Stubbornly Clinging to the Organic Web

This is about blogging. It’s meta-crap. If you’re not interested in meta-crap about blogging  (and really, who can blame you!) you might enjoy this tiny story about a moment on the beach on Moloka’i instead.

About three weeks back, I pulled out of a Triberr group. Triberr, if I understand it correctly, allows you to build a “tribe” of like-minded folks. Once you’ve built your tribe, it automates the promotion of the work by anyone in your tribe.

I’d joined a group of top quality writers. Every time one of those writers published a new blog post, Triberr automatically published a link to those posts on Twitter. A few times a week, I’d see something attributed to me, on Twitter — an automatic posting under my name. I hadn’t read the post that was being promoted. It took me about four days to figure out what was going on. And then, I pulled out.

I also declined an invite to join another “tribe” — once I knew how it worked, I wasn’t going to join another group. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the writers, it was that I didn’t like the automation. I didn’t like the idea that a machine was automatically marking things with my implied seal of approval.

I’m not a complete idiot. I know there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of people participating in these automated and semi-automated promotional schemes. They’re trading links. They’re clicking StumbleUpon toolbars. People “like” each other on the Facebook, follow each other on the Twitter, they participate in email groups and and and. It’s all a mechanized game for traffic. They’re in agreements to comment on each other’s posts — “Nice post, dude!” to create the appearance of  “engagement”. There are even those buying Facebook friends and Twitter followers to artificially bulk up their statistics.

More traffic. Bigger numbers. It’s a game and there is money lying on the table. More traffic equals higher ad revenues. More traffic equals more press trip invitations. More traffic equals higher Google rankings equals higher ad revenues equals more press trips equals more more more. There in lies financial success, I suppose. In “more.”

I’m not immune to wanting more, but I keep dropping out of these “more” driven schemes. I want a different kind of “more”, I guess. As a blogger, I want more readers. I see this as fundamentally different than traffic. Traffic is an anonymous clot of vehicles on the information superhighway. Readers, they’re hanging out at diner counters on the back roads of the internet. Yeah, it’s kind of a clunky metaphor. I’m okay with that.

There’s a huge difference in a machine telling you to read something and me telling you. If I take the time to tell you that, oh, Unbrave Girl is cracking me up lately, a lot, or that even though she writes about people as though I’m supposed to know who the hell they are, I do not care that I do not know them because, whoa, that Katja writes beautifully about Italy, I reckon you are about 97 times more likely to bother to read that stuff. After all, it was recommended by me, personally, not out of obligation or by machine. I recommended it because I like it and I think you will too.

Netflix will tell you what movies to watch and Amazon will tell you what books to buy. They’ve got complicated algorithms underlying their recommendation engines, and sure, they’re not bad. But when my friend K tells me to watch some crazy sci-fi, or T. hands me a CD of some twangy soulful country music, I know I’m going to like it. B. has gone to Hanalei Bay twice, the first time on my recommendation. And how many people have I dragged to Bakery Nouveau, only to have them call me from the bakery line months later asking what they can pick up for me because they came over to get twice baked almond croissants. Again.

I don’t know what the offline world equivalency is of these automated inorganic promotional schemes. The shouting advertisements on television? Junk mail? Guys coming door to door to sell me religion or alarm services or magazines? Pyramid schemes, perhaps. Who’s had that awkward conversation with a friend who all of a sudden needs to sell you kitchen knives or cleaning products or cosmetics or blue green algae?

If I wouldn’t tell you in person to read something, why am I telling you online? In order for me to recommend it, I need to know something about you. In order for me to know something about you, we have to have some kind of relationship. In order for us to have some kind of relationship, I have to treat you as something more than traffic. I can’t do that by carpet bombing the pluralized you with links to stuff I don’t know anything about.

I am, in many ways, totally doing it wrong. Large amounts of traffic could, in theory, convert into those readers I’m looking for. I’m willfully contrarian about traffic building methods. Because I hate being treated like “traffic.”

I hate your StumbleUpon tool bar because it tells me you care first about promoting yourself and second about my reading to the end of your piece. I hate your popup that tells me to subscribe before I’ve had a chance to read your site. I hate your hover activated adverts because they tell me you don’t care how easy your site is for me to read. I hate it when you junk up your site with keyword choked posts that are written more for Google’s joy than for mine as a reader. (Also, put on a shirt for your profile picture and GET OFF MY LAWN. A-hem.)

I try things on for size, like Triberr, and then, I go back to my old, slow, organic way of growing my corner of the web. It’s tiny, and expensive, and made by hand. The tractor breaks down and there’s only one an old guy four towns over who can fix it. If I’d use the genetically modified crops, I could get more yield and buy a new tractor, and plant more, and expand and automate and grow. Instead, you’ll find me at the content farmer’s market, chatting with my neighbors, trading ideas in ways that make sense for the small, weird way I work. Later, we’ll get pie at the diner. On the back roads.

