Still Thinking

I first reviewed No One Cares What You Had For Lunch on October 19, 2007,  less than six months after starting the blog which has become Libdrone Book Reviews.     I’ve actually learned a great deal more about blogging than I knew back then,  not long after I published Blogging About Books About Blogging.   I know, for instance that a personal blog is actually a much better niche choice than a book review blog if you set a goal of publishing a new post every single calendar day.    When I started blogging I worked for a large county public library system and was all but literally swimming in some of the greatest new books.     Even with my early concession of deciding that I would   “feature”  rather than review books I found that it took an enormous amount of time and effort to publish a coherent three paragraph post every day about one or more great new books.     It was well less than year into my first blog  that I cut back first to three posts per week and then two posts per week— and even with those lower frequencies I took hiatuses from it at times.   Sometimes planned,   sometimes not.

Even though I wasn’t blogging every day,  I did spend time every day hanging out with other bloggers on sites like Blog Catalog and Entrecard.   Both of which are still there.   Though neither of them now attract the communities of smart, interesting people who made those sites such incredible destinations in their hey days.    Over the years I’ve been a part of so many communities.   First way back when on Compu$erve and then later on MUDS in the early days of the public (text based) Internet,  and then on various websites since.    I’ve learned that businesses come and go.    And the communities which they allow users to form are ultimately very fragile.   Web sites and online communities will inevitably come and go.   But many times the relationships linger.    I still visit Ron and Bev‘s blogs from time to time,  just to see what’s news with them.   Though the Compu$erve forum where we first met has been through just as many changes over the years as we ourselves have  and aren’t really a place to hang out anymore.   I still talk to friends  (mostly on Facebook these days)  like JD and Tiffany whom I first met on Blog Catalog,  although that web site too is still around  but is simply no longer the hot spot of smart, creative people who were going to publish blogs and make a lot of money from doing it.   (HA, HA, HA)

Yet I know no finer men than Dane Morgan (who taught me more about marketing and about respectful disagreement among real friends than anyone else I’ve ever known) or Rich Becker,  one of the most outgoing and friendly people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet who brings the public relations skill set to the world of social networking with a level of intelligent and open discourse that very very few will ever match.        The folks I have linked to in this post are only a small handful of the people whom I have met and gotten to know in the twenty years that I have been online.    I argue that the real value of all that networking is the real human relationships I continue to maintain,  with people I have come to genuinely care about,  in some cases even though we have never actually met face to face.   Someday Facebook and Twitter and any other communications tools you now use today will come to seem as quaint as a 300 baud chat room does,   for those of us old enough to remember such things.

I’ve challenged my friend Michael to visit a number of my old  haunts.   Not because I in any way think that Michael or any of my other new friends  actually need to visit old sites where I once met people who have proved to be incredible friends and friends who have in different ways helped me to become the professional that I am today.     I am not actually against continually trying new tools, new social networks and trying to find the golden nuggets in the chaffs of wheat.    But unless finding those golden nuggets  (rather than writing a book or  publishing a book or creating a successful business for examples) is your primary goal,  no human being can possibly have the time to be on every social web site.   And any business that hopes to do other things  (like turning a profit, perhaps) certainly can not afford to be.

Alan Jobe is the author of  Walking Down The Avenue,  from Libdrone Books.

Living In AET

The little clock at the lower right corner of my computer screen says it’s 1am  (Pacific Daylight Savings Time).  But I find lately that regardless of what the clock says I am living these days  in Alan Erratic Time.    I’ve always been a night owl.  And since getting very caught up in Empire Avenue,  my hours are more irregular than ever.

I’ve been very fortunate to stumble into a great small community within EA (#SocialEmpire).  Honestly, for me it is a bit reminiscent  of my early days on Entrecard,  which initially attracted a very bright and engaging group.    Once again I am making a bunch of new friends and spending a lot of time online engaged in  good discussion with smart people.   It’s really one of my favorite things to do, but it is actually fairly rare in my experience.    I am also of course recalling how @GrahamLangdon  drove Entrecard right over a cliff.   The cool kids decamped to CMF Ads— which is great btw, but of course it was never the same.   What’s funny is,  that even while I am greatly enjoying my participation and am certainly doing all I can to contribute to community creation,  a part of me is kind of waiting to see just whom it will turn out to play the Langdon role this time.  

