Our Newest Venture – Highlighter.com

For the past six months, Matt, Josh and I have been working on a super-secret new startup. I am happy to finally announce it!


Highlighter is a WordPress plugin that allows authors to actively engage their audience. They can direct readers attention to any part of the post by ‘highlighting’ any word, sentence or image.

Although we are starting with a WordPress plugin, Highlighter will eventually unify what you highlight, comment, and share across all content, platforms and devices, to create a dynamic relationship between publishers and readers.

That means whether you are reading a blog post from your computer or an eBook/PDF on your iPad, the interaction with content will remain the same.

Highlighter will keep those highlights, comments and notes in a centralized location that you can share with others and/or review at a later time.

Readers can now highlight, comment and share any word, sentence, paragraph or image on a blog post as well, giving the audience unprecedented ability to interact with content.

This means that conversations are no longer limited to the just “comments” of the page – now visitor interaction can take place anywhere within the content. Visitors can also share any sentence or piece of text just by highlighting and clicking!

Sound confusing? It’s not. Check this video out to see how it works.

Collect more emails

The rules of “Internet Marketing 101” say that an email list is the foundation of all internet marketing efforts. Highlighter has built-in email collection tools that will allow you to integrate with Aweber, Mailchimp or GetResponse. This means that you can capture commentor’s email addresses that before would have been lost.

Anyone who knows anything about online marketing knows that emails convert better than Twitter and Facebook combined.

Increased traffic

Highlighter makes sharing remarkably easy. All a reader has to do is highlight any word, sentence, or image and with one click, readers can share via twitter, facebook, or email. This means that instead of just sharing article titles, your audience will now be able to share the specific elements that they find interesting.

The easier it is to share, the more your visitors will do it.

Commenters will also be notified when someone else responds to the conversation, which also increases pageviews.

How does it work?

If you want to comment on something, just highlight it and click the comment button. Highlighter allows the publisher to moderate inline comments just like regular comments. Therefore unless the author has changed the default setting, comments will need to be moderated before they appear.

Once you have made your comment, a little bubble will show up letting all other readers know that someone has made a comment.

You will find that on any previously commented line of text, the text has a slightly grey dashed underline followed by a little comment bubble. Upon hovering over this text, you will see the comment bubble enlarges with a number in it. This is the number of times this text has been commented upon.

What about blogs with mountains of comments?

The guys at Highlighter were aware that with any significant amount of conversation around a topic, it would be less convenient to read via the bubble.

That is why they created the Highlight Box, which displays all of the inline comments in one place for readers to view. However, with the Highlight Box, each comment or conversation is in context to a highlighted word, sentence, paragraph or image on the blog, making the conversations on the blog much more valuable.

Why would readers want to comment inline? Often with a highly commented blog post, the context the comment can be lost after XX number of comments. Highlighter makes it much easier to retain the context of conversations.

Highlighter is also ideal for longer, more in-depth posts.

Inline commenting

For some verticals, there can be many uses for inline commenting, such as:

  • To reference a particular word or term in the medical or legal fields
  • To provide peer review/feedback in an academic or enterprise setting
  • To display a relevant affiliate link or advertisement within any kind of review/promotional blog post (links and images can be easily embedded within inline comments)

A more social web

Imagine how much more ‘social’ web pages will become when ANYTHING within the content can be attached to a specific, in-context conversation or shared with just one-click!

Of course, giving the publisher fully-moderated control over what is and isn’t displayed is paramount. The last thing anyone wants is for a web page to be graffitied up with spam or other nonsense.

Thankfully, Highlighter gives the publisher full moderation control and fights spam using WordPress’s built-in spam tool, Akismet.

Try Highlighter on your blog

Highlighter is still in development. The guys developing it, Matt, Nate and Josh are running a few case studies and wanted feedback from me, you and my readers!

What do you think of this new way to interact with content? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, comment on any word, sentence, paragraph or image in this blog post!

