Ze Frank vs. Rocketboom

Andrew Baron posted his end of an odd vidcast argument that Ze Frank started here. Chris Brogan comments on that episode as David Berlind does as well, although Berlind is not addressing the Rocketboom diss but the TV networks diss.

Having watched the show, I think his attack is milder than I was expecting from Drew’s post and given the whole Ze Frank schtick but is nonetheless bullshit. He points to Alexa statistics as supporting his contention that Rocketboom isn’t really serving 300,000 downloads an episode. Uhh, right. I went to the Rocketboom website about once for every 50 episodes I watched. I’m on a Mac, so Alexa wouldn’t count me anyway. Propping up his argument with Alexa is not a winning strategy because those numbers are far from definitive. And besides, what kind of foolio complains about having 30,000 downloads in such a show? Waaaah. There is no crying in baseball and there is no crying in vlogging. Ze (or Frank or however you shorten your name), don’t be such a baby.

I used to subscribe to Ze Frank’s show, but I don’t anymore. Here’s my list of issues with his whole setup.

1. His feed system sucks but hard. I don’t know whether it’s his problem or Revver or what, but its just lousy. I couldn’t use Juice to subscribe, because every single file came down named “video.mov” and if I had more than one day getting downloaded, I had to catch it by hand or every subsequent file would overwrite the previous one. That’s just stupid level stuff. At that point, someone has paid the bandwidth for serving me multiple files, and I have one sitting on my computer to watch. Not smart. If I throw that in a directory with 20 gigabytes of other vlogs on an external drive, I had to rename every single file or they would all overwrite each other. After a while, I got so sick off hand renaming files that that I just unsubscribed. Some days, the enclosure just isn’t there in the feed. It sucks and is the most ridiculous failure of a simple task I have ever seen in podcasting in two years. The people who hand code their XML do a better job. I liked the show, but not so much for it to be worth all this trouble. I doubt I’m the only person with this experience.

2. He has no usable show notes or links of any kind. In fact, if you follow the links to his site you’ll get a bland page with no description. [It took me multiple looks to realize that “vb #2” is a description. It’s just such a bad one you can’t tell it is.] Just like you can’t tell one day from another via the filename of the download, you can’t tell shit about it from looking at the page. Is this the day he went off on Rocketboom or was that the day before? Have to watch the video to find out. Maybe that’s part of the master plan (requiring extra views to even know what the subjects are) but it is a lousy strategery. No google juice, no return links, no trackbacks, etc. The basics of this world are the more you give the more you get, and Ze Frank don’t give anything.

3. His show has a lousy and non-distinctive name, “The Show”. Rocketboom has no other uses in the compound form than the show so if you see it as one word, you know what it is. “The Show” ain’t got that property. On its AmigoFish page (a name created by a similar process as Rocketboom, btw), “The Show by ze frank” has less than 1/20th the ratings of Rocketboom. That’s skewed by the fact that AmigoFish has been mentioned on Rocketboom, but if you subtracted out the number of people that joined in the two weeks after that mention, the margin would still be greater than the 10 to 1 disparity in downloads. Some of that might be that you can’t search on it easily and find it by its title, only searching “Ze Frank” will turn it up. Despite the perceived injustice by Ze, he has less traction by the only statistics I have access to. I think a big chunk of that is his own fault.

So there you go. Even though “The Show with Ze Frank” has a certain belligerent and insane charm, I don’t bother with it anymore because it is more trouble than its worth. Despite Ze’s insinuation, Drew Baron has worked hard to make his show useful, available via many channels and play a part in the vlog and blogosphere ecology. Ze has apparently not put a goddamn second into that end — the “making it useful”, good user experience sissy stuff. I guess when your gig is being an aggressively ironic, post-modern and bat shit crazy … whatever he is, you can’t be bothered trying to be useful.

Update: More conversation by Jeneane Sessum on likeability. I thought she was going another way until the very end because Ze Frank has a lot of positives but likeability isn’t one I’d ascribe – more like “manic creepy charisma.” Perhaps she means the show as a whole is likeable. I think it is offputting by design rather than likeable but however you want to score it. Scoble suggests engagement as a metric which is not unlike what I’ve been saying for the last two years.

