Category: JapanSoc

Posts about the social bookmarking site, JapanSoc.

JapanSoc Revamped! New Features!

Note: I’m writing this at nearly 5am. It’s been a long night of upgrading the site and I know there are some loose ends. The FAQ and blog will be updated in due course, and any bugs you find (there are always some) will be eventually squashed. Oh, and I deleted all your profile bios by accident, sorry about that! 😛

For occasions such as this JapanSoc overhaul, Deas from Rocking in Hakata has created this fantastic video logo for our favorite social bookmarking site. Watch, gasp, then download the high definition version for your own JapanSoc-related videos.

Incidentally, Deas made a very cool JapanSoc OS X widget and some great social bookmarking icons, too. Thanks, Deas!

Who’s behind the new JapanSoc.com?

Before I give you a run-down of the new features, let me give a big, big thank you to Chris Gaunt of Nihongo Notes and J-Pop Japan. Chris just happens to be a multi-talented web developer, who completely rewrote the JapanSoc template. That’s no easy task when you consider a typical Social Web CMS template weighs in at over 60 files. I can’t thank Chris enough for the work he’s put into the site over the last month, and I’ll be using his services again in the near future. Chris does a lot of freelance work, particularly for WordPress and Ruby on Rails sites. He’s also a PHP wizard and can dazzle with CSS. Learn more about what Chris can do for your site on his LinkedIn profile.

The engine that powers JapanSoc is Social Web CMS, an open source project which I’ve become heavily involved this last year, developing over 20 modules and contributing to the SWCMS SVN. Together with Chris, we are quite a formidable team! 😀

16 All New Features!

1. The Design

This is what JapanSoc.com now looks like:

japansoc2009

2. The JapanSoc Community News bar

Click the bar at the top and it will drop down, showing you links to JapanSoc.org related sites and RSS feeds from the Community Blog and the Twitter #jsoc hashtag.

communitybox

3. Drop down categories and new ones, too!

I’ve split the categories into a few very generic groups, and using the drop-down “Suckerfish” menu makes it easy for us to add more categories, not to mention them being much more accessible than before.

categories

4. Easy Submit button

When you click on the new submit button, a little drop-down box opens where you can directly add the url you want to submit.

5. Enhanced sidebar comments

Not only is there a little avatar next to each comment, when you hover the mouse over the comments in the sidebar, a tooltip shows you the name of the commentator and the title of the post the comment was made on. Very handy!

sidebarcomments

6. Avatars have gone Gravatar

I ran a poll recently to find out whether you preferred to use Gravatar or upload your own avatar. The response was clearly in favor of Gravatar, so we’ve dropped the uploading feature altogether. That’s a good thing because it saves you from faffing around with avatars, it saves me from fixing bad uploads, and it gives the site more flexibility in how avatars are used.

7. Nice4Rice or an umeboshi?

I used to have a website called “Nice4Rice” which I customized to allow readers to get a free backlink by “giving rice” to my reviews. It was a lot of fun and I miss that site a bit. Fortunately, I kept hold of the original Nice4Rice rice bowls and have used them in comment ratings!

comment

If you like a comment or agree with it, give the author some rice! If it left a bad taste in your mouth, an umeboshi would be more appropriate. Of course, this is just cosmetic and three umeboshi will still bury a comment.

8. Filter comments to your friends

You’ll see in that image above a small link that reads “Show friends’ comments only”. If you click that, all comments from people not on your friends list will temporarily be hidden. You can view them individually by clicking the show/hide link, or just click the “Show all comments” link to view them all again.

9. Filter stories to your friends

Why limit it to comments? On the top menu bar, logged in users will see a new page called “Friends”. Clicking that will filter all the latest stories to show only those from your friends.

10. HTML in comments

BBCode has been an option for a while now on JapanSoc, but very few people used it. I’m not really surprised because we’re all so used to WordPress comments. With that in mind, we dropped BBCode (which has left a bit of mess) and now allow limited HTML tags in comments, just like WordPress. Smilies can still be used, and I’ve added a link to Ken’s Evoticon site which opens in a new tab so you can copy and paste so zany Japanese emoticons, too!

commentform

11. Subscribe to comments

This is one of my favorite new features. Instead of just allowing the story submitter to subscribe to replies, now anyone who comments has the choice of getting reply notifications sent to their email box.

12. The Social Bar

This is the big one! Far and away the most significant addition to JapanSoc is the social bar. When you log in, you’ll see the social bar glued to the foot of your window, showing your own user stats and links to your inbox, profile and settings.

socialbar

13. Send a Quick Message

In the Social Bar is a Quick Message icon which gives you an instant messaging form so you can send out to your friends. Whenever you send a message, your friend will be notified by email (unless they turn off email notification), and if you get a message, the inbox icon will light up to indicate you have mail. How very convenient!

quickmessage

14. View other users in the Social Bar

The best thing about the Social Bar is that when you click on somebody’s username or avatar, anywhere on the site, their user info will be loaded into your Social Bar with a spot of Ajax so you don’t even leave the page.

socialbar2

Clicking the avatar or name here will take you to their main profile, but you can also use this bar to add or remove the user from your friends list, send them a message, visit their homepage, their Twitter page, look at their JapanSoc favorites, see if they are currently online, or return to your own Social Bar stats.

