This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    Cool Tool of the Month: Pandora

    If work is my cerebral connection to the world then music is my emotional connection. Music is always playing in the background while I’m working and since I pretty much work all the time, I hear a lot of music (it’s playing now).

    Though my tastes vary wildly from staccato blues to ska punk, I’m a big fan of alternative rock. I hate Top 40 stations. I have no sympathy for the RIAA or the pitiful state of the American music industry. In my opinion, they are to blame for their own undoing when they decided to package musicians to feed only the lowest common denominator. When you view art (or any form of human expression) solely through the narrow lens of the bottom line, creativity and diversity are inevitably sacrificed.

    Before discovering this month’s Cool Tool, I was hooked on XM Satellite Radio (I got to listen for free since my brother was a reseller). Digital sound, commercial-free, lots of variety, I would almost be willing to pay if not for the fear that I would be encouraging radio to go the way of cable television. When my brother stopped selling XM, I lost my radio. But as fate would have it, Pandora came of age. It was love at first sound.

    Pandora is what Internet Radio should be. Hell, it is what radio should be!

    The brainchild of Tim Westergren who had the idea of a musical taxonomy initiated on a single artist or song. He called it The Music Genome Project. A personalized radio station that “learns” from the listener’s feedback. It is hard to imagine most readers of this blog have not heard of Pandora by now but if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? It is free and available on just about every device out there (one of the most downloaded apps). While you’re on their site, check out answerYES Radio.

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    Should I Work for Free?

    As creative people (and even as technical people) we are often asked (sometime cajoled) to work for free. Yes, I know, how tactless! How audacious!

    Every time I hear it I can’t help but recall Harlan Ellison’s infamous rant (funny and true and definitely NSFW) from his documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth.

    Now, I’ve been known to do work pro bona (for a charity or a good cause) so sometimes the answer is yes. But if you have ever struggled with this question then struggle no more! Thanks to fellow creative and graphic designer Jessica Hische (love her curves… I’m talking typography here), you can now find the right answer from this handy-dandy Should I Work for Free? flowchart.

    Thanks Jess, nice CSS work BTW.

    Fuck You by Cee Lo Green

    Despite the song’s title (which won this year’s Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance) you can’t help but like Cee Lo Green. Yes, the same Cee Lo Green from R&B duo Gnarls Barkley with Brian Joseph Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse). And yes, the same Cee Lo Green who is currently a coach on The Voice. Cee Lo really seems to enjoy what he’s doing, his music is fun-loving even when he’s wailing about unrequited love (I mean, he is really wailing in this song but somehow he pulls it off). We really need more fun-loving songs.

    And before anyone posts sanctimonious comments about the use of the original song/title, let me say I’m not a big fan of censorship, especially when it comes to art and artists. It never ceases to astonish me when someone attempts to impose their moral code upon the creative works of others. This is not the same as having an opinion about the work but that opinion ends with you either liking or not liking.

    Aside: the word fuck has got to be the most versatile word in the English language. To help explain my point more effectively than I ever could, the late George Plimpton (not really):

    You can see all of Cee Lo Green’s music videos on his YouTube channel.

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    Cool Tool of the Month: TweetDeck

    A while back on the B2B Marketing Posse blog I wrote about using TweetDeck  (along with Google Alerts) for managing your online reputation (still a good idea by the way) but this Cool Tool does a lot more that just that. It is a social media dashboard that helps manage your online social channels (despite the name, this includes Twitter, Facebook, and others). You can schedule tweets and status updates, trigger email alerts, and organize “life streams” in order of importance so you can easily separate the wheat from the chaff. TweetDeck is available as both a free desktop application and a mobile app.

    At the time of this post, it appears that Twitter is in a bidding war for TweetDeck with UberMedia, a leading developer of popular Twitter API-based apps like Twidroyd.

    {Ed. Note 5/24/11: Twitter acquired TweetDeck for $40 million in a mix of stock and cash, making its creator Iain Dodsworth an instant millionaire.}

    {Ed. Note 12/8/11:  A new “rebranded” TweetDeck was released, dropping support for LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Foursquare and MySpace. TweetDeck switched from using Adobe AIR to native OS for desktops and open-source WebKit for browsers (e.g. Chrome and Safari).}

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    Reporting Search Engine Spam

    I was recently asked by a prospective client about Negative SEO, the tactic of convincing search engines to “think” a competitor’s site is in violation of that search engine’s spam policy. It is kind of like the SEO equivalent of slander but there is nothing illegal about it.

    For the uninitiated, in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are many techniques for achieving top-ranking on search sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These techniques are divvied up into three types: White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat. I’m not going to go into the differences in this post but if you’re really interested, start here. It suffices to say, Negative SEO falls under Black Hat and if you’re caught, you’re guaranteed to be banned from appearing on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) ever again.

    Given the increasing importance of having web pages rank high on search results, the unethical practice of Black Hat SEO is definitely trending up. And it is not just the little guys, as evident by the recent New York Times article about J. C. Penney’s folly during the holiday season. Yes, J. C. Penney’s reportedly fired their SEO firm SearchDex but it is most likely that the retail giant didn’t mind “the how” until they were exposed (Kevin Ryan of Ad Age Digital does a nice follow up on this story). The fact that I was asked about Negative SEO by a prospect reveals people are becoming ever-more savvy of SEO as well as the best ways to cheat.

    For the record, we don’t practice nor endorse the use of Black Hat SEO (so don’t ask).

    In the end, the benefits of such tactics are temporary. But unlike email spam, Google and company have a vested interest in minimize search spam. Simply put, if the value of the search results are diminished, so is the value of the search engine itself. As good netizens, we all have an interest in making the search engines a more effective resource.

    Report Search Engine Spam:

    If you find yourself a victim of Negative SEO or other Black Hat tactics, there are many ways to combat them to regain your site’s proper place on search engines. I would be happy to help.