Blogging – Stay N Alive

How to Replace Your RSS Feed Automatically With Facebook’s Like Button

As I seek to make this blog more and more a part of the social networks you participate in (I call this “From Fishers to Farmers” – something I speak about in my talks), I’ll be documenting my progress along the way. I just showed how I’m doing this with Facebook’s Frictionless Sharing on this blog (just click through to the blog, and click the link over on the right to start adding these posts to your timeline). There’s one more piece though which I think is dwindling. Some call this the “RSS is Dead” argument. I actually talked about the RSS Subscription problem here. What’s happening is the subscribers to RSS feeds such as the one on this site, through analytics sites such as Feedburner, are either slowing or diminishing.

This process is natural as more and more people receive their news on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and away from sites such as Google Reader or traditional RSS Readers. Those tools simply aren’t social, and much less interesting than a typical social network. Therefore I argue content owners need to be looking towards more social ways of distributing their content. I’m doing this specifically on Facebook with an app called RSS Graffiti.

Enter RSS Graffiti and Facebook Open Graph

RSS Graffiti is a Facebook app (it also integrates with Twitter) that will apply any RSS Feed to a Facebook Page you specify (see why I say RSS isn’t dead?). The cool thing about it is on Facebook I can make any website a Facebook Page.

On this blog, if you view the source, do a search for “og:url”. This, and a series of other meta tags (og:site_name, og:description, and og:image, as well as fb:admins are all useful for this) tell Facebook that this URL is also a Facebook Page. To register it with Facebook, just make sure the “fb:admins” tag is in place and lists the id of your Facebook Profile as the value, and go to to register your URL.

Once you do this, your Blog is now a Facebook Page as far as Facebook is concerned. Now all you have to do is add a Like Button Social Plugin to your website as you see at the top of this site above, and people can “like” your website! Seriously – click through to this blog and go click “like” at the top!

Here’s where it gets cool though – now that I’m listed as an admin of that URL, I can send posts to the fans of that URL. Every person that clicks “like” above I can send my articles to. It’s the same as subscribing, but much more social!

How to Create Your Own Social Distribution Channel Using Facebook and Open Graph

Here’s what you need to do to make this happen:

  1. Add the following HTML within the tags on your website or blog – fill in the “content” sections with the appropriate values for your site or blog:

  2. Go to and click “Insights for Your Website” (the green button in the upper-right) – enter the domain you specified from the “og:url” meta tag above, and click on the “Get Insights” button. Your site is now registered (and you can go back here to see stats around your domain!).
  3. Now go to and find your website on the left (it will be under the name you specified in “site_name” above). Go there, and add your site’s RSS Feed. Save it, and it will automatically start posting content to your Facebook Page for every post you make! 
  4. Now you just need some subscribers. You’ll do this with a Facebook Like button, just like you see at the top of this blog. Go to – click the “Like Button” link. Now, just fill out the form – be sure to add the URL you specified in the “og:url” tag above! Click the “get code” button, and now copy and paste that code where you want your like button to go!
If you perform the above steps you should have everything you need to allow your site’s visitors to subscribe to your site through a simple Facebook “like”. Now, when they click “like”, not only do they subscribe to your site, but their friends see it too!
If you want to take this further, you can add the above tags to the other pages on your site, with an og:title tag to specify the title of articles. This will allow you to customize how Facebook sees each article on your site as it shares it out to the fans of your website. If you want to get more specific, be sure to see the documentation of the OpenGraph Protocol over here.
What about Google+ or Twitter? As I mentioned, RSS Graffiti supports Twitter, so you should be taken care of there if you wanted to add a “Follow” button at the top of your website. However, there’s nothing for Google+ at the moment. I think Google would really benefit from either allowing apps to publish to at least Google+ Pages so apps like RSS Graffiti could do something similar with the +1 button. Google+ currently allows you to tie +1 buttons (through Page “Badges”) to Google+ Pages, and if they just allowed apps to publish to Pages you could theoretically do the same with Google+. Maybe if they allow that I’ll post how to do that here as well.