It’s another lame metaphor, but you know what? I’m going to go with it.

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69 thoughts on “Stubbornly Clinging to the Organic Web

  1. Save me some pie.


    Hey, we’ve yarned on this topic and you know my thoughts, but…to have a comment that proves someone has engaged with what you’re saying, that appreciates the intellectual effort you’ve expended, even if (sometimes particularly if) they disagree wildly…

    That’s why I’m still blogging.

    Automation (or more correctly, over-automation) inserts bots between us all. We are distanced by the machines – or, worse, we see the machine and we presume the person.

    Traffic vs people? Humans vs machines. Bad. (See: Terminator franchise, Matrix franchise, Futurama, Asimov, Metal Mickey etc etc.)

  2. Also, I cannot accept something I’ve read more than once, that to “make it” as a blogger/e-entrepreneur you have to engineer the end result (money/fame) by any means possible, and anyone sticking to their guns and refusing to spam out is destined to be a hobbyist for the rest of their online life. I’ve seen this argued a *lot*.

    The people arguing this have been programmed by the machines.

    • I completely agree with you on this point. As a fledgling blogger, I have only a small amount of content on my newest website – I COULD have heaps of posts of the sort of thing that nerdseyeview talks about above, but I only WANT to write what I want to write. Right now, it’s not much, but at least I’m happy. Will I always be small?

  3. Love your post dude! (sorry, couldn’t resist).
    Seriously though, couldn’t agree more.

    I’m often shocked at how quickly some sites apparently build up their traffic then after further inspection begin to notice all the ‘tricks’ and ‘deals’ going on with other sites (and it’s always the same ones) that artificially pump them up. There are SO many automated links and recommendations that pop up, esp on Twitter, that it’s really hard to sift through and get to the stuff YOU want to read.

    I try to create every bit of content on my site ‘by hand’ and yes, it takes a long time but it’s much more personal to me and i hope, to the limited amount of people who do read my stuff.

    Also, pop up ads and ‘SUBSCRIBE TO THIS’ ads that shoot across the page are possibly the most annoying things I ever come across – esp like you say, when I haven’t even had the change to decide whether I not i like the post.

    Just like in the ‘real world’ I don’t think that there is any room for ‘fakeness’ in the online world. It really is all about building sincere relationships with people who can enhance your enjoyment of the web and not just your traffic. That’s my view anyway, but what do I know? 😉

  4. Nice post, dude!

    Heh, jus’ kidding. You make a valid point and one I concur with – I’ve met so many cool people (in real life I mean) through my blog and Twitter and it’s definitely not because I joined any networking groups but because we actually give a shit about each other.

  5. I absolutely agree with you. I love that I know 99% of my readers, even though I realize that I’m supposed to be casting a wider net. If human interaction has become anacronistic, then sign me up to the Luddite tribe.

  6. I’m with you – I’d rather have readers vs traffic on my blogs. I’d rather have conversations with readers and build relationships with them, even if it’s just virtual.

    I can’t stand visiting a site that has those social media bars all over and pop-ups telling me to sign up before I’ve even read anything.

    In fact pretty much everything you’ve said, I echo.

    I know the things that irritate me when visiting other blogs, so I don’t do them on mine, even if it means they’d be more popular or bring in more money.

  7. The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to swimming against the tides of mainstream mania. I’ve tried a lot of trendy stuff over the years, and yes, some are not to be poo-pooed. Unless you are one of the veryvery few key players, why bother. If it eats away a fair amount of your precious time and energy, if it says it”s you and it”s not, if it doesn’t add meaning… scrap it or fight it.

    After discovering that Twitter was (in my opinion) a white noise generator, I decided to use it as a place to tell stories and make poetry. A creative effort to round the noise spectrum. Make it smooth. So, on my account I do not follow anyone and just write tweet haikus of 140 characters and send them out to the ether.

  8. Found this via @hackneye and love the title. I confess I’ve only skim read so far but whilst I’m here bookmarking I thought I’d let you know that you’ve found a new reader 🙂

  9. The thing that really killed it for me with Triberr (apart from their crappy homepage that never rendered properly, that is …) was that, even when I went over to manual settings so that I knew for damn sure I’d read everything before I recommended it, I still felt kind of blackmailed into RTing. I mean, these other great writers were happy to tweet my stuff automatically, so why was I getting antsy about it? So I decided to withdraw from it completely, and I’m happy about that. I’ve gained some new blogs for my reader through it, and I can share exactly what I want to share, not just because I feel guilty if I don’t. Although this does mean that my Twitter stream is back to being massively irregularly updated inanities about suicidal kittens. Dem’s da breaks, folks.

    Also? Thanks so much for your lovely words about my blog. Although whaddya mean you don’t know these random people who drift in and out of my life in southern Italy? Tsk. There was me thinking you were omnipotent ‘n’ all.

