May 2011 – Stay N Alive

Facebook Listens. RSS Added Back to Pages. Will Twitter be next?

In perhaps one of my most controversial articles (unintentionally), I wrote a week or two ago about how both Twitter and Facebook both quietly removed RSS from user accounts and Pages. Of course, with Facebook, on user accounts that made sense since they were intended to be private, but with Pages, 100% public versions of the site, it didn’t make sense that they would remove the links and access to be able to subscribe to updates via RSS. It appears that Facebook listened though, as there is now a “Subscribe via RSS” link on Facebook Pages, and the source now links to an atom feed for clients that want to auto-discover the feeds. You can see it by looking down at the bottom left on any Page now.

David Recordon, Senior Open Programs Manager at Facebook, mentioned in the comments of my previous article“I actually think you’re misinterpreting the reasoning here. Today JSON based APIs are quite a bit more powerful than RSS feeds and have become preferred by the vast majority of developers when building on the platforms you mentioned. This means that it’s worth investing more time and energy into APIs over feeds. So I don’t think it’s that anyone is looking to actively remove feeds, rather they’re just stagnating over time as more functionality is built into APIs.” Of course, he had a point. It was also something I mentioned in my previous article, that sites are moving more and more towards proprietary JSON APIs vs openly available and reproducible RSS. The problem is API or not, Facebook’s Graph API (not to be confused with Open Graph Protocol) is still closed – until they open that up as a standard, it will not be easily accessible across clients and content consumption programs.

It’s really good, that on top of their existing (and really easy to use) Graph API, to see Facebook move towards something that not just developers can easily consume, but any user can also consume and do things with in a simple fashion. Until (and if) Facebook opens up its own API, this is the right approach to take, and they should be commended.

There is a glimmer of hope with this move by Facebook. Of course RSS isn’t dead, but my worry is that as we see Twitter and others slowly removing remnants of the protocol one bit at a time, these open standards may be swallowed up in favor of more proprietary APIs and formats. I’m really proud of Facebook taking a lead here in open standards adoption as they have done in the past – let’s hope they continue to do so in the future.

The question now is, in this regard, does this make Facebook more open than Twitter? (I argue Facebook has always been more open than Twitter in various capacities, but in this regard, I think it says something about Facebook’s motivations vs. Twitter’s) I’d really like to see Twitter follow suite and reconsider their stance on removing RSS moving forward.

How to Build Your Value and not be an Influencer on EmpireAvenue

For those of you involved on Empire Avenue I have a quick tip for you that will keep producing revenue for you so you can keep investing in more stock and therefore improving your value.

The secret lies in the number of dividends per share. The number is at the top of each profile next to the tabs, under “Dividends”. If you look at that number, that is the amount, on average, that you’ll get for every share you own in that individual. The other number you need to pay attention to is the growth of the stock per day – it’s the number in parenthesis next to the individual’s value in their profile (at the top).

Here’s what I like to do – I’ll look at the dividends per share weekly average and multiply it times the number of shares I have in that individual. That is the amount, minimum, that I’ll likely receive on a weekly basis by owning that individual. Now, divide that by 7 and you have the average amount per day you’ll gain. Then, add in the growth from the previous day of that individual (you can look at the growth over time if you like and average it if you want to stay consistent), and you now have a true value of that individual in its current state.

Here’s why you have to take into account both: Some individuals will bring you lots of Eaves on daily growth, but little in dividends. Compare that against someone that is bringing less Eaves on daily growth but have a lot of dividends. You’ll want to decide, based on that, which brings you more Eaves. Some times you’ll want to pick the fast movers and take the Eaves you get from the quick growth, and sell when they smooth out once you see they aren’t producing any long term value through dividends. Others you may want to keep because the dividends are producing well, despite a loss in daily growth. It’s basic math.

How to get Dividends

This is really why Empire Avenue is more than just a game, and it’s about building relationships. You get dividends by interacting with people, and by building them up. If you share an individual on your Facebook Wall, that gives you a dividend. If you post a lot on Twitter, that gives you dividends. If you post on Facebook, that gives you dividends. If you write a blog post, that gives you dividends. If you post and respond to people on Empire Avenue, that gives you dividends. All these are forms of building strong relationships with people, and that’s how you grow in the game.

The minute you start focusing on that, you will then become a target for people to purchase your stock, just as you embrace the strategy I mention above as your plan to purchase. You are now a valuable commodity, and because of the relationships you build, and your net gain to the individuals that invest in you, your stock will grow.

I realize this doesn’t benefit anyone but those that use Empire Avenue, but you can always join by following this link. Be sure to invest in me when you get there, by going to (e) STAY (see what I just did there – I just increased my dividends).

If you want further info, be sure to see Chris Pirillo’s free tips here.

Of Worldwide Religious Social Media Presence, the LDS Church Ranks Well

On the LDS Church Newsroom blog today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons) (and my employer) released some interesting stats about its social media presence online. According to the post (and’s Page Statistics), the Church has 5 of the top 90 Facebook Pages under Facebook’s “Church/Religious Organization” category (the top is ranked #10), is ranked #2 on Youtube for number of views in the “Non-profits and Activism” category, and trends at least twice a year during its biannual General Conference in Twitter’s worldwide and US top trending terms.

