The Evolution of E-mail Marketing

Posted in News on 22 May 2015

In a digital world that is so frequently changing, for businesses to stay successful in the marketplace, it’s necessary to implement not only the best practices, but the most up-to-date tactics. With e-mail marketing, there are several things to consider to ensure that you’re being as effective with your efforts as possible. 


When e-mail campaigns were first introduced into a coherent online marketing strategy, how data was received and categorized was very basic when compared to the data you can get today. In the past, e-mail personalization was done manually, and would often be a process where someone had to spend hours upon hours finding out how customers signed up for something on the website and then finding a related e-mail to send as a follow up. Now, it is relatively simple and completely automatic to determine how users signed up for something on your website, the time spent on the website, and even something as intricate as the navigation flow taken by users. Through automated personalization and automation, this process has been completely streamlined. While this method may take some effort initially to set up e-mail triggers and workflows as well as build out lists, it leads to a far more personalized e-mail experience with higher open rates, click-through-rates, and a more tailored experience for each individual user than ever before.

Load Time

When e-mail marketing was first introduced, it was largely text-based, and as a result there were few issues with load time. As discussed above, most e-mails now have visuals involved. For an industry like IT, where you’re selling services that are highly correlated with the Internet, your e-mails should be a good reflection of your strengths and expertise—so you shouldn’t have slow load times when someone opens your e-mails. If you’re a company that uses large amounts of images in your e-mails, you want to make sure that it won’t impact the user experience and leave users waiting for 15 seconds before the e-mail loads. Putting images through programs like ‘Optimizely’ ( that optimizes visuals to be the smallest size possible, while still retaining quality, enhances the load time as much as possible.


Understanding the need for appropriate timing of e-mails is essential to the success of your business’ overall e-mail efforts. Previously, sending e-mails once a day offering certain deals or exclusives was acceptable. Today, these best practices are vastly different. The threshold for an email to be considered spam is a lot higher than it used to be, and sending e-mails multiple times a week will likely result in your messages being treated as spam. Focusing on the schedule of your e-mails as well as the value and relevancy of the content you’re sending is crucial and will make all the difference with open rates and deliverability. Constantly inundating users with email will also hurt your overall brand credibility, and hurt existing email campaigns and any other campaigns you might use going forward.


When your e-mails are being accessed on different platforms, you need to think about how it will look on each of them to confirm that you’re reaching your audience effectively. In the past, there were less platforms, and it was relatively simple to do a quick check on major e-mail platforms like AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, to see if your e-mail looked as it should. With so many different platforms and devices in the marketplace today, this is no longer the case and you need to be optimizing your messages for nearly every platform and device imaginable. Using a tool like MailChimp to identify what devices the majority of your e-mail list uses, and then making sure that your newsletters work well on those platforms is a good way to “double check” that you’re reaching almost everyone in your demographic. E-mails that don’t render properly leave a lasting negative impression for users and bad emails that look amateurish on certain platforms will ruin brand credibility in the eyes of your audience.


When the e-mail space was relatively new, a lot of B2Bs used text-only e-mails when doing e-mail campaigns. The idea was to make it look like a standard, personalized e-mail as much as possible by using standard text and strong, captivating copy that would make users want to convert. While this is still a method used by many companies (particularly in the B2B and service verticals), for most companies selling a product you need to have imagery that shows the product or service your email is trying to sell. E-mails that are image-based should be treated similar to a Web page, with a main call-to-action button, and visuals that attract attention to a certain goal you’re trying to accomplish. If you have too many images and users have to scroll down to reach your main call-to-action, you’re going to lose their attention, and they will be less inclined to convert.


How to Develop Click-Worthy SEO Boosting Content

Posted in Tips on 22 May 2015

Virtually anybody who has spent a decent amount of time learning about SEO and the related tactics knows that the game is constantly morphing. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that quality content is a must. In fact, unique and relevant material is more important now than ever before considering that content can no longer simply be stuffed with keywords and phrases and expected to excel.

These days, time needs to be spent to craft a genuinely click-worthy piece of content that is not only useful but compelling as well. The internet is bursting at the seams with quality content and information. If the copy that you develop is lack-luster or sub-par, it will simply float out into the ethers of the internet, rarely to be seen by human eyes. In other words, you’ll waste a lot of time and precious resources unless you learn to wow your readers.

