Friday 27 September 2013

What's in a name?

Somebody emailed me recently saying that I should change the name of MyBestFive to something else. He thought it was stupid as it does not tell you anything about what the site does.

Names are very difficult due to limitations: not too long that you cannot remember it; all the obvious ones are already taken and have been for years; trying to encapsulate what you are doing in less than a dozen characters.

We own the site and when I registered it in 1994 I also tried to get PH but was turned down because at the time they would not accept 2 letter names. I tried PHOnline but this and combinations of it were already taken by phone companies. I tried other combinations without success, so in the end settled for positivehealth and after almost 20 years it seems about right, for me at least.

When I got the email I looked at some other famous names and wondered what the writer might have thought of them.

tumblr – probably would have thought this was for acrobats
Digg - for labourers
delicious - food tasting
Google - good for babies
Windows - window cleaners
facebook - a book about faces
MySpace - for troubled teenagers
We also have: Bebo; 43 things; WAYN and a host of others.

Getting the right name is tough, particularly now as so many billions have been taken already. 

Come to think about it, MyBestFive ‘aint that bad!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Always another way

We have just this week introduced a new system for the web site. By new system I mean a way of getting content. Will it work? We’ll see.

Since you’re asking, this is how it works.

Most people I have spoken to believe web sites grow organically; you produce something and people like it and spread the word. You hope! The trouble is there are now so many sites that it’s hard for most to grow without assistance – quite a lot of it!

And people are now blasé and quite dismissive, if it doesn’t leap out at them then they’re gone, never to return. And I think that is the way it should be. It’s no longer enough to just produce something and hope for the best.

Organically is fine but when you consider there are millions of sites and most will never progress very far; or will go bust; or not keep up-to-date with changing mores you can say that the odds are against you being successful.

I had originally thought of running it just like any other business, such as putting together a magazine in the traditional way. That is, you hire journalists and designers and run an office and it’s a hive of activity. I have done that before, many times, and it works. After a while and particularly in today’s market, circulation drops, you lose staff through cut-backs etc. Then you close down.

We could do that with MyBestFive and run it just like a magazine. It would work but requires funding. It used to be simple 20 years ago and you could do it on a shoestring but today costs have soared so it runs into large sums of start-up money. There is no doubt in my mind that it would work, just not on a shoestring.

So how to bypass this system and do it another way. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that there is always another way.

If we employed two half-decent journalists or researchers it would set us back £60,000 or so, that’s not counting the other office and ancillary costs. You would be looking at £100,000 a year as a minimum cost. Right now that is out of the question.

However, if we used our members as the journalists and paid them about £1,000 a week, that would only cost half as much as an office and a tenth the amount of work. To see how this works have a look at our other site at

Makes sense to me! We have started it off at £100 a week and will see what develops. Some might say we are trying to buy content and there is an argument for and against that point of view. I will develop my thoughts on that with my next blog.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Strange and very baffling

A couple of months ago I was talking to someone about the MBF site. She was going to do some work for the site and this required her to register.

A few days later she told me she had done this but with much trepidation. She said that if it was not because of me she would have left the site, particularly after she had logged in. She found the site threatening and was fearful about clicking on any of the links. I was astonished because as social media sites go, this is about the least intrusive site I know, and I have been on most.

What made it more intriguing is that the lady in question is registered on many if not most of the main media site, and many more non-media sites. It’s intriguing in that the only question that links you to this site is your email address, and this is not given out on the site itself; it’s purely there so that we can send the user a confirmation email that they must click to confirm registration.

No names required, no date of birth, no post codes, and no town; nothing other than email. The site itself has a Remove Account link on every page and yet, she was fearful of clicking on the links inside the site. I find this very strange and very baffling! I couldn't get a satisfactory answer from her as to why she felt this way as she felt I was being defensive.

Another thing: people are signing up all the time, every day, but you would never know it! Why? They register and log in but never write anything, so they are anonymous. You cannot be seen or found if you do not write anything and this is what hundreds of people are doing. They register, cruise the site and leave. When they come back again the site looks much the same because they are all anonymous, not having written a single thing about themselves or their experiences in life. 

For many people journal-writing can be a powerful and effective way for managing times of chaos, stress and decision-making. Taking time out to express your thoughts, feelings, dreams and life concerns can be highly therapeutic. It can even have a transformative effect on your outlook on life and help you manage life changes more positively and more creatively, as well as helping you access your creative unlived resources ultimately to propel you out into life with added vitality to live out projects which add meaning to your life, or just enhance the meaning of, or find a more creative attitude to, coping with the change and crisis of everyday life.

Everybody has something to say about life, theirs or others; experiences, comments or opinions, they are all important.

In terms of size compared to a site such as facebook; out of a single haystack we might represent one straw, perhaps just half a straw. We need to get to be a small handful of straws to make it a great site. I know how to do that but lack the funds. It’s early days and takes perseverance to make it work but you can all help.

Write something.

Monday 25 February 2013

spend your money making memories

A recent article heading in the Daily Mail read: If you want to be happy, spend your money making memories. What a perfect heading for this website!

A survey showed that people treasured memories more than possessions. And those memories most treasured were the spontaneous and short-lived events. These are also the ones most easily lost for details; the events are remembered but important parts of the memory are lost and forgotten.

In writing articles on this site about my own life I have repeatedly apologized for my lack of detail. When you are in your thirties or forties you can laugh at the very idea of forgetting events that happened in your past. But think again; think back to your childhood of school friends and try to remember all their names; think of some of the things that happened and try to recall in detail exactly what happened. You’ll probably find you can remember the event but when you analyse it you’ll find you can remember almost everything but there are a few of those elusive details that you just cannot remember. You’ll remember most of it, but not everything.

