Caution: Beware of Fireballs

are there any regular readers out there?  anyone who might know about the whole upstart blogger and twitter/genesis rocket debacle?  a few?  well, good.  if not, check the archives for a refresher.

the short story is that over the last year i followed, became entangled with, and then uncovered all sorts of unsavory things about mister ashley morgan and his blog upstart blogger, about which i’m writing a book.  the sad thing is that i actually learned a lot about blogging in the process, but the downside is that he’s a scam artist and one of his cons is/was Twitter/Genesis Rocket, about which i wrote, then purchased, then exposed as a scam and a recipe for how to create a twitter spam account.  the good news is, i can’t imagine this new thing works anymore given twitter’s increasing crackdown on spammers, but the bad news is, no one’s told mister morgan, and he’s back at it again.

it came to my attention today when i suddenly saw two incoming links from comments i’d posted on upstart blogger from august and september 2009 on my wp-stats page.  given they weren’t there yesterday (and they weren’t, i’ve been checking since my traffic suddenly peaked with my post about the “test it and keep it” ipad scam).  i scanned the post for any link to me and saw that it was just my old comments.  but something else had changed on the posts.  he’s gone through, more than once, all the posts on upstart blogger replacing “twitter rocket” with “genesis rocket” and then “twitter rockstar” and then some other crap i can’t even remember, but this time he’s done the switcheroo again and the new name is “twitter fireball.”  (anyone following his blog will know there’s been a fire theme of late.)

let me make this as plain as possible:

Twitter Fireball is nothing more than a rebranded version of Twitter Rocket.

this is obvious when you consider that the promotional copy written about Twitter Fireball is almost identical to the copy for Twitter Rocket, then Genesis Rocket, with a few minor modifications here and there.

Twitter Rocket is a scam.  the method itself is not a scam, it works fine — it works fine, that is, if your goal is to build a zombie following of marketers and other spammers and add no value whatsoever to twitter or the blind hordes of followers you’ve raked up from the depths of twitter sludge.  no, the scam is the air of legitimacy that Twitter Rocket, and then Genesis Rocket given to it by the author and his untouchable PageRank 7.

Twitter Fireball is the latest attempt at reaching the success and level of income (at the expense of hundreds, if not thousands of marks — myself included) that he tasted briefly at the height of Twitter Rocket (before he got hit by EMI lawyers by posting about Lilly Allen and, simultaneously, have several of his own twitter accounts suspended for suspicious activity).

run far and fast.

after posting a half-hearted apology for some of what he had been caught doing the first time around, he’s trying to build up the empire again.  scrolling down to the bottom of the Twitter Fireball page, you’ll see that it’s an “upstart fireball” product.  (sound familiar?)  a google search for “upstart fireball” brought a wordpress site running the default theme on (his twitter name du jour is @morgansonic). currently has all the content from that has to do with making money, and — as far as i can tell from a brief scan — not much else.  the tagline is “making money since 2009.”  the intent is fairly obvious.  this is going to be the hub.  he’s setting it up and he hasn’t launched it yet. itself is being parked currently, but, having dug up all kinds of dirt on him back in december and january (that being the pretext to my book), i recognize the parking page as being a domain registrar he’s used in the past.

let me say it again: Twitter Fireball is a scam.  Do not purchase Twitter Fireball.  If you want to be a spammer, fine, whatever, by all means give ashley your $97.  twitter will deal with you eventually.  if you have any intention of using twitter for what it is — a social network and communication platform — run far, far away.

and, ashley, i know you’re reading this.  don’t think i’ve stopped working on the book.  i would just like to say thank you — this adds more fuel to the fire with which i can complete it.  fireball indeed.

