Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Angry News – because everyone else is lying to you

I’ve decided to provide a new service to my video viewers – The Angry News. Because you can’t trust media outlets, I’m going to bring you the truth behind the stories of the day. This format is the product of a number of suggestions from YouTube viewers and blog readers. I’m going to try and do a one-minute story every day – I have a tendency to go on for longer than that usually.

I’ve had a suggestion this format might be useful for another website so I thought I’d practice – it might open up new opportunities. I’ll let you know more than mysterious hints when I know something for sure.

This first edition of The Angry News answers the big news question of the day: is Osama dead?

If you want to make me rich (or just see the video in a better quality QuickTime file) follow this link to the video on Revver: http://one.revver.com/watch/68188/format/flv/affiliate/20579

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Filed under Video Blogging

March of the Penguins

It feels like a while since I’ve really gone off about something that’s utterly inconsequential but today’s the day.  I am sitting at my desk freezing my fucking arse off right now because the office air conditioning is completely screwed.  What is it with office air conditioning?  It never seems to be right, it’s either too hot or too cold.

Everybody else here seems more sensitive to it than me and they complain about it more than me but today I am actually shivering from the cold.  Now, a certain someone in my life might start to think that some of this is self-inflicted.  One of my more unusual habits is to enjoy my favourite caffeinated beverage in a large glass full of ice.  Even in the middle of winter.  On more than one occasion she has noticed me shivering while downing said concoction which is more ice than drink.

“Are you shivering?”

“Ummmm, yes.”

“Is it because of that drink full of ice?”

“Ummmm, yes.”

“Then why don’t you stop adding so much ice to it?”

“Ummmm, because I like it this way.”

I know it’s dumb.  But I don’t smoke (ever) or drink alcohol (usually) so I feel like I need one really dumb habit.  And besides, that isn’t the issue at work.  There’s no freezer here (curses!) so I don’t get to enjoy my drink with ice.  It’s just the goddam blasts of arctic air coming out of the vent above my head.  I’m starting to think the building administrator went and saw that documentary “March of the Penguins” and is trying to recreate the mood here. 

So I’m sitting inside AND wearing a jacket and I’m still fucking freezing.  I think I maybe need to visit some right-wing political blogs.  Or deal with the nazi comments on YouTube.  I’ll use the boiling of my blood to keep warm.

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Filed under General Angriness

Mr Angry goes Post-Modern

Here’s what happens when I think about things for too long. A while back I had the idea of exposing myself on YouTube as a fake because a few people had commented that they thought my stuff was too good for an amateur. It’s a very nice compliment but then I thought maybe what I need was some controversy – if I started a rumour that I was fake, maybe it would attract lots of viewers trying to work out who I really was.

So I invented another YouTube account with the user name ProudReb. The sole purpose of ProudReb was to expose AngryAussie as a fake. I actually couldn’t be bothered putting much effort into it but when I did the video discussing LonelyGirl15 being fake, I thought about doing another ProudReb video exposing me as a fake. Then I got a bit of a surprise when a previous ProudReb video showed up next to the LonelyGirl15 video as a “related video”. This settled it for me, I was going to do another ProudReb video.

So here’s ProudReb exposing AngryAussie:

Then I noticed some of my regular viewers had been leaving angry comments for ProudReb and I got worried that if they bought into the story they would get pissed off at me when my “lie” was revealed. So despite the fact I did an in-character rebuke to ProudReb I wrote in the description for the video that it was all a joke and it’s me doing it. I probably should have apologised for the appalling attempt at a southern US accent as well.

Here’s AngryAussie’s response to ProudReb:

So hopefully people read the video description and know I’m joking. Or maybe I will actually generate some controversy and become really famous. In that case, fuck anybody’s feelings.

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LonelyGirl15 and YouTube

I’m guessing that everybody online (and a hell of a lot of people offline) has heard of the LonelyGirl15 story. Essentially, what was touted as the personal vlogs of a 15/16 year old girl was a series of fictional pieces created by professional film producers. LonelyGirl15 has the most subscribers of anyone on YouTube by a massive margin – over 40,000 subscribers and the videos have been viewed more than 3 & 1/2 million times. The vast majority of people subscribing to her videos thought they were genuine when they subscribed but a lot of people started to suspect all was not how it seemed before too long.