It’s no secret the Church takes its online presence seriously. I’ve shared before that the Church’s online presence ranks high on Alexa, and has some of the top blogs listed on Technorati and elsewhere. We have Youtube videos in the millions of views, Twitter accounts in the tens of thousands, and Facebook Pages in the hundreds of thousands of likes. is a Facebook Page targeted towards members of the LDS Church

You may be wondering, “why”, though. I’ve shared previously the natural desire of Mormons to share their beliefs, and, in a way that we’re natural marketers by just wanting to share something we really believe in and which is doing great things for the world. As Mormons, our entire beliefs are centered around relationships with each other, and with our God – social media lends a natural way for us to focus on those relationships and to extend those worldwide.

As the LDS Newsroom article states, Mormons are counseled, “With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before” (President Uchtdorf) (see the like buttons on that page?) As Mormons, we realize the incredible opportunity online tools such as Facebook provide to spread a message, and we can now do so in a manner that is interesting to those that are truly looking for it.

As a charitable organization, we also have the opportunity to help the world in a greater way, and as Mormons we take that responsibility seriously. Our efforts in Africa, for instance, are showcased on the LDS Newsroom blog in a shareable infographic that is perhaps more educational about the good the Church does there than an hour with Matt Stone and Trey Parker will ever teach you. We have incredible efforts in the damaged earthquake areas of Japan, and Christchurch, New Zealand. You can follow those efforts on the individual areas’ Facebook Pages set up for those causes here and here.

With social media members of the Church are able to share their own beliefs, from their own perspective. You might notice this with the member focus of Search for any demographic, any type of person, and you’ll likely find a member similar to yourself that believes in what we do, and you can learn straight from them. You don’t have to take the Church’s word for it.

Social media is about personalized messaging, and allowing others to opt-in to the messages they receive, and receive the messages in the most personalized manner possible that is interesting to them. The Church’s social media presence is making this more and more possible, so that those truly interested in its message are able to receive it.

So ask around if you’re interested. There’s a good chance one of your friends is a Mormon and can likely answer your questions. And if not, you can find us and subscribe to us just about anywhere on the web, in the environments you find are most comfortable.

In the meantime, here’s a great video that just released today on the Church’s Youtube channel. I think it has a great message for any God-believing individual (Christian or not), and I think it gives a good sense of why the LDS Church is interested in Social Media – it’s about relationships! (and please share it if it inspires you!):

Disclosure: In my day job, I am currently working as the Manager over Social Strategy and Solutions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While they are currently my employer, this article by no means represents any official announcement, declaration, proclamation, or doctrine on behalf of the Church.  All claims or topics written are solely my own opinion and not the opinions or official word of the LDS Church.  To be clear, regardless of my day job, I am still a member of the Church and I still believe its teachings and will always have beliefs to share surrounding the Church and its teachings.  What I write here should be considered as such.

Why as a Developer, I Switched to and Why I’m Staying With It

Since writing for a few years ago I’ve been curious about Blogger. Louis Gray used it at the time and he really swore by it. I talked to Rick Klau, Blogger’s Product Manager at the time, at a BlogWorld expo a few years back and he insisted I try it. He suggested that even as a developer I would be pleasantly surprised. I was surprised by him even saying that.

I admit I didn’t like the interface of Blogger at first. It was klunky, and seemed very limited compared to my self-hosted WordPress install I had been on for years. But I was intrigued at what Rick Klau had told me. At the same time, he Tweeted back in December that over a 2 month time frame, Blogger had experienced a 100% uptime. This further intrigued me.

Just last year, I was running this blog on a self-hosted WordPress instance, the same server I was running Being a one-man show at the moment (I do most of this on the side so I can help out the LDS Church with their Social Media efforts), occasionally that server would go down as a result of heavy activity on SocialToo, and with it, my blog as well. I’ve fixed those issues since, but I realized I had to have a more reliable, redundant solution so my communications weren’t cut off when my other services were. It was at that time I decided it was worth trying something else out that didn’t involve me having to worry about hosting.

The Choices

The main choices I had were self-hosted WordPress (, the subscription, pay-as-you-go, and There were others, but I was looking for reliability and Blogger and WordPress seemed to have the best uptime. Self-hosted WordPress I had already realized wasn’t an option for me – I loved the flexibility of it all, but I just didn’t have the time any more to keep worrying about whether my servers were up, whether I had appropriate cache set up, and everything that goes with it.

So my main choices were Blogger and To tell you the truth, my first inclination, as a WordPress user and developer (I’ve written a few WordPress plugins and even put together the theme for this blog with help of a designer), was to try out I began looking at it, and quickly realized to get “” as my own domain I would be paying $12 per year. Then, to add my own customized design, I’d be paying another $15 per year. To remove ads, that would be $30 per year. If I wanted to accomodate my entire community, that would be another $30 per year. The entire bill to switch was going to cost me $87/year! All that and I would still not be able to fully integrate the design I had from my own hosted solution. I don’t make a ton of money from this blog (I do make a little from ads to support it), so that’s a huge chunk of change for just a blog, and I wasn’t planning to get rid of any servers to be able to pay for the blog (since I still needed to run SocialToo).

