Twitter: Passing Fad or Useful Tool?

It seems the whole media world is abuzz about Twitter lately. It’s been mentioned on nearly every TV show and print publication and is utilized by a large majority of them too.

But is Twitter a useful tool or a passing fad?

Though many mainstream media sources portray Twitter as a place where people send out updates about the mundane details of their life, the reality is that the service is quite the opposite. The most successful use of Twitter is to share interesting stories and useful tips with fans, friends, customers and business partners.

I’ve met tons of great business contacts via Twitter and Tweetups (which are meetings in real life of Twitter users). I’ve also learned tons of information and stayed current with the latest trends in my industry, and seen breaking news in my city (Boston) and globally before it hits the mainstream media.

From my personal use with the service, it’s been a highly useful tool that’s helped me streamline multiple sources of information into one place where I can interact with that information and communicate easily with experts on that information.

I don’t think it’s a passing fad but at the same time it’s not a crucial tool for everyone and anyone to use.

Complete Score: 34.5 / 42 = 82%

Value

A free tool that has the potential to enable quality relationships with fans, friends, customers, and business partners. The downside is Twitter suffers from downtime and lag.

Score: 4 / 5

Quality

The real-time nature of Twitter’s communication platform makes it a great way to gain information on the latest trends as they happen.

Score: 4 / 5

Innovation

Twitter is not the first social media site, but combining social media with mobile technology with near instantaneous communication was a brilliant move that continues to reap benefits for Twitter and its ever expanding community.

Score: 5 / 5

Social Benefit

The potential to drive real-time news is apparent. During the airplane crash in the Hudson River and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, many people received updated news from people on the scene.

Score: 4.5 / 5

Freestyle!

I’m a big fan of Twitter. You can find me @AdamPieniazek. I genuinely feel it’s going to continue to grow in users. As more and more people tweet, the service becomes even more powerful. It’s a great tool for instant communication, learning new information, making new contacts and tracking trends and breaking news.

Score: 17 / 22

Complete Score: 34.5 / 42 = 82%

Linkers Blog

Complete Score: 30.5 / 42 = 73%

Linkers Blog is a blog started by Danny Cooper to “help you build links, traffic and PageRank.” Recently the blog switched ownership to Donny Gamble, who promises to not only maintain the relationship Danny built with his readers but to also expand it. As any blogger or webmaster will tell you, inbound links are crucial to get traffic to your site and build authority. As the Linkers Blog is making a claim of authority on building links and positive rankings, let’s take a look at a few statistics before delving into the content and design of the blog.

Currently Linkers Blog has a PageRank of 3/10 and an Alexa Rank of 67, 504. Yahoo’s site explorer reports 6,072 inbound links. On Technorati, Linkers Blog ranks at 23, 643 and has an authority of 163. While not the most popular or authoritative blog on the internet, Linkers Blog’s stats are solid and since the site focuses on link building, the 6, 072 inbound links does give the site enough links to be able to discuss obtaining links from an authoritative perspective. As an example, my most popular blog, Prose of a Pol, has 5,652 inbound links.

The homepage for Linkers Blog
The homepage for Linkers Blog

It seems that there is a vast plethora of blogs out on the web right now whose goal is to help other bloggers. Many of these blog suffer from simply rehashing the advice found on professional bloggers’ sites. Linkers Blog differs from these other blogs about blogging by publishing unique content and unique tools to help webmasters develop inbound links to their site(s). Further, Linkers Blog actively utilizes its own advice which has helped it break into the top 100,00 of sites ranked by alexa and develop a good amount of links. The first question we must ask is does Linkers Blog have the authority to blog about this topic, and so far we see it does. Now, let’s move onto the actual content of Linkers Blog.

There’s a few posts in particular that we’ll analyze for this review of Linkers Blog. The first is Building Links in Difficult Niches. In this article, we are offered four strategies for building links when you blog about a topic that no one else blogs about. We’re told about article directories, where we can publish articles with links back to our blog. It’s a great strategy to expose your expertise to a wider audience, while also developing backlinks to your own site. Next, Linkers tells us to try guest posting. Even if our niche is very small we can quest post on a blog that is related to the overall category (for instance, if you blog about Volvo v90 cars you can quest post at a Volvo or car blog). Forums and link bait are also mentioned as methods to bring in links to your blog.

A key emphasis on Linkers Blog is the power of commenting on other blogs. Most blogs have an URL field to leave your site’s address. Also, when you comment on someone else’s blog in a productive way, that blogger will likely visit your blog and may even link out to you in a post! It’s a great method that takes a lot of work but is completely worth it as it serves the person leaving the comment, the blog receiving the comment and the community as a whole through increased discussion.

A few more posts worth mentioning here are:

There you have it folks. Just the links I’ve included in this review should keep you busy for days, if not weeks, building quality links back to your site. And there’s even more information on the rest of Linkers Blog to boot!

