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Archive for October, 2009

mass unfollowing

Unsurprisingly, there are various approaches to follower attraction and – for lack of a better word – follower removal. Some people, and I believe these are the people Twitter originally aimed to attract, just naturally meet people. Follow those whose tweets interest them and unfollow those whose tweets do not.

 
Another group of people are similar to the above, but they aim to gain as many followers as possible. I admit to belonging to this group, primarily because it gives me a much greater audience to this blog as well as significantly more opportunities for interaction and meeting people (it’s also so easy so why not do it?).

 
A third group aims to gain as many followers as possible since every follower is a potential buyer. If you have 50,000 followers, and you try and sell something, even if 0.1% on average buy, then it’s still 50 people – which is a lot if you compare it to other ad models (i.e. PPC).

 
The philosophy behind following and unfollowing is clearly intertwined. If you’re in Twitter and truly only care about interaction, then there’s no reason for you to care if you are being unfollowed (unless this offends you).

 
If you try and gain as many followers as possible, then you’re fully aware of the fact that if you don’t follow someone back (reciprocal following), there’s a good chance he’ll stop following you very soon. So often you see people who follow roughly the same number of people who follow them.

 
Personally, I believe that only those who offer truly unique and interesting tweets can expect someone to follow them and not need to follow back. For example, if you’re a celebrity (I covered this in greater detail in my post, Why Do People Follow Celebrities?) then your life is deemed interesting to your followers even if it’s completely mundane.

 
But even if you’re not a celebrity, but say, are a very funny guy or a very interesting person (i.e. Iconic88, one of Twitter’s treasures), then it also likely that people will continue following you because of who you are and what you say.

 
Alas, for most people, that is not the case. A while ago I looked at the tweets of some people I consider celebrities or experts in their respective fields. Although they may be interesting, even fascinating, in real life, their tweets are, how shall I say it, not really interesting. They often deal with the uninteresting trivia of their life (i.e. I don’t particularly find interesting what William Shatner had for lunch). It may be fun and exciting to interact with them, but normally these people also don’t interact with their followers – don’t respond to their followers’ comments, etc. I’m not just talking about people with millions of followers, but also those with a far smaller number. Some even have fewer followers than I have (and I always respond to anyone who attempts communication – not talking about DMs which are really unusable).

 
For the sake of fairness, I’m not sure how many people would continue follow me if I did not follow them back. I almost always tweet articles from my blog, other articles I find interesting, retweets of articles other people found interesting, blip my favorite music, and generally chat the vast majority of my time – or better phrased “interact with my followers” ;-) ). So I assume if I were to, say, unfollow 90% of my followers, a great number would unfollow me. I also think it’s not unfair.

 
This brings me to an interesting question: so assuming one is not a celebrity or someone whose content greatly appeals to the masses. What would happen if he or she were to unfollow most of their followers? Let’s try and see.

 
Recently I was unfollowed by three people I was following for a long while. When I looked at their follower charts (as I like doing, since there’s always something I find interesting in this data) I noticed that all three did a mass unfollow. Note that this seems to be somewhat of a recent trend since some companies pay people who tweet and their ratio of followers to followees is one factor in determining the price they can demand (supposedly, the greater the ratio, the more of a celebrity you are – which actually does make sense).

 
Since I don’t want to mention any names, I’ll bring the follower charts of these three. If you have any guess who they might be, please do not comment below as I will edit the names out. This is not meant to be a personal criticism of anyone. Really.

 


 

As you can see, in the first two images, there was an immediate mass reciprocal unfollow, following by a stead steam of unfollowing. In image 1, even now, a month and half after the mass unfollow, the trend of unfollowing appears to be continuing. In other words, this person is still losing followers.

 
In image 2, which is much more recent, despite the smaller scale of the mass unfollow, the exact same thing appears to still be happening.

 


 
In image 3, it is a bit harder to tell since the mass unfollow has just occurred – so the trickle hasn’t started just yet – but in all likelihood, the same thing will occur.

 
Personally I believe that in all three cases, people have unfollowed for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Just because. You unfollow me, I unfollow you. It’s not fair otherwise.
  2. Automatic unfollow: you unfollow me, my autopilot program detects this after X days and unfollows you.
  3. You’re boring, and suddenly I realized that now I have no more incentive to follow you, ergo, you’re gone.

 
Despite the fact that in none of the cases 100% or even 50% of the people have unfollowed the person, the trend in all cases appears to be negative, so there’s no reason to assume it’ll stop – though of course there isn’t enough data to support this theory. Personally, I don’t think it will stop for exactly the above reasons. I think most people simply aren’t aware that they are no longer being unfollowed, and the slow trickle of unfollowing occurs because one by one they discover that.

 
My own personal reaction to this was to immediately unfollow all three once I realized I am being unfollowed. As I discovered, it seems I did not follow them for their content as I do not even notice their tweets are gone. Otherwise I would’ve stuck with them.

 
Any thoughts?

 

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Funny spam

For two weeks now I keep planning to write, but life has been keeping me way, way, way too busy. There are already three posts in my head that I want to write, but no time. However, I decided to take this quick break since this will be a short post.

 
Ever since I wrote my article, Five Different Types of Spammers, I noticed that the post keeps getting spammy jokes (always one liners), something that I never got before. More interestingly, it’s only that specific post.

 
Clearly, some spammer/s saw my post and is/are joking around with me. I don’t think this is in ill intent, as actually most of the one-liners are pretty good. If they didn’t include links to drug sites, I might actually approve them. However, maybe it’s just my (at times) weird sense of humor, but I find this situation hilarious. So I’ve decided to include those I find amusing.

