Mar 262001
 

The Bottom Line A (hopefully) opinion-free look at what exactly ‘Pay To’ programs are. For my opinions, see my advice in Explaining Online Paid To Programs.

Advertising is everywhere on the internet. Now companies are willing to pay you to invite even more advertising on to your monitor in one way or another.

‘Pay To’ Basics

Pay To sites are essentially specialized advertising companies that pass on a part of their revenue (not their profits as so many disingenuously claim) to you in order to view the ads/visit the sites of their clients. These companies get paid by various websites to have their advertising banners or messages passed on to people that fit certain demographics. Additionally, users are encouraged to gain referrals (people who join the program after hearing about it from them) for which they also receive a portion of their referrals revenue.

The ‘Pay To’ concept apparently began with Pay To Surf programs (AllAdvantage [now defunct] is generally accepted as the first of these companies) and has since expanded into Pay To View, Pay To Read Email, Pay To Send Email, Pay To Instant Message, Pay To Listen, Pay To Click, Pay To Join, Pay To Search, Paid Surveys, Pay To Write/Review, and now, Pay To Bookmark.

While affiliate programs (where webmasters are paid to provide advertising space on their websites) are often mixed in with PTS programs, they are truly a separate beast and should be examined separately.

Pay To Surf (PTS):

PTS programs require that you dedicate a portion of your monitor’s space to their AdBar (or SurfBar). These bars generally display the PTS company logo and one (or more) banner or button ads. These ads are rotated every 30-120 seconds depending on the program and how many advertisers they have. Some also include such ‘features’ as realtime statistic updates, streaming headlines, streaming audio, or anything else the PTS companies can think up to entice new and dedicated users.

Most AdBars are small programs that must be downloaded and installed on your computer, though several companies now offer server-side AdBars that are accessed via the PTS company’s website and open a small window on your computer.

AdBars can be “docked” – locked in a specific place (usually either the top or bottom) on your monitor – or “floating” – similar to a minimized window that can be moved wherever you like on your screen, including behind other windows.

All that is required of you is to run their program and let the ads take up space on your screen while you surf the ‘net.

Each company has different methods of confirming that you haven’t simply started the program and walked off or gone to sleep however. These range from requiring mouse movement or page changes every so often (as frequently as every 30 seconds) to requiring that you click a button every 15-20 minutes to requiring that you enter a code displayed in the banner ad space when prompted.

Pay To View (PTV):

These programs are the closest thing to PTS programs. The only difference here is that you are only required to have an active internet connection (so that the bar can contact the company’s server for new ads), not to actively surf the internet. You can use PTV programs while writing email or correspondence, doing taxes, working on graphic design, or even watching a DVD movie on your computer.

You still must click the required area or respond o the occasional prompt to ensure you’re paying at least some attention.

Pay To Read Email (PTREM):

While the business model of these companies is similar to PTS programs (in fact many PTS companies offer PTREM as well) the delivery method is very different.

When you sign up with a PTREM company you generally select a number of categories that interest you. When the PTREM company has an advertiser in a category you selected an email is sent to you with the advertiser’s message and/or banner ad. You must click on the link in the email to confirm that you have read the message/visited the site.

How much email will you receive? That depends on the company you sign up with and the categories you’ve selected.

Pay To Send Email (PTSEM):

These companies are essentially web-based email programs (like hotmail or yahoo mail) that share their advertising revenue with you. Hence every time you log-in, read a message, send a message, access your address book, etc, you see a banner ad (just like hotmail or yahoo mail) and the company splits a portion of the profits with you. This concept is very similar to the epinions Content Partner Site program.

Pay To Instant Message (PTIM):

These are essentially PTREM companies that operate through various Instant Messenger programs (ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, etc) or proprietary IM software.