    • No, I do not know who those people are. There’s someone with a car, or maybe two someones, and several people that make epic amounts of food and also, some goats. And yet, who cares that I don’t know who they are! I keep reading and reading and reading. Also, that one guy? What’s his name? He’s totally hot. I think.

      Yes, I hate the sharing because I feel like I should vs. sharing because OMG YOU NEED TO SEE THIS! Yes, it is another damn penguin. What’s your problem, anyway, you penguin hater, you. Why do you hate penguins? A-hem.

      You may stay on my lawn. I may even bring you a lemon Popsicle.

    • Yes I ended up feeling a little that way about StumbleUpon. People would ask me for a stumble and I’d feel bad if I didn’t oblige.

      Also I had the toolbar (the one that’s visible to ME wherever I am on the web NOT the one that imposes itself on readers on my site) when I used Firefox. Now I use Chrome and don’t have it so whenever I go to StumbleUpon there’s a huge queue of stuff that people have shared with me. It feels a little too much like work if there’s dozens of requests waiting for me.

  10. First of all, I didn’t think that metaphor was clunky at all. I think it’s wholly accurate. In fact, I’mma use it further on down in this comment.

    Secondly, I found myself thinking of this very topic the other day after a Miss E post I’d written was “Fresh Pressed” – it showed up on the front page of WordPress. I got a kabillion hits, over a hundred comments, and dozens of new subscribers.

    Several people asked me what I was going to “do” about it. The answer is, more or less, nothing.

    You know why? The majority of my professional work involves “doing” something in cases just like this. If Google Analytics tells a client that a certain post or page or website gets a surge in popularity, it’s all hands on deck to monetize it, gussy it up, pimp it out, clone it, whatever.

    I love the work I do, but after writing an average of 10,000 words a day that all go toward such an artificial goal, sometimes Miss E is that beloved old cranky diner waitress who always saves me the last bit of pie or brews a new pot of coffee when she knows I’m on my way. If I didn’t have that, or if after pimping other people’s stuff all day I’d have to turn around and do it to Miss E, then I’d have nothing left that’s actually me.

  11. I feel better having read your post, partly because I know you feel better for having written it… Signal to noise ratio: This is the reason i like Twitter on TweetDeck, I can follow people in separate affinity streams and add or delete to tweak the signal to noise ratio. Fire hose traffic is just noise until you have spent ample time filtering it, to up the signal and lower the noise…I think the appropriate quote is: “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.”
    Love the clean signal coming from your lawn BTW.

  12. I stumbled this post. Not because anyone asked me to or shared it with me or spammed me about it, but because I liked reading it and thought others might also enjoy it and because that’s how I use Stumbleupon these days. Hope you don’t mind.

    • I wish I knew. I’d like to think that the way to increasing your reader base is by producing work that people like and WANT to share. Artificially promoting work that isn’t mine because I have a deal to do so doesn’t feel like a good way to promote my own work, nor does it give credibility to the stuff I’m promoting when folks discover that it’s all via automation. In fact, I think it’s kind of damaging.

  13. Pam – I pretty much completely agree with your post. (Rock on dude!) But I will put a word in here for Stumble Upon. I have found a number of sites that I might not have seen otherwise were it not for the people I’m connected with there (my favorite example of this is Bacon is Magic). Now, I think I use it a little differently than some people in that I only Stumble things I’ve actually read and/or looked at and like. That means I have a limited number of connections there with which to share my own posts. This of course means the traffic benefit to me is limited compared to other people. But it does bring me traffic, and I think (sometimes) regular readers as well.

    Although as I read over my comment I realize that the value I see in it is human and not automated, so perhaps that simply validates what you are saying all the more? Anyway, I’m basically with you. My traffic is squarely in the middle in terms of other blogs, probably less than many other people who’ve been doing it as long as I have. And I’ve just decided to be OK with that because I care more about producing quality content for the readers who do return to my site (which of course are devalued by Google because they aren’t “unique” visitors).

    • SU isn’t evil in and of itself. I’m not saying don’t use it. I’m saying I hate that damn tool bar that shows up when a site is loading. It bogs down load times. Since the toolbar loads first, the message I get is “Stumble this!” not “Read this and share it if you like it.” There are lots of other ways to share stuff on Stumble that doen’t bog down load times and don’t take the dominant place at the top of the page when it loads.

      And hey, if you only share stuff you’ve read and like, I’ve SO got no beef with you. Understand, it’s about the automation and anonymity, not about the sharing. Sharing is good.

      • Oh, yes, I see what you mean. I don’t like that toolbar either and like you have tried to keep the focus on my own site on actually seeing what’s there, not the promotion of it without thought.

  14. Thank you for speaking up about Stumbleupon toolbars that take forever to load, popovers,-unders and -ups and lame ass fake twitter love.

