Grand Strand Blogger Meetup

In the spirit of ongoing attempts to crystallize a blogger community here in the Grand Strand, I’m organizing a get together. If you are a blogger, podcaster, videoblogger or interested in any of the above, come and hang out with us. Here are the specifics:

Sunday June 17th at 3 PM, Bummz at 2003 N. Ocean Blvd, Myrtle Beach, SC
Phone number of the joint: 843-916-9111
Google Map to the restaurant

We’ll be at a table outside as close to the beach as we can get. If you are interested in coming, please send me a non-binding RSVP via email just so I can keep you abreast of logistics and make sure we have enough table space reserved. Feel free to forward this information around, tell your friends, tell your neighbors, blog about it yourself. Bloggers now do this kind of thing all the time in Charleston, and we’re as good as those people. Just like they found out in Charleston that when they got together they had a critical mass they didn’t realize existed, let’s try to get the same thing going in our part of the state. Let’s rock!

Andrew Keen, Welcome to the Outrage Farm

I’ve been hearing a little about Andrew Keen’s new book that basically tells all of us in citizen media that we suck. Apparently Keen’s Big Message is that blogs are irrelevant and books, TV and newspaper are important. He published a book to that effect and also has, ummmm, ironically enough, a blog with the same message. I guess the message is important in book form but irrelevant in blog form, or perhaps he has a special dispensation that allows his blog to be important while all others are not.

I ran across one of Keen’s posts about debating Jeff Jarvis. I’ve had it open in Firefox for over a week but I hadn’t blogged it out of a vague sense of unease that Scoble captured perfectly. I disagree so fundamentally with what Keen is saying, and moreover it seems like he is deliberately being a dick in how he says it. However, it also seems like arguing with him and calling him out is exactly what he wants. Note that on the sidebar of his blogs at the time of this posting, almost every personal appearance scheduled is a “debate” rather than just a book signing. Apparently, picking fights is the tent pole of his promotional machine which supports my thesis. Just like an Ann Coulter or a Michelle Malkin or a John C. Dvorak that deliberately and cynically farms controversy in order to gain attention, Keen seems to want to be at the center of a storm. Just as long as his name and the title of his book get blown about, bring on the gale force winds. I’m such a sucker for that play, it almost always gets me. I’ll give myself the luxury of one paragraph and then never again.

Keen is a courageous slayer of straw men. You can tell he is a big thinker because he refers to new media as “new meeja”. You can’t be an effective outrage farmer without dismissive nicknames. His core argument that new media is inconsequential pretty much fails out of the box for me, since in my own life it has consequence. As a producer it has brought me much joy and connection with people I enjoy. Having not five days ago had a coffee and conversation with a listener who was quoting back to me ideas I’ve expressed in my podcast, that’s a consequence to me and also to him. Almost three years into this podcast era, I don’t listen to NPR in my car anymore. After all the time spent listening to authentic voices, I can’t listen to the archness of All Things Considered or even This American Life. In fact, if my MP3 player runs out of juice, I usually just switch off the radio. Nowadays I prefer silence to NPR. Yes, Mr. Keen, I turn off the professionally produced in favor of rougher media on topics more of interest in me. That’s a consequence. You can make it your life’s work to tell me that I shouldn’t enjoy the things I do but that seems like a wasted life to me. Trying to elevate your personal tastes to that of moral truth and cultural standard is ridiculous.

And with that, I promise you the readers and myself that I will never again throw Brer Keen in the briar patch by arguing with his points. Instead, I’ll disprove them empirically by the choices I make in my life.

And to Jeff Jarvis, don’t debate Keen. He’s the troubled kid who pisses on the coffee table to get attention. It doesn’t matter what happens in such a debate, he wins when you show up. For someone so down on bloggers, he is working hard to get legitimized by them, isn’t he?

J on Money and Your Creative Work

J Wynia is someone with whom I have a constructive blog/podcast crosstalk. His most recent post on using your earnings from creative work to fund retirement is spot on with what I’ve been thinking lately. He also is exactly correct on my motivations for keeping things the way they are with the podcast as a sidelight and working a day job.