There were a few telltales, many people thought the lighting was too good and consistent, others thought her “room” was just too perfect. Personally, the things I saw as giveaways were that it would be close to impossible for her to keep the videos secret from her parents (as was supposedly the case) and the storyline running through the videos was simply too clearly defined and too linear. Life doesn’t have a “story arc” the same way that a TV show does. LonelyGirl15′s story was too “Dawson’s Creek” to be true.

In the end, some very determined sleuthers found incontrovertible evidence that the videos were fake. The first big piece of the puzzle was someone discovering the lonelygirl15.com domain had been registered before LonelyGirl15 existed on YouTube. Suspicious. Then someone actually traced the whole thing to a high profile Hollywood agency. When this broke, the makers posted a notice on the LonelyGirl15 forum admitting that they were film makers but proclaimed that they were independent which was somehow supposed to make a difference.

There was more than a little uproar on YouTube when what was obvious to anyone with a clue was finally made official: LonelyGirl15 was a fake. Her name wasn’t Bree, it was Rose. She wasn’t a home-schooled 16 year old, she was a New Zealand born 19 year old aspiring actress. Honestly, the way a lot of YouTubers were outraged and professed deep hurt and betrayal was pretty fucking pathetic. Get a sense of proportion people, we’re being lied to about why the Bush administration was so keen to invade Iraq – I think we might be able to agree that someone faking a few videos is pretty damn inconsequential.

Here’s a video I did for YouTube explaining why I think the whole hoax is a good thing.

I’m actually disappointed that they had to “come out” earlier than they planned to. I’m interested in what they thought they were going to achieve. At some point, they were going to have to come clean and admit they were lying to everyone. To describe it as anything other than lying is being a weasley sack of shit. And unless they were deeply delusional, they must have known it would generate a pretty angry backlash.

It’s a pretty weird storyline they appear to have been developing as well. Under the surface they seem to be setting up that “Bree” is a devil worshipper or something equally wacky. Some very sharp eyed observer spotted a poster of famed occultist Aleister Crowley on her wall and for a while she’s been building up to a “religious ceremony” that falls on solstice and involves her learning some ancient language. Seeing as she’s going to the big solstice baby eating (or whatever) ceremony this weekend, I did the following “response” video after she posted a video talking about the solstice.

Doing responses to popular videos on YouTube is a good way to get lots of views – it’s pretty much leeching off someone else’s popularity, something I have no hesitation in doing. I’ve had two responses to LonelyGirl15 accepted before and they generated about 10,000 views between them (about 20X more than average for me). I don’t think they’ll accept this one which means I won’t get as many views. First, I’m not sure if they accept video responses at all now and second, the fact that I talk about “Bree” being a virgin will probably work against me.

Now I’m waiting for the next fake to be uncovered on YouTube. There will undoubtedly be more and anyone who wants to fool people will learn from the mistakes of the LonelyGirl15 makers. The next fakes will be more subtle and will include deliberate production errors to see more “natural”. And people will be even more pissed off when they get uncovered.

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Filed under Video Blogging

Angry about Net Neutrality – The Blogging Times Post 5

This is my 5th video post for the Blogging Times. This week I got more than a little peeved at the outrageous behaviour of bought and paid for US politicians spreading deliberate lies about the issue of net neutrality.

The URL for this video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMV5zk4zNZk

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Good Boss/Bad Boss

A lot of words are expended here and elsewhere on the topic of what constitutes good management and what constitutes bad management.  It’s fair to say there is no absolute answer to this question as the relative importance of different elements will vary depending on the perspective from which you view the situation.  Working life and the decisions that affect it look different depending whether you are a skilled worker, unskilled worker, manager, finance director, CEO, shareholder, customer or omnipotent deity who gets to decide the fate of everyone’s immortal soul.

The US Constitution holds certain truths to be self-evident and most people have very definite ideas on what truths of good management are self-evident.  It’s just a shame that exactly what is evident varies so much from self to self.  The following real-life stories showing the actions of good bosses and bad bosses are told from the perspective of an IT worker but when I’ve shared them with others in the past, I’ve found that the experiences are very broadly shared. 