    Anyone with an once of sense knows that fake love didn’t work in the 60’s, and it isn’t gonna really work now that it is digitized.

    Fake is fake.

    PS: Linda is using SU in the way it was intended, a good thing for us all.

  15. Over the past few years I’ve had invites to join “groups” private emails, DM’s etc. Refused them. Not just out of moral justification yadda yadda.

    Mainly because I don’t have the time. If I see something I like, I comment. Might not happen again, it might. Maybe it happens for a few months. I lose interest. etc.

    I simply have never been able to stumble a post, just because they did it “for” me. I don’t have the heart to stumble something about “what going to the moon with my pet dog taught me about travel” type blogs. Tripe.

    I’ve also had DM’s from people asking why I didn’t RT or comment. Then silence … Then “please RT this for me”. And so it goes on. I can only imagine what does on behind the frontlines.

    Bottom line though, and it irks me to say it. Those wonderful, buy a vote, like, stumble, or cross promote type people are moving ahead due to it. The latest google PR shows a lot of that. Big shame. But such is life.

    I’m guessing it will continue on for as long as there is that money on the table thing.

  16. Hi Pam,

    Even tho Im the founder of Triberr, I totally understand your reasoning and respect your stance. But you just wait till we incorporate StumbleUpon tribes, you are really going to hate us then 🙂

    In all seriousness, the superstar bloggers are already doing this and succeeding. What we try to do is bring wide distribution to the unknowns. Huffington Post is bland, biased and boring, but people flock to it. Why? Because it has wide distribution channels.

    My goal is to help people with original and disruptive voice reach a wider audience. And Triberr is the best way I know how.

    Sorry it wasnt a fit, but thats ok. I truly appreciate you trying it out and sharing an honest and insightful opinion of it.

    • I really love that you’ve taken the time to respond to this post, though I guess I’m not a superstar blogger then, what with my having failed to successfully adopt the Triberr platform. Is that the implication? I kid, I kid.

      Wide distribution is no arbiter of quality. Fox News has wide distribution. Pizza Hut has wide distribution. Also, let’s be clear, I don’t object to wide distribution as a goal, certainly, I’d love have to broader reach. What I don’t want is broader reach at the expense of quality, and more importantly, at the expense of reputation.

      I unfollowed Guy Kawasaki. His Twitter account along with that of a number of flunkies that automatically retweeted his stuff, was nothing more than spam to me. Triberr’s users, without applying human discretion and filters to the results, run the risk of distributing little more than spam as well. Unfollow.

  17. I so agree. I didn’t go near Triberr once I heard what it was about. I feel bad sometimes when I’m the one holdout who doesn’t cross-promote for people, but I feel like I’ve got to believe it.

    The funny thing is that my strongest sources of blog growth have been meeting people in person. Usually it’s connecting with other bloggers who live nearby. But a lot of our trust is built on those relationships. We keep closer tabs, we chip in when we can, and there’s something about that that feels much more organic to me.

    So I’m sticking to my weird approach for now.

  18. I hate triberr with a passion. I now get muliple tweets about the same article from people I really respect that have never even read the article. I don’t get it. It simply feels like an ad campaign in my twitter feed. I think I’m going to unfollow every person that tweets a triberr thing soon… Maybe I’ll give them a few days to come to their senses. 🙂

  19. So am I blacklisted for stumbling and retweeting this post? (I jest, I jest). I’ve been seriously blogging for about a year, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I do it, and how easy it is to be caught up in “traffic wars”. I wholeheartedly admit to being caught up in it all at various points, but am trying to take a step back, write what I want, when I want, and not let myself feel “less” than any other blogger. I have to remember I started writing it as therapy from my day job and that is what it still needs to be. Thanks for writing this, it reinforces my need to take a further step back.

  20. may I please add to the list all those sites that demand you register with them before joining the conversation?

    I have no desire to add another password to my fading memory just for a one-time comment on an article in the East Podunk Gazette.

    if you insist on “accountability” in your commenters, either install OpenID (best choice) or one of the major external comments things like DisQus.

    k… I’ll get off your lawn now.

  21. Not much to add to what’s already been said, but did want to tell you that I LOVE the GM analogy at the end!

    Though while I’m here, I’ll say this. Back when I was working for a company where I got paid per page view – as in directly per page view, not through more traffic correlating with better ad revenues – I did, I admit, engage in a bit of the circle jerk. (Incidentally, that’s not my term, and I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it’s perfect.) Especially on SU. I hated it. And myself. And although it directly impacted my (already meagre) wage, I decided pretty quickly not to carry on like that. In fact, I’ve not been back to SU since forever. It’s amazing (and in many ways scary) what that (plus things like culling my twitter account and RSS reader) has done to my quality of life 😉

  22. This post’s made of all kinds of WIN! We share the same mentality, which is probably partly why the number of Twitter followers I have is less than the number of people I follow. *snicker* I’m perfectly okay with it, BTW. Ü

    (Oh, and in line with disliking StumbleUpon tool bars and such, why do you have your own Summify one up there???) *smh*

    • Once again… I don’t hate SU.I hate the TOOLBAR.And I’m not sure how you found my post, but if you go to the original URL, you’ll find there’s no toolbar.I have the ShareThis plug in at the bottom of my posts, but nope, no toolbar at the top of the page.