That left me the choice of, so I decided to try it out. Blogger is 100% free, and has close to 100% uptime thanks to Google’s incredible infrastructure. I decided to try it, and boy was I impressed!

Let me share some of the pros and cons of why I decided to stick with it:

The Pros

I always thought of as a place for mommy bloggers (no offense to all of my mommy blogger friends!). It was the place I always sent people with little knowledge in technology and who just wanted a good place they could start a blog. Maybe that’s it’s biggest advantage. I quickly learned as I was getting started that the interface was mind-numbingly simple. It was really easy to manage!

Like I said though, that was what kind of kept me away in the first place. What I discovered however is that Blogger, while simple on the surface, has some very developer-friendly features that to me, seemed even easier to deal with than my custom-hosted WordPress solution. Here are the advantages:

  • Simplicity. I said it already – Blogger’s interface is mind-numbingly simple.
  • Reliability. Rick Klau isn’t lying. I can expect my blog to be up 100% of the time. They simply don’t go down! It was actually quite a relief today, with such a high traffic day (see my blog post about it), to not have to worry about any of my servers in the process. You simply don’t need to worry about a burst in traffic, DoS attacks, or anything like that. Google handles all that for you and they’re pros at it.

    On top of that, I added Torbit caching to the top of it all (they offered me a free beta of their service), which made it even faster. That took away any need for customized Apache caching.

  • OpenSocial Support. I think this is the coolest part. WordPress has plugins, but Google uses the standardized OpenSocial API, along with Google Gadgets, to provide an interface to Widgets and other features within the blog. To code a customized feature, I just need to know a little OpenSocial (which works with many other sites), and boom! It works right on my blog. That really got my Geek and Social Developer blood going, and I’ve only started to learn what can be done with it.
  • Simple, XML themes. You don’t have to know how to code (for the most part) to build a Blogger theme. Of course, I know how to code, but it’s not completely necessary. Look at the design of this blog (assuming you’re not viewing it on a very small screen or mobile device – more on that in a second) – all this custom design was built using Blogger’s own XML format. It was a pretty simple integration. I downloaded the XML file, edited it, uploaded it, and tried it out until I got the design I was looking for.
  • Seamless Integration with other Google Products. I say this with an asterisk. It works really well integrating with Google Adsense, Feedburner for RSS tracking, and a few other Google features (including any Google Gadget, as I mentioned above), but some obvious Google products have not been integrated. I’ll share more on that later.
  • Instantaneous RSS updates. When I publish a post, almost instantaneously it goes out to Google Reader and other readers that support the Pubsubhubbub format.
  • It’s free! The best part of it all is I don’t have to pay a thing to run it, and I don’t have to run ads on the site for it to work. It’s a cheap, very customizable solution any blogger can use. I don’t have any special deal to get what you see here – anyone gets this.

While the pros certainly outweigh the cons, there are still a few pet peeves of mine I’d love to see Google resolve. Some of these are obvious, and I really hope Google puts focus on them. Blogger could well be one of the most social products they own, and I hope they realize that. There’s a big bonus check in store for the employees that do get this.
  • SEO. I hope Matt Cutts is reading this (he doesn’t even use Blogger for his blog). The transition from custom WordPress to Blogger is horrible for SEO! In WordPress, I had an interface to customize the link structure so it matched the previous blog where my content was stored. That is non-existent in Blogger. They do provide a URL you can fall back to when your content doesn’t resolve on, but that means I’ve got to keep my previous custom WordPress solution running for it to work.

    The solution for this seems simple. Google already has a cache of every website known to man. They already have a cache of my entire blog. Why not use that cache to resolve current content that doesn’t resolve from old links on the site? Or, they could just do something like WordPress does – I think the former would be cooler, and more Google-like.

    In addition to URL structure, there is no good way to create a site map in Blogger. They provide an RSS feed, and you can submit that to Google Webmaster tools, but I’ve found Google is still missing links in their index from my new blog despite giving it my RSS feed. I’m now trying to just include the Archive of all the links on the sidebar of the page, but that’s hardly optimal, and cluttered too. It would be nice if Google just provided a sitemap, or automatically indexed it for you since they own the site anyway.

    There are also no good ways to customize the way your title, description, tags, and other data are formatted. You can sort of do this in your theme design, but it’s hardly an easy thing to do.

    That said, the uptime, and giving it time to index everything, does eventually make up for the bad SEO features of the site. I’m finding I’m almost all the way back to where I was traffic wise on Google.

