Two kids and a full time job later

I’ve recently been provoked to take a serious look at Kaplak again. I thought I would drop a few lines in this place to announce that I’m back to work on Kaplak – if only in a tiny slice of my time – but no less ambitiously.

The truth is I’ve never really left. For various reasons, it made a lot of sense to close down the company Kaplak and focus on other things, but I’ve never quite left the ideas we worked with in Kaplak, and I believe the world still needs what we had coming for it. In the meantime there’s not much else to do but figure out ways to build upon the experience we had then.

So in the back of my head, this is what I have been doing. I am right now on three months of parental leave from work – which among other things, have lent me some long-missed time to think about the meaning of my life and the connected world. When teaching one does actually do a lot of thinking – but it’s mostly about teaching and planning classes and lessons, and not much else. Since August 2009 I’ve been teaching history and media full time at Aabenraa Statsskole – and since the summer of 2007 I’ve also had two kids (one now aged 4 and one nearly 9 months), which in sum means that my life is totally different today than what it was when I first started Kaplak.

So what did provoke me to take yet another long arduous journey to the far far away land of the slim ends of the long tail? (Plural because they come in large numbers!) Among other things, I’ve come across a couple of online phenomena which deserves a few words in this space.

Google+
Earlier this year Google launched Google+ which I have embraced and played with – at times enthusiastically, at others somewhat reluctantly. It’s like Friendfeed has come back – but different and with a whole new feature-set, which combines the best of what Twitter and Facebook have to offer. But it’s still a proprietary monster, where Google (among many other things) gets to decide what their users are ‘allowed to call themselves’, simply because while Google+ empowers users to share their stuff in ever more flexible ways, the network is still owned by Google and this ownership is never in question. Nevertheless, the ease of sharing stuff on Google+ has made me into a regular poster.

Google has been quick to add hashtags to it’s service, and I’ve now begun to add hashtags to my stuff, which makes it easy to find #copyfight stuff and posts on #landvaluetax, as well as all those #thingsthatmakeyouseetheworldjustalittlebitdifferently. It often has stricken me though, that I ought not to use Google to make what is in essence niche micro sites much like the ones we were developing with Kaplak Stream. Instead, I’d like to share stuff using WordPress as a platform as we did in Kaplak, and only use Google+ as a secondary channel.

If this then that
Just recently I stumbled (via my Google+ network) across an online service which goes by the name If This Then That, which stirred up a lot of thoughts about Kaplak in the back of my head. Occasionally I come across something which contributes a piece to this ongoing puzzle. Ifttt, I believe, is such a piece. Now these stirred-up thoughts have fallen into place again, and although a lot of the ideas we worked with in Kaplak remains (making a sound business out of less-than-popular (“long tail”) products – and transforming work life and the universe as we know it in the process), some have landed in new places.

My instinct tells me that Ifttt (and similar services) paves the way for the future of the internet. Ifttt truly empowers users because it puts users in charge of the what, when and where of their online activities – not the services they use. It widens a door already opened by the APIs of online services, which adds a new parameter to the equation. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter will increasingly have to compete on how well they serve the needs of users to bring their data where they need them to go (and in that process make more data available flexibly and cater to the needs of services such as Ifttt) – and not where those companies would like them to go.

Now, what does this entail for Kaplak?

We had two working strategies in Kaplak – one was widgets, the other was Kaplak Stream. Both aimed at the same target : selling niche products in rich niche contexts, which would easily be found by their niche customers, and in doing this connecting seller with buyer. The middleman – the “skipper” making the connection, would in turn earn kaplak, a percentage of the product value given by the seller.

Now, it’s a top priority to concentrate efforts on making Kaplak economically feasible. This means, that with the greater ease and the less hazzle we can create these connections, the better, as the turnout (kaplak) from each sale must be expected to be very small. Therefore, we will focus on the “stream”-approach, but with a few decisive changes to make sure we must do as little “clean up” and maintenance as possible – more on this at a later time and place.

This aligns well with what my life looks like right now. Among other things, I can not dedicate as large a portion of my time as I would like to build up Kaplak, at least at this point in my life. I will keep teaching history and media, and continue to devote a large part of my spare time to my precious family.

