There’s a new way to provide syndication feeds for websites. JSONFeed does basically the same thing as the traditional RSS or Atom feed, but instead of using XML it uses JSON. The big advantage of this is that the file size of the feed is much smaller and processing of the feeds can be much more efficient.
You can enable it now on WordPress using the JSONFeed Plugin for WordPress. You can find it by searching for JSONFeed via the Plugins->Add New option in the WordPress Administration Dashboard.
Enabling the plugin will make your feed accessible via JSONFeed. You can see an example by viewing the davidfindlay.com.au JSONFeed. I’m not aware of any feed readers yet that use this, but you can be sure they’ll come soon. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. I’m always keen on being an early adopter on things like this.
I’ve finally moved my site onto Amazon Web Services. It’s now running on a t2.micro EC2 instance in Amazon’s Asia Pacific Sydney region. It’s using Amazon’s linux AMI, with Apache httpd. MySQL is served via an Amazon RDS MySQL instance. The domain is delegated to Route 53 for DNS.
So far it seems to be faster than my traditional shared hosting and that’s without even looking at any particular optimisations yet. I’m going to try to get some metrics soon to prove it. I also plan to transition all my other sites across to this type of hosting.
The only thing still running on the old hosting is email. Amazon still has a particular gap here. I could run my own email server, but I’d prefer not to. I’m going to look into some options though.
On Thursday 5th of January 2017, I hit the $1000 mark on Lifetime earnings on Google AdSense. All but about $30 of that was earned in the immediately preceding 12 months. This is a tale of how you can have some minor success with time and effort.
I started my site, Digital TV Help, in February 2014 on the topic of Do It Yourself TV Antenna work and TV setup. It was something I had previously done as a self employed technician.
Then I had basically zero traffic and zero income from the site. In the month of December 2016, according to Google Analytics, I had 9775 sessions with 8775 users. Last month I had estimated earnings of $102.42 Australian and just under a week later I reached $1000.11 lifetime estimated earnings.
Initially my site was very unfocused and I had the idea of educating both the DIYer and people entering the industry. I didn’t have a very good design, just a typical blog design, and I only had a few articles of poor quality. Didn’t have that many pictures either only the ones I’d taken while running my business.
By December 2014 I had written 65 posts, ranging from articles about how things worked, to tip of the day articles and only a few how-to articles. I’ve always taken a publish first, improve later approach. In December 2014 I had 494 sessions and 437 users, with $2.19 of estimated earnings. In the whole year of 2014 I had estimate earnings of $11.18.
A bit demotivated and busy with full-time work, study, the birth of our first child and other commitments, I didn’t do much over the following year. After March 2015 I didn’t do anything to my site until March 2016.
In January 2016 I discovered my site had received a huge increase of users and was earning me a lot more money suddenly. In that month I had estimated earnings of $7.56 from 4506 sessions and 4008 users. From January 2014 to December 2015 my estimated earnings were $33.70.
Between January and March 2016 I did some changes to my AdSense advertising based on research on various SEO sites. After checking my stats and doing some experimentation I determined that none of my AdSense income came from header or sidebar ads. All of it came from the ads in my articles. I eventually discovered best income came from 2 or 3 horizontal banners in my articles, one after the second paragraph, one before the last paragraph and maybe one in the middle.
Earnings steadily increased over following months until between March and July each month I had between $70 and $85 each month. I started receiving a bank transfer from Google every second month. Regaining motivation in March I started reviewing and improving some of my content and adding some new stuff. I now have 88 posts and about 6 videos. I still need to do a lot of work. (See SPI: 200 on Content Audits)
Eventually I started getting $100 or more a month in estimated earnings. From July to October I got a regular monthly payment of just over $100 from Google. A slight drop in earnings in November meant I didn’t get a December cheque. Since then the income seems to regained its losses.
On January 5th 2017 I hit the $1000 lifetime estimated earnings mark. Finally!
What Made the Difference?
The vast majority of my income has come from one post. It was post aimed at do-it-yourselfers. Over time it had just become my number one landing page with it’s acquisitions coming from Google. It seems I had just done a really good job of making that article. Over the whole time since I wrote it, the article has gradually increased in Google Search hits and income.
