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Lately around the London tech scene, a hot topic of debate has been the role of women in technology careers, especially compared to their male counterparts. One woman has decided to skip the petty debate and go straight to featuring some of the exciting projects and backgrounds of other women in tech on her blog Girls’n’Gadgets.  Leila, founder of Girls’n’Gadgets, is dedicating the entire week to featuring the females that make our industry so great.

I was incredibly flattered when I got invited to do a guest post on Girls’n’Gadgets and be featured as one of the women of tech this week and today, my bio goes live on the blog.  Here’s an exerpt of my bio, which goes on to recap a bit about my background in tech and my current projects with Spoonfed.

I sit staring at source code in an empty computer lab, trying to embed a flash animation of a fish into a website for my sixth grade science project. If I could go back and speak to my eleven-year old self now, the message would be clear: don’t fight it, Meg, you’re destined to be a geek….

Read on at G ‘n’ G Women in Tech Week – Meaghan Fitzgerald, Spoonfed and be sure to check out some of the other great women of tech featured this week.

This evening I attended a regular London event called Open Soho – so named for the area of town (Soho) in which it occurs.  Tonight marked the 6th Open Soho and the event is self-described as

Devised by PopJam’s Alex Tew and Irish opportunist Paul Walsh, OpenSoho has helped create a community of like-minded followers through its Facebook group and Twitter page, causing a clamber for tickets each time they’re made available. With a sponsored bar and late-night dancefloor, OpenSoho is a highly acclaimed night on the tiles for those currently causing waves and shaping the future of the UK digital, media and advertising scene. These folk work hard and play harder, come join in the fun.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as I entered the venue, located on the second floor of a rather posh-looking restaurant.  As has been the case for many of the meetups I attend, I went alone.  Generally speaking, attending events solo is difficult but for something so based on networking I didn’t expect to have any problem and was right to think so.  What a charming, social, friendly group of people! I’m fortunate to have a story (“I moved to London with no job, no place to live and not knowing a soul!”) that gets people interested but I think even without a tag line I would have had some incredibly interesting comversations.

I’ve had some trouble nailing down a focus for this blog, as I’m sure many of my regular readers have noticed.  London, of course, plays a prominate role but so does technology and the two subjects have not come together very often.  Open Soho has, for me, combined the best of both with Londoners truly excited about their startups and businesses all meeting together in one of the best parts of the city, while sharing their technological and internet-related thoughts and ideas.  I met part of the webteam that runs What’s On Stage, a London theatre website hoping to meet some techies instead of just more theatre critics; someone who seemed to be taking advantage of the fact that London is a fashion capital with his upcoming Facebook app focused on the modeling industry; a fellow American in London looking for ways to get people jobs and many more besides.  Plus there were a couple of familiar faces from previous meetups I’ve attended.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Scotland for the weekend but I’m very glad I got one final push for tech, business and networking in this week before I switch to the polar opposite, rural setting.  All in all it was a great event and I very much look forward to the next one.

I should give a plug to the sponsors of this evening’s bar and Open Soho event, the endlessly cheerful and sugary sweet I Like U Coz, the site that lets you tell anyone in the world exactly why you like them.  Go check it out!

I had the opportunity today to meet up with another American expat here in London, the multi-talented Kate Matlock who is here doing a masters in design studies.  She was great fun to talk to, and of course it’s always nice to spend time with another American while abroad. We had decided to meet up so that I could hear a bit more about a wonderful food-related event she is planning that sounds very exciting.  I’m planning on having plenty of other opportunities to blog about Kate’s event however what really intrigued me was the way in which this event came about.  One of her classes, she explained, had a professor who set a group project over the course of about two months which required the students to plan, develop, create, release, promote and make profitable a product, service or event.

Now, I am all for speed when it comes to startup projects.  In fact, without it, and a drive that keeps things moving a breakneck pace, it’s easy to become bogged down with details, loose momentum or miss opportunities.  But even at my most optimistic I doubt I even considered turning an idea into actual profit in six weeks (give or take).  Kate and her classmates must have felt the same way.  It’s an assignment that approximates an episode of The Apprentice – but without the professional design and concept team to put together an actual product.

But after we chatted for a while about the concept she and her team had created, the enthusiasm with which she was met by experts in the field and the goals she had set and met already over such a short span of time, I’m beginning to wonder if the professor might not have been on to something.  The problem doesn’t seem to be time, necessarily, for Kate and her group, but in coming up with an idea that catches the imaginations of those around them enough to make people drop what they’re doing and get involved.  Whether that involvement is signing up for a website, buying a product in a store or, in Kate’s case, giving an impromptu lecture on what raw foods can keep you healthy, the key seems to be getting people involved with something they can be passionate about.

I would love to organise an event based on the idea that it is possible to take a concept to profit in 6-8 weeks.  Small teams could brainstorm, assign internal roles and compare contact books beforehand but all work on the actual product, service or event would fall within that two month window.  Difficult? Unlikely? Of course.  But, as Kate is hoping to prove for a grade, for fun and for profit – certainly possible.