But what I do have, are those spare minutes during the day, which cannot be used for much else. I will continue to cruise the web and share stuff, using my phone, my laptop and my PC. But increasingly I will ‘share with Kaplak’ i.e. develop a sharing platform and work out posting routines accordingly, using Kaplak – rather than use Google+ just because I am too lazy to use my own platform. Google+ has other excellent possibilities and uses – but should never be the end destination for shared stuff, no less so than Facebook or Friendfeed should.

Using services such as Ifttt we can easily distribute items to their proper place, and since I’ve last worked seriously with WordPress, useful and valuable plugins such as FeedWordPress has only improved – and will assist to help create the niche sites, which in turn will deliver the helpful contexts for future Kaplak products.

What is important though, is that I sense that it is in fact possible – right now, using the tools that we have right now – to build a site architecture, without the need for a lot of coding, which will (if very slowly, to begin with) help accomplish the beginnings of what we set out to do with Kaplak.

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The Bumpy Rolling Out of Kaplak Stream – And What Not To Do To Piss Off Google

Kaplak is changing it’s course again. Since the inception of the first kaplak idea, we’ve come a long humbling way to only realize over and over again, how much we still have to learn. But slowly, we also realize what kind of knowhow we have and are building, and how Kaplak can help crack the problems and meet the challenges, which we set out to originally. Hence we also begin to understand what kind of value we add – and just as importantly, what we don’t add. Among many other things, this is key to learn what kind of business model we want to build – and, just as importantly, what kind of business we don’t want.

Let’s take a look at what happened with our traffic since the somewhat bumpy rolling-out of Kaplak Stream in 2008, from November 1st last year to February 1st this year :

The above is a screenshot from the Google Analytics Dashboard for Kaplak.com including subdomains. Following the launch of Kaplak Stream, sometime in November our traffic started to take off. Kaplak Stream basically consists of the present WordPress MU installation of which the Kaplak Blog is also part, along with a handful of customized plugins, of which the most important one is FeedWordPress. The idea (as sketched out in this previous blog post) is that items in the stream can be “fed out” from the stream again, which will reveal new contexts, which didn’t exist before. When two separate items which are both tagged “Barack Obama” are fed from the stream, they create a new “Barack Obama” context, even though the original items may have been produced and published in wildly different contexts.

The first installment of Kaplak Stream came with just about fifteen feeds, of which a handful were submitted by owners of niche websites. Others were feeds from sites such as YouTube, Amazon.com, Twitter (tracking particular subjects or keywords) and Boing Boing. Enough to provide the stream with some variety and “head” which would also test the autotagging performed by Open Calais via a modified version of Dan Grossman’s WordPress plugin.

Kaplak Stream managed to aggregate well over about 15.000 items, i.e. about 1000 items from each feed on average. Grossly more tweets than regular blog posts were aggregated, but posts attracted the greater amount of traffic, given that they worked much better with the autotagging functionality in place. Since they had more text, the tagging tended to be more precise – although some times tags were wildly misleading and out of place. Room for lots of improvement. Most, about 90-95% of all traffic came from search, notably Google. Visitors tended to not stay long, but quickly be on their way again. This could seem to suggest that only few found what they were looking for. However, reports also came in from feed owners, that our traffic managed to produce a meaningful sample of visits on the actual sites aggregated. This was really good news, as it suggests that a sample of our visitors actually found what they were looking for, or was curious enough to click through.

So what pulled the rise in traffic? No subject in particular, but the variety of subjects covered. What attracted users were more often than not pretty obscure pages and topics. For example, top result were the “tag page” for the tag “university-of-illinois-arctic-climate-research-center” with 641 views, and there was absolutely no recoginzable pattern in the rest of the more popular pages reached by visitors. I have not given our sample here substantial analysis, but my guess would be that there would be a neat power law graph, if one dotted in the number of visits to each page in Kaplak Stream and ranked them besides each other. But there is no discernable pattern as to what determined what aggregated items were more popular than others.