Over the lifetime of the site, it had these stats:
40655 pageviews (24.91% of site pageviews)
$215.71 Australian (30.19% of site income)
It is titled “DIY Antenna Alignment Methods for Digital TV”. This title immediately explains its usefulness to people as does the blurb. It matches pretty well to a search of “How to align a Digital TV Antenna” and the alternate searches people might use for that topic. It contains 756 words and is quite comprehensive on the topic. It has pictures, multiple headings and an embedded YouTube video.
I believe it’s just a matter of that as more Google search traffic clicked that post, the higher the pagerank rose. The quality of the article got it into the search initially, but clicks brought higher pagerank and more clicks.
One thing I did do to the article in December 2014 was to add a strong first sentence. A member of the mastermind group I meet with pointed out that the blurb that appeared for the article on Google Search was “In a previous article blah blah blah…” It didn’t say anything about this article. I changed it to add a new first paragraph(which is still there). It now says exactly what the user will get from the article. I think it helped increase clicks, which as I say bring more clicks.
Other articles on the sites do get hits and income. The 2nd best article on the site is another How To article. However it gets only half the landings and income of the best article. The rest of the landings are spread across the site.
I don’t get many landings on my front page(only 6%). Almost all my traffic comes from organic Google Search. I don’t do much social media promotion and no paid promotion.
How to do it yourself
These are my recommendations. I’m not an expert in SEO or writing. I’ve just followed what I’ve read from experts I follow and done some experiments. I certainly haven’t tried everything I could have tried and still have a lot of work to do to increase the quality of my site and increase my income.
This is what I think works for me:
Use the official Google AdSense WordPress plugin – it automatically makes ads responsive for mobile
Use only 2 or 3 horizontal banner ads, set between paragraphs of your posts
Allow graphics or text
Write lots of deep, quality content, including embedded video and photos
Write for people not search engines
Write useful articles, like do it yourself or how to content
Strong first sentence and paragraph – tell the user what they’ll get from your article – e.g. “Here are four methods to do blah blah blah….”
I think I could have reached where I am more quickly had written a lot more high quality do-it-yourself how-to articles earlier. Also more videos and social media promotion may have got me here quicker.
My aim now is to follow a process of reviewing and improving my existing content. I’m looking to significantly increase the number of high quality how to articles and embedded videos I have. Hopefully this will get me to a level of income where it can become my day job.
It’s time to end anti-doping efforts. They have failed. More than that they are immoral.
Anti-doping regulations apply to all levels of sport, from junior, to elite professional, to masters. Yet we only test a small group of our elite athletes. Elite sport is only a tiny proportion of the actual sporting community. Who is checking that a junior soccer player isn’t being given a performance enhancing substance? Who is checking that a local B grade rugby league player isn’t taking performance enhancing substances.
Yet it’s likely that many masters athletes are taking prescription medications from the banned list. The banned list includes many medications such as vasodilators, stimulants, asthma treatments and growth factors.
Technically they’re supposed to provide us evidence of a medical need, but rarely do we get such evidence. Athletes could be taking a performance enhancing substance for a medical reason or not, but we have no way of knowing.
Why should we anyway? The medical conditions of amateur sports people should be their own business, nothing to do with us.
Advancing medical technology is one of the biggest arguments against our current anti-doping efforts. Several billion dollar companies are now working on anti-aging technologies and early indications are promising. In the past year Google has started a subsidiary named Calico Labs with the sole purpose of extending the human life span.
Already several medications are in testing that slow effects of aging. By definition these will be performance enhancing, allowing athletes to continue to perform like a young person as they age.
How could we possibly deny our athletes access to this technology? Are we going to say that if you want to be an athlete, sorry you have to age naturally? It would be absurd to even ask athletes to deny themselves access to anti-aging treatments that the rest of the community can access.
How is this any different to athletes using performance enhancing drugs available now?
One of the arguments often cited is the dangers to the athlete, particularly in relation to drugs that are not highly tested or administered in ways they’re not listed for. This is a case where the prohibition creates additional danger. If such drugs were not being administered secretively, proper clinical research could be undertaken and everyone would benefit.
It’s time to end this expensive, failing and misguided war on doping. We can replace it with scientific advancement of performance and anti-aging science that can benefit everyone.
