Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumptions About Links & Comments

With all due respect to Jonathan Morrow at Copyblogger, his Why No One Links to Your Best Posts (And What to Do About It) is more than misleading, it's based on assumptions that could cost you.

In the article, he discusses the reason why your "best post" has no links &/or comments ~ even when you've emailed "all of the top bloggers in your niche, pointing them to the post". He states that content is not king and that the problem, your problem, is one of cronyism. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; and you don't know enough of the cool kids. His solution, then, is to give you a short list of ways to butter-up popular, powerful, bloggers.

But I'm not buying it ~ at least not completely. And neither should you.

It's not just because the things he suggests on his How to Make Friends with Popular Bloggers list are rather Internet circa 1999, with its "guest post" idea (very "free article service"). It's not just that a majority of the list's actions are down-right bribe-tastic, with its "Volunteer to 'vote' for any posts that they’re pushing on social media sites like Digg, and StumbleUpon" and "Join their private membership program (like Teaching Sells) and make lots of smart posts in the forums". (Both of which set my teeth on edge.) It's because I take issue with his whole take on what is important in blogging and writing in general.

If you are blogging to connect to & communicate with Big Name Bloggers, then perhaps the 'desperation suck-up to appease the popularity gods' Morrow suggests will work. ("The key is finding ways that you can be genuinely useful to them. Make yourself relevant and then use that opportunity to start building a relationship." Arg! I hate such insincerity, myself. And it's too much like those high school games of trying to make the cheerleading squad or just to get to hang with them; I never did that. There's an entirely long post on this whole subject.)

But blogging is done for many other reasons than to be a "cool blogger" or a pundit. Some of us, many of us, blog for those other reasons.

We blog to connect with current customers/clients &/or potential customers/clients. We blog to connect to readers & researchers who have an interest in our topic. We blog to increase conversation about an issue ~ even if that conversation occurs around the dinner table or as pillow talk. We blog to take reader interest and turn it into a concern and then an action via voting & activism, and supporting organizations and issues with memberships and donations (which is rather like connection with customers &/or potential customers, really; but still bears mentioning).

While getting linkage at cool kid sites is welcome, such linkage, as noted (second part of post), may not not really mean anything for those goals. But the absence of such linkage &/or commenting does not mean failure or that no one is reading your "best post".

Morrow's post forgets about such valuable things as The Long Tail & the silent visitor (reader).

I am a huge fan of quality information being available for the if & when of a searcher, no matter how long after that post has been published. It may not make you cool to anyone other than that searcher, but I think that searcher is important. That's you reaching your audience. The value of such a "long tail" has been discussed over and over again by many people, so I'll let you check that out for yourself & move on to the often overlooked importance of the silent visitor.

Contrary to what people will tell you, not everyone has a blog. And yet the blogless have incredible power of their own. They do have purchasing power & potential for other action (activism, word of mouth influence on others, etc.) Getting caught up in who is powerful &/or basing it on popularity (links in, page views, comments) isn't necessarily reflective of

Case in point: My mom.
She doesn't blog. Not having a blog, she's no user ID and that can (& does) intimidate her even more from the technical point of view; but really, she is too polite to even consider posting a comment at a "weblog of a person she doesn't know." However, this doesn't mean my mom is irrelevant in any sense to the blogger, large or small.

She talks everyday, on the phone, chatting with friends, mentioning who & what she was reading and passing along blog names like she once gossiped about the neighbors across the street who kept weird hours and never spoke to anyone in the neighborhood. And she emails. Yes, she is the one who forwards all those goofy & annoying email jokes and stuff (in her circle, she's cool for passing them along!); but she also sends links to those in her circle. And because she is respected by her peers & family (not to mention cool from the aforementioned email forwards), we all read what she has taken the time to send us. Mostly. (Or suffer the guilt of ignoring her.)

My mom & others like her may not cause your site stats to increase wildly; but she probably has brought you a few new fans &/or sales ~ and without her regular visits and emails, your traffic & sales could decrease.
Case in point: My dad.
He still has his homepage set to Yahoo! for news and has RSS feeds plugged in from "everywhere". But he has no blog and doesn't post comments.

He says that if it's a good article, he feels no need to post a comment. It's complete, addresses his questions & concerns, and as far as the author goes, he thinks it's 'nuff said and won't bother with a comment or email. He does, however, relay the information to family & friends, including recommending sites & stories for others to follow.

If it's a bad article or post...

He'll get good and worked up. But like yesterday's Letter To The Editor, he finds himself not making the effort to write his full argument in light of other more pressing and practical things. (And he won't bother with a partial, lame argument.) He does, however, perform more than the occasional live heated debate with the paraphrased, and not present, author.

Would you dismiss his passion & interest simply because he's blogless & therefore cannot link to you & has not commented?

Case in point: My sister.
She's a high powered corporate attorney at a huge world-wide corp ~ the names of which I cannot drop because of implications she'd not wish. This precisely illustrates why she cannot, will not, blog or comment. As for making a user ID, she finds that "silly & time consuming". However, she reads quite a bit of news online. And she does a huge amount of shopping online.