Although the companies involved were very different, they had the following things broadly in common: they had a requirement to make a profit, losing good staff would be negative both in terms of the loss of expertise and experience as well as the costs incurred in replacing them and finally, there were certain “deliverables” expected of the department and you could objectively measure whether or not these things were delivered.

Scenario 1 – an outside entity attacks the team in a game of office politics.

Good Boss  The first thing a good boss did in this situation was to treat me specifically and the team generally as grown ups who were capable of dealing with the truth.  He told us exactly what was happening, what had been said and what the potential implications were.  He then asked for our side of the story and if we had any evidence to support our version of events.  Fortunately we did have a paper and data trail that covered our collective butts so our boss told us not to worry and went off and dealt with the situation.  In short, he trusted us and recognised we were his best asset so went and represented us.

Bad Boss  The worst response I have suffered from a bad boss in this type of situation is from a boss who constantly attempted to deflect criticism away from her and straight onto her team.  She seemed to think that actually defending her own team was too high risk and so responded to almost every attack by automatically agreeing with the attacker and blaming an individual on the team.  “Oh yeah, that Mr Angry.  He’s always screwing that up no matter how many times I tell him.” 

There are three major drawbacks to this strategy that all cowardly managers really need to consider.  One, it makes you an easy target because other parts of the business realise you never mount a defence so they can blame you for everything.  Two, it makes your team regard you as the enemy because they sure as hell can’t trust you to be an ally.  Whether you realise it or not, one day you will need their support.  Three, when your scapegoat(s) eventually quit, the whole strategy falls apart when things don’t get any better.  If the problem doesn’t go away when the person you always blamed leaves, it becomes slightly more obvious where the blame might lie.

Scenario 2 – There really is a performance problem you have to deal with

Bad Boss  I’m not perfect and I have screwed things up in the past.  The classic way for a bad boss to deal with this is to be punitive from the outset.  This is where the boss conducts a performance review or (shudder) “counselling session” in three distinct stages.  When the session starts the bad boss has already reached a negative conclusion – “You are bad for this reason.”  The second stage involves piling on damning “evidence” that is often arguably true but all spun to present the recipient in the worst possible light.  The third and final stage is the threat, sometimes known in doublespeak as “improvement criteria” but could be more honestly described as the manager’s plan for screwing the employee no matter what.

This whole process can be documented to look extremely fair.  The problem is, when you make your conclusion before starting this process, everything after that is done simply to justify the conclusion already reached which sucks the fairness right out of it.  If all you want to do is punish someone, go right ahead but that sort of mentality is not maintainable long term.  Good (or salvageable) employees will leave for a more positive environment.  Truly bad employees will make your life a misery no matter what process you follow so may as well hang onto your own integrity and deal with situations in a productive way.

Good Boss  The way a good boss shows themself to be a good boss in this situation is to be open and honest.  If you start with the point of view that the situation can be remedied then you’re far more likely to actually reach a positive resolution.  Be honest with the employee about what the issue is and why it’s serious but be open to the possibility that there’s something you don’t know about that could paint things in a different light.

In one situation, I was called to account for not doing some paperwork that turned out to be critical for an audit.  My boss dragged me in to tell me what was happening and why it was important (the fact the paperwork was missing had been discovered by an auditor who was making a big scene about it) and asked me for my side.  I came clean and admitted I hadn’t done it because, well, it was a pain.  He took a “what’s done is done” attitude and asked me how I could recover the situation.  I said I could have the paperwork all done within a week and I would work with the auditor to make sure it was all OK.  He accepted this and gave me a gentle “don’t let it happen again” nudge.  Then he told me he probably would have sacked me if I had lied about it or tried to blame someone else.  He probably also would have kicked my arse if I didn’t follow through on my commitment as well.

Scenario 3 – Getting staff to do what you want

Bad Boss  Bad bosses almost alway try to enforce their will through fear or at least through the threat of retribution.  They don’t trust their staff to do well and think they have to constantly threaten them with what will happen if they don’t do the right thing.  The trouble with negative motivation is that it produces negative results.  You might get the output you are demanding but the staff will have no emotional commitment to the work.  In my experience, staff subjected to negative management approaches will find a way to make sure they are producing the bare minimum to escape negative attention.

