Twitter Fizzle

Twitter I’ve been experimenting.

Not the college-student kind of experimenting, goodness no.

I’ve been experimenting with Twitter, trying it out as a publishing platform and getting a feel for the Twitter culture. Here’s my assessment so far.

Quantity vs Quality

A friend who has made zero tweets has been playing the numbers game: he is trying to get as many followers as he can without any automated software. He’s up to 430-ish as of this post.

IMO, it’s a pretty lame sign that 430 people out there will “follow” you even if you haven’t written a single tweet.

The problem is, he’s not alone. While others do actually make tweets, they employ automated software to increase their number of followers. However, the people that are following them are also doing the same thing. So it’s people who want more followers following other people who want more followers. Most of them don’t really care what others are tweeting, as long as they’ll follow them back. In other words, it’s all about quantity, not quality.

These people are all internet marketers of some sort – social media marketers, SEO marketers, email marketers, multi-level marketers, etc. It’s like Twitter is a cyclical inbred ecosystem of marketers.

I don’t mean to generalize here. There are a lot of earnest people sharing their thoughts and trying to write something meaningful. Unfortunately, my experience has been a lot more noise than signal.

Part of my experiment was to follow each person that was kind enough to follow me. At first, I found it flattering to be followed by a random stranger. Then I realized they were just marketers who wanted me to follow them back. If I didn’t, they would unfollow me.

You follow?

They follow me and wait for me to follow them back. If I do, I inflate their follower number. If I don’t, they unfollow me.

What? They didn’t want to genuinely follow me in the first place? I feel so… so used.

As such, I’ve been purging my follower list of the most obvious marketers. And right away, I saw my follower number drop as their automated tools realized I no longer followed them – and automatically unfollowed me. Fine by me. I’d rather have quality over quantity any day.

Built-in Community

Twitter is a publishing platform with a built-in community like (GOOG) and LiveJournal, meaning it is easy to:

  • Discover other users
  • Add them to your list
  • Be added by them
  • View all of their updates on a single page

If you create a blog with your own domain name, getting readers is a slow process of linking to others, promoting your URL, SEO, and other self-promotion tactics. A built-in community makes all of that much easier.

Such is the case with Twitter. You see someone you like, click on the “Follow” link, and voila – you’re done. They can do the same to you just as quickly.

Thinking about this makes me wonder… will micro-blogging services like this go the way of WordPress and MoveableType one day, where you can install your own micro-blogging service on your own domain? Hmm.

Ease of Use

I must admit, it is really easy to use Twitter. I don’t have to sit there and write & rewrite a lengthy blog post all day long. Just a few words and I’m already at my 140-character limit. Then I click “Update” and I’m all done.

That’s both good and bad, of course. There’s no way to go back and edit a tweet once it is sent. Sure, you can delete it from your history. But FriendFeed and other services have captured it already.

The ease of use does encourage tweeting though, especially for writers like me. The character limit can be frustrating as heck, but it is also a creative challenge. How do I say what I want to say within that space? It’s like writing a haiku – the limits imposed upon me force my creativity.

URL Shortening Woes

A friend pointed me to an article on URL shorteners by Joshua Schachter.

Twitter’s 140-character limit has made URL shortening services thrive because many URLs are long. Thus, Twitter users (Tweeters?) employ one of these services when tweeting a URL.

Schachter’s article warns that URL shortening services can be harmful, however:

  1. It’s tough to know if the resulting URL is spam or a legitimate article. Seeing a URL can sometimes offer clues on what the article is about, especially if the publisher made it SEO-friendly. URL shortening services obfuscate those clues.
  2. These services don’t offer any referral credit to the publisher, thereby robbing them of inbound link SEO benefits.
  3. The URL shortening service is now another point of failure. If the service has an outage or goes under, then all of its shortened URLs will no longer work. Of course, if a publisher has an outage or goes under, the same will happen. But Schachter argues that URL shortening services are still an unnecessary point of failure.
  4. Even if there’s no outage, they add an additional step that may slow down the retrieval of the target article.
  5. He adds, with what I like to think is a surreptitious wink, that URL shortening services could one day decide to monetize their services and insert an annoying interstitial ad between you and the target article. How awful would that be?

To add more drama to the issue, recently released the DiggBar, much to the ire of many a netizen. The DiggBar is yet another URL shortening service, but with a twist. It adds a toolbar at the top of the page and retains it’s shortened URL instead of bouncing the user directly to the target article.