That's not only for convenience, but due to her wide circle of similarly financially endowed, privacy requiring, friends, who, for the same reasons, email one another about the latest sale, best baby find, and coolest scrap memory book making sites & tools en route to China, London, and Ohio. She, and her friends, read and buy online quite a bit; but no one is publicly talking.

You'd be a fool to ignore their buying power & influence.
Case in point: adult content visitors.
When it comes to the mature side of things, those of us in the adult industry know we are blogging for and to a huge population which will not out itself. For every comment posted I receive at least double the emails (more like five-to-one, but I've never really calculated the numbers); but still, most people do not declare their private desires in public places. Don't let the number of sex bloggers fool you; far more of we humans are having sex (& even talking about it) than are blogging & commenting. The interest in and popularity of sex blogs alone doesn't prove that; increase in population itself does.

Would you dismiss such silent traffic? If you do, you dismiss the majority of your visitors.
Dismissing silent readers such as these are a mistake. Hell, just as not everyone clicks links on blog sidebars or in blog posts, there are those who don't even read blogs or online at all. Yet the silent visitors who do may be the very people carrying on your organization's name, your product, your service, your mission, via word of mouth. Real mouths to real ears.

Silent readers may be your vital connection to real world people, purchases, votes and other actions which help your bottom line, no matter how you define the success or action taken.

And they have to matter just as much as those cool kids, the Big Bloggers.

Sometimes we spend too much time focused on the statistics, rankings, links in, comments and other things we can see ~ simply because we can see them. I'm not saying these things are meaningless; but neither are the actions we cannot track, like the silent reader.

Sometimes we have to operate without such stats & tracking ~ not driving blind, but using our common sense. Throughout the history of communication, there have been undocumented, untrackable, unseen & not heard, results of communication. People who listened & said nothing but then went to others and gossiped and whispered behind backs, carrying on the news. People who listened & said nothing, but then directed another based on that information. Just because we cannot count them, doesn't mean they don't matter.

Morrow's entire article on courting big name bloggers does not consider, for even a moment, the worth of all the silent visitors.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm Just Sayin'...

Clearing off my desk (finally) after the weeks of being held hostage by the flu, I discovered these promotional pieces grabbed from my trip to vote in the local Democratic caucus back in February. While I won't go on about my political beliefs (or what candidate I voted for), I have a few comments to make about the candidates' political literature.

These were the only two take-away pieces either candidate had, which were sitting with the "I voted" stickers and obligatory party volunteer sign-up sheets.

While it's rather clear that Barack Obama's was intended to get people to the caucus sites, it says absolutely nothing about himself, his platform, or anything about his candidacy other than "Our Moment Is NOW". And the back side has so much 'white space' that I consider it a waste; it may as well not have a back side. Or a front side, really.

Whatever your opinions about Hillary Clinton's stands, at least she put them on her promo piece ~ along with the caucus info. It's pretty clear she wanted the people who went to the caucus to at least know her, to be able to vote for her.

Overall, were I grading such pieces, I'd flunk Obama.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Scratch My Back?

ScratchBack is an online "tipping" system, which can be seen (as well as used Heh Heh!) in my sidebar, and it promises a more fun, conversational way to accept donations than Amazon or PayPal standard donation systems as it allows those who tip to get a link to their own site as they pass on public praise.

It's a neat idea not just for the link, should you have a blog (if you don't, I guess you could just put a link into the very site you're donating to?); but it also allows public praise with a donation. Very few people make a donation and then post a comment saying, "I just made a donation because I love you!" so this is a neat idea. Plus, it allows such praise to act as testimonials and be very visible on the site.

And yes, you have the right to reject/refuse comments which are not so nice (see the FAQ).

The program links do not increase page rank, Technorati authority, or otherwise upset or offend Google with paid linkage as all links use the "nofollow" command:
Do My Links Pass Page Rank?

They do not. Every single link, including the link back to Scratchback, in the TopSpot widget has a "nofollow" hard encoded in them. The code is delivered in Javascript format as well. That means that Google and other search engine spiders "won't follow" the link. It doesn't mean your link isn't clickable, it is.

You cannot remove that code, nor should you attempt to as per the user agreement every publisher and advertiser agree to upon registration. Google has made it perfectly clear that "selling page rank" is not something they believe in. We don't believe in it either. This system is built for fun. There are plenty of other solutions out there you can use if you want to "pass Google juice", just not this one. Did you hear that Google? :)
I'm not certain ScratchBack is very adult friendly, and their directory offerings seem to be quite limited too; but the Marketing Whore is willing to give it a try. (If she can't pass, likely most of you won't either; and should she pass, it may only mean those who step to the line will have a chance.) But the concept is worthy of noting and giving a whirl. (I can be quite the whirly girl!) And I do recommend that those of you who are interested and aren't too explicit in your sites give it a try.