The older you get the more elusive many details become. My mother’s sister was well into her nineties and would amaze us with details of her youth with school friend’s names, dates and so forth. But ask her what happened last week and she was lost; it was a total blank.

That is why I keep barking on about writing down those stories that have happened, are happening now. You can write them on this site but tick the hide box and it will not appear until you’re ready for the world to see your story or stories. Don’t leave it to your memory; the past is your life as you have lived it. Don’t lose it to the future that you may forget!

Monday 5 November 2012

No story too bland to write about

This website is nearing completion now. The last major part to be finished should be loaded this week, and that is the Groups section. After that it will be tidying up any parts of the site that need sorting.

When I look at the site I ask myself how it can have taken so long to get it all done and finished. It was actually designed and uploaded in 2006 but left alone and not advertised or upgraded until this year. The problem is, of course, money. It takes quite a lot of cash to design and put together a website like this. Plus we have another, much larger site that has also been redesigned twice in that period and keeps us active.

It’s when you offer options that things can go wrong and have to be thought through very clearly. Even then, sometimes it’s only when users have been working the site for some time that something quite obvious comes up and I have to wonder how I could have missed it in the first place! That’s why feedback is so important.

If I were much younger I would have learned how to program and that would have made it much easier. In the 90s when the web first came into being I used to design and write everything in html, it was easy then, but now web design and programming has become complex and require a lot of skill and a constant updating of those skills, as well as learning new ones that keep appearing.

MyBestFive is unlike most social media sites, as it does not concentrate on the immediacy of a site like facebook, or twitter. It is meant to have a more leisurely, long-time appeal, where you can read and re-read articles you have written; look through your photo albums over a long period of time and chart a course of your life over a period of years.

That sounds like a lofty ambition but it’s designed for an older audience, certainly it’s unlikely to have much appeal for teenagers. The truth is though; you never know who is likely to want to write about their life.

I was speaking quite casually to a chap a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that his Dad was writing, in longhand, about his experiences with long expeditions in the arctic, for TV documentaries. He hopes to get it published but that may not be possible; it would be possible to write extracts on this site and publish it as an eBook. In his case it’s not about making money but he wants to get his story out there while he can.

Books very often don’t tell the whole story because they get edited by publishers and a great deal of material can be taken out of a manuscript as it’s not interesting, a publisher might say. Or it's too controversial.

A lot of our servicemen and women have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting and doing other things in dangerous conditions; it would be great to get them to write their stories and for us to read about life in those conditions. Doctors, nurses and fire fighters will all have exciting stories to tell but let’s not get the idea that everything has to be exciting. Everyday life is full of the unexpected and no story is so bland that it doesn’t resonate with someone, somewhere.

Bringing up children, being unemployed; getting your first job or even a new job can be a big event in someone’s life. We all have a host of stories to write about and they may be trivial to many people, but it’s not trivial for the person that lived those times and experienced the events. Their families and friends would often be amazed at what a seemingly ‘ordinary’ person has done with their life.

We all have these stories to write. All life stories are worth writing about.

Friday 12 October 2012

A small change but a big result

In a previous blog I mentioned, really as a throw away line, that a small change in a business plan can sometimes make a huge change to the end result.

I am mentioning this because I’ve just seen such a thing happen.

I, along with my partner, produce a website called It was originally a printed magazine and published 150 issues but in 2008 with the downturn in advertising and magazine sales we turned it into a web site only and will be publishing issue 200 this month.

Last month – September 2012 - I redesigned the Index page and made it more of a call for action as opposed to an information page. The site is not commercial in that we don’t sell products but do have over 3,000 articles commissioned during the past almost 20 years. It is an information site with paid-for advertising.

The new page was implemented in September and our page views for the month shot up to almost 1.2 million views; up from 540,000 the previous month. Advert click-throughs in the launch week topped 10,000 up from 4,700 clicks the week before. What an astonishing turn-round for us! Page views have remained high since the launch at around 250,000 a week. Ad clicks have dropped but remain in excess of 5,000 a week.

The problem for me now is how to get visitors and content for MyBestFive. I know how to do it but lack the funds to put it all in place. So it’s going to be the long haul, I guess. I believe we have a site with huge potential and would ask those of you, who read this, to Register and then to write content.

I have written quite a lot of content on the site and because I’m quite long in the tooth I have not forgotten stuff that happened some decades ago but sometimes the details get a bit mixed up. However, when I re-read some of it I get memories that come back and I can then re-write a more accurate version. That’s what happens with age! Don’t wait for that to happen to you; write it down, now, then it will never be forgotten.

Thursday 6 September 2012

I have been wanting to buy a tablet for some time now. I would like an iPad from Apple, the trouble is, I don't like Apple as a company!

These feeling go back to the beginning of the company. In the 1980s I owned and ran a substantial typesetting company in London. We used the old typesetting kit from Linotype and it was the bees knees at the time.

A man from somewhere came along with a new thing called an Apple Mac; a horrible looking box with a screen on the top half. I tried it for a couple of weeks and decided that we would keep to the Linotype. A couple of years later we did buy Apple computers when they came out with proper screens and separate keyboard. We used Linotype then as a back-end only. For booksetting and everything else we used Microsoft.

There was never a doubt that Apple are innovative and produce the most beautiful looking products that also work very well. They produce the goods almost every time. The trouble has always been that they are a closed shop and control freaks!

Just a few days ago we learn from Bruce Willis the actor that he does not own the £40,000 of music downloads he has paid for. Apple won't even let go of that. They have always been the same and are not likely to change. They want total control of everything they do.

The question then for me is whether or not to switch over to Apple rather than buy an Android tablet. With new products coming out this month it is just as well to wait and see what happens; but it's unlikely that I will give way to the Apple product even though my heart tells me I want to.