techcrunch – Stay N Alive

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.

Mob Wars – Tomayto, Tomaahto…

The GodFatherSince today seems to be a slow news day and some sites seem to be anxious for traffic I thought I’d put my hand into the ring for a piece of that traffic (hey, at least I’m being transparent). Let’s start by saying I really like Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch.  Quite honestly, I gained a new respect for the way he handled and explained the misunderstanding which happened between him and Leo Laporte on a recent (and possibly the last) episode of the Gillmor Gang. I do think he is a genuinely nice guy with good intentions and an amazing brain for business – I highly respect him for that.  I think we could be good friends in person.  He quite often gets a lot of flack  which I think is undeserved – I think that gets to him at times.

That said, I think his recent article comparing FriendFeed to “Syphilis”, a rapidly spreading disease that will kill those in its path until it evolves is quite unfounded. First of all, I’m only aware of 3 people that has happened to (quit FriendFeed, not contract Syphilis), which happened only recently, and only after Mike Arrington started this idea that “Mobs” were killing FriendFeed.  Each one of those cases (besides Arrington’s) were people that only post to the service and rarely interact.  One of them even admitted he just didn’t have time for an extra service – a somewhat legitimate answer.

I also admit that about a year ago there was one additional “mob-driven” departure from FriendFeed during the political campaigns – a Conservative (most of those leaving seem to have been conservatives claiming to have been driven out by their Liberal counterparts on FriendFeed – note that I am also a Conservative) left briefly from the service due to disagreements and attacks on his own Political views.  He is back in full force on FriendFeed today.  I admit, it’s hard to be a Conservative on FriendFeed and express your political opinions (I usually choose not to).  Heck, it’s hard to be Conservative on the internet in general!  The organized nature of FriendFeed, while it has this con (which does not stand for Conservative), is still a very strong platform for organizing well-thought-out conversations.

However, there are 2 sides to this “Mob War”.  Remember last July when I decided to leave Twitter?  Check out the comments of that post – they look very similar to that of my friend who recently decided to do the same with FriendFeed.  That was just my blog (I especially like the one that called me a “self-centered douche” – that made me want to stay on Twitter even longer) – the problem is I have no way to organize all the comments that occured on Twitter which were  offensive or hurtful. You should have seen how bad it got after that post made it on TechMeme (which wasn’t my intent for that post – I had only been on Techmeme about once before that post I think).  TechCrunch’s rage towards FriendFeed is easy to understand – FriendFeed is much easier to point the finger at because the discussion, both the good and the bad and even the ugly, is all in one place.

Is it a Mob or a Groundswell?

Now let’s look at another side of the coin.  Remember that term, “Groundswell”?  If you haven’t, go check out the book by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li tomorrow from the Library, or purchase it from Amazon.  All this “Mob” stuff sounds very familiar – in fact, it was originally termed by Forrester as a “Groundswell” – in Bernoff and Li’s book they define it as “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations”.  That sounds awfully similar to a mob, with the exception of the Technology part.  So would this more accurately be called a “Groundswell” instead of a mob?

One example they cited was that of Digg’s users rioting against Digg due to its original stance on the HD-DVD encryption key.  Those users wanted to see Digg pay for their actions.  I’m sure it hurt a lot reading some of the things which were said at that time.  Digg rectified the situation and listened to those complaining, and turned around the entire movement to a “Mob” or “Groundswell” promoting Digg and fighting the AACS instead.  Mobs can be controlled, but a mob’s still a mob, no matter which side they’re on.  Was that a Mob or a Groundswell?  What about when Digg turned it around to their benefit?

The problem with today’s “Groundswell” is it now targets the personal brand as well as the corporation.  We see that in Arrington’s situation, as well as several others that have recently been targeted.  It could have happened on Twitter.  It could have happened on Youtube, or Digg, or anywhere else.  The fact is when someone the majority likes is targeted, or the service the majority likes is targeted, or has the appearance of being attacked, the mob goes in defense mode, attacking back.  When this is someone’s personal brand we’re talking about and not just a corporation or entity, it hurts a lot more.  It’s impossible to not take at least some of the comments seriously – we’re all human after all.

At the same time, Groundswells can be used for good as well.  Look at what Drew Olanaff is doing with his #blamedrewscancer on Twitter.  He’s gotten me to donate $25 a month to the American Cancer Society because of it, along with many others.  Or look at what is happening in Iran – I’m sure it looks like a “Mob” to the Iranian government.  It’s still a Groundswell no matter which way you put it.

I still think the recent article on TechCrunch is wrong in targeting only FriendFeed in this matter.  The words he used were quite harsh, and unfair to the service’s hard-working founders whose service has been working far better than that of the hard-working founders of Twitter.  Arrington seems to be offended (or looking for traffic for his upcoming conference – it’s hard to tell), and riling up his own Groundswell against the service – perhaps this is just his response to the Groundswell.  Just check out the comments on his post, then read the comments on Scoble’s FriendFeed response and those comments that are being deleted from TechCrunch.  If that’s not the case I really don’t understand the strong words against the service, and why TechCrunch is seemingly only targeting one service in all this.

Mike Arrington calls this a “Mob” – I call it a “Groundswell”.  Is there really a difference?