Value

It’s free. Still, there’s the cost of navigating the site to find valuable information. On Linkers Blog, there’s a number of ways to easily find great content. There’s a popular posts section in the sidebar, as well as links at the top of the site to resource posts and link building posts. These three methods are a great way to allow readers to quickly find tips they can use.

Score: 4 / 5

Quality

Linkers Blog has a huge repository of information on how to build backlinks and a vigilant community that comments on its posts. Both points help define Linkers Blog as an excellent source of established and new ideas to use to build links to your site. It’s a great resource that I’ve used before and will likely continue to use.

Score: 4 / 5

Innovation

As far as I can tell, Linkers Blog was the first (or at least one of the first) blogs to focus solely on creating backlinks to your blog. The site focuses on this one aspect of traffic generation and does so well. Linkers Blog is a fine example of choosing a niche and focusing all your energy towards building and sharing your expertise in that one niche. Having said that, not all of the information on Linkers Blog is exactly new, but it is not truly a detriment to the site. After all, if there is a great tip on how to build links to a site I would except to find it on Linkers Blog, even if Linkers did not come up with the idea all on their own.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Social Benefit

In particular, Linkers Blog’s emphasis on using comments to build links and consistently stating that writing good, relevant comments is the way to do so helps all bloggers. However, at the end of the day Linkers Blog is simply a blog built to help people build links. It’s not a site that will change the world but it might change your life.

Score: 3 / 5

Freestyle!

I’m a fan of Linkers Blog and it’s helped me build links to my blogs and sites. A big unknown is how the change in ownership will affect the site, however, the information that is already there creates a solid foundation for anyone to build on.

Score: 16 / 22

Complete Score: 30.5 / 42 = 73%

Saints and Soldiers

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

A while back when I was forced to break my addiction to Generation Kill, I stumbled onto Hulu.com and saw a World War II movie by the name of Saints and Soldiers. It looked intriguing enough so I clicked through to the movie’s page. Once there, the positive reviews and comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan hooked me in.

The film follows a few American soldiers who are captured by the Germans but escape during a shoot-out. While hiding out in a cabin they hear some chatter about a downed airplane and go off looking for the pilot. They find a British soldier caught in a tree who tells them he has some very, very, very important information to pass along to command central. So the group of Allies sets off to cross enemy lines and inform their counterparts.

Right off the bat, the film immerses you into the time period with a radio broadcast describing the aforementioned massacre. The film keeps you immersed with soldiers who look the part with weapons that look straight out of a Medal of Honor or Call of Duty video game. In other words, the weapons look real, the soldiers look real and the film has a 1940’s feel. At the end of the film we see that the producers used WWII re-enactors to play the roles of many of the soldiers and it shows in the authentic feel of the film.

Saints and Soldiers

The actual actors do a good job too and are believable as WWII era soldiers. The camaraderie between the group feels a bit forced, though this group did come together spontaneously so it shouldn’t feel as though they’ve been together for too long. One of the reviewers on hulu.com where I watched the film (for the low cost of about 5-6 minutes of commercials) mentioned the stereotype of the characters, where the four corners of the USA are represented and the fact that the French people in the movie are woman and children while the British soldier needs constant rescuing. To a certain extent it is true, however it does not ruin the movie.

The comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan are off. Saints and Soldiers is a nice film with some cool action sequences but it is in no way great. It’s an entertaining movie, but you’ll have to suspend your belief as this rag tag group of 4-5 soldiers fights off tons and tons of German soldiers.

Towards the end of the film it does get a bit too preachy, especially for a war movie but it’s still a solid way to spend an hour and a half, especially if you watch it streaming via Hulu.

Value

I viewed the film at Hulu for the cost of enduring a few commercials. It was a decent way to pass the time, though I personally would not purchase nor rent the film. Plus, the film was apparently shot for under $1 million so it’s a good value for everyone involved.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Quality

It’s good enough to draw you in and pass the time but it’s certainly not going to win any awards. The look of the film, however, is very well done and looks quite authentic.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Innovation

Nothing new here. If you enjoy authentic World War II films you’ll like but not love this one.

Score: 1 / 5

Social Benefit

There’s some social commentary between the Mormon sniper and the atheist medic on the perils of war, but it’ honestly nothing we haven’t heard before. War is bad. If this movie was powerful enough to convince us to stop fighting it would get a good score here, but in the end it’s just a film and is not going to change the world. +.5 points for streaming it for free via Hulu though.

Score: 3 / 5

Freestyle!

The movie gets big points for being streamed for free on Hulu and its use of WWII reenactors to fill out the supporting cast.

Score: 14 / 22

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

Watch Saints and Soldiers for free below (you can enable full-screen after the commercials):

Revolution Bicycle Repair

Complete Score: 34 / 42 = 81%

During this past summer my Shogun single speed bicycle from Bikes Not Bombs suffered a broken spoke that wasn’t discovered for a few days. As a result of riding around for a couple of days with a snapped spoke, my rear rim twisted way out of true and required near-immediate attention. Figuring the rim could either be fixed or tossed, I rode my bike to Revolution Bicycle Repair on Atlantic Avenue in Boston, as it was the closest shop to my house in Edward Everett Square.