  23. I don’t know jack about blogging and traffic and monetizing, but I do know I like this sentence:

    “I can’t do that by carpet bombing the pluralized you with links to stuff I don’t know anything about.”

    That’s why I keep reading your stuff.

  24. This. So many times this. +100.

    So many people get caught up in those all-important traffic numbers…but not only is the kind of blind link-sharing you’re talking about Just More Internet Noise (yeah, I know, hey kids – get off my lawn), the kind of traffic it creates is for the most part meaningless. High traffic doesn’t equal more memberships or conversions or subscriptions or whatever it is a site is peddling. Quantity != quality. Some days it makes me sigh into my tea; other days I want to give the entire internet a refresher course on qualified leads (or making friends. Because some folks really are in it to expand their personal networks).

  25. I’m so glad you wrote this. I especially like what you said about the difference between readers and traffic.

    I’ve been feeling bad because I haven’t been writing much and have a vague sense that “my numbers are down”
    – not that this has any bearing on anything at all- and this morning I got an email put of the blue asking for a book recommendation, something I often write about, because I was the person my emailing friend thought of to ask. Knowing that my writing about books stuck with her felt much better than whatever google analytics says and it’s certainly not worth my time to try to pimp out the blog to boost those stats.

  26. I was on triberr for about a nanosecond (I actually joined when there was only twelve “tribes” to join, and I had to request an invite to create a “food blogger” tribe). I was on there for a day, ended up “automating” two posts from people I didn’t know. Triberr actually stuck me in a tribe without my permission and after numerous attempts to leave the tribe, and emails asking them to take me out of the tribes I just left Triberr all together and revoked the app in Twitter.

    That said, I DO use the stumbleupon bar at the top, when I link to blog posts. I like the interface in shortening my URL, and I like that I can track and see how many people link through via StumbleUpon. I understand why you don’t like it – especially because of the lagtime in loading, but it’s something I use as a tool to see what posts are more engaging and what posts work vs not work.

    I realize I could probably just check google analytics, or use another shortening tool like that tracks, but for me, I’m comfortable with stumble upon and occasionally I get spikes in traffic, which, in turn, I hope will become long term readers.

    I do go back and forth about using it, but for me, it works.

  27. Sorry for the essay. Agree totally with your post. I’ve intentionally misspelled TRIBR in this because I think their name is stupid. Yeah I know, infantile.

    SU sends garbage traffic – some may find it a useful discovery tool, but is it a coincidence when advertisers ask for GA stats with SU traffic removed? Enough on SU.

    Triberr is like SU on crack. It’s worse because it effectively allows members to earn money (well a virtual currency called bones) in return for tweeting stuff. I had an exchange with the Triberrrrr people on Twitter regarding this and they said the characterisation was inaccurate because they give bones to everyone. That is true, but it is also possible to buy bones, which makes it a pay to play service – an ad stream in your Twitter feed.

    And I’ve not even touched on the automated tweets issue with Trabrr. (Though I’m not a fan of automated tweets full stop)

    Both these services enable users to broadcast material that they’ve most likely not had time to read. If they’ve not read it, why are they sending it to me?

    Really. Why?

    Perhaps they’re trying to establish themselves as some kind of link curator. How can you curate material you haven’t read?

    Perhaps they’re just trying to help their friends who I don’t follow. Well, chances are, I probably don’t follow their friends for a reason.

    Perhaps they’re shilling, earning money by filling my stream with pay-per-play tweets. This be an unfollow road.

    This is why I don’t like scheduled tweets full stop — be them just multiple tweets, or the awful “post from last Xmas in case you missed my gripping story about a dog and a cheesecake” virus. I tolerate this latter sickness from about a half dozen friends, but every time I get one I grimace “why are you doing this to me?”

    If you’re tweeting something good and interesting, others will retweet it — this is the beauty of Twitter. It will be retweeted across different days, weeks and months. They’ll be no need to retweet “to reach different timezones” as others, who also enjoyed the post will do it for you.

    Of course, the vast majority of tweets with links will not be retweeted in this fashion. I really don’t see a problem with this. If I tweet a post about how to get a visa for Burma in Singapore, I know it has very very limited appeal and I don’t expect it to to be retweeted across the universe. It might be of use to a dozen followers and I’m fine with that.

    In fact I can only think of one link I’ve tweeted in the last month or so (and I tweet a LOT) that was treated like the above — an especially memorable NYT travel piece.

    In it’s perfect form, Twitter is a meritocracy.