If the staff don’t care about their work, there is no motivation to reach new heights.  When your motivation is solely to avoid the metaphorical stick, you can safely stop the moment you are out of the stick’s reach.  And don’t underestimate the negative payback you will get from staff.  There is no end to how devious workers will get when they feel they are being treated unfairly.  At the more benign end of the scale are simple “go slow” strategies but the worse you make staff feel, the easier many people find it to justify sabotage or outright theft from the company.

Good Boss  The most powerful tool at the good boss’ disposal is respect.  When staff respect their boss they want to earn the respect of the boss in turn.  The horrible feeling of disappointing someone you want to impress is a far more powerful motivator than the threat of retribution.  This does not mean a boss has to be smarter or better than employees (although that helps).  It means leading with integrity, encouraging positivity and recognising achievements.  Above all, it means showing respect to your staff and letting them see you treat everyone you deal with in an ethical manner.

As old fashioned as it sounds, at the end of the day being a good boss or a bad boss is an ethical choice.  Many environments seem to reward negative behaviour.  When the ruthless and self-interested rise more rapidly up the corporate ladder it can be hard to avoid following suit.  Positive management practices promote positive outcomes, both commercially and in terms of the well-being of staff (managers included).  Sociopaths sometimes get exactly what they want but no matter how much they get, they’re still sociopaths.  And if being the tyrant king of a steaming shitpile populated by angry, negative people is your idea of success then I guess you wasted a few minutes of your life by reading this piece.

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Mr Angry Live!

Well, here it is.  From the stage of the Comic’s Lounge in Melbourne going around the world to you.  The first thing I should point out is that this is not a great video from a technical point of view – I set the camera up on a tripod and I *knew* where I had to stand to stay in shot but I got nervous because none of the other comedians stood still so I started pacing around and kept walking out of shot.  Straight after the show my friend Adrian was giving me some notes and suggested the character would work better if I held my position.

D’oh!

The second thing worth pointing out is that I have my own theme song!  Woot!  This was done for me by a YouTube fan by the name of Nutyas – you can find out more about him on his site at http://www.nsg-music.com

The third thing worth mentioning is that some idiot brought two little kids to the show, about 7 or 8 years old.  But in order to minimise any trauma inflicted on the kids they sat them RIGHT AT THE FRONT.  In the middle.  Right in front of the fucking microphone.  That didn’t put the performers off much.  To get back at the parents I spend a bit of time talking to the kids.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now, it’s time for the video.  In case anybody has any issues viewing the video through the blog, I’ll also provide some links to the video on YouTube and Revver.  I think Revver makes it fairly easy to download the video as either QuickTime or Flash, although I’m having a little trouble with their new interface.

The URL for this video on Revver is http://one.revver.com/watch/65346

The URL for this video on YouTube is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkPtCNAcIyA

I plan on doing quite a bit more live performing – hopefully both my performances and the videos will get better.  I want to close of by being very un-angry for a moment and thanking a few people “without whom this wouldn’t have been possible” (as they say at the Academy Awards). 

First, the love of my life, without her support I doubt I’d be maintaining this blog let alone branching out into live peformance. 

Second, Adrian Calear, who took the time to come along to the show and give me a significant support, advice and feedback.  This guy is a professional and he took the time out to help me as a friend.  Yes, this is the same friend who’s having health issues.  AND he’s directing four shows in the Melbourne Fringe Festival.  An incredibly generous guy.  Besides helping me, he also took time out to talk to other performers there and give advice when he was asked.  This was people he’s never met before.  He makes me feel guilty.  As soon as I get the details of his shows I’ll publicise them here, they are really good (I’ve already seen them) and well worth your time if you’re in Melbourne for the Fringe.

Third, Nutyas, as I mentioned before he’s the guy who did the theme music for me.  Another incredibly creative and generous individual.  He sent me a message on YouTube saying how much he liked my videos and inviting me to check his stuff out.  He’s a musician and as I’m completely unmusical, I was really impressed with his work.  I jokingly suggested he could do a theme song for me and less than 24 hours later he’d done it!  Anyone else out there want me to feature their original work on a video? I’m all for it :)

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Filed under Comedy, Video Blogging

Why Digg has already won

The biggest question on the minds of people who are interested in the Web 2.0 world (i.e. 0.01% of the population) is which of the new companies is the next Amazon and which is the next pets.com?  Their are multiple contenders for both crowns in video hosting, photo sharing, social networking, blogging tools and “memediggers” such as Digg and Reddit.  While each of these fields seems to have one front runner, several possible winners and a bunch of also-rans, there’s clear evidence that Digg has already won the race among the memediggers.