  • Plugins. I mentioned OpenSocial and Gadgets as an advantage, but if you are used to the custom WordPress install, there is still a lot you cannot do on Blogger. For instance, to provide an alternate, mobile, version of this theme, I can’t just install a plugin to do it. I have to hard-code it into the main theme itself, which is clunky and bad looking. I’d love to see more fully integrated, and better plugin support. They could really take this to another level.
  • Storage. If I want to store something at the root of my domain, I have to figure out a way to hack my server as the root controller domain that forwards all other requests to blogger. Or, if I want to upload an image, it’s a rather clunky process. I have to upload it as an image on an article and link to it that way from my theme code, or upload to Picasa or some other location to host it there. There’s no good storage solution that fits well with Blogger. Google could do better integrating this.
  • The Cloud. The fact is, when your data is in the cloud, if something dies, so goes your content. I’m very aware of this. I’m trying to consider solutions of redundancy at the moment. I’m hoping to find something. It might be nice to auto-back up your blog to an external server somewhere, and that leads me to my next Con.
  • It’s proprietary. Blogger is not Open Source. I can’t install it on my own server like you can WordPress. I can’t contribute to its development. I can’t create my own instance if, knock on wood, Blogger ever does actually go down. I can’t send my backups to a server and have it continue to run there if my blog ceases to exist on
The Summary
If you’re considering an alternative blogging platform, getting sick of hosting it on your own, or just want to try something new, I highly recommend Speaking as a developer, it really isn’t your mamma’s blogging platform any more. There is so much you can do with it, and so many ways you can configure it, that it’s definitely worth a consideration.
If you really needs something fully customizable, are concerned about strict SEO, or need better plugin support, you may be better off sticking with a custom WordPress install, or some other open source blogging solution (hopefully that’s Blogger at some point). is simply too expensive to compare – I’m still unsure why people choose it, unless they don’t care about the custom features I mention above. That said, for me Blogger’s advantages far outweighed the SEO and any slight customization I would need. I also have faith that they will improve.
In a high traffic day like today, Blogger has been a life saver. I’ve been able to replace almost everything I had in my self-hosted WordPress instance, and it’s completely free to do so! I encourage you to carefully weigh the pros and cons but give it a try.
In another post I’m going to share the steps I took to transition from WordPress to Blogger. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime I’m interested in hearing your experiences. What pros and cons do you see with it?

Blogging’s Definitely Not Dead. The Conversations Surrounding it Seem to Be.

Today was an unprecedented day on I saw more traffic in one day than this blog used to get in an entire week. It was thanks to this article (the traffic was certainly unexpected, but I knew it was news, so I tipped Techmeme to let the world know what I discovered). It started with a bunch of you retweeting the article, and soon I was the top article on Techmeme. In the same day I ended up on the front page of HackerNews (currently article 2), and got retweeted by notables with an incredible retweet following such as Scoble, adding to the attention. By the end of the day, at least as I currently write this (with one hour still to go), I have 919 retweets of that one article, 122 likes on Facebook, and a total of almost 21,000 visitors. It was the perfect storm. It was traffic and attention I’ve never received before.

Yet one thing struck me. Despite all this traffic and all the attention this post had gotten, none of it happened as a result of conversations in the blogosphere. According to Techmeme, not a single blog wrote about this news today – it was all spread via Twitter, Facebook, Buzz, and other social mediums. In addition to the traffic that post generated, the way it spread too was unprecedented. I’m beginning to realize the conversation is moving away from the blogosphere and into the social ecosystem.

When I started realizing the power of blogging, it used to be all about links. I found out that if a person wrote about something interesting, if I continued that conversation on my blog and linked back to them they would notice, and could respond back to me. The entire conversation happened around blogs, and links between blogs. It can still happen that way if you want to get attention for your blog – I still encourage it. This is called a “Meme”. It’s because of this that TechMeme was formed, and it organized headlines based on links between blogger conversations. It was a great way to determine the popular news of the day.

If you look at Techmeme today though, look at my article – nothing but Twitter conversations linked to the post. The top story on Microsoft earnings only has Twitter conversations attached. I see 2 blog conversations on the second headline, and only one blog conversation on the third headline. You used to see up to 10 to 20 blog conversations for each article on Techmeme. If Techmeme is any indicator, it would seem that the conversation, via blogs, is going away, and instead moving towards mediums such as Twitter. Maybe that’s why Techmeme added Twitter conversations as added related content.

Notice there are only Twitter handles in this Meme

As I wrote earlier, the concept of “subscribing” is dying in favor of a more “follow”-based model. We see trends such as today’s realization that Twitter and Facebook have removed the visible RSS Feed links from their sites and in some cases completely. People are simply moving their conversations to more short-form conversations and into the cloud of social network ecosystems. It’s easier to do it that way. The conversations via blogs, and the links that go with those, have gone in favor of short-form messaging. No wonder Google is scared.

Is the blog dead? Certainly not. As you notice, on Techmeme all the headlines are still blogs (although you will get an occasional, monumental “Tweet”). Blogging still remains the single best way to get out a strong, long-form message and have everyone (for the most part) understand what you’re trying to get across. The blog still makes a big statement and should not be abandoned. It’s the conversation that is moving away from the blogosphere. The “Meme” has moved towards Social Networks, and perhaps that’s a good thing.

Maybe today is just an off day but I’m seeing a trend here.

I’d like to know – where have you moved your conversations? If you blogged before, do you still continue conversations on your blog, or have you moved them to Twitter and Facebook? I’m willing to bet I can guess what your answers will be.