In an effort to help write some of the most compelling and clickable content on the internet, here are 4 of today’s best practices and most important guidelines for generating stellar content:

The Audience Comes First

This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is still an absurd amount of keyword-riddled content posted online that caters more to the bots that crawl the articles than to the people that actually read the pieces. Not only will this style of writing deter many potential prospects from reading your material or shopping with your brand, but this will actually damage your SEO efforts. Google has the ability to identify these types of posts and will purposefully downgrade a site’s ranking for posting such material.

Now, this is not to say that keywords are no longer critical, as they most definitely still are. The trick here is to weave these words into the piece in a natural and flowing way.

Instead of catering to Google-bots, ensure that the content generated is unique, relevant, and most of all, useful to the audience it is aimed at. In this digital era, there is a bounty of various tools and applications available online that can assist writers in creating outright great content. Tools like the Hemingway Editor are great for keeping content focused and precise for your audience.

Craft Headlines for Click-ability

Headlines are one of the most important elements to focus on when creating a great piece of content. Before the viewer will even consider reading an article, the headline has to grab them and incite genuine curiosity. If your posts have ho-hum titles, the traffic will reflect the lackluster language. Likewise, never ever mislead your readers with a subject that doesn’t deliver. You won’t maintain repeat traffic with methods that don’t have integrity at their core.

Since the headline of the article will be the first impression of what is to come, it is crucial that these attention-grabbers be optimized to include keywords, incite interest, and make light of how this could improve the reader’s life. How to articles, infographics, and list articles are click mongers, as a rule.

Check out some of the most popular blogs in your niche to gain a better understanding of what kinds of content is posted and how exactly the headlines are crafted. Someone has cracked the code to reach your target audience; see what’s worked for them and get inspired.

Build Up Proper Links

Amassing proper backlinks for your site and content can be somewhat time consuming, although it is absolutely necessary to increase your SEO ranking and to help establish a reputable and respected online name. By linking to various blogs, social media platforms, and fellow writer’s pages, you’re increasing awareness of your own content and efforts as well as establishing more credibility and authority. This in turn will directly affect how your company ranks in the SERPs. Remember that the development of compelling content becomes even more important with link building because no one will want to send their visitors to mediocre material.

One word to the wise: Only link to sites that are both relevant to your industry and high quality. Links for the sake of links is one sure way to see your rankings drop. It’s a black hat tactic and it will get you in hot water eventually. Make every link count, and your results will reflect these efforts.

Images, Videos, and Gifs

Content with eye-catching images have come to rule the social stratosphere. Images, gifs, videos, or any other form of visual presentation are now an imperative factor to posting content. With the huge amount of digital clutter running amuck, content without an image, video, or something else to draw the eyes of potential readers often remains invisible. Select high-resolution, interesting, and relevant images for the content that will be posted to ensure you’re catching your audience’s attention and getting them to click on your content in droves.

The creation of quality content is likely something that will never change as a “golden rule” of SEO performance. As time goes on, the rules of creating this content only become more refined and structured. Without a doubt, this trend will only deepen, making it imperative for business owners to follow suit and write genuinely interesting content for audiences. With the basic guidelines laid out above, you will be well on your way to generating some of the most useful, compelling, and clickable content around.


Marvel has an awesome API so you can build apps based on its comics and stories

Posted in News on 18 May 2015

Ever wanted to build an awesome app using characters or events from Marvel comics? Now you can, using the coolest API ever made.

The company has opened up its first official RESTful API for developers, allowing them to access an unprecedented amount of information from the Marvel universe, for free.

The API offers the ability to retrieve individual comics, an entire series, components of issues (for example, the cover), events from inside an issue, creator details and individual character data. For example, you can retrieve an entire story arc from the Marvel universe with a simple API call.

One Web developer, Raymond Camden detailed just how awesome the new API is, by building an app that lets you browse comic covers by picking a year or month.

Marvel has opened up new ways of exploring its extensive back catalog. This could be the best reason yet to learn to code if you don’t know how to already.