Unfortunately, most users won’t realize that they are still on the domain unless they look at the URL. This means they can’t bookmark the target article directly and the publisher gets no SEO benefits (though there’s a debate about this). Fortunately, two developers have offered technical solutions to publishers:

  1. a JavaScript-based solution to remove the DiggBar, which I think is better
  2. a PHP-based solution to display a message to DiggBar users

In any case, it’s tough to get around URL shortening services on Twitter. How else can you share a legitimate & useful URL?

Outages and Glitches

Twitter’s been having outages again. Last month, I lost a few tweets, as did many other Tweeters. After weeks of silence, Twitter fixed it.

Apparently, the Twitter black hole (or Fail Whale) is back again.

The Twitter Virus

Technically, it wasn’t a virus – it was more of a worm. And more specifically, a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack using a client-side language such as JavaScript.

The worm hit Twitter hard. It originated on the StalkDaily website and at best, will modify your About Me section and generate tweet spam. At worst, it will lock you out of your Twitter account.

Fortunately, there’s a way to remove the worm from your account:

  1. Clear your browser cache & cookies
  2. Log out of Twitter & Twitter apps you are using
  3. Change your Twitter password on
  4. Log back into Twitter
  5. Delete any StalkDaily tweets your account has made

This could have been a malicious marketing ploy by StalkDaily, or it could have been committed by a hacker using them as the scapegoat. Whatever the case, this ordeal has shown how vulnerable Twitter can be.

Instant Messenging vs Twitter

Some people use Twitter like a public IM client. Unfortunately, if you haven’t been following the conversation, it can be confusing and end up looking like noise.

You know what I think is especially stupid? Those short useless tweets, like “@so_and_so Yes I totally agree!”

That’s great that you totally agree with @so_and_so, but what are you agreeing about? Why should I care that you agree? Do I really need to click on @so_and_so’s profile and wade through previous tweets to make sense of your conversation? Ugh.

Whenever I reply to someone on Twitter, I make sure my tweet is useful and offers some kind of context. Like this one: “Haha I just set up a “@mikeleeorg” Twitter search too, @Scheinker. My ego is now satiated.”

It’s tough to cram a whole lot in 140 characters, but at least it’s better than a simple “Haha.”

Pay Per Tweet

The blogosphere was once ablaze with blacklash against PayPerPost and similar services that gave money to bloggers for writing product reviews. The fire has somewhat subsided, though repercussions still exist for writing paid reviews, especially from Google.

It seems the parent company of PayPerPost, IZEA, is back again with another product: Magpie. This one pays Tweeters for making sponsored tweets.

While some people like this product, others despise it. Most seem to despise it.

Personally, I am not a fan. Though I’ve written paid reviews in my blog before, paid tweets are different in terms of their utility. It is easier to make a full blog post useful because you can write as much as you want. In my RSS reader, I subscribe to plenty of bloggers who regularly write paid reviews. Since they do so in a useful manner, I don’t mind at all.

But with only 140 characters, it is very tough to make a paid tweet useful.

Seeing a few paid tweets from someone doesn’t motivate me to unfollow them right away, especially if they’ve made many useful & thoughtful tweets too. Unfortunately, people like that are rare. Generally, those that make paid tweets are the same people playing the numbers game.

On a side note, I can see the allure of this simple game:

  1. Create a Twitter account
  2. Use software to automatically generate thousands of follows (who don’t really care about what you’re tweeting, as long as you follow them back)
  3. Make paid tweets and links back to your affiliate programs
  4. Profit

Easy as it sounds, it is still pure spam, in my opinion. It unnecessarily clutters the Twitterverse with junk mail (junk tweets?) and noise. Unfortunately, it is inevitable. Any lure of easy cash always draws hordes of people.


Twitter is fun and allows me to share short tidbits once in a while. Sometimes, I interact with a friend or two. Occasionally, I’ll see a useful or thoughtful tweet and click on a cool link. For those moments, Twitter is a pleasure.

More often than not, Twitter is a lot of random, useless noise.

I’m sure it will get better though. The Twitter team is earnestly trying hard to improve their product. I’ll keep using it too, for the ease of use and creative challenge the 140-character limit imposes – though I hope a viable solution to the URL shortening issues surfaces soon.

In the meantime, I’ll be unfollowing the noise and following more signal.

Lots of Chatter About the Kindle Lately

Amazon Kindle 2 Have you noticed? There’s been a lot of chatter about the Amazon Kindle (AMZN) on Techmeme lately. I love seeing buzz like this.

It’s not just early adopters and technologists enthusing about the Kindle either. Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement has also spurred demand.