Twitter and Facebook Both Quietly Kill RSS, Completely

Last year I shared how Twitter was moving more and more towards a closed, less-standards oriented model of sharing content as they upgraded their design to bring more people to the website. At that time, they removed the prominent RSS icons and made it only possible to access an RSS feed for an individual by logging completely out of Twitter, and visiting that individual’s profile page. After reading my post, Isaac Hepworth, a developer for Twitter, tried to comfort me in a response to my post on Buzz, saying:

“I’ve been talking to people internally to work out what happened here so that I could untangle it properly.
Here’s the scoop: the RSS itself is still there (as Jesse’s roundabout method for finding it shows). Two things were removed in #NewTwitter:
1. The hyperlink to the RSS on the profile page; and
2. The link to the RSS in the profile page metadata (ie. the element in the ).
(2) was wholly accidental, and we’ll fix that. In the meantime, Jesse’s way of finding the RSS is as good as any, and you can still subscribe to user timelines in products like Google Reader by just adding a subscription to the profile URL, eg.
(1) on the other hand was deliberate, in line with the “keep Twitter simple” principle which we used to approach the product as a whole. Identifying RSS for a page and exposing it to users per their preferences is a job which most browsers now do well on their own based on s.
Hope that helps!”

Unfortunately, it seems #2 was not accidental, as it was never fixed. Now #1 is also removed as far as I can see (and looking at the HTML source I see no evidence of any RSS feed). It seems Twitter has completely removed the ability to consume their feeds via the open standard of RSS in favor of their more proprietary API formats.

At the same time, Facebook seems to have done the same. Facebook has gone back and forth on this though so it is no surprise on their part. They started with an RSS link you could subscribe to on profiles (this for awhile was how you added your feed to FriendFeed), but didn’t seem to have similar for Pages. Later, in a Profile redesign they completely removed the RSS link for profiles. Then, in a recent Page redesign, they added the ability to subscribe to Pages via RSS. I know because I had several Pages added to Google Reader, and I remember fishing through the HTML source and seeing the RSS link in the code. It would seem that Facebook has again removed the ability to subscribe via RSS on Pages, completely removing any ability to subscribe via RSS on the site (also in favor of their proprietary Graph API).

People have been speculating, “RSS is dead” for some time now. I’ve written that RSS isn’t dead, but the concept of “subscribing” is. However, as more and more sites move away from RSS, quite literally, in favor of these proprietary APIs I fear RSS could in fact be dying, not only as a subscription interface, but as a protocol in general.

My hope is that both of these sites overlooked keeping RSS subscription in place as they upgraded their interfaces. But seeing as I’m the only one who noticed, I have a feeling they have little reason to re-add the open protocol back into their interface. Personally, I think it’s a shame, as it makes it so only developers like myself can code anything to extract that data – the average user has no way of pulling that data out of Twitter or Facebook.

It seems in 2011 and the era of Facebook and Twitter we’ve completely lost any care for open standards. Maybe it’s not just RSS that is dying – it’s the entire premise of open standards that is dying, and I think that’s really sad, and really bad for not just developers, but users in general.

Am I missing something here? Where can I subscribe, via RSS, to Facebook or Twitter?

UPDATE: Dave Stevens shared a hack around this in the comments that you can use with the Twitter API. It’s not readily available to users, and based on Twitter’s current trend, could go away, but it works for now:

“Can can access RSS through the twitter API, if you read the documentation you are able to choose rss/atom for the feed options in some of the cases; for example:
is my home timeline in rss format. So although they may have removed links from the pages there is still a method to get at it. (

UPDATE 2: In case you were wondering about Twitter’s attitude towards RSS, read this Help article in their Help section titled, “How to Find Your RSS Feed“:

“Twitter recently stopped supporting basic authentication over RSS in favor of OAuth, an authentication method that lets you use applications without giving them your password. You can read more about the change here: 

Because of this change, we no longer directly support RSS feeds on Twitter. 

  • If you would like to continue using RSS feeds from Twitter accounts, we recommend using a 3rd-party service.
  • Or, if you are comfortable with coding, use our developer resources to retrieve statuses.

The New Frontier of Capitalism

I keep getting asked, “what’s the point of Empire Avenue?” Or told, “Empire Avenue is just a stupid game.” My friend Robert Scoble thinks Empire Avenue makes a good News Reader, and that’s about it. The thing is it is not just a game. It’s definitely not a news reader (I’m sorry, but as forewarning, Robert will be sorely disappointed, just like he was with Quora, if that is his interpretation of the service). I already covered this a bit already calling it a “catalyst for a new economy“. The thing is it’s much more than that – it’s a new era of social websites, one where capital can trump influence, and those with capital can become influential. It’s a network of Capitalism vs. Socialism.

It’s All a Game

A year or two ago, I participated in a panel at BlogWorld in Las Vegas where we talked about “the Twitter game.” As founder of a site that helps people improve the relationships they build on social networks like Twitter (as, at least I hope, opposed to gaming them), I’m all too familiar with this game. You follow someone in hopes that they follow back. If they unfollow you, you unfollow them. All this increases your numbers and you’re perceived as influential as a result. The really successful turn this number into more than just a number and actually show substance to the following they’ve built. This is why if you follow a lot of people, you’ll naturally build your following, especially if you provide some sort of value on top of that.