honesty wins more friends than enemies

since posting my rant the other day about twitter, and the products/methods/ebooks that pump up your follower count at any cost, one thing’s become clear to me: honesty wins more friends than enemies.  this should be fairly obvious, but apparently, to some, it’s not.  just take a look at the comments on this post and the variety of posts by “different authors” that were all actually written by the same person.  as allison mentioned, there’s only so much deception one person can take before the masquerade is exposed, and those that were tricked into believing it made very angry.

on the other hand, by being honest about my experience, the first comment i received was from someone i’ve followed for a long time, who’s sort of a social media guru.  i got a snarky link back in the header of twitter rocket dot com (as well as a compliment on my design, thanks @nearjones ;), and a blog post written about my rant, by the person who’s been following this particular con job for a long time.  my post also appears to be floating around stumbleupon and friendfeed.  in short, i’ve gotten more legitimate attention by not using spammy tools or methods than i ever did by using them.

score one point for transparency.

How not to use Twitter

I’m done.  Seriously, I’ve had it.  I’m done with the lies and the hype and the spam and the spin doctoring.  I’m done with “twitter methods” that promise thousands of followers and fame and fortune and all they really deliver is spam, affiliate marketing, and zombies – the precise thing they claim to avoid.

You want to ruin any desire you had to ever use twitter for what it is – a microblogging, communication platform?  Here’s what you do:

Spam RocketStep 1 – find some kind of site, network, ebook, method, scam, or tool that requires you to auto-follow people who follow you.  It doesn’t matter what site, network, ebook, method, scam, or tool you choose.  There’s plenty to choose from.  Some are free, and some are $97.  This is the single best way to crap up your twitter account.

Now why would I say it craps up your account?  Isn’t it required to send Direct Messages to people on twitter to follow them?  Doesn’t that hinder communication?

You want to know what hinders communication?  Not being able to read the stuff that I actually wanted to read to begin with.  Having to dig through line after line after line of bile I don’t care about, and retweeted links I saw 2 hours ago.  Having to filter through teeth whitening, and auto-fed links from Google Alerts that probably the twitter user in question hasn’t even read.  You want to know what hinders communication?  Being auto-DM’d shite links for more affiliate crap, scams, networks, ebooks, tools, and twitter methods that require me to join their network or buy their book.  Not being able to even look at my own DMs and creating a rule in Outlook to auto-delete all DMs that aren’t a message from TrueTwit to verify my identity, because the alternative is hundreds of emails a day for garbage I don’t care about.  That hinders communication.  Not able to send a DM?  @mention me and deal.

That brings me to Step 2 on how to ruin your twitter experience.

Step 2 – Auto DM your new followers.  What better way to make your twitter experience miserable than to spread some misery of your own?  Here’s a clue: no one likes auto-DMs.  The whole world of twitter has turned into a den of con-jobs, marketers, and spam, and the whole auto-DM thing basically ruins Direct Messaging as a whole.  The solution?  Stop following stupid people.  I propose that from now on, anyone who auto-DMs anyone else is instantly unfollowed.  Honestly, I don’t care what you have to say if what you have to say is forced on me in a Direct Message.  Now, some people just say Hi in an auto-DM, and those people I may be able to tolerate.  Maybe.  But if there’s [co]http://anythingatall[de] I don’t care, you go into the fecking trash bin.  If I followed you, probably I looked at your home url and thought you were cool, but if you are going to send me the same url I already know – or worse, send me your affiliate coded link to whatever-the-crap you’re selling – you’re on a fast track to my shit list.  And honestly, I should make a shit list, now that twitter’s added lists…

Step 3 – follow a whole bunch of people you don’t really care about.  Now why would you do this?  Simple: because some twitter method told you to.  Or because some site or network that guarantees hundreds or even thousands of followers requires it.  If you don’t care what they have to say, why bother?  So what’s the definition of “someone you don’t really care about”?  Well, one trick is to go into someone’s follower list who you do care about, and follow all of their recent followers.  You know nothing about any of these people, whether they’re robots, humans, porn, or spam, you just click click clickety-click through page after page after page until you’ve capped out your maximum number of users you can follow in a day.  Effing fantastic, sounds like a great way to waste a half hour.  While you’re at it, you might as well try to scoop out your eyeballs with a spoon, pour some mustard on them, and eat them for breakfast for all the good either of those things will do you.

