Median household income in: Lansing 48915: $40,903 Detroit 48901: $13,736
Monthly Auto Insurance Premium in Lansing: $140 Monthly Auto Insurance Premium in Detroit: $320 (same coverage, Progressive, no points on record, never one Michigan speeding ticket and only one out of state in 2005)
Percent Living Below Poverty Line in Lansing: 24.5 percent Percent Living Below Poverty Line in Detroit: 50.5 percent
Educational Attainment: Percent high school graduate or higher Lansing: 86.1 percent Detroit: 78.5 percent
As you know, East Lansing is a major departure point for Amtrak trains on the Blue Water line between Chicago and Port Huron. Amtrak ridership on this line continues to increase, with 187,991 passengers using the Blue Water in 2012 – up from 115,741 in 2005.
I am a frequent Amtrak passenger between East Lansing and Chicago. I’ve used over thirty round-trip tickets between East Lansing and Chicago in the last 12 months. It’s a great way to travel – but I’m greatly concerned about a new bill which might make Amtrak much, much worse.
HR 2066, the “Pets on Trains Act of 2013,” (co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif.) would make it mandatory for Amtrak to transport pets on passenger trains without regard to passenger comfort or a quiet train. I can’t imagine anything worse than being stuck on a train for hours with a barking dog.
Given the on-time performance of Amtrak and its frequent unanticipated stoppages and delays, this seems like a recipe for disaster. I’ve been on trains that have been delayed en route one, two – even three hours. What happens to a pet on a train that needs to relieve itself during one of these delays? And more importantly: what does that mean for everyone else?
The bill has many unanticipated consequences that might cost Amtrak even more. Will we need to install new air filtration systems on our trains for people with allergies, who might be allergic to dogs or cats? It’s a troubling question the bill doesn’t address – but as someone with allergies to cats, is of great concern to me.
I’m a dog lover and have no problem with people’s pets. But, we don’t need government regulations mandating their transport on Amtrak. I hope you’ll oppose this tremendously silly bill.
Growing up, there were two jobs that seemed most appealing to me: writing for a newspaper… and directing movies. Roger Ebert seemed to straddle both dreams. I a
dmired him greatly growing up and now, and am tremendously saddened (in a way I can’t remember feeling since the death of Steve Jobs) by his loss today.
I devoured his reviews growing up and read every Ebert piece I could, from his “Great Movies” reviews, to his Movie Answer Man Q&A to his columns in “Yahoo Internet Life” magazine. Remember that? Seems ancient and forgotten now – but was an important part of my childhood.
Most weekends in high school I could be found at the Main Art Theater, Detroit Film Theatre or Michigan Theatre, watching the movies I read about in his column. My coworkers at the Kroger Pharmacy used to get their movie reviews from me, and I got my tips from Ebert. Today, I don’t see as many movies as I used to, and I’m sorry about that.
Lots of people out there are expressing their sorrow over Roger Ebert’s passing, and I feel like I should join in — even though I never met the man. Through his work, I felt like I knew him, and knew what I wanted to be. I’m glad his writing will endure, but will really miss reading his reviews, blog posts, columns and tweets.
There was no one else like Roger Ebert. He will be missed.
Anyone working in digital media should constantly monitor the web and social media for the latest posts, comments, tweets, videos and anything else published about whatever topic you’re working on or for.
However, sometimes real life – you know, your personal relationships, travel, and anything you do for fun outside of digital media – interrupts valuable online monitoring time. What to do?
Paid services: do you need them?
There are a number of paid services you can use for real-time social media/Internet monitoring. Some cost an arm and a leg and offer Fortune 100 level quality – like Salesforce.com’s Radian6 (which can cost several thousands of dollars each month – for a fantastic service that’s probably out of the realm of possibility for most people).
Radian6 isn’t the only paid social media monitoring solution out there – from Simplify360 to Viralheat, there are a number of tools out there for almost any need – but you might not even need to pay for a monitoring service for a smaller scale project or topic.
How to set up Google Alerts
So, how can you get e-mail alerts for free? Today, we’re going to cover Google Alerts – and in the days to come, will look at other free e-mail alert services you can use to keep tabs on the latest news and posts online.
Google Alerts: for monitoring the web – Google Alerts should be part of any digital media pro’s e-mail alert system. They’re free and easy to set up at www.google.com/alerts (note: a Google Account is required, but it’s free – and if you have a Gmail address, you already have one).
I recommend setting up alerts with the settings shown below at least when first setting up an alert. While choosing “All Results” rather than “Only the Best Results” will mean more frequent alerts, it’s better to at least see how many you’ll be receiving before turning down the volume – just so you don’t miss anything:
Google Alerts will send you an alert whenever the Googlebot (Google’s always-working page indexing robots) adds a new page to Google’s index. This is great for monitoring websites and keeping an eye out for news hits around a certain topic. It’s an invaluable political tool, for reasons that should be apparent…
Google Alerts tricks
Monitor a website for updates: You can set up Google Alerts to alert you to any updates on a particular website, which is useful for keeping tabs on when a site adds new content or articles.