Pay To Listen (PTL):

Closest in nature to the PTS or PTV companies, these companies have a tuner (similar to an AdBar) on which you can select a streaming audio ‘station’ to listen to while surfing the net or working on your computer. Ads are served as banners/buttons on the tuner and/or embedded in the audio stream (ala commercial radio).

Pay To Click (PTC):

Pay To Click companies require that you visit their website and click on ads placed by various companies. You get paid a portion of what the advertisers pay the PTC company to display their ads.

Pay To Join (PTJ):

Pay To Join companies are essentially more involved PTC companies. You visit the company’s website and click on the ads there. However, unlike PTC programs you must also join or sign-up for the services of the company being advertised.

Pay To Search (PTS):

Pay To Search companies are search engines that charge websites to be listed. In return for using the search engine, thus generating revenue for the company, you are paid a portion of that revenue on either a per search or per click basis.

Paid Surveys (PS):

Paid Survey companies are marketing or research companies that will pay you for taking the time to complete one or more of their surveys. They then sell the survey results to various interested parties.

Most PD companies require you to complete extensive demographic information when first joining and then contact you by email when they have a survey that requires your particular demographics.

Pay To Write/Review (PTW):

Epinions is a Pay To Review company. These companies essentially pay you (typically on a per view basis) to provide content for their sites. What you need to/can write varies from company to company. While consumer reviews seem to be the most common, there are several companies that will pay for your stories, poetry, new ideas, or rants as well.

These companies generate their revenue by selling the advertising space on their sites.

Pay To Bookmark (PTB):

Although there are numerous sites on the web that allow you to store your bookmarks with them for remote access (mybookmarks, webfavorites, BaBoo, and Blink) only one, that I know of, shares their advertising revenue with users: Peppy’s Pointe (at http://www.paidbookmarks.com ). If they are successful (and they have been so far) others will surely follow.

Essentially, they let you store your bookmarks (or favorites) on the web, so that they can be accessed from any computer. Peppy’s Pointe then shares their advertising revenue with its users. Unlike most Pay To programs you get paid from a pool of revenue based on a ‘secret formula’, similar to how Income Share works here at Epinions.

Summation:

That covers the majority of the current ‘Pay To’ companies on the internet. A number of companies offer more then one type of service and there are a number of hybrid companies appearing as well.

I hope this overview has been seen useful.

Mar 172001
 
Part of the Cool Books Series - Previous in series         Next in series

Takahiro and Katie Kitamura have created a must-have work work on Japanese tattooing. With over 200 new photos of work by Horiyoshi III and text covering every aspect of Japanese tattoo history, this book is a must have for anyone interested in tattoo culture.

The Illustrations

The heart of any work on tattooing is the illustrations and the reader will not be disappointed here. Bushido is filled with more than 200 photographs masterfully taken by Jai Tanju. The photographs not only give an excellent look at the work of Horiyoshi III, but an amazing overview of Japanese tattoo art in general and the ukiyo-e that much of it is derived from.

Since Japanese tattoos are traditionally full-body art, the bulk of the photographs are closeups of various portions of the entire work. My favorites are the full-back piece on Syuichi Kawagoe and the S-curve of butterflies on Rie Shimizu. The demonic face on Mr. Kawagoe’s back, extending from the tops of the shoulders to the buttocks, shows just how much can be done with black shading by a true master. While Ms. Shimizu’s sprinkling of colorful butterflies drift from her left buttock to her right shoulder blade defining the concept of less is more.

In addition to the photographs there are five original, previously unpublished, sketched by Horyoshi III in the style of those in from his acclaimed work 100 Demons Of Horiyoshi III. These five illustrations alone are worth the $29.95 the book costs.

The Text

Takahiro Kitamura was born in Japan and raised in the United States. Although he first ‘discovered’ tattoos while attending American high school, his passion bloomed as he researched both his own heritage and that of tattooing. His discovery is our reward as this work successfully compares the culture of Japanese tattooing to the Samurai culture of ancient Japan as depicted in Eiji Yoshikawa’s Mushashi.