Seth Godin’s Advice to Internet Startups In the Down Economy

The other day I was perusing Mashable and I found this video by Seth Godin in which he explains how businesses should change their focus in the down economy. It is short, but worth watching.

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, he is the author of many popular business books and a speaker with appearances at Google, TED and a number of charities. Godin popularized the topic of permission marketing.

What advice do you have for online businesses and other startups in this down economy?

Why I Started Blogging…From Motivation to Game Plan

Why I Started Blogging...From Motivation to Game Plan

It has been exactly one year now since I wrote my first post. Funny story: Vinay Menon was the first person ever to comment on one of my posts. I became friends and have kept in touch with him and his business partner, Anthony, over the past year through our mutual interest in exotic sport cars. In November of 2007, I was fortunate to meet Vinay and Anthony at the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. How many people can say that they actually met the first person to ever comment on their blogs? I can.

Let’s recap a little bit: I came across the entire concept of blogging back in November of 2006. Wow, that feels like SUCH a long time ago! It was after I had first moved down from Seattle to Phoenix, Arizona, and I was becoming more and more dedicated to producing a sustainable income from the Internet.

I was also a “MySpacer” at the time and enjoyed socializing with my real-life friends online. That was all about to change.

My Motivation

It soon was apparent that there were no real professional and and business benefits from MySpace. I deleted my account, and later that month started doing Internet research on Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook). I was fascinated with how someone his age (he was 22 at the time, just like me) created such an incredible Internet empire from his dorm room.

Researching Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg led me to a Valleywag article about Mark and Kevin Rose (creator of Digg). To make a long story short, I ended up on Digg, and eventually stumbled upon John Chow’s blog, who, at the time, was gaming his way to the front page of Digg for days at a time.

John’s blog was the first “blog” I had ever read. What I liked about the blog was that this was a personal account of making money online. This was exactly the type of information I was looking for. Not only that, but John had (and still has) a fun and easy-to-read writing style. He had written quite a few articles by that time. I remember reading his blog voraciously, with each post becoming more knowledgeable about the various aspects of advertising, domaining, SEO, affiliate marketing, and e-commerce.

John wrote some fantastically useful posts in his first six months of blogging, many of which contain the fundamental knowledge of a lot of the various ways to make money online. If you ever get the chance, I recommend going back and reading some of the OctoberNovemberDecember 2006 posts on John’s blog.

Seeing John’s success made me even more motivated, although not to make money off my blog – I was most interested in using my blog as a journal to document my learning and hopefully teach other people about different aspects of Internet specialization such as SEO, domaining, web design, and branding.

Establishing an online identity in order to run a business was certainly one of the major goals of blogging. Why? People are much more likely to do business with you if they have a sense of who you are and whether you are trustworthy. Obviously, it was much harder to do business and get an audience when I was a new blogger. Now, a year later, I feel as if I have a true community of like-minded professionals.

The Six-Month Game Plan

When I think back to what helped me the most, it was having a six-month game plan for establishing my online identity. Six months is a long time in the Internet world, and a lot can change in that time span. At the same time, six months is short enough of a time that if clearly planned out, significant goals and life transformations can be launched.

When I first started blogging, one of my sub-goals was to generate more business for my web design company, infinFX. My plan was that after six months of blogging, I would be running a 100%, self-sustaining, Internet-based web design firm. Little did I know that infinFX would have to morph into Unique Blog Designs for this to come true. Either way, sticking with my blog for six months made it much easier to accomplish that next goal.

How long have you been blogging? Why did you start blogging? Do you have a six-month game plan for your blog? How has blogging helped your business? I look forward to hearing!

Back to Vegas for Pubcon

In four hours, I will be flying from Phoenix to Las Vegas to attend the Pubcon Webmaster Convention. The main reason for my attendance is because Unique Blog Designs sponsored Shoemoney’s Party Like A Search Engine Rockstar contest. The winner of the contest was Laura Martin, who also appeared on The Next Internet Millionaire.

