Friday, January 12, 2007

Spending The Windfall

Well I do believe the site is back up and stable after my little escapade with my web host. It is amazing how quickly things get done when you bypass the techies and head directly to the sales department. One email to them intimating that various webmaster forums would be hearing about how my sites were shut down resulted in an amazingly fast resolution to my problem.

Now to the business at hand, a few days into this years session, the RCJ is reporting on a new plan being proposed by Republicans to spend some of the newly inherited tobacco tax windfall on education, Medicaid, and property tax relief. They are proposing to use $135 million of the new tax over the next 5 years to help prop up these long ignored problems in our state.

The plan earmarks $45 million over that period to go towards property tax relief, and another $45 million each to be routed to schools and Medicaid. On the surface this is a huge step forward for 3 major issues facing our state but like the article mentions and something I also question is how much of that planned revenue increase will actually be collected. I have heard many stories of people crossing state lines to buy their cigarettes and many more are planning on quitting (easy to talk about but very hard to do).

With that uncertainty hanging over our heads with this revenue stream, are we going to be talking about severely underfunded schools and property tax op-outs all over again in a few years? It will be interesting to see how this proposal shakes out over the remainder of the session. But at least with the Sutton debacle out of the Senates hands, at least until the State Supreme Court makes it's ruling, real state issues are finally being discussed.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Here We Go Again?

KELO has a couple of stories regarding the possibilities of a watered down abortion ban again rearing it's ugly head again sometime in the next few years. What is interesting is the mention by the state director of South Dakota Right to Life, Senator Brock Greenfield, that any future bill might need to contain rape and incest exceptions.
Republican state Senator Brock Greenfield of Clark says failure to get South Dakota voters to ratify last year's ban, which contained no exceptions for rape or incest victims, means abortion opponents need to look at political reality. He says exceptions likely will be included when the time is right to bring back anti-abortion legislation.
Now maybe I was hearing things last year when we were going through the media blitz by the pro-lifer's, but didn't they swear up and down that that bill did contain those exceptions?

One possible saving grace for those of us that think our legislators need to be focusing on other issues this year is the fact that at least for this session, the possibility of us having to go through another round of abortion ban talk is slim as the makeup of the Senate State Affairs Committee makes getting any similar legislation through to the Senate floor unlikely.
Six of its nine members voted against last year's abortion bill when it got to the floor of the state Senate.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Traffic Exchange Services

Cross posted from an article I wrote on The Super Blog Directory

I was constantly looking for ways to get people to visit my sites. One way that I came across was a program called traffic exchange. Traffic exchange sites are sites that you submit your blog to that give you points for surfing other blogs in the program and these points are in turn used to "buy" visits to your site by other members of the program.

While most of these sites are quite similar, I became intimately familiar with one program in particular, Blog Explosion. Blog Explosion is one of the more popular sites in the blog traffic exchange market boasting over 46,000 blogs in the program.

I joined this program last spring and proceeded to submit several of my sites to the directory and began "earning credits". To earn credits you surf other blogs in a browser window with ads and a timer at the top and a frame below which contains the blog. You must remain on this page for a minimum of 30 seconds and once the timer counts out the time, you click on a "captcha" image that corresponds to the number given to prevent any type of auto-surfing program. Sound interesting? Well at first it did to me as well, but after all these months a variety of issues came to light. I know that while most of these programs are very similar, I can only speak to what I know of this one program.

First off while each visit to your site costs one point, you earn 1/2 a point for each site you visit meaning you must visit 2 sites to gain one visit to your site. Many of the sites you must view have little if any worthwhile content with many not being updated in months. Even though they boast over 46,000 sites, maybe 1/50th of those sites actually participate which means in your attempt to earn credits, you visit most of the same sites over and over.

Ok, so you have spent hours viewing banal and outdated blogs, what do you get in return? For the most part all you get is hundreds of 30 second visits and in my case a nasty-gram from Google AdSense informing me that I was in violation of their terms of service. Say what!? It turns out that Google considers Blog Explosion an auto-surf program which is against their TOS.

From Google:

It has come to our attention that invalid clicks or impressions have been generated on the Google ads on your site(s) through users of third-party programs paid or provided with other incentives to visit your site. Such programs may include, but are not limited to auto-surf, pay-to-surf, pay-to-read, or pay-to-click sites.

As a reminder, any method of generating invalid clicks or impressions is strictly prohibited by our Terms & Conditions and program policies

Well knock me over with a feather! Needless to say I ceased assigning credits to the blogs that I had Google Ads on as while my blogs themselves weren't earning much revenue via AdSense, other sites I run make a decent amount of money with Google and I wasn't about to jeopardize that over 30 second visits to blogs that were pretty much just a hobby.

So after all these months I discovered that Blog Explosion wastes my time surfing a bunch of useless blogs, gives me hundreds of untargeted 30 second visits, and worst of all almost got my account with Google Adsense shut down. What good could this program be to me after learning all of this? Well if you remember earlier I mentioned that while surfing, Blog Explosion displays ad banners in the header. Since I had all these unused credits that I could no longer use and I had just started a blog hosting site, I figured I would submit a banner ad to see if my unused credits might be able to get me a few new users. So I quickly made up a decent 468X60 banner, submitted it to Blog Explosion, transferred all my remaining credits to the advertising program, and then waited for their approval of my banner.

A week passes with no approval (they say ads approved within days) so I decide to submit a ticket to find out what the problem was. Several weeks later they finally respond, disapproving my banner saying they do not accept advertising for blog exchange traffic programs. So in summary, they rejected my ad for a blog hosting site (which they had previously approved into their traffic exchange program) because they felt it was a traffic exchange program. To top it off, when they rejected my banner, they also deleted the several hundred credits I had earned and then assigned to the banner!

The old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, again is right on. Blog Explosion sounds great on the surface but once you join, you find out it is pretty much a waste of time. For most people time is money and Blog Explosion is a waste of both.