15. New-look Profiles

We’ve decided to drop the MySpace style profile and keep things simpler, but more focused on getting you connected with the viewer.

profile

As you can see, your own sites and social network profiles get loads of attention, as do your friends and fans who will appear in your Social Bar with just one click! These are the icons Deas came up with, and there are others for Lang-8, LinkedIn and iKnow! too.

16. Oyakata

The Top Users box in the sidebar has been fun to watch over the last year, but what happens when everyone’s a Yokozuna? JapanSoc Sumo no longer ends at Yokozuna. When you get 15,000 points, you’ll be moved to the Oyakata box, a sumo stable of fame! Hat tip to Jordan for the suggestion.

oyakata

Wrap-up

That’s about all of the major changes, though there are many smaller ones, too! Remember, you have to be logged in to enjoy most of the new features, so if you haven’t registered yet, please do! Visit JapanSoc.com.


Tony D. Puddlespuddle Reviews JapanSoc

I’m running a contest over on the JapanSoc Community Blog, with a grand prize of $50! All you have to do is make a promo video for JapanSoc, about 2 minutes long, post it to YouTube and send me the url via the JCB contact form

The first entry into the contest is this video by Mike from Japan Is Doomed. Here’s Tony D. Puddlespuddle, Internet Expert…

Mike is urging everyone in the world to go to YouTube, rate this video 5 stars and subscribe to his channel. C’mon, do it for Tony!

Reviving the Japan Blog Matsuri

I’ve been working behind the scenes with other members of JapanSoc to revive the old Japan Blog Matsuri. This is a monthly blog “carnival” where given a theme to write about, bloggers everywhere are invited to share their stories with everyone else. It’s a great opportunity to find new blogs and attract new readers to your own.

Organization and Announcements

The Japan Blog Matsuri Newsroom is where things are being organized, and I can now tell you that the first matsuri of the revival will be hosted in August at The Tokyo Traveler.

Shane has published a Japan Blog Matsuri announcement naming the theme and submission details, so if you’re interested, swing by her blog to learn more!

Introducing the JapanSoc Community Blog

At universities across the UK, student clubs and societies are known as “socs”. Each of these socs is intended to bring together people with common interests, and nearly every campus has a Japan Soc.

With its Japan-related news and stories, the website of the same name has done a good job of focusing on the “Japan”. Now, though, I’d like to give as much attention to the “Soc”, by sharing with and learning more about the JapanSoc members themselves!

What is the JapanSoc Community Blog?

The JCB is an open blog that allows anybody to post a blurb about anything. It’s a blog, forum and Twitter hybrid, that can be used for Sharing, Promoting, Asking Questions, Updating and Organizing, or as I prefer to call it, SPAQUO!

Examples of SPAQUO

SharingShare

“Do you have any good photos from New Year? I’m writing a post about New Year in Japan, and would like to include other people’s experiences. Oh, and if you want any old Japanese textbooks, I’m giving mine away.”

PromotingPromote

“Just a normal day today, but I found time to post a video of my toaster oven on YouTube. It makes great cheese on toast! Tell your friends. The Japanese toaster oven phenomenon will take over the world!”

Asking QuestionsAsk a Question

“I’m thinking of getting that seishun 18 kippu summer train discount thingy, has anyone used it before? Is it worth it?”

UpdatingUpdate

“I’ve just got back from three days in Osaka and Kyoto. I’ll have the pictures up on my blog tomorrow. It’s goooood to be back!”

OrganizingOrganize

“I’ll be at the Aldgate in Shibuya on Sunday evening. Join me for a drink! If you’re not in Tokyo, I’ll buy you a virtual beer at the Japan Resort in Second Life tonight after 11pm.”

You can see in the examples above that you don’t have to say anything funny, intelligent or useful. It’s not a competition. No points, no genki karma, just good old community spirit.

The possibilities with JCB are earth moving!

The JapanSoc Community Blog enables tagging, which is incredibly useful for tracking a topic. For example, imagine a group of you are organizing a get-together next month. If you all use the same tag, e.g. “meetup”, you can track the latest developments by searching for “meetup”, or even subscribing to the RSS feed for the topic “meetup”.

Technical bits and pieces

Registration for JCB is separate from the main JapanSoc site, so you’ll need to register again. Of course, it’s a good idea to sign up with the same username and password you use on the main site so that you don’t confuse your JapanSoc login info.

After you’ve registered, you’ll see a form at the top of the main blog page where you can type your SPAQUO in. This saves the trouble of going into the WordPress Dashboard and writing a full post.

Avatars on the blog are also different to the avatars on JapanSoc. JCB uses Gravatar, a global avatar which is quickly becoming the standard across the blogosphere. If you have a gravatar, you’ll need to register with the same email address you used when you got your gravatar, otherwise it won’t show up.

RSS feeds are abundant on JCB. The main feed shows the user updates, but you can also subscribe to individual author feeds and topic/tag feeds. If you’d like to show off your JapanSoc updates on your own blog, just import your author feed.

HTML is allowed in the post form, and since all users have Author status, you can always correct any mistakes afterward.

Sensible Usage

Each “update” on JCB is technically a blog post. The only difference is that you don’t have to go into the Admin panel to write it. Bearing in mind that these are blog posts, please refrain from tiny updates such as “I’m bored”.

Also, please avoid the temptation to make too many updates. One or two a day at the most is more than sufficient. Of course, you can use the comments section as much as you like.

