Jaded

Mark’s blog (my blogging buddy for postaday/postaweek) got over 1,000 pageviews on his blogging buddy post which was featured on Freshly Pressed (the front page of WordPress.com).

I’d like to be excited for him, but having seen this sort of meteoric rise in traffic on a single post in the past (one that’s actually not as fresh as the “Freshly Pressed” moniker implies) on this site, I know that a few things are likely to happen:

He will gain a few regular subscribers and readers.  This will probably last a few days to a week before most of them eventually drop off.  Some will stay and possibly be relatively loyal.  The rest was probably really more interested in the “blogging buddy” and “post every day in 2011” thing and when they realize that’s not the primary subject matter of the blog, they’ll hit the road.

That’s what I’ve seen happen in the past when a single post is taken out of context from the rest of the blog and pushed into the spotlight.  Some blogs make it their entire goal to suck up as much instant traffic as possible to increase their Google rankings, so they post controversial topics or use titles that grab your attention.  I have 3 posts that regularly bring the minimal amount of traffic this site gets on average.

  1. MusicIP Mix handles huge mp3 libraries better than WinAmp [Abandonware] – This gets hits because the WinAmp Playlist Generator is broken and I have a download for an alternative.  Really, I think, it’s mostly for the download, which I got from another member on the WinAmp forums.  Because it’s in the realm of stuff I generally post about, I’m actually fairly happy that this gets a steady stream of people finding it and I think the plugin is useful even if I’ve ultimately gotten completely fed up with WinAmp and switched to iTunes.
  2. Borderlands: Gun Porn – This gets traffic for 2 reasons: “borderlands” and “porn”.  Since posting this, I get all sorts of traffic particularly for “borderlands siren porn” or “borderlands siren nude.”  I’m happy to say, they leave disappointed.  But then, I could always just direct them to free sexy babe photos.  It doesn’t matter that the content of the post is my review of the game — the hits I get to the post are looking for porn.
  3. Scam Alert: “Testers needed to test the Apple iPad” – testitandkeepit.com – This is a scam I stumbled upon when a web design client sent an email to my personal email address (i.e. not the business one I use for communication with clients) inviting me to a program to test an iPad.  It was obvious from reading the email that he didn’t write it, and I did some digging to uncover what I could about it and expose it.  This blog is not that sort of consumer watch-type blog where I expose scams on a regular basis, so that this gets the most traffic on average (corresponding with when another instance or version of the scam crops up) sort of leaves me with ill feelings.  To be fair, I did more for SEO in the title and the post than I would for just about anything else because the point was to grab traffic from people looking into whether this was legit.  But my 1,000+ hit day came from this post and it is not my regular fare.

There’s actually one other post that gets a fair amount of traffic which is In-Place Windows 7 RC downgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium — however, why I still get traffic to that post when Windows 7 RC is long since expired is a bit of a mystery.  The point is that the posts on this site that get hits are about a thing and I don’t often write about things, so it’s annoying to me to see those get so much more attention than, say, this one will ultimately get.  So, I see this whole explosion over the “Freshly Pressed” Blogging Buddy post to be fortuitous but ultimately temporary.  It would be nice if some of the traffic both of us get out of Mark’s exposure on Freshly Pressed sticks around, and I do think some of it will.  (About 1% of the people who have hit his blog have clicked over here.) But people on the internet have short attention spans and The Long Tail rules — unless you’re Seth Godin, the majority of traffic to your site will be based on keyword searches, so it will be some random post in the past that may or may not even be relevant to the original search that draws traffic to your site as opposed to your stellar personality or writing style.

Of course, as the post title suggests, after nine years of keeping a blog and watching the traffic ebb and flow and — occasionally — spike, I’ve become jaded.  I’ve watched newbie bloggers immerse themselves in a community they helped build and, in less time than it took to build this blog up, get more hits in a day than I get in a week.  And I’ve watched established bloggers drag their blog into the sewer.  I’m probably not as bitter on the subject as I sound, I’ve just given up trying to be the popular kid and never cease to be amazed when I see more than 12 people subscribing to my feed.