Fifteen years ago I would have thought the height of life would be to have no day job and be a writer and creative person working for myself. Nowadays, I think the setup I have is pretty darned good and I don’t want it a different way. My job pays well, lets me spend my days around people I like, provides enough challenge to keep it interesting and gives me benefits to boot. I don’t begrudge them that time during the weekdays.

I think J does an excellent job of deconstructing why people think getting rid of the day job is so fabulous, a lot of which has to do with unrealistic romantic fantasies about how life would be. If working at Long John Silvers was good enough for Wayne Coyne during the first decade of the Flaming Lips working an enjoyable software job should be good enough for me.

I also like J’s money management tips, which I think are sensible in general. In my case, I’ve already got fully funded 401Ks and IRAs, and we already have almost no debt. We do still have a car payment now, which will be paid off in a few months. It’s a four year used car note, but we’ll have closed it out in under two years. At that point, we will again have zero consumer debt and only the mortgage will remain.

Check out his post. I’m not pointing out every single thing I think he’s right about, because it’s basically the whole thing. J is on it, boyeee!

Troll Whispering

In a column for Information Week, Cory Doctorow discusses how trolls poison communities. We actually talked about the same subject at Orycon on one of the panels we were on together. It’s interesting overall, but this line was the kicker to me:

“Don’t let assholes rent space in your head.”

That’s the hardest thing possible. A lot of podcasters have found this out the hard way. You can get one hundred positive comments, but the one hostile asshole keeps you up at night. I just had this the other day with a troll on this very blog. That seemed to work out but it’s always a drag having to deal with that. By and large, the discussion on here is fun and uplifting but when it goes to hell it really bothers me. I’ll try to bring out my inner troll whisperer the next time I need to.

Project Wonderful is Aptly Named

I have found Project Wonderful to be aptly named. I blogged my initial impressions here. I’ve been using it for about a month now. Let’s start with the downside. I applied to be an ad seller the first day I joined up and never got my invitation code. Two weeks after that, I sent an email asking about it. I never got a response to that. Ten days later, I emailed another followup. I never received a response to that either. So, they might be getting swamped or having manpower scaling issues, but my experience as an excited person who wants to put their ad boxes on my sites has really sucked. I have a whole lot of enthusiasm for using them as an ad provider, but if they continue to blow me off that enthusiasm will evaporate. Get it together, guys! How hard are you going to make me work to help earn you money?

On the seller side, it has worked fabulously. I started slowly, picking a few small buttons to advertise AmigoFish. I picked and chose somewhat randomly across sites that seemed to be a good value for the money, tending to stay in the pennies per day region. I advertised on most of the podcast related sites in the stable (exceprt for the Warcraft Radio guys who inexplicably rejected me and also never replied to my message asking why.) That was all well and good, and I was happy with that.

Then, a week ago they brought their campaign system online. This allows you to bid not on single boxes but on the results to a search. So, insteand of searching on everything tagged “podcast” in the system and finding them on bidding on each of them one by one, I instead set up a campaign to do that. That worked well, but was about on parity with what I was doing before, just a more efficient way to achieve it. Here’s the biggie.

I setup a campaign to do an experiment in long tail breadth on Project Wonderful ads. In it, I bid $0.01 per day across the widest possible search. In essence, I’m bidding one cent a day on every ad they have. I capped it at 50 cents per day. Because I win some of these with zero cent bids, that puts it on over 50 sites per day. For the week I’ve been doing that, I’ve averaged over 70 click throughs each day from this campaign alone. Not views, but clicks! It seems to be working fabulously, and the new subscriber rate at AmigoFish is about twice the baseline over the last few weeks.