An experiment in group twittering

This kind of group blogging is quite revolutionary, and is made possible with the new WordPress Prologue theme. It will be interesting to see if JapanSoc’ers take to it and find it useful. What are you waiting for? Go to the JapanSoc Community Blog, sign up and post a SPAQUO!

JapanSoc Poll – 4 Socs to Hit Front Page?

In February, I asked whether 3 socs should be needed for an article on JapanSoc to be promoted from the “Upcoming” page to the “Top Stories” page. At that time, articles were averaging 2.9 votes each and users voted in favor of the 3-soc requirement.

As JapanSoc continues to grow, the average number of socs per article has risen to 4.6. So, the question is, should 4 socs be needed to hit the front page?

The case for a 4 soc promotion requirement

  • Four votes would make sure higher quality articles make the front page.
  • With fewer articles getting promoted, existing front page articles can get more exposure.
  • Currently, almost everything gets on the front page, which defeats the purpose of “Top” stories.

The case against a 4 soc promotion requirement

  • Breaking news stories might not be so new by the time they hit the front page.
  • Submissions might disappear down the Upcoming page before enough people see them.
  • Special interest topics might not get the exposure they deserve, e.g. ESL or anime.
  • Users might be discouraged from submitting articles if it is harder to make the front page.

I should point out that a submission must get enough socs within 7 days to be promoted to the font page.

Time to vote… Update: Voting has now closed. 4 socs it is!

[poll id=”8″]

Got Genki? A JapanSoc Karma Tweak

In addition to JapanSoc Sumo, I’ve tweaked a couple of other things on JapanSoc this week…

Have you got Genki?

If you don’t know, “genki” is the Japanese word for “active energetic happiness” or other less exciting definitions. As such, it’s the perfect replacement for JapanSoc’s Karma, a measure of a user’s activity over the last 7 days.

Although I should be asking “Are you genki?”, I find it much more amusing to use it as a noun…

  • Do you have Genki?
  • What’s your Genki?
  • I gotta get me some Genki!

But how much Genki can you have? The formula for Genki considers stories submitted to JapanSoc, votes and also comments. Previously, Karma didn’t use comments in its calculation, but now, with a dose of Genki, it does! The most Genki you can have is 100%, and you can check your current Genki on your profile page.

Note: Points, Sumo Rank and Genki are updated every 6 hours, not instantly.

Sidebar overhaul

You may have noticed I’ve revamped the JapanSoc sidebar. It was getting too busy for my liking, and I really wanted to keep it clean. This image shows how each sidebar box now has tabs to switch between its contents:

JapanSoc Sidebar and Genki

I hope you’ll agree that this layout is better. Incidentally, registered users and casual surfers see a different variation of the sidebar. If you haven’t registered, emphasis is given to “Monthly Picks”, whereas registered users see the “Upcoming” box more often.

Suggestions for future improvements

Without a professional developer to help, there are limitations on the kind of features I can implement into JapanSoc. That won’t stop me trying though, and my amateurish efforts behind the scenes are the reason for the “beta” label next to the JapanSoc title. My apologies if you’ve tried using the site during those frantic moments when I’m doing some live testing!

There are two things currently on the drawing board; 1) to allow you to add more than one “homepage” to your profile. Some of you write for more than one website and I think it would be nice if you could add those links to your profile (Update: Done!), and 2) follow up Deas’ suggestion for a “Who’s Online?” feature. I think it’s a great idea and certainly worth pursuing.

If you have any other ideas for improving JapanSoc, please leave a comment. In the meantime, I have to live up to my Makkuchi sumo rank and find some interesting articles to submit. Maybe I can boost my Genki! 😛

New Ranking System – JapanSoc Sumo!

Japan’s sumo season has come to an end, but the power users over at JapanSoc are just getting started.

What is JapanSoc Sumo?

It’s a new measure for ranking users so we can see who the biggest contributors to JapanSoc are. You earn points by submitting stories, voting, commenting, saving stories as “Favorites”, and for getting positive votes on comments you write. The more points you get, the higher up the sumo rankings you’ll move, until everybody recognizes you as an almighty Yokozuna!

JapanSoc Sumo

What happened to Karma?

Karma is still there, but is now merely an indication of a user’s recent activity. If I can ever figure out the magical Karma formula, I’ll try to include more factors than just submitting stories and voting into the equations.

How do you get sumo points again?

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 10 points – Submitting a story that hits the front page
  • 7 points – Submitting a story that doesn’t make the font page
  • 5 points – Commenting on a story
  • 3 points – Voting for a story
  • 2 points – Adding a story to your Favorites
  • 1 point – Receiving a positive vote on a comment

How many points do you need to move up the rankings?

Everyone starts at Jonokuchi, the lowest level sumo rank…

  • <1,000 points – Jonokuchi
  • 1,000 – 1,999 points – Jonidan
  • 2,000 – 2,999 points – Sandamme
  • 3,000 – 3,999 points – Makushita
  • 4,000 – 4,999 points – Juryo
  • 5,000 – 5,999 points – Makkuchi
  • 6,000 – 6,999 points – Komusubi
  • 7,000 – 7,999 points – Sekiwake
  • 8,000 – 9,999 points – Ozeki
  • >10,000 points – Yokozuna

10,000 points! You’ve got to be kidding me!

