CatBlock Fills Your Internets With Cats [en]

[fr] CatBlock vous montre qu'internet est fait de chats. Miaou!

The other day, Anna told me I should blog about CatBlock for Chrome. Here we go.

You knew the internet was made of cats, right? Well, instead of simply hiding ads like AdBlock, CatBlock reveals all the hidden cats inside them.

Since I’ve been using it, it has greatly helped me get my daily cat fix. Yes, with CatBlock, my work is no longer interrupted by a sudden urge to run off and look at cat pictures on Tumblr or I Can Has Cheezburger. (Or wherever the cute cats are hiding nowadays.)

See it in action:

Blog with CatBlock

Blog with Cat (CatBlock

Une Nuit au Sahara -- catblock

catblock -- rencontre sérieuse

You can even send in photos of your own cats if you like. Did you spot Safran?

And if you’re not that into cats, you can tell CatBlock to display pretty much anything: unicorns, dogs, or even motorbikes.

Go download AdBlock/CatBlock, which started off as an April Fools’ joke. You’ll have to pay a small monthly fee but it’s a great way to support the developer of AdBlock.


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Content: Paid vs. Free [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur le fait que produire du contenu n'est pas gratuit. En général, celui-ci est subventionné soit par des pubs, soit l'accès est payant, soit il fait office de "budget marketing", ou alors les canaux de distribution sont payants.

Zeldman just wrote that content wants to be paid for, sending us to read Erin Kissane’s Content is Expensive (followed by Paying for it, which examines the four ways in which content can generate revenue).

Although I’ve been writing online for free for over 10 years now, I agree with the premise that content — especially good content — is expensive to produce.

I have a few thoughts around that.

If I can do something, and people have a need for that particular skill (or what I produce), it does not mean that (a) they are ready to pay for it or (b) if they’re ready to pay for it, that they will be willing to pay enough for it to be worth my time/skill/effort/expertise.

For example, I can write blog posts. I’m not too bad at it (I’m not the best, but I’m better than most people). Some of my clients need content on their blogs. I can do it for them. BUT there is a problem: often, the money they are willing to invest for that content, and the value it has for them, sets the price way too low for it to be worth my while. If we actually do go through and reach an agreement, chances are that I’ll feel underpaid and they’ll feel they’re wasting money.

One of my blogging friends is currently in this situation with a client — and maybe in some cases (like ours) part of the problem is the client not realizing exactly how valuable this content can be to them. But the fact remains that it’s not because somebody is ready to hire you to do something that it is a viable commercial endeavour. Another example of this situation is home arts and crafts — Suw and I had a discussion about this a couple of years back on Fresh Lime Soda (remember the times?) for home-made lace she was making: people would simply not be willing to pay a high enough price for it to cover materials and work.

This is also true in the sense that if people want something for free and enjoy it, it doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to pay for it. In that respect, I think that people like Philippe Barraud and Thierry Crouzet aren’t being very realistic if they expect to make their blogs paid content in the future. The fact that people read their blogs (and enjoy them) for free is not an indication that they would be ready to pay for it. That would be misunderstanding the power of free.

Erin talks about the subscription model in her second post:

Subscriptions didn’t keep most print publications profitable even when print was doing well—classified and display ads did. Legal databases, academic databases, super-specialized content . . . that’s something a lot of people or institutions will pay for. News? Bloggy or magazine-style content? Not so much.

That’s the conventional wisdom, which seems to be validated by disasters like Newsday’s acquisition of 35 whole subscribers in its first three months of operating behind a paywall. Jack Shafer provides a nice summary of paid content woes in Slate:, listing the NYT’s TimesSelect, the LA Times’s CalendarLive, and Slate itself as publications that tried and failed to make subscriptions work.


So what’s the upshot? People will pay for content that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere, either because:

  1. the information itself is unique, as with Consumer Reports, Cooks Illustrated, and the Gaming Industry Weekly Report, or
  2. the information is surrounded by obviously and uniquely valuable analysis and context, as with the financial newspapers.

The first is an easy sell; the second is a bitch and a half.

If your content meets either of the above criteria, you’ll also be attractive to advertisers. Funny, that.

Philippe and Thierry are both “writing professionals” before being bloggers — in my opinion, paywalling content (just like slapping ads on pages) is pretty much an “old media” way of doing things.

Now, does it mean that I believe we writers should not be compensated for our work? Not more than my stand on filesharing means I believe that musicians and other artists should not be compensated for theirs. Let’s go back to Erin’s article Content is Expensive and look at the two remaining “monetization” solutions for content (aside from paywalling and advertising). This is where things become interesting:

  • Marketing. A lot of “free” content is subsidized by its function as a marketing tool for the content producers or the people who pay them. Many, many blogs work this way. A List Apart now runs small ads, but long before it did, it worked as a marketing channel, establishing the expertise and credibility of its publishers and writers. Most non-fiction books are also subsidized by their value as marketing tools: they don’t pay well enough to be worth the effort for royalties alone. Most commercial content strategy work deals with this kind of content.