Stay N Alive Supports Facebook’s Open Graph

Just the other day I got approval from Facebook that the “read” action, available for Facebook’s Open Graph “Frictionless Sharing” was approved for What this means is that if you click the link on the right of this blog, under “Click below to post to your Facebook Timeline when you read articles on Stay N Alive”, every post you read on this site will be automatically shared to your Facebook Timeline under the “News” section of your timeline. This means your friends will see what you read here, just like anything I were to share to Facebook. (Some day I need to design it so it’s more enticing to authorize this – hopefully soon)

You may have seen this done before with other blogs and news sites, such as the Washington Post Social Reader. When your friends see articles you read, they are more likely to click through and read them because they’re associated with someone they’re familiar with. Then, they can read and participate in the experience with you.

I just wrote about how traditional blogging is dead, and instead needs to evolve to more social models of content flow. This is one way I am trying to make that happen. Like I said, this blog isn’t dead. It’s just that it will become more and more a part of the social networks you most actively participate.

If you feel so obliged, please click through to this article and click that link over on the right. It’s one of the best ways you can spread the word about what I write, and the things I stand for. Or, just click below – I’m embedding the form right below via a Facebook Social Plugin (click through to the article to see it on the blog).

In a future article I’ll share how I did this, on a blog, nonetheless!

My Official (and Obligatory) "Traditional Blogging is Dead" Post

I fought it – I even ridiculed people like +Paul Allen for moving towards it (for that I apologize). However, I think I’m whooped. My page views are down. Comments and engagement on the blog itself are lower than ever. Looking over other blogs I manage, some with even more frequent content than my own, I’m seeing similar. As sad as I am to see it, I think blogging really is dying. It’s a really tough way to make a living, and will become even more difficult in the future, in favor of more traditional news sites and people able to share and post personal opinion on social networks such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Does that mean that personal opinion and citizen journalism is dead? Does that mean that sharing is dead? Does that mean engagement is dead? In fact, it’s even greater than ever. I always preach to use the best tool for the job. The fact is, sites like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as bookmarking and sharing sites such as Pinterest allow us to share, and engage in ways we never have before! I’m seeing greater engagement than I ever have on my blog. I’m seeing more shares than ever before. My audiences have skyrocketed on social networks! All this while, despite at least weekly posts on my blog, my audience and engagement there has diminished to almost nothing.

Does this mean I’ll kill my blog? Of course not – it just means I have to adapt its focus. I have to make it more focused around the social network. I still argue you still need a home base. It does mean I likely won’t make much money off advertising like you used to be able to on a blog. It does mean it will be used more and more as a source for SEO, and helping people find interesting and useful content on search engines (which, in and of themselves are using social networks more and more to find content). It means you’ll see more howto articles and content-focused posts than breaking news. It means my blog is now becoming an extension of the social networks, and not vice versa.

I predict in the future blogging will be back in a more social form. Right now, traditional blogging is dying, and having fought this for years now as the subject continues to be brought up, I’m finally seeing what the other bloggers out there are seeing. That means something coming from me. Am I sad? Of course. That said, there is tremendous opportunity out there as we move forward. We just need to figure out what that is – I don’t know right now.

I can’t wait to figure out a solution that can bring it back into a modern state. How do you think blogging should evolve?

(Expect a future post from me on potential solutions for this problem, and where I see blogging still working really well, and where it won’t work – stay tuned)

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?

Looking for a Facebook Internationalization WordPress Plugin

The Coat of Arms of Indonesia is called Garuda...
Image via Wikipedia

As I’m writing my book, I’ve come to realize that a good portion of you that visit here speak another language.  In fact, Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian), Facebook’s 2nd largest market (Indonesia, with over 200 million population), just so happens to have a high ranking in the readers of this blog as well, at least amongst those of you who are Facebook users.

There’s a little known fact about me that you may not know – I lived 3 years as a child in Indonesia, and, while I have forgotten much of my Bahasa Indonesia (as a kid, I could speak somewhat fluently), I do pick up some here and there and I thoroughly understand Indonesia’s culture and would love to have more of you Indonesian readers and visitors have a more comfortable experience on  I’ve wondered if it might be worth sending each blog post through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, pick a few of the top languages visiting here (including Bahasa Indonesia), and see if I might be able to have multiple versions, in multiple languages integrated into this blog’s design.  Then I had a better thought – Facebook has its own crowd-source Translation product, Facebook Internationalization.  What if I just used that, and allowed you, my readers to translate this blog for your peers and the translation could happen in any language, natively.  There’s one problem though – there’s not currently any WordPress plugins that do this yet.

