Archive for February, 2009

Measuring Twitter User Value

Friday, February 27th, 2009

The MrTweet service will recommend other Twitter users to you. It now also "grades" you. As I'm writing this, it rates me as follows:

  • 18 Tweets per day
  • 65% Conversation (and says I'm "very engaging")
  • 18% Links (and says I'm "good connector")

Twitter Grader ranks me…

  •  #17,862 out of over 1.3 million Twitter users
  • That puts me in the top 1.4% of all Twitter users, which I think is good! :)
  • 98.7 out of 100. They say this score is calculated based on how many followers I have, the power of this network of followers (not sure what that means!), the pace of your updates, and the completeness of your profile (not sure about that either!).

65% conversation for me seems about right, and what I'm shooting for. Sometimes, I look at people who follow me, and the first 2-3 pages of their tweets are all @ somebody. I often don't follow that person since I'm hoping that my Twitter pals ("tweeple" :) ) are going to say and offer interesting things.

So a higher conversation % doesn't make me more likely to follow you. Interacting with me is nice, but I'd rather you had some original thoughts you were putting out there, and not just instant message style discussions.

Want to follow my world? I use 4 Twitter accounts.

Other than that, I can only say I'm "very engaging" and a "good connector." :)


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Coupons I Won’t Use

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I got a lot of coupons this month as my birthday is in February:

  1. Famous Dave's (BBQ restaurant chain) sent me a coupon for a free dessert. I do like to eat there now and again, but have never had their dessert. The dinner is always too much. So that may not pull me in.
  2. Cold Stone Creamery wanted to give me something for free. That sounded good! I don't go there much, maybe 4 times a year. Their birthday coupon last year pulled me in. This year, they wouldn't give me the coupon until I went to their site and gave them more information about me. Well, you have my email and birthday, and I'm on your list. You need more to give me a $4 ice cream? No thanks.
  3. Best Buy sent me a coupon offering me triple Best Buy Reward points if I use my Best Buy Reward Points Mastercard… which I don't have and don't want. I'm not sure triple points would make me get in my car and drive a few miles. What happened to all those 10% off coupons they used to send me? Those would be more inspiring.

So for my birthday, companies who have my email address and birthday sent me that. Coupons I won't end up using.

I think they could have better marketing plans! The idea is to get me into your stores/eateries, and hope I don't come alone, right? So give me something good! :)


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When Did I Become So Dangerous?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

You know me! I've been blogging for nearly 4 years now, right here in this blog. I laugh at bad marketing. I enjoy good marketing. I point at companies I think aren't doing the right thing. I've called out people in my industry. I've called out big international companies. I've called out little local businesses you've never heard of because they were near where I lived. I've even called myself out!

It's what I do, and the about 85% of the point of this blog. The rest would be eBay news and commentary as well as news and info about As Was. Four years of this now. I didn't start doing this this month.

The Emperor Not Wearing Clothes Factor is huge. I like how people who are publicly threatening me want to lecture me in ethics. People blogging to tell me that professionals should stay out of others' business are in my business when they post publicly telling me what to do. :) Bloggers trying to tell me I have no right to comment about other companies where the other companies didn't ask my opinion evidently don't take their own advice… I didn't ask the bloggers' opinions about what I do. :)

Somewhere along the line, I became evidently very dangerous to some people. The people on these missions clearly feel that they need to spend time out of their day posting publicly to get my attention, and get their messages out to me. Evidently, what I've been blogging about for four years was FINE until it was about one certain company. When I blogged about the IMA, they jumped on my bandwagon. When I blogged about Frooition, it wasn't long before they wanted to show up in search for that word too, and there was a topic-less blog post throwing in some names, and magically, some links that had nothing to do with the topic. It's Google-riffic! Yet I was never told any of these posts were wrong. Nobody blogged about what a bitch I am when I told you I don't like the domain registrar Hover.

I have no agenda. I gain or lose nothing when I write a blog post saying look out for tricks my ex-landlord played, or look out for a domain registrar I don't like. I even plan to post poking fun at something I saw printed on a yogurt container! Many people enjoy my posts, and have thanked me for what I have shared or opined. I'm hoping to help people. But when all is said and done, these are my opinions without an agenda.

For those who still think I have an agenda, remember this: I gain nothing when a marketplace fails. I gain something when a new marketplace succeeds because my company can then create services we can do for those sellers. If you are looking for where I can benefit, I benefit when sellers have more places to sell, make their livelihoods, and hire my company to help them with it.

