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Start at the top, go to the bottom, end.

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Small Content Providers in the age of Facebook

We have been fucked by the federation and syndication of our content.

I miss comment threads, and I miss blogging. The age of transitory content, of content discovery, has happened, and it turns out that the winners are the content aggregators, and the losers are the content producers. Web 2.0, where the users take back the web, won, and the price of our winning was our names. Hurrah.

A step back.

Ten years ago, at the high-point of this site, there were debates in the comment threads. Now, when I post something it goes here, where some spambots will comment on it, it goes to Facebook, where some people might like or comment it, it goes to Tumblr where someone might reblog it, and it goes to twitter where someone might retweet it. All these interactions flow away from the blog.

Last week, I posted a stupid damn pun to Tumblr. It’s running at 49,000 “notes”, which is an accumulation of reposts and “like”s, which dwarfs my previous high point for interactions by more than quadruple (another stupid pun, last year). This is all very nice, and affirming, and such, but the net gain for my “personal brand”, for the tumbleblog itself, or any of my other things is close to zero. Out of those 40k, I’ve gained forty followers, most of which appear to be lurkers or spambots, and hardly any of which have reblogged or liked the post in question. Empty numbers, nearly fifty thousand people who pushed “reblog” on a thing they like, with no thought as to who posted it. (Tumblr communicates in tags, a lot of the time, and the number of tags of “I’m stealing this” “Where do these come from?” etc. indicates a lack of interest in authorship that I find less surprising than distressing). At one point someone removed the “via (my blog)” auto generated citation, and now that’s blown up too. The high point was when a screenshot of the original post, stripped of all attribution, started doing the local rounds of Facebook.

I also run a series of readings of The Secret World’s lore, which go up on Soundcloud. The first got featured on the front page of the game’s forums, and was briefly on the website, and in the twitter feed, and on the facebook page… It got me a couple of thousand listens, and a few dozen bits of feedback. Subsequent episodes get more positive feedback from fewer and fewer people, until eventually a dedicated request for feedback and suggestions – something I hate doing – for the last episode resulted in a single response. I’m not going to be doing much more of that, I think.

It’s nothing new, really. Content runs on feedback, a lot of the time, and the more there is out there to consume the less feedback you’ll be getting. I had the same problems posting sequential stories to usenet, the short-lived scifi soc anthology. Familiarity breeds acceptance, and response dwindles.

Facebook’s made it worse, though. The last regular content-drop thing I run is Idle Speculation, a satire of UK Fest Larp and community on Facebook. I’ve run experiments on regular posting, and timed posting, posting often, posting rarely. There’s no way to communicate with the people who have opted-in to Like your page reliably. I posted a new thing to IS today, and it’s done fairly well, but Facebook are offering to sell me the ability to “boost” my post, which will – by their own graphs – mean that another 50% of the people who have already expressed an interest in the page might see it. This is broken. I’m having to work to models designed for PepsiCo not to spam hundreds of thousands of people who clicked “Like”, instead of the barely 300 who would volentarily read Idle Speculation.

At least when I was posting to Livejournal people would see it within a day or two, when they next caught up. Facebook’s priority algorithms mean that the chances of everybody seeing my update, unless it involves whatever keywords are on fire today, are unpredictable.

Nothing I do has large community outreach. The maximum for the UK larp stuff is a few thousand, the outer reaches of TSW fandom (as opposed to merely players) is similar, and the most people I ever want to reach with a personal facebook article is 445. Even here, where the top regular readership never really hit over 200, I can’t reliably see anymore. Feedburner says 80 people subscribe, and click-throughs to my recent articles haven’t exceeded 5.

We’ve levelled the playing field, small content providers now get to fight with the same rules as PepsiCo, McDonalds and Nike, fight for the same places on the same incoming information feeds. All its cost us is our audience.