The first chapter details the history of the Japanese tattoo. Beginning with ukiyo-e, the Japanese art of wood block printing, Mr. Kitamura follows the evolution of the Samurai in art from the mid-15th century to today. He explores the reasons that tattooing has survived severe oppression by the Japanese government and what it meant, and means, to the people dedicated enough to tattoo nearly their entire body.

In the remaining four chapters, Mr. Kitamura takes us along on his journey first to meet Horiyoshi III and then to become his student. The relationship between the tattoo master and client, which often becomes a lifelong bond, is explored as is that of the master and apprentice. The final chapter explores the differences between traditional Japanese tattoo culture, American tattoo culture, and the hybrids that are being developed on both sides of the Pacific. The first person insights here cannot be found elsewhere.

My only problem with the book is that it could use a better editor. While not rife with typos, there are to many for my tastes as well as a few structural issues that an editor could have dealt with better.

Personal Experiences

Since reading Bushido I have had the opportunity to meet with Horitaka (the name Mr. Kitamura tattoos under) as it turns out he is from my own hometown. I am honored to be having him do a piece covering my left arm. In person he is both friendly and professional. His love of and respect for Japanese tattoo culture is evident, as is his knowledge of the subject.

Availability

The book’s available at Amazon.com:

ISBN: 0764312014

Recommended:
Yes

———-

This review can also be seen at epinions.com

Part of the Cool Books Series - Previous in series        Next in series
Mar 132001
 

“To be the largest global community of people who care to help the environment and lead a healthier lifestyle. Our aim is to provide easy, innovative ways for individuals to make an impact in the world and in their lives through everyday use of the Internet.”

Thus reads the Care2 Mission Statement. The question is, are they actually on the way to accomplishing this. First, let’s look at the various activities/features on their homepage.

Features

Free Email

Care2 offers free web-based email at your choice of 6 different email addresses (@care2.com, @moose-mail.com, @snail-mail.net, @whale-mail.com, @wildmail.com, or @animail.com). This is your basic web-based email account with few frills.

If you’re primarily looking for an email account be sure to read the drawbacks section below for details.

Free Homepages

Care2 web pages are powered by Homestead. The address for your page will be something like http://world.care2.com/username/sitename.html

For more information on the Homestead see the relevant section here at Epinions.

Online Photo Albums

These allow you to upload your own photos to the Care2 website and group them into photo albums for others to view.

E-Cards

Email greeting cards were all the rage a couple years ago and Care2 offers a large selection of nature based E-cards that you can send to friends or family for free.

If you create online photo albums you can send E-cards with your own photos on them as well.

Screensavers

A half-dozen free screensavers are available for download (Windows versions only). All are cartoony images based on animal and nature themes.

Newsletters

There are hundreds of different newsletters offered at Care2. Most are created/sponsored by Care2, but many are provided by outside sources. It seems you can’t go anywhere on this site without being offered yet another newsletter that you can subscribe to.

Shopping

A full shopping portal is available similar to GreaterGood.com and 4charity.com.

Still More

There are also news stories, stock quotes, online polls, click-to-donate races, job searches, weather reports, educational info on environmental issues, a pretty pets contest, biorhythms, trivia, jokes, and tons of other features.

Charity

Care2’s motto is: “Care2 make the world greener!” They try to accomplish this by donating 10% of the revenue generated from the site to six different charities: Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Friends of the National Zoo.

Almost everything you do on the site (or sign-up for through the site) generates revenue for Care2 and 10% of this is supposed to be donated directly to these organizations.

Benefits

If you’re looking for a new portal site and want to project a ‘green’ image then Care2 may be just the place for you. They’ve got just about everything you could want on the internet available here. You can also customize your start page to include the information you find most important on a daily basis. Meanwhile, you’ll be generating funds to help support and defend the environment.

Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the drawbacks are many.