Of course, it could simply turn into a "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" situation in which no one actually makes any money too... Which isn't the worst thing ~ unless some expect that and those who don't end up offending others... Which of course the sort of thing you can run into with placing a simple link on your site... All of this just means that unless you and another actually agree to scratch each other's backs, don't expect it; you'll only get your feelings hurt.

I would imagine this type of tip jar is worthy of replication in the adult community. Naturally I wish these things would be inclusive, but the Internet is so fractured it makes sense it would be replicated and a version sent to the red-light side of the web.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The Marketing Whore on Dominance Humping, Tact and Grace(ie)

One of the things I'm known for is being nice. Well, I'm also known for being opinionated and a former escort too. But most folks who know me, have worked with me, will tell you I'm nice ~ in that patient and tolerant way (which has led me into giving away lots of help and advice for free in many arenas). But sometimes...

Oh, sometimes, I just don't understand how people can be so rude. I can understand and accept ignorance. Ditto for a difference of opinion. But rudeness?

The example I'm about to share will not name names ~ not out of respect but because I don't want to give them any attention. They do not deserve it.

And while I'm on the subject of 'outing' people, or addressing the concerns of people's feelings, let me say that I'm not worried that they will visit here and notice themselves in the example ~ because people like this never see themselves in the bad examples or as the ones needing the corrections. In all my years of working with people this is the case. Meanwhile, those who would be mortified to make such errors ~ those who never do such things because they are people filled with common sense and decency ~ these kind-hearted people always fear these things are about them. Please don't flood my inbox with apologies or concerns; if you were the person who did what I'm about to describe, you'd already know of my displeasure. So no worries for those of you reading here.

Now, on to today's lesson.

As most of you know, my site Sex-Kitten.Net (NWS) has the Sex-Kitten Feed (NWS), which is a way to promote our friends and associates by helping to broadcast their blog's RSS feed (NWS). (The feed is featured on the home page of the site, on other blogs in the feed & with it's own page.) When persons submit their site and feed for such promotion, I always check to see that A) the feed is working properly and 2) that they have linked back (to either the feed itself or the main site). If they have errors or have not reciprocated with a link, I contact them.

Recently I had to contact several folks to tell them that I would activate their feed once they linked back and then contacted me to let me know they had done so. Usually one of two things happen: they apologize for the oversight and correct it, or they ignore the emails (and I delete the submission). But this week I had one of the rare fellows who reacts rudely.

His first response was to tell me to go ahead and drop his submission because he "never got a single referral from us". I calmly wrote back that of course he hadn't ~ due to no recip, he had never been activated. I'd be happy to remove his submission if he wished, but thought he should know why he'd never received any traffic.

At this point I expected an 'ah-ha' moment, followed by him placing the link and emailing to telling me so. Maybe even with an apology for not understanding... But no.

Instead I receive an email asking demanding me for my site stats. "How many unique visitors do you get per day?"

Now folks, there are several problems with this response.

First of all, asking a webmaster for their blog stats is rather like asking a person how much they make a year. Sure, some might not be offended; some might even give you the answer. But many people, in either situation, will be greatly offended. Generally, these matters are considered none of your business. So why risk offending anyone?

If you think that I owe this person my stats because we're doing business together, remember this: the SK feed is free. He's not paying ~ no one's paying ~ for this service; it's not advertising. I, the person offering the service, isn't asking him (or anyone) about their site traffic (or pagerank or anything). For him to go there is rather like your brother-in-law asking you what your salary is or how much your home cost. It's inappropriate.

Secondly, if this man feels he is owed this info in order to evaluate the opportunity, or if he thinks this sort of questioning shows that he is Mr Serious Internet Businessman, then he needs to get a clue ~ and some tact.

He, you, I ~ anyone, can do some simple research to get an idea of traffic on any website. It's not rocket science.

If he doesn't know how to do this, or is too lazy to do it and expects me to tell him, or if he has done his homework and is trying to 'test me' for my honesty and credibility, well, I'm completely unimpressed. And I'm not playing.

His inability to employ good old fashioned tact and common sense leaves me cold.

The lesson here is that when you approach someone, including to take advantage of their opportunity, mind your manners. Don't ask questions which are none of your business. And if you should think it is your business, proceed politely. Don't pose questions as demands.

In fact, after some research of my own on this man, his sites and business practices, I'm of the impression that this man was dominance humping. He read my polite, and perhaps somewhat girly closing (typically I sign-off all my emails, business and personal, "with much affection, Gracie"), and concluded that I don't know what I'm doing. He assumed that he could intimidate me with a hard-boiled-business-numbers response to make me sit back (with my pretty head spinning from all that thinky math!) and take notice of his manly knowledge so that he could negotiate some other situation for himself. (As in I'd really really want his link to 'me' and be willing to give him additional promotions &/or advertising to get it.) But all I noticed was his bad manners and lack of respect.