Apparently the best way to pick up an audience would be to get featured on Buzzfeed or something, but that doesn’t seem likely, and seems to result in a lot of people seeing your content, and nobody ever getting as far as the tiny credit link at the bottom.


2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula internet Metablog MLP

Magic Trees, Level II

A while ago, I invented a concept of “Magic Trees”, named after the story of a vicar who chopped down a 140 year old tree and justified it by saying “A paedophile might have been hiding behind it”. This was later expanded to include invisible terrorists.

This morning a different story caught my attention. A social network site I’ve never heard of has recently banned a large number of its users over 36, possibly all of them, because:

Having discussed the use of our website with the home office and the police, and further some pretty serious crimes caused by older users, we were left with no option but to terminate a huge amount of accounts, and without notice, immediately. We understand that only a minority of older users are sex offenders, but you must understand that we cannot tell which – we can only delete all to make the site safe and we apologise for that. However, we are following the law and you cannot think we are wrong for doing that.

Basically, there is the the new legislation requiring sex offenders to have their details held by the government (Under the “But we would never let that data leave officialdom” clause we know so well) and there is a blindingly stupid proposal to require social network sites to validate against a pre-existing list of known email addresses belonging to sex offenders. The original database is scary in and of itself, I have enough trouble getting off SMS spam lists, and those have a documented legal procedure. If your address – physical or metaworld – is in that database you’re many degrees of screwed, but the blindingly stupid addition of requiring email addresses?

I have currently got three email addresses I look at on a day to day basis. Without thinking too long about it, I can think of a dozen that will get to me eventually, plus another few that won’t anymore (like my old uni address, or my Evolving Media or BrowserAngel addresses) I could have signed up for another dozen in the time it’s taken you to skim-read this article.

Not only that, but this proposal is just that, a proposal yet to go though the bad ideas filter. Now, the social network providing this story, which is known as “Faceparty” and I’m not going to link to, claims they were dived upon by “A gang of paedophiles” who attacked their younger audience. If I was uncharitable, and I’m tending towards so, I’d wonder if this actually happened, or is a pre-emptive strike, or – even less charitably – if it’s all an attempt to get people to realise they exist. Browsing their site as a non-user, it does appear that they enjoy pushing a reputation for “edgy”. Their front page featured article links though to a page using the current-most-forbidden word (Four letters, begins with C, Rhymes with stunt, as in “Publicity”) as punctuation, and it’s all… very…


Of course, it’s entirely plausable that this is a genuine over-reaction to a genuine problem they were having with paedophiles and my cynical analisis that it’s all a publicity drive under the pretext of chopping down a magic tree could be entirely off the mark, but I’m not linking to them anyway.

Imported From Epistula internet Metablog SubscribeMe

The RSS Problem

“All those icons” says Dave , “Where will it end?”

He then goes on to describe a system that is as overcomplicated as it is reliant on his own OPML spec. Jeremy thinks the answer lies in the browser, but that would rely on users having things installed. This is my solution:

  • User clicks on first “Subscribe to this” link.
  • User is forwarded to or something
  • User is asked which web-based aggregator they use (Or “I use my own” which will serve it as a text/xml+rss document)
  • sets a cookie with this information
  • User is forwarded to the “Subscribe to this feed” page of their selection
  • User clicks on subsequent “Subscribe to this” links
  • User is forwarded to or something
  • User is automatically forwarded to the “Subscribe” thing they selected last time.

    We store no information on the user – we just read the cookie, and maybe the front page has a link to delete the cookie – but that just means it takes nothing to serve it beyond a simple perl script.

    Remember: It should be the simplest thing that could possibly work.

    Update: So I coded it

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Comments are now fixed

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I don't care much

  • This is wrong on oh so many levels

    And yes, yes it is wrong on quite a few levels. As someone who had his 15 minutes and then faded back into the obscurity of a Z-List blogger, I’m going to tell you exactly how your blog will get noticed:

    Write interesting stuff, read interesting stuff, be interesting.