The shop itself is tucked away into the beginning of Atlantic across the bus terminals at South Station, which is a wicked convenient location. Having read a little bit about the shop online and checked out their website, I knew I was in for a unique experience, and after having dealt with a couple of pretentious bike shop employees at other shops I was ready to meet some down to earth people working on bikes because it’s what they love, not because it’s the cool thing to do or to make fun of people who can’t afford multi-thousand dollar carbon fall-apart-if-you-sneeze-at-it bikes.

I set off on a dark and cloud filled afternoon for the 15 minute ride down Dorchester Avenue. As I pedaled, a very light drizzle began to fall but it was no big deal and I arrived at the shop right around 1:30 or so, only to find the shop closed! Oh well, at least there was a sign that said the shop would re-open in 15 minutes.

Revolution Bicycle

So I waited it out by reading a few feeds on my iPhone and doing a bit of people watching (some odd characters certainly step out of the bus terminal at South Station) and before I knew it, a scruffy looking guy pulled up on a scruffy looking bicycle with a milk crate basket on the front handlebars holding a scruffy but strong looking dog. As I made my way into the shop, the dog gave out a few barks but was basically harmless. The dog (sorry buddy I forgot your name!) was active and really gave the shop some character and uniqueness.

James the shop owner was trying to eat his lunch when I strolled in but he put aside his food (even though I told him to finish) to take a look at my bike. After checking it out he realized it was going to take a bit of work to disassemble the rear wheel enough to get a new spoke on there and then reassemble it and true it so he told me to come back in an hour.

Here the shop’s great location right at the edge of Downtown Boston plays a huge factor into the positive experience I had there. The shop is ridiculously easy to access via train (get off at South Station on the red line or commuter rail) or highway, (93 South practically runs underneath the shop) or by bike. Plus, unlike some shops buried in the boonies, I could easily distract myself for an hour by walking around town or grabbing a bite to eat.

An hour later, I returned to find the scrappy dog at attention guarding the shop. The dog’s bark and step were so lively that I didn’t even realize he was getting around on only three legs! Make do with what you’ve got seems to be the shop’s motto and the shop really treats your bike with respect, knowing it might be that person’s only ride and thus that much more important.

For $15 my bike was fully spoke-ified, trued, and ready to roll. As I pedaled back to my house, the bike controlled perfectly and got me home quickly. Though the shop had some bike items and even a few bikes for sale, the small nature of the shop lends itself to more of a repair shop than a full fledged bicycle shop, but the shop owner does not try to hide that fact, going so far as to include the word repair in the title of the shop. Parts and labor are very reasonably priced, especially considering the solid quality of both.

Value

Score: 4.5 / 5

Revolution Bicycle Repair does not specialize in the latest, lightest and most expensive bicycles; instead they focus on what they know best. Sturdy fixed gears take up most of the shelf space and are marked at relatively affordable prices. Still, the competitive advantage of this shop is cheap but quality repair service and on that note they absolutely hit the spot.

Quality

I went in for a relatively simple repair but it was still very well-done and on schedule. Plus, James tightened up my brakes, oiled my chain, and made sure everything was tight and fit and ready for pedaling action. The repair held up very well, and having gone to other shops for similar repairs with unsatisfactory results, I now know that Revolution Bicycle Repair excels at those nitty gritty repairs that keep your bike rolling along.

Score: 4 / 5

Innovation

James, the shop owner, and his dog are a big part of this shop’s appeal. His personality is literally injected into every inch of the small shop, with punk music blasting your ears as you walk through the heavy black doors. It’s an aesthetic that might not please everyone but it isn’t intended to. In our over sanitized society, it’s nice to see people being able to do what they love and do it how they want to. Revolution Bicycle Repair is a shop that grew out of the local messenger community and it remains authentic to its roots. Perhaps their style might offend some people but I loved their ambiance.

Score: 4 / 5

Social Benefit

Revolution Bicycle Repair delivers some much needed diversity to the Boston bike scene while also delivering cheap but reliable repair service. Revolution might not charitably impact the local and international community as much as a Bikes Not Bombs, but they’re not intended to. Revolution is focused on keeping bicycles running and they do a damn good job of it. They fill a niche while also delivering a service that any biker can appreciate. Plus, it’s a bike shop, which at the end of the day does way more good than harm.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Freestyle!

Frankly, Revolution kicks ass and I love them for doing so. They’re not your typical bike shop but don’t let their punk facade fool you; Revolution will treat you and your bike with respect. At the end of the day, that’s the single most important trait for a bike repair shop.

Score: 18 / 22

Since writing this review, Revolution Bicycle Repair has closed up their Atlantic Avenue location but is still open for business at 383 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, MA. The shop is open from 10AM to 6PM Monday through Friday and from noon to 5 PM on Saturday. Give them a call at 617 524 RIDE.

Complete Score: 34 / 42 = 81%

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