Some of the more notable articles:

Analyst: Apple turns its back on e-book market
A Gartner analyst sees Amazon’s new Kindle e-book app on Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone as evidence of Apple’s lack of interest in the e-book market. Steve Jobs apparently doesn’t think people read anymore. I strongly disagree with that; reading habits have evolved perhaps, but not gone away.
Kindle is not the best iPhone e-reader
Two other e-book reader iPhone apps are compared against the Kindle app, eReader and Stanza, as well as individual e-books sold as stand-alone apps. I don’t see this as hurtful criticism against the Kindle app, as much as it is validation of e-book demand by iPhone users.
Salacious content driving the adoption of ebooks?
Of the top e-book genres being sold, all are tagged “erotica” or “dark fantasy,” apparently because these readers are embarrassed to purchase such books and their flamboyant covers. Sex sells, right?
Atiz turns books digital without help from Google
Los Angeles-based Atiz is a new company that scans and creates digital copies of books (basically, e-books), similar to Google Books and Project Gutenberg. More ways to digitize books means more content for the Kindle.
How Amazon’s Kindle brought technology to book
Just as iPhone’s software, UI, and iTunes integration made the iPhone a success, the Kindle’s software, UI, and Kindle Store integration will make the Kindle a success. I totally agree; the Kindle itself isn’t enough, it has to be the complete packaged solution.

Dynamic URLs vs Static URLs for SEO

Google Has this ever happened to you? Someone looks you in the eye. Takes a deep breath. Then tells you how dynamic URLs are bad for SEO on Google (GOOG).

That’s happened to me a few times. Sometimes without the deep breath and a little less drama, but the message has been the same. So I just wanted to offer some clarification, straight from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog (emphasis theirs):

Myth: “Dynamic URLs cannot be crawled.”
Fact: We can crawl dynamic URLs and interpret the different parameters. We might have problems crawling and ranking your dynamic URLs if you try to make your urls look static and in the process hide parameters which offer the Googlebot valuable information. One recommendation is to avoid reformatting a dynamic URL to make it look static. It’s always advisable to use static content with static URLs as much as possible, but in cases where you decide to use dynamic content, you should give us the possibility to analyze your URL structure and not remove information by hiding parameters and making them look static.

Myth: “Dynamic URLs are okay if you use fewer than three parameters.”
Fact: There is no limit on the number of parameters, but a good rule of thumb would be to keep your URLs short (this applies to all URLs, whether static or dynamic). You may be able to remove some parameters which aren’t essential for Googlebot and offer your users a nice looking dynamic URL. If you are not able to figure out which parameters to remove, we’d advise you to serve us all the parameters in your dynamic URL and our system will figure out which ones do not matter. Hiding your parameters keeps us from analyzing your URLs properly and we won’t be able to recognize the parameters as such, which could cause a loss of valuable information.

John Mueller, a Googler, added this bit in the comments:

In general, we would prefer to see a “messy” dynamic URL instead of an incompletely or incorrectly implemented static-looking URL scheme.

Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s News Editor, added this to the discussion:

You shouldn’t start changing what works for you now. Just because Google says things are fine when using dynamic URLs, it may not be fine in your case. When I told two of my developers about this Google post, they asked me what they should do. I said, keep developing using rewrites on pages you want Google think are static. If you want Google to know that certain pages are dynamic, like filtering products based on colors or size, then maybe in those cases I would leave the dynamic URLs. Again, it really depends on your situation and the site at hand.

So there you have it:

  • If you’ve already rewritten your URLs, keep them as is.
  • If you haven’t yet, dynamic URLs are fine.
  • Static URLs can sometimes have a slightly higher CTR.
  • If you don’t know how to rewrite your dynamic URLs into static ones, don’t, because a poorly rewritten static URL is worse than a dynamic URL.
  • If you can remove some of the unnecessary parameters from your URL, then do so; if not, don’t worry about it.
  • If you are using WordPress, their custom permalinks feature generally rewrites URLs just fine.
  • No direct guidance has been given about other CMS systems, but I would assume that the more popular ones are fine.

I hope this helps!

How to Find Writing Jobs

Tokyo Shopping This is the last post in a series on How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

Finally, you will need to find a way to make money as a freelance blogger. No duh. This is going to require a decision:

  • Do you want to make money from your own blog?
  • Or do you want to make money writing for other blogs?
  • Or both?

Making Money From Your Own Blog

Now that you’ve set up your own blog and have been blogging for some time, how do you monetize it? Is it even possible? Yes, it is, but it is extremely difficult to make a living off your blog alone. You’ll have to do a lot more than one blog – perhaps have several.