I’m hopeful that JapanSoc will continue to grow and and establish itself as one of the biggest Japan-related social sites of its kind. So, five or ten years down the line, any Ozeki or Yokozuna will be like JapanSoc gods to all the new users that join. And if you’re a blogger, you can be sure they’ll start reading your blog!

The current top ten power users are…

Juryo:

Jonidan:

Jonokuchi:

… and snapping at their heels are a bunch of regular contributors who I’m sure will break into the top 10 very soon! See the full Top Users List for more.

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Addition: Points are updated every 6 hours, not instantly.

JapanSoc Tutorial – Making Friends Part 2

In the first part of this tutorial, I went through the steps you need to add friends and send messages in JapanSoc. In this part, I’m going to explain how you can track your friends’ activity.

Step 1: Understanding the profile page

From your friends list in your profile page, you can access any of your friends’ own profile pages. Since I’m so active on JapanSoc, I’ve used my own profile for this tutorial.

The profile page has seven tabs, as follows:

  1. Personal Info – your main page with your intro and user stats.
  2. Submitted – all the posts you’ve submitted to JapanSoc.
  3. Top Stories – posts you submitted that made the front page.
  4. Upcoming – all your other posts.
  5. Commented – these are the posts you have commented on.
  6. Soc’d – these are the posts you have voted for.
  7. Favorites – posts you have saved/favorited/bookmarked.

Step 2: Subscribing to a friend’s submissions

With the exception of the Personal Info page, all these pages have a unique RSS feed icon in the top left corner, as shown:

Friend\'s RSS Feed

That means you can subscribe to a friend’s activity, which comes in very handy if you’ve cheekily teamed up with someone to soc each other’s posts! If this is the case, I would recommend subscribing only to your friend’s “submitted” RSS feed, as that includes all your friend’s posts.

You could also subscribe to the “Favorites” feed, explained in step 4.

Step 3: Subscribing to multiple RSS feeds

If you’re a hardcore JapanSoc’er and have more than one friend (which I hope you do!), you might consider using a free service such as RSS Mix to combine all your friends “submitted” feeds together into one single RSS feed.

Step 4: Understanding “Favorites”

On social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, your “favorites” would be considered the posts you have dugg or stumbled. JapanSoc, on the other hand, has both “Soc’d” and “Favorites” pages. So what’s the difference?

Soc’d posts are the ones you’ve considered good enough to vote for. I tend to soc an awful lot of posts (582 as I write this!), but that doesn’t mean that I think they are all brilliant articles which are worth printing, framing and hanging on the wall.

Favorites, in the JapanSoc sense, are the best of the best, the ones you actual want to save so you can find them again in the future. These are the posts you want to tell all your friends about.

Step 5: Adding Favorites

Below the post you want to add to your Favorites is a link, “Add to Favorites”.

Add to Favorites

When you click that link, you’ll be notified of success and given the option of going directly to your Favorites.

Successfully added to Favorites

Posts that you have “favorited”, can be removed by clicking the “Remove” link. (Don’t worry Billy, I didn’t click it!).

Favorites and Remove

You’ll also notice that there is an RSS icon on the Favorites page, too, so you can subscribe to your friends’ favorite posts.

A New Addition to JapanSoc

Recently FavoritedAt the bottom of the JapanSoc sidebar, I’ve added a new box showing posts that users have recently added to their favorites. It’s worth keeping an eye on this box as you might find some great articles you had previously missed.

Of course, it also provides another opportunity for some self-promotion. If you add your own stories to your Favorites, they are going to appear in this box for all to see.

Summary

Now you know how to create a list of favorite posts in JapanSoc, and share your recommendations with friends using the RSS feeds in your profile pages.

JapanSoc Tutorial – Making Friends Part 1

Recently on JapanSoc, user Japanite submitted a post titled Creating JapanSoc Groups in Other Social Sites in which he said:

I think we should consider uniting together to promote our sites in other social news sites. I thought about recommending everyone’s stories in sites like StumbleUpon or Digg, to get better exposure to new visitors.

I thought that was a great idea, and so did a few other JapanSoc users. The bloggers amongst us all chipped in with Digg and StumbleUpon user names, and now we’re in a better position to rally support for our favorite blog posts.

Socializing on JapanSoc

The big social bookmarking sites mentioned above offer tremendous functionality for building small communities of like-minded people, and while JapanSoc is rather limited in that respect, it’s not without its own fancy features.

This tutorial is split into two parts. This first part covers JapanSoc’s Messaging functionality, and part two will explain how you can “favorite” stories and track your friends behavior on the site.

Adding Friends

Before I get into messaging in JapanSoc, you need to know how add friends to your friends list. Let’s do that first:

Step 1: Go to your friend’s profile page

Click your friend’s username under his or her submissions, comments, or anywhere they have been active.

Step 1

Step 2: Add your friend

On the profile page you’ll see a link to add that person to your friends list.

Step 2

Step 3: View your friends list

Once you’ve added your friend, you should see the green “successfully added friend” message. After that you can click the “View my friends” link, which is also accessible from your own profile page.

Step 3

Step 4: Find your new friend in your friends list

That will take you to your own profile page and display your list of friends. In this example, you’ll see “billywest” (from 7:10 to Tokyo) is now in my list, and I’m going to click the “message” icon next to his name to send him a message.

Step 4

Step 5: Compose a message

A box opens up and you can send your first message. Bear in mind that this isn’t email. Your friend won’t receive the message in his email box. Instead…

Step 5

Step 6: Receiving a message

…when your friend next logs into JapanSoc, he’ll see an alert notifying him of his message.