Here’s the thing: twitter is all about communication and sharing.  At its best, it opens up a channel to communicate globally about topics you’re interested in, with people you would never have known about otherwise.  As such, it comes down to Dunbar’s number: 150.  You honestly can’t keep up with a whole lot more than 150 people and have a real, engaging, two-way dialog with those people.  It’s been proven in studies that Facebook users with hundreds of friends really only actually keep in touch with a small handful.  Our brain just can’t handle relationships in excess of  a few dozen.

So, with twitter, if you are following a ton of people, into the thousands, your twitter stream becomes an unreadable landfill of refuse that never ends.  There’s no conversation, only chaos, and amidst the chaos is spam and ads and affiliate marketing and crap.  Sure, about 50% of those thousands of people (maybe more, but it’s always been roughly 1:2 when I’ve tested this theory) will give you a reciprocal follow, but who cares?  It’s just a number, it doesn’t mean anything.  Most of those reciprocal follows are from auto-following zombies like you’ve made yourself into.

There are those that will say that the numbers mean everything.  That it’s all about the numbers, and the content doesn’t even matter.  That once you hit a magic twitter number, say 10,000, you’re set.  You can advertise anything, blog anything, sell anything, and have enough people click it that you can make a decent living off it.  Even if only 1% of your followers click on your links or ads, that 1% still amounts to 100 people, and that still equates to a lot of traffic/money.

The reality is this theory is bullshit.

No, really, it’s bullshit.

I say this as someone who’s tested and used one of these fabulous “twitter methods” for several months.  Let me give you a little comparison.  I have our business website [ap].  [ap] has a twitter account @ArcanePalette.  I ran through the steps of setting up the “twitter method” on @ArcanePalette for about a week and stopped shy of adding 1000+ people to follow.  I probably got to 800 or so that I was following, and quit.  I left the account sit, and gradually the follower (and following) numbers exceeded 1000 because I was doing reciprocal follows.  The twitter stream was unreadable, but it didn’t matter because I had other accounts (namely @jazzs3quence) that I actually read.  I didn’t pay much attention to who ended up following @ArcanePalette.

On the other side I set up several different twitter accounts that all ultimately directed to  At the beginning, they were pointing to the home page, and then later they were directing traffic to specific pages reviewing (with my fabulous affiliate link embedded) aforementioned “twitter method”.  In total, I only set up about 4 or 5 accounts but I got each one to 1000 followers before moving on and creating a new account.  I tried every trick that all of the supporters of the “twitter method” said to do: automated tweets with my affiliate link to sell copies of it, automated tweets by feeding links via twitterfeed, I even made myself sound important like I was actually getting sales (although never actually lying and saying it outright.  I’m sure some will say that was my problem).  With 1 account at over 3000 followers, 3 accounts at over 1000 followers each, and 1 account with several hundred (because I stopped mid-week) all pumping links and ads and trackbacks to my site, you’d think that eventually I’d get a single affiliate sale.  Nope.  Not a one.  If there are people with 10,000 followers saying they can make hundreds or even thousands of dollars a day getting 9 or 10 sales everyday, you’d assume with a combined total nearing 7,000 followers that I’d get at least one.  In six months.

It’s a lie: no one’s selling anything. Or not at the scale they say they are.