 
The point of this post is – the comments below are all spam comments I’ve received. Every single one.

 
This will be a repository for the spam jokes I get (those I think are good, at least). The people sending them are clearly making an effort! In fact, they’re invited to contact me – I’m curious to know their story :)

 
It’s a shame I erased most of the comments. But here goes. I get 2-3 a day, and about half are good, so this list will grow (edit: it seems the pace is greater than I remember – I get more like 5+ a day). Starting with only 3 5 14 26… 30

  • What did one ocean say to the other ocean? Nothing, they just waved.
  • What is the biggest ant? An elephant.
  • What is the most popular wine at Christmas? “Can’t we open the presents yet?”
  • Why do birds fly south for the winter? Because it’s too far to walk. [got it twice!]
  • What kind of coffee was served on the Titanic? Sanka.
  • Why did the man put wheels on his rocking chair? He wanted to rock and roll.
  • Why did Willie Nelson get hit by a car? He was playing on the road again.
  • Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honeycombs!!
  • What does it mean when the flag’s at half mast at the post office? They’re hiring.
  • What do you call it when worms take over the world? Global Worming.
  • Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? Because he had low elf esteem.
  • What’s happening when you hear “woof…splat…meow…splat?” It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • What do you use to redecorate a baby’s bathroom? Infantile.
  • What city has the largest rodent population? Hamsterdam.
  • Why does Santa have 3 gardens? So he can ho-ho-ho. [this one is pretty lame, I know]
  • How would you clean a tuba? Try a tuba toothpaste. [this one is pretty lame, I know]
  • What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.[got it twice!]
  • What’s green and red and goes 1000 miles an hour? A frog in a blender. [got it twice!]
  • Where does all the pepper go? No one nose.
  • What do you call a crazy blackbird? A raven lunatic! [I have a feeling this one came from someone else]
  • What do you call a crazy baker? A dough nut.
  • Why do hurricanes travel so fast? If they traveled slowly, we would have to call them slow-i-canes
  • What is the difference between a photocopier and the whooping cough? One makes facsimiles and the other makes sick families.
  • Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the noise. [I got this one twice! Hmm. The guy is starting to repeat himself]
  • Why is the letter A like a flower? Because a Bee comes after it!
  • What do you call a bee born in May? A Maybe.
  • What is a zebra? 26 sizes larger than “A” bra.
  • What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand? Quatro sinko.
  • Where did King Tut go to ease his back pain? The Cairo-practor!
  • What kind of bird can write? A penguin. [didn't really get this one..]

 
Edit: Unbelievable (to me), but the jokes stopped. That’s 3 days in a row now. I guess the spammer follows my blog and doesn’t want to give me material? Oh.. but it was really in the best of intentions. Like I said, he’s more than welcome to send me an email, I’m curious to meet the fellow!

 
Edit2: No, they’re back. I’m actually feeling relief. It made checking spam more fun.

 
Edit3: Ok, I think 30 is a good place to stop. I made my point, and some are starting to repeat themselves…

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many followers on twitter

After using Twitter very heavily for – what – 3 months now? I’ve noticed that there are certain mandatory milestones people who use Twitter pass through.

 
The first occurs somewhere around 150 followers/followees. You realize there’s no way you could keep track of all the conversations since the web interface isn’t really designed for this. At this point people either limit the number of people they follow (too many conversations going on), start using specialized software (such as TweetDeck) or just give up and return to Facebook saying that Twitter sucks and they don’t see the point (in fact, I’ve dedicated an entire post to this, Explaining Twitter to Facebook Users).

 
The second is actually an artificial milestone: it’s set exactly at 2,000 followers. This number is defined by Twitter itself. I don’t remember the exact rule, but it goes something like this: you can’t follow more than 2,000 people unless you have at least 90% of that – 1800 – followers (or something similar). This is actually pretty effective, and you see a lot of people with disproportional follower/followee ratio (50 followers and 1750 they follow). Usually these are people who try gaining a large number of followers very quickly. Not that it’s impossible, but this is not the right way I believe, and neither this is the point of Twitter. The easy – and the fun – way to overcome this is by progressing through interaction (and I’ve written a post about that too: How to Gain Twitter Followers For Free and With No Tools). I wasn’t even aware of this limitation when I crossed 2,000!

 
(An interesting side note, several friends have told me in the past that I have an anecdote for everything. This is true. For almost everything I hear there’s something related I can think of. A family trait, we all are like this. Funny that my blog is starting to look like that too, don’t you think?).

 
The third milestone, is one I believe I reached in the past two weeks is – I estimate – around 5,000 followers, and will shortly elaborate on it.

 
I’m sure there are more such milestones I haven’t reached: 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 1 million, 3 million, 1 billion, etc. And of course, some milestones can only be reached by God and Ashton Kutcher, and neither is talking to us, so they shall have to remain a mystery.

 
So back to what I wanted to cover in this post: What happens when you start having a lot of followers? (which in this context, is my third milestone).

 
Although I “only” have 7,000 followers, thanks to my witty banter, humorous activities and unnatural modest personality (not to mention my own custom devised algorithm of finding followers – why do people need software packages? It’s just so easy), and some of my best Twitter friends have way, way more followers than I do (like Darren, 101,000 followers, Heather, 22,000 and Ken, 20,000), I’ve started feeling a change once I reached the third milestone. By the way, these three people are always going to be on my #FollowFriday list. Truly some of the greatest people I know on Twitter and outside!