So I’m giving the idea away for free.  Facebook has a whole slew of documentation on how to integrate Facebook Translations into a website.  I’ll also be including a chapter about how to do this in my book, which I have to focus on at the moment.  Because of this, I don’t have the time to write one myself, but I’d love it if anyone felt compelled to build a Facebook Internationalization plugin for WordPress that others could use.  If you write one, let me know, let me provide feedback, and I’ll integrate it into the design of this blog and give you as much attention as you need to promote the plugin.  If you know of such a plugin, let me know!

Auto-load on scroll plugin?

I have one other request.  I think it’s a waste of time to have to click to the bottom of a blog and click again to go through past posts from that blog.  I want my blog to work like, where if I scroll down, it keeps scrolling, auto-loading additional content the further I scroll.  Is there such a plugin?  If not, why not?  That’s another plugin I’d promote heavily were it to become available.

If no one jumps to the cause, I may just build these myself when I get some time, but I thought I’d throw it out there in case someone wants a fun project to work on.  I think they’re both pretty forward-looking plugins that would see a lot of use.

How the Little Guy Can Get Published – an Autobiography

As I just wrote, we live in an era where having a voice is much easier than it used to be.  Getting published is actually quite simple if you’re willing to work for it.  In fact, I’m living proof.  Just 3 years ago I was working a 9-5 job as my sole source of income as a programmer for a major health company, doing nothing but that.  I was a nobody.  No one knew me.  In very short time I was approached by my 3 publishers, amassed thousands of readers on this blog, and many more on Twitter and Facebook, and built a reputation for myself.  I truly believe this is something anyone can do.   Here’s what I did (this is still tough to write, as I still don’t believe I’m anywhere near my potential – to me, I’m still a nobody):

I Started a Blog

I actually did this a long time before I wrote my first book with HappyAbout.  I was trying to build an open source pseudo blogging/CMS platform, which actually powered this blog at one point.  In a sense, the goal was to eventually create a social network, something we tried to do at a previous job I was at and never completed.  This was before Facebook or Twitter or even Digg or anything like it.  In a sense, it was the next dimension of a GeoCities, or (where I worked on the founding team doing Support in 1999).

I noticed a few friends blogging at the time to share tricks they had used to fix coding problems, or ways they got their various computer problems working.  I knew I had done a few things that I needed to write down for memory and others to benefit, so I started using the blog to share these things.  Soon that turned into me just sharing thoughts to what was mostly a non-existent audience, but I didn’t care – I was doing it for myself mostly.

Then I really started subscribing to other bloggers, especially around Utah and elsewhere.  I think Google Reader probably played a big role in this.  I subscribed to Phil Windley, and Janet Meiners (NewspaperGrl), Jason Alba, Phil Burns, Thom Allen, and others.  Utah actually had a bustling tech blogging scene back then (many of those I mention are still active bloggers and great blogs to follow).  As these guys blogged, it inspired me to join their conversation and post my own thoughts on the topics they were writing about.  I’d link to theirs, and others’ articles, and my links would appear in their trackbacks and they would notice.

I began to make a name for myself by just sharing what I knew, and writing about it.  There is no better way to share knowledge and show others you have that knowledge than through a blog.  This blog eventually grew and grew as I did this, eventually getting recognition by sites like TechMeme, featured on TechCrunch, mentions on Mashable, and many others (I keep a log of coverage for my record at  I say this not to brag, but to show you that by simply posting a blog, and sharing your knowledge, while at the same time truly participating in the conversation in the blogosphere (aka “the memes”), you’ll grow your blog as well and quickly gain a voice.

Now when I write, people listen – in some ways, it doesn’t matter if I have a publisher, and that gets more and more possible the more my audience grows.

I Became a Pioneer

It wasn’t until the launch of Facebook Platform at the very first F8 that I really started making a name for myself.  I decided at that point my idea for a Social Network wasn’t needed any more because now I could just build niche ideas on top of Facebook.  Facebook grew, and grew, and grew, and I was with them from day one, building apps for their platform.  I saw this niche, and I saw the value in it, so I took it and ran.  I became an expert in that niche and made it mine.  Not just that, but I stuck to it. (Interesting note – I’ve actually been building on Facebook Platform longer than many Facebook employees have.)  That eventually branched out and I took on Social Media and APIs in general, and now I’m even embracing much of the world of Marketing as we know it (even though I’m technically just a Developer by trade).  I learned everything I could about this stuff, and actually applied it, creating application after application both on my own and for others to prove myself in this area.  It was partly from this that SocialToo was born.