And what do I get in return?  At first, just looking at numbers, I compared the growth of my twitter followers to the increase in traffic to my blog.  I figured, even if the sales didn’t come, whatever, I’m not a salesman and I don’t want to be.  But traffic is good both for my site and [ap], and if it helped to generate traffic to either of those places, then that would help me/us get a higher Google PageRank (secret: it didn’t).  Sure, the hits to my blog increased steadily, roughly in line with the twitter numbers.  But on the other hand, there’s @ArcanePalette, doing none of the spam, only occasional autofed (and dare I say relevant) design links from blogs I follow and respect, and then a feed for new posts on our website.  [ap] gets more traffic by a significant margin by using none of the sneaky tricks to grab people from twitter.  Sure, twitter is one of the biggest sources of links to, but the average time on the site is generally under a minute, wheras the average time on ranges from 4-9 minutes.  The majority of people who land on couldn’t give a crap about me or my site, not really, regardless of how I got them there, so that increase in numbers really just amounts to two things: Jack. Shit.  (I guess that really counts as just one thing.)  if I get 50% or more of my traffic to from twitter, but all of it is just a brief glance, wheras I get actual, quality traffic from Google, design sites, and various other places (including, occasionally, twitter), then I could care less about the 30 second traffic from twitter, I really could.

Sure, there might be some great people in the midst of the hundreds of people a day I’m meant to follow according to the “twitter method” but how would I ever know?  Only luck would allow me to actually notice one of their tweets in between and “whiten your teeth now”.

I’m not the first person to say that automatically reciprocating all follows is a bad idea.  And probably, if all you want to do is set up hundreds of twitter accounts selling affiliate products and cumulatively generating thousands of links, a fraction of a percentage of which actually result in sales, then using one of these wonderful twitter methods is great for you.  But if you actually want to use twitter as a social networking application, engage with people, & learn things you didn’t know before, then following someone else’s rules for how to use twitter is a surefire way to make you hate everything about twitter and not use it the way it was meant to be used.

And how is it meant to be used?  However the hell you want to use it.  the rules are there are no rules.  It’s like a dance – it’s a fledgling technology that has adapted to the way the users have used it and the users adapt to the changes the technology implements based on how it’s used.

Take it from someone who went around the block and finally came back home and wondered what the fuck was I thinking? If I’m doomed to obscurity with this blog because I didn’t completely sell out and start posting porn to boost my traffic numbers, then into obscurity I go.  I’ve got better things to do than to waste another minute on one guy’s dream to put more cash into his own pocket at any cost.

Looking for an affiliate program that sucks?

twitter schoolbus: some tricks i’ve found

since i first started the twitter schoolbus experiment, the goal was to create a system that compared with twitter rocket for getting followers.  eventually, i discovered that my method was slow and took a lot of time to build a steady following. at least in theory, twitter rocket could build that following in about half the time.  in particular, it took me about 2 weeks to gain 500 followers on twitter — which was no small feat for me — but it was a time-consuming process.  there had to be a better way.  there is, twitter rocket is a better way.

without revealing all the methodology, i will say that it’s a multi-pronged system that builds your followers using a unique approach each day, to gain followers both in your niche, as well as slightly out of it, to create a well-rounded following.  if you want to use twitter to read people’s updates, and tweet off your own musings, twitter rocket is not for you.  if you want to use it to grow and promote your business, it is.

for myself, twitter rocket has made the process i go through each day much shorter, and automated (yes, i realize that that’s a bad word, but i’ll get to that later) a lot of the stuff i was doing manually.  and the result?  exponentially more followers.  just check out this graph pulled from a screencap from TweetCounter:

twitter-schoolbus1you can see, that, especially in the last few days after building up momentum, my following has increased by multitudes.  i’ve been seriously impressed — the only remaining question is how many of these people really care about what i have to say and how many are just following back.  i don’t know.   but i do know that page hits to this site have gotten a major bump, too, and so have my recent posts, so, that says something.

but this isn’t an advertisement for twitter rocket (it isn’t?).  it’s an addendum, and some tricks for those peeps that haven’t bought it.  see, i haven’t entirely abandoned the twitter schoolbus experiment, and there are some things i’ve found that i like a lot better than some of the things prescribed in twitter rocket.  so here are some of my tweaks and tricks:

finding people to follow

the key to getting followers is to follow people.  a lot of them will follow back.  as long as you find people who may be interested in stuff you are actually interested in, they will actually benefit from what you have to offer and share your tweets and links.

