6 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With Uber

For better or for worse, Uber has utterly transformed the way we get around.

But it’s more than just a taxi (sorry, ridesharing) company. In recent years, they’ve diversified, and now offer a broad range of services and products. Their core service is already disrupting the taxi industry. Then there are some, you probably won’t expect.

Order Some Food

As the name suggests, UberEats is a food delivery service. While the ridesharing component of Uber has reached near ubiquity (Uber now covers 75% of the United States), the same can’t be said for UberEats, which is only really found in a handful of major American cities, plus Paris and Toronto.

UberEats is entering a market that’s pretty much dominated by Seamless in the United States, and Just Eat everywhere else. But they’ve managed to differentiate themselves by offering a smaller menu from upscale and boutique eateries, a mobile app almost everyone is familiar with, and a pricing model that’s transparent and simple. You just pay for your food and a flat delivery fee. No tipping necessary.

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While UberEats are known for being blisteringly fast, this efficiency does come with a cost; meals are one-size-fits-all, and cannot be customized. Hate mushrooms, or have a gluten allergy? Tough.

If UberEats isn’t in your city, don’t fret! There are plenty of other online food delivery services to choose from.

Hire a Chopper

Until recently, I thought UberLux was Uber’s most opulent offering, where the car picking you up isn’t a Toyota Prius, but rather a luxury sedan, and the cheapest ride starts at $30. Boy, was I wrong.

On special occasions Uber will actually allow you to charter a helicopter through the mobile app. It’s called UberChopper.

Take the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for example. For a flat fee 2,250 UAE Dirhams (that’s about $610 USD), you can order a six-seater helicopter to whisk you in-style from Dubai to the race course in the nearby emirate of Abu Dhabi. That’s a distance of roughly 130 kilometers.

Despite the high price tag, UberChopper has proven itself to be fairly popular. The service has been successfully operated at the Circuit of the Americas race in Austin, at the Country Music Awards in Nashville, and at the Cannes film festival in France.

Uber’s sufficiently confident in the demand for it, they even offer an annual UberChopper service from Manhattan to The Hamptons around Independence Day.

Summon Kittens

Despite the Internet’s noted affection for felines (Wired calls it the “Cat-Industrial Complex”) millions of cats sit in rehoming shelters, just waiting to be adopted.

Trying to put a dent in those figures, Uber this year added a “KITTENS!” option to its app on National Cat Day (yes, it’s a thing).

Anyone who requested it would get 15 minutes to play with an adoptable kitten, supervised with a qualified animal shelter volunteer. Uber even threw in a swag-bag, which included an Ace of Cakes cupcake, and some Uber-branded tat.

The whole cost? Thirty dollars, with all the proceeds going to local animal shelters.

The program was sharply criticized, however, for being potentially harmful to the welfare of the animals involved. One of the fiercest criticisms came from Holly Brockwell of Gadgette, who said:

“I can’t think of many things more stressful than a random person who doesn’t speak your language bundling you into a car, driving you somewhere you don’t know and handing you over to strangers you’ve never seen before, can you?

… Live baby animals are not products. They should not be available on demand like a bloody taxi.”

Of course, you can get your cat fix on any day of the year. Just check out these feline-friendly Tumblr pages and Android apps.

Cool Off with Ice Cream

Uber annually offers a promotion where you can order ice cream through the Uber app. This happens worldwide (2014 saw ice cream being offered in 144 cities over 38 countries), during the hottest times of the year.

Like the Uber rides themselves, you pay through the app, and there’s no need to tip. Quite often, the ice cream promotion is operated in conjunction with other companies. In 2015, for example, ice cream was free to anyone paying with a Capital One credit card in the United States. In the UK, everyone got free ice cream. The frozen treats were provided by Walls – one of the biggest manufacturers of ice cream in the United Kingdom.

Play Some Bop It!

Remember Bop It? Of course you do. It’s an iconic children’s toy. Let me refresh your memory.