The one thing I’ve learned about online communities that I believe is Always true is that the Only constant is Change.   They all have an incubation period,  hopefully followed by a start-phase,  then if successful to be followed by a prime phase, and then eventually a decline and inevitably irrelevance, relegated to the archives at the WayBack Machine.    I’ve seen it happen to Compu$erve,  and later to AOL,  as a customer and employee of the former and as former employee of the latter.    Today, look at Yahoo– except for their fairly successful (though not wildly money-making) Flickr site it has clearly seen its day come and go.    Which is why I am pretty sure that after some (perhaps great and long) run Twitter, Facebook and even beloved Empire Avenue will fade away as all of the people worth interacting with there now have drifted to other sites and other people.    Some friendships and acquaintances will continue on, on other sites.  (I still try to keep up with my friends Ron and Bev from way back on Compu$erve in the late 1990’s.)    And like a blogger who one day stops updating their site,  and you find you don’t have an e-mail for them,  and they never post again, and one day a spammer takes over their URL and you wonder whatever happened to a person you had really considered a friend, even though you never met them face to face,  that disconnect will one day affect most of the new relationships I am so ardently cultivating today.

Such is life.   It is a bit sad, I suppose, but in my experience discovering great new sites and falling into great online communities is something that happens to me over and over again.   I was tweeting with some new friends about the nature of the universe about 1am last night.   Whether it was physics or philosophy,  I am not wise enough to say.   But it was fun.      I was going to link some of the company names above to the WayBack machine to give everyone a giggle,  but it’s down now at the moment.   Sorry.   To all my new friends,  welcome to My world.   To all my old friends,  thanks for standing by me,  after all these years.   Hope it’s a happy Wednesday for you.

Alan

And a PS to my buddy @scribdiva   I’ve been thinking about what you said.   I will e-mail you today.

I have removed the Entrecard widget

from this site. The fact that the Only way to not have paid ads appearing here was to manually decline them, one by one, every day, no matter what my ad settings were was the straw that finally broke my long suffering back. This particular blog exists Only as my personal little soap box and I quite honestly don’t care if anyone reads here or not. I kept the widget because I have so many friends who are still using Entrecard that I wanted to be able to continue to drop when I visit them, but it appears to me that Entrecard itself no longer welcomes this more limited use of their service so I am finally out, after being one of the ones who Really promoted this service at the beginning and more lately one of the growing chorus of critics.

Like watching a train wreck, where it’s so gory but you just Can’t look away, I suspect that I will continue to be an Entrecard observer and critic. And for sure, I will do a post celebrating its demise when Graham finally manages to drive all the way off the cliff. See you at the CMFads forum.

Mailbox Monday

It’s an exciting day over at the books blog. Lyndi at Nice2All gave The Thin Red Line a Rave Review, and I am aglow at the wonderful compliments. Meanwhile, my ad for the dot com page is running right alongside the review (Thank You CMFads) and I am feeling a great deal of satisfaction in Lyndi’s advice (don’t change a thing). It appears to me that I get about 100–150 regular readers per day and I definitely get feedback that these people like what they see. I am starting to feel like a successful blogger again, more so than at any time since my Entrecard-ending traffic drop.

I am really, Really, REALLY homping that CMFads will grow into what Entrecard _could_ have become, had it been managed by people I know and trust, like Ben, Stan and Turnip. A place where thoughtful and quality bloggers will feel genuinely at home and can gain meaningful notice, as opposed to a system that sadly has become largely a meaningless link exchange, where the most Popular blog , in All of Entrecard, for TWO YEARS IN A ROW (as Turnip recently broke) is a splog, run by the same scraper who maintains 5 blogs (each of which drop the required 300 per day) with all the credits gained used to advertise the “main” site. Monkey Tales? More like horseshit, imho.

I suppose it is disingenuous to keep the EC widget on this personal site, even while deploring what Entrecard has become, but some of my real blog friends still use that site and I Do like being able to leave a card and it seems only fair to have a place where they can leave cards for me. Like most serious bloggers, I am Not eager to choose sides in some kind of power struggle. I just want solutions that Work. And CMFads is delivering that in spades.

Oh, and since this is a Mailbox Monday I will note that this week’s mail brough an advanced reading copy of Afraid by Jack Kilborn, a thriller that was previously published in the UK that is being released in the US in paperback in April by Hachette’s Grand Central Publishing unit (Thank You Miriam Parker!) and a published copy of Lord of Corruption by Kyle Mills, which I will be giving away, probably to my one thousandth commenter on the The Thin Red Line im association with an April review date.