twitterholic sucks for finding people.  unless you’re looking for the top-ranked twitter users, which are essentially useless to follow.  as are their followers.  saying you follow @theellenshow is like saying you breathe.  i’ve been using wefollow.  you have to list yourself in wefollow (you have to list yourself in just about any other directory), but it’s fairly commonly accepted by most tweeps, and does let you search by tag.

then there’s geofollow.  that’s a great tool for finding people in your geographic location.  the interface is slow, however.  you can pull up people in your geographic location in twitterholic because it pulls the top ranking accounts (in which you’ll find me!), so it can be good for that.

another tool i just discovered is klout.  it’s slow to update their stats (about once a week), and it doesn’t index everyone automatically, but when it does, there’s a multitude of information available to you, including you it thinks you’re influenced by (fairly accurate), and, if you’re a major player, who you influence.  there’s also a stats page that ranks how you’re doing, in what areas you’ve been improving, and what you can do to be more of a twitter “persona”.  you can also compare twitter accounts.  check out my profile on klout for an example.  i really like it.  by going into the profiles of people that influence you, and the people who influence them, you can build your following list outward by checking out who follows them and who they follow.  it’s a great way to find new people and see where they are in relation to you and your favorite twitter moguls.

then there’s what started the twitter schoolbus experiment — twitter search.  i still maintain that using twitter search to find tweets in your area of interest is a great way to find people interested in the same things you are.  just be careful if your area of interest is “wordpress” — because of, and some people don’t know about url shorteners, you get a lot of results to people’s blogs.  that may be fine if you’re just looking for people who like and/or use wordpress, but less so if you’re looking for wordpress developers or designers (in which case, possibly following @hashwp or @hashwordpress may be better, or checking those results on

so you want to automate your tweets

besides the obvious, why would you want to automate your tweets? it takes a lot of the work (searching for relevant articles or tweets) out of sharing links that are relevant to your topic.  and there are tools (like twitterfeed) that will take an rss feed and pump it into your twitter stream.  a common method for creating a good feed for twitterfeed is google alerts.  but i’ve found that, for me, google alerts sucks.  it pulls random crap from all over the internet that i find uninteresting and…random.  probably with the perfect combination of search terms i could make things more relevant, but i really don’t care.  i would rather use specific sources i trust anyway.

so, my method is to build a single rss feed for a collection of similar types of sites, and the way i do this is through feedweaver.  feedweaver takes disparate rss feeds that you define and mashes them up into a single rss feed.  you can even filter each feed individually by tag or topic.  this way, i know that not only are my automated tweets coming from sources i trust, but also, they are things that i’m genuinely interested in.  and because twitterfeed is sending out new tweets as the articles appear, the content is always fresh — you won’t get old links that everyone’s seen already.

obviously (unless you want to look like a news-streaming robot), you still want to tweet your own stuff as well, and it always looks better to continue to RT other people’s tweets and links.  also, i don’t like to post a whole bunch of stuff at the same time, so i stagger my links in twitterfeed so that they don’t tweet on the same schedule.  another way to build in some automation (to a point) is using socialoomph (formerly tweetlater).  at first, i felt like tweetlater had a bad rep for being solely responsible for the auto-dm spam i get, and other junk, spam twitter accounts.  the truth is, after using it, that there’s a lot of useful features in there if there’s a human behind the wheel.  and i don’t use the auto-dm feature.  mostly i use it to tweet things…later.  you can schedule tweets for an hour, a week, a month, or any day you want.  this way you can still post something that you want to tweet, but don’t want to tweet right after you just tweeted something else.

that’s what i’ve got so far.  hopefully these tricks help you, too.  and remember to follow me on twitter!