 
An important point: I follow almost every single person who follows me. Why? I just think it’s fair. This point is arguable since I know many people don’t agree with this philosophy, but personally I think that unless you’re a real (non web) celebrity or truly have something unique to say on Twitter (not your blog, TV show, or whatever), you can’t expect people to follow you if you don’t return the favor. The fact John Chow lost a quarter (or more) of his 60,000 followers since his mass unfollow just proves this point – and I don’t think his process of losing followers is over just yet! Of course, this only holds true if you’re actively trying to expand your number of followers: if you’re just in Twitter then there truly is no obligation for you to follow anyone.

 
Here’s what happens – at least to me:

 
The good

  1. When I first heard of Twitter, I read that you can pose a question, and you’ll always get an answer from someone in the Twitterverse. So after I joined and had a couple hundred of followers I tried it. No response. I tried it again later. No response. And again. No response. Kind of sucked, but I thought – I guess I simply don’t have enough friends/followers.

     
    However, some time ago after the ‘third milestone’, I tried again. I pose a question and now I always get answers. Usually multiple, and usually from people I don’t know. This is just awesome. For someone like me, who thrives on interaction and enjoys meeting new people and starting conversations this is absolutely fantastic. I’ve actually started doing it just to get closer to some people who follow me (and I them). This is one of the best aspects of Twitter. I’m really enjoying this.

     

  2. You start getting offers for Sponsored Tweets. My original reason for entering Twitter was promotion of my blog and I knew this may have financial repercussions even though I didn’t anticipate or aim for short-term ones (it’s been 3 months and I’m still not doing anything of the sort). However, I truly hadn’t expected anything like that. You tweet a 1-3 messages and get money? It’s not a lot of money, yet this was still a nice surprise. I tweet sometimes hundreds of messages a day, what’s another one? Let alone one I mark as ‘#ad’ or ’sponsored’ (the application gives you that option)

     

  3. People you don’t know start referencing you or a conversation you had in a way that implies they know you or have been following your conversations, at least to some extent. Some people may feel threatened by this, but I just love it. It’s like skipping the whole “introduction” aspect of becoming a friend – like jumping directly to stage 2 of a friendship.

     

  4. Continuing the last item, people you don’t know start including you in their #FollowFriday. This even now still surprises me and greatly flatters me.

     

  5. You get more business opportunities. I’ve already had several such discussions – which makes sense, because there are so many people on Twitter who look for that, myself included. The one that most surprised me is the offer to give high level direction to a new Twitter application as a “Twitter Guru”. And more so, that the advice I gave was extremely easy to give and I also think, extremely useful. Twitter is truly very simple after all. After you’ve used it for a while you know what could be improved on and what is already great.

 
The bad

  1. Your twitter mailbox becomes useless. Tweetdeck shows you only the last 20 messages, so these days I usually don’t even bother checking my DM box – it’s filled with “offers” and twit validations and whatever. It’s a shame they can’t get a better system for that, like a white-list or a word filter (I’d filter every message that mentions “Trump”), because I’m sure I missed the occasional important direct message (apologies if I never answered someone who reads this).

     

  2. There is a definite loss of privacy. Personally, I’m not too sensitive about what I say. Although at times I’m sure it would be best if some tweets were not public, I still don’t worry about that too much. However, particularly when engaging in personal conversations, sometimes it’s almost easy to forget there’s an audience (and this changes when someone jumps into the conversation – happened several times). This is particularly true when you speak to someone who has fewer followers – or follows only real world friends – and may not to be used to keeping this in mind.

     

  3. Twitter becomes an increasingly greater time hog. Today I had lunch with a friend who told me “but you don’t really know or care about all 7,000 people, do you?”, and I said I don’t know all of them, but I know many, and certainly will be happy to get to know better anyone who is interested in knowing me. Furthermore, those that I do know, I care about, and as a result, I find myself spending more and more time on Twitter. People who know me know I’m very honest about saying this. I’ve met some fantastic friends in the past few months as result of using Twitter.

 
I don’t know what the future will bring to either myself or Twitter (personally I’m not too certain about its future). I assume it’s a different scenario when you have a 100,000 followers. I certainly have no problem conversing with multiple people at the same time (I vaguely remember even testing myself using various messengers and the maximum conversations I simultaneously could do is 8 – not just in terms of typing – I type very quickly – but also in terms of being truly focused on the conversation).

 
However, with such a great number of followers I’m sure one may easily find himself talking with many more people than 8. That would be beyond my technical ability (though it’s possible mentally I could do more than 8). If that happens, I’ll simply become a slow responder, I guess. Not that I envision myself ever having 100,000 followers (I anticipate I’ll peak at 30,000. Don’t ask me why, it’s just an educated guess).

 

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Cheap Traffic sources

Originally I told this story as an amusing anecdote to friend, but last week, following a conversation, I realized this could actually be helpful to my readers.

 
A few months ago I was promoting a lot of auto insurance offers. Now, these usually have a good payout, but in terms of PPC are extremely competitive and consequently, very expensive. It is really hard to make a profit, but I was managing. However, I was constantly on the lookout for quality – yet cheap – traffic sources.

 
At the time I was just starting to explore Media Buys. I heard of an network that offers this service (hint: its name starts with “Ad..”) ;) ), however, when I actually went to register, I got confused and registered to another network that does the same thing, but isn’t nearly as good. But I didn’t know this at the time. The names were just very similar.