But never say never, right? Here are some ways to at least pay half of your rent per month. (This list expands on what I’ve written about monetizing blogs before.)

  • Advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • Affiliate programs
  • Digital products
  • Merchandising
  • Donations

Blog Advertising

You have many advertising options for your blog. There’s a whole art & science to optimizing ad payouts, but basically the more in-your-face and relevant the ads, the more likely they will be clicked. As a blogger, you are paid each time a user clicks on an ad. But don’t click on them yourself, or else you will be committing click-fraud and will be banned from that ad network.

Blog Sponsorships

This is only possible with a fairly popular blog and a loyal following. Once you reach that level, you may be able to find advertisers interested in sponsoring some of your content for a set period of time. All you’ll need to do is provide proof of your traffic levels and audience demographics.

Affiliate Programs

Using an affiliate program is sort of like earning a commission each time you sell another company’s products. For instance, you could join’s affiliate program and link to various books (which I do fairly frequently). Every time a customer clicks on a link and purchases a book, you will earn a commission.

Digital Products

You could write a useful how-to guide in the form of a PDF ebook and sell that. Or record a song in the form of an MP3 and sell that. Or create an instructional video in the form of a streaming video and sell that. These are all examples of digital products. You don’t need a fancy shopping cart system to sell them either. There are a few ecommerce engines that will handle that for you, though they require some technical knowledge to set up.

Blog Merchandising

If you’ve branded yourself well, or have fictional characters that may look good on a t-shirt or coffee mug, consider merchandising. Blogs with cult followings tend to do well with branded products. And if you have a web comic, even better.

Blog Donations

If you can manage to get a cult following, not only could you consider merchandising, but donations as well. Some talented starving artists can get by on donations alone, though it is extremely difficult. I’ve gotten a coffee or three myself, but that’s about it.

Must-Read Articles

Here are some must-read articles and resources on making money from your blog:


ShoeMoney is a well-known professional blogger and internet marketer whose blog occasionally contains tips on internet marketing and profitability. is another well-known professional blogger and internet marketer with tips on internet entrepreneurship.


Making Money From Writing for Other Blogs

Some freelance bloggers could probably make more money writing for other blogs than trying to monetize their own blog, mostly because they don’t have the skills, experience, or desire to put a lot of effort into monetization techniques. They would rather be writing. If that’s the case with you, then it’s time to hunt for some blogging gigs using these methods:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Blogging Job Boards

Word of Mouth

This is where your brand, reputation, networking abilities, and social media marketing efforts can pay off. Having a strong network can generate significant returns. If you’re not as comfortable doing the shmoozing thing at parties, do the shmoozing thing on social media sites. But in either case, make sure you always carry business cards – you never know when you’ll run into someone who’s interested in your services.

Blogging Job Boards

There are a ton of sources of freelance writer and blogging jobs out there. If you have your blog and writing samples prepared, start going through these sites. You’ll find that writing gigs can vary from writing blog entries to copywriting to email newsletters to ebooks to standard articles.

Now for a list of must-read articles and resources:

I hope this series has been helpful to you. Yea, I know it’s a ton of stuff to read. Just imagine how many worthless articles I had to read to distill these lists. Whew.

If I’ve missed any important articles, please let me know. I’m sure there’s more great stuff out there.

And finally, good luck with your new career as a freelance blogger! Let me know how it goes!

The How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger series:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

How to Market Yourself

Tokyo Shopping This is the second post in a series on How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

Next, you will need to market yourself and promote your services. This will require a portfolio of published writing samples. To be taken seriously as a professional freelance blogger, you will definitely need a well-marketed blog – which can provide as a source of fresh writing samples too.

This step is pretty involved, however. You will need a good domain name, a web host, some blogging software and some technical knowledge. If you don’t have any technical knowledge (or a technical friend who can help you), there are free blogging services you can use. Blogging services don’t require any technical know-how, but you won’t look as professional when using one.

Also, you will need a presence on social media sites to help extend your reach and brand. Having a presence can educate you about the social media world as well, where potential gigs could arise. Social media sites are sites like MySpace (NWSA), Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Digg, Newsvine, NowPublic, etc.

How to Set Up Your Blog

You have two choices here:

  1. Set up a blog with your own domain name
  2. Set up a blog on a blogging service

Set up a blog with your own domain name

  1. First, pick and register a domain name. A good domain name is:

    • Short
    • Memorable
    • Easy to say
    • Easy to type

    You can verify whether or not the domain name is available on a domain registrar. If it is available, you can register it through the registrars for a yearly fee.