Now that you’ve gotten this far, I urge you to read TheBoyEllis’ reaction to all the hub-bub yesterday which is much more inspirational and positive than mine.  I actually feel a little sheepish for being such a dick.  But that’s what a real blog is all about, right?  It’s human, it’s personal, it’s real.  If you’re having a bad day, or think something is stupid, you say it.  As much as I like and frequent the ever-present “blog with a topic” (WordPress blog, design blog, news blog, tech blog, etc.), the lack of personality and human connection is tiring.  I might avoid writing about myself as much as I can, oh ye dozen readers, but I promise you that I will be honest with what I do write.  Maybe by the end of this year you’ll see me spilling my guts.  Let’s hope not.  It gets messy.

A slow day?

For those that haven’t noticed it yet, upstartblogger.com has taken yet another turn. Remember the old tagline of the site?  If you don’t, I’ll remind you: Successful blogging made simple. As it turns out, successful blogging just isn’t simple.  There’s all these acronyms you need to know about, like HTTP — what the hell is […]

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 jazzsequence.com.  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 jazzsequence.com, but the average time on the site is generally under a minute, wheras the average time on arcanepalette.com ranges from 4-9 minutes.  The majority of people who land on jazzsequence.com 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 jazzsequence.com 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 br.it.ney fu.ck.ed 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?

rise above

[audio:RiseAbove.mp3]

so i had this long post all ready to run based on some stuff i discovered through clicking around a certain blogger’s twitter feed.  it became the fictionalized story of two like-minded neophyte bloggers who came to the blogging world from an altogether different online world — the online porn industry.  they both had similar stories of how they shared their names with notorious porn stars and somehow both found twitter rocket.  (all the above is actually true, the story that i wove from those details was fictional, albeit not entirely unlikely.)  needless to say, i didn’t run that story or  you’d be reading it now.  and i’m not gonna.

i decided i don’t care.  so what if a couple of former porn stars are using twitter rocket — that’s not the part that bugs me.  the part that bugs me is people being deliberately deceptive as a marketing technique.  sure, i get that marketing is all about little white lies, but being associated with it leaves a foul taste in my mouth.  i, too, am using a product that people are promoting by being deceptive.

it’s like, oh i don’t know, going to someone else’s blog and using it as a forum to make yourself look good and genuine and discredit the blog author.  going to someone’s blog for the sole purpose of discrediting them, and doing so repeatedly, is distasteful.  doing so deliberately to drive traffic back to your site or link is even more so.  but that’s exactly what @blogginghannah did.  she got her start by going to popular pro-blogger darren rowse‘s site and deliberately posting inflammatory comments to get attention.  sure it works.  it did exactly what she intended it to do — drove traffic to her site, where she posted a long article about how problogger was a swindle.  it’s distasteful.  but then, i come from the old school days of the net where you’d go to alt.topic.whatever and read 90% flame war and 10% real content.  i got myself flamed on alt.society.gothic by asking the incredibly controversial question (for a research paper) “what is goth?”  (the word kindergoth was flung at me.)

what’s worse is people who do the same thing — target a blog and then post inflammatory comments to drive traffic back to your link — but they don’t post their own website, they use an affiliate link.  it’s worse because you aren’t even giving people the benefit of judging you by your opinions, what else you have to say, you’re just throwing an ad in their face.  i don’t like junk mail, i don’t like rick rolls, and that, to me, seems likes the two things combined.  call it a junk roll.  it’s rubbish. it might work, but it’s lame.  especially when the blog you’re commenting on has no real value for generating traffic to your link.

it reminded me of this song by black flag.  i am chosing to rise above that level of name-calling and attention-grabbing, not adding to the misrepresentation.  it’s easy for me to get drawn into that, and i am guilty of being baited, but the best thing to do is to ignore it and it will go away, and remember what henry rollins said:

Jealous cowards try to control
Rise above
We’re gonna rise above
They distort what we say
Rise above
We’re gonna rise above
Try and stop what we do
Rise above
When they can’t do it themselves

We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it’s no use

what can’t they do? provide content of any real value.  rise above, we’re gonna rise above.

the secret to making money online is there is no secret

seriously, there is no secret.  it’s just critical mass.