 
The site required that I give them, I think, about $25, and showed me many sites divided according to niches with traffic statistics. The idea was that you can select a site, and place a banner/ad for a specified amount of time for a price. I picked five sites, and placed an ad to my auto-insurance offer. All seemed like very appropriate sites and nothing looked out of the ordinary. I paid $1 for each, and the ad was supposed to run for a single day on every one of those sites.

 
The next day I got the statistics:

  1. Two of the websites didn’t send me even a single visitor. Clearly the site’s statistics were simply fraudulent (I think each claimed 7,000 unique visitors a day or something like that)
  2. Two of the websites sent me two visitors, none converted. Again, fraudulent statistics.
  3. One site sent me a pretty good number of visitors – I think around 50. Normally I’d have to pay quite a lot to get 50 clicks using PPC for Auto Insurance offers! In Google Adwords this would literally cost me hundreds of dollars! The odd thing was that none of them converted, and I was very familiar with this offer – it normally converted very, very well.

 
The strange thing is that that one site kept sending me traffic the next day. I didn’t pay an additional dollar, but it still sent me traffic. Awesome, I thought. Again, the numbers were not bad at all, but 0 conversions. After two days this was starting to look suspicious. I examined the IPs and they were all very different – so I didn’t think it’s the same guy clicking my ad again and again.

 
The next day my ad was still running. I have no idea what the guy was thinking, but I didn’t mind. Again, decent traffic, zero conversions. Ok, now I started getting really suspicious. I sent him an email requesting that the ad be redirected to one of my own sites. I assumed he’d probably cancel the ad (reminder: I paid $1 for a single day! That’s it!) but this was simply too suspicious to continue. To my surprise, he agreed. No further charges.

 
The next day I started getting the same traffic to my site and then I discovered what was going on. All the traffic was coming from Asia. 95% from China and some from Singapore and Vietnam. Well, that explains why I got zero conversions – the offer was for US traffic only.

 
The thing is I really couldn’t guess this is what I’d get from the site – it looked perfectly American to me. And nowhere did the network or the site imply it may be a target for Asian visitors mainly (it just wasn’t mentioned anywhere, and I, naively, didn’t suspect anything – I still believed I’m using a good network at the time).

 
At this point I thought: well, the traffic is coming from whatever reason, I don’t mind. Maybe they’ll buy something? Maybe they’ll see something they like in the ads? Who cares, free traffic.

 
And the traffic kept coming… there were zero conversions but I definitely got some ad revenue which immediately made up for the $1 original cost.

 
This lasted for about 1-2 weeks until one day, some visitor went and clicked on all the ads on my site. 19. I heard Google likes banning AdSense accounts for exactly this type of suspicious activity, so decided not to risk it. I went to their site, there was an option “report suspicious activity”, I sent: “I don’t know who, someone clicked on all my ads, this is not me, feel free to take the income back, I don’t want it, kind, benevolent, great Google!” (well, I didn’t phrase it exactly like that, but that was the general spirit of my letter).

 
I got no response from Google – which is typical, maybe 10% of the emails I sent them got a response, and even those were usually automated, and neither was my account banned, so I figured – good, end of story.

 
However, I noticed something peculiar – that my ad revenue from all my sites significantly dropped. It was then I discovered what ’smart pricing’ means. It means that for 1 to 4 weeks, your entire AdSense account (and you are not allowed to have more than one) will get about a tenth of its revenue because Google suspects your traffic sources. Highly unfair – why should it affect my other sites!?

 
This was starting to become a problem. I didn’t want to just ask the person to remove the ad (free traffic, still), so I sent him an email asking him to redirect the traffic to another one of my sites (my book site), one which doesn’t have any ads. I figured, at least there the visitors can’t do any damage. If they buy something, great, if they don’t – I don’t mind. Clearly this traffic is not stopping any time soon.

 
This continued for a few more weeks (again, I remind you: I paid $1 for all this!). And then during a lunch with a friend he gave me an idea I can’t say is anything less than genius. “Why don’t you join a Chinese affiliate network?”. What a smart idea. Absolutely brilliant!

 
I started looking for some, and indeed found a couple. Several were all in Chinese, so I just couldn’t join them (even though I did guess what the various boxes represent), but one was not. So I joined (they were a bit baffled and interviewed me why I would want to do so). After being accepted, I applied to everything which I saw. Of course, half rejected me (why would a jewelry advertiser want to advertise on a book site?) but a surprising number approved me.

 
I started putting a few banners in Chinese in one page in my site, which must’ve looked pretty odd to my usual visitors, but noticed that the visitors almost never visit that page. The problem was that I didn’t want to overdo it because really it was making my site look odd. It’s a niche site, so I knew people would still visit it because of the content, but I didn’t to go to far… even with a just few banners my site was looking too weird for my taste.

 
So then I thought of a really good idea. I put all these banners on one page and made it hidden, so you could only access it using a direct link. Then I sent yet another email to the site owner and asked him to direct his traffic to that specific page. Perfect, no? Best of both worlds: it doesn’t affect my site, and I get good traffic to the one specific page.

 
After two days the traffic stopped. I think the person realized what I was doing and decided he’s not going to give me free traffic anymore. I must’ve received about 2 months of traffic for that $1 I paid. I decided I’m not renewing this ad anymore (he’ll probably charge me daily now). And that’s where things are left. Still have a hidden page filled with banners in Chinese.