    Trebr and other services like it allow users to bypass this built in system and instead forcefeed links down people’s feeds. Just in the travel blogger field alone I’m now seeing links belonging to sploggers I long since purposefully unfollowed continually propping back up in my feed courtesy of those few I still do follow — via Tribrrrer.

    Tweet stuff you’ve read. Tweet it naturally. Craft the tweet just as you crafted the piece of writing. And do this because you want me to read it.

    You do right?

    • Wow, Stuart, I might have to get off YOUR lawn. The bar for what’s organic for YOU is higher than what makes it for me…. and I think *I’m* cranky! I LOVE THAT!

      I don’t object to scheduling for time zones. I don’t object to recycled stuff as long as it’s good stuff. That dog/cheesecake thing might be awesome and warrant a revival, who knows?

      We curate our own web, don’t we? We create our own channels, follow our own curators, add and remove feeds from all kinds of sources at whim. I like that. And I tend to connect with and follow and read people who are doing the same.

  28. I hadn’t even heard of Triberr until yesterday. After I had a chance to look into it, I decided it wasn’t anything I was interested in, for the same reasons as you. I tried the auto-RT thing once before using Hootsuite, choosing just bloggers I love who consistently churn out quality posts, and yet even then I wound up auto-RTing a couple of posts I was embarrassed by. There’s no way I would have RT’ed them had I read them first. So I immediately stopped doing that. I’m not averse to using technology to make my life easier, but not at the expense of people who count on me to be real.

  29. I agree with you on so many levels with this one. (And I’m not just saying that because you said nice stuff about me… which big huge thanks, by the way).
    I’m also on Triberr (as you know), and while I like and subscribe to all the blogs who are in my group, I still feel awkward automatically retweeting stuff I haven’t read — especially when someone will respond to my tweet with a comment about the post and I’m like, “Uh, yeah, I should probably read that.”
    I’ve been thinking for a while that I should just pull out of Triberr and Stumble and whatever random forums I signed up for in an attempt to get traffic. Not only is the quality of readers that I get from these sites pretty crap, but my quality of interaction on these sites is crap. I hardly ever log on to the sites and have half-assedly filled out profiles (probably while drunk or being distracted by shiny things). In fact, I’m kind of scared to revisit some of these sites for fear I’ll see a profile like, “My name Sally. Read my post good now. Oh, shiny.”

  30. Preach if sista, I’ll shout a glad “amen”. I couldn’t agree more. I find myself getting sucked into things like Stumble Upon and Google+ and twitter more and more than I ever planned on. Yet even as I see the snowball rolling down the hill faster and faster something in me still is hesitating. I like the old way of doing things too. A large part of me always will. If only I never had a PR person ever ask me for my stats. I thought it was taboo to ask a woman her cup or waist size …

    • I’ve had lots of PR people ask me for my stats. And you know what? I’m happy to share them. If they’re not big enough for me to participate in… whatever they’re working on, well, that’s fine. Honest. Whatever. I’ve never been approached for my stats and then, turned down or had an invite revoked because they’re not impressive enough.

  31. Oh dear. I should go hide in the corner now and wait until the coast is clear as it was my triberr tribe you (and Sally and Kate) withdrew from. And I totally get it- I’ve debated my participation in it for a month or so now because of the lack of control over content and the fear that I’m turning into a spambot. Why did I start the group I did? Because I loved reading the writing of all the women I invited to join. I chose all 7 or so women for very specific reasons and actively wanted to promote their amazing work.

    And for me? I don’t make money from my blog and I don’t have any plans to do so in the future. I don’t care about numbers. I like people- interesting new people. I liked the initial burst of new readers that I got from being in the Twitterstream of these lovely writers that I had chosen to join me. And active, engaged, thoughtful readers are what I would love to bring over onto my, um, rather spartan, lonely lawn. Hey kids, please come onto my lawn and talk to me about interesting things! If Triberr could help with that, then yay, I thought. Or maybe, yay? I don’t want to piss people off. I apologize if I pissed you off.

    Oh dear.

    • Oh, MaryAnne, I’m not mad at you at ALL. I was flattered to be asked, honest, and I think the people you wanted to pull together to promote do good work. Your intention was. I think, the use of Triberr at its very best — a way to share work you trust.

      But one morning, I got up and saw things I had supposedly posted to Twitter retweeted. And I didn’t remembering posting them, or reading the links. I thought…. wait, has my account been hacked? I wouldn’t post links I hadn’t read, that’s not me. And that didn’t feel right.

      I realized if I was posting stuff I hadn’t read, other people were too. And it undermined my trust for those links. I realized that you could, conceivably, add people to the tribe without my engagement in that process, and there we all are, automatically sharing post that say travelers are better than tourists, for example. No longer was I sharing stuff I’d read because I thought my readers would love it, I was sharing stuff I not read simply because I’d agreed to do so. That’s a completely different proposition.

