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Group W, how I miss thee

You may have heard at some point or another that television used to be much more community oriented, and been confused by that remark being that local TV stations do in fact stay within their local markets.

What you don't know was the very, very significant effort by certain broadcast groups to bring the highest quality television you could watch.

I was very fortunate to have experienced television in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a child where some of the absolute BEST programming that ever existed was being aired. It truly was a golden age of TV.

Group W was a partnership between broadcast television stations with a simple goal - bring better television to the masses. But it's how they did it that was incredible.

The method was simple. Let the stations retain their identity. Let them purposely concentrate on staying very local. Let them put forward a genuine effort towards connecting with the community. Share ideas between other stations in the network. Discuss what works and what doesn't.

Like I said, it was incredible. It allowed the stations to keep their markets while expanding and furthermore not lose control of what they broadcast.

It's a genius concept in television. Truly. Too bad it's not used anymore.

Here's a Group W orientation tape. Pay very close attention to what they believe are the best parts of being in Group W. It's "community" every single time.

The Group W station I watched as a kid was WBZ-TV 4 in Boston, Massachusetts. They still exist, obviously (they've always commanded a gigantic local market), but they're nothing like they once were.

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Back when the skies were a lot friendlier

There are times when everybody says at one point or another, "Geez, I was born in the wrong generation!" This is one of those times.

Recently I came across the web site LOGO R.I.P. It's a small collection of large company logos that are no longer used; one of them is Pan American World Airways. This airline company is only known to those that flew a lot prior to the 1990s, because Pan Am folded in 1991.

LOGO R.I.P.'s "condolences" page on Pan Am is nothing short of amazing, and makes me really wish I had flown that airline back when they were hopping with business in the 1960s. Here's a few quotes from that page:

Gone but not forgotten! I spent the most wonderful 18 years of my life while working for PanAm. It was the best civil aviation school that I have ever attended. It was an honor to work for PanAm. ''You can't Beat The Experience'' slogan of PanAm proved it ! ''The Blue Globe will always remain in my heart and soul.

It was the best aviation school in the airline industry. I miss PanAm very much and I pray that one day a miracle will happen and there will be PanAm again. We the PanAm people used to say the color of the blood in our veins was blue! PanAm is a Legend.

I grew up in Miami, FL where PanAm had their beautiful amphibias port and repair facility, My neighbor told srories of wearing roller skates while chaseing parts in the huge warehouses in Coconut Grove. PanAm gave sleepy Miami it's first taste of cosmopolitan glamour and site of the "blue globe" will always serve up a special warm-and-fuzzy felling to this Miami native.

When you flew Pan Am, you were truly in for a real treat because it was a fantastic airline. Why? Because the employees genuinely enjoyed working there. Stories like the above are the type you simply cannot buy; they only come from those who truly had pride in their jobs.

And when's the last time you heard anybody describing pride in their job working at any modern airline? Probably never.

Pan Am, by the way, is a Florida original; it started in Key West. At their peak they were the flag carrier for the United States as a nation.

The way Pan Am ended was absolutely horrific. 7,500 jobs were lost. In the Miami area, 9,000 were lost when you combined both the in-airline and all the other jobs that depended on the airline's existence. A whole ton of former employees then sued the corporation after that. The whole thing was just a nightmare.

Why did Pan Am fold? It was more or less a classic example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Corporate mismanagement was all too obvious, no one seemed to care about what was going on within the organization, the US government paid a blind eye to its own flag carrier, and so everyone rode it out until the company simply imploded.

Aside from the whole folding debacle, I truly would have enjoyed flying Pan Am in the 60s or very-early 70s. It was a time when flying was very affordable, so traveling abroad via Pan Am was truly a great way to get to your destination. In addition, the people who worked for the airlineĀ truly wanted to be there, and it showed.

Pan Am still exists, but not as an airline. It's now Pan Am Railways - and they even still use the old logo!

But that logo sure looked better on a Boeing.

More cool Pan Am stuff can be found at PanAmAir.org.

5 reasons why self-hosted blogs are still the best way to blog

If you decide to start a blog of your own, it all starts with where the blog is physically hosted. A "self-hosted" blog means you have your own dot-com/net/org/whatever, you physically installed the blog engine on your web site, configure it, update it yourself, etc. Is it a pain in the ass to do? Yes, but I have 5 good reasons why it's a good thing to do.

Small note: When I refer to "freebie" blog hosters, I'm referring to services like Blogger, Windows Live Spaces, WordPress.com (but not WordPress.org), and so on.

1. No flag button.

The flag button is something that to the best of my knowledge is on every freebie blog hoster.

What it means in a nutshell is this: "You can post anything you want, but if enough people complain about you, you'll be shut down."

That stupid flag button - which is on every single blog post you make on a freebie - forces you to adjust your content style just so that people don't literally flag you off. That's stupid.

2. You can run any ad service you want.

Let's say your blog has gained a decent following and you want to install an ad service to make a few bucks from the traffic. On a self-hosted blog, you can run any ad service you want. AdBrite, Google AdSense, whatever, doesn't matter. Your hoster doesn't care as long as it's not pornographic. On the freebie blogs, you either can't run any ads at all, or they do offer it but you only get one choice, and of course its their ad system so they get a piece of the pie and you have to play by their rules to boot.

3. You can sell anything you want.

Something that's widely unknown about freebie blog hosters is that on many it's outright forbidden to sell anything on them. Maybe after gaining a following you want to publish a book, so you sign up a CreateSpace or Lulu account, upload your book, set a price, then post a link to it on your blog. You might be able to get away with this for a while, but if the freebie blog hoster admins see it, boom, your blog is gone.

Ridiculous? Yes. But they don't want you to use their free service as an engine to make you any money without them getting some of it, and this includes the prohibiting of selling anything.

I should point out that posting things like one-time eBay links are fine, but if you're attempting to sell something with any sort of regularity business-style, that will raise the eyebrows of the freebie hoster quickly and they will step in to shut you down.

4. You can run anything you want.

The way in which a freebie hoster works is to only offer a very limited set of options as to what you can do with your blog. It is the definition of a caged environment. Want to install plugins? Want to install custom themes? Want to install a forum alongside your blog? You'll get a big fat no, no and no on those with the freebie hosters.

Most of the freebies do, of course, offer paid ways of enabling certain features and other stuff, but the sad truth is that by the time you've enabled everything you want, you will have spent more than you would have with a cheap 5-buck-a-month paid host.

The best way to realize how much the freebies screw you over with their paid offerings is to do some quick math using annual figures.

A cheap 5-buck-a-month hoster like this one is $60 yearly + domain registration free. At most you'll be paying around $75 yearly when it's all put together.

When you add in all the stuff you want to do with the paid options on a freebie hoster, I guarantee it will exceed that amount for the year. Sure, when you look at the feature list you'll see little prices. $15 for this, $20 for that, another $10 for that, and so on. Add all those up. Then realize that even if you bought every single feature in the list, you still don't have the freedom a true self-hosted blog has.

5. Having a self-hosted blog enables a whole bunch of stuff besides the blog itself.

Here's a very, very short list of some of the things you can do on a self-hosted web site:

I could make a five-page list and beyond, but you get the idea. With self-hosted stuff, a blog is only one of many things you can do with your own web site.

Whether you choose to be a personal or problogger, do the self-hosted thing. Yes, it costs money, but anything that's worth doing will require an investment of some kind. Also bear in mind that the investment also requires time. You will be required to learn the basics of PHP, MySQL, possible some graphics editing and so on. If that scares you, it should, but know that the end result is totally worth it because you have total control.

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