The game goes farther than Twitter though. In the blogging world it’s simple. There are several strategies to this “game”. You blog a lot, provide value in the content you post, and link to a lot of people to get them reacting and responding and linking back to your post. Or, you focus on the SEO side so you appear in Google. As you do these things and provide value as you do it, people will naturally follow, and the traffic will come. Your readers increase.

On Facebook it’s really easy – almost everyone you send a friend request to will accept it. Just send out a ton of friend requests to influential people and you’ll max out your 5,000 friends really quick. Or, if you have a Facebook Page, take the blogging approach I mentioned above, throw in some Facebook advertising, and then measure like crazy to determine your proper ratio. You’ll have thousands to hundreds of thousands of fans in no time.

Of course, some times you just get lucky. In that case, just gamble – try different things until something sticks.

You see, in every case above, there’s some sort of “silly game” involved. True, you have to provide substance to gain the most benefit and to maintain your trajectory, but building numbers on any social network is just a game. Even the relationship building process (which I am much more about than the methods above) is part of that game.

On Empire Avenue the “silly game” is different though. Those that play it the way they do on Twitter and Facebook and in blogging will see some success, but they won’t be the leaders in the network. I think it’s a matter of socialism vs. capitalism.

Social vs. Capital Networks

In a “social” network, the focus is on gaming social relationships – how can you pique someone’s interest so that they form a relationship with you? What are the psychological lures to get them into your network? What services can you share with one another to build that network? How can you complement each other?  How can I better learn from my close friends and family? How can I get the latest and most relevant news from (and about) those I trust? Most importantly, how can you find influencers that can further boost your potential? For the “right” way to do this, I recommend Guy Kawasaki’s book, “enchantment“.

In a “capital” network, the focus is different. The “capital” network is focused on gaming capital, and finding people with capital that can further boost your potential. How do you get that capital? You participate on the site and interact with people and promote other people that are doing well. In a way, Guy Kawasaki’s book will help you with that as well. Except in a capital network you’re rewarded for doing so. On a social network the reward is not so evident. It’s important to note that a Capital Network is not a news sharing service. It’s a relationship sharing service. You don’t “subscribe” to anyone or anything on a Capital network – it’s a 2-way relationship if you’re going to have any sort of success.

In a capital network it’s not about finding people that are already popular. It’s about finding the little guy that will make you wealthy, and in the long-term, that will make you popular. In a “capital” network, like any investment-oriented society, you want the little guy that will go big (like Facebook a couple years ago). You don’t want the guy that’s already big (like Google or Apple are now). At the same time you don’t care if they’re popular or not – you do care that they are returning dividends for you because in the long run that produces dividends for your investors, making you a more lucrative investment. You want the guys that are participating most on the network and providing real value to their peers, in not just monetary form (because remember money on a capital network is based on activity and participation and trying to help each other out). In a way, each good “follow” or investment is in a sense another startup you’re putting your money and words and influence behind, only you know the founders of that startup have held their weight and provide real, social value back to you.

Typical influencers aren’t going to understand the “capital” network. It’s an entirely new frontier. It’s a place where the little guy can make a name for themselves and get on the radar of other influencers. At the same time it’s an opportunity for influencers to maintain their influence and grow even further. Watch what my friend Chris Pirillo is doing – he really gets this, and in just 2 weeks has become one of the fastest growing investments on the network as a result.

New Frontiers

From a network standpoint, Facebook was a new frontier at one point. The influencers weren’t allowed on it. It was just your college buddies and their friends. It was meant for the “little guy” to be someone. It was meant for them to make a name for themselves, and many people embraced the opportunity.

The web was another new frontier. That’s where the Scobles and the Pirillos and the Winers and the Arringtons and others made a name for themselves. They were the influencers of that era, formerly “nobodies” (no offense intended, as they are certainly not such today) who took advantage of an era and made a name for themselves. They’ve maintained that reputation throughout the Facebook and Social era. That era was all focused on a subscription and news-oriented model.

We’re in a new land grab on Empire Avenue, and I’m pretty sure there will be other competitors in the future. It’s a capital-driven frontier, one where they require you to put your money where your mouth is, but also maintain your own value as you do so, so others can gain a return on you just as you gain a return in them. It’s one where I truly believe there will be a real conversion rate that equates to real dollars, and people will offer goods and services based on that conversion rate.

The New Economy and True Conversion Rates

What do you gain from the Capital Network? Yes, you gain relationships as you find new people producing real dividends, but on this network there’s actual money in it for you. Trust me on this one. There will be a real exchange, worth real money at some point as reward for those that truly focus on relationships, and those that ignore this will be running to play catch up. At the same time, those that really invested, those that really focused on real returns (aka dividends and people really involved on the network), not just influencers and people whose stock value grows (and focus on people that do the same) will be a close-knit community of people that know each other, that know each others’ names, and that work with each other for even further influence.

Capital Networks Are More Than a Game – They’re About True Relationships!

