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WebmasterWorld Awards Tedster With Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

WebmasterWorld Awards TedsterI covered this in my Jim Boykin buys WebmasterWorld live blog coverage but it didn’t really get noticed here.

Ted Ulle, aka Tedster, one of the most giving individuals I know in the search community, was awarded with WebmasterWorld’s first and maybe last, Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ted has been the administrator of the Google forum for the past five or more years and been involved in the community for over 13 years. He has over 37,000 posts on the public site and over 20,000 posts on the private site. He gives his life to webmasters and does so with huge class.

Brett Tabke, the founder of WebmasterWorld, wrote in a WebmasterWorld thread:

Ted has been one of the most outstanding moderators and admins I have seen on the internet in my 30 years of forum building. He is a proactive diplomat and is willing to work with anyone, regardless of who they are or where they live. He has had the unique ability to connect with people all over the world. His web development skills are second to none, and his SEO skills are beyond most books on the subject. We have been blessed and honored to know and work with Ted for all these years. I doubt there is a website on the Internet that hasn’t been touched by Ted in some way. From Fortune 500s to a massive list of independents, Ted has worked with everyone on some level.

Thank you so much for all the service to the community Tedster.

Congrats Tedster, it is well deserved but honestly, we all owe you a heck of a lot more than just this recognition.

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Google: A Single Tweak Won’t Boost Your Search Rankings

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

When it comes to search rankings, most people who think about it feel there is an easy way to get those rankings. In short, they feel they make a tweak and bam, their rankings go through the roof. When it doesn’t happen, they feel that they are missing out on a silver/magic bullet.

Google’s John Mueller said in a Google Webmaster Help thread that there often isn’t a magic bullet. That often a single tweak made to a web site will not lead to significant ranking changes for the better. John explained that there are hundreds of ranking factors, so making a small tweak won’t likely lead to increased rankings.

John wrote:

Often there isn’t a single “tweak” that can be made to a website to automatically make it jump up in rankings — we use well over 200 factors in crawling, indexing, and ranking, and it’s always good to work on the small things as well. When looking at the bigger picture, it’s useful to really take a step back, and to try to see what could be changed overall to improve the quality of the content (when it comes to our algorithms), especially with regards to the content that’s indexed.

There are times where making a small tweak can have a huge impact. For example, if you are given an old aged site that has tons of quality content on it but never had any unique title tags. I.e. the site said, “” in the title. Changing title tags to the article headline often can be a huge silver bullet. That being said, hard to find sites like that today.

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It’s Apparently Not Out Of The Question That Google’s Link Disavow Tool Could Be Used For Ranking Signals

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

It’s Apparently Not Out Of The Question That Google’s Link Disavow Tool Could Be Used For Ranking SignalsEarlier this month, Google launched the Link Disavow tool, which webmasters can use to tell Google to ignore certain links they believe to be bad. While Google will only do so at its own discretion, some may be wondering if Google will be using the data it gets from the tool for other purposes (like maybe as a ranking signal).

If enough sites submit links from a specific site, for example, would Google use that data to determine that the site in question is really a bad site, and therefore use the data as a ranking signal? It seems like a logical question, and Google’s Matt Cutts didn’t exactly rule out the possibility, though he says this is not the case now.

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land posted a Q&A with Cutts, in which he asked if “someone decides to disavow links from good sites a perhaps an attempt to send signals to Google these are bad,” is Google mining this data to better understand what bad sites are?

“Right now, we’re using this data in the normal straightforward way, e.g. for reconsideration requests,’ Cutts responded. “We haven’t decided whether we’ll look at this data more broadly. Even if we did, we have plenty of other ways of determining bad sites, and we have plenty of other ways of assessing that sites are actually good.”

Google does, of course, have over 200 signals, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the data to play some role in the algorithm, even if it’s not the weightiest signal.

“We may do spot checks, but we’re not planning anything more broadly with this data right now,” he adds. “If a webmaster wants to shoot themselves in the foot and disavow high-quality links, that’s sort of like an IQ test and indicates that we wouldn’t want to give that webmaster’s disavowed links much weight anyway. It’s certainly not a scalable way to hurt another site, since you’d have to build a good site, then build up good links, then disavow those good links. Blackhats are normally lazy and don’t even get to the ‘build a good site’ stage.”

It does sound like a pretty dumb strategy, and I doubt that many will go this route to try and hurt other sites, but that doesn’t mean that sites who get a lot of people including them in their Link Disavow files shouldn’t worry about it at all, does it?

Look at the overreaction webmasters have partaken in with regards to link removal, thanks to the Penguin update. What makes anyone think that a similar overreaction won’t take place with the Link Disavow tool?

Even if Google hasn’t decided whether it will use the data as a ranking signal later, one has to wonder if we’ll ever know if they do decide to implement it. I don’t see that one making Google’s monthly lists of changes.

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Matt Cutts Talks Quality Raters’ Impact On Algorithms, Says Guidelines May Be Made Public

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

While it has been known that Google’s “quality raters” (the people who judge sets of search results behind the scenes) don’t directly influence Google’s algorithms, there is still a misconception out there to the contrary.

Nobody at Google (as far as we know) is looking at these sets of search results and voting sites up and down as if they were browsing reddit.