The secret to building startup buzz online

Posted in Tips on 18 May 2015

There’s a lot being published these days about how to break into noisy digital environments and capture the interest of people whose attention spans are shorter than ever.

Yes, you can achieve this goal with things like paid Facebook ads and sponsored tweets. You can do it by pushing content on native advertising platforms like Outbrain and Taboola.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret… There’s another approach that’s guaranteed to help your startup build buzz without the time and expense associated with digital marketing campaigns. If you really want to make a splash, what you need is an army of advocates.

Think about Apple’s fanboys. How many additional sales do you think Apple made – not because their products were the best, but because the social buzz surrounding them was so strong that people just had to be a part of it?

Every loyal brand advocate is a walking, talking advertisement for your company. And when you consider that 84 percent of respondents in Nielsen’s latest Trust in Advertising report cite word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family members as the most trustworthy source of advertising, it’s clear that these power users have the potential to pay off big for your brand.

But the best news? Building an army of these advocates is easier than you think. Here’s how four entrepreneurs and startups are leveraging the power of social advocacy:

Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan is pretty much an internet business legend at this point, but if you aren’t familiar with his work, he was employee #30 at Facebook, and is consistently ranked one of the best growth hackers working today.

With credentials like that, you’d expect that Noah would have locked himself away in a tower by now – spending his days counting stacks of money – but instead, he’s currently the Chief Sumo at AppSumo, his tech tools startup that offers products at extremely low (and sometimes free) prices.

Giving away great products at a great price certainly goes a long way towards delighting customers and converting fans into brand advocates, but Noah doesn’t stop there. Consider the following anecdote from Danny Boice of Speek:

“At Speek, we use AppSumo religiously for great deals on the tools we use to run our business. One day, I got a box from Noah Kagan (the CEO of AppSumo) that contained some amazing cookies—completely out of the blue! It was a random, simple gesture that meant so much to me as a loyal customer. I thought it was absolutely brilliant of Noah to do this.”

Losing a customer here and there won’t break Noah, but it’s not just about the money for him. It’s about finding fun and exciting ways to connect with his clients – and that’s something you can do as well.

Tip: Send swag to loyal customers

The great thing about sending small gifts to customers is that it really is the thought that counts. You don’t need to send something big to make an impression – even a simple, handwritten card is enough to stand out, brighten people’s day and turn them into the kind of customers that’ll go on to recommend your products to everyone you meet.


Few startups take sending gifts of swag more seriously than Buffer. The company employs a dedicated Community Champion – Nicole Miller – who spends 50-60 percent of her time “managing swag stock, packaging writing cards and gathering addresses.” Miller estimates that she spends 1-1.5 days a week where her entire focus is “Buffer love.”

So what does that translate to in real terms? Miller estimates that her office ships out 40 to 60 cards and packages a week, for a total of more than 1,200 hand-written cards, gifts and more.

Miller also provides a helpful breakdown of the costs associated with all of this mailing:

  • Notecards – $.92 per card/envelope (+$.49 domestic mailing)
  • T-shirts – $9.47 per shirt (+ $5.00 domestic mailing)
  • Hoodies – $23.07 per hoodie (+$8.00-$15.00 domestic mailing)
  • Moleskine notebooks – $6.80-$19.74 each (+$2.00-$8.00 domestic mailing)
  • Stickers – $.29-$.56 per sticker
  • Mugs – $9.11 each (+$15.00 domestic mailing)

A full read of Miller’s recent blog post on how Buffer delights its community is well-worth a read, but in the meantime, here’s one of the best takeaway tips for you:

Tip: Listen to your audience

Many of Buffer’s best ideas for sending swag come from checking in on its customers’ social profiles. In one particularly delightful case, the resulting care package wound up being sent not to the customer, but to her dog – with a package full of the dog’s favorite treats and some stickers to give to “her human.”

Neil Patel

Like Noah Kagan, Neil Patel is well-known in digital marketing circles as the founder of KISSMetrics, CrazyEgg and the popular QuickSprout blog.

With all these competing demands, you’d think that Neil would be too busy to connect with everybody who’s interested in engaging with his brand. But take a look at any of his recent blog posts, and you’ll find Neil himself there – responding to each and every comment he receives.