While some things seem to work, albeit still just barely, there are also problems. One of these is that apparently something happened on January 26th, which made our traffic drop drastically to before Kaplak Stream levels. Presumably this drop was caused by a Google penalty from duplicate content, which Google have been known to give websites which carry identical content across different domains. While Kaplak’s goals are somewhat aligned with Google’s, although not completely, I’m not unsure the penalty (if there was one) was not “right” in the sense that there were clearly limits to how informative and appropriate the search results which led visitors to our site, were. At least to justify the dramatically beneficial position we gained by aggregating just 15 feeds.

Another problem is the “noise” level, in our tagging, and in the combinations of feed items tagged with similar tags. Tags can be and mostly are very local. A post only remotely connected with a person and a piece which is solely about that person are usually tagged identically. My instinct tells me we need to use automated tools for what they are good for, and let filtering be more in the hands of expert users, in the contexts where it matters.

Clearly, more experiments are needed, and we need much more sustained analysis and methods to analyze our data. All this takes time and costs money. Right now Kaplak has no business model except what we can put into it of our own pockets (meaning mine) – and these are rapidly emptied. This means, for the time being, i.e. for several months now – and several months (and perhaps even years) ahead, I will not be able to work and develop Kaplak on full time. Thanks to the benevolence of our host, we can keep and continue to work on all Kaplak’s sites and projects, but we’ll make some changes which prepares us best to run Kaplak as a part-time operation.

We’ll convert the Kaplak setup to a setup more similar to that of the UMW Edublogs set up by Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington. Among other things, this means we’ll focus more on building each smaller site in the network, and keep each site focused on it’s subject or theme. We’ll focus more on aggregating what happens within the Kaplak network of sites than what is going on outside the Kaplak WPMU install. We’ll still use aggregation tools to track very particular subjects, keywords and tags, but each different subject will be treated in a site of it’s own, to make things more manageable (it’s a mess cleaning up a large site based on aggregated items). In other words, we’ll run a network of small, very low-maintenance sites, and delay bigger experiments and improvements for a while. Meanwhile, Kaplak Stream will still be able to track tags across all sites and offer feeds from particular tags used in the network.

Reducing the amount of my time which goes into actual development of Kaplak also means I can focus better at building a new constellation of ressourceful people and (real) investors, which we will need to come back stronger with a revived Kaplak at a later time. This is what I hope to achieve, while I work simultanously on other things, making a living.

However, there is also a risk, that we don’t. That our ways may go in other directions. This is not necessarily all bad. See this video with Tim O’Reilly in a previous post to see why. I will try very hard to keep an open mind and attitude and not get stuck in ideas I ought better to leave behind. That said, I can’t see any companies or services which presently really cracks the problems we set out to – and this means we still need to fill that space, one way or the other. And more than anything, I can’t stay away.

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Work in the Kaplak Labs These Days

Thought I’d share a few notes on the things we test in the Kaplak Labs these days. Kaplak Labs is simply a WordPress based site in our WordPress MU powered setup, on which we test themes and plugins before we employ them on other sites. Right now I’m preoccupied with setting up a filtering process for Kaplak Stream. This filtering process aims to sanitize feed items and add some stuff to each item, which improves it’s chances for survival in the stream :

  • Retrieve all tags/categories from posts and create new tags/categories if they don’t exist.
  • Semi-automatically tag/categorize all feed items. Sometimes feed publishers don’t tag/categorize posts very well, and even a well-tagged/categorized item may have new meaning in a different context. We use the Calais Autotagging plugins for WordPress to do this, for the time being.
  • Convert all categories and tags to categories only, to keep things clean and simple. We actually treat categories as tags, though. Because WP categories is the more widely used functionality of WordPress of the two, we’ve decided to go with categories over tags.
  • Add link to the item source directly in the feed item content, to make sure (sort of) that it stays with the unaltered post when it is fetched and possibly re-published from the Kaplak Stream.
  • Cache all images locally to improve performance and avoid traffic spikes on source sites, when subsequent sites fetches images all way back from the source. Kaplak Stream hosts all images (for which we will probably be using Amazon S3) to ensure their availability for all sites which fetch items from the stream.
  • It should also filter out spam and duplicate items. We still have to sort out however, what happens if an improved version of a post gets fed back into the Stream. Ultimately, we’d like users to be able to tag and categorize items according to the contexts they use them in, and be able to retrieve these back into posts in the stream.