So, what’s this got to do with Uber? Well, as it turns out, Uber is experimenting with introducing hand-held games in order to “enhance the rider experience”. Uber Partners are supposed to place them in the back of their cars. If their customers want to play with them, they can.

One Uber Driver in Charlotte, South Carolina got shipped a free Bop It, who then posted a photo of the toy, and the accompanying letter on Reddit.

Anyone who’s ever played Bop It can attest to how utterly annoying they are. Just imagine a low-bitrate voice shouting “TWIST IT! PULL IT!” over and over again at an ever increasing speed. It’s probably not a good idea to have them in a car either, due to the risk they might distract the driver.

Uber Partners who are part of the trial do have the option to not carry the toy, however. In the letter, it states:

“We don’t anticipate riders abusing or misusing the game, but should you feel uncomfortable with having the Bop It in your car for whatever reason, feel free to remove it from your vehicle. We just ask that if you do decide to remove it that you let us know”

If the mere-mention of the Bop It makes you nostalgic, check out these other geeky toys from yesteryear.

Get Married

In June 2014, Uber celebrated San Francisco’s Pride weekend by offering weddings on demand. If you wanted to get married to the man or woman you love, all you had to do is open the Uber app and request “UberWEDDING“.

If your request was accepted, Uber would then send a driver heading to your location, complete with a photographer, a videographer, a notary, and a violinist. They even provided flowers, candles, champagne, and cake. Sixty minutes after the driver arrived, you’d be married. Uber says that six different coupes took advantage of their promotion. You can see the adorable (if not slightly twee) footage below.

It didn’t stop there. They even threw in a honeymoon vacation, in partnership with HotelTonight (which we’ve written about before) and Alaska Airlines.

If you weren’t one of the lucky eight, but you still need to plan a wedding, check out these 12 essential nuptial planning websites.

Any Other Unusual Uses for Uber?

Maybe, you caught a drive with Optimus Prime. Maybe, you just moved to college in an Uber.

Or, you have just given up your car and lessened your carbon footprint. As its popularity surges across continents and it navigates through legal requirments or union protests, many more alternative uses could be in the offing. Watch out for any unique uses of Uber in your city and take advantage of them. Share your best Uber stories.

Have you found any other unusual uses for Uber? Tell me about them in the comments below!

You Can Now Try The New Creative Commons Search Engine

Creative Commons has launched a new search engine to help you find free-to-use images. CC Search, which lets you find images to use under a Creative Commons license, is currently in beta. Which means Creative Commons is actively seeking feedback from people like you.

Creative Commons already offers a search engine of sorts. However, all it really does is provide a link to other services such as Google, Flickr, and Pixabay. The new CC Search brings everything in-house, allowing you to scour multiple sources using a single interface.

You Can Now Try the New Creative Commons Search Engine creative commons search screenshot

Just One Percent of the Commons

The new CC Search is currently in beta, so Creative Commons is taking things slowly. At the time of writing, the new CC Search only covers around 10 million images, which is just one percent of the whole Creative Commons repository. The goal is to eventually cover the whole Commons.

The images you’ll currently find through the new CC Search will come from Flickr, the Rijksmuseum, the New York Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As well as letting you search for images, the new CC Search lets you share lists, add tags, and save your searches. It also offers one-click attribution.

Providing a Front Door to the Commons

Writing on the Creative Commons Blog, Ryan Merkley explained:

“The current CC search tool is accessed by nearly 600,000 people every month — but we can do better. There is no ‘front door’ to the commons, and the tools people need to curate, share, and remix works aren’t yet available. We want to make the commons more usable, and this is our next step in that direction.”

With this being a beta, Creative Commons is actively seeking feedback from interested parties. The plan is to “elicit discussion and conversation about the tool for its continued improvement,” and your comments will likely shape development of the final product. To that end, Creative Commons has created a feedback form.