 
I think this is an amusing story. First, because why would I get so much traffic for so little? Second, because clearly the traffic was not what I thought it would be. Later the auto insurance offer was canceled because someone was sending it “problematic traffic”, I quickly contacted my affiliate manager and inquired – this wasn’t me, my traffic was a drop in the bucket of the traffic they got, and I only sent it for 3 days. However, just the thought that I could have endangered my relationship with that network unwittingly wasn’t something I found pleasant.

 
Let this be a lesson to you all ;) Since then I’ve learned much on gauging the quality of traffic and am significantly more careful. But just thinking about this makes me laugh about this weird scenario and how naive I was back then with regards to Media Buys.

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aggregate2

An illustration of my evolved virtual hierarchical multicellular agent


 
This continues my previous post that linked to the first part of an interview about my Ph.D. work.

 
This part is much shorter: Ian and I just generally discuss related aspects of my work.

 
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m hesitating whether to publish my own version of the interview. It has parts that don’t appear in Ian’s version (primarily explanations in layman’s terms of what I did as well as some elementary concepts that I mention), less technical stuff, and other things which simply did not belong in his interview. I think I will publish it, but do it at the same time I’m publishing another post, so readers will have something else to escape to in case it’s proving to be boring or too long. Based on the responses I got from my last post, I actually don’t think my readers found the post boring at all (somewhat surprising to me), but my version is long. So I won’t take any chances ;) .

 
Ian’s interview with me (Part 2)

 
Edit: Oh, forgot to mention. My post will have links to movies, some mine, so not, that could be interesting to watch and will help illustrate the points made. Not sure how I’ll link to mine and whether they’re worthy of viewing, but the other stuff certainly is.

 

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After you’ve used social media sites for a while, you start finding common patterns, specifically, annoying patterns. Although each one of us is annoyed by different things, usually there are commonalities that annoy each and every one of us. I’ve decided to create my own list of pet peeves and share it with you.

 
Originally I was hesitating whether I should call this article ‘Pet Peeves in social media’ and have one section for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for LinkedIn, all sites I know really well. However, considering I have fewer LinkedIn pet peeves, than say, Twitter pet peeves, I think I need more time to get a list worth reporting. So for now this is only for Twitter.

 
Second, after I came up with this subject I met a great guy on Twitter, Darren Williger (@Williger). Not only he’s extremely witty and hilarious, but it turns out he also created – a video – that (can you guess it?) is about Pet Peeves in Twitter. I thought that I can’t seriously write an article on the subject without including his video. I am fully aware that no matter what I say, people will remember Darren’s video (which is awesome) as the point of this post. Oh well, I bow down before you, Darren – absolutely brilliant video!

 
Here’s my list of Pet Peeves. Feel free to add some of your own.

  1. Many users have some kind of auto-follow script – so when you follow them, you get a direct message (DM) “Thank you for following me, blah blah blah”. That’s fine with me. However, the thing that irritates me the most (more than spammers!) are the users that send you the DM – but don’t follow you back, so you can’t respond! It goes along the lines of “Thank you for following me. Here’s my blog. Can you tell me about yourself?” (remember, all automated). But I can’t answer! Because you haven’t followed me! I’d much rather not get anything, and not be followed than get a message I can’t reply to!

     

  2. Following the previous item are the users who have an auto-follow that sends you to some kind of unrelated sales page. Sometimes the description is even deliberately misleading like, “learn about me in this link” or “read my blog here” but when you press the link, it’s a sales page! Dude, we just got to know each other, and you’re already asking me to buy something from you? What are the chances this is going to work? Occasionally these links are broken and don’t even work – which truly makes these users look ridiculous. I used to respond to them “your links are broken” but never received a response. Not even once.

     

  3. Bots, particularly the sophisticated ones. I don’t know whether these are real people who do 90% automation, or bots that occasionally have a real person controlling them (there’s a subtle different in my opinion). But do any of these sentences look familiar?
    • 140 cramping your style?
    • Apu Akhbar?
    • Ma Shlomkha?
    • Como está?
    • Hur är det?
    • What’s everyone talking about?
    • Robin Williams survived open-heart surgery; has new role in film – and life
    • Too many tweets. Too little time to reply.
    • Why is Twitter a verbal gym? Stress relieve for the mind.
    • The day ends with a tweet.
    • iphone is always ringing. standby
    • Random tweets
    • Is Obama doing a good job?
    • Ogenki desu ka

    I’m sure some at least look very familiar. Guys, I understand you want to automate things, but for crying out loud, get a better list. All these are real messages I’ve seen over and over and over and over. The ironic thing is that one of the messages is ‘random tweets’. My guess is that someone made a list of things to tweet, and the title was ‘random tweets’, and somehow this got into the actual list of things being tweeted about.

     
    I tend to retweet them with a smart ass comment, and never, ever, received a response. i.e. “Ma Shlomkha? -> Do you even understand what that means? Of course you don’t, you’re a bot” (it’s “what’s up?” in Hebrew).

     

  4. Spammers: I won’t elaborate. They annoy me less than most people. I even find them funny at times (read my post 5 Different Types of Spammers).

     

  5. Users promoting products in an idiotic way. Personally, I have no problem with people using Twitter as a vehicle for promoting products – not at all (hey, I may do this too at some point). But come on, be smart about doing this. Don’t say “Want to learn how to make $158,081 in less than 8 hours?” or “Gain 1,500 followers in the next 21 minutes!”, be smarter about this. No one in his right mind will take you seriously. And if they do, I assure you, they don’t have a credit card or a way to pay you.