In the process of setting this up I discovered Yahoo Pipes, which looks like a very useful tool taking in an amount of data (in a feed format), manipulate it and spit out a new feed. Experimented a bit with it, and found it a bit tricky to actually create something useful, but will no doubt give it some further attention. We may be able to use it for something.

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How Kaplak Stream Creates New Value for Web Publishers and Niche Contexts

Sometimes I prefer to visualize an idea using nothing else but notepad – or preferably just pen and paper, whatever I have in front of me. The ‘back of the napkin‘ philosophy fits well with me. In fact when I tidy up old stacks of paper once in a while, I always find sketched down ideas on the back of envelopes and in impossible places such as the backside of letters from the tax office. Do I archive it under that particular idea and project – or does it go into the tax papers stack?

The Kaplak Stream napkin model

Here’s an updated napkin model for Kaplak Stream which I recently created in Notepad :

This model shows the very basic idea of Kaplak Stream. The Arts and History websites are different sites, but have some tags or categories in common, such as ‘knights’ and ‘romantic’. But each site has no way of knowing about this; they may not even be aware of the other site’s existance. They’re separate systems, islands of information. A visitor clicking on a tag on the Arts site won’t see the items tagged the same on the History site. Now, when the feeds of both sites are fed into the Kaplak Stream, it allows new types of long tail sites to be created.

By pooling our feeds, we allow new contexts to be created. This can happen when feeds are extracted from the stream for particular tags or categories. When feeds are pooled, even tags and categories that are not used a lot on an individual website, may spawn new rich web contexts, which are capable of sending traffic back to the original publishers, but, what is more important, enable the distribution of products (via affiliate models) which are otherwise hard to sell in a mainstream context.

In this case a Knights site and a Romantic site can be easily created. Neither of these new sites could exist within the History or the Arts sites, but because we pool and channel the information from a wider range of sources, they can now.

Here’s the expanded version of the above model (which is also an improvement over the model, I previously posted on Kaplak Blog) :

As this model shows, linking back to feed publishers for increased visibility of their sites and contexts is a key feature of the network. Submit your feed and gain greater visibility, because more sites “on the way” will link back to your site. This is key for publishers to actually want in and be part of what we’re doing. However, this is just the short-term benefits.

Connecting the disconnected

When feeds are extracted from Kaplak Stream and into other niche contexts, publishers will connect more easily with these contexts and communities, empowering both publishers and communities, who would otherwise not know each other. Anything may arise from these new connections : meetups, exchange of ideas, products, etc. It is in this new context, that the sales of niche products are more easily arranged, probably most likely and easily via the use of affiliate programs.

As we have previously learned, attributing value to the context of finding information, rather than to any particular piece of information, is the more effective route to Kaplak’s goal, in an environment such as the web which literally explodes with new information every day. Creating very finely segmented sites will enable passionate users to more easily reference interesting niche material, i.e. create recommendations socially for interesting information items as well as products sold in these niche domains. Simply because there are now rich niche domains and contexts, which will be worthwhile the link, contrary to the situation before the aggregation and filtering, where the niche items were spread out all over the web – and very difficult and timeconsuming to find using search, bookmarking services, Wikipedia, StumbleUpon or Digg-type sites.

With time, some of these new niche sites and contexts may connect otherwise disconnected communities with each other and possibly even grow their own small communities, which will enrich those contexts even further with valuable context. The value of these new contexts do not depend on the short-term Google juice of linking back to sources I mentioned earlier. Instead, it thrives and builds on the social connections and recommendations, which now can rest on increasingly more bonified points of reference – and (probably with time) even greater tools for sharing than what we have right now.

What’s important for this project to succeed is to tag/categorize incoming items conveniently and precisely. We’ll continue to work and experiment with autotagging, but the best bet is (with time) to make tagging a social proces which can take place for each item all the way of it’s ‘journey’. For the time being however, we rely heavily on feed items being richly tagged by their source publishers. This is one challenge, we face right now.