Lots of Service Stations in Australia now have Pay at Pump systems. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone use them though. Yesterday I decided to give it a go at my local Caltex Woolworths Petrol station, and I found out why no one uses them.
Firstly you have to pay before pumping. I know this is the norm in some places, but generally in Australia we don’t think about paying until after we’ve already filled up. By that time you are locked into going inside. If you can pay after pumping by going inside, why can’t you pay after pumping outside?
As if pre-paying isn’t bad enough, they pre-authorise your card for a payment of $100. It warns you it can take up to 24 hours to release the unused funds. I usually fill my tank for about $50-60. Why should I have an extra $40-50 locked up for 24 hours just for a little convenience?
Usability is another major problem. I had to go through 5 screens, pressing buttons to select options before I could actually start pumping petrol. This took a couple of minutes. After finishing pumping I again had to go through a few screens with options before I finally got confirmation I had completed and paid.
I scanned my Woolworths Rewards card, although it took about 10 tries with the reader to make it work. You’d think you’d just present it flat to the camera, but no that didn’t work. Had to try a number of different angles to finally get it to work. That was a waste of time though because it didn’t apply the discount offer I had on the card.
Overall it was just a bad experience and I don’t intend to ever use it again. It seemed like a good idea. As a parent of a young baby, it’d be easier to not have to get her out of the car to go in to pay. After having used it, I think it’s easier and more convenient to go inside. I have to wonder if it’s a conspiracy to try to get people to buy stuff inside the store.
I don’t know why they’re even bothering with Pay at Pump if they’re going to provide such a bad customer experience. It should just be a matter of pumping your petrol, swiping your Woolworths Rewards card, tapping your bank card and off you go. Ten seconds max. Not ten screens and two and a half minutes of button pressing either side of the pumping.
The Woody Point Village has rapidly become more and more popular in recent years. On any given weekend you will find that all the on and off street parking is completely full. With more high-rise developments, shops and cafe’s planned in the future this problem is only going to get worse.
Just behind the Woody Point Village shops and Belvedere hotel there is a small park called Lion’s Park. I have never once seen a person in that park. It’s really just a space for an open air storm water drain to flow.
Instead of being wasted space, this space could be used for a multi-level carpark. Two covered levels and 1 open air level would provide a huge boost to the parking capacity of the area. I know carparks aren’t popular, but they are a necessary evil. The Lions Park location is close enough to Woody Point Village to significantly help the area out, with no significant loss of amenity.
My wife, baby daughter and I visited the Redcliffe Festival KiteFest 2015 this morning. We can see it from our home at Woody Point and we’ve thought about visiting for the last two years but never got around to it.
This time we decided we’d go check it out with our 2 month old daughter. Knowing that the parking would be a problem we decided to walk from home. We got a fantastic view of the aerobatics display by a Yak-52 from the Woody Point waterfront.
There was a great view of the kites that were flying as we walked along Bell’s Beach.
As we walked past the white fabric wall towards the entrance I said something that got this shocked response from my wife Jacqui:
“You mean you have to pay?”
I responded in the affirmative. “Be prepared to be shocked by the price” I told her. I wasn’t sure what the exact cost was as I hadn’t checked in advance.
As it turned out it was $8 per adult, $5 for children or $20 for a family pass. A family pass covers 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. Bad luck if you’ve got 2 adults and 3 kids. You’ll have to pay $25. Just to get in.
So what did you get for your money?
Well you got to walk around a smaller version of your local Sunday markets. There were a number of activities available for kids. For instance:
Kite Making Workshops – Cost $5
Animal Farm – Cost $5
Rides – $5 each or $25 for a day pass
There’s the main arena for kite flying displays and there was a number of water skiing displays during the day off the coast. In addition there was a live music stage in the main food area. Speaking of food, about 1/3 of the stalls were food trucks with a nice selection of food, but fairly expensive. We were there before the big crowds and yet the lines were still quite long. We ended up just getting a sausage sizzle.
We wandered around for about an hour and by that stage we were ready to go home. Sure there were a few shows coming up but they were age ages away and we didn’t want to queue for ages for food and drinks. Much cheaper to get some chips at the local fish and chip shop(for that matter the only food truck selling chips had run out – at 11:30am on Saturday). Plus you wouldn’t have to fight to find a place to sit amongst the too few tables and chairs.