Step 6

Step 7: Viewing the message

Clicking the “View now” link in the previous step opens up the message which you can then reply to, delete, or just close. Alternatively, you could have gone directly to your Inbox, as shown in the next step.

Step 7

Step 8: Managing your messages

Your Inbox can be accessed from your profile page.

Step 8

Step 9: Your JapanSoc Inbox

In your Inbox, you can view, reply to and delete messages as you please.

Step 9

Summary

So, in short:

  1. Add a friend
  2. View list of friends
  3. Send a message
  4. Manage messages in your Inbox

Now you know how to pester your friends for socs and comments. Next time I’ll explain how to track your friends actions, and harness the power of social bookmarking! 😀

Continue: Part 2: Using favorites and subscribing to your friends’ activity

JapanSoc Update – 100 Users and Upcoming Downtime

JapanSoc hits 100 users! 

Edward Chmura put out a good word for JapanSoc on Japundit this week, helping to push the number of registered users over the 100 mark. Let me thank Ed, who is also responsible for the excellent Japan Talk podcast, and let me welcome any new JapanSoc users to my blog, the place where I post updates about the site (so please subscribe!).

Web host problems continue…

Lately I’ve been hugely frustrated with my current web host. I run a dozen websites and over the last month, I’ve seen more downtime than I have in my whole three years with the company. Even when the sites are working, they seem to be sluggish and often timeout when trying to load.

I won’t name names until I’m off my current web host, but I will say that they have been either impossible to contact or slow to respond to “trouble tickets”. Let me give you an example of how bad their service has become. This screenshot shows one of my sites had a sudden drop in traffic on Wednesday, March 5th. Usually the sites go down while the U.S. is asleep so I’m not affected too much, but this time it happened for maybe six hours during U.S. peak time:

Unexpected downtime

Naturally, I sent a “trouble ticket” to my web host and had to wait over 24 hours for a response:

“The connection has timed out. The server is taking too long to respond.” I get the same error for all the listed domains. Please help. Nick.

Dear Nicholas. Thank you for the word to support. As far as I can see your site working properly and fast. Also we haven’t any records in our tech logs regarding problems with your web or mysql server. So please re-check your site once again. Should you have any further question feel free to contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

That was enough to make me sign up for another web host and start the laborious process of moving my websites across.

Upcoming JapanSoc downtime

I haven’t decided when to move JapanSoc or this blog, but it will probably happen within the next two weeks. When it does, I imagine there could be about 72 hours of downtime while I wait for the domain name servers to point to the new web host, and of course I’ll have to figure out how to import the databases and get JapanSoc running with PHP 5.

Once it’s all working, you should find JapanSoc loading faster and being online the promised 99.9% of the time. That should make the three days of downtime worth it, and I hope you all agree.

In the meantime, please continue using JapanSoc as you have been, and expect another notice before I start making the move.

JapanSoc Video Tutorial – Social Bookmarking Button

Over on the Daily J, our friend Tori is working hard to bring Japan’s community of bloggers together. As well as projects such as Nipponster and Japanopedia, he is regularly giving exposure to blogs and community-driven websites such as JapanSoc.

To my surprise, he has started on a series of video tutorials for each of the tools on my JapanSoc Toolbox page, starting with a guide on how to install the JapanSoc Voting Button. Since I think video tutorials are an excellent idea, I’ve made one myself!

The JapanSoc social bookmarking button is a textual or graphical link at the bottom of a blog post that when clicked, automatically submits an article to JapanSoc. Here’s my first attempt at a video tutorial, a 9 minute overview, stealthily avoiding all the details and focusing only on WordPress.org blogs.

If you can’t see the video, watch it here on YouTube.

Note: I made this video using Hypercam (shareware) and Windows Movie Maker (bundled with Vista).

See Spam on JapanSoc? Bury It!

Imagine you own a business. You need a website, so you hire a programmer to build one for you. You need content, so you hire someone to write articles for you. Now you have this great website, but you don’t have any visitors. The next step would be to hire an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) professional to get your site ranking higher in Google, Yahoo and co.

One way to boost a site’s rankings is by linking to it from other websites. So let’s imagine your website is about organic tea. Your SEO professional might email other tea-related websites and ask if they would link to you, but chances are they won’t. He might go onto a chat forum and mention your site, but how many people out there are talking about organic tea? Does this guy even know enough about organic tea to hold a conversation on the topic? Unlikely.

A good SEO professional will try to get legitimate links from relevant sources. On the other hand, less ethical “professionals” choose the easier option of spamming blogs and social bookmarking sites such as JapanSoc.

JapanSoc, like other social bookmarking sites, is an easy target. Once you’ve registered, you can submit any website you like. I’ve already seen Hawaiian weddings, CSS style sheets, and of course, organic tea among the upcoming stories. On some occasions, these submissions have actually been quite good! The title is descriptive and the summary of the site has been well-written. If you were paying for these links, you’d probably be quite proud of their quality.

The problem is, the SEO “professional” has wasted his time because his submissions aren’t related to Japan… which means they are spam, spam, spam, spam, with a hint of spam. You’ve put your heart into your organic tea business, you’ve had a fantastic website designed for you, and you’re not even aware that you are responsible for all this spam.