In many ways I was inventing an industry.  I was with many others, but because I took it on early I was still one of the few “pioneers”.  Becoming a Pioneer is so important.  If everyone else is doing it, and you’re not the first, you’re not going to be recognized.  You’ve got to pick a skill, perhaps find a new movement of many, and jump on that one.  Even if you are one of many, if you’re one of the many firsts, you can now be taken seriously.  I suggest taking it even further and finding a niche amongst those firsts (mine was the brand of “Social Media Developer” rather than just “Social Media Expert”) and embracing that.

How do you pick the right niche to be a “pioneer”?  I think more than anything it has to feel right to you – make sure you have a clear vision of the future of that industry.  For me I saw a new, social world where social was tightly integrated into every piece of the web.  I saw a Building Block Web, where social pieces were tightly coupled together in an experience the user wasn’t even aware the social elements existed.  I saw the power of bringing power to developers.  I also followed bloggers, like Paul Allen and Robert Scoble, who really caught onto this vision (although I admit I met Scoble later in the game).  Note that this niche also solved some of my own needs, which also contributed to my desire to learn more about it, and I discovered along the way how powerful this stuff actually was.  Vision is key.

You’ve got to figure this out yourself, and perhaps that’s the hardest part.  If I were you I’d be looking in the mobile space, and at what companies like Kynetx are doing, though. (and at a minimum, more than anything, consider and understand the concepts and visions these companies have)  Read my article on the Future with no login button for my own personal vision, but you have to come up with your own.

I Promoted the Need, and Networked Like Crazy

Once I had discovered a need and tried to establish my skills surrounding that need, I began blogging about it.  I realized this was a new market, and one that had the potential to be very powerful.  It was one with very few blog posts on the topic, yet.  I began to write posts making it known that I knew Facebook, and in particular Facebook development.  I was actually at one point the number one search result on Google for “Facebook Developer” because of this.  That wasn’t on accident.

I became one of the only people on LinkedIn with “Facebook Developer” in my title, and soon I began getting calls asking for help in this emerging industry.  I made it easy for people to find me by publishing my e-mail address and even my phone number on my blog and working to make it as easy as possible for people to contact me on LinkedIn.

More than anything though, it was this blog that made a name for myself.  Well, this, and following other bloggers through Google Reader at the time.  I started to learn of local “Blogger Dinners” here in the Salt Lake City area where local bloggers were getting together to just meet and network.  I decided to attend one or two, and it was there I met who would soon become my co-author on my first book, Jason Alba.  Jason had previously written, “I’m on LinkedIn–Now What???” and I had followed him on his blog.  I can’t remember exactly how (I think it was a Seth Godin talk, ironically), but he had heard I was the local “Facebook guy”, and was looking to do a book similar to his first on Facebook.

He had already established a relationship with his publisher through his first book, and approached me, asking me to help him with his second book, giving me half of his royalties in the process.  We went forward with the book.  At that point because I had established a reputation, and was already a published author, that lead to O’Reilly contacting me (through my good friend, Joseph Scott), and now I’m writing my third book with Wiley in a Dummies series.

Networking is so critical – it is truly who you know that matters.  It has been through Social Media and networking that I met Jason and that lead to my first book.  It was through meeting a need of Guy Kawasaki’s and Chris Pirillo’s that lead to creating the first script on SocialToo and I feel I can now call them good friends.  It was through answering a FriendFeed post that I met Robert Scoble and I can now call him a good friend.  That meeting lead to me meeting my great friend Louis Gray.  We’re all normal people, and it’s social media that makes us normal.  It’s through this technology – Twitter, Facebook, and especially blogs, that we’re able to connect with people we were never able to meet before.  Embrace that!

I Believed in Myself!