To clarify my position, I did indeed like the show (or “The Show”) but not enough to jump the hurdles put in my way to watch it in my desired manner. I can’t set it and forget it via RSS because the feed is so screwy. There is no video website that I am willing to go to every single day. I’m an outlier in that case. I don’t generally want to watch them synchronously and wait for them to download, and I’m never going to remember to go back every day. That’s, like, why I subscrbe to the damn RSS. I hear about how popular YouTube videos are and I see them embedded in blog posts all the time and I never click them because when I’m reading stuff I don’t want to watch videos. I’d rather watch a batch of them when I’m in the mood for it, much like I watch TV.

Update 2: According to the people in the Ze Frank Fanboy Forum I’m an idiot because his feed doesn’t work right with my podcatching clent. That’s home field advantage for you, kids. I’m beginning to get the sinking feeling I have once again gotten involved in a food fight with fanatics. This is the true power of the blogosphere – reducing the time between entering a conversation and regretting getting involved to all-time lows. Here is the knee-slapper of the thread so far:

Nah, just the accountability of established media from an experimental form. Philistine.

That’s right, Ze fans, you drive by a blog you never heard of before today and you know everything about it. What I really want from Ze is to be more “old media”. I think reading more than a single post would point what a truly frigging stupid observation that is.

Update 3: Jon wins the award for my favorite Ze Frank fan so far. He actually is conversing, as opposed to driving by, leaving a bag of burning poop and peeling out. That makes this whole thing much more fun and alleviates a little of the dread I was getting.

If you are coming from Ze’s forum, please do me the favor of reading all the comments so far before leaving one so you can get an accurate assessment of the back and forth to this point. Thanks.

BTW, for the dudes you think I’m an old media guy, you might be wrong. I’ve, like, done this podcast for over two years, done a show for IT Conversations for over two years, etc. I’m just saying.

Update 4: The Ze-slide appears to be winding down. They sure are tetchy on the forum, aren’t they? In the final analysis, probably no one on there said anything harsher than what I usually hear over the XMas dinner table. I like the people that point out that my post “wasn’t really about the content of his show.” Uhhhh, yeah. Ze tacitly accused Drew Baron of lying about stats. I pointed out a lot of ways that Drew makes Rocketboom work for maximal audience that Ze falls down on. So yes, friends, that’s not about the content. From a sheer artistic standpoint, Ze is better – no argument on that point. I found his delivery systems to be such a failure that the effort to get it exceeded its value to me. If he wants to get all numerical and get his up, that might be a fine place to focus some effort. If not, he can just toss around accusations until everyone gets tired of him. Either way the numbers take care of themselves, sports racers.

Update 5: Heather Green and Rob Walch look at the logs and find that Rocketboom is not getting 300,000 downloads a day, only 211,000.

Update 6: Something occurred to me today. In the forum, a number of people laid into me as being anywhere from a lazy turd to immoral for knowing Ze’s RSS enclosure feed is boned but merely unsubscribing rather than pushing back and trying to get it fixed. I’d argue that it’s not the responsibility of those who can take or leave a show to verify its technical correctness, but whatever. But – they are rabid Ze truefans, and although apparently not a single one of them was able to figure this out on their own they all know now. As of today the feed is still screwed up. I’m subscribing via NetNewswire just to see if/when the videos ever come down with a different filename. If it doesn’t ever get fixed, then either they are just as lazy as me or it would always have been useless to let him know. We’ll start the count at Day 2 of Ze Feed Watch.

Update 7: On November 16th, Asi from Revver left a comment that they had changed their architecture in a way that allows you to subscribe without overwriting your files again and again. From original post to that, 21 days. I think it was fixed a few days before that, so under 3 weeks from the start of the count to things being changed. Better than I would have thought.

In the final analysis, even though the feed has been made more subscription friendly I’m not planning on subscribing again. Having a bunch of rabid Ze fans yelling at me for being stupid because I can live without his show definitely sucked out any remaining warm feelings I might have once had. Nice work. I haven’t watched it in many months and I haven’t missed it at all. If you love it, great for you. I don’t, the end. From me, this topic closed. Amen.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

26 thoughts on “Ze Frank vs. Rocketboom”

  1. Hi Dave,
    I’m a big fan of Ze’s and you have some great points here.

    When you encountered these problems, did you send them to Ze, or is this the first time you are voicing them?


  2. Steve, I didn’t send them to Ze, I just unsubscribed. People often tell me that I should directly contact them about things like this, but when it happens I’m always pissed off and sick of it so the extra effort of communicating back to them isn’t that primary to me. If Ze’s goal is world domination such that 30,000 viewers isn’t enough for him, I think the burden is on him to make it work not me to communicate to him how he is failing.