Do you use images released under a Creative Commons licence? If you weren’t previously aware of Creative Commons, will you now use the new CC Search? What feedback would you give the Creative Commons developers? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: H. Michael Karshis via Flickr

Dog Dumped At The Curb After Family Moves Needs A Loving Forever Home

Poor Boo!  When his family moved, they didn’t take him with them.  Instead, they put him out to the curb with the trash that they left behind.  He was spotted lying on the mattress, just waiting for his humans to come back.

Facebook user Liz Marie was the one to come across Boo lying with the trash at the curb.  In her Facebook post, she describes how heartbroken she was just at the sight of him.  Her post came to the attention of Devin Oliver, the founder of the Detroit Youth & Dog Rescue.  He knew he had to go get him right away.

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The rescue does not have a building, and is a network of volunteers and foster homes.  Mike Diesel, another founder and volunteer with the group, took on the task of collecting Boo himself.

“He was just laying there, being his loyal self,” Diesel told The Dodo. “Pillows were still on the mattress. Being the loyal dog he was supposed to be, he waited for his master to come back.”

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It would take a long time for Boo to learn to trust.  On his first day there, Diesel spent over 10 hours with him, just allowing the abandoned dog to warm up to his presence.  Some burgers from McDonald’s helped.  The next morning, Diesel came armed with a McMuffin and hash browns, irresistible to any dog.  After that, Boo didn’t mind being collared.

“Once I got that on him, I walked him for about half an hour.  Just being right there next to him, gaining that trust. After that we sat on the ground, on a blanket, for an hour.”

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After all that breakfast and bonding, Boo allowed Diesel to pick him up and put him in his truck.

“We kind of talked to each other to make sure we understood each other’s feelings.  He knew I wasn’t going to hurt him. Then he let me pick him up.  I got him into the vehicle and we went straight to the vet.”

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He is heartworm positive and will need to be treated before being adopted.  And though it took some time to trust people again, Boo seems to be very dog-friendly!

If you think that Boo could be the dog for you, you can click here to be taken to the rescue’s website for more information.

4 Smartphone Security Risks To Be Aware Of

smartphone securityIf you’re anything like me, you’re pretty attached to your smartphone. I use mine almost constantly, checking for emails while I’m out and about; I play games on it, research work, chat, interact with social networks and enjoy videos. I also use the camera extensively to photograph family and friends.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this wide use of my handheld multimedia computer and communication device. But do you have security software installed? Are you even aware of the risks to your smartphone?

There seems to be a sort of general malaise among users – the tech savvy and everyday users alike – that because your computer fits in your pocket, it can’t be infected by malware, Trojans, worms or other threats. This is, of course, ridiculous, and perhaps stems from the age-old misunderstanding of the nature of malware transmission.

The benefits afforded to us by smartphones are immense; the threats they can introduce into our lives if left unprotected are considerable.

Threats from SMS

Remarkable as it may seem, the old school SMS text messaging service is a popular choice for rogue programmers working for hacking gangs around the world. SMS spam is bad enough, but have you considered that it might be a form of Smishing?

smartphone security

This term is used to name phishing attempts sent via SMS, and is used to fool victims into giving up personal data, perhaps to a fake delivery company. Smishing can be achieved either wholly through a return message or by being prompted to call a number where the information is recorded.

Once recorded, this information can be used to create a fake bank account.

The answer, of course, is to delete any such messages, whatever they’re offering.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Security Risks

Free Wi-Fi hotspots always look attractive, but they can prove to be both rife with malware and provided by scammers looking to capture your personal data such as passwords, credit card data and other user-identifiable information. If you find free Wi-Fi in a public place that isn’t provided by a reputable business, avoid it. Similarly, if you are using your smartphone as a mobile hotspot, make sure you have set a secure password. You should change this each time you use the hotspot feature.

Another threat is War Texting, in which smartphone-connected car systems can be hacked by sniffing the authentication codes sent from phone to car. The best outcome of this is that you are tracked; the worst is that your car is stolen, without a key.

As such systems become more popular and widespread in cars, so many more people will become targets – as things stand, few cars can be activated in this way.