With Empire Avenue people are forced to truly put effort into building relationships. They’re force to truly get to know others. They’re forced to truly promote their friends, and build up their friends. And they’re rewarded for such. To me, this is a much better network, one where I can know people truly care about me and my success, not their own “me” economy.

Ironically, it will be capitalism that will make us social.

If you want more information on how to use Empire Avenue effectively, I highly recommend, and agree with, Chris Pirillo’s tips that he posted today (I am an investor, but proud to invest in him because he truly participates on the network, and produces dividends because he focuses on relationships as he does so). Be sure to read over Chris’s tips, as they share further my vision for the service.  At some point I’ll share my own as well.

In the meantime, you can follow me at STAY on Empire Avenue here (Click the last link if you haven’t joined. Click this link if you’re already a member.). Let me know if you’re getting ready to join and I’ll provide you with tips as well – I’d also like to invest in people truly willing to participate and focus on those that care about relationships (aka dividends).

Needle Threads Customers Into Personal Interactions in New, Social Chat Service

As we see stores like Borders going bankrupt, and chains like CompUSA and Circuit City going all online, it’s pretty evident that the need for online solutions to real-life interactions in commerce is needed. Having worked for in a past life, where we were giving chains like REI a run for their money with an online-only option, I’m all too familiar with this. The fact is, when you get rid of the store, margins are simply much higher than having a bunch of stores to manage.

The problem is there are still major benefits to having physical stores your customers can go to. You get to meet your customers personally. They have someone they can go to when they have a problem, and there’s nothing like a good ‘ol, in-person upsell. I think even that’s about to change though – in fact, if a new online Chat service for E-commerce has its way, turning your customer interactions into personal interactions will be much, much easier. That service gave me a demo a couple weeks ago – it’s called Needle, and I love it!

No ordinary Customer Service Chat

When I was at we would use 3rd party chat services on our sites to engage customers and allow our customer service representatives to offer help on our websites where needed. It was a nice feature, and ahead of its time in that it detected when customers were on the site after a given amount of time.

Needle goes above and beyond just the traditional, detect-if-the-user-is-idle chat approach and instead uses social media to improve the experience. Each customer has the ability to associate a social networking account, and in doing so they get special benefits. Even more important, you, the business get to know your customers, know who they are, and know exactly who it is you are chatting with. This reduces spammers, and allows you to integrate with the viral nature of social networking sites like Facebook.

Needle takes full advantage of these social networking features, too. For instance, customer service reps can offer a special code, in real time, to the customer allowing them to share the code with their friends on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Their friends can also take advantage of the code. This social feature gives each chat session an average reach of 80 people for each person that chats in the system, expanding the potential of who can see what your customers are purchasing, and encouraging them to share those purchases with their friends.

Focus on true conversions

When Needle demoed me their product, they showed off, in real time, a session of a real customer service experience. In the experience, the customer was looking for a product, and the customer service agent was able to see this, in real time. The customer service agent could see what pages they were surfing, and where they were stalling. The software even goes to the extent of allowing the customer service agent to see each letter the customer is typing, as they are typing it! This enables the agent to see more of what the customer is thinking, and if the agent needs to change their sales pitch.

Even more importantly, each agent can pass on links to the customer. The agent will get notified the minute the customer clicks on the link, so the agent can know if the customer is actually following their advice or not.  The system then tracks the purchase and links the purchase of each item back to the agent.

Crowdsourced Sales using Pincushion

We’ve all got products we’re passionate about – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. Companies can set up their own “Pincushion” channels through Needle. By doing so their customers can sign up to help sell their products using the Needle chat platform.

Here’s a theoretical example. I am a passionate Apple fanatic and I know a lot about Apple products. I could probably attribute thousands of dollars of Apple product sales due to recommendations I’ve made to friends. Using Needle and Pincushion I could theoretically guide my friends through the sales process,  and get a commission (or points in pincushion’s case) from the sale along the way.

Another example is when I took my brother-in-law and sister to Best Buy to get a new TV. They wanted my help in the purchase process because I knew a lot about big screen TVs and had purchased one recently. We spent a lot of time at the store, when, in theory, I could have been doing it all remotely online and taking a commission (or points) from the sale in the process. I ended up being the reason for the sale – not a Best Buy employee.

Here’s a more realistic example: employee rewards. Using pincushion as a community just for your employees you can encourage all your employees, or just your sales people to focus on conversions, and reward them for their success based on factors your brand has set. If the reward is based on sales, then the rewards come from sales. If the reward is based on click throughs, then the rewards come from click throughs. Then, you can offer rewards, such as free products and other merchandise as your employees show success selling your product. Employees then earn points  based on incentives such as sales, satisfaction score, or other factors.

I’ve only mentioned the tip of the iceberg of Needle’s capabilities. If you’re an e-commerce or sales-focused website considering chat solutions you should really look at Needle. They are the first of their type in social, personalized, chat experiences for the customer.

Check out Needle at and register to get a demo.