why is upstart blogger doing so well? because he has traffic.  lots of it.  and he has minions.  far-reaching minions that sell his product for him.  it’s great, almost unheard-of, that his affiliates make 50% commission off each sale of Twitter Rocket — that puts each minion in a great position to make a lot of money fast if they’re a good salesperson.  but as much as each individual minion makes, ashley morgan makes more — because he gets the other 50% from each sale every one of his minions make.  and that’s what pisses everyone who’s not in the club off.  he’s perceived to be sitting on his ass, doing nothing, meanwhile he’s making a killing because he has people doing his selling for him.

well, i doubt he’s actually just sitting on his ass, no matter how great the hardware that his ass is encased in may be.  if he stopped blogging today, the Twitter Rocket sales would taper off and die.  the timeline for that is probably pretty long, but eventually, no one would know what Twitter Rocket was anymore, what Upstart Blogger was, and it would fade away like every other internet flash mob.  and it’s true — every one of his most bitter critics are embittered because they want to be where he is.  i include myself in this category.

i just spent the last 2 weeks working my ass off, without taking a single day off (something we vowed never to do after i left WF), to get a huge project done by its deadline for two grand.  now, granted our prices are much lower than they should be — but we’re still trying to establish ourselves in a specific niche and in so doing, can’t charge $10k for a site like this one.  yet.  hannah says she can make that in one day?  yeah, i want to be right there.  i’ll be blunt — i have very little respect for hannah as a blogger.  but i’ll give her one thing — if she’s not a fictional character (fairly unlikely), if she’s not lying (possible, but probably not the case) or exaggerating (even more possible, especially for a teenager), and she can make that kind of cash, she’s right: her a levels are kind of pointless.

(note to those of us not in the UK: a levels are half the equivalent of SAT/ACT/AP tests, and half like high school exit exams or college entrance exams — doing well on your A Levels means you are guaranteed a spot in a good school.  doing badly means you’re not, and a lot of people who do badly on their A Levels end up not going to college at all, and instead take on more remedial or manual jobs.  it’s almost like an enforced intellectual caste system where the A Level exams determine what caste you will be in.  “caste system” may be a bit harsh, but you get the idea — if you do badly on your SATs, you can still get into a pretty good school if your grades and other stuff are in place.  I got an 1150, which, while not horrible, wasn’t anywhere near what my friends in my AP English class were getting, and yet i went to a private university and a highly specialized program that let me develop my own major.  of course, the other side of the coin in the uk is that not everyone goes to college like they do here — it’s not nearly as expected, which may be related to the fact that college education — up until a few years ago — was free.  anyway, i’m getting off on a tangent — these are things i learned when i studied abroad for a semester at the university of east anglia.)

i don’t particularly credit hannah with an overabundance of brains.  it’s mostly to do with her age — i was stupid, too at 17.  at 17, i was trying to find my writing voice, and more than likely i, too, would start a verbal war over the internet with an arch-nemesis.  what hannah has is a huge following, everything else falls along the wayside.  reading her twitter stream is like watching an 8 hour infomercial, but it doesn’t matter — because she has 10,000 followers.  let’s do some math:  if 1% of her followers clicked on one of her links to Twitter Rocket and bought a copy, that would be 100 sales — $4,700.  the actual results are more like 0.1% if she’s getting 10 sales a day.  and you know what? part of the reason i am willing to believe that Twitter Rocket does what it says is because i have little respect for hannah.  because if she can do it — a young, occasionally volatile, inexperienced and untrained neophyte blogger with no formal education past high school — and make that much cash reselling it, then anyone can.  and so i’m leaning back on the Twitter Rocket side of the camp.  except…