Any password that you use on your phone, whether it is for unlocking, accessing voicemail or setting up Bluetooth, should be changed from the device to something memorable. Failure to do this can lead to all sorts of problems.

Location-based Threats

Thanks to wireless networks, cellphone triangulation and GPS, it is possible to take advantage of many location-based tools for smartphones and tablets. These might be sat-nav tools or social ones, but there are many threats to be aware of too.

One of these is geotagging, a default option on many smartphone apps that you should disable if you wish your current location to remain a secret.

Social network check-in features can also be used to track you. When a criminal knows your whereabouts he or she might be planning to assault you or use your absence from your home or car to cause criminal damage or theft.

The Danger of Rogue Apps

There are rogue apps on any platform. On Android they can usually be spotted pretty quickly thanks to the reviews of others (although on iPhone and Windows Phone such apps are unlikely to be permitted to be listed) but it could be too late if you’ve already installed the app. This is why you should only install apps from trusted repositories.

smartphone security apps

This can be a particular problem for Android users, mainly because there are several online marketplaces from which software can be installed. It’s no surprise that the number of threats for Android has increased over the past few years. One example is Android.Spyware.GoneSixty.Gen – discovered in 2011, this malware if installed, sends important information from your phone to a remote server and uninstalls itself within a minute.

You’ll never know it was ever there – frightening stuff.

On the subject of apps, you should also be aware that shortened URLs in Twitter and email can be dangerous. This is as important on smartphones as on desktop computers, as the resulting links can be effortlessly tailored to serve malicious code depending on the device that is connecting.

So You Want to Stay Safe?

If you would rather your smartphone or tablet didn’t become a key to steal your car, a listening or tracking device or a means to send all of your personal data to a band of criminals specializing in ID theft, there are certain steps you should take.

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  • Apply a lock-screen password. This is particularly important if you’re using a modern Android device where the drag-to-start feature looks amazing. What you should do is forget about how good it looks and how responsive it is, and employ a password.
  • Don’t Jailbreak your iPhone or root your Android. The advantages to users requiring particular types of app are excellent on a rooted device, but this process also gives access to intruders, either through apps or directly over the Internet. Many of the MakeUseOf team are fans of unlocking their phones, but this shouldn’t be done without considering the implications and taking the necessary steps for protection.
  • Avoid non-secure access points. If you’re out and about using a smartphone or tablet (or even a laptop) then you should be using either your own portable wireless access point (provided by your phone) or a secure, password protected point. Open networks can prove to be a hive of malware!
  • Avoiding untrusted apps. This is wise for several reasons, not least because the peer review on offer in online app stores is unparalleled. Google Play is a good example, and is so successful despite competing Android app stores partly because of this reason. As there is no real need to install untrusted or poorly regarded apps, avoid! Also look out for fake apps that appear to be genuine, as these can often be dangerous.
  • Employing backup tools and security software. There’s no reason anyone receiving emails and storing data on their handheld computers (as this is what smartphones essentially are!) should not have either a backup tool OR anti-malware software installed (preferably both).

Overall: Be Aware

There are plenty of threats that you should be aware of, ready to strike your phone over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SMS, from app stores or via location tracking.

Naturally, you can’t be aware of every specific threat, but with the help of the tips above you can be aware that threats exist, and that there are steps that you can take to minimize the risks.

Once you recognize this, you should act on it – and protect your smartphone, your data and your personal security.

Image Credit: Phone chatting template via Shutterstock,  PDA security via Shutterstock,  Black smartphone with eye via Shutterstock,  iPhone image via Shutterstock

Dog Killer Gets A Taste Of Her Own Medicine

 
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An Orlando woman selfishly ran errands and left her dog in her car, and by the time police arrived, it was too late to save her.  But when Jose Thomas was arrested, she found herself sitting in the back of a hot police car.