The Bottom Line
The Redcliffe Festival KiteFest is a nice event. There’s some interesting kites displays and other shows. By and large though it’s a smallish Sunday Market. That’s fine it’d be a great thing to visit, if it were priced appropriately. $8 per person is just way too much. A family of 4 could easily end up spending $100 just to get in and have lunch. In our case, the $16 we spent to get in was money we didn’t spend at the food stalls inside.
The view of the kites and flying displays is better from Bells Beach or even the Woody Point Waterfront. If you’re just interested in the aerobatics, go to Woody Point Jetty.
An appropriate price would be $2 per person like the much better value Eat Street Markets. Free would be even better.
Over the last couple of days I again had the displeasure of shopping for a used car. I had forgotten how bad it was last time until yesterday. It seems in the two and a half years since I last did it, nothing had changed.
I have a fairly complicated financial situation, with quite a bit of debt from a previous failed business. I have two existing loans through ANZ, one in my name and one jointly with my wife. Plus I have an existing car loan though ANZ’s Esanda business. Pretty much all of my finances have been managed through ANZ for the last decade. I’ve never missed a payment, never defaulted and apart from multiple finance restructures my credit record is good.
Last time I’d done this 2 years ago, ANZ only offered the car loan through Esanda and I didn’t get the best interest rate, 9.99%. I was disappointed about it because dealer’s finance offered a better rate, but I stuck with ANZ Esanda due to brand loyalty I guess. I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t add the loan to my internet banking. Apparently ANZ’s car loan business runs on an older system to the rest of their credit system and it’s not compatible with Internet Banking.
Given my strong relationship with ANZ it seems obvious to me that I’d likely be best going to ANZ for a new car loan. They’d be most likely to approve my finance because they know my full financial history.
Should be easy as I’m already a customer. Apparently not.
I initially contacted Esanda to find out how much I have left to pay on my current loan. They quote me a balance. I’m not too sure what the point of quoting a balance is though, as the payout balance is the only thing that means anything. I was informed that payout balance they quote only lasts a few days at a time(a week maybe).
On Thursday they could only quote me a payout balance that expired that same day, because it was the regular payment day. The payout balance on Friday would be different, but their rules and computer system prevented them from telling me what Friday’s payout balance would be, despite my fixed interest rate and fixed payments. Not very helpful given I was going car shopping Friday.
They also couldn’t quote me what interest rate I would pay. The interest rate would be dependant on my application’s approval. To find out what they would offer I would have to apply for a loan pre-approval.
Why would I want to apply for a loan when I don’t know it’s terms?
Not wanting to apply for something I didn’t have full details of, I went to ANZ’s web site, where they were offering a ANZ Secured Car Loan with an online offer of 7.29%. Great, that’s a lower rate than I currently had and appeared fixed.
So I rang ANZ to ask details about it. Yes it’s rate was 7.29% if you’re approved. You’re either approved for 7.29% or you’re not getting a loan. That seemed great to me. I asked the question about Internet Banking. Turns out the ANZ Car Loans are the same thing as Esanda, running on the same antiquated, non internet-connected system. Really!
Despite that, I figured lets go for it. So I go into the online application process. Despite myself and my wife being existing ANZ customers, we fill in a huge amount of details about ourselves that ANZ already knows, such as current address, previous address and the like. We then get asked about our financial position. So we have to tell ANZ about the ANZ loans we have, which they know more about than we do.
Finally I get to the end of the process. I click Submit.
Great. My whole application was gone. I hadn’t saved it on the way through as I intended to complete the application in one go. I couldn’t apply over the phone, because the 7.29% deal was not available over the phone, only online.
So I went through the process again, this time saving at every step. Got to the end, same problem.
The next morning I tried again to submit my application. Still had the same problem. For the record, the ANZ Secured Car Loan application process is still “down for routine maintenance” this morning, two days after my first attempt.
At this point I took to twitter, complaining about my frustration. To their credit, ANZ’s social media team responded quickly:
@davidjfindlay Apologies David, pls DM ur Full Name, Postcode & Contact Num, we will arrange for a Personal Banker to call u ^EC
I replied with the appropriate details and was informed they’d get a car loan officer to contact me as soon as possible.
