Amazon Closed My Associates Account, Now What? Help for Affiliates in California

Californians can use VigLink to keep participating in Amazon Associates

Gov. Brown signed the Internet Sales tax law and Amazon promptly dropped tens of thousands of Associates in a heartbeat. The state still doesn’t get their sales tax and now are missing out on the combined loss of income taxes from affiliates and their reduced spending. The state loses and so do we. We knew this was coming and I had briefly looked into creating an LLC in another state, but it would be a hassle and there was a question of California charging a $800 out of state business fee. Jumping through hoops wasn’t really my idea of fun so I looked around for another solution. My first thought was auctioning off my affiliate links to the highest bidder. I could probably get a little buzz going about that, but didn’t want to mess with that arrangement with some stranger. I did a little more research and found some discussion about VigLink.

VigLink essentially rewrites your links with JavaScript to be routed through their system. Any earnings are tracked back to your ID and then they pay you after taking a commission. For those of us in states that are now locked out of Amazon Associates this is better than nothing. I signed up the other day and will have to see how things go. The commission takes a little bit off the top, but since VigLink funnels clicks through their own accounts they get to the higher tiers which could help make up for it. If your Amazon links are producing $0 then try VigLink at least until you can get something else going.

An additional minus point is that users of AdBlock Plus will probably not have their click-throughs converted. One more plus though is that you aren’t stuck just with Amazon. If you wanted to post to other sites or do a price comparison between different sites then you can still participate in other programs easily. I think VigLink has over 12,000 sites they cover.

Post Shared Google Reader items in WordPress

You might be wondering what these “Shared” posts are. Most of my web surfing consists of reading my RSS subscriptions in Google Reader, all 146 of them. On a given day I might find one or two things that I think other people would want to read. Google Reader lets you share items with your “friends”, but there’s no way to have a discussion about the content.

A while back I was trying to figure out a way to share those “shared” items with a wider audience. I stuck a link in the sidebar to my shared item page, but I doubt anybody uses it. What I really wanted to do was have WordPress automatically create posts with a link to the content I mark in Google Reader. The WP-o-matic plugin does exactly what I want.

Setting up the plugin involves creating a CRON job on the server and setting up a feed to check periodically. You can customize the content of the post that gets created; I opted for a little blurb and a link to the content. I wanted to modify the title that gets created which isn’t an available option so I modified the plugin to do that for me. I also set it to save posts as drafts so I can assign a category and tags and maybe some of my thoughts before Google Reader gets a hold of it and caches it forever.

So these shared posts are really the cream of the crop of my subscriptions and I’d love to have people share things they find. I like the fact that whenever shared items show up in Google Reader from my friends they are of high quality and worth the read even though it might be outside my immediate area of interest.

Notes in Google Reader

Just realized you don’t have to subscribe to a feed in Google Reader to share something you find on the Internet. Under “Your Stuff” they added “Notes” a while back. On that page there’s a bookmark you can drag to the bookmark toolbar, click it, add a note and share the note in your Shared items. Highlight text on the page and it will prepopulate the description field with it. If you can’t see my shared items, send me a chat invitation in Gmail; pretty sure that’s the only way to become “friends” in Google Reader. Added a test note of a chart from Ross Perot’s

Inline text box spell checking in Firefox

Firefox 2 added spell checking in text areas, but I just found a little tweak that extends spell checking to inline text boxes. Big help for keeping blog titles and such spelled correctly. Here’s how:

  1. Type about:config in the address bar, hit enter
  2. Filter on spellcheckDefault
  3. Double click the entry and change the value to 2

Also if you haven’t upgraded to Firefox 3 go grab it right now. Lots of memory leaks have been fixed and overall things are much more responsive.

Fixed one of the cardinal sins of web usability

You might have noticed links look different on my site. I had them styled without an underline for a long time and I realized I need to practice what I preach. Some usability issues came up at work recently and articles I read made me reevaluate my own site. The most glaring usability infraction were my link styles. I had removed the underline and bolded links because it looked good. Bold text is normally used to add emphasis, but I changed that to represent links to other content.  When it comes to usability, changing an accepted and widely understood standard is simply unforgivable. End users might not pick up on things like this, but it can impact their experience in a very negative way.