With Lack of True Stats Twitter is Losing Trust of Its Users

I’m reading the MarketingPilgrim article, “As Twitter Slips, Potential Competitors Close in” – there seems to be an increasing negativity towards Twitter lately, and I only fear it will get worse. I’ve warned of this before. Twitter has been consistently reporting numbers in the hundreds of millions of users when stats of the several million member cache of users on my own servers are showing that only a fraction of that number are actually active. In fact, MarketingPilgrim agrees with me. They are claiming that “90% of the Tweets come from 25% of the people” on Twitter. The worst part is they are making it look like these numbers are comparable to Facebook’s. Intentional or not it’s going to backfire on them if they don’t start getting honest with their numbers.

In my own cache I have consistently shown 30% of users that have more than 20 Tweets in their timeline – of course, my cache is only a segment of the entire Twitter user base but I’m hearing similar from other Twitter developers that keep even larger caches than I have. The fact is Twitter is reporting correct stats. They’re just not reporting the same stats as their competitors, and that’s a huge illusion, creating confusion as it was intended to.

Here’s the problem. I’m sure Twitter is purposely reporting the higher number – the total of their stats – in order to sound like they are bigger than they are. I don’t blame them for this.

What I worry however is that users will catch on, and as a result, users will never be able to trust the numbers that Twitter releases. When Twitter releases a big number in the future, there will always be a question in the back of users’ minds on whether the number Twitter is releasing is the same number being counted by any one of Twitter’s competitors. Let’s face it – I heard a rumor from a former Facebook employee that if Facebook were to count its entire user base like Twitter is doing they would easily be in the billions of users. Does Twitter really want to play this game?

Let’s go ahead and compare this further with Facebook. Since almost the beginning, I have been able to go to Facebook’s Press page and get open, honest stats about the service. Facebook shared these numbers since they were under 100 million. I know because I shared it in my first book, way back in 2007. Not only that, but they have always been clear that the number being shared is active users – not total users, and that 1/2 of those active users log in to the site at least once daily. Sure, we could argue on Facebook’s definition of active, but we do know that at least half of the  number Facebook is reporting is indeed active users. Twitter can’t even vouch, or isn’t even vouching for that.

That’s a stark contrast to the 25% of the people being reported by Marketing Pilgrim. Perhaps Marketing Pilgrim is wrong. Perhaps my stats are wrong. We’d never know though because Twitter isn’t being honest from the start.

If your competitors are sharing active user counts and bloggers are reporting active user counts of that competitor, you too should be honest and share the same. That would be the right thing to do, and I’d then be able to trust Twitter when they share their numbers.

Twitter, regardless of numbers, is a force to be reckoned with. As a social strategist, I know, even though Twitter has smaller numbers and not as significant an engagement rate as Facebook, it still has huge value to me and the brand I represent in terms of how public the network is and the ease it is to learn about what others are saying about me and my brand. The sheer size of Twitter isn’t what makes Twitter valuable to me. It’s the openness of the network. That’s why I don’t understand why Twitter can’t take the brave move to gain its users trust and let us know the real numbers.

I would really like Twitter to step out and share their real numbers. What is their active user count? How many log in through any Twitter client daily? Let’s start there, and when they get to 100 million of those, then we can start comparing them to Facebook and the others. Until then let’s accept Twitter’s value for what it is. Let’s also accept that Twitter’s not Facebook, nor is Facebook Twitter. They are 2 different sites, and I really want to trust both of them when they share their numbers.

Torbit Allows Anybody to Speed Up Their Website in Minutes

For those unaware, I recently switched this blog from a self-hosted WordPress instance to The reason: Blogger’s 100% uptime reputation and near instantaneous response. More on that in another post. That’s why I was also very excited when my friend Josh Fraser, founder of Eventvue, came to me with his next new project asking if I’d try it. It is called Torbit, and its purpose is to make your site faster.

Matt Cutts himself has said that site speed is a factor of site ranking. In addition, research by Akamai shows that 40% of users leave websites if they take more than 2 seconds to load. That can mean serious money and loss in sales if not taken under control.

There are many strategies for increasing site speed. On WordPress, there are many cache plugins that can be installed. You can make many configurations on the server to cache images, compress files, and speed up compile time on scripts. You can remove plugins from 3rd party sites that take too long to load. You can use smaller graphics, or just write faster, more optimized code.

All of these can significantly speed up a site, but they can also take significant time to worry about. Torbit takes care of the worry and makes caching of website content simple, saving you time and making you money.

With a simple configuration of your DNS, you point your site’s DNS servers to Torbit’s. Torbit then handles the requests, and breaks apart the slow components of your site, caching the more static elements and 3rd party calls, compressing the files that need to be compressed, and significantly speeding up your site with practically the click of a button. All that data is then sent back to the user in a cached, very fast, format.

Looking at the site speed on, it takes 12.621 seconds to load this site’s home page and all of the graphics and files that load on it on first load before it gets cached by Torbit. Then, upon second load after it has received the cache from Torbit it takes 3.3 seconds to load. That’s 1/4 the time! That also makes this site now 50% faster than all sites on the web, according to SEOMoz.

Torbit has a limited Beta at the moment that you can sign up for by filling out the form on their site. I am told there is a charge for the service, but for a business trying to make money, especially which doesn’t have many resources to worry about the site optimization themselves, this should be well worth the cost. I’m very impressed with Torbit, and you can see by the sheer speed this site loads in your browser.