This is what the Orlando Police Department had to say on their Facebook page:

A tragic reminder of what can happen when pets are left in hot cars. Lily the dog lost her life yesterday because of her human’s carelessness. It’s not clear how long Lily was placed alone inside a crate in a car while her owner, Jose Thomas, ran errands. Officer James Falbo was dispatched to the call for a dog in a car. Bystanders had already busted the pup out of the car, but Officer Falbo, rather than wait for Animal Control to arrive on scene, rushed Lily with lights and sirens to an emergency vet.

It looked like Lily might live, but the trauma to her body was too great, and she had to be put down yesterday. OPD Captain Sue Brown paid the bill for Lily’s care.

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Jose Thomas was arrested for Cruelty to Animals, a misdemeanor. Officer Falbo believed that she did not mean to harm her dog, but nonetheless, little Lily died as a result of her actions.

This line from Officer Falbo’s report speaks volumes: “It should be noted, while Thomas was sitting in the back seat of my vehicle with the air condition on full blast and the rear windows fully opened, she stated it was really hot in the back seat. I then asked Thomas how she thinks her dog felt with the car not running and stuck inside a crate and at that time, Thomas did understand the extent of what she did.”

PLEASE remember that cars get unbearably hot very fast! Don’t leave your pets unattended in the hot Florida summer, even for a few moments.

Hopefully Thomas will have some time to think about her actions in jail.

How To Consistently Hit The Top Page Of Reddit

If you’ve spent much time posting on Reddit, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to see post after post flop. You might have posted fifteen times, only to receive three comments and five upvotes. You’ll catch yourself wondering why the hell people rave about this “Reddit” site so much.

But the blame here isn’t to be placed with Reddit.

Charles Chu is a writer, minimalist, digital nomad, and self-experimenter. He dissects high-achievers and shares his own quirky experiments in his free weekly newsletter, The Open Circle.

I started to notice that some of Charles’ Reddit posts were beginning to attract a lot more attention than most. Hundreds of upvotes and tons of discussion were attracted through two posts in particular. One on long-term travel, and one on Charles’ brutally honest time tracking routine.

Popular Reddit Post

Then when I heard that his first few posts had helped drive around 80,000 visits to his site, I needed to get in touch.

Luckily, Charles tracks and analyzes each of his experiments meticulously. Reddit was one such experiment. So, I decided to dig deep into what Charles had discovered, looking for insight into what it takes to craft a popular Reddit post that readers can’t help but engage with.

Understand Reddit Before Posting

When Reddit first launched in 2005 it was, according to blogger Sebastian Marshall, a “wellspring of nuanced, helpful, pro-social, highly analytical communities”.

As the site became more popular, however, the average quality of discussion decreased. Subreddits were spammed by marketers and people searching for nothing other than clicks to their website.

But despite Reddit becoming awash with self-promoters, it’s still the hangout of those more nuanced, helpful, analytical communities. You can see this in the popularity of helpful, relevant posts, compared to the disinterestedness and hostility toward more self-promoting posts.

Combine this with the democratic, anti-authoritarian vibe of Reddit, and you start to get a feeling for its underlying culture, and what’s more likely to resonate with the site’s more active users.

The Benefits of Posting on Reddit

During our conversation, Charles mentioned that the reason he first decided to experiment with Reddit was because he had “no network and no audience“. But he still wanted his content to provide value to people from day one. Reddit seemed to offer a solution.

With such a huge user base, and around one million individual subreddits, the ability to reach a good number of targeted people in virtually any niche is a benefit few other sites can offer. And with Reddit being “the most democratic network” Charles knew of online, the hypothesis was that “good content will always attract views”.

Choosing the Right Topic

Many posts about succeeding on Reddit will recommend finding a subreddit, researching past posts, then coming up with ideas based on what performs well in those subreddits. This highly analytical approach can understandably lead to more predictable, stagnant ideas.

Charles, however, does things differently. His filter for ideas is, “does it make me really, really excited?”. If it does, he’ll write the post. If it doesn’t, he won’t.