  3. Steve –

    I get questions like “Did you tell them about it first before you complained about it?” and the answer is nearly always NO. It’s not the listener or viewer’s responsibility to correct the creator – it’s up to the content creator to make it easy for the consumer – not the other way around.


  4. As a t-shirt wearing Ze fan, I was disappointed with the Rocketboom crap. It’s just boring – stats are boring and arguing about them is even more boring.

    Though to address your points 2 and 3, I think those are perfectly valid reasons to unsubscribe or stop watching. And those are all items that when I talk to people about podcasting and their websites I always point to as things you ought to be doing.

    However, any cutting edge artist will say that rules are made to be broken, and one of the reasons I am a Ze fan is that I think he’s playing with the “rules” of pod/vid/casting. Like a writer using unconventional narrative conventions, Ze is (I believe) purposefully creating something new by eschewing the “proper” forms.

    And this is one of the reasons I was so disappointed in the stats bullshit – when you’re working on the edge of acceptable, you have to assume that what you do isn’t for everyone. “Are the new viewers gone, yet?”

  5. Don’t tell the content creators when something technical has gone wonky for you? Seems a rather silly reason to pass on something you might otherwise really enjoy.

    I thought one of the primary advantages of web-based media vs. traditional media was interactivity. Or are we simply striving for new levels of couch potato-ness here?

  6. Ze has a “certain belligerent and insane charm” because he takes bland news and generates humorous content through satire. He basically spins ideas in such a way that most people don’t consider. He “thinks so you don’t have to”. Is that bad? I admit the representative at rocketboom is not only attractive, but also has a sexy english accent, but it’s straight up boring. I sat through 4 episodes and could only wonder “why”.

    What I find interesting is that you call him a whiner when you’re the one complaining. Life must be really tough if you have to “wait for them to download” (cause 20 seconds on a highspeed internet connection is way too long) or you can’t conveniently set your RSS feed. You sound like you’re pretty hard to please.

    The greatest point you made is that you don’t have to watch. So don’t watch. Watching a three minute video blog shouldn’t be that stressful. It’s meant for enjoyment, if you don’t enjoy Ze Frank, like i said, there’s no obligation. That may be the most attractive part of Ze’s site. You don’t have to watch every day, but you just want to.

  7. Darusha, that’s pretty astute. It does seem like you can’t both try to change the game and simultaneously complain about not winning the game. Frankly, 30,000 downloads seems like a hell of a lot for what he’s doing. To be pedantic, #1 is why I unsubscribed – #2 and #3 are factors that I think hurt his traction and the ability for the uninitiated to find him.

    Tim, I’m with you brother.

    Jon, that’s kind of the pissy take on it, now isn’t it? Closer to the truth is that I have a surplus of feeds that work correctly. I have over a hundred audio podcasts and over thirty video ones – on the edge of or slightly more than I can keep up with. It’s not like when Ze’s doesn’t work right, I’m sitting around jonesing for media to consume. There’s plenty that work right filling my queue. If Tiki Bar TV stops working, I’ll drop them an email. You’re making the assumption that I really enjoy Ze, which is stronger than the truth. I liked it all right, but wouldn’t say I loved it or found it essential. For things I find worth the bother, I will reach out but this ain’t one of them.

  8. Ze’s show isn’t just a show. The home page is campy and entertaining. I get the feeling that he’s not concerned with numbers. Consider the “How to dance properly” that sparked his popularity. That was a time consuming creative project to simply invite people to a party. I notice the complaints about the show aren’t really about the show, but rather the presentation.

    When I was poor and couldn’t afford cable, and had to use rabbit ears, I didn’t blame Letterman for having a bad show.

    Point being, you can’t fight with someone who doesn’t care what you think. I honestly don’t think Ze worries about the numbers game, except in the way that he would like accurate metrics. Who doesn’t! I’d be pretty upset with my fuel gage if it didn’t give me proper readings!

  9. I’ll have to recalibrate my tone: I was going for snarky rather than pissy. Then again, it seems that “pissy” is somewhat of a theme in this whole debate.

    But seriously, Dave, my comment wasn’t directed so much at your decision to jettison Ze specifically but at the general subject of passing over good content because of technological hiccups. I should have been more clear on that.

    Granted, the person who wants an audience on the web owes that audience a hefty amount of diligence in making sure that the product is accessible as well as worth accessing. No argument there. At the same time, I think the audience owes it to the content creator to speak up when something isn’t working.