More than anything, I think it was when I realized I could actually do this stuff, that I started to do it.  There is something to be said for the law of attraction – be it faith, God-driven, or Universal laws, it’s real.  When you truly believe you can accomplish something, it will happen.  I grew up not believing this.  I grew up thinking I’d never write a book.  I grew up thinking I’d never start my own business.  I grew up thinking I was a nobody.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse that this was possible that I started to think I was truly capable of anything.  And it was when that happened that I started seeing incredible success as a result, and I’m still seeing that to this day.  Anyone can accomplish what I’ve done – I’m the little guy.  I’m a nobody, but I can be anybody I want to.

I hope this blog post doesn’t come off as a “I’m better than you” story to anyone – it was intended to be the exact opposite.  You see, Social Media and the web as we know it today makes it possible for any of us to gain a voice.  The Book Publisher, the Sports Conference, the Music Label, or even the VC or major Tech Blog are all much less relevant than they used to be.  Your potential is greater than it ever has been, and while you can still use these tools as launching platforms, you get to own the process along the way.  Anyone can do this, and I think we need to break away from “the man” at least a little bit to have full flexibility in doing so.  This is why you see Seth Godin leaving his publishers.  This is why you see BYU leaving its Conference.  This is why you see many musicians leaving their labels.

The little guy is much more relevant than he used to be.  Social Media is about empowering and bringing a voice to the individual.  Embrace that.  Accept it.  You too can have a voice.

MovieClips: A Little "Spoon Full of Sugar" to Help Spice Up My Content

Screen shot 2010-01-16 at 1.24.18 AMWhen I write articles I often look for media – videos, audio, etc. to support the content I write.  The additional content provides some entertainment value, while still driving the point home for others to remember.  I’ve seen this similar technique used by other bloggers such as MG Siegler, Chris Messina, and others.  While at CES last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the founders of MovieClips, a company that makes it easy to share these little quotes in video form in a nice, legal, and searchable format.  Check out what they do in their Intro video below:


MovieClips is such an easy service to find any clip you like and share it with friends.  The most significant use for me though is the ability to add a little “Pizazz” to my blog posts.  I can’t wait to start diving in as I write future blog posts to add a little “spice” with entertainment using their service.

Of note, the reason I was holding my iPhone was because I was recording the interview on to upload immediately after the interview.  It turned out to be a great way to get an additional, high quality MP3 of the interview, as well as a close-to-live upload of the interview shortly after it occured.

Disclosure: I have consulted for MovieClips in the past

Nobody Has a Million Blog Subscribers

BlogSubscribers-main_FullA recent blog post by Anil Dash has everyone talking about what I thought was a long-assumed fact that just because someone is on the Twitter Suggested User List (or SUL) and has a million followers doesn’t necessarily mean they actually have all of those followers listening to them.  Dash, who recently had the opportunity to be on the Suggested User List himself, cited examples of various other Twitter accounts put on the list that saw absolutely no additional response after being added to the list.

I’d like to take this a bit further though and suggest something that, because of its open nature as compared to Twitter, just hasn’t been talked about much. That is the fact that, just like Twitter followers, a blog’s subscribers is also subject to this phenomena.  I’d like to suggest that despite that number in the upper-right-hand corner, it means absolutely nothing in the sense of how many people are actually reading that content.  It’s just a number.

Speaking From Experience

Let me start with this blog, since I vowed to be more transparent.  If you read the Feedburner number in the upper-right section of this blog it says I have over 7,500 subscribers.  Let’s start right off with the fact that 6,030 of those are because FriendFeed includes its subscription counts in with my Feedburner stats.  I have 6,030 subscribers on FriendFeed, and those are part of that 7,500 you see above.  If you subscribe to me on FriendFeed, that increases the number.  Still, that 6,030 still has potential of seeing my content.  It’s still just a number though.

Now, let’s assume those FriendFeed numbers don’t count.  That leaves about 1,500 subscribers  that assumedly subscribe to this blog through some sort of Feed Reader (Google Reader, Newsvine, etc).  I don’t believe that number at all.  I’d bet that at most, half of those actually read the articles I publish, as I usually average between 2 and 5 comments on each blog post I write.  As for traffic, any time I post I get around 200-500 additional visitors per post.  On a really good day that could be in the thousands.  The thing is that most of those come from Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed, as well as other blogs that provide commentary. Those numbers aren’t even reflected in my subscriber count!