it’s one thing to say microsoft is evil.  microsoft makes a ton of money.  they spend a ton of money on making their products so ubiquitous that they are household names.  they’ve done some potentially ruthless things to become the single most recognized name in technology (at least for a while). ask any schmoe to name a single company in IT and it’s probably 50/50 between microsoft and google.  but microsoft is also a large company, with a lot of employees.  all that cash doesn’t go into bill gates’ pockets and it never did.  and i doubt there are as many people talking about microsoft right now as twitter rocket.  now, one may say that you could look at twitter rocket affiliates as employees paid on a commission basis — a very good commission.  but twitter rocket has just crowdsourced its’ advertising.  even salespeople on commission still make hourly wages.  it’s as if, rather than spend a penny on marketing, microsoft put all that money directly into one person’s pocket (and, look it up — microsoft spends a ton of money on marketing, especially now that they are still trying to re-legitimize their name since their antitrust case in the 90s and with Windows 7) and they gave their customers to opportunity to make a bit of cash by doing all the marketing for them. the amount of cash would need to be lucrative enough to give enough incentive to enough customers to support the production and development costs of the product, but in the case of twitter rocket — there are no production costs, there are no development costs.  there is one architect and he sits on top of the food chain.  no matter how not-a-pyramid-scheme twitter rocket is, there is still, irrevocably, one guy sitting on top.  and he knows it.  and he knows that you can’t touch him.  even critique of twitter rocket could still amount to a potential sale for twitter rocket, and at the very least people are talking about twitter rocket.  the more times i say twitter rocket, the more traffic he gets for twitter rocket.  he said so himself in his letter to his critics.  it doesn’t matter what anyone says.

i’ve had some great feedback recently from both people who are skeptics like me, and people who use twitter rocket, and defend ashley and hannah.  by all accounts, ashley is a great guy.  my own personal experience has been that, yes, he does respond to people.  even, unimaginably, to direct messages on twitter.  and if you can make the money you paid for twitter rocket back on just 2 affiliate sales, even if you never go the infomercial route, it could be said that he’s just giving something away.  except.  he’s not.  hannah’s arch-nemesis’ most valid and resonating criticism is how much actual work do you do to make that money? granted, working for cash is the opposite of passive income, which is what ashley morgan blogs about.  but if you actually read the horrible, evil vegan‘s blog (and just overlook, for a minute, the places where she makes mistaken assumptions about how twitter rocket and the affiliate program work), you will see a recurring theme: she wants to work for her money and get paid for a job well done.  it’s not a crime, or an affront to all twitter rocket users and affiliates to want to feel like you earned the money you make.  (and, also, guys, it’s not a crime to be mistaken either.  there’s plenty of bad information on the internet, and like ashley himself says, anyone smart enough to matter will take the time to get the facts straight — so there’s really no point in flaming her…) but again, that’s the opposite of passive income.  i would love money for nothing (though i’ll pass on the “chicks for free” — i’m taken, thanks), but i’m ambitious — if i’m making money for nothing, i want it to be part of my own empire, and not be a pawn on the chessboard of someone else’s empire.

so no twitter rocket for me.

yet.

and how am i doing on that topic?  well, i updated my graph:

graph

as you can see, my twitter following has grown at a regular rate.  now, i’m one week in, and i don’t yet have 1000 followers, so i can’t claim the success rate that twitter rocket does.  and this aggravates me to no end, and again, makes me want to just shell out the $97 bucks and get a copy. (actually, at this point, i’m waiting until he does another special offer and since i’m on his brand-spanking-new newsletter, i’m assuming there will be something for his subscribers eventually.)  but what’s most interesting to me is that i slacked the last two days in trying to get this project i was working on finished and didn’t follow anyone new, just followed back new followers for @teh_s3quence.  and yet my following remained self-sustaining, getting 40 new followers each day.  that’s not bad.  they’re probably all marketers, but whatever.  because it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is the traffic.  and tweeting your own links drives traffic to your site.  and the more followers you have, the more traffic you generate.  that’s it.  that’s the secret.  it’s really not a secret, it’s just common sense.

i’m giving the schoolbus a month.  we’ll see where i am at the end of the month, and then, maybe i’ll get my own copy of twitter rocket.

postscript: yes, i do realize there are 23 references to twitter rocket — oops, 24 — and that almost all of them links to, that’s right, twitt–er, the home page for the product.  yes, i realize this is absolutely ridiculous.  but it’s intentional.  i’m making a point about how spammy it ends up sounding when every single one of your links and posts is about one thing.  when everything is a marketing ploy, everything else loses credibility.