    You’re saying you stopped bothering with The Show because it ceased to be worth the hassle for you. The bad outweighed the good. I get that (I mean, I get it now that you’ve clarified it, whereas before it seemed more a case of annoyance with accessibility). I guess I find myself wondering about people who would do the same even if they actually still liked a given show. That seems to put them in a passive role more akin to a television audience and that, to me, would defeat the purpose of having an alternative to television.

    ‘Not laying blame, just asking the question.

  10. John, In fact I’m not complaining because I don’t really care. I’m pointing out that if Ze wants his numbers higher, making his feed work correctly would help with that. This is just my observations, so even if you and your buddies on the forum think I have a dog in the fight I don’t. I have only watched one episode of Rocketboom with Joanne so I’ll take your word on that. To be honest on Rocketboom, I think even at the tail end of the Amanda run the quality had slid from the earlier days. So there. If y’all are such freakish Ze fundamentalists that y’all wig out at any criticism, so be it. His feeds don’t work right with my podcatcher, that’s fact. Make fun of me for it, but I didn’t break them.

    Bee, that could be but putting it in his show is an odd way to demonstrate that he doesn’t care about numbers. On the forum, y’all are saying my complaints aren’t about the content of his show. They are, to the extent that I’m not so smitten with it that I felt like pushing back on the brokenness of his feed. When you are watching a TV show and that channel goes black, do you immediately call the cable company or switch to one that works? Yeah, me too. Why so sensitive that one person can watch and yet not become a raving Ze fan? I can take or leave the show, different strokes and all.

  11. Jon, bless your pea-picking heart! You are the first Ze fan to actually engage in the conversation! I fear this is becoming a turd slinging fight, which I don’t really want. I’m happy to engage in conversation even with people with whom I disagree and/or think I’m an idiot.

    Like I said up a few, there’s a threshold. I LOOOOOOOVE Tiki Bar TV and would go to great lengths to keep getting it, even if the feed breaks. Hell, I’d pay for them to mail me a DVD of each episode, I love it that much. It just hits me right there. I don’t feel that way about Rocketboom or Ze or Mac Break Weekly or any other video show you could name.

    Passive is one way to put it, overwhelmed is another way. I’ve got 45 emails in my inbox to answer, podcasts to do, tonight I’ve got a shitload of comments to respond to, etc. I also am the sole person that works on every aspect of AmigoFish, I have a full-time job, even more etc. My Hipster PDA is full of things that aren’t getting done. Y’all seem awfully judgemental that pointing out to Ze his feed doesn’t work right isn’t at the top of my priorities. Sorry guys. Nothing personal but it’s not that important to me. It’s great that it is to you, but my experience is different.

    Thanks again for conversing and not just getting all ad hominem. I really appreciate that. If any of your forum-mates wants to send me a Ze Frank bib, I’ll email you a photo of me drooling on it.

  12. Eh…er, well…for the record, I’m not actually that big a “fan” of Ze Frank. I think he’s funny enough but I know lots of funny people. Nor have I ever posted in his forums. I’m not much for being a “fan” of things, if you get my meaning.

    And I by absolutely no means think you’re an idiot. I’m not qualified to make that determination, as I’m one of those dudes who just rolled up on your blog for the very first time today. Besides, even if I’d been reading you since day one that ain’t the same as knowing you.

    But anyway. I’ll own the fact that I got us off on the wrong foot. And, hell, it’s been entertaining to say the least.

    Your point about having no time in your day to deal with chasing rolling pennies under the couch is well taken. Perhaps my question is best considered in a different context.

    Take it easy and thanks for the responses.

  13. Jon, gotcha. That’s my mistake. I made the assumption that all the new people were coming from Ze’s forum. No, sir, thank you.

  14. “what kind of foolio complains about having 30,000 downloads in such a show? Waaaah.”

    Where did Ze complain about have 30,000 downloads? I watched the show and couldn’t find a complaint. It seemed like he was trying to make a point about the current measurements of popularity.

  15. Hey Gordon, Maybe it’s my weird interpretation but I thought that the whole thing was him basically saying “There is no way RB really gets 10X the downloads I do”. That’s either a complaint about how many they get or how few he gets or both. I personally don’t give a good goddamn about them myself, but I don’t find either number hard to believe. Since the core of his thing is that Rocketboom is misrepresenting their numbers, that’s by its nature an aggressive stance and makes it seem like a complaint to me. Dunno. I’m not in the faithful, so perhaps I’m not giving him as much benefit of the doubt as he deserves.