The time costs of doing so are substantial. As of August 20th, 2014, Neil estimated that, to date, he’d responded to 50,969 web comments (plus several thousand others across the web), spending an average of one minute reading and responding to each message.

Sure, Neil admits that there have been financial benefits resulting from this high level of engagement, but even more important is the way that these actions make his customers feel.

Tip: Find a way to help

That’s what it all comes down to for Neil – helping people. Adopt that same philosophy at your startup, and do whatever it takes to help your prospects and customers solve their most pressing problems. Even if you can’t end world hunger or make PC software run smoothly on a Mac, your willingness to help out will leave a lasting impression and go a long way towards converting neutral customers to true brand advocates.

When I Work

At When I Work – an employee scheduling app that helps small business owners create employee schedules in just minutes – we’ve made customer delight a top priority.

The following are just a few of the steps we’ve taken, as well as how they’ve paid off for our business:

  • Whenever our team brings on a new customer, we send out a handwritten thank you card. The cost is virtually nothing, but so far, we’ve seen that the cards are shared about 70 percent of the time on the customer’s social profiles. We’ve also seen our referrals go up by 23 percent since we started doing this.
  • We also send out free branded t-shirts to customers. Of those that have received the shirts, roughly 17 percent have recommended our product to a friend.
  • Finally – and this is one of my favorites – if you ever have an issue with our product, we’ll mail you your favorite candy to ensure that you have the sweetest experience possible with When I Work (get it?).

Again, these aren’t big gestures. A candy bar costs a dollar, and shipping it to a customer isn’t much more than that. But when you consider the financial impact this small gesture could have in terms of customer retention and future referrals, it’s practically a no-brainer.

Tip: Measure the impact of your efforts

I’m a data junkie, but even if you aren’t analytically-inclined, I’d still recommend putting some effort into tracking the impact of your efforts, whether in terms of brand sentiment, conversions or some other metric. Doing so will tell you whether or not your efforts are paying off, as well as whether some types of promotions inspire more positive feelings than others.


6 ways to nail the job interview

Posted in Tips on 18 May 2015

Who better to ask about interviewing mistakes than IT hiring managers themselves?

When Doug Mitchell took over as CEO of direct-sales company Argenta Field Solutions in 2011, he noticed something surprising. He noticed that most Gen-Y candidates, though tech savvy and digitally plugged-in, didn't seem to have a clue about how to dress for, prepare for or conduct themselves in an interview, making his job and the job of his hiring managers difficult.

"One of my responsibilities is interviewing, while the final decision is made by our chief administrator or by the head of sales, I perform interviews as well as put a final stamp of approval on our hires. What I noticed was, especially with the latest crop of millennial candidates, they're completely unprepared. They don't understand how to dress, how to speak, how to comport themselves in a face-to-face interview," he says. "Millennials might be 'digital natives,' but they could use some pointers on good, old-fashioned face-to-face interaction at times," says Mitchell.

Six tips to nail an in-person interview

Whether you're a millennial looking to land your first job or you're a senior executive taking the next step in their career, there are some things you need to focus on to make a great first impression. "I focus on six general principles. While some might seem like common sense, they're always important to remember," says Mitchell,

Dress for the role you want

Dress for the job you want, not to job you have - or the job you're applying for. You want to aim for the job that's one level above the one you've applied to; that shows the interviewer, subconsciously, that you're looking toward a future with the company, advises Mitchell.

"Yes, we're a direct sales company. We have fairly casual uniforms for our salespeople, but if someone walks through the door in a suit and tie, or a nice blouse, pantsuit or skirt and heels, that shows me they've taken the extra effort to make themselves look professional. Even before they open their mouth, I can see they could potentially be in management someday, "says Mitchell.

Leave slang and dialect at the door

The way you talk with your friends should be the exact opposite of how you're talking to potential hiring managers. Keep it professional, formal and polite. "You'd think this wouldn't need to be said, but it does, because it has happened more than once. I've had people come in who pass the 'dress code' test, but the second they throw me a 'Yo, dawg,' it's over!, "Mitchell says.

Speaking with correct grammar goes a long way toward reinforcing the professional impression you've made by looking the part.