      I hope that makes sense to you. I’m not pissed off at all. I don’t like the tool and the way it can be used to demote genuine recommendations to spam. You? I like YOU just fine. Rather a lot.

  32. I get what you are saying. I am in total agreement with you that keywording to draw visitors to potentially unrelated material is wrong. However, good keywording will bring visitors who ARE looking for relevant content.

    I also hate all the new (and growing) means of social media. Unfortunately, when you decide to play in the online world, you also have to decide HOW people are going to find your site, and the challenge is finding out what produces the result you want. Word of mouth is the best, but it’s also a lot slower. We are still toying with these ideas, but I think it becomes a process of doing a combination of the best things. I’ve heard all the arguments from several people about traffic vs. developing an audience. I personally think you can have a blend of both.

    I haven’t seen where twitter produces favorable results for the amount of time spent. However, we HAVE noticed conversions from Stumbleupon – people who are not bloggers and who really do read the post. You don’t have to friend other writers or bloggers, although I think that helps cast your net a bit wider – you can find people who are interested in books or writing or food, etc – these people will want to read your material.

    The bottom line is that all publications have marketing campaigns, so regardless of the method, it’s still a numbers game. If you read finance magazines, for example, Fortune and Forbes are going to find out about it, and you will receive a subscription offer in the mail. They know they will probably convert less than 1% into subscriptions – so what?

    BTW – you have 8 Digg entries to your site. Getting a Digg link is huge, and you probably didn’t have anything to do with it, but you are getting readers from it.

    • I understand the methods,I really do. And I understand the difference, also, between “traffic” and “readers” If someone’s put this post on Digg coz they like it, that’s GREAT for me, I get that, and I appreciate it.

      I don’t like the finance mag junk in my mailbox anymore than I like junk link sharing. So hey, I’ll take that analogy. 99% throwaway doesn’t seem like a great business plan, does it?

  33. I feel similarly overwhelmed. Like now that Google+ and Klout have popped up and probably a bazillion other social media services I *should* join (should because it will “help” my site–or will it?), it makes my brain hurt and I can’t keep up and WHEN WILL IT ALL JUST STOP. I think my own journalism career, my blog, Twitter and Facebook are about my max.

  34. Okay.
    So, here’s where I stand on this.
    I write because I love to write. I have been blogging on my site since 2004 because I love to write. END OF STORY.
    I LOVE when people read my words. It means that they MEANT something to them, that they took the time out of their day to read them, that they might come back and hang out in my space a little bit.
    Similarly, I love to read GOOD WRITING. In a blogging world filled with blogs that used to be about words and lovely stories but are now basically just giant advertisements and product reviews, I miss the writing. THE GOOD WRITING.
    When I see good writing, I’ll comment, I’ll give it a thumbs-up on stumble. Because I appreciate the post.

    That being said, I’m but a poor, poor editor and make not enough money to support my photography and vintage dress habit. SO, FM displays ads on my site and I let them do this. They are not really all that noticeable (I think) and I get paid per click. Because of this, I do like traffic, I’m not going to lie.

    I appreciate the REAL PEOPLE, the READERS, but I still need some numbers to make more than pennies. So, I don’t even know what a tribe is…I have never heard of this. I don’t get paid to post anything and I don’t trade links etc. But, I do belong to a group of good friends – people who actually WRITE – and we stumble each others’ posts…but only if it’s something I love and would give a thumbs-up to anyway. But I don’t ONLY stumble their posts…I stumble anything I come across that I like.

    I think in this giant sea of blogging, you need to strike a balance and do what feels comfortable for you.

  35. Never heard of Triberr. It sounds bad.

    But when I promote links on my site, or share links on Facebook or Twitter or StumbleUpon or Google +, I do stand by what I’m promoting. Sure, I like to spread the link love around in the hope that it will flow back around to me but that doesn’t mean I’m not genuine. There’s nothing automated about it – I use the tools but I do read things!

    I know your comments weren’t directed at me in particular.

    • I am totally with you on reader v traffic by the way. I don’t give a rat’s arse about traffic because I’m not trying to monetise my site, but I would love more readers who read my stuff, care about what I have to say, and join in the conversation. I love how you have that here.

  36. Pam, I think it comes down to intent. I’ve been using Triberr for a couple of days and see it as a way to promote a small group of bloggers you trust and admire.

    Like it or not, if you publish to the web you want people to read your stuff? So what would rather do, spend hours on Twitter and Stumbleupon to market your blog or spend that time writing?

    • Yep, I’d rather spend the hours. Blind recommendations are blind recommendations. If I tell you to read something I haven’t read myself, aren’t I undermining your trust? If I join a tribe that adds members I don’t trust, what then? It’s not as simple — for me — as you suggest. I don’t want to share junk, and there’s no guarantee, unless i curate the links myself, that they are, in my eyes, quality, every time.