“Marketing” or some kind of self-promotion is the obvious. For more years than I care to count now, I have been answering the tired “so, how do you make money with your blog?” question with “I don’t. I make money because of my blog.” The time I invest in writing on my blog is my marketing budget.

And that doesn’t mean there is no love, or passion, and that this writing is narrow-mindedly self-promotional. I was a blogger before I became a social media professional, and will most probably continue being a blogger if I change my line of work. I am a thinker, and a sharer, and by genuinely providing content because I love writing and I hope I can be useful to others, I happen to also be promoting my business (business which, incidentally, grew out of this blog — and not the contrary).

This is a tough message to pass on to a client: “The money you’re paying me to write is actually marketing money. The content I provide will add value to your website for years to come, and help build your reputation and credibility. How much is that worth?” It’s not just words on a screen, disposable stuffing like so much of what is unfortunately filling our newspapers today. Scanned today, gone tomorrow. Great writing, online, has no expiry date.

Back to Erin:

  • Paid Delivery Channels (The New Hotness). The paid iPhone app is a way of getting people to cough up money for content that they normally wouldn’t dream of paying for so they can receive it in a convenient way. Kinda like how we used to pay for newspaper delivery instead of going to the library to read the paper for free. (Spoiler: there is nothing new under the publishing sun.) We’re going to see a lot more of this in the nearish future as publishers realize that the race to free has resulted in a pileup of bleeding, sad people with no income.

This, honestly, is something I find exciting. As a customer, I will definitely pay for convenience. I may not be inclined for the right to own a file which happens to be a song or an ebook (the slippery terrain of IP — my jury is still out on that one, to be honest) but I will without hesitation buy a song on iTunes, because it’s easy to look up, easy to pay for, unexpensive enough, lands directly on my iPhone and computer, is guaranteed good technical quality, and it comes with cover art. I’ll pay for an iPhone app if it makes it easier for me to access content that is precious for me. I’ll pay for a concert if it allows me to watch a song performed live 🙂 (I’m not sure that’s still in the “delivery channels” department, though…)

Ah well, this was supposed to be a short blog post with just a few links. Now look at me. No wonder I get blogging-anxiety when I haven’t written in a while.

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More on coComment Advertising [en]

[fr] Malheureusement, coComment et moi sommes partis pour une "Séparation 2.0: quand les 'social tools' que vous aimiez ne vous le rendent pas." Le choix de leur distributeur de publicité est vraiment malheureux (un cran au-dessus du spam, à mon sens), et clairement, il n'y a pas de dialogue entre coComment et ses utilisateurs, malgré les déclarations acharnées "d'ouverture au dialogue".

A la recherche d'une solution de remplacement pour la saisie des commentaires, donc. Le suivi des conversations m'intéresse beaucoup moins que la centralisation de tous mes commentaires en un endroit.

I was alerted to this a few days ago by [Nathalie](, and after witnessing it [with my own eyes]( — well, I’m going to go to bed a little later to blog about it, after all.

After [preparing to slap ads in our comment RSS feeds](, [coComment]( is staying on the same ugly and obviously slippery slope by inserting ads in the cocobar:

coComment blog ads in cocobar

So, slightly more discreet than the [big banners placed in the RSS feed](, but not in very good taste either. Here are some examples of scrolling ad text:

– “Want fast fitness results? Click for free info, revolutionary products.”
– “Walk on the well placed warmth of radiant heating. Click now!”
– “Free comparison of top car rental companies. Click here!”
– “Click to create your dream holiday trip now.”
– “Easy-to-use, advanced features, flexible phone systems. Click for more info.”
– “Visa, MasterCard, AMEX & Discover. Compare Offers & Apply Online. Click here!”

Reloading a cocobar-enabled page will provide you with hours of endless entertainment. (I’m kidding — but there are more out there, of course.)

Now, I understand that [coComment needs to “monetize”](, though one could question a business model which seems to be based on revenue from scrolling ads and blinking banners. (I can’t remember who said “if your business model is putting ads in your service, think again”.)