    Okay, so pinging Technoarti et. al. isn’t going to hurt your existence any, and will mean that people read the interesting stuff you write, but if you build it, they will come. As for ‘hanging out’ with your fellow bloggers down in the ‘hood, I’d like to agree with Burningbird, who described it as “Groupie Behaviour”, and it is. The only web logger with a higher rank than me that I hang out on any kind of regular basis is Stuart of Kryogenix, who I’ve known for ages before either of us started this. And if I thought that people were hanging out with me purely so I could sprinkle some magic pixie dust of popularity upon them (Not that this could ever happen, I have the blogological clout of an invisible feather duster) I’d be irritated and annoyed.

    Lesson ends.

    I apologise for the creation of the travestry of the word “Blogological” above. It was cruel and mean, and I’d like to express my sincere regret to the english language as a whole for this blight upon its good name

Imported From Epistula Metablog web development

Subscribing to LJ RSS friends only feeds

Every LiveJournal publishes an RSS feed and an Atom feed, except those who are already syndicated accounts. The problem is that the main benefit of LJ beyond something like blogspot is the ability to block off some posts to everyone but your ‘friends’.

Much as I distrust the terminology, this is occasionally useful. So, how do you subscribe to a feed and see the ‘friends’ only posts? Like this:



Don’t, whatever you do, do this in something public like Bloglines, or you’ll be storing stuff other people want private in a database over which you have no control and they have no idea.

+(Incidentally, If you add a feed with a username or username & password to bloglines, it’s set as “Private” so nobody else can see it. It’s still in their database, though, so I suppose it depends on how much you trust Ask Jeeves not to be Evil).+

Observations that the first this is equally true to LJ are normally completely ignored.

edited to replace soft-hypens in the long URL with zero width spaces because Mozilla doesn’t support shy and it breaks the layout. I hate the bazaar model when it means that nobody else cares enough to fix a bug. The relevant bug had it’s fifth birthday recently

Imported From Epistula Metablog Work


Okay, I *am* actually employed. Heisenburg state is over. I’m back at BrowserAngel. One day I hope to be able to explain what the hell went on this week, but right now I’m happy just to be reemployed.

Now to tell the Job Centre where they can put their forms…

Apologies for the lack of entries over the last couple of days, the above has got me somewhat stressed to the point where I wasn’t actually doing anything, let alone anything useful.

Did I mention that though the power of the Information Super Highway, Blogging, and the Spirit Of Cooperation with Open Licencing, two people were able to colaberate (for strange and difuse values thereof) on something which has been valued as being “Quite good?”

When I emailed BB about the completion of the project, and to point the location of the MP3, I said ”[…] release it on an unsuspecting world, so they can ignore it at their leisure, coz it isn’t encoded in XML, written in python and hosted by Google.” I didn’t expect to be quite so accurate.

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Formula One Diary

Interestingly, David Coulthard’s website is keeping a race diary blogish type thing, with their point of view on the races so far.

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Movable Typecasting

So, that’s the end of Movable Type, then. It’s a shame to see it fold quite this early in the revolution, but then again it leaves the market open for a whole new world of…

Oh, you haven’t heard?

Six Apart released the pricing plan for MT3, which sets the price of a multiple author version of MT to range from $69 to $600. The free version will only support one author with up to three weblogs.

And yes, I can see Mena’s point about needing to fund development of it, but I think that the new free version, which actually has less than the previous one (TypeKey is about the only new feature 3.0 offers, the rest is backend stuff) is a mistake. Uborka, for example, couldn’t happen with the new version, neither could the various ghettos of people using a shared installation of MT, and these were the advantages that MT arrived with.

Ah well, I shall retreat within my nice, cosy Epistulated walls where the nasty funded companies cannot harm me. Not that I’d object to people paying me to develop Epistula, but I can’t help but feel that this particular U-Turn may not be the best of all possible moves for Six-Apart.