     

  6. People doing #FollowFriday for people they don’t follow themselves. Quick explanation: #FollowFriday is a very nice Twitter Tradition. Usually every Thursday/Friday people will tweet a list of the people they recommend for following. Some just include names, other give lists with brief titles “amusing conversations” “sweet and funny”, etc. This is what gives Twitter its personality.

     
    However, some people do #FollowFriday for people they don’t follow themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to retweet someone’s FollowFriday tweet even if you’re not following the person (since you’re basically just saying “listen to this guy, he knows what he’s saying”), but don’t publicly recommend following someone when you’re not following your own advice. It’s like a health guru eating junk food in secret – do what you preach!

     
    In particular I was irritated by a guy I tried to converse with a while ago (we have some things in common so I thought he’d be interesting to chat with). He ignored 2-3 tweets I sent him. One day I RTed two of his tweets. he ignored these too. Ok, I get it, he doesn’t want to talk. However, the next Friday he included me in his #FollowFriday. He wasn’t talking to me (at all), or following me himself, but he publicly recommended that people follow me. How hypocritical is that?

     

  7. The last one is pretty mild: Direct Messages (DMs) that require 10 separate messages. Yes, I understand the whole 140 character limit (that’s the point of microblogging), but at times you want to say more, and the only alternative is to use 10 consecutive messages. My friend Suzanne gets a phone call for every one of those and it can become really annoying. I would’ve much preferred if the direct message system was not limited to 140 characters (blasphemy, I know!), or alternatively, it could send you to an extra app that allows you to write one long email which will automatically be broken up. Or even just use real email (which is my preference).

 
That’s my list. Any ideas for more?

 
Edit: Although Twitter is still crawling with thousands of bots, they did take out the bot network I mentioned in #3 about 1-2 months after I posted this (not that I think there’s a connection…).

 
Edit 2: After writing this post I befriended Darren (the funny guy in the video). This friendship was a catalyst for so many positive things in my life. One of these is Social Media 201.

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How to quit an addiction


 
Let’s face it. At one point or another we all found ourselves visiting a website/application much more than we wanted to. It could’ve been MSN messenger or AIM. It could’ve been Facebook or Twitter. It could’ve been a favorite blog. It could’ve been an online game (such as World of Warcraft). However, one day we realized that it’s become a detrimental habit: it has started affecting our personal lives and even work. So we decided to take our distance or maybe even quit.

 
..and then we found out it’s not so easy..

 
Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does to many.

 
In one previous post I mentioned I used to have a very successful blog in one community blogging site, and that I eventually I left for various reasons. But even after I left I used to visit quite often. There were fewer and fewer reasons for me to do so, and yet I still found myself going for a quick peek. Some people have addictive personalities, I actually don’t (when I decide I need to diet, I do – I lost 40 pounds this way), but it was extremely hard for me to break from that site – way harder than dieting – though eventually I managed to do so.

 
So if you ever want to retire from a website or internet application from various reasons, these are my guidelines:

 
First, think about why you want to do this, and whether you truly want to. Do you have a hidden agenda, one you may not even be aware of (finding that it provides escape from real life? drawing attention to yourself? etc) then it might not work. You need to really want to do this for the process to be successful.

 
It’s quite possible that after doing some thinking you’ll realize that you don’t want to stop. A friend of mine faced a very unusual dilemma (which unfortunately I can’t share, though it would make a fascinating story), and struggled with withdrawal for a long time (and talked to me about this a lot). Eventually she just said “I know it’s bad for me, but I can’t stop doing it. I guess it’s not important enough for me to quit. If it ever does, then I will”. Although I think she made the wrong choice (and told her), I respect the fact she took responsibility for this decision.

 
Second, if you are certain you want to go ahead with this, simply make a decision. Decide that things are going to change from now on. It might sound corny, but you need to make this decision consciously to be mentally prepared.

 
Third, decide on a time frame. I find that people often fail with such decisions because they give themselves leeway. “I’ll start my diet tomorrow”. “I’ll quit smoking after the new year”. No! Decide on a time frame, which could be now, tomorrow or next week, and stick to it. Until that point you are free to do whatever you want, even overdo it. If it were smoking, I’d say, smoke 10 packs of cigarettes, but smoke them before the deadline.

 
Fourth, and I find that for me this is the most important element: remove the physical cause of the habit. I found out that regarding addiction, at least for me many times it’s hard to break simply because it became a habit, something I’d do without thinking about it. Just turn on the application. Just open the website.

 
So if this were smoking, I’d say, get rid of all cigarettes in your home, all the ashtrays, and all the lighters. However, in the case of internet applications or sites, I’d say uninstall the relevant applications and clear your browser cache. If you really suspect you may waver in this decision, change your password to gibberish and store it somewhere (could be a physical printout). This will make going to the website/application a much harder thing to do, as you’ll actively struggle with your commitment with it (so it won’t be a 2-second thing but breaking this process would have to be done consciously). The moment I realized that my attempts fail because they became a habit is the moment I learned to beat these things permanently.

 
Fifth, expect withdrawal symptoms. If it’s a social website, are people talking about you? If it’s a chat application: what’s going on around there? If it’s a MMORPG (yes, I quit that habit too, years ago), are there new areas? Has the last raid been successful?

 
Every time you have these thoughts think of the reason you decided to leave. Why leaving is good for you and how it will improve your life. If necessary, even note it down for yourself. In case of smoking, this would be physical withdrawal symptoms, but then you’d have to think about your health. About your child who is exposed to your smoke. Et cetera.