Bring printed copies of your resume

Yes, you've e-mailed your resume to the company. Your online profiles are updated and your LinkedIn profile is impeccable but even in this digital age, according to Mitchell, always bring at least two printed copies of your resume to the interview. "Don't even try to use the 'my printer's out of ink' or 'my printer died,' excuse. Trust me, I've heard that one a million times, "Mitchell says.

In fact, in one instance Mitchell recalls, a candidate followed up that excuse by still producing printed copies of her resume - she'd emailed the file to FedEx/Kinko's and had it printed. "That helped her in two ways. First, she showed perseverance - she encountered an obstacle to a successful interview and figured out a way to overcome it, and second, she was able to use that story to show those qualities of persistence and out-of-the-box thinking in the interview, "Mitchell says.

Become an expert on the company

Whether the job you're applying for is your "dream job" or another rung on the ladder of your career, make sure to educate yourself about the ins-and-outs of the company. "You need to be genuinely interested in who we are, what we do and why, because that's going to come across to me in an interview," says Mitchell.

Public companies can be researched via Google or other Internet searches, or through LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other sites. For more on researching prospective employers please read, Top 8 sites for researching your next employer.

In the interview itself, Mitchell says don't shy away from small talk, especially when it comes to the company, or if you've uncovered common interests shared with your interviewer. "Don't be afraid of small talk, but make sure you're not taking it overboard, "says Mitchell.

Using publically available information, you can usually find a common interest, even if it's just the fact that you're both huge fans of the company. "If you know everything there is to know about the company, what their goals are, who the competition is, what obstacles they've faced and overcome, that gives you a great basis for an ongoing conversation about how you can fit in," says Mitchell.

Never badmouth your previous employers

The best employees are never negative. If you are asked why you left your previous position or were let go, sure, be honest, but don't place blame or speak negatively about your previous, role, boss or organization. "Insightful employers are going to interpret any negativity to mean that you are the problem - especially if you cite the same reason for your last few employers," says Mitchell.

Sometimes there is no way around it, except through it. If there's no way around the negativity, make sure you have a solution or a scenario in which you can do better. Be able to demonstrate that you're working to improve or resolve the situation. "As an employer, you're always looking at your reputation to customers - you don't want to have someone out there bad-mouthing you to potential buyers. That really hurts your brand," says Mitchell.

Ask about the next steps

The interview went well. You feel great, and you just know that you nailed it but don't get cocky. "Even if you feel you really nailed the interview and are a great potential fit for the job, don't assume it's a sure thing. You can ask a question like, 'What are the next steps? When can I expect to hear from you? If I were to get this position, what would happen then?'" says Mitchell.

This point of the interview is also a great time to reiterate what you know about the company and how you feel you'd be a perfect cultural and technical fit. By talking about the company, you can subtly show the interviewer how, by landing this role, you can get them an edge and help them beat their competition.

Final thoughts

"Some of these tips may seem like 'common sense' to us older folks but from where I sit -- from the interviews I've done -- it can't hurt for Gen Y to take a few pointers from their older, wiser and more experienced peers, especially when it comes to interviewing," says Mitchell.


IT jobs outlook: High demand, higher salaries

Posted in News on 18 May 2015

Tech professionals are netting slightly bigger paychecks in 2015

With the hot job market for technology professionals, it is not surprising that salaries are up, too – though only a bit.

Technology jobs site reported late last week that technology pay was up again last year, with IT professionals earning an average annual salary of $89,450, an increase of 2 percent over 2013. More than half of these professionals – 61 percent – earned higher salaries in 2014, mainly though merit raises. Another 25 percent said they received higher pay by changing employers. Thirty-seven percent of tech professionals polled said they received a bonus last year, slightly more than the 34 percent in 2013.

Technical recruiters salaries jumped as well, by 19 percent to an average of $81,966, demonstrating the importance of identifying and bringing on technical professionals, said.

Dice gathered its data by surveying 23,470 technology professionals online between late September and late November.

“As demand for technology professionals rises and highly skilled talent is harder to find, the pressure is being reflected where it counts: paychecks,” said Shravan Goli, president of said in a statement released by the company. “Still, tech pros are less happy with their earnings, signaling to companies that in order to recruit and retain the best candidates, offering more will be necessary."