There will be a lot of cool people at Pubcon including Craig Newmark (of Craigs List), Richard Rosenblatt (who helped broker the deal of MySpace and now owns a domain empire) and Matt Cutts (of Google). Guy Kawasaki will also be moderating on a search engine panel.

Just like my recent trip to Blog World Expo, I am sure this will be a great networking opportunity.

Of course I will be posting a massive amount of photos over the next few days, and hopefully I will get the chance to blog from Pubcon, as well.

The Importance of Taking Time For Yourself In Business

The Importance of Taking Time For Yourself In Business

One of the hardest things to do with any time-consuming enterprise is take a break. As most of you know, I haven’t blogged very much over the past 3 months. This is not due to my disinterest in blogging, but only my new obsession with business development. I have always been kind of an all-or-nothing type person and it’s always been hard for me to balance work/play and taking time for myself. I feel like I keep learning the lesson to balance life in order to be the most productive.

Since the inception of UBD (last August), Matt, Josh, and I have been working 7 days/week and 12-15 hours/day to build the business. It has been both incredibly fun and stressful at times. Stressful not because I don’t enjoy the work, only because I have cut out all other distractions in my life. This includes saying GOODBYE to partying, working out, watching TV, and any other type of non-business activity.

Have I regretted any of it? Not for one second. These past few months culminating with BWE have been some of the most exciting times of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That being said, there are a lot of ways I could have managed my lifestyle better and that includes taking more time for myself.

What do I classify as taking time for myself? Working out is a great example. Sitting in the same space for 8-hour shifts is something that most people want to quit their jobs so they can stop doing, but the fact is that working for yourself oftentimes means spending WAY more time in front of the computer. That makes it that much more important to get physical activity.

It is uncommon for Matt, Josh and me to spend less than 12 hours a day working on the computer – and that means not reading Digg, playing computer games, surfing the net, or any other type of non-work behavior. Just sitting and working.

Getting back to what I was originally saying, nothing burns off stress more than working out. I worked out for the first time in three months tonight and it felt damn awesome. We all used to be regular gym rats working out 5x/week, but again, since my new obsession with overworking, I have not worked out once.

It’s Tough To Break Away When In The Zone

Anyone truly dedicated towards a cause knows that it is especially difficult to break away from work when you are are on a roll, or “in the zone.” In other words, when working for any sustained period of time at a particular task, productivity increases exponentially over the work period. I notice I don’t reach my “in the zone” period until about 45 minutes into a task, but once I have reached that point, I can sustain my in the zone activity for several hours at a time.

Breaking away from what one feels as incredibly productive time is very difficult. Crossing A LOT of things off a to-do list is a great feeling, but what separates the almost successful from the really successful are those who manage their time more productively. Oftentimes, increased productivity comes not from working more, but from balance and managing time better.

If you were to spend all day doing one thing, would you want to be just “kind of” successful or extremely successful? I have done some interesting things, but real success is gauged over a long period of time, not a few months. I have been blogging consistently since January of this year and to me, that is a better indication of success than running a business for a just few months.

Taking Time For Myself: Trying To Get Back Into Blogging

Blogging is another task that can be incredibly fulfilling. After all, blogging is what got me where I am today. I would have never stopped working at my day job, developed relationships with fellow bloggers, and started UBD if it were not for consistent blogging since January of this year.

I have said time and time again that consistent and quality blogging can have tremendous effects on one’s life. My only wish is that I had spent more time blogging over the past three months. That is something that I plan on taking more seriously as we are starting to streamline many of the processes of our business.

I could never get burned out from doing what I most enjoy, but taking time for yourself in business is a valuable lesson that I have been trying to learn for a long time.

How about you guys? Do any of you workaholics feel like it is next to impossible to break away from your in-the-zone time? Golf, blogging, working out? What do you do when you take time away from business?