One final thought, today. I have been thinking of trying to organize some kind of South Puget Sound bloggers group where we could meet up face to face, like at the library meeting room maybe once a month just to talk and get to know each other and look at ways we can work together to butter All of our bread. If you are a blogger in the South Sound area and would be interested in attending a get together, please shoot an e-mail to me at drone AT libdrone DOT info.

rambling insomniac thoughts

My sleep schedule is getting out of whack again. Yesterday I worked 1:30pm to 9pm. Came home. Had a medium intensity fight with my spouse. Then made up and had some excellent make up whoopie. Then, around midnight, I got on the puter and started looking at my e-mails, my Tweet Deck, etc. Proof-read a post I have scheduled to go live at 12:01 am EST tomorrow. And then I got involved in the Blog Catalog forums, the CMF forums. Ended up reading lots and lots of older posts. And next thing I know, now it is 6am and I am faced with the equally disagreeable choices of going to bed and sleeping all day or staying up and trying to accomplish what I’d planned on for today, despite running on empty. (sighs)

Several weeks ago, I decided I’d had enough of the Entrecard “drop 300 cards every day” treadmill and cut Way way back on my dropping. My traffic went down significantly, as I knew it would. (Just btw, this in reference to my primary blog The Thin Red Line, rather than the blog you are reading just now.) But I noticed something odd when I checked my stats last night. While I have gone down from an average of 300–500 unique visitors per day to about 125–150 uniques/day, my page views are way up. Where my 300–500 uniques with all the EC junk traffic (those who remember this thread on Blog Catalog will note the large serving of crow I am eating) generally produced a very similar number of page views, yesterday’s 135 unique visitors racked up more than 500 page views. This suggests to me, that while I am not getting as many visitors as before, the visitors I do get are taking the time to read more than one post and explore the site. Which suggests to me that even as my Alexa has gone back up (14x,000 at the moment), I am getting more readers who are genuinely interested in the site content.

I’m also feeling just a little bit of a need to eat still More crow for this thread in which I stated emphatically that I had a plan and expected my site to produce meaningful income within two to three years. Now that we are about to that point I’ve cleared a total of 10 dollars on the site last year and am earning a small amount of money from my new favorite place, CMFads. Glad I didn’t quit the day job. But I do genuinely enjoy writing my book reviews and I have learned so much over the past two and a half years. It remains to be seen if I will find my way into earning a real income from my writing and blogging. But I have to say that despite having learned just how hard it is to honestly earn a buck online, that I have no regrets and would do it all again in a heartbeat. I continue to meet and make new friends on CMFads and on Twitter (which Turnip bless his heart suddenly made Really useful to me by helping to understand the right way to use TweetDeck).

If you’d like to learn about CMFads and how it stacks up against other blog advertising services, be sure to visit The Thin Red Line tomorrow.

time to end Entrecard participation?

If you haven’t already heard, Graham Langdon, entrecard.com‘s number one douchebag, banned leading blogger Turnip of Power from the Entrecard system after Turnip posted a mildly rude tweet on Twitter. The tweet intentionally Mentioned Entrecard, in order to show the apparently Clueless Langdon why it’s Not such a Good Idea to post to your website Everything that Everybody tweets about you, particularly not when you have spent a lot of time pissing off a lot of people. And the reaction to that tweet, arbitrarily and immediately banning one of the site’s Top Users over a silly and not very important tweet on another social network, is just so over the top arrogant that I am Utterly disgusted and find myself contemplating a departure from Entrecard.

On the one hand, I hesitate to give up the traffic. I’m certain if I stop dropping (even if I keep the widget) my traffic will drop and my Alexa will go back up and my Google page rank (4 last I checked) may go down. In terms of selling ads, I am getting decent but not spectacular results from Project Wonderful and CMF Ads. I’m not making a lot of money, but I am making money from my site and I have every hope it will grow. But after reading a couple of post (s) I forced myself to really think about whether the time I spend dropping cards (all too often on crappy blogs where my only reason for visiting is to get a drop credit and maybe inspire a return visit and drop might better be spent creating quality blog content and marketing that content through other avenues.

Much as I really have enjoyed getting to know so many great bloggers through Entrecard, I have to admit that my time would be better spent building a better blog and doing more to market it beyond a social networking web site that clearly seems to be on the wane and, much more importantly appears to be run by a meglomaniacal asshole who feels that the normal rules of courtesy and concern for ones customers somehow don’t apply to him. And that is just Not the kind of company I really want to be associated with, let alone depend on for a large share of my traffic.

For now, I am leaving the widget up but am not accepting new advertisements at this time. I have nine or ten ads sold so it will be more than a week before I am in a position to pull the plug on Entrecard altogether, and I am not 100% sure if I will remove the widget or not. But my drop 300 per day days are Done and I suspect my time as an Entrecard member will soon be Done too. My sincerest thanks to all of my advertisers and visitors, many of whom I met through Entrecard. I will certainly continue to visit my blog friends and will be working on other ways of marketing the site and hope that I will continue to see you around the blogosphere and over at CMF Direct. If you haven’t already go list your blog on CMF Direct. It’s free and allows you to accept any kind of advertising and is a great place to find new blogs and connect with other bloggers. It may well be what comes along to Replace Entrecard once Graham drives it over the cliff, so be Sure you are listed.