There are ads and ads, though. Here’s a sample of banners from the coComment site:

coComment blog » Blog Archive » Advertising, Revenues and harsh realities

Commenting is sexy. HotForWords is the talk of the party at Geek Goes Chic

Commenting is sexy. HotForWords is the talk of the party at Geek Goes Chic

coComment blog ads

The screen captures don’t render the blinking quality of most of these ads, but I guess your imagination can fill in. Now, does anybody else than me feel that this kind of advert is just about one step above spam? Based on a few of the comments I can read on [the post Matt wrote about the “harsh realities” of advertising](, it seems not:

> With all honesty, the banners displayed on the cocomment site are awful and are making the service look VERY unprofessional – totally agree with “disappointed” on this one. Few will argue that perception is 99% of reality, so with those banner ads making the site look like crap, the whole service becomes questionable. I felt like I was about to get a trojan into my computer when I first saw

> there are other advertising partners that don’t crap up your web site with ads that flash in your face. most opensource projects are using google ad sens now (just an example) that displays relevant ads that look very subtle.


> I agree with some of the commenters here about the ad selection. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were unobtrusive AdWords or… something a little classier. It cheapens your brand. Think upscale! Or, at least, more upscale.

Allan White, in comment

Yes, there are ads and ads. These ones definitely make coComment look very cheap and dodgy, and I’m not sure it would encourage users to hand over credit card details to pay for an ad-free version. Also, what’s with the [Hot For Words]( thing? I’m sorry, but this is not my world. coComment has obviously moved into a space which is very alien to my beloved blogosphere.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to [state]( that you [want]( to have a [conversation]( to actually be having one (I guess that for starters, that last post would have pointed to [the post of mine]( that [contributed to prompt]( it). A conversation starts with listening and caring, and obviously, despite their efforts to prove the contrary, the coComment team sadly don’t get this.

What could they have done? Well, I’m not going to launch into a session of full-blown strategic consulting for an ex-client of mine (who didn’t seem to value my advice much at the time), but simple things like taking up issues such as the arrival of advertising *with* the people who use the service **before** actually dumping ads in their feeds unannounced could be a way of showing you care a little bit about how they feel. Understanding that [apologies and justifications]( when you mess up do not erase the past also seems like a good idea. As my friend [Brian Solis]( put it:

> Making mistakes in social media is a lot like sticking daggers into a wooden fence. Just because you apologize and pull them out, they still leave the scars for others to see, and feel. Sometime apologies help people feel better, but they don’t fix perception. This is why thinking before engaging is critical to success in the world social media marketing. This is after all, about people.

Brian Solis

So, as I told Brian, coComment and I are headed for **[Breakup 2.0]( when the social media tools you loved don’t love you back** (yes, you can quote that one, it’s from me).

At the moment, I’m only using the service to “save” the comments I make, because I like keeping a trace of my writings (I used to collect stamps). Sadly, I’m not even sure coComment will allow me to walk out with all my data in an XML dump — I don’t see anything obvious in the interface for that, so if I am able to, it will probably be due to my relationships with the people who have access to the server. (I said “if”.)

The tracking feature is too confusing and overloaded for me to use — I can imagine using something like [co.mments]( to keep an eye on the small number of conversations where I’m on the lookout for an answer. But I don’t have an alternate solution for “capturing” the comments I make. Copy-paste is a bit of a bore, and doesn’t capture the comment content — just the fact that there is a comment.

I’ve been thinking up **an idea involving a Firefox add-on**. It would have a bunch of algorithms to detect comments fields (maybe would support some microformat allowing to identify comment feeds or forms), have a simple on/off toggle to “activate” the field for capture (some right-click thing, much more practical than a bookmarklet or a browser button, because it’s always there, handy, wherever you click), would colour the field in something really visible when capture is on (red! pink! green!) without disrupting readability (I need to see what I type). It would capture the comment, permalink, blog post name (it knows I’m the commenter, I could fill in that info in the add-on settings), and dump the info in an XML or RSS file, or in the database of my WordPress installation, with the help of a WordPress plugin.

It’s a half-baked idea, of course, and I don’t have the JS skills to actually code anything like this. It should probably be a week-end project for somebody with sufficient Javascript-fu — if you’re interested in bringing it to life, get in touch.

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Creative Commons and Ads on Blogs [en]

[fr] L'utilisation de contenu Creative Commons comportant une licence permettant uniquement une réutilisation non-commerciale des oeuvres n'est pas autorisée si le site a du contenu publicitaire. Logique, mais j'ai bien peur de ne pas avoir fait assez attention à ça jusqu'ici...

[Creative Commons]( and the limit between personal and commercial use came up in the conversation in the LIFT panel moderated by Philippe Mottaz.

Over the last months, I’ve had this question nagging at me in the background: if you put ads on your blog, are you allowed to use NC Creative Commons content or not? I kind of suspected the answer would be “no”, but kind of preferred not knowing for sure. A little chat with [Stowe]( just lifted my last doubts ([LIFT]( is good at lifting stuff).

Now: “ouch, have I made my clients aware of this or not? have I led them to mistakenly believe the answer was ‘yes’?” Need to check on that. And also take a closer look at third-party CC content I might have included on this blog…

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