Email

The web-based email offered by Care2 is far from feature-rich. You can not set up your Care2 address to forward to your primary email address. There are no filtering options to weed out junk mail or have listserv messages directed to their own folder. You can’t check other POP3 accounts.

All of the links in their email module are proceeded by cute little paw marks. So the top of your compose screen has:

{paw}Send {paw}Attach {paw}Save {paw}Cancel

While cute, for some reason they made the paws the link and not the words! I frequently miss these targets when navigating through email here.

And worst of all, it’s slow! I sent myself a message from my Care2 acount to my care2 account and it took over 2 hours to arrive. A test message to my Yahoo account took over an hour to arrive. Messages sent from and to my yahoo account take less than a minute. This is horrendously slow.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Or rather too many good things. Care2 offers so many features that many of them are hard to find. I first visited the site to check out their shopping area, but it took more than 15 minutes to find the link!

Every page on the site is crammed with links to other areas, special offers, and not-so subtle advertising plugs. Many of the links are difficult to read on my 19″ monitor, so I can’t imagine what they’d be like on a 14″ or 17″.

Charity?

Care2 claims that 10% of all site revenue goes to the aforementioned charities. While this is preferrable to 10% of profit it is also unverifiable.

Besides, all of the features offered at Care2 are offered at other charity-based sites on the web that offer much larger donations to charities.

For example, when shopping via Care2 10% of the affiliate received by Care2 is donated. Since most online stores offer a 5%-10% affiliate fee, this means that 0.5%-1% of your purchase is going to the charity. 4charity.com donates the entire affiliate fee to the charity of your choice (including several of those supported here.

Conclusions

Care2 is a nice concept, but it doesn’t really work out in the end. Very little money is raised for the supported charities and navigating the site can be a huge hassle unto itself. Care2 would have been much better off creating seperate sites for their various offerings instead of going the portal route. It is as if they’ve started a hundred projects, but completed none.

If you want to help the environment your best bet is to write a check directly to your favorite organization and volunteer to help out at their next function. If you want to donate for “free” on the web, take a look at some of the other, better designed, charity sights (Epinions has a whole section on them).

It’s just not worth hacking through this electronic jungle on a daily basis to try to help save the real one.

———

This review can also be found at epinions.com

Mar 122001
 

Paychex was founded as a payroll service for small businesses. Although the company is national and publicly traded their focus has remained on small companies with 5-50 employees. I first encountered Paychex in the early 90s when I had a game design business with 3 employees. Recently I helped a friend evolve from doing payroll for his seven employees himself to having Paychex do it for him. He’s never been happier.

What They Do

Paychex handles every aspect of payroll for small businesses. All the employer needs to do is provide copies of the employee’s W4s, banking information, and any special deductions (benefits, workers comp insurance, etc.) and Paychex handles everything.

Everything means making sure all deductions are handled properly, that taxes are paid correctly and on time, delivering the paychecks on payday (by courier), and all of the other minor and major headaches that go along with doing payroll.

All you need to do once the service is set-up is input the hours worked by each employee via their Internet Time Sheet and voila! Paychecks arrive on payday all ready to be handed out. Once set-up has taken place everything can be handled via the internet, fax, telephone or through software on your system (which is then transmitted directly to theirs via modem).

If you’ve ever waded through all the paperwork involved in doing payroll for even a couple of people you can’t help but appreciate what Paychex does.

Customer Service

Although I’ve read in a number of places about nightmares with Paychex sales people and customer service, neither I nor my friend has ever had a problem. I really have a feeling this is a branch by branch situation, so you might want to ask around your local business community before signing on.

We have always found their customer service to be top-notch. Although annoyances such as phone-tag do occur on occaision I’ve always come away from every encounter with the feeling that they honestly want and appreciate our business.

Mar 112001
 
Part of the Deciphering Domains Series - Previous in series         

The Bottom Line There is more than one DNS system out there and this article takes a look at the true alternative domain resources.