As long as people are paying for SEO, spam will continue. While I can do my best to ban and block every spammer that signs up at JapanSoc, I urge you to help me out by hitting the “bury” link on any spam submission. Thank you! 🙂

New JapanSoc Banners and Buttons

For JapanSoc to be successful, it needs the support of the Japan blogging community. So, to assist my fellow bloggers in exposing new readers to the social bookmarking site, I’ve put together a selection of banners and buttons which you can add to your own blog or website.

Click for the JapanSoc banners page

Phew! They were hard work to make, but I hope you find them useful. If you need any other sizes, just let me know.

JapanSoc Web Widget

Two JapanSoc RSS widgetsI really wanted to make some kind of gizmo to display the JapanSoc RSS feed anywhere online, and was thrilled to find a website that made this process extremely easy. So easy in fact, even Michael McKinlay has done it! Thanks to WidgetBox.com, anyone with an RSS feed can make a “Blidget” in just a few minutes, and that’s what I did for JapanSoc.

What does it do and where does it go?

As you can see, there are two flavors. The orange one shows the main Top Stories feed, while the blue one is for Upcoming Stories on JapanSoc. You can embed these widgets pretty much anywhere, e.g. iGoogle, Facebook, MySpace, WordPress, and Blogger. You can even customize their appearance somewhat before you embed them.

Embed the JapanSoc widgets in all these places!

Search for more Japan widgets on WidgetBox

A quick search for Japan in the WidgetBox gallery shows some very interesting results. You can embed everything from Japan-based jobs to J-Pop, and even a widget from Jamaipanese! Very cool.

Get your JapanSoc web widgets here, and don’t forget to subscribe to this blog for more JapanSoc updates.

JapanSoc Poll – 3 Socs to Hit Front Page?

JapanSoc continues to grow. There have been 398 Japan-related articles submitted to the site since it started last November. On those articles, there have been 348 comments and 1159 votes. That means that each article has been soc’ed an average 2.9 times.

Hitting the JapanSoc front page

Currently, when an article is submitted to JapanSoc, it goes in the “Upcoming” queue. Two votes are needed for it to hit the front page and be added to the main rss feed. One vote is automatically given by the submitter, so only one other vote is necessary. With 67 registered users as I write this, almost everything is getting a second vote and making it off the queue.

The case for a 3 soc promotion requirement

  • Three votes would make sure only the best articles make it to the front page.
  • With fewer articles getting promoted, existing front page articles can get more exposure.
  • Users might promote JapanSoc more, encouraging people to soc their submissions.

The case against a 3 soc promotion requirement

  • Submissions might disappear down the Upcoming page before enough people see them.
  • Special interest topics might not get the exposure they deserve.
  • Users might be discouraged from submitting articles if it is harder to make the front page.

Time to vote… Voting has ended, and the “3 Soc Rule” is now in effect.

[poll id=”4″]

JapanSoc Toolbox

JapanSoc.com

Welcome to the JapanSoc Toolbox, a page full of resources to help you get the most out of Japan’s fastest growing social bookmarking site for the foreign community.

I’ve listed them in order of release, with new additions added as they become available. Please let me know if any of them are broken.

The JapanSoc Bookmarklet – Submit while you surf

JapanSoc Bookmarklet

The bookmarklet is added to either your browser’s bookmarks or links bar. You can submit a page to JapanSoc just by clicking this button, saving time and encouraging you to submit more articles! Find the bookmarklet on your JapanSoc profile page and read the instructions for the browser you use. Note: As an alternative, consider the Nipponster Toolbar described below.

JapanSoc Social Bookmarking Button

JapanSoc Social Bookmarking Button

This handy little button can be added to the foot of your blog posts, allowing your readers to submit your articles to JapanSoc. If you’d like to include a JapanSoc button on your site, grab the code and buttons from How can people soc my articles? on the JapanSoc FAQ.

JapanSoc FeedBurner FeedFlare

JapanSoc FeedBurner FeedFlare

What you see in that image above are links at the foot of a FeedBurner RSS feed. Clicking the JapanSoc link allows you to submit an article directly from the feed, which is incredibly useful if you use a feed reader such as Google Reader. The JapanSoc FeedFlare was created by Ken from WhatJapanThinks.com and can be used by anyone who has burned their feed with Feedburner. If you’re confused, watch the introduction to FeedBurner video in this DailyJ post, and then read Ken’s article so you can implement the JapanSoc FeedFlare into your own feed.

JapanSoc Voting Button

JapanSoc Voting ButtonThe JapanSoc Voting Button is the best way to encourage your readers to submit and soc your posts. It’s the most visual button and screams to be clicked! Although I’ve only tested the plugin for WordPress.org blogs, there is code you can copy and paste into your site to make it work on non-Wordpress blogs. If you’re looking for interactivity with your readers, more socs and more exposure, then this is the tool for you! Read more about the voting button.

Update: The WordPress plugin for the JapanSoc it! button is now available directly from WordPress. Read about the updates here: New JapanSoc it! Button. April 14th, 2009.

Nipponster Toolbar with JapanSoc It! Button

Nipponster Toolbar

This toolbar is unique in that it is designed for people like us. You’ve got a Japan-specific search engine, English-Japanese and Japanese-English translation tools, other useful links and gadgets, and of course, there’s a JapanSoc It! button, so you can submit articles while you surf. You can download the toolbar here.