Nobody owns me. Nobody pays me to say these things. eBay doesn't tell me what to say. I get no reward from blogging or posting to forums. I'm not part of a cool club about blogging and posting to forums on a certain topic in a certain way. I don't send people out to blog or forum-post on my behalf. I don't get paid to blog or paid to Twitter. Doing my radio show costs me nothing, so I'm choosing to keep it ad-free for my listeners. I don't have paid sponsors for my radio show, people I might feel like I have to promote or defend.

I just suggest that people continue thinking for themselves. Take a look at what's being said, who says it, and what agenda he or she might have. All of the information you need has been aired in the public. There is no information you are missing to see what is really going on.


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Commercials Drink Vodka

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I saw a blog comment where someone was saying that she was going to go out there and give people her honest opinions, and wouldn't that be just fine. She wondered if someone would really question her ethics or motives if she's being honest, and if so, what's the world coming to?

I tried to tell that person that I think everybody is now suspicious of everybody. Just before she posted that blog comment, I was accused in the same blog of having authored or directed other people to author blog comments that agreed with or supported me. Evidently, it's impossible for another human who thinks for himself or herself to agree with me, so I must have written these under another name, paid for these, or told people to come and write these.

Maybe people are under more financial pressure than usual, so they're
making odder or more desperate business decisions. But the astroturfing is out there! Of course, this accusation came from someone who gets paid by others to blog for them, so maybe he was superimposing himself onto me. And no, I'm still not astroturfing.

But it has made me think about trust and the accusations we hurl at people, or the idea that we just don't believe what we read. Not that we should believe everything we read. But people are now more often thinking that a positive comment they read online is probably fake. Some negative comments about companies are fake too. So much of this is manipulated.

I was telling a marketing person about my thoughts on astroturfing, and she was talking about how some vodka companies are planting hot female models in bars, and their job is to be seen buying and drinking that brand of vodka… or getting guys to buy them that drink. This is all to expose you to that brand, and make you think that's what the hot models drink… and you should too! So the hot model pretending to be interested in you may be a paid vodka drinker.

Admittedly, it's interesting marketing. It takes product promotion off the page, away from the banner ad, out of the spam email. Off the TV, radio, interstitial, etc… The product promotion is now sitting next to you drinking that drink, talking about how cool that car is, saying this sandwich tastes great, etc… But it's a commercial.

You are now surrounded by commercials. What will you believe?


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Where Successful People Hang Out

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

The Whine Seller had a great blog post earlier this month that reminded me of something I wanted to write about. Hillary's comment about the most succesful people not really hanging out on discussion boards reminded me of what I wanted to share.

It started when I was telling a friend that I like to use meetup.com, which I do, and that back in Tucson, I made my best friends from people I met there. Two couples from a "dining out" group and one couple from a "small business" group. I was telling this friend that I also like to go to Law Of Attraction meetups because I do believe that you can make what you want happen.

My friend suggests that I stop going to those meetings. Huh? Why? She asked me if the people who are successfully using the Law of Attraction and creating everything they want in their lives are going to this meeting.

I'd never thought of that.

No, it's mostly people who want to create things, but haven't made them happen yet or fully. My friend pointed out that in that case, the people coming to the meetings probably are coming from a place of lacking what they want in their lives. They'll be thinking about that lack, they'll be talking about it, and that'll be their focus… not having what they want. Surrounding myself with those people won't raise my game!

So I said, OK, we'll go to the next meeting with the focus of, "Let's just meet nice people who could be friends," and not think about the rest. Husband and I went. Looked around at nearly 70 people there. Saw really bizarre people. Finally, my husband says to me, "I don't want to talk to anybody here but you. When I'm in a group like this, I'm looking for winners. I'm looking for people who have their shit together. I don't see any." I guess that's a bit judgmental, but I didn't see any either. So I think we're done with that group. :)

Hillary's blog post reminded me of that when she talked about the most successful Lulu.com authors not being part of their discussion forums. When you go to a discussion board to get help with eBay, are the most successful eBay sellers there? Probably not. They are probably very busy running their businesses, and are not hanging out on these boards. That doesn't mean that the people who are there are failures – they're not! But they may not be the top sellers on the site. And if they're the angry villagers with torches, they're probably not the most successful sellers.

My good marketing message today is think about who you surround yourself with… successful people? Complainers? Angry people? People who couldn't make things happen for themselves? Make deliberate choices to surround yourself with successful people who support you. :)


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Linking to Your Blog from eBay

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

We had a question about 2 weeks ago, which was can eBay sellers link to their blogs from inside an eBay listing? We got an answer from eBay.