Despite the news on salary increases, satisfaction with wages declined. Fifty-two percent of professionals were satisfied with their compensation last year, down from 54 percent the prior year. Satisfaction with wages has dipped annually since 2012, said.

Dice also said tech professionals are more confident that they can find a new position; 37 percent anticipate changing employers this year for improvements in pay or conditions. But with pay rising, professionals are slightly less likely to relocate to a new job in 2015.

Big data and cloud computing professionals earn the highest paychecks, said. “Cloud is not new to the tech world but as more companies — large and small — adopt the technology, tech professionals with this experience will enjoy opportunities,” said Goli. “Big data made a big showing last year and we’re seeing it this year, too."


Bing joins Google in favoring mobile-friendly sites

Posted in News on 18 May 2015

Microsoft is adjusting how it ranks Bing search results for mobile users, prioritizing sites that display better on smaller screens to accommodate the increased use of mobile search.

The changes, announced Thursday, come less than a month after Google started prioritizing mobile-optimized sites in its search results. Both companies are looking to attract more users by providing a better search experience on smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft said it expects to roll out the changes in the coming months. Sites that display well on smaller screens will also be flagged with a new "mobile friendly" tag.

In the U.S. last year, Bing had roughly 6 percent of the mobile search market, compared with Google's 83 percent, according to figures from StatCounter.

The changes don't mean mobile-optimized sites will necessarily appear at the top of results. "You can always expect to see the most relevant results for a search query ranked higher, even if some of them are not mobile friendly," Microsoft said.

It considers a variety of elements to decide which sites display best on smartphones and tablets. For example, sites with large navigational elements that are spaced well apart will be prioritized, as well as sites that don't require a lot of zooming and lateral scrolling. Bing will also favor sites with mobile-compatible content. That means pages with Flash content, which doesn't work well on iOS devices, might get demoted.

Microsoft highlighted Fandango's mobile site as one that will be prioritized under the changes, more so than

The company has also developed a tool to help webmasters assess the mobile friendliness of their sites. It will be made available in a few weeks.


17 JavaScript tools breathing new life into old code

Posted in News on 18 May 2015

Computer languages have a strange shelf life. The most popular among them experience explosive growth driven by herding behavior akin to that of the fashion industry. But when they fade from the spotlight, something odd happens. Instead of disappearing like a pop song or parachute pants, they live on and on and on and on. The impetus behind this quasi-immortality? It’s often cheaper to maintain old code than to rewrite it in the latest, trendiest language.

In the past, tending to an old code base was a lonely experience, not unlike living on a desert island. The job was to keep everything running with virtual duct tape and baling wire. Old tools and old compilers were coddled and fussed over because they were essential to keeping the old code alive. Old libraries were treated like family heirlooms, especially if they came with source code.

That’s changed in recent years with the emergence of new cross-compilers and interpreters. Suddenly the old can be brought into the present, not with perfect harmony but with enough integration that curators don’t need to feel like they’re living and working alone. The right tools can follow Ezra Pound's dictum to "make it new again."

Thanks to the ingenuity of an intrepid few, old code is receiving new life via a variety of JavaScript tools. Now, that brittle base can become part of the present, capable of running on modern machines. Suddenly the dusty deck that ran on only a mainframe can operate in the background whenever someone loads a Web page on their phone.

The tools are far from perfect, but they tantalize despite their flaws. Rewriting remains a challenge, as it usually means understanding code that was written when disk space was expensive and comments cost real money. While putting in the effort can yield great benefits and erase some technical debt, we often don't have that luxury. Instead, it might be simpler and faster to fiddle with these cross-compilers, translators, and emulators to modernize old code bases than it would be to collect a big team steeped in dying programming languages to pick through old code and rewrite everything.

Here is a look at some of the obscure programming languages that can be given new life, thanks to emerging JavaScript tools. Conversion tools like these may be the only way to keep some of these now obscure languages alive. Consider them a life-support system for your old code.


Was it 20-odd years ago that TurboPascal ruled the desktop programming world? The folks at Elevate Software remember, and that’s why they offer a tool that converts ObjectPascal into JavaScript. They even promise that you won’t need to learn Pascal to produce something that runs on the Web. You simply type Pascal, and the tool comes back with code that looks and operates in the same way on all major browsers.