Just set up the search query: site:DOMAIN.com in Google Alerts (so for to monitor for updates on this site, you would enter: site:gdavis.co as the search query in setting up the Google Alert). Voila – updates on site updates!
Find out who is linking to a particular site: Just set up the search query: link:DOMAIN.com to receive updates on new pages linking in to the site of your choice. To monitor for sites linking in to this site, for example, you’d want to set up the search query for: link:gdavis.co.
Think of lots of synonyms when setting up queries: Think of multiple ways people can phrase search terms when setting up your queries. Keep nicknames, common mispellings and slang in mind when setting up search queries. It’s better to set up too many Alerts on the front end that don’t produce notifications than to miss an important alert because you didn’t have the right search terms.
Set up an e-mail filter for Google Alerts: I have an e-mail filter set up in my personal and work Gmail accounts for all non-critical Google Alerts, so they all come to the same folder and skip my inbox. Since I have so many Google Alerts set up for different clients and for personal topics of interest (they’re great for news, sports and political news), I can check in from time to time and see the latest updates without having my inbox totally overwhelmed. I turn this off for any Google Alerts that I absolutely don’t want to miss seeing right away – like for any Alerts on my name, on my employer, or on any other urgent client topics or keywords.
Do you have any favorite Google Alerts tips or tricks? Share them in the comments if so!
NOTE: I’m excited to announce my first guest blogger, my good friend Chad Cyrowski. Chad and I go way back – we first met back at Muir Middle School, in our mutual hometown of Milford, Michigan. We’ve been friends throughout high school and college (Chad is a fellow Spartan), and so I’m proud to have him post on my blog. Chad is currently the director of digital media at Progress Michigan, and was formerly director of new media for Ken Cockrel’s campaign for Mayor of Detroit. I asked Chad to write about what advice he’d give to someone starting out in digital media today for my series on learning new media (e.g. “new media for beginners” or “digital media 101″). Welcome, Chad!
First, pat yourself on the back. You’ve secured a job in new media. The best part? You’ll be doing the same thing humans have been doing for thousands of years, but in new and exciting ways. That’s why there’s a “new” in “new media.”
Centuries ago it was stories around the campfire and writing on the cave wall, today it’s pictures and posts on Facebook and clever 140 character quips on Twitter. The common thread?
We’re sharing. We’ve always shared. It’s what humans do. Central to the act of sharing is communication – people need to understand one another to share, after all – and the bond that sharing creates: a relationship.
Some of these relationships are strong – like the bond you form with your family after growing up with them. Other relationships, like the one you form after RTing some random person’s thoughts on Twitter, are not.
If you’re in new media chances are you’re trying to grow your brand and create a buyer-seller relationship, or convince people you’re right and create a cause-supporter relationship.
And that’s what all of these newfangled devices, web services, and social networks do for us: they help us communicate, share, and form relationships.
But one Tweet, one Facebook post, one email, or one ad isn’t going to form a strong relationship or help you achieve your goal.
They’re new and useful tools, but they haven’t replaced our old tools.
While engaging individuals through new media can help you reach new demographics, it’s only one of several valuable tools at your disposal: picking up the phone or meeting in person are just as important.
In economics, markets with low barriers to entry have a lot of players and thus lower profit margins. Likewise, the barriers to entry for Facebook and Twitters are low, there are a lot of players, lower profit margins, and weaker relationships.
Only sustained engagement with a consistent message through as many mediums and on as many platforms as possible – both online and offline – can help you reach your goal.
I really like WordPress. It’s easy to use but very powerful – especially with so many different user-created plugins and themes available for it. Chances are, someone out there has created a plugin to do anything you’d like to do. Better yet (especially for someone like me with a liberal arts background instead of computer science), there are so many great support resources that are just a Google search away for any problems that might come up.
And oh yeah… WordPress is free to install on any web host.
Over the years, I’ve played with a number of different WordPress plugins. Here are some of my favorites:
Digg Digg: Digg Digg is the floating social share bar you see on this site (why not test it out by sharing this post, hmm?). It makes it really easy for any user to share your content to whatever social networks you specify.
While Digg Digg is owned by Buffer, which is a service for scheduling/buffering social media posts, you aren’t required to actually enable Buffer in your floating social share bar. I didn’t, because I don’t know anyone who uses it, and because anyone who does could easily add a page to their Buffer account via bookmarklet or browser extension.
There are many other good social share plugins, but unlike some (Sociable, for example) which remain fixed on the page, the Digg Digg social share bar scrolls as your visitor does – keeping those social share buttons in view and a click away at all times.