The Big Guys

If that’s my experience, I can only imagine the accuracy of those with hundreds of thousands or even millions of subscribers.  I know their numbers can’t be accurate, not only based on my experience on this blog, but also after being linked numerous times by them.  I must admit that, directly, I usually average 100-300 visitors from the millions of subscribers on each of these blogs.  I’m very grateful for this traffic, and that they’re talking about me – the fact that they’re writing about me has much more impact and influence than just traffic (as I’ll show later).  However, the fact that only 100 out of over a million subscribers are clicking seems to imply a very similar truth to what Dash is implying with Twitter subscribers and what I’m seeing on my blog: while a few hundred thousand may be reading each and every article, the rest are simply casual bystanders skimming headlines if anything at all.

Let’s add to that how many of these blogs are on FriendFeed’s default list and other services, adding to their numbers there, along with how many are the default on the Kindle, or many RSS Readers out there.  Many users just get subscribed to these blogs by default.  Sure, some casually discover the blogs and start reading, but there is a strong possibility that many of those subscribed to these blogs never even read them, some perhaps not even aware that they’re subscribed!

Yet, Numbers Still Do Matter

As Dash implies with Twitter, the number still has an effect.  He mentioned the possibility of brand managers getting raises because their bosses see the number of new subscribers they were able to get for their brand.  From my own personal experience, I’ve seen this on both Twitter and my blog.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been introduced as “influential” because I’m one of “the most followed Twitter users in Utah”, or “he has over 7,000 subscribers to his blog!”  Like it or not, many opportunities have opened up because of this.  All that and I don’t even have a million subscribers!

Let’s add to that the fact that I can sell it for money too.  On my blog I can sell ads for more because of this.  People are more likely to subscribe and tell their friends because beyond just content, they see that number as “influential”.  I’ve been introduced to many consulting opportunities because of this.  Of course I insist on proving myself beyond the numbers (I sincerely hope no one would hire me or anyone else based on numbers alone!), but numbers do matter!  For instance, if you have more subscribers than anyone else you get to say you are the top blog on the internet – that’s a powerful statement!  You bet it works.

Numbers also lead to better content.  As I consult for others I can’t tell you the number of people that want to pitch to blog X or blog Y because they have more subscribers than the others.  Having more people pitch to you means you get the scoop on more and better content, and you’re given more control.  The articles written may not bring much traffic, but the fact that “a big blog wrote about you” also means you can feature this in Press Releases, on your company blog, or more, giving the entrepreneur more attention from VCs, big businesses deals, and potential acquisitions down the road.  But if you’re looking for traffic some times it’s better to pitch to numerous smaller blogs than one or two big blogs.  If you want influence pitch to the bigger blogs.

Organic vs. Inorganic

There are many bloggers like Scoble, Chris Brogan, Louis Gray, and others that have built their audiences by working to build relationships with their readers, one-by-one.  Yet, others that have built their entire business model around blogging do it by creating business relationships, signing contracts, and then interacting with their readers as they have time.  I think both types of bloggers have similar trust with their readers.  Producing lots and lots of good content vs. building relationships with content are both good strategies, and both can produce similar results in how they affect those that read their content, as well as individual opportunities for the bloggers.

I think in the end it comes down to which is most rewarding.  I’m not going to say which one that is as that’s a matter of opinion – can a pure focus on numbers and subscriber counts vs. building relationships and organically building your audience be more or just as rewarding?  In the end we know one thing – that little number up there doesn’t mean what you think it says.

Or does it?

Who Are You Writing For?

writing-with-penI love reading updates from my peers, particularly in Utah where I live, as well as other States and Nations that have great blogs. I subscribe to them, in part because I enjoy receiving their updates and what they’re up to, but also because I love to see them post new things and I want to support that practice. I love to see people write, especially amongst my peers because that is how the world can learn about them. A blog, as opposed to a Facebook update or Twitter, gives me the opportunity to see much more of who they are, what they are up to, as well as learn more about their expertise in the areas they like to share.

I see a trend amongst my tech peers here in Utah as well as other places though that I think may be limiting their potential. Many of them are writing for their local state’s or area’s audience, or perhaps even their family and friends, rather than seeing the potential that others outside of their inner circles could be reading their blog.  I admit I am guilty of this.