When I have some time to spare between work and running around Europe, I like to work on minor improvements to my blog such as my blog design, blog SEO and blog plugins.  Most of the things I change are either tiny cosmetic updates or back end and not things that I would expect my readers to notice.  The elements I most enjoy updating, however, are my blog plugins.  A plugin is a bit of code that you can upload to a blog in order to add additional features.  For readers who have been around for a while, they might remember the “send me a text message” tool in the sidebar (which I had to remove due to spam messages) – that was a plugin.  Other plugins can add photo galleries, allow readers to rate and vote on their favourite posts, generate random quotes or make sure your post’s title is search engine optimisied.  There are literally thousands of fun little widgets and tools and add ons that other coders have created for bloggers like me to use.

What impresses me most is the variety of options and the people who take the time to make them.  While in many cases, bloggers with a solid technical background create plugins to solve problems that they have encountered and then share them with the blogger community, in other cases, people just enjoy making the plugins for others.  I’ve even paid for a plugin when it solved a very tricky problem that I had no other way to work around.

If you have a WordPress blog, take a look at some of these directories of great plugins below.
The Official WordPress Plugin Directory

Alex King – WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins and Other Projects by Planetozh

21 of the Best Plugins for New Blogs

8 WordPress Plugins for Page Management

It’s easy to get carried away with plugins on a blog – and there are some pretty ridiculous plugin options as well.  The best way to ensure that your blog doesn’t become over run is to think of what you like to see on other blogs.  Is it important to you to see random quotes of the day elsewhere on the net? If so, go for it.  If not, maybe give that plugin a skip. Also think about what your blog is trying to convey.  If you’re aiming to be the next Mashable-style tech blog, then having a rotating picture of a lolcat on your sidebar might not be the best option, no matter how much it makes you laugh.  Sometimes the best plugins of all are the ones that no one necessarily sees but that add great value to your blog overall.

What are your favourite plugins? What frustrates you about your blog that you have been looking for a plugin to fix?

One of my most popular posts to date, based on the number of visitors from Google searches, has been my previous guide for how to get high page rank backlinks to a website using forums and the SEO for Firefox toolbar. Although that is a very effective way to get high PR backlinks, it’s also quite time consuming and might not necessarily be the most efficient way to carry out the process of backlinking. I wanted to review another tool called Fast Blog Finder that makes the job of building manual backlinks significantly easier. I discovered this tool quite a while ago and when I first came across Free Trial of Fast Blog Finder, I could not locate any good reviews on the tool, particularly it’s paid versus free versions. Here’s a recap of my experience.

If you are not familiar with backlinking, dofollow and nofollow tags and SEO, you might first be interested in reading the following posts:
How to get High PR Backlinks
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the English Language

As I mentioned in my last post on the subject of building backlinks – that is, links from other websites pointing to yours – is one of the most important elements in ranking highly for search engine results. Three main ways to get backlinks are to wait for them to come naturally as people link to your content, ask people directly for links from their page to yours, and create them manually. While using forums for high PR backlinks is one of these manual methods, using blog comments is another. Simply posting a comment that includes a URL on someone else’s blog post can create a backlink from their blog. However, as anyone who has tried using blog comments to generate backlinks will know, it is often very difficult to find blogs in which the comment field does not generate all URLs as nofollow links, rendering the backlink invisible to Google robots.

Fast Blog Finder is a tool that searches the web for blog posts based on your search query and returns a list of places where you can leave comments that include dofollow links back to your site. Instead of spending hours searching for these dofollow blogs yourself, this tool can do it in a matter of minutes, leaving you the time to actually post comments (with a link back to your site of course).

Fast Blog Finder is a downloadable piece of software that contains no malware or spyware and has a free trail version as well as a full paid version. The free trial is fully functional – allowing customised searches, links to all blog results, the page rank (PR) of the domain and induvidual post, whether or not the blog is dofollow, how many outbound links appear on the page and when the page was las updated. The free trial, however, will only return up to 50 results for any given search term, no matter how many blogs are available. Often of a list of 50 results, between one and five of the blog posts will be dofollow, and will be suitable for creating a backlink. There is no limit to the number of searches one can do.

This is undeniably useful for beginners looking to test out some SEO practices and are just starting to generate backlinks for their site. However the true power of this tool becomes apparent when splurging on the full, paid version of Fast Blog Finder which is available for a one-time fee of $49. While users with the free software may feel they are getting results, and that perhaps there aren’t significantly more than 50 blogs out there – at least not enough to justify the expense – the proof is in the number of dofollow links generated. Popular keywords, such as music, travel, technology or celebrities might generate over 50 dofollow links alone. The paid version delivers results and is definitely worth the money, allowing those interested in generating backlinks to find literally thousands of places to post a comment and a link back to their site. The only thing Fast Blog Finder does not do is post a comment for you.

For a whole variety of reasons, I do not in any way endorse spamming these blogs with comments simply to get a backlink, nor will it necessarily help your backlinking campaign. When leaving a blog comment, please make sure your comment is relevant, on topic, polite and not simply a link and spam.