List of Blog Ideas
Image Credit: Owen W Brown via Flickr

This approach is based on the idea that if Charles finds the topic exciting, he’ll be able to find other people on Reddit who will be excited about it, too. And these are precisely the kind of people Charles wants to reach, provide value to, and, if his content is valuable enough, perhaps prompt to visit his site, too.

Finding the Right Subreddit

Once the idea is found, before writing a word you should aim to know exactly which subreddit you’ll be publishing the content to.

Usually, Charles will try to locate 2–5 subreddits that largely fit his content niche (there’s a subreddit for any niche). Redditlist is a good way easily see how many subscribers many subreddits have.

Reddit List Screenshot

Browse your short-list of subreddits, asking questions such as:

  • How many users are in the subreddit? (It’s easier to get to #1 in smaller subreddits, but you will receive fewer views.)
  • Is it open to linking to URLs, or are only text posts accepted?
  • What’s the overall quality of the posts like?
  • Is there a lot of spam?
  • Is it easy to find high quality discussions?

Once you’ve gone through this process, you should find it pretty easy to narrow down your shortlist to just one or two subreddits. These should be those with the highest quality posts, discussions, and active users.

The post should be crafted to perform well in this specific subreddit. To quantify this, a heuristic Charles uses is that if your post reaches #1 in a subreddit, it can potentially drive 5–10% of that subreddit to your site. As you’re starting out, aiming at subreddits with 10,000–150,000 subscribers will be more achievable.

Some people may feel the urge to post their content to many subreddits. But Charles believes that many users in a single niche will check most of the relevant subreddits anyway. Posting to all of these will therefore have diminishing returns, so he prefers to publish to just one or two (though he has not experimented with this in detail).

Analyzing the Subreddit

The last step Charles takes before writing his post is to research the kind of posts that perform well in his chosen subreddit. This will guide the angle and structure of his own content to give it the best chance of success.

To do this, he filters the subreddit to show the top posts from the last year.

Filtering Reddit

These top performing posts will then be displayed in descending order. Go through a good number of these, asking questions such as:

  • What kind of content does well? Are these informative, graphics, stories, etc.?
  • Are there any common themes?
  • What topics seem to generate a lot of discussion?
  • Are personal or more “corporate” headlines preferred?

When doing this yourself, as you start noticing trends among these popular posts, it’ll help you structure your own post in a way that’s more likely to succeed in this particular subreddit.

For instance, you may learn that your idea will be more popular if it’s displayed as a graphic, or written up as a personal story. You may even get an idea of how long your post should be.

To go back to what was mentioned earlier, the aim is for this research to guide the structure and angle of your post, not necessarily to dictate the idea you’re trying to convey.

Crafting the Post

When it comes to crafting the post, Charles usually likes to do this so that the content is posted directly onto Reddit, instead of simply posting a link.

This is partly because “the best readers (in my opinion) are in subreddits that don’t allow direct linking or personal promotion“. Plus, “it’s easier to put yourself in the top 1% of quality for a subreddit if you write a text post. It shows people you are a human, and that you have a personal story”.

The quantity and quality of comments on a text post is also much higher, offering you the chance to include other links to relevant content in response to the conversation that happens on the post itself.

With that in mind, the body of the post should be crafted to provide as much value as possible. For this, Charles abides by what he calls the 10x Rule. “If I’m not providing 10x as much value as I’m asking for, don’t do it”. You should be aiming to offer content that’s better than 99% of the other content on that subreddit.

This means you’re going to have to put in some work. With each of Charles’ top performing Reddit posts, he’s spent a good few hours working on each one, with a healthy amount of time spent editing the post to make it as concise as possible.

And when you do ask for something in return (say, a click to your website), keep the link relevant, so that clicking on it will provide even more contextual value to the reader, rather than just pointing to your home page.

Reddit Post Formatting

Finally, don’t forget formatting. Although Reddit doesn’t allow much in this regard “try to use bold and bullet points to let readers scan more easily”.