I had the offer, the opportunity; I make the rules. In this case, I was offering to promote his site for free and all I asked for in return was a link. Not only is this a nominal 'price' it's a normal one. If he didn't like the rules, then he can take a pass on the opportunity. No one is forcing him to do this. For him to mistake kindness and the patience to continue to explain how the opportunity works for a chance to negotiate terms, or worse, some weakness on part, is a huge mistake.

I'm not paranoid about the dominance humping; I run into this quite often. And I'm betting you other ladies do too.

Gender, as in femaleness, combined with tolerance and understanding is seen as weak and unintelligent. Ask any mommy blogger if advertisers try to undermine their credibility and the value of their blog ~ to get cheaper advertising. (If you and your blog were so crappy, why would they want to advertise there?) But in the adult industry it's even worse. We're just dumb girls who whore ourselves and our sites on dumb luck and boobs. (I guess they think we are what we sell.)

Since I don't expect yet another blog post on gender issues to affect any real changes by the men who practice dominance humping, the lesson here is really for the women.

Don't let dominance humping (from men or women) undermine your actions. Know your business and make your rules. Don't let them negotiate the non-negotiable.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sex Pros Make Better Bloggers

That's what Secondhand Rose says. Here are a few key points in her essay (which is not to imply you shouldn't read it all ~ on the contrary, it's good stuff!)

She begins with a discussion of the standard practice of sex pros to use a stage name, pen name or other 'name that is not your real name' in order to keep yourself safe, shield your family & friends, as well as to signal when you are performing. Rose believes this standard practice and mind set is what makes for better blogging.
Because it is so natural for professionals to draw these lines right away, we are more prepared to think of privacy as a right which also applies itself to others.

...If more bloggers understood the tentative nature of trust I believe less mistakes would be made, less hurt and anger would ensue.
On the specific issue of censoring for the people in your personal life, a question asked by The Man With Secrets: "Would you say, however, that what you write about someone remains unchanged once you know they are reading it? That's an important question, I think."

Rose replies:
My answer is, "No, my writing does not change because someone I know is now reading what I write."

To me it's not a matter of "What do you write?" but one of "Who do you tell?"
Next she quotes Tom Pain:
Sometimes I think the burning "need" to confess is really a passive-aggressive response of "I'm going to educate you about this situation whether you like it or not." Acceptance of alternative lifestyles is in vogue these days, despite the inherent risk of pain and confrontation.
I must admit, this runs rampant in our culture ~ especially with those in sex work or advocates for positive sexuality. We tend to be on a mission, which is understandable, but we shouldn't do so at the risk of others or to make choices for them. Here I'll refer you here to Silent Porn Star's post on this:
Fundamentally I am anonymous for the ease of things -- but it angers me too. Why should I have to do this? Why should I have to shield and 'protect' family and friends from such associations when nudity, sexuality, is completely natural and normal?

Being a child of the 60's (technically born in, however those first few years I was but an infant), I do believe that if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem. So sitting back resting on my anonymity feels like I am wrong there too.

While I'd truly like the world to be free enough to sexuality as a whole, I do realize this is not so. And any battle I would pick on behalf of being part of the solution would mean I was selecting this battle as one for those I know and love as well. So I let the cool waters of unselfishness sooth the agitated heated waters of these unjust realities.
Finally Rose points to the ethics of the matter of censoring your blogging:
Suggesting a blogger taint their stories or the presentation of their stories based on who is reading them is saying that it would be fine for any reporter or reviewer to go gently in areas where they knew someone. Would you even suggest that a movie critic be kind in their review of a film because they knew the director? Would you expect a restaurant reviewer to take it easy on a friend's restaurant? If we knew that either had done so we'd call them unethical. Why would sex bloggers be any different?
Why indeed.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Metaphor Project

Mike at Spooky Action has put some thought into what his blog is and he's decided it is Dexter's Memetic Lab because he experiments with memes. Don't let the word 'meme' fool you. Memes are conversations and ideas which travel about the Net (blog carnivals included). So his experiments are not as silly as you might think.

While Mike's thoughts (and actions) are interesting, what really make me want to bring this to your attention was how Mike got around to describing or defining his blog.

It began with a post at Liz's Successful Blog, titled The Metaphor Project: What's Your Blogging Metaphor?. In that post, Liz challenged bloggers to a write a post to explain what blogging is ~ using a metaphor as a teaching tool.

The replies were interesting (here's a second set of them) and I encourage you to read them all as well as think about a metaphor of your own. But what really struck me was that in all the metaphors the focus was on what the blogger was doing at their blog. Not surprisingly, because that was the question, right? But something was missing.

If I stick with the metaphor that blogs in general are conversations, or if I use Mike's metaphor that his blog is Dexter's Memetic Lab, or any metaphor likely (or unlikely) used, these all beg the question, "So what?"

So what if I have a great idea, a wonderful experiment, or if the blog is throwing rocks at thousands of windows and trying to wake the sleeping beauty inside? None of it matters if there isn't another to converse, an audience, or if a rock doesn't hit the window.