The short version is NO. This is because most blogs have links in the content or built into the design that either directly sell things, or take people to shopping websites that aren't eBay. So you can see how that wouldn't work for eBay. :)

You CAN link from your eBay listing to things like eBay Reviews and Guides. So if you're looking to compare products or give that kind of general info, you can use those and link there.

Where can you put a link to your blog? Not your eBay Store. But possibly on your About Me page.

The About Me policy page says (as of when I'm writing this blog post):

The About Me page may not promote outside-of-eBay sales or prohibited
items, nor may it contain links to commercial Web sites where goods
from multiple sellers are aggregated by a common search engine.

That means that you can't put things for sale elsewhere on the About Me page. You can't link to a shopping comparison site or shopping directory/online mall.

Since you can link to your own website from the About Me page, you can link to your own blog too. All of these links must comply with eBay's policies. If they do, they can go on the About Me page, but not in the listing.


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The Company Who Won’t Tell You Who They Are

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Last week, someone called to hire us, even though his software company had recommended another company. He had called his TSAM to ask about that company, and the TSAM said to hire nobody but us. Thanks, TSAM! :)

I wanted to figure out who this other recommended company was since I'd never heard of them. I found their URL, and went right for their "Company Information" page. The page starts with, "Who are we?" but never answers the question. Right under "who are we" are paragraphs about what they do. Under that, more paragraphs about what they want to do for you.

I clicked around some more…

  • So many pages just keep saying they are THE (in all caps like that)
    leader, or the best, or the number one _____. OK, it's easy to say
    that. Show it to me. If you're that good, show me your stuff, and your
    greatness will be obvious.
  • The "customer testimonials" page is "coming soon."
  • The "learn more," "portfolio," and "get a free quote" things that look like linked aren't linked, and don't take you anywhere.
  • Their eBay design page has an eBay logo (against eBay
    rules), and two links. One link goes to someone's C drive. Not good for
    a company claiming to build professional websites. The other link goes
    to a design that looks like it tried to copy our MyShoeAddiction design but really failed.
  • Their page about web hosting goes to an "oops" file not found page.
  • Their website has no keyword or description meta tags. I heard those were still helpful. Why remove those?
  • Their pages say copyright 2007, but according to networksolutions.com, their domain name wasn't registered until April 2008. The information about who owns their domain name is private. I can't even see what individual or company own this.

Why would who they are be such a secret both in their domain name and in the info around their website? Who the heck are these people!

And if this content is nearly 2 yrs old (copyright 2007), or this biz is nearly 2 yrs old, where is all the content? You'd think by now, they've have a portfolio and testimonials.

A lot of their website information is general stats about email usage, eCommerce
growth, and things like that. I think they should have more content
about why they're great, their track record, and why you should hire
them.

This is the #1 company being recommended by a major software company? This is a company who wants to do you branding, marketing, and design? This reminds me of what I always say about how you wouldn't go to a dentist who had terrible teeth. :)

My theory on who these people are.

The company didn't exist before the people in it got laid off from their last job, which I think was weeks ago. They had to rush to put together some sort of business and website, but don't have any work or testimonials to show because all of their work was as their previous employer. Their last job might feel badly about laying off their in-house designers, and is still sending them work, but as an outside consulting company.

This theory is helping along by the fact that the #2 company now being recommended by this software company is a new design company formed by someone they just laid off. As in with his name on it. As in no guessing who this is. :)

We're not picking up any of the designers that just got laid off. Based on the design I have seen from them, they don't meet what we look for in creative and innovative artists.

I'm sorry for these people who got laid off. This can't be easy. They now have to start their own businesses with little or nothing to show because all of their work would be owned by their last employer. They're getting thrown the bone of some recommendations, but I'm still concerned. If these were the in-house designers, and they're good enough to be your top recommendations, why lay them off? Why not keep them, and keep making that revenue, plus keeping that work in-house and under your own name?

My advice

I wouldn't recommend this company considering how they show themselves to you and me. I think the company who recommended them should make recommendations based on who is going to do the best job for online sellers who need all the help they can get. Given our unmatched track record, I'm quite sure that my company as well as a few others are much better at this.

This company may someday be good at what they claim to do, but when I think about how much design, marketing, and branding can make or break an online seller's livelihood, I think now is not the time to experiment with a new website design company with a dodgy website.


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Apologies On Broken Links

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Hi, readers. Just a quick apology.

Once in a rare while, I remove a post from this blog. Sometimes I put up one in its place, sometimes I just remove it. I understand that either of these may make the original URL to the post just go nowhere. I wanted to apologise for that.