WordPress SEO by Yoast: I’ve used a number of different WordPress search engine optimization (SEO) plugins, but like WordPress SEO by Yoast best. It’s extremely powerful and makes optimizing your pages for search very easy (from rewriting titles to checking your posts to ensure they will be found with the keywords you intend them to be found with).
Yoast’s SEO tool even provides a snippet preview of how your page or post might display on Google or any other search engine. It also makes it easy to submit XML sitemaps – basically, a machine-generated outline of all the content on your site – automatically to search engines whenever you update the site. A must use WordPress plugin!
W3 Total Cache: For the tech-savvy, this plugin makes it easy to set up a content distribution network (CDN) to store some of your files on distributed server networks, which make your site faster and improve your site’s usability (a key factor in SEO). W3 Total Cache is pretty easy to set up if you follow the directions, and really does make a difference – especially if you’re using shared hosting where your site might be slower to load otherwise.
Contact Form 7: Including your email address on a website is a bad idea, unless you love receiving tons of spam (if this applies to you, please let me know, and I’ll ask you to send me several thousand dollars via Western Union). Instead, use Contact Form 7 to hide your email address from a site while still making it easy for visitors to get in touch. We use this plugin on the Protect MI Vote site, if you’d like to see it in action. The responses get emailed to the address or addresses of your choosing.
Online Backup for WordPress: Last week, my MacBook Pro suddenly wouldn’t boot up. After trying every troubleshooting tip I could find and much swearing, I had to completely erase my hard drive and reinstall Mac OS X Lion. But – for the first time ever – I had backed up every file on my Mac with Time Machine, and wound up only losing one small project. What would have been a disaster wound up being just a minor nuisance, which is why I’m spreading the backup gospel every chance I get now. Even for WordPress.
WordPress includes import/export functions which allow you to backup posts and uploaded images – but that don’t archive the entire blog database and themes/plugins. Online Backup for WordPress fills that void, and allows you to automate WordPress backups (daily or weekly) by either emailing you a backup file or saving a backup file to the service’s online storage service – with 100 MB of storage included free.
There are other WordPress backup tools available, but this one works for me and was easy to set up – and you can’t beat free.
What are your favorite WordPress plugins? With so many out there, I know I’m missing a few. Let me know what your must-use plugins are in the comments!
A dispatch from the front lines of the worst restaurant in Michigan, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill in Auburn Hills. Watch my review of this incredibly overpriced and rotten restaurant here (originally posted to my YouTube account Dec. 17, 2011).
Now open for business: www.gdavis.co – my latest personal blog effort.
I’ve been setting up blogs for years, and inevitably wind up abandoning them or starting some other web project shortly after setting it up. My first personal site was hosted back on Xoom.net way back in the heady days of the late ’90s, before finding a free domain name service where I registered www.grahamdavis.com for the first time. Because I used a free service to register the domain name, I lost rights to use it after the one year term expired, which has bothered me to this day.
In high school, I set up gamblejones.com, with the idea of picking a URL that would be somewhat memorable. It came from an offhand comment by a kid in one of my classes who tried to give someone else the nickname of “Gamble Jones” (for reasons that still don’t make sense to me). I didn’t wind up doing much with the site – but wound up attracting the interest of an investment firm I had never heard of in California, which purchased the domain name from me for a few hundred bucks. Nice!
College saw the creation of a few one-off blog projects, like a personal WordPress.com blog I used to mostly write about the 2007 Michigan budget crisis and to collect links I thought useful or interesting. Nothing too exciting.
In early 2008, I started my James Madison College internship with the Michigan Democratic Party. It was an election year, and I wound up hitting the road alone to track Republican presidential candidates (just before the Jan. 15 Michigan primary) my first week on the job. After three months interning at the MDP, I was hired as the Internet Communications Director at the Granholm Leadership Fund – Gov. Granholm’s political office. I wrote blog posts for the jennifergranholm.com blog (since shuttered), but lost the time to do much of my own blogging. That August, I moved to Detroit to volunteer full-time at the Michigan Obama for America HQ, and started contributing to that blog too – but again, didn’t do too much of my own personal blogging (instead focusing on building strong personal accounts on Facebook and Twitter).
Between then and now, I’ve worked for a number of different candidates and organizations (Gov. Granholm’s official state office, John Dingell for Congress, A Whole Lot of People Supporting John Cherry [for Governor, 2010], smaller political campaigns, The Rossman Group), and still didn’t do much personal blogging. I occasionally contribute to the Truscott Rossman blog (my employer), but have thought about setting up a blog of my own for a while now. I’m auditing MSU’s New Media Drivers License course over the summer which finally provided the jolt I needed to get this started.
I’m looking forward to finally putting the time in each day to make this a worthwhile read for you. I plan on focusing mainly on politics, public relations, new media, music, Michigan, the news media and anything else that might catch my interest. Please bookmark and visit often!