Here’s a great video portraying in real-life how quickly a “Mob” or “Groundswell” can be formed:


TechCrunch No Longer the #1 Tech Blog

techcrunch.pngIt would appear that in the last 2 days, TechCrunch has again gone down a spot in the Technorati top 100 from #2 to #3. This would put Gizmodo in the #2 spot, making Gizmodo now the #1 Tech Blog on the internet. The #1 spot on Technorati is still held by the Huffington post, a politics blog, and it’s unclear if it will remain that way now that the elections are over.

Technorati results are calculated by number of links in a short time frame, which means that fewer people are linking to TechCrunch these days. Is the internet revolting? FeedBurner shows their reader count still going up (I had to do an search, and the FeedBurner widget comes up there showing their current count – it’s interesting that they removed that count from their live site however). They hit 1 million readers back in September, and since then they seemed to have gained 300,000 more. Gizmodo has not published their subscriber numbers.

So it goes to show that links, and Technorati results really don’t matter in the end – it’s Readers that count. It’s still interesting however the trends of linking we’re seeing lately. There’s no doubt TechCrunch is still a force to be reckoned with.

TechCrunch Loses #1 Spot on Technorati

Picture 3.pngIt appears TechCrunch isn’t the number one blog on the block any more, at least during election season. As I was researching a recent post it became evident that TechCrunch recently has been surpassed by Huffington Post in Technorati rankings.

Huffington Post is known for continually having front page stories on sites such as, which could explain why the increase in rankings. With recent layoff announcements at Valleywag, another top 100 site, this can’t be a comforting thing for a site as large and dominant as TechCrunch. Let’s hope the drop to second place is simply a drop due to the elections and not an ongoing thing for the site.

Erick Schonfeld Misses the Point – It’s About Quality, Not Quantity!

blogging.pngLast week Erick Shonfeld, a writer for TechCrunch, posted a rather uninspiring article after Technorati released their “State of the Blogosphere” stating that “The More [bloggers] Post, the Higher [they] Rank”. In it, he argued that because a majority of the Top 100 blogs tracked by Technorati post more than 5 times a day, and 43 percent of those post more than 10 times a day, that the quantity of those posts is the reason for those blogs entering the top 100 of Technorati. While perhaps true for some, I argue it may be the means, but definitely not the reason the top 100 are where they are.

On Technorati, Quality Trumps Quantity

Let’s face it – every site in the top 100 in Technorati is there because they have put time into their posts. Sites like TechCrunch and Mashable and ReadWriteWeb employ bloggers to professionally blog for them, giving those bloggers the time and motivation to put effort into the posts they write. They have editors which look over the posts each author writes and those editors add an additional level of quality to the posts that they write. They all started small and have grown to the level they are, enabling them to keep the spots they are at.

Because more time is spent on each post, and these sites are able to crank out many of those quality posts, yes, they get more links in a short amount of time. More people are interested in them. They get the breaking news first because startups and other PR firms know that they generate traffic and buzz. This keeps them interesting.

Quantity Plays a Very Small Part

However, I argue that quantity is not the reason most of these people are in the top 100. The problem with quantity is people get bored of you. When you’re cranking out so many posts a day that people can’t keep up they begin to tune out. Sure, they may still subscribe to your feeds, but they start to reduce your importance in their minds. You get links only because you’re cranking out so many posts in a short amount of time. In fact, I suggest this isn’t healthy for the blogosphere. The blogosphere thrives on being personal and unique, not robotic.

Therefore these blogs may have gotten to where they are because of quality, but that does not mean they are invincible. Posts like Erick’s seem to imply that they are and that the little guy has no way of getting “into the blogging elite”.

It is Possible to Get in the Top 100 and Not Post Every Day!

I was reminded of this point when Chris Brogan very humbly made mention on his blog that he had broken the top 100 blogs on Technorati. While Chris does post almost every day and sometimes more than once, he also skips days at times, and I can tell you that blogging is by far his top priority! Chris writes quality, well-thought out posts that make you think and teach you things. He’s not a news breaker, unless he thinks you can learn from it. People like this, so they link to him. He has become more than just a “blogger”, but a “thought-leader” and example.

Seth Godin is another example. Currently Seth is number 17 on the top 100 of Technorati. He’ll never let you know that, by the way. Seth posts short, thoughtful posts, once a day, which make you think. You feel inspired after reading just the short paragraph or two that he writes. Seth too is considered a thought leader because of this. He could care less about quantity. His quality is what has made his blog.

Robert Scoble is another example. There are days and even weeks he goes without blogging, but when he speaks, he speaks with passion. He tries to inspire, and show you by his actions what the upcoming technologies are. Because of this, lots of people link to him.

Then there’s Guy Kawasaki. Guy’s last post was 2 days ago. He blogs because it’s fun. He blogs because he has something to share, not because of a duty to blog. Guy got in the top 100 naturally, not because of an army of bloggers working for him.

You Can Do it Too!

I’ll be first to admit that I’m not there. True, it would be cool to be there, but frankly, it’s not important. What’s important is that you stop focusing on the robotic nature of blogging just to blog, and blog because you care. Blog because you have something to say, and blog because it makes sense.

It doesn’t matter if you blog 5 times a day, once a day, or even once a week. If you write quality posts, lead in your thoughts and actions, and show that in your writing, others will link to you. Despite what Erick Shonfeld says, don’t listen to him – quality trumps quantity any day, especially with Technorati.

(Image courtesy