When arguing which site is going to win in any field, the common metrics used to measure success are the number of users, the number of page views, the amount of time users spend on the sites and whether or not a site has a significant first mover advantage.  All of these are useful for measuring what is happening *now* but events over the last ten years have shown repeatedly that none of these, or even all of these combined, is a sure indicator of success.  This habit of focusing on the moment and pretending nothing else exists and nothing will ever change is the IT world’s biggest problem and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  Netscape had absolute market domination in the web browser market for years but Microsoft crushed them.  Google came to market years after other search engines but wiped the floor with them.

Digg itself is a direct competitor to long-time geek favourite Slashdot.  For years, people had talked about the “Slashdot effect” – namely, that if your site was featured there you could expect to be overwhelmed with visitors.  Digg took a perceived weakness in Slashdot, that it was controlled by a group of editors and was “undemocratic”, and created a site that provided essentially the same service (links to interesting stories) that had the difference of proclaiming to be totally democratic with no editorial interference.  Whatever users voted for went to the front page no matter what the site owners thought of it.

The rapid rise and overwhelming dominance of Digg must have surprised even its founders.  In short order, being “Dugg” made the Slashdot effect look like child’s play.  Digg’s success emboldened others to try the same thing and many similar site rose up; some with distinct differences but many outright clones.  And so the game was on – who would win?  Once serious VC money gets involved people tend to take the game rather seriously and as “user controlled” memediggers were arguably a new type of site with a big future, there is a distinct possibility of becoming the next Google. 

Those closely involved in the business of Web 2.0 (whether site users, commentators, entrepreneurs or investors) spend a lot of time focussing on the users of various sites and obsessing over who has the most users or even the “best” users.  An understandable vanity that has absolutely no value in objective reality.  The rest of the world does not care how many people use your site, even if it’s in the millions (a million is a very small number in world population terms).  The rest of the world cares what your site can do for them.  And this is why Digg has already won this particular competition – the rest of the world has decided that Digg is more useful to them than competing sites.

The dotcom boom was a wild and crazy time where all of us geeks and nerds spent billions of dollars changing the world.  Except the world didn’t care.  To non-IT folk, the dotcom era was a sideshow – the actual technology had almost no direct impact.  The technology did in fact change everything but very few companies made explicit decisions that revolved around any specific technology in and of itself.  IT people spend their lives obsessing over programming languages, operating systems, applications and infrastructure.  Nobody else does.  Its a common failing that techies think the technology is important.  It isn’t – the result is what’s important.  Users don’t care how clunky the code is, how “ugly” (a dubious term open to interpretation, personal prejudice and changing fashion) the interface is or how outdated the infrastructure is.

And they don’t care whether or not a site that promotes links uses editorial control or not.  A lot of people got up in arms as it became obvious Digg was exerting some control over how stories were promoted to its front page.  This is after all not democratic – a founding principle of Digg.  It may not be totally democratic but it sure as hell makes sense.  There are two big things that could kill Digg: one is if it became unusable because it was flooded in crap and two is if people stopped using it (either because of the flood of crap or if they became disenchanted).  There was a lot of talk that introducing controls would lead to massive user exodus which would mean the end of Digg.  I have two words for that:

Bol-locks.

Digg proved to be absurdly easy to game.  About 30 user accounts acting in concert (not necessarily individual users) could pretty much guarantee prominent placement for stories which undermined Digg’s objectivity in a way the owners could not control without making changes.  So they made changes that reduced the ability of a small number of users to have a disproportionate effect on the front page.  This led to several hissy fits and proclamations of doom.  At least one of the “top Diggers” made a melodramatic statement that they were leaving because they had been “mistreated” and anyone who wanted to be treated the same way was welcome to take his place.  Dork.  If you want to add something to the list of the things that make me angry, you can add “be a whiny little self-important dork.”