Any ideas?

Because it’s so critical to what we do to thoroughly understand what’s at stake, it’s also vital that we invite input every step of the way. If nothing else we want to give you the opportunity to read, think and absorb our ideas, and go out and implement your own tools and architectures – for every step of our way. And when you’ve done that – come back and tell us about it. We’d love to learn more.

We have yet to setup proper forms for receiving feed submissions, but we’ve begun to receive them anyway. For the time being, please submit your feeds to The Kaplak Team or directly to me via Twitter or Identi.ca. Remember to give us a few keywords on the contents of your feed (just the most important ones).

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Obituary for a Mailing List

The Kaplak Mailing List was an important part of the first website of ours at Kaplak.com. However it didn’t come to play the envisioned role in our business strategy; as a direct communications channel and method of communicating directly with our potential customers. As you may be aware, we have focused instead on building a somewhat active blog.

The blog offers a number of RSS feeds for your convenience, which can be read using any feed reader you prefer, and thus offer greater choice and ultimately convenience for most readers. It is not confined to people who have first signed up for our list, and it can be easily shared with others. It also means that every communications effort we make, be it here on the blog or in the wiki or via social messaging tools, help create transparency. The greater transparency and the more widely we can make our particular pool of information accessible, the less work for us, now and in the long run.

To clarify this change in strategy, in a operation of tidying up some of our loose ends today (and the mailing list is a big loose end), I wrote this email to all our mailing list signups :

Dear Kaplak Mailing List Subscriber,

You belong to a select group of people who once managed to locate our Mailing List at http://kaplak.com/ and find what we had to say there sufficiently interesting to sign up your email address for the list.

For a number of reasons, the Kaplak Mailing List didn’t come to play the envisioned role in our business strategy, as a communications channel. Instead we have focused on building a blog (now located at http://blog.kaplak.net/), which offers a number of RSS feeds for your convenience, which can be read using any feed reader you prefer.

As part of rebuilding our site structure, we’ve now taken all email adresses from the mailing list and grouped them in our GMail setup. We’ll maintain and add to this group to keep track of a larger group of people interested in Kaplak, including potential customers, investors, advisors, associates, developers and others generally interested. If you want to stay on this private list, you don’t have to do anything further. We’ll use this list only rarely, to direct attention to high points of interest. Among these, we’ll be sure to notify you when we launch our first product, the Kaplak Stream.

If you still want to keep up to speed with Kaplak, please follow our main Kaplak Blog feed here : http://blog.kaplak.net/feed/

Here’s a list of recent popular posts :

We also use Twitter, Facebook, Identi.ca and a host of other online services. Find a non-exhaustive list on this page : http://kaplak.com/contact/ and feel free to connect with us any time on any of the online services we use, which are convenient for you.

On the other hand, if you want out of the mailing list, have become disinterested with Kaplak and don’t want to have more to do with us, please do mail us back and we’ll remove you from the list right away. We really don’t want to waste your time. We’d also really like if you said a few words about why you want to be removed from the list, if you care to share that with us.

Thank you for your attention and perseverance!

Yours Sincerely,
The Kaplak Team


Kaplak has chartered unknown waters and reached strange shores :
http://kaplak.comhttp://blog.kaplak.net

One of the reasons hinted at in the email is simply financial. Our early customer meetings and experiences revealed to us that we had a very difficult time processing the knowhow gained into our system, at the speed we were generating it. We simply didn’t generate any income from our activities and had trouble financing our time.

Therefore, it became critical to us sometime in the spring of 2008 to focus on planning and executing a re-build of Kaplak’s root site and connected sites, in a way which makes it economically feasible for us to intake large amounts of information, and be able to apply this information to our business. The cornerstones of this re-build are the Kaplak Blog and the Kaplak Wiki, and what we call Kaplak Stream (working title). Kaplak Stream will be our first product and our first dash at connecting the dots and making niche producers more visible to their interested target markets.