JapanSoc Widget for Mac OS X

JapanSoc Widget for OS X

This flash-looking widget was designed by RockingInHakata author, Deas Richardson. About this tool, he says:

I whipped up an OS X widget to display the five most recent top stories AND allow me to submit new stories to JapanSoc directly from my Dashboard. I tried to keep the colors consistent with the actual site as well. If you are a JapanSoc member, or looking to be one, maybe you’ll find some use for it?

I’d love to try it, but since I don’t have a Mac, I have to settle for the video of the widget in action on Deas’ JapanSoc OS X Widget post. Incidentally, he has also made a Nipponster widget for the above mentioned, Japan-specific search engine.

JapanSoc RSS Web Widgets

JapanSoc Web Widgets

These two web widgets are an alternative to using the FeedList plugin above if you don’t have a WordPress blog. They can be embedded in sites such as iGoogle, Facebook, MySpace, Blogger and WordPress, too. Each widget represents a different JapanSoc feed; the orange one is for the main Top Stories feed, while the blue one is for Upcoming Stories. You can even customize their appearance by changing the colors and showing summaries of each story.

Stay up-to-date and keep you readers informed of the latest headlines from JapanSoc with the JapanSoc Web Widgets!

Additional Resources

Check out and bookmark this blog’s JapanSoc Info page. It has become the home for all things “JapanSoc”.

JapanSoc Voting Button for Blogs

By now you’ll know that I’ve started a social bookmarking site for everything Japan-related. If you’ve registered for JapanSoc and write about Japan on your own blog, then you’ll probably want this Digg-style voting button on your site.

Update: The WordPress plugin for this button is now available directly from WordPress. Read about the updates here: New JapanSoc it! Button. April 14th, 2009.

What does the button do?

Example of the JapanSoc Voting ButtonIt allows your readers to easily submit your blog posts to JapanSoc, and then automatically shows how many votes, or socs, your article has received from other JapanSoc’ers. After an article has been submitted, clicking the button will send your readers to JapanSoc where they can vote, or otherwise to the login/registration page.

Why should I use it?

It should encourage more of your readers to sign up for JapanSoc and vote for your posts, giving you more exposure on the social bookmarking site, and bringing new visitors to your blog.

How do I add it to a WordPress blog?

If you are running your own WordPress blog, then follow these instructions:

  1. Download the JapanSoc WordPress plugin
  2. Upload the japansoc folder to your wp-content/plugins folder
  3. Go to Admin -> Plugins, scroll down to JapanSoc: Soc it!, and click activate
  4. From the HTML tab, type <!--japansocleft--> or <!--japansocright--> in your post where you want the button to appear

How do I add it to a non-Wordpress blog?

If you don’t have a WordPress blog, you can still use the button, but you must be able to to insert Javascript directly into your post, or be able to edit your blogging template directly.

To add a button on a page with a single post, just copy and paste this:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.japansoc.com/evb/button.php”></script>

If you have a page with multiple posts, you can separate each instance of the button by using the two lines of code below, and providing a url for each post.

<script type=”text/javascript”>submit_url = ‘url of the post‘;</script>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.japansoc.com/evb/button.php”></script>

Thanks to the Xorsyst, creator of OtakuStuff.com

Credit for the JapanSoc Voting Button goes to Louis from Xorsyst.com, one of the oldest blogs I’ve come across, with content dating back to early 2002!

OtakuStuff - Social Bookmarking for OtakuOne of his latest articles announced the launch of OtakuStuff.com, a social bookmarking site for fans of Japanese anime, manga, games and cosplay. In building the site, Louis made the above WordPress plugin, and was kind enough to share it with us at JapanSoc. If you’re an Otaku, make sure you sign up for OtakuStuff and get the Moe It! version of this voting button for your blog.

Questions for JapanSoc Users #1

If you haven’t yet registered for the Japan-related social bookmarking website, JapanSoc, please sign up! This is a new community which is growing quite rapidly thanks to some wonderful support from my fellow “Japan” bloggers.

A few questions for JapanSoc users

Since I’m at the helm, I’d like to get some feedback from current JapanSoc users so I can go about making improvements. Here are some questions to consider, but please feel free to voice your opinions in the comments section.

  1. Was registration smooth?
  2. Is the FAQ okay, or am I missing anything important?
  3. Do you think all the categories hog the sidebar? Any suggestions?
  4. Is the site too slow? (This will be my biggest headache!)
  5. Have you experienced any technical glitches worth reporting?

Get your blog reviewed on LongCountdown

If you blog about Japan, here’s a deal for you. I will write a dedicated review of your blog here on LongCountdown.com if you do the following:

NOTE: This offer has now finished. 

  1. Register at JapanSoc.
  2. Add the JapanSoc FeedBurner FeedFlare to your blog feed.
  3. Link to JapanSoc (from either your blogroll or a blog post).
  4. Subscribe to this blog’s rss feed.
  5. Let me know you’ve done 1-4 in the comments.

Using JapanSoc to Boost Blog Traffic

JapanSocFrom time to time, I’ll be posting about my new project, JapanSoc, so if you’re not sure what it is, please read the article JapanSoc Brings Social Bookmarking to Japan so that you understand these posts!