    Since most of the good ones have already been taken, you can consider using a domain name suggestion service to help you along. Some allow you to register the domain name too.

  2. Second, sign up with a web host. A web host is where you’ll actually place your website’s blogging software. The two registrars above ( and Go Daddy) also provide web hosting.

    After you sign up with a web host, they will give you directions on how to associate your domain name with your new web host account. Contact their customer support if you need help doing this.

  3. Third, pick your blogging software. Fortunately, this is free.

    This is where you’ll need some technical knowledge. You will have to download the blogging software, then upload it to your web host and install it. After playing with some settings, you can choose a theme to make your blog look nicer.

Here are some must-read articles on setting up your own domain name, web host, and blogging software:

Set up a blog on a blogging service

This one is easier than setting up a blog with your own domain name. A blogging service will give you everything you need right away. The drawback is that your domain name will be a mix of yours and theres: e.g. This doesn’t look as professional has But hey, it’s easy and it’s free.

Just sign up and you’re done!

How to Promote Your Blog

Now for a list of must-read articles and resources:

How to Use Social Media to Promote Yourself

And more must-read articles and resources:

Here is one last resource. It is a massive list of 40+ sites for writers. Truly massive list. If you think I’ve already given you too much to read, then you may not want to click on this link. But please do at some point. It also offers a great deal of useful information.

More tomorrow!

The How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger series:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

How to Write for the Web and Search Engines

Tokyo Shopping This is the first post in a series on How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

First, you need to know how to write online. Since reading an article on a computer monitor is different than reading it on paper, online reading behaviors differ significantly.

Second, you need to know to optimize your articles for search engines. Also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), this means getting your articles to show up high on a search engine’s results.

Now for a list of must-read articles and resources:


Alertbox is a bi-weekly column with a number of useful research reports on general web usability.


Copyblogger is a popular blog with a lot of useful online copywriting tips aimed at marketers and copywriters.


ProBlogger is a popular blog with useful writing tips aimed at professional bloggers who make a living writing blogs.

More tomorrow!

The How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger series:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger

Tokyo Shopping So you want to be a freelance blogger?

It’s a bit like being a freelance writer, except your medium is the blog. That means a different style of writing, one that caters toward web audiences. It also means a different way of finding freelance gigs and marketing yourself.

There are many articles and web sites on being a freelance blogger or writer, too many to read. I went through hundreds of them and culled out all the must-read articles.

So I figured I’d offer a three-part series on how to be a freelance blogger, starting tomorrow. I’ll cover these topics:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

In case you’re curious – no, I have no plans on being a freelance blogger myself. I’ve thought about it though. Hence all the research I’ve done, which I’ll be sharing with you in this series.

Admittedly, I’ve dabbled in making money off my blogs. I’ve tried ads, Amazon links, donation links, and even Text Link Ads. Unfortunately, they don’t amount to a hill of beans. But this is my hill. And these are my beans. Erm, ahem.

Stay tuned!

The How to Make Money as a Freelance Blogger series:

  1. How to Write for the Web and Search Engines
  2. How to Market Yourself
  3. How to Find Writing Jobs

Posterous’ Annoying Comment Subscriptions

Okay, I’m beyond annoyed right now.

I recently made a comment on Guy Kawasaki’s Posterous blog Holy Kaw. The entry, “This is why Richard Branson is so successful“, shows billionaire Richard Branson on his knees, shining Kawasaki’s shoes. Pretty hilarious stuff. I couldn’t help making a comment. And to follow the discussion, I opted to receive email updates as new comments are added.

55+ comments later, I’m trying desperately to find a way to cancel those email subscriptions. Like, wow, this is annoying.

Posterous is a new blogging platform created by two CompSci Stanford grads. They’re backed by Y Combinator and are noted to be easy to use.

Which is why I’m confounded by the lack of thought in this supposedly easy and useful feature. What a horrible social media device. Allowing commenters to subscribe to future comments is a great way to bring them back to your site and continue with the discussion – otherwise, they forget about your blog entry and move on. It’s social media marketing magic.

But when an entry becomes really popular and gets 150+ comments, then that magic becomes an annoying parlor trick real quickly. Already, I’ve seen a few others getting irked by this. Some of the comments I’ve seen so far:

  • “Wish I would unchecked the box to e-mail me with the default check. now I am trying to turn it off.”
  • “Too many comments”
  • “Stop”

I just emailed Posterous. I really hope they respond soon and turn these damn subscriptions off.