Two days later I still haven’t received a call.
The annoying thing is, even if I had decided to apply over the phone rather than internet, I would still have to wait for a loan officer to return my call. You can just call up and apply immediately.
Overall it’s been a very poor customer service experience. I ultimately decided not to buy a car at this point, but if I had I have no doubt it’d be the same frustration as last time with back and forth between me, the bank and the dealer to finally complete the deal.
So here’s what I want to see from a car loan product by a big bank:
Online application that allows me to just confirm or update the existing information the bank knows about me, including the details of the loans I already have.
Instant online approval if the application meets pre-determined rules. If a manual intervention is required, it should be handled within 30 business minutes.
Funds available immediately after approval, either by real time bank transfer settlement or via my debit card.
The loan should be connected to my internet banking.
Easy online process when you want to upgrade to a new vehicle.
It shouldn’t be hard.
The technology can handle it. It’s just a case of “that’s not how we do things around here”. They’re too fixed in this old school sales model of customer service officers being commissioned salespeople. It’s time to break this old antiquated model and change to something that works for customers and provides a non-dealer finance choice that is quick and easy.
Shopping at the supermarket has always been one of my least favourite weekend activities. I was pretty happy when I was able to convince my wife Jacqui that we should stop wasting time in the supermarket every weekend and instead order our groceries online.
We’ve never been totally loyal to one of the Australian supermarket chains. We go to Coles when convenient and Woolworths when convenient. However as our closest supermarket is Woolworths we typically go there. They have good quality products we like and nice service.
However our first online supermarket delivery experience was with Coles(due to a discount voucher we had). I was away, but my wife Jacqui was delighted with the delivery. The driver was friendly, explained everything as it was her first time and the products were all perfect. The driver even unpacked the bags out of the crates. Great service.
We were hooked. Jacqui was happy with it and keen to keep using deliveries.
Given we usually shopped at Woolworths, we figured lets order this one through Woolies and lets buy a 3 month delivery package. At only $3 per weekly delivery it just made sense. We didn’t give it another thought.
Then our delivery came. First time with Woolworths delivery. The driver’s demeanour wasn’t as friendly, but he did what we wanted. However the bags had been packed with much less care than Coles had done. When we opened the eggs, 4 out of 12 were broken. So we ring up the customer care line, discuss the problem, the eggs are refunded. No problem we figure, just one of those things that happens.
Second weekly delivery and the driver didn’t want to bring the crates inside. We didn’t press the issue though. This time the seal on a packet of bacon was broken. Again Woolworths refunded it. Then a few days later we went to open our packet of bean sprouts and they were mush. It turned out the used by date was the day after the delivery. Again Woolworths gave us a refund.
Tonight we got our third delivery. This time some genius decided to put 2 KG bags of onions and potatoes on top of our bread. It’s squashed as pictured. So that’s 3 out of 3 bad customer experiences with Woolworths.
So far we’ve been happy with Woolworth’s customer care line. There’s never been any question, they’ve just refunded damaged items after we told them what happened.
Not tonight. Sure they were more than happy to refund the items. But they didn’t care what was wrong. When we insisted on telling the customer service officer what was wrong, she tried to blame the delivery driver. The driver doesn’t pack the bags! So it seems they don’t care about improving their service, they’ll just buy your happiness!
We don’t want to have to phone Woolworths every time we get a delivery to get refunds on damaged items. We just want to get the same quality service we would get from a checkout operator.
Checkout operators carefully pack bags to ensure items don’t end up squashed or damaged. Why can’t Woolworths just get their checkout operator trainers to train their delivery packers? They’ve got all the hard parts of the logistics of delivery right. It’s just the simple things that they’re failing.
I’m not looking to bag them out, or chase refunds all the time. I understand this is a new service and there’ll be teething issues. I’m happy to help Woolworths improve by providing feedback. It seems they don’t really care about improving their customer experience though. They figure it’s just about refunds.
So the lessons I’d draw from this for all businesses is learn from your mistakes and make sure your customers know you’re improving. Seek feedback on your customer experience and apply it. It’s not just about giving money back – actually correct the problem. Not improving will lose you repeat customers.
Unless Woolworths lifts its game in the next 2 months we still have left, we’ll be going back to Coles.