 
Sixth, DO NOT TEMPT YOURSELF. This is where the success stories end. You could be successful for months, and one day just say “Hey, I’m over this, I’ll just do this one time”. No, not even once. From what I hear, this is how many ex-drug addicts and ex-alcoholics resume their old habit.

 
Finally, Start and don’t look back. Be strong. This will work if you’re committed.

 
How amusing. I wrote this with regards to internet applications/websites, but this really can be applied to any addiction.

 
When I decided to do my diet (which was a very specialized no-sweet diet), I took things to an extreme: I avoided all things with sugar, milk, fruit, carbohydrates and a couple more things. People who know me well understand how much this was a sacrifice for me (I have a sweet tooth and am a very hungry person by nature), but I decided I need to do this for health reasons. So I completely avoided these foods. For 3 months, I haven’t made even a single slip-up. At the same time, I lost a lot of weight very quickly without doing any extra exercise (or ever hearing a diet lecture or reading a diet book). This simply worked. Not that it wasn’t hard, it was very hard – but it worked. I’ve done this multiple times so far.

 
Just to finish this anecdote, I eventually stopped. After 3 months, my boss at the time brought high quality chocolates to an office party. He kept pushing me “come on, take one – it’s not going to be bad to eat just one”. I ended eating 3, and then more at home, and within the following week I was back to my old habits. Clearly this broke my diet.

 
In hindsight, I don’t regret it – 3 months were plenty for what I was trying to accomplish and I really didn’t need to continue. However, in other circumstances this would be really baaaaaaaaaad. This is exacty what would make me fail. As I said, from what I know, people who have quit really dangerous addictions for long periods of time (such as drugs or alcohol) fail in precisely these circumstances.

 
It’s important to also realize what your temptation boundaries are: for me it’s OK to see my temptation as long as I don’t do it myself (i.e. I can see my wife eating ice cream, and it would be hard, but it would not cause me to break). For other people it might be necessary to completely avoid it. Whatever works for you.

 
I don’t know how many people who read this are actually considering breaking a habit, but if you are, then this will work. Since I intend for this blog to stay here for a while, I hope this may end up actually helping someone. If it does (or I can help with anything), please do let me know. I’d really like to hear your story.

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Buying shoes

I keep planning to do two big posts and yet things always keep interrupting me and I end up writing about something else. I suppose this is the good thing about having a blog: you can always talk about what you find interesting at the moment. And I still intend to write the other posts.

 
Some time ago I created a new site promoting a piece of clothing (I won’t say which one). Using several tools, I estimated it would have a decent amount of traffic, even if on the low side, and little competition. Furthermore, I did a quick search: monetization should be easy: both in terms of ad revenue and in terms of affiliate offers (easily found some, and good ones too). I built the site, and within 2 weeks ranked #1 on Yahoo, Bing and Google. Piece of cake.

 
To my surprise, I got traffic, but very little of it. Really disappointing; although I was not expecting a lot of traffic, clearly the tools I used to estimate what I’d get were wrong since I never got more than 5 visitors a day – and I was #1 on all three search engines!

 
Therefore, I started using it as a test site: I did experiments with it such as removing a large number of backlinks at the same time to see what would happen: they slowly vanished from the my site (meaning, the backlink count slowly started going down every day), and eventually I lost my #1 position on Bing – but that’s it, still #1 on both Google and Yahoo.

 
I removed the ads and started testing other forms of monetization, not because I thought I’ll get anything from it (clearly I would not with so little traffic), but because I wanted to see how it would look/affect the rankings/whatever. Some things have peculiar effects on SERPs and I was curious whether I’d stumble on anything interesting.

 
Following a conversation with a friend I had on Friday, I decided I’ll just flip (sell) the site. I’ll rebuild the backlinks, restore the ads, and quickly regain my #1 Bing position. I would advertise it exactly as it is: #1 rankings on all search engines, all original content, small niche, but very little revenue. Hey, even if I get a $150 it’s worth it – it may be useful for someone else, but from my perspective the site is a total loss.

 
As I started rebuilding links I noticed something .. interesting. Something which completely made me feel like an idiot. Apparently all this time I was checking the site rankings for the wrong keyword phrase. Clearly I was #1 for a phrase but it was not the phrase I was aiming for originally. And all this time I just assumed I somehow got a niche that sounded good in theory, but in fact isn’t. After checking my rankings for the right keyword phrase I saw I’m around 40 something. This clearly explains the low amount of traffic I get… and still not so bad considering I eliminated a large portion of its backlinks in an antagonizing way to the search engines.

 
So no total loss. Back to building backlinks, I restored all the ads, added multiple affiliate offers (more than I had before) and starting tracking the right statistics now.

 
This emphasizes the importance of doing things meticulously. Although I usually pride myself on being very thorough, I’m only human too. I’m at least glad to see that it means this site is not a total loss and may yet prove to be quite a good one!

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This isn’t really a post: but why would anyone look for a search query “Ashton Kutcher and the Mossad”? Someone got to my blog by searching for this phrase. Unsurprisingly, I’m very highly ranked for this phrase (on several versions of Google, I tried), since this is such an unlikely combination and I mention both in two separate articles. But why would anyone look for that? If you know, can you please let me know? I am really curious.