While blogging, especially those blogs which automatically ping Technorati or are built into communities, have some ability to be found, what you say/do there is rather meaningless if no one is there to read/participate. Like the old tree which falls in the forest, you have to ask yourself, "Do I make a sound if there's no one there to hear it?"

This is why marketing matters. Your blog has to be found (SEO, link swaps, an email with the URL to your mother, whatever) in order for what you do there to matter. Your odds of participation, of being meaningful or at least mattering to someone, increase when you are where the people are.

Which brings us back to Mike and his experiments with memes.

Many memes may be silly. And certainly not all memes are fitting for every blog. But if you view memes as active conversations then participating (in the right ones) is one way to make sure that not only are you heard in the forest, but that someone actually yells, "Timber!"

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How Blogs (Don't) Work; Or, The Great Blog Shake-Out

I do agree that shake-out is here and it's only going to continue. Not due to any blogging bubble being burst, but for the very reason blogging is popular: people want connection points (not drivel).

There are many blogs, with more being started every day. The reason that many fail is that many blogs do not offer conversations. A blog ~ a real blog or at least the kind of blogs I am referring to when I write here ~ is a place to publish ideas and to discuss those ideas.

It's the power of people to connect and discuss. Unlike passive or cold forms of communication, blogging is participatory. Receivers of communication are not just receivers but have the ability to become instant senders of messages of their own. I don't think this desire to connect is going to diminish anytime ~ the means by which we do it may, but the desire remains.

The shake-out I refer to is the process by which blogs survive. With so many choices, which blogs will people continue to read and (this is the really important part) carry out discussions in?

Here are some blogging 'styles' which do not foster conversations:

A) A business blog which just states press release info in a more casual tone without official formatting is not a blog ~ it's a listing of pitches from most recent to last. Ditto with authors, film makers etc. who announce their latest releases.

B) Having a blog which points to the latest news isn't necessarily a conversation. Your selection of news on a topic may be a service, for which you may have many readers, but it's not a conversation. In order to have a conversation you need to put more than the idea out there as a link or a sentence or two. You need to discuss it, not just present it. (Or consider yourself offering a service, not a conversation, and look at your stats and marketing accordingly.)

C) Having a blog which consists of pointing out all the ad campaigns which do not work or otherwise mocking others may be entertaining, but it's not a conversation.

D) Have a blog which is all photos and no talk is not a conversation. If it's porn, it's a masturbation session; if art, it's a gallery exhibition; but neither is a conversation.

In the adult industry this last one is the most prevalent problem. There are countless boring blogs which offer nothing that a pay site tour gallery doesn't. These folks just copy & post an image, stick in a link to their own site or an affiliate link, and call it a blog. "Look at naked Betty Sue" is rarely a discussion.

In fact, sex for all its popularity is one of those least likely to get a conversation; I know this from years with Sex-Kitten. It's difficult to get people, even anonymous ones, to talk about something so private. It's much easier to get someone to look at photos or a movie than it is to get a conversation going. Columns, reviews and op-ed pieces on sex tend to be 'just read' rather than discussed. Your traffic (as in visitors and readers) may be huge, but your conversations? Not-so-much.

This is why so many erotica authors I know resort/return to blogging about the business of being an author. When they blog about problems with publishing, publishers and other industry information they are far more likely to get others engaged in the conversation. But in doing so, they lose the interest of readers of erotica, who really aren't interested in this uglier (or more boring) side of books; erotica readers read erotica for arousal and entertainment, not for author bitch sessions. When authors (and others) do this, they've switched target audiences and no longer reach readers (potential buyers).

I know that this higher volume of comments makes you feel as if you're meeting your goal, but you're not. Sometimes you just have to satisfy yourself with your stats (traffic and page views) rather than your comments. (And don't think I'm backtracking on my statement about blogs being conversations ~ I'm not! But we'll get to that later; I don't want to get too far off-track now.)

Those who blog in these styles are likely the ones whining that the blog bubble has burst ~ or that blogging never was big anyway. Or, they soon will be. Because blogs like these will suffer in the shake-out.

At best what these bloggers are really doing is offering a conversation elsewhere ~ like passing a note in school. And like anything else in business, consumers like to cut-out the middle-man. They'll just go directly to the source instead.

As people pick and choose from the ala cart experience which is the blogosphere, there will be shake-out. But that's just the stuff of a competitive market. Even if it's for free, people select what's the best and toss the rest aside.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh (Part Deux)

Why join MySpace or Friendster or Ryze or Bebo or Tribe or Facebook? If these fish are all in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them, why are they there?

Well, the theory is to find people you know and find others like you. This 'like you' point may be work related, like any other professional networking group; or it may be more social, where your family and friends congregate to share news etc.; or it could even be a mix of the two, say a burlesque community where fans and performers meet.

In the case of Flickr and YouTube, folks join for the free hosting and then connect to others via common interests; you meet me because we are both uploading sexploitation film clips, for example.