I can’t say there is no clickfraud with this system, because I don’t know that. It does seem like the motivation for it would be more dispersed than with Adsense. You might conceivably want to click your own ads a lot to increase your value, but in my case all that would do would be to lift the bid up to where I no longer high bidder. Spurious clicks might exist in order to increase one’s value to bidders, but it is not the sole metric of how much you get paid. In general, this system seems like a better way of extracting intrinsic value for smaller sites. I like the service, I hope they stick around for a while and I hope they get it together well enough to take on new advertisers soon. I want to sell their ads, and I want more podcasts to sign up as advertisers so I get more cool venues to put my ads on.

Downloads are Not Public Performance

Derek sent me this link about the ruling by a judge that downloads are not considered “public performances” for fee collection purposes. I don’t know the final results that will shake out from this, but it seems like the first court ruling in a long time about the digital world that didn’t come down on the side of the oligarchy. Fight the power!

Project Wonderful

Here’s an interesting project that I found completely by accident. A kind correspondent/listener who sensed I was down and wanted to cheer me up sent me a link to the Crimson Dark web comic. It looked interesting but I wasn’t in the moode to start at the beginning on such a thing right now. What I did think was interesting was the ad box, which had a little money value on it that said “You’re ad right here, $0.80” or whatever the value was. I followed the link, which took me to Project Wonderful.

It’s got an interesting bidding mechanism for placing banner ads. It’s kind of like combining Adsense with eBay. You place a bid for a banner ad on a site, and for the duration that you are the highest bidder your ad shows. I’ve been thinking I need to start doing advertising for AmigoFish and rather than doing Adsense, I figured I might as well start with this. Thus far, it seems like an interesting experiment. I put some money in an account, fixed me up some 117X30 pixels banner ads (learning how to create animated GIFs with Graphic Converter for the first time) and let it rip. I put in bids on most of the ads with the tag “podcast” in the system. Some are working better than others, but thus far I’m getting a way better cost per click than anything I’d have been able to have got via AdSense. I’ll do that too, but I’m having fun fiddling with it at this point. I like the mechanism, and it seems like a really good way to extract value for content creators.

There are downsides, though. One is that the day I created the account, I signed up to be able to sell advertising. I figure I’ll put something in that dead space in my header and see how it works. At this stage of the game though, you have to be approved before you can sell ads. They say that it will take around two weeks for that approval to happen. It’s been 10 days, and I’ve seen incoming traffic on this site from Project Wonderful admin pages, but still no hookup. I continue to wait impatiently.

The other downside is in the approval side. As an advertiser you can configure it to auto-approve all bids, approve advertisers the first time or every time. It’s much like the options you have as moderator of comments on a blog. I’ve put in a dozen bids to mostly podcast related stuff. Most have been approved, a few are still pending, and one has rejected me. I have no idea why and emailed them to ask why, that’s still pending. I have to say, though, the rejection actually felt kind of personal to me. Although I’m more sanguine now and I’m reaching out to find out what I can do differently to be acceptable, my initial reaction was “What the hell? How dare they reject my ad!” Because of the way it is set up, it just felt like a repudiation. I’d think that usually you reject ads because you find the ad or product objectionable. I’m interested in finding out how my benign little project could offend anyone.

I’ll be following this experiment and will periodically update how it is going. So far, it looks interesting. When I finally get approved, if you want to join in the experiment and put your own banner on here for a while, let’s fire it up. It’s an easy process to join, PayPal them some money and place some bids. This process is banner ads steered by the invisible hand of the marketplace, which is neat by itself. One of the side effects (which could be pleasant or not) is that it does give you a direct and real world metric of the valuation of your web page as an advertising property. Project Wonderful seems to mostly have a lot of webcomics using it currently, and a few are making some reasonable money. I’ll be keeping my eye on this.


Some people have asked me in IM if I’m on Twitter, usually overnight when I have forgotten to shut down Adiium for the night. No, I’m not on Twitter. If I thought there was some value in it I’d sign up. I’ve still been reeling from the Tim Ferriss presentation at SXSW that what would really add value to the things I do would be finding things that take my time and attention and get rid of them. Thus, what I don’t need is one more attention fracturing thing. My Continuous Partial Attention is too continuous, too partial and with too little attention. Can anyone give me a reason to use it that would, like, matter to me?