 
It’s nice that Google sends me the growing segment of Ashton fans that are interested in the Mossad. You’re all welcome to my blog! (no sarcasm here, I welcome all visitors).

 
p.s. Isn’t it a good premise for a movie? Someone writes a blog about Ashton Kutcher and the Mossad, next thing he knows the Mossad is after him because it turns out he accidentally found out about a conspiracy (i.e. Kutcher is an undercover Mossad agent, and I’ve just now blown his cover). I think Shia LaBeouf should play me in this case (not that we look anything alike, but he’d make a good casting). Ashton will play himself, and the Mossad agent will be played by Willem Defoe or Donald Sutherland. Maybe Sutherland is better.

 
A real blog post should be coming tonight or tomorrow. This is just for my personal amusement.

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The Wannabe Guru

The Wannabe Guru

I just returned today from the Lightweight Startups meetup. Overall, an excellent meetup, though frankly, our 202 Affiliate meetup is much better (not to mention the fact that we win free items every time). During the meetup I noticed that the attendees tend to be very different from those who attend our affiliate meetups, who in turn, are quite different from the people who attend the tech meetups (which I occasionally attend as well). It is then that I realized that I’ve attended enough affiliate meetups to be able to categorize affiliate marketers into several distinct groups. Ah, a challenge! I’ve decided to do so in this blog post.

 
Note that if you’re not an affiliate marketer, you may not understand what I’m talking about, though I’m sure you’ll see some analogies to a domain you are familiar with. We are dealing with human nature here, so the same/similar patterns will emerge in various circumstances.

 
Let’s begin. I’ll start with the lowest of the low.

 
The Newbie: he comes to the meetup with bewilderment in his eyes. Someone told him that he could make tons of money very quickly, and he wants to know how. Sometimes he knows a bit (“you can advertise on Google with CPO, right?”) and sometimes he knows virtually nothing. Usually despite the best efforts to help him all you can really say is “take a good class or do a lot of reading on the subject, as you need to be familiar with the basics before you can do anything productive”.

 
The Struggling Affiliate: usually this type knows his stuff but hasn’t had great success so far. It might be because he doesn’t know some crucial bit of information, or he simply hasn’t gotten his lucky break yet. Sometimes he admits this, sometimes by talking enough with him you’ll be able to tell.

 
The successful affiliate: you can recognize this type by the calm assurance he handles the meetup and the occasional slip-up of large expenses he mentions. You can also tell that he is generally not interested in either the Newbie or the Struggling Affiliate because they have nothing that he needs (he may throw a bone in their direction, but nothing beyond that).

 
The Bullshitter: this type of affiliate has done it all and made a lot of money. He won’t say anything specific. Just that he’s done PPC, SEO, Media Buys, PPV, on all the affiliate networks, and promoted all the hot products (he can name every single one as if his life depended on it). He also knows all the gurus, every single one (he’s been to Gauher’s house and is fact the godfather of his child!). Yet when you really try to get some facts from him, you see that his knowledge is skin deep and basically what he does best is talk. One final bit: the bullshitter knows he’s a bullshitter. He’s not self deluded.

 
The super affiliate: a super affiliate is what we all aspire to be. Those are the guys that make the big bucks. From my experience, the real super affiliate tend to be rather shy about it (“I do well” they answer when asked), and in fact, that’s how I usually recognize them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t super affiliates that are the bragging type, there’s definitely a lot of those.

 
The Guru: I’ve met only a handful of those, but these are the legendary people. We all know their names. We all get emails from them. We all know who they hang with. They’re gurus, and they’ve earned this status. Usually they don’t come to meetups unless they’re invited to give a talk. Why should they? They don’t need to anymore. They’re beyond that. We all bask in their glory. If you look really hard, you’ll be able to see that some have a green aura around their heads (because of all the money they have, you see).

 
The wannabe Guru: the wannabe guru is a successful affiliate (possibly a super affiliate) that genuinely believes he is a guru and constantly talks about this, how much money he’s made, and how his life is the life of a rock star. But when you do some research he can never be found online! How mysterious! And no one knows his name! This type is easy to recognize because he talks more than everyone else, usually about how successful he is. The nice thing about the wannabe gurus is that there’s no chance they will ever read this post. Their time is too valuable to waste on mere blog posts (let alone from someone as lowly as myself – wait a moment, everyone are lowly to the wannabe guru, except for other gurus perhaps). Why waste their time when they could be hanging out with President Obama, Bono or even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (they know him too and are at times eccentric, so you never know).

 
The lackey/minion: you’ll see him hanging around whoever he thinks is higher in the ranks than he is (usually the successful affiliate, the super affiliate, the wannabe guru, or the guru). He’ll laugh at all the right moments, never interrupt mid-sentence, do whatever is asked/commanded to do. He lives to serve, all for the precious knowledge that he may gain (and who knows, he might – I’ve never been one myself so I don’t know).

 
The scammer: fortunately, I haven’t seen any of those in our meetups, though I have been in contact with some (through other means). They masquerade as gurus/super affiliates when in fact most of their income comes from scamming YOU. They do courses which are overpriced, promise the world yet offer nothing new. During the course they constantly try to pitch in offers (always with some excuse “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but this is too good for me not to mention”) and often try to sell their own products as well, which tend to be overpriced junk. A quick visit to some of the affiliate forums will give you names, though you probably can think of some already.

 
Note that the categories are not mutually exclusive, that is, a person can be in more than one: for example, a successful affiliate may be a lackey of a super affiliate and a wannabee guru may be a bullshitter (though it’s not necessarily the case – he may truly believe he’s a guru).

 
Have I forgotten anyone? I have considered adding more types such as The Blackhatter, The Porn Affiliate, but decided this goes in a different direction to what I have in mind.

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