There were hundreds if not thousands of other users who couldn’t wait to shovel the dirt on his grave and scrabble for some recognition of their own.  Plus, the moves made by Digg were FAIR.  A very small number of users had what they perceived as their power lessened to the vast benefit of everybody else.  Individual users of web services need to understand that no matter how important you think you are to the success of a site you don’t own, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU.  Not other users (who probably see you as competition) and not the rest of the world (who neither know nor care that you exist). 

A second reason Digg was wise to make this move and would be wise to move further down this road is that people generally trust an editorial voice (or at least they gravitate to an editorial voice they can trust).  If pure democracy was the answer then none of the precursors to Digg that have editorial control (e.g. BoingBoing, Fark) would still be around.  They’re still around and they’re still going strong.  At a certain point, online communities simply become unmanageable unless there are controls in place.  I’ve said it before, online democracy doesn’t work except in the purest sense: if you don’t like what’s happening, go off and start an alternative.

In short, Digg has won their race not because they were some revolution in online democracy but because external parties have decided Digg provides a service they actually want.  When mainstream media outlets in somewhere as out of touch with Silicon Valley as Australia are adding “Digg this” to their stories you’ve really achieved something.

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Top 5 tips for getting the #1 post on WordPress

This is another “answering a reader request” post.  This blog has grown quite a bit in its first six months.  To be honest, it has grown further already in terms of readers than I had any realistic hopes of reaching EVER when I started out.  The “angry 365 days a year” tag is not accidental – I set myself the goal of posting at least once a day, every day for a year, no matter what and then review the situation.  Things have changed so quickly that I have been reviewing my situation blog-wise quite regularly.

I have been listed as the number one post of the day by WordPress about half a dozen times and been listed in the top ten maybe half a dozen times more, which led to being asked “how do you do that?”  It’s a question I can actually answer as it didn’t happen by accident – I put quite a bit of effort into getting there.  Having said that, this is a very shallow goal.  Don’t fool yourself on that.  I accepted quite a while ago that I was being very shallow in pursuing some level of blog micro-celebrity and I decided I’m OK with being shallow.  Without further ado, here are my tried and true top tips for getting the number one post on WordPress.

1. Be Robert Scoble.  I realise this suggestion is not terribly practical for most people but it remains true.  No matter whether you personally love him, hate him or remain indifferent to him, Scoble is a bona fide blogging celebrity and there’s little doubt he’s WordPress’ number one blogger.  He may occasionally cede the number one spot on a given day but over time his traffic is streets ahead of anyone else.  In terms of numbers, he provided some insight into this back when the news broke he was leaving Microsoft.  He showed an image of his WordPress blog stats graph which revealed that an average day for him was over 10,000 hits and this news produced a spike of over 90,000 hits in a day.

Yikes!  It’s hard to compete with a heavyweight like that but what his success shows is this: if you are a recognised authority or personality in a given field, people will flock to your blog.  Guy Kawasaki is another who springs to mind.  I previously listed him as my unofficial mentor both because of his determination to climb to the top of the blogging pile and his cheerful admission of what a shallow goal this was.  These guys are the exception – the vast majority of bloggers are like your humble correspondent; nobodies who have varying aspirations of possibly becoming a somebody through their blog.  This is a hard road that will almost certainly end in not reaching any significant fame or financial reward.  This is the reality that 99% of bloggers need to face, so I hope you’re having fun on the journey (I know I am.)

2. Choose a topic people want to read about.  Check the top 10 posts list for a while and you’ll see the same themes popping up: technology, work, anime and celebrity gossip all seem very popular.  My recommendation is that you pick a topic you’re actually knowledgeable and/or passionate about as it will be easier to stick with.  Maybe you’re cynical enough to write about a topic you don’t care about simply to get attention but I’m not.

3. Be aware of the theme or tone of your blog and maintain it.  This is not an absolute must-do but it will sure make your life easier.  This is more about encouraging readers to return that winning them in the first place.  If people get a consistent experience from your blog (consistent tone does not mean the same thing day in, day out) then they have a better idea of whether or not it’s worth returning. 