Crafting a Worthy Headline

It’s your headline that’s going to entice people to actually click on your post, so think carefully about this. Your initial research should have already shown which kind of headlines do well in your subreddit of choice, so use this as your guide.

But you should also aim to have a healthier understanding of how headlines work. For this, Charles recommends reading Copyblogger’s Copywriting 101 and Tim Ferriss’ article on the subject.

Generally speaking, more personal headlines do well (so try using personal pronouns like I, you, me, he, she, us, them, etc.), while also promising additional value inside the post. Headlines like “X Ways to Do Y” perform pretty poorly, though there will be some subreddits where they do well.

Engaging With Your Readers

It’s not just good etiquette to respond to any comments on your Reddit post. When people are scanning a subreddit and see a post with lots of comments, they will be more likely to click through to see what all the fuss is about. Your own comments and replies contribute to that number, too.

There are other benefits on top of this. As mentioned, the ensuing conversation will give you opportunities to link to other pieces of content you’ve published. This all helps to establish yourself as an expert in the field (if that’s what you want). You’ll probably come away with lots of ideas for other posts you could write, too.

Reddit Comments

Another benefit is that all of your comments are visible when people check out your Reddit profile. All of this interaction will prevent other users from thinking you only push your own content. This makes them far more friendly when you do publish your own content because they can see that you’ve provided plenty of value to the community in the past.

It’s All an Experiment

There is, of course, more than one way to skin a cat. What’s covered in this article is how Charles has managed to see some impressive success during his short time using Reddit. It’s this approach that has driven tens of thousands of visits to his site.

Fortunately for us, his strategy is pretty easy to replicate by anyone who wishes to do so, and so you could use it too, to have your content seen by a large number of interested readers.

Let us know how you get on in the comments. And if you have any other tips for succeeding on Reddit, please share them!

Well-aged: Oldest Traces Of Italian Wine Discovered

The oldest traces of Italian wine have been discovered in a cave in Sicily, researchers announced.

Wine residues were found on a large ceramic jar that was stored nearly 6,000 years ago in the caverns of a cult site known as Monte Kronio.

Archaeologists can use chemical analysis on seemingly empty vessels to detect residues of ancient food and drink. In recent years, researchers have discovered residues ranging from beer-making by-products on 5,000-year-old Chinese pottery to 7,500-year-old milk fat still clinging to prehistoric cheese strainers found in Poland. [Photos: Ancient Beer Recipe Discovered in 'Cradle of Chinese Civilization']

For the study in Sicily, researchers looked for residues on large ceramic storage jars located at Monte Kronio and another prehistoric archaeological site, Sant'Ippolito hill. Monte Kronio, a limestone hill that juts out near Sicily's southwest coast, is famous for its network of hydrothermal caves. Because of steam rising from underground volcanic activity, the galleries are hot and extremely humid, with the air temperature hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). People have flocked to the caves for their curative, spa-like effects since the Neolithic era.

"In prehistory, the cave was used as a cult place," study leader Davide Tanasi, an archaeologist at the University of South Florida, told Live Science, adding that a jar of wine could have been placed inside as an offering.

Tanasi and his Italian colleagues detected one of the main acids in wine, tartaric acid, and its sodium salt in a pottery sample from Monte Kronio.

"The archaeological implications of this new data are enormous, especially considering that the identification of wine [is] the first and earliest-attested presence of such product in an archaeological context in Sicily," Tanasi and colleagues wrote in the study, published online Aug. 12 in the Microchemical Journal. Wine production in Italy was previously thought to have developed about 2,000 years later, during the Bronze Age, the researchers said.

Though the discovery might be the oldest trace of wine in Italy, it's not the oldest in the world. Researchers think wine-making got its start in the Near East around 9,000 years ago. Wine residue has been found on 7,000-year-old pottery from Hajji Firuz Tepe, a Neolithic village in Iran. Archaeologists have also found 6,100-year-old wine-making equipment along with withered grape vines and seeds in a cave in Armenia.

Original article on Live Science.