Obviously, if a post comes down, it comes down, and that URL won't go anywhere anymore. If I repost an edited or new version, Typepad will save the new post with a new name, and then it gets a new URL. So the old link won't go anywhere.

Someone suggested this was some great, unethical attempt for me to deceive you, and be a horrible person, or something along those cuddly, understanding lines. It's really much milder than that. :) Though if it makes you feel good to imagine that I do this for some negative, hurtful, malicious reason, then I guess you should pursue that good feeling!

Always pursue the good feeling.

I tend to think that editing a post days, weeks, or months after you've written it is actually more deceptive than just removing it. If I remove it, OK, you have a broken link, and that stinks. But if I edit it to say something totally different, that's going to throw off comments. I have seen some blog posts that were edited literally months later. I went back expecting certain content, and the content, mood, and information had totally changed. In that case, it might be better for my link to go nowhere!

I think of it like an eBay item. If you bid on a gold watch, you don't want the seller to be able to go in and change it to a rubber duckie. It won't be your preference, but it might be better for the seller to just take the item down rather than changing it. :)

Again, sorry about some of the broken links.


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Who Gets My Dollar?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I sent an email to my domain registrar a week or so ago asking how to turn off auto-renew. I want to keep my domains, but don't want them to automatically charge my card. I'll pay for them with the card I want when it's time to renew.

After waiting all that time, I got back an email saying my ticket was closed, and the answer was that if I don't want a domain anymore, start by cancelling all the services associated with it.

As in not answering my question. I didn't ask how to get rid of a domain. I just want to NOT auto-renew. I don't want to cancel services.

So I will take these domains and transfer all of them to another registrar. I don't need to wait a week to get an answer to a question that doesn't help. No more money for that company. Since they bought out my fave company, they've been terrible. Bye bye!


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The Perfect Manipulation

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I read a blog post yesterday that was the most perfect manipulation I've ever seen in my life. It was SO expertly crafted that I thought I'd write about it.

It was a blog post about a controversy that didn't exist, one that involved me. Here are the elements that make this blog post a deliberately-crafted manipulation, meant to make you feel certain things and believe certain things… things that aren't even true.

  1. The post basically starts with my name and company name when the topic is not about me at all. I guess my name does well for search engine placement?
  2. The post starts by calling me a friend to the writer. This sets you up to believe that maybe I agree with the author, or we discussed this content, or I approved of what he's going to say. Because we're friends, right? He tells you we're friends, so you think that he's not there to hurt me. He's going to help his friend, she says sarcastically.
  3. The post then links to another blog post where someone decided it was a good idea to personally smear me by pulling quotes out of context from my blog and pointing at other disconnected things to try to discredit me and get you to think I'm a bitch. So this blog post written by my "friend" starts out with not only a link to the other blog post that seeks to discredit me, but a giant QUOTE from that other blog post. Let's make SURE that before you hear about anything in this "controversy," that you are GOOD and informed about what a loser one person thinks I am. :)
  4. The blog post then actually AGREES with something I had said relating to this non-controversy.
  5. But don't be suspended by that too long! The post continues calling me by name, and says "on a personal note…" It launches into PARAGRAPHS that include disinformation techniques like trying to talk me out of trying to "slow the growth" of another company.
    1. I have that power? I have the power to blog about some weird information I saw on a website, and SLOW the growth of a company? I don't remember seeing that power on Heroes. :)
    2. The post was written so that you would think that I was trying to do hurt another company. That's now your impression, among other falsely planted impressions.
    3. And with "a personal note" from my FRIEND (of course), you should imagine us sitting together on a dock, his arm around me, as we have this heart-to-heart… this important, personal talk that he had to put publicly in his blog. :)
  6. The post says some nice things about my company. But don't be suspended by that too long! That's in there just enough so that you'll keep thinking that the author and I are friends or colleagues of some sort.
  7. You don't get the chance to make up your mind about me when the first data you get are anti-me things. You don't get to decide how you think about what statements I made that the author is responding to because he never quotes my statement. He "responds" to things I never said, and he quotes someone smearing me… but never quotes what I said that is supposedly such a hot controversy that he had to write this. 
  8. So you just went for "The Ride." You were taken down a deliberate path of carefully-chosen words, and the perfect order of things.
  9. Hey, blog post author, don't forget to get YOUR linked company name
    worked into this hot hot article! Get my name in the tags, your company
    name in the tags, everybody's name in the tags. This is all about
    search placement, isn't it.
  10. In the comments and discussion under the blog post, the author even went further, and agreed MORE with what I had been saying or trying to say. I think he and I are in nearly total agreement about this non-controversy and my original statements and observations.
  11. Also in the