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Get WordPress MU To Stop Worrying And Love Embedded Stuff

Kaplak Stream is based on a WordPress MU install (currently v2.6.1), where a network of niche sites are fed one or more feeds on a particular subject in the ‘stream’ or from particular online services, using feed aggregation tools.

Building the setup for Kaplak Stream so far has revealed a path ridden with challenges (as one might expect). WordPress MU, which is a tremendously powerful package, is not as widely used as it’s popular little sister, and therefore is less well documented and supported, which goes too for the compatibility and effects of various plugins.

One initial thing which gave rise to some trouble, was to get WordPress MU to stop worrying and love embedded stuff such as YouTube videos and widgets. WordPress MU was designed for great environments hosting thousands of blogs, with thousands of different users, and has a higher security threshold than regular WP. And there’s no way to turn this filtering of tags off in the Admin interface.

Now, there’s a plugin called Unfiltered MU which will remove this filtering of posts and thus allow the embedding stuff. Unfortunately this plugin works only with posts actually published using the Admin interface editor. It doesn’t work with imported posts (from your old single-WordPress setup), and apparently it doesn’t work with aggregated posts either. So if you setup MU and want it to import an old blog or set it up to aggregate items from a feed, you still got trouble.

I found out one has to manually edit kses.php to enable the tags used by embedded stuff, at one’s own peril. For our purpose, however, we’re not concerned with security in the sense that we are the only users of our system, for the time being.

At your own peril (I underscore the fact that you may put your setup at risk enabling these HTML tags, but hey, life is dangerous) : Put in these tags and something along the lines of the below code into your “allowed” arrays in kses.php : object, embed, param, script.

'object' => array (
			'id' => array (),
			'classid' => array (),
			'data' => array (),
			'type' => array (),
			'width' => array (),
			'height' => array (),
			'allowfullscreen' => array ()),
'param' => array (
			'name' => array (),
			'value' => array ()),
'embed' => array (
			'id' => array (),
			'style' => array (),
			'src' => array (),
			'type' => array (),
			'height' => array (),
			'width' => array (),
			'quality' => array (),
			'name' => array (),
			'flashvars' => array (),
			'allowscriptaccess' => array (),
			'allowfullscreen' => array ()),
'script' => array (
			'type' => array ()),

Pick the ones which you need for your videos or other embedded media to work. Allowing the ones listed will allow video embeds from most providers, incl. YouTube, Google Video, Viddler, Blip.tv and others as well as widgets from a lot of sources. It works on posts aggregated by FeedWordpress for instance, which was my problem with the “Unfiltered MU” plugin.

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The Structure of Kaplak Stream : Our Goal

I’m in the process of setting up Kaplak Stream (working title), a project we (part) deliberately have been pretty silent about – at least in it’s deeper ramifications, even though we did touch upon the wider picture of feeds and aggregators recently, when I discussed Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody in a recent post.

Kaplak Stream is a network of websites, in fact, it is a network of Planet-like websites, each dedicated to a particular niche. Using automatically and semi-automatically fed RSS feeds as our vehicle, Kaplak Stream consiste of an ever-growing pile of niche websites, which all are part of our new WordPress MU install. These sites can be homegrown and consist of from just one to several articles, or they can be houses of RSS feeds, fed from our customers’ own sites and preferred services and related web sites of interest, which offer publicly accessible feeds.

The feeds from each subsite are then fed back into the main channel (the great “planet” site), as well as all the external sites, which tap whatever is interesting to them. We’ll also tap into the greater Kaplak Stream from the Kaplak Wiki, where pages will be fed relevant items based on categories and tags used.

Here’s an illustration of the feed traffic and link love created by Kaplak Stream :

What’s important is this network of niche sites help build context for the niche products offered by our customers. We aim to create very low-maintenance sites, which will help sell some of the “slim end of the long tail” products, we mean to help our customers sell.

These marginal products only sell the occasional copy, so each site cannot cost too much to maintain. This is where syndication comes into the picture. With syndicated sites, we can maintain rich contexts easily and we don’t need lots and lots of traffic for each site individually to pay the bills.

How does this help me sell my product?