Now, blogs and Flickr have much in common. Even if you are not participating in the whole befriending and posting bulletins to your friends, you have the opportunity to use your account to broadcast your content (writings and photos). If your goal (or dream) is to make a living with your content (be a professional writer or photographer), you can achieve this by using your account or space as a portfolio. However...

Simply publishing your content doesn't mean it will be seen. Remember the early days of the Internet? Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come. This was said about every website to point out that having a site didn't mean you were automatically going to be found. The same is true of your blog, Flickr account, MySpace page, etc. You have to market in order to make sure you are found.

Where Web Poo Point Doh makes things 'easier' is that there are far more tools built into these accounts. Where once a website had to worry about banner advertising, link swaps, using text and meta tags to feed spiders and jousting with algorithms, social networking gives you tools. Tools which allow for more immediate connections within the community, such as befriending, and tools which allow for connections outside the community, such as tags.

The ease of connection is nice; but remember, now you are competing with all the other fish in these ponds.

Of the millions who join, participation falls into three categories: Big adopters, low adopters, and quitters.

Big adopters usually make these sites more than daily logins. But more importantly than how often they are there is the matter of what they do there. They are active not only in posting in blogs, commenting, sending messages etc., but in be-friending. They seek out more friends ~ ones they know, one's they'd like to know and even those they don't care to know but who add to their self-image buy increasing the number on their lists.

This is not just done by teenagers, companies (or corporate shills), but by adults who want to feel popular. It's all about them, and they are here to be seen. Big friend counts are the 'it' factor, and their befriending of you is to add to their experience, their total; not yours.

But a funny thing happens on the way to big numbers ~ participation declines. It has to. One cannot make daily comments on the pages of others when your total is 2,500. (And if they do, they use a tool to spam such 'comments' or their other activities such as blog postings diminish. There are only so many hours in a day.)

Along with this decrease in active 'social connection,' there is a decrease in active reading. In other words they don't have time to read what everyone else is posting, even if they were so inclined as to make this not about themselves. So whether they have 10 friends or 1,000, they really only read the same number of posts. (This means the same number of pages ~ and advertisements. Maybe even less ads because now they are either immune to them or quickly moving past them to try to squeeze in one more blog post before bed.)

Low adopters are people who use the site but really only to keep up with people they really know (in real life or very good online buddies). These folks tend to be more 'sincere' in their use of the site as they don't go for some friend number (score) but focus on real relationships, i.e., they read as much as they post. They are invested in the connections they have and are not interested in friendship number counts. This means that these people not only don't seek 'friendships' but are less likely to accept 'befriending.' They are a close-knit group and their mistrust of interlopers as "selling something" is very high.

Then there are quitters (I admit, I've been one at a few sites). Dissatisfied with the hype, bored with the business of befriending, annoyed by spamming and legit advertising, feeling that since none of their friends are active there anymore it's just not worth the time, or some combination thereof, they just stop participating.

What it really comes down to is this: The big adopters are too busy to pay attention to you, the low adopters are interested in staying connected to those they know and aren't interested in meeting you, many members are inactive, and you are simply one of them, trying to be heard/seen.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh

As mentioned, humans are social beings and we love to connect. But as I've said, Web 2.0 (last time, I swear) for all its inflated headlines (and bottom lines) is nothing more than advances on things we already have. Messages are substitutes for email addresses, bulletin notices are group mailings, etc. Oh, just when I thought my rant was over...

I promised you some facts about social networking and I do plan to give them to you ~ but I'm still a bit frustrated over this whole matter of inflated importance and I feel that you all must understand some things before we get into the matters of working within such 'gold mines.'

What is all this stuff?

It's the creation of communities.

Each social networking site operates as a large group forum with smaller user created groups or forums. Even social bookmarking, video & image sharing, are really just connection points for groups to interact by means of posting comments, which is really a forum or message board system created around a subject matter. Forums have user profiles ~ being able to designate specific users as your friends is nifty for those who like to follow the pack or use the buddy system. (On the flip side, for lone wolves all this forced connection is rather annoying.) The bottom line is all this stuff is just another bunch of words for community.

Internet or digital communities are not only not new, they are not foreign concepts. Nor should they be the least bit unfamiliar. We all belong to communities, large and small. Where you work, your coworkers, your regular lunch spots ~ all are communities. Where you live, your church knitting group, your mommy and me group ~ these are all communities. Anytime you have groups of people regularly meeting or associating you have communities. In fact, wherever you have people gathered you have groups (which are not unlike communities except that the rules are more implied than stated rules of conduct). For example, going to the park with the kids on a Saturday is not a even organized or coordinated by all those who go to the park, but all agree to basic rules of behavior.

Why I'm being so damn obnoxious stating the obvious is because if this were really understood, people wouldn't be so damn confused about how to participate in social networking sites. Folks wouldn't be so inappropriate on message boards, booted off lists, or wonder why no one's clicking their posted link at 'such a popular site.'