If you’re an idiot like me and pick something as abstract as “anger” as the theme for your blog, you’re making your life harder than necessary.  In retrospect, I have the singular genius to choose a theme that feels simultaneously vague and maddeningly narrow.  If you make a choice like this, it’s a little harder for people to get a handle on why they should read your writing and, trust me, sticking with it can be bloody hard.  On the other hand, one of my core beliefs is stick with what you know and I know the angry.

4. You can’t do it alone.  There are two ways for us non-celebrity mortals to generate site traffic; the slow, organic way of reaching other bloggers one by one and the sudden surge in traffic driven by a referral from either a prominent website or a social bookmarking site (like Digg or Reddit).  Trying to get featured on a prominent site is seductive, especially when hitting the front page of Digg can be worth tens of thousands of hits, but the important thing to remember is that this is fleeting – usually a two or three day wonder.  You will be very lucky if 1% of a big surge become regular readers.  Plus, don’t underestimate the influence of the smaller sites.  I have never had a hit on either Digg or Reddit but several of my posts have been popular on the sub-reddit for Joel on Software.  I also seem to be getting a bit of traffic from a site called stumbleupon – I must look into that one.

Commenting on other blogs encourages people to check out your blog.  I’m talking about real comments where you contribute some meaningful insight to the conversation (or at least a good question).  Leaving some variant of “hey, check out my blog” pisses people off.  This is a slow and steady approach but it really is the best way to build up a core audience for your blog.  Then the intermittent surges you might get from prominent referrals become gravy rather than the only traffic you have.

5. Write a how-to guide.  People seem to be mad for the how-to guides.  It appears you don’t have to be much of an expert for your guide – I’ve seen some really crap how-to’s get massive traffic (how to use MS Word – yeah, that’s some real fucking rocket science there).  The thing is, if you write a how-to guide simply because it’s a topic you’re passionate about or willing to research, it can be a pleasant surprise when it generates huge interest. 

When Range wrote his guide to High Dynamic Range (HDR) digital photography, he subtitled it “saturday morning relaxation”.  He didn’t intend for it to be a major “hit”, it was simply one of his areas of interest.  A similar how-to could easily work for you if there’s a particular topic on which you can share your knowledge.  Coincidentally, he timed it with a weekend when WordPress’ stat counting went screwy – he’s since told me the traffic was as high as he thought at first.  It was still good but not astronomical (my stats temporarily showed a boost of 10,000 that weekend too).

And the magic number is…  This is the other half of the question I was asked: how many hits does it take to be listed as the number one post?  Well, the slightly vague answer is that this number is relative.  If you pick up a huge number of hits on the same day that other people pick up a similarly huge number then you will have more competition.  So be lucky.  But all things being equal, from my experience you need to get more than 600 hits to reach the top ten and more than 1,000 hits to hit number one.  Bearing in mind this is hits to a particular post, not people landing on your home page.  This is why you need the help of an inbound link from a major site or a hell of a lot of people coming in via your RSS feed.

So pursue these tips if you like and see if they work for you.  But I can’t recommend strongly enough that your first step should be writing high quality content for your blog.  I know when I look at some popular blogs I am completely dumbfounded; I find many of them boring or downright shitty.  This is reality, get over it and stop worrying about what other people are getting away with.  Set your own standards for quality and get to it.  The more you write, the better your writing will get; trust me on this one. 

And for god’s sake, have some personal goals that are more important to you that blog traffic.  I’m not joking, this is a really shallow aspiration and you don’t want to base your life around such a shallow focus.  Find new people online.  Find like minds and different minds.  Broaden your horizons and learn something new.  I have found that blogging can create amazing new possibilities, so focus on the positives and don’t dwell on what you might not be getting.  Life’s too short and a blog shouldn’t be your life.

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Do I look ready to you?

Well, wish me luck.  Tonight I step onto a stage in front of a live audience.  No idea what sort of audience it will be or how large – it depends on who’s interested in seeing an open mic night I guess.  I don’t know if there are any professional comedians filling out the bill.  Maybe I should have asked that. 

Anyway, here’s a video of me rehearsing last night.

I figured it was a safe bet to go with toilet humour.  My friend Adrian reckons the venue in question attracts a toilet humour crowd so hopefully I’ll do OK.  I got approval to video my performance so barring any disasters, you should be seeing how I went sometime over the next couple of days.

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Filed under Video Blogging