So how do you sell with Kaplak Stream? You opt in for a site in the stream, free of charge, with a subject and RSS content of your own choosing. For now, your product must use an external affiliate program and a shopping cart provided by third party services. Products/widgets must also support a revenue sharing model, which shares revenue with publishers.

Each site is focused on one product or few related products only. The widgets for these can be placed at site-level in the sidebar. In this case, Kaplak will be an affiliate publisher of your product.

Alternatively, products may be sold at post-level, i.e. from widgets included in posts in a feed. For these sales, you (or anyone else responsible for the feed) will be the publisher. If unused, the sidebar will be utilized to sell another related product in the Kaplak household, if applicable, or house our usual ads and other stuff circulated among the sites. It’s also in this space we’ll begin to introduce our URLsale widgets when we get that far.

Once the site has been created, you can nurse it and cultivate it – or simply leave it alone and forget about it. Until it makes the occasional sale. A site can be a silent sleeper for years, until someone re-discovers it’s existance and makes a purchase. In Kaplak Stream, this is not a problem.

Only when your product makes a sale, do you earn a dime, which in turn is shared with the publisher. Making the sale is not the only benefit of using Kaplak Stream however. The greatest benefit may be the improved targeted visibility created by the linking activity in the stream. Feeds from Kaplak’s niche sites may easily be pulled back into niche sites everywhere, which adds context and value to these sites, to the advantage of their owners and communities. The links across the network and pingbacks in WordPress MU makes it easier to connect the dots between “separated” islands of niche contexts. Kaplak Stream could be the first step in our ‘making the world’s ends meet’.

As with everything we do, this project may be subject to change – any time. Much in the setup depends on further testing and development, particularly of the plugins we use.

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Taking a Deep Breath

Preparing a battle plan for integrating WordPress µ (or MU) with our network of sites. I will commence the execution of this plan at a non-disclosed time sometime in the near future. The Kaplak Blog and Kaplak Wiki will remain online but the site in our root will be completely removed and therefore unreachable. This in effect terminates the old Kaplak site in favour of a complete WordPress µ install. We will work from there to rebuild the root site with new texts and the subsite network reachable from subdomains to kaplak.com, which will be known as the Kaplak Stream.

I’ve never done an install of WP µ before. I’ve performed lots of installs of web software before, but I have no prior experience with µ. Installing web packages I’ve usually taken the backups I felt were necessry but otherwise simply plunged ahead and learnt from my mistakes. I’ve always learned to prepare mentally for a one way process of steep learning dotted with the occasional tumble, which makes me spend days beforehand searching for other users’ experiences. A little planning and knowing the road ahead doesn’t hurt. So I’ve spent a lot of time these past days reading up on other people’s experiences and problems, to get an idea about what to expect. Unfortunately, what we’re doing with µ doesn’t seem to be the usual thing – so we will no doubt learn things the hard way, either way.

Here’s what the general plan looks like right now :

1. Install WP µ package in our root
2. Create the pages we need to make the root site functionable
3. Create the initial round of subsites we need for archival purposes. Every external service we use will be set up to feed a site of it’s own. I.e. all of our bookmarks will be archived from delicious, all our tweets will be archived from Twitter, and so on.
4. Install and make sure WP-o-matic (or another appropriate automatic RSS feeder) is acting up to speed. WP-o-matic should be fully compatible with WP µ.
5. Feed our archived streams back into one major subsite channel, which will be the Kaplak Stream, as well as to other subsites to which they are of interest.

This completes our first setup and the site is functional. It only starts getting interesting, though. Next, we generate any subsite we wish at a particular time by feeding it the appropriate RSS lumps of interest. For this work we will use Google Reader to begin with, with it’s built-in tagging option, which makes it easy to generate new feeds from existing RSS feeds. Each subsite aims to sell preferably one product only, or a very limited range of products. To begin with, these will be products made available via affiliate programs such as (but not limited to) Amazon Associates, eJunkie and RedAntenna, depending on the product. These sites need not be popular, nor updated or visited frequently, but will seek to stay highly focused on their subject of interest, in order to offer as rich a context as possible when they are visited, commented upon or linked to. This makes it easy and valuable for related sites and communities to tap into these streams, as they build up lasting value.

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