  37. Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate Triberr just as much as you do, but there is something to be said for someone with 10 times the Twitter followers I have tweeting my post. It opens me up to a whole new traffic segment that would hardly see it otherwise. On the other hand, I can’t stand scanning through my Twitter feed and seeing nothing but Triberr auto tweets. It feels like nobody RT’s something because they like it any more!

    And in defense of the toolbar, yes, it’s slow and obnoxious, but it really does make a difference…

    • “And in defense of the toolbar, yes, it’s slow and obnoxious, but it really does make a difference…”

      So, uh, it’s okay to give your readers something that’s slow and obnoxious because it makes a difference to who, exactly?

      Here’s a horribly pretentious remark: a William Morris quote. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I think this is a good rule of thumb for blogging, one I do not always succeed at getting to, but hope for.

  38. Thanks for sharing this piece of pie with me today Pam. I needed it. My blogging soul has been drained recently by online work (which, for the record, no one forced me to take) that was all about The Traffic. I’m going back to my roots, to write what I want, when I want, for a bunch of readers to whom I don’t want to sell a single thing…

  39. I have talked to people who use tribes to publise their work, and I have always agreed that like the automation doesn’t work for me. I would rather know about articles that people have read and found beneficial, after all it’s your name that you’re staking, wouldn’t do much go if your auto-status says I love this article and it turns out the author published too early and it was blank.
    I imagine that your approach building your little corner of the web slowly probably meant you had less of a knock from Googles Penguin update.

  40. Hey!

    It’s so funny to run into this post because my boyfriend and I are currently having this debate… to use bots or not to use bots to get started.
    To me, trash is trash, be it virtual or real, and the idea that there are millions of words or images on the internet being stored on coal burning servers that people have never read just to artificially boast someone’s image is repulsive. Having said that, carving yourself a niche and making a name for yourself seems to be impossible without the use of at least SOME bot help these days…. instagram, tumblr, google+, pinterest, facebook, how is one person supposed to be on top of all of that and still write good quality content? and can you still have real readers know you exist if you’re not on top of it?

    Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for two aspiring bloggers trying to keep it real without being left behind?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hooray for identifying trash as trash, virtual and otherwise. That’s a good place to start. Also, “coal burning servers”? Genius!

      Here’s a basic starting question, and forgive me if these seems self evident, but what’s your goal here? Why are you trying to build a readership? What’s your blog FOR? That’s the place I’d start. My blog isn’t dependent on mass readership, what matters to me is loyalty to my existing readers (yours are the best advocates for your work and if you make stuff they like, they won’t be able to stop themselves from sharing it). That and WHO those readers are. Are travel editors I’m trying to reach reading my blog? Are people who might hire me to reach reading my blog?

      You don’t have to take my word for this, because I’m just some independent blogger with modest traffic. Whatever with what I say. But I’ve heard publishers and editors say this over and over and over again: Make great content first and foremost and that’s the best thing you can to do establish a presence. I’ve heard this from Spud Hilton (SF Chronicle Travel Editor), Don George (National Geographic Traveler), Andy Murdock (Lonely Planet), David Lytle (formerly of Frommer’s), Wendy Perrin (Conde Nast Traveler) … if those guys are saying it, well, I’m inclined to believe them.

      • Thanks for the response.
        Self-evident, but still in need of being addressed: We’re at the stage in our lives where, although going for an indeterminate stroll through our planet is what we WILL be doing, wondering how we’re going to feed our future kids is what we “should” be doing. So aside from being our personal record of our travels, our blog is a way for us to maintain a level of professionalism while being complete children, by which I mean build upon (or at times develop) our skills for CV and monetizing purposes.
        For me that means writing, for my boyfriend photography. A blog seems obvious.
        Our readers are real or armchair travellers looking for tips or inspiration, focusing on those trying to live a healthier life or trying to find their own path.
        We’re leaving in a year and we’re hoping to have enough followers by then to validate our direction as ‘bloggers.’ We know blogging is not easy and building a following takes a while, but we’d like to be able to see a solid foundation by the time we leave so we know to keep going down that road. (it would be even nicer to have enough traffic to warrant some kind of monetizing even if it’s only enough income/month to have a beer on our readers)
        Resorting to “artificial” means of self-promotion is what we all do when we’re unsure of our abilities, so it’s no surprise to me that we’ve arrived at this moral junction. At the end of the day we don’t need a massive readership, but we’re just not sure how far quality content takes you these days, assuming what we have is quality content to begin with.
        Time will tell.
        Thanks again for the response

  41. Thanks for an insightful post that gets to the essence of the blogging problem. As APM’s “On the Media” put it in a recent podcast, “Where do we put all this stuff?” It’s a black hole of badly organized information that sucks the time out of life: time that could be spent writing, seeing the world, reading, volunteering and connecting with friends on and off line. Something’s gotta give. Happy travels! Ellen

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