If people knew the obvious, if they understood that online groups are no different than offline groups (as far as human expectations, tolerance and limits), they wouldn't be confused or make such a mess of things. And they do.

WalMarts are pretty busy places, especially on weekends. But you don't see anyone running in and yelling, "My DVD's are the greatest! You've got to come buy one from me!" Not even targeted attempts, bursting in to reach moms at Mommy and Me meetings or conservative women in their church groups, works this way. So why do online marketers do such things in online communities?

Well, for one, they keep seeing these communities as consumer laden gold mines. But they keep forgetting these fish may all be in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them.

To Be Continued...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Women Wired For Communication (Part One)

Rob, who should be blogging himself because he makes me think hard, posted more comments:
OK, onto my point. I think my original comment about women studying war philosophy may have been a bit much. And you make a worthy claim that there are psychological, cultural and biological factors at work here.

All I'm saying is that when we're discussing power, whether it's wielded by men or women, there are forces that need to be considered and steps that need to be taken for individuals to obtain it. I made the war reference, because competition for power in the real world is like a war. The works of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and Clausewitz address this human element.

I think women who are advancing to power positions - once held only by men - are adapting to this in competition. This explains why we see people like Margret Thatcher or Condoleeza Rice - and possibly Hilary - who have the stoic resolve that male predecessors displayed. These women are not representative of the female psyche, at least in a traditional and conventional sense.

Normative conformity explains conventional human behavior. What we've been witnessing is revolutionary, in terms of gender roles.
I don't believe that "competition for power is like a real war." Maybe I'm too Utopianistic (new word, I guess) but I not only believe it is possible for a person to have power without warring for it, but I welcome these people.

It is entirely possible, and even happens thus, that a person has power simply by excelling at something. In fact, there are many persons who have had power thrust upon them, even if they didn't ask for it or particularly want it. These folks we consider heroes, leaders and icons even ~ legendary but not legends for they are real. In the pursuit of power there are games, strategy and things akin to (if not outright) war; and those who achieve power can just as easily enter into the same games. But I see that as human weakness, not inherently part of power itself. That said, I'll move onto your more specific points.

Some of the female leaders you refer to, power brokers or those who want to have positions of power, they have fallen into the games of pursuit. Politics as we currently know it, is a pursuit of power. (Once upon a time the service of citizens was a job often thrust upon people ~ people who just thought they were doing their jobs or 'the right thing.; but now it's a 'run for office' more than a call to serve. Even those who view political office as a duty to serve are pulled into the games and strategy because of this 'race' mentality.) In this pursuit, one must play by the rules of the race.

If you think that these women have advanced by less-than-feminine behaviors, well reconsider my points about women having had to learn the game. If we women had to learn the rules for survival, we sure have to do so to excel. Currently the rules are male rules and those who adopt (or at least reflect) male attributes, it is thought, will succeed. In this sense they most certainly are "representative of the female psyche." Though as we've seen, when women do adopt male views, behaviors and stances they are not often respected for playing by the rules but rather impugned for not being feminine. It's a lose-lose scenario most often.

I see no data to support any claims that we are witnessing any revolution in terms of gender and leadership roles. That a few female leaders exist is quite sad when we are half (or more) of the population.

Rob continues:
What does this mean for future generations of young, bright and motivated women? I don't know, but the external pressures from all directions tell ME that our world is changing. And gender roles are changing with it. Women are not better communicators simply by nature. They're better communicators, because their previous role and survival required it. This isn't the case anymore.
Well you (and others) may see change, but it's small and certainly not hitting revolutionary status yet.

Are gender roles changing? It depends upon where you make your comparisons. Do women have more options or roles than they did in the 1950's? Somewhat. At least there are more of us willing to take the crap for being non-traditional. Do women have more choices than they have had at any point in history? I'd say no. For example, in the 40's women had more freedoms than in other years; but then again, once the men returned from war they had to be forced back ~ barefoot & pregnant into those 1950's kitchens. In pre-Victorian times there are quite a few examples to point to regarding women being valued more than we are now. (The Victorian period really did quite a bit of damage, with lasting effects ~ it's a fascinating subject, but I don't wish to digress more than I already have.)

The fact that "gender roles" is even a discussion points to the fact that there is inequity; so how much significant change has their been?

As for the matter of women being better communicators... this too is a very meaty subject. (At least my previous posts have not done enough to clear things up in this regard lol)

"Women are not better communicators simply by nature. They're better communicators, because their previous role and survival required it." Well, that implies that you got part of what I was saying ~ but you're reducing this to a 'nature vs. nurture' discussion and dismissing 'nature' as no longer relevant when it is a large part of our biology.

Survival, selection, has served the communicating female human well. She and her offspring survived where the poor communicator or non-discriminating sort did not. This gives us a genetic legacy, a biology which ~ even if you argue isn't needed or 'the case anymore' ~ we have not yet even begun to drop from our genetic selves. Looking at our species as a whole, our history since becoming an agricultural animal is but a blip in time. Our bodies have not yet caught up with these changes yet, so I doubt the female-communication connection has changed yet.