Over on the Daily J, Chris B posted a comment about JapanSoc’s voting system, suggesting that people could cheat it by asking their friends to vote up their submissions. I responded by explaining how social bookmarking manages itself because users can vote up what they like or “bury” what they don’t. I then went on to talk about how votes are less important than visitors:

Using JapanSoc as a bridge between Google and your blog

From a bloggers point of view, you want to get as much traffic as possible. The best way to get traffic is through search engines, but it’s very difficult to get your own blog ranking high in Google’s search results because you’re competing with other, bigger sites for the same keywords.

The advantage of a site like JapanSoc is that as it grows and gets more users and incoming links, it will become one of those “big” sites, and rank higher for YOUR keywords than your own site. Hence it becomes a “bridge” between Google and your blog.

One important concept to remember is that when you submit one of your own posts, you should use a different title to the original, and give it a quality write-up, using keywords you want Google to find. If you just cut and paste the opening paragraph and use the same title as you did in the original post, it will be judged by Google as duplicate content and not rank so high, if at all.

Anyway, I hope you can see that it’s not about getting votes, it’s about getting visitors.

Competing with yourself is a waste of potential traffic

With the above in mind, I did some searching on Google to see if I could find any real examples of how JapanSoc can be used to get traffic from the search engine giant. First, here’s an example of why you shouldn’t use the same titles:

Google results for Hinoki Ramen Shinjuku

You can see that for the search term “Hinoki Ramen Shinjuku”, the third result is the JapanSoc submission, which comes behind Neil’s original article. Ideally Neil should have used a different title with different keywords to avoid competition between his original article and the JapanSoc submission. Incidentally, notice how the JapanSoc link ranks above otaku.fm, Danny Choo‘s aggregated feed network. Sorry, Danny! 😉

Titles matter to Google

This next example is a little more interesting, but shows the same problem:

Google results for Yutampo Japan

The above screenshot shows the results for “yutampo japan”. Thomas wrote about the Japanese hot water bottle on his blog, but his original post doesn’t show up in these results at all.

However, you can see Japanalyst (an rss feed aggregator) at number one, and it shows the same title for JapanSoc, BloggingZoom, and even the original article – talk about competing with yourself! 😯 Blogging Zoom have made things hard for themselves by attaching “BloggingZoom” to the front of the title instead of the end. All these things matter to Google.

Example using different titles

This last example shows how it should be done. The original article was titled “Slipper Ping Pong Official Racket” and as you can see below, it comes up first for the search term “slipper ping pong”.

Google results for Slipper Ping Pong

The JapanSoc link is nowhere to be found in those results because when I submitted the article to JapanSoc, I gave it the title, “Play table tennis with your slippers”, which as you can see below, ranks third for the search term “table tennis slippers”. Now that article can get traffic from both search terms!

Google results for Table Tennis Slippers

Help yourself and others by using different titles

If you use a social bookmarking site, whether it be JapanSoc or otherwise, think about changing the article’s title and summary when you make a submission. Of course, if you’re not a blogger yourself or you like submitting other people’s work (as I do), you can send them a little more traffic from the search engines by taking a few extra moments to personalize each submission. Happy JapanSocking!

JapanSoc Brings Social Bookmarking to Japan

JapanSoc - Social Bookmarking for JapanSocial bookmarking is a means of saving links to your favorite pages online and sharing them with other people. Just like you can add your favorite sites to your browser’s Favorites or Bookmarks, you can add them to a social bookmarking website which you and your friends can access anytime, anywhere, even from a different computer.

Social bookmarking for niches

The biggest and most popular social bookmarking sites include Del.icio.us, Reddit and Digg, and there are probably hundreds of similar websites for you to choose from. Recently, a number of niche websites have opened, limiting the content to a particular topic. For example, Sphinn is specifically for internet marketing news, and BloggingZoom is for bloggers.

Creating a social bookmarking site

It was the arrival of BloggingZoom that made me wonder how easy it would be to set up a social bookmarking site for Japan-related news and stories. It turns out that with Pligg, an open source social content management system, I was able to set up such a site in about 24 hours. It will take a lot longer to generate some interest, but the coding side is pretty much all done.

Introducing JapanSoc, social bookmarking for Japan

JapanSoc is for all things Japanese, in English. Whether your interests lie in Anime, Japanese TV, Japanese food, the language, teaching English in Japan, Japanese news or technology, then JapanSoc is the social bookmarking site for you.

What’s the Soc in JapanSoc?

Type “define: soc” into Google and you get this nice definition that sums up the name:

Socialising and discussion of social issues.

Free registration, only takes a minute

User registration is painless and you’ll soon be able to submit any stories about Japan you find interesting. If you blog about Japan like I do, you’re very welcome to submit your own blog posts and hopefully get some extra traffic to your site.

Success depends on mass participation

For a social bookmarking site to be successful, it needs a lot of users regularly submitting, rating and commenting on articles. I think JapanSoc has great potential, but it’s nothing without users. If you like the JapanSoc concept, please take a moment to register and invite some of your friends to join. If you have a blog, please write about it and lets build a community!

Sites in the JapanSoc community

Below is a list of the first ten sites that helped to promote JapanSoc in some way or another:

Linking to JapanSoc

You can link to JapanSoc with either:

http://www.japansoc.com

or the following HTML code:

<a href="http://www.japansoc.com" alt="Japan Social Bookmarking">JapanSoc</a>

Here are some images you can use. Right click and save them to your computer:

190 x 41 px 160 x 35 px 120 x 26 px
468 x 60 px

Your comments are welcome!