All of the other articles in this series have made statements based on the TLDs approved by ICANN. For the vast majority of internet users these are the only TLDs they will ever encounter. However, there are alternatives out there. This article will examine these alternatives.

DNS and You

DNS servers are essentially computers attached to the internet that store directories connecting domain names (such as http://www.philaahzophy.com) to IP addresses (such as 238.18.56.129) which are essentially uniques addresses for each computer connected to the internet. ICANN is the organization that maintains these DNS servers and is responsible for approving the standardized systems that makes the internet truly global.

You are able to find your way around the internet largely thanks to the DNS (Domain Name System) server used by your ISP. You have little to no control over which DNS servers your ISP uses, but this generally doesn’t matter as most use one of the 13 root DNS servers approved and maintained (to at least some degree) by ICANN. All of these share the same information on which domain names direct you to which IP addresses. Of course, this does limit you to the TLDs approved by ICANN (currently the seven gTLDs and the 237 ccTLDs).

If you were to enter the URL http://abc.news into your web browser you would receive a message stating that “The page cannot be displayed” or something similar.
This is because ICANN has not yet approved the .news TLD. In fact, they aren’t even considering it at this time. However, I assure you that not only is there a web page there, but it is possible to access it. You simply need to use an alternative DNS system.

Alternative DNS Background

Since the creation of the internet debates have raged over which TLDs to permit (or even whether or not these should be limited). The TLDs that are now considered standard (.com, .net, etc) quickly gained dominance, but have never had universal acceptance. There have always been nay-sayers and rebels who have wanted to do things there own way and one of the most glorious things about the internet is that this is possible. Hence, the alternative DNS systems.

Alternative DNS servers are created and maintained by individuals or companies interested in expanding the number of TLDs available to internet users. Almost all alternative DNS servers contain the same information available in ICANN approved root servers, but also contain information for additional TLDs.

How Alternative DNS Works

Essentially, to use an alternative DNS system you must change which DNS servers your computer looks to when resolving domain names. There are two ways to do this:

1)Convince your ISP to use use the alternative DNS you are interested in.

2)Download software from the DNS home page that will redirect your browser to the appropriate DNS servers.

Benefits

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

The primary benefit of using alternative DNS servers is the wider selection of Top Level Domains. Depending on which alternative DNS you select, you will be offered between four and 550 new TLDs. In fact one alternative DNS (Name.Space) allows anyone to create their own TLD at will.

With the internet ‘land’ rush of recent years many prime domain names have already been registered. Using the TLDs available through alternative DNS systems allows greater opportunity for registering an easy to remember domain name.

The Cool Factor

If you’re interested in being truly cutting edge, then alternative DNS servers may be just the thing for you. Just imagine how awed your friends will be when you’re the first geek on your node to host your website at http://music.mp3 or http://porn.xxx

Fight The Power

If you just have to rebel, then perhaps this is the way to do it. ICANN has been accused of being far too authoritarian by the majority of alternative DNS operators. It’s power comes largely from the power of the United States government and many people feel the internet should be free of these government controls.

The Next Big Thing

Frustrated that someone received more than $7.5 million for business.com when you never really had a chance to register it yourself? Many people are grabbing up domains from alternative DNS providers in hopes that these TLDs will one day become mainstream and they’ll be sitting (or rather cybersquatting) on the next big internet gold mine.

Drawbacks

Lack Of Awareness

The biggest drawback to these domains is that few people are even aware that they exist, much less how to access them. It’s taken several years to get people to know that when the see www.coke.com it’s a web address they can type into their browsers. With alternative DNS systems people need to actually download software or lobby their ISPs in order to get access. This is highly unlikely at this point in time.

Limited Hosting Options

Most web hosting companies are not set-up to host alternative TLDs. Thus, you are very limited in choosing a web hosting company for your site. Most alternative DNS providers offer hosting services as well as providing a list of 1 to 3 companies that can host your site.