  16. If that is the case, I don’t think it is a jealously thing — more of a ‘keepin em honest’ type of thing.

  17. Dave,

    You know I am a huge fan of all things EGC and that this is not my first visit. I totally agree with you when you point out that the technological obstacles Ze has allowed to form around his content make access difficult and frustrating, at best. But I must agree with Gordon when he says Ze was pushing for “more of a ‘keepin em honest’ type of thing” with regard to Ze’s Rocketboom comments. But rather than claim that I know what is in another person’s heart, just watch this episode. Ze explains himself. At least IMO.



  18. Gordon, that’s possible but if the people who have audited the logs don’t think that’s the case, Ze’s indirect argument seems pretty weak.

    Danny, I’ll watch this one and see. I’m all for keeping them honest, but when you are making big accusations based on really flimsy evidence, it just makes you look like a jagoff when you are wrong. Maybe Ze was just Rocketbooming all along. Or was the whole thing just Ze’s way of farming controversy to increase interest? I’ll know when I watch, I guess.

  19. On a side note, I totally agree with you about show notes. That has always pissed me off. It seems like such an easy fix.

  20. Gordon, absolutely. It’s more than just being useful to the fans, it makes you show up in Technorati as a thing that links in, it helps your Google rank for that thing, it shows up in dynamic links (such as, say, the ones I have in the right sidebar), etc etc etc. It ultimately helps your traction to link out and to have some textual notes about what you are talking about.

    That’s the basic thrust of my original post. Even if the two shows were identically as good artistically by whatever way it could be measured, I’d have no doubt Rocketboom would have more viewers because it does the little things right for getting people back to it and keeping them sticking around and subscribed.

  21. Danny, I watched the video. My guess is that your interpretation is “If you are going to say you have 300,000 downloads, you better be able to prove it.” Is that what you are thinking – that’s the “job to do right” that he’s obliquely referring to?

    I see two possible alternate interpretations:

    Like I’ve said above – “If you are going to put out a creative and challenging vidcast, taking the tiny bit of time to make sure the feed is usable and write notes and have links.”

    “If you are going to accuse Rocketboom of lying about their stats, you better have something better than fucking Alexa to back that up.”

  22. Dave,

    You are correct, that was my guess re: the “do it right” vidcast. I totally agree with your first alternate interpretation. I really have a hard time understanding why Ze does not address access and documentation. It is OK of course if he wants to make viewers “work” to get his content, it is after all his content, but that does place a person in a very vulnerable position when questioning another’s numbers. As for Rocketboom, I checked and Alexaholic does chart Ze higher but, as you point out Dave, Alexa ain’t the place to hang your hat for accuracy. Ze himself references the fact that currently there are no reliable analytics for measuring audio and video podcasting. So yeah, I’m confused. Maybe Ze did just want to start a fight for attention. But this would not be in keeping with my perception of Ze, based of course solely on his videos. But that is all I have by which to measure the man. And I think you are a helluva’ guy too Dave. Brilliant, creative, sensitive, tolerant and as funny as the day is long. But all of that positive sentiment is based solely upon the words you’ve been speaking into my earbuds for the last couple of years.

    Folks like you Dave, and I’m talking here about men and women who create popular citizen media whether in audio or video format, you must understand something. Your fan base, in large part, are still the same sheep that network TV and major media coporations were pushing around and tightly controlling up until very recently. When we feel we’ve made a connection to a person, based upon what we perceive them to be, it becomes very real and very personal. There should be no surprise when you see some funny business, call bullshit on the perpetrator, and suddenly find an army of supporters turn out to defend them, whether they are right or wrong. Anyway, my last words on the matter.

    Still a huge fan Dave and loving all that you share,


  23. All (esp. Dave),

    The feed issue you were experiencing was the result of our old media server architecture, but we’ve updated the urls to include unique filenames, so you should definitely give Ze’s show another chance (today’s show is hilarious).

    We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

    Asi Behar
    Director, Web Services & Experience
    Revver Inc.

  24. This is far and away the most spammed post on my whole blog. I’m shutting down comments on it to stop that. Even 0.1% getting through is a pain in the ass. No one has anything new to yell at me about for 2.5 years so I think this is safe to shut down. If you didn’t call me stupid for this by now, you missed your chance. Who’s stupid now, Ze Frank fans?

  25. BTW, It wasn’t Ze’s fault but this run-in with his rabid fans was sufficiently distasteful that I’ve never had the slightest bit of interest in him or any aspect of his work ever since. Que sera.

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