In fact, communication is gender issue inherent in our development. Every human brain begins as a female brain ~ if at eight weeks after conception it becomes male, excess testosterone shrinks the communications center (among other actions). This connection between gender and communication has been noticed by Louann Brizendine, M.D and written about in her book, The Female Brain.

Also recent findings regarding tentative connections between testosterone and autism and testosterone and empathy indicate that testosterone affects communication as well. (This could also indicate, as I suspect, that women are indeed far better suited not only to communicate ~ create marketing messages ~ but to evaluate a marketing campaign's success as she can better 'read' the reactions of receivers.)

As Brizendine says, "Gender education and biology collaborate to make us who we are." So as long as our brains are wired for communication (which it seems clear we are) and our culture still has unique gender roles (which there are, and they require us to learn male rules), we remain women who rely on and excel at communication.

Now, what say you? *wink*

(Stay tuned for Part Two; and if you have not yet done so, please subscribe to the newsletter!)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

What Kind Of Blogger Are You?

Via Spin Thicket:

The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging... And When To Use Each One

This is a nifty slide-show showing the types of blog posts (Event Blogging, Survey Blogging, Brand, Link etc.), how difficult they are, the buzz or linking probability rating, and a suggested maximum number of times a week you can use each type of post. Your mileage may vary, of course, but the definitions and (suggested) limitations sound sane to me.

It's food for thought as your type of posts, in a general way, determine what sort of blogger you are and what sort of blog you have.

Sarah sent me this link to a Yahoo! news story:

Bloggers rail against imposing civility online

The title is very misleading ~ acting as if bloggers are insisting upon being rude, mean and down-right illegal when all the bloggers are saying is, "No," to a "Blogging Code of Conduct."
Bloggers are always free to remove what they see as inappropriate contributions to forums on their websites, said Technorati founder David Sifry. Technorati specializes in tracking and indexing blogs.

People interested in spewing caustic comments can feature them on their own websites and then leave links on those of other bloggers, Sifry said.

"One of the core principles that the Internet is built on is the principle of free speech," Sifry told AFP. "If you really are a jerk, I don't have to read what you say."

Ethical issues in the "blogosphere" mirror those raised by the relentless trend of users providing raw content to websites ranging from video-sharing superstar YouTube to news gathering organization NowPublic.

"I'm not sure a code of conduct is the answer," NowPublic co-founder Mike Tippett told AFP. "It makes about as much sense as me wearing a badge to have a conversation. It won't make a difference."

People don't need to sign pacts of civility to use telephones or send letters, Tippett noted.

"I think the wisdom of the crowds, societal mores, and the expectations of civility will generally solve the problem," Tippett said. "The Internet is just an extension of our everyday lives."
What's rather crazy is that this move to badges and codes of conduct has been brought to the forefront by the Kathy Sierra situation. Threats of death and physical harm are illegal and so we have a code of conduct for that. Asking people to censor themselves more with this media than any other is rather chaffing ~ and impractical. Who is going to be the mean police and define the line? 'Nice' is as relative as 'mean' is. While I certainly don't enjoy, nor do I recommend, rude blogs or talk, we already have police to enforce laws and behaviors which cross lines; I don't want (additional) thought police.

Like Tippett said, "Presumably, we are all bound by the social norms of our communities. Violate them and you are locked up."

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

No, Not Me

No, I'm not in the Carnival of Capitalists this week (I didn't submit anything), but I'm still going to point it out to you because I typically find good reading there.

This week, I am particularly struck by Sophistpundit's "New Media Economics" which makes some very sound points on the economics of blogging as well as posing the question, "Why blog?"

While I am more inclined to agree with the points he picks apart, Sophistpundit makes some valid points about the other reasons blogs end. Given the high end-rate of blogs, and my own personal experience with blogging and bloggers, I still believe most bloggers quit because they get bored (i.e. not enough readers).

There's no fun in talking to a wall. Remember how momma used to tell you that when dealing with bullies the best thing you can do is ignore them? If you don't react, you've removed their feedback, their fun. (So don't abandon me, dear Marketing Whore readers!)

In a highly populated blogosphere where (according to Naked Conversations) "Someone started a blog once every second today, and about every two seconds someone else abandoned one," it's pretty clear that not all of the quitters did so because they 'got tired of being popular' or had 'a conflict of interest.'

So I'm still going to agree with the sucess of the long-end-of-the-tail and the simple human economics of it all. Like said Mister Snitch said, "Blogging resembles investment in that the blogger invests time and energy in hopes of a return. Bloggers' return on investment is readers."

(You really should read Mister Snitch's post because his categorization of bloggers is decent and perhaps this will help you identify what the heck it is you want to do.)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Life of a Blog Thread

(Click to enlarge!)

Paula Scher diagrams the life cycle of a blog thread, via Pentagram's blog.

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