Choosing Which Alternative

There are dozens of alternative DNS systems available. Unfortunately, your computer can only point to one of them. So, while if you go with a domainisland TLD, you will still be able to access all of the ICANN domains, you won’t be able to access any from Name.Space or biztld.

There are a few organizations working to unify the alternative DNS systems, but this is a tough road to travel since each is generally created by people who prefer to work outside the system. Not to mention that several TLDs are available on more than one alternative DNS system which leads to…

Always The Alternative

The way things have progressed over the last decade or so makes it seem far more likely that these alternative DNS systems will never be mainstreamed. Most of the new TLDs being considered by ICANN for implementation into the traditional DNS system already exist in alternative DNS systems. However, when ICANN finally approves the new TLDs the peopl who currently have them registered at the alternative DNS sites are unlikely to have any claim to the new “official” ones.

There are still legal questions being debated on this very topic, but I’d be very surprised if prior registration with an alternative DNS held any weight.

Domain Conflicts

If you register the domain Record.Shop at new.net and I register the domain Record.Shop at domainisland, we will both have websites with the same name “Record.Shop”. Which of our sites will come up when an end user types http://record.shop into his browser? That depends on which DNS system he’s currently pointed at.

So this means your advertising will have to say something like:

“Visit our website at Record.Shop on the New.Net DNS system.”

So much for simplicity.

Alternative DNS Systems

There are currently dozens of alternative DNS systems available. While I have not actually registered a domain with any of these alternative DNS systems I have spent a fair amount of time examining all of those listed below and have downloaded their software to connect to their DNS servers. With that disclaimer out of the way, here is a list of the best known alternative DNS providers:

Pacific Root – http://www.pacificroot.com

Pacific Root is currently the best attempt at replacing ICANN as a governing body. They offer dozens of alternative TLDs themselves and have joined with dozens of other DNS systems to provide even more alternative TLDs.
Pacific Root is also a large part of the Open Root Server Confederation (ORSC) which is the closest thing to an overall organization the alternative DNS servers have. (More on the ORSC in a future article)

Domain registration starts at only $5.00/year and they offer hosting services as well.

To use their domains you must either download a 46.5k zip file (PC only) or follow the directions on their site.

Name.Space – http://www.namespace.org

Name.Space offers more than 250 TLDs from .2000 to .zone and allows you to create your own TLD if you can’t find one you like in their extensive list.

Domain registration costs $30.00 per year and includes free URL forwarding and email forwarding. If you host your site with Name.Space they will also mirror your site at yourdomain.yourTLD.XS2.net

In order to connect to their DNS servers you must download a 80.1k zip file (available for Mac & Windows) or by following the simple steps on their website.

DomainIsland – http://www.domainisland.com

DomainIsland offers registration of domains in 7,000 different languages (using the appropriate character set) and a dozen different TLDs in English including such esoteric options as .(^o^) and .:-)

Domain registration prices range from $10/year to $199/year depending on the domain you’re interested in with a minimum registration period of two years. They also offer multilingual KeyWord service for $100/year per word (minimum $200).

In order to connect to their DNS servers you must download their 20k zip file or follow the instructions on their site.

New.Net – http://new.net

New.net offers 20 different TLDs including such popular options as .shop, .kids, and .xxx.

Domain registration is $25/year and includes a mirrored domain at yourdomain.yourTLD.new.net

According to the site you merely need to make one click to download their self-installing applet in order to use their DNS servers. However, I have yet to get it to work.

Conclusions

While alternatives to the traditional, ICANN-controlled DNS system do exist, they aren’t really viable at this time. For most people registering a domain with these alternative DNS companies will simply be like throwing money down a hole. And none of them offer any type of refund should you not clearly understand what you’re getting into. If you’re really interested in using an alternative DNS system I recommend you do plenty of research first, so that you clearly understand what is and is not possible with these companies.

Part of the Deciphering Domains Series - Previous in series