I went through this early on with this blog if you read over the history. There was awhile I wasn’t quite sure of who my audience was. I wrote my blog as more of a way to get my thoughts recorded for myself, rather than consider that others could be reading this down the road. Some times I would write very techie stuff documenting my progress on a few projects I was working on. Some times I would write stuff about my close family, or maybe even local events that a national or worldwide audience may not be quite as interested in. Occasionally I would delve into religious topics. All this is okay, so long as I recognize that those are the audiences I’m targeting. I’m not sure at the time I did.

It wasn’t until I started recognizing that this blog was more than just a local blog for me and my close friends that this blog began to start getting traffic and taking off.  Once I began seriously researching and writing topics, acting as though it were a blog for a national or worldwide audience, people started to listen.  Sure, it was and still is and will always be my personal blog, but I have changed my perception of who my audience is, and who it could be.   I treated it as how it could become.  Because of that I’m achieving my original purposes of sharing things I learn with even greater impact than ever before.

When you’re writing, you should consider who you’re writing for:

If you’re writing for your close friends and family, that is who will read it…  If you’re writing for just people in your local city or state, that is who will read it…  If you’re writing for your religion or faith, that is who will read it…  If you write for a national or worldwide audience, that is who will read it… If you write for TechCrunch or Mashable or Scoble or Louis Gray or Guy Kawasaki, that is who will read it…

Do you want more eyes on your content?  Which of the above audiences will bring the most eyes?  What are your purposes for your blog?  Look long and hard and spend some time determining this.  Which one will have the biggest impact on achieving your goals in the long-run?  After you do so, look at the above audiences, and then determine which one you need to start writing for.

Most importantly, start writing!  Something is always better than nothing.

This is What an RSS Reader is For

RSSYesterday Robert Scoble wrote a critical post claiming Chris Brogan was using Twitter wrong, stating Chris isn’t separating his content on Twitter well enough.  As one who had to create multiple Twitter accounts to separate out my activity, I am one of the first to support this method.  As it stands though, even I will be first to admit this is a hack.  The only reason I’m creating multiple Twitter accounts is because Twitter, by nature, makes it very difficult to separate out activity like this.  What Scoble wants is a way for him to better read people’s feeds on Twitter, and separate out your blog post from the rest of the content on Twitter.  The problem is, despite what everyone says, I think Scoble is realizing the weakness of Twitter which is that it isn’t really an RSS Reader.

Scoble wants a way to take all the Tweets, by list of those he follows, and read their blog posts, just like he would in an RSS Reader.  My guess is that this is so he doesn’t have to leave Twitter to find new blog posts, a legitimate excuse.  However, Twitter just wasn’t built that way.  As one of the most vocal critics of Google Reader, I think what Scoble and others with this problem need is just what they’re criticizing – an actual RSS Reader built around reading blog posts.

I’ve always been a proponent of the mantra that Social Media is not how you give – it’s how you receive.  If you have a problem with the way others are Tweeting or blogging or posting on Facebook, then find a better way of receiving that data, unfollow, or do something so that you’re only getting the data you want to receive.  There are so many tools out there – FriendFeed (FriendFeed is so much more than just community – it’s an incredible tool!), Google Reader, TweetDeck, Seesmic Desktop, Brizzly, Twitter’s own interface, Facebook’s own interface, and many, many more, that surely there has to be something that enables this.

If not, bloggers need to be petitioning developers, not individual users of these services, to change their ways.  For instance, why can’t I separate out the Tweets with links in them from the rest of the Tweets on Seesmic Desktop?  Or why can’t I specify what my blog is on Twitter and have Twitter distinguish that as meta data for other developers to separate from the rest of the stream?  Why can’t I preview the links before clicking on them?

If you’re not getting what you want from Social Media, this is the fault of the innovators, not the users.  In the case of RSS, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – this is why I never left Google Reader or FriendFeed in the first place, and don’t anticipate doing so any time soon.  They solve the problem Robert Scoble is speaking of for me.

That said, to be considerate of those on Twitter I may still start an additional account that imports just my blog posts, but why? So just one or two individuals can read it? At what point am I separating my Twitter stream so much that you can’t find everything you want to find out about me?  IMO the mantra still exists that you should always be using the best tool for the job, and for reading blogs, Twitter just doesn’t cut it.