Google’s Matt Cutts talked about this in a new Webmaster Help video released today. He responds to the user-submitted question:

If you have human ‘quality raters’ evaluating the SERPs and influencing which sites may be impacted by Panda, how do you confirm that consumers are more satisfied with the results?

“There’s a problem with this question…the word ‘influencing,’” says Cutts. “So, we have evaluation raters who look at the quality of pages, using their own judgment, as well as guidelines that we give them on when things are navigational, when things are vital, which things are off topic, which things are spam…all that sort of stuff. But those folks don’t influence our algorithm in any direct sense.”

“When an engineer has…an idea for an algorithm – call it “panda” – he’ll come up with an algorithm, and it will rank the results 1-10, so you’ll have a side by side (left side and right side), so you’ll actually have the results right there,” he continues. “That goes out to the evaluation team and these human quality raters, and as a blind taste test, they say, ‘I prefer the left side of the search results’ or ‘the right side of the search results’…and then we’ll get that feedback back, but that evaluation where the search quality evaluators say, ‘I prefer this side’ or ‘I prefer that side’ does not directly affect the algorithm. It doesn’t affect Panda.”

Cutts does suggest that we might see the actual guidelines Google gives to the quality raters made public. They have been leaked in the past, as he notes, but Google may sometime soon post those for anyone to see anytime.

“We might be able to make those human quality rater guidelines that we make available to people at Google available to the larger world, and I think that would be a good thing because then people would be able to read through it,” says Cutts. “It leaked a few years ago, and what someone said was, ‘The biggest surprise is that there weren’t really that many surprises. All the guidelines that we provide are pretty much common sense, and would match with what I think just about anybody would sort of say about…’Yeah, it does make sense that this is a navigational page or that this is pages off topic.’”

Read more by visiting related link.

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Can Bing Now Lure More Searches Away From Google?

Posted on: October 31st, 2012 by Lina

October has been a huge month for Microsoft, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the company’s new products and implementations inspire Bing use.

Is Bing poised to make a bigger dent in Google’s share of the search market? Do you intend to use Bing with Microsoft’s new products? Do you intend to use Microsoft’s new products at all? Let us know in the comments.

Last Friday, Microsoft launched Windows 8 into the wild. I won’t get into all the bells and whistles of that here. Read this, and determine if you think it’s worth the upgrade.

One thing is for certain though. There are still a lot of Windows users out there, and there are many will make the upgrade simply because it’s the latest version, and others will simply purchase devices that come with the operating system installed. This is a chance for Bing to thrust itself upon users in a flashy new way. Bing resides on the Windows 8 Start menu by default. Sure you can change it, but how many people are that passionate about the search engine they use, and how many simply won’t bother to use Google instead?

Bing showed off its Windows 8 apps the other day. Here’s a look:

There is a standard Bing app for web search and image search, a Travel app, a Weather app, a News app, a Finance app and a Sports app. Some Facebook users (of which there are 1.01 billion), might be exposed to Bing’s social features for the first time, and find that appealing. They may like seeing their friends as they’re searching, and stick with BIng.

“Searching with the Bing app is fast and fluid, whether you use a touch device to tap and swipe or type and click with a keyboard and mouse,” says Brian MacDonald, Corporate Vice President, Online Service Division for Microsoft. “Finger-friendly results and images are front and center letting you quickly find what you’re looking for, so you can search less and do more. You can still rely on the same great Bing web experience in Internet Explorer 10, but we’ve optimized the Bing app to shine on Windows 8.”

“The Maps app makes it easy to find the places you’re looking for and helps you get there faster,” adds MacDonald. “Quickly pinpoint locations, get directions, see traffic conditions and more— all designed to be easily navigable with touch.”

The Weather app gives you a preview of the current weather and the hourly, daily, and 10-day forecasts. For the Finance, News, Travel and Sports apps (collectively referred to as the Bing media apps), Bing has partnered with brands like ABC, AP, Bloomberg, CNBC, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Reuters and complete daily editions of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Microsoft refers to the experience as a built-in newsstand. The Sports app offers headlines, live scores, schedules, standings, stats, etc., and lets you personalize it based on the teams you care about.

Read more about this by visiting related link.

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Yandex Search In Russia Beats Wall Street Q3 Views

Posted on: October 30th, 2012 by Lina

Russian search company Yandex (YNDX) on Tuesday reported a better-than-expected 45% increase in sales in Q3, as it continues to dominate the local search market.

Yandex sales increased to $235.2 million from $161.9 million a year ago.

Per-share profit, excluding items, increased 50% to 21 cents from 14 cents.

Wall Street had modeled 20 cents on $230.5 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

Yandex has to compete against search giant Google (GOOG) in Russia, unlike, say, Baidu (BIDU) in China. At least one report says Yandex’s name, which sounds similar to an Apple (AAPL) “i” product, has helped it capture a majority of the local market.

In Q3, Yandex launched its own browser, “a milestone for the company,” CEO Arkady Volozh said in a statement. Search queries were up 31% from a year ago.

“I am pleased with the performance of our search product over the past few months as we maintained 60%+ market share in Russia,” Volozh said.

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