The language that dominated the mainframe world and still commands 553 jobs on at this writing can also run in the world of JavaScript. CobolScript is a Node.js package that will run many parts of standard Cobol alongside JavaScript code written for the Node.js server.

The developer calls it a work in progress and lists a number of parts that don’t function yet, but there are enough juicy examples to show promise, like the ability to enable dusty Cobol code to suck data from MySQL and spit out HTML to power a modern Web app.


For many people who learned to program from reading Hal Ableson and Gerry Sussman's "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs," there's no better way to spend an afternoon than counting parentheses and making sure they balance. Lisp and its various dialects continue to hold a special place in the hearts of those who learned them early, and many of their structural ideas are now part of the foundations of a number of modern languages, including JavaScript. The syntax may be gone, but the flexible architecture remains.

There are more than a dozen options for enlivening your Lisp code via JavaScript, and they vary in approach from the traditional to the experimental. EdgeLisp, for instance, offers many of Lisp’s standard constructs, and its development team promises that EdgeLisp will "feel familiar to Common Lisp programmers." Parenscript offers "the full power of Lisp macros" and much more from the world of Common Lisp. If you like the Lisp-1 dialect, then Ralph is another option.

Fans of Scheme will find a number of implementations like BiwaScript, Moby Scheme, and nconc.

There are also plenty of more experimental syntaxes that promise all of the fun of thinking in Lisp with a slightly different format. LispyScript mixes in some of the power of macros with parentheses. Oppo is an option that introduces itself with the following claim: "If JavaScript is Lisp in C's clothing, then Oppo is Lisp in Lisp's clothing, with C's pajamas."


While it’s common knowledge that Apple and Microsoft borrowed heavily from the ideas circulating at Xerox PARC, it is often forgotten that the Xerox PARC researchers also revolutionized programming languages. When most programmers were fussing with GOTOs and subroutines, Smalltalk was one of the first languages to bring object-oriented options to the world.

Clamato, for instance, converts many of the easy Smalltalk constructs into the parts of JavaScript that are similar (and ultimately stolen). Not everything is there, but the developers behind Clamato throw in a connection to jQuery and other DOM manipulation tools to make up for it, so you can build Web apps.

Little Smallscript also offers a subset that will compile down to JavaScript and run on Node.js. Those who have moved on to the more modern Squeak can use a JavaScript version called SqueakJS.


Before there were full IDEs to teach kids to code with languages like Scratch and Alice, there was Logo. There's still Logo today if you want to use Logo Interpreter in your browser and have all of the fun of its stripped-down syntax built when bandwidth was measured in baud and every keystroke counted. It has a simple elegance that can't be matched with all of the modern tile-dragging and button-clicking.


The ’70s never died. Not only can you emulate your old Commodore 64 games on the Web, but you can keep that 1970s Basic code running too. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration because there have been so many dialects over the years. But you can still create something new and current with all of the simplicity that made Basic popular.

If you liked QBasic, the structured language that Microsoft made famous, then you can start with qb.js, a JavaScript implementation that will run in your browser. Once it starts running, it turns a Canvas object in your browser into a rectangle filled with old, monospaced type. It becomes a window into another era. Not all of the parts seem to work smoothly, but the code is open, so you can revise and extend it under the GPL 3.0.

NSBasic is a more commercial option that produces code for JavaScript environments that run on desktops and mobile devices. NSBasic targets developers who don’t want to struggle with the complexity of Eclipse or XCode to produce something for their smartphones. You can turn your old Basic experience into an entry for the App Store.

Another commercial option is SpiderBasic, a modern version said to be built in the tradition of PureBasic. It offers access to all of the HTML5 and WebGL hooks necessary for building a modern, multiwindow Web app.


Mark your calendars: Java 9 lands next year

Posted in News on 18 May 2015

Java 9 would arrive on Sept. 22, 2016, under a proposed schedule posted online by a prominent Oracle Java official this week.

In a mailing list message cited on Twitter, a schedule for Java Development Kit 9, which would be based on the Java Standard Edition 9 specification, has the release being feature-complete on Dec. 10 with several additional steps taken before general availability in September 2016. The message was posted by Mark Reinhold, chief architect of the Java platform group at Oracle.

"The dates here are meant to leave sufficient time for broad review and testing of the significant features of the release, in particular the introduction of a module system and the modularization of the platform, while maintaining the cadence of shipping a major release about every two years," Reinhold said in the post." Modularity via Project Jigsaw is a key feature of Java 9. The last major release of Java, version 8, became available in March 2014 and featured functional programming capabilities. 

Other milestones in the schedule include having all tests run by Feb. 4 of next year, a zero bug bounce by April 21, 2016, and Rampdown phase 2 by June 16, 2016.

Reinhold said comments from JDK 9 committers are welcome. If no objections are raised or all objections are addressed by next Tuesday, then the proposed schedule will be adopted as official.


Addicted to Candy Crush Saga? Marketing needs you

Posted in News on 15 May 2015

If you’ve just returned to the media marketing profession, from a decade-long hiatus, you may find it bewildering terrain. The fact that you originate from the industry will be an advantage, but throw Candy Crush Saga into the interests section of your CV and you’ve just scored yourself a hat-tip.

Today’s model media marketing team accompanies customers along every twist and turn of the consumer journey, shepherding both those who entered through a marketing channel and those inherited from another starting point. And they are no longer the simple cost centre of a decade ago. Today’s media marketing team will have at least a substantial revenue, or profit, target.

To squeeze efficiency from marketing budgets, ideally, one marketing team begins the customer journey, focusing on brand awareness and engagement, after which the customer is handed over to the next tag-team who specialise in, say, content marketing, to more deeply engage them. Yet another marketing team may take over from here, encouraging customers to make a purchase and, later in their lifecycle, to others who look after retention, upsell and additional opportunities for revenue.

This understanding of the customer, their journey, and their experience of that journey, is paramount. Marketers are, therefore, starting to specialise in those specific functions along the user journey. Throw in customer experience expertise, to make sure that each of these stages is optimised for maximum impact, and what that leads to is higher customer retention and loyalty rates, with greater lifetime value and repeat purchasing.

Responsibility for hitting profit targets means marketing departments need analytical minds just as badly as they need creatives. Because of this shift in demand, a surprising sector has emerged as a pool for new talent: online gaming. Online gaming marketers possess a skill-set that baffles traditional publishers – and almost everyone else, too. With their algorithms and models, they seem to instinctively know how to generate revenue digitally, and estimate within a few days, if not hours, how much a new customer will spend.

The ability to read data, understand its commercial implications, and then make refinements to campaigns that are running in order to optimise response, is critical. At the Economist, our global digital acquisition team have a mantra: “Pursue determinedly. Measure relentlessly. Optimise ruthlessly.”

Other industries that produce these kinds of digitally-minded marketers include mobile-phone companies and cable and satellite TV companies, such as Sky. This is largely because they mine effectively large quantities of data to gain insights into how their customers interact with their products and how their customers respond to their marketing initiatives. Why is this important? Because by understanding how customers interact with, and use, your products, you can drive product development to create further revenue opportunities from existing clients, as well as attract new ones.

Someone has to build these complex digital ecosystems and that’s something a ping-pong table and a slide between floors won’t help with. Media marketing teams now create campaigns that combine social media, in-app advertising, website interactions and offline advertising, and they require extremely skilled and responsive technologists and data analysts.

So where has all the creativity gone? Often the work is outsourced to external creative agencies, who are better specialised, and the modern marketer must be open to collaboration. The creativity that marketers require, instead, is in how they optimise marketing channels and how they can use technology to do so.

What the consumer marketing world is trying to achieve, on a massive scale, is the care and attention that business-to-business marketers are able to offer their clients. This more personalised approach is the end goal for any business with a very large customer base, especially given the rising costs of acquisition.

With marketers expected to bring in revenue alongside a company’s more traditional revenue streams, recruiters realise that not just any old marketer will do. Marketing training courses are, thankfully, changing to meet new demands. They include more about the intersection of tech and marketing, and digital marketing. Missing, however, are the analytical, and mathematical, training modules that new marketing requires. Take note.

Meanwhile, that someone who stepped away from their desk for a decade may have a lot of work ahead of them to catch up with a newly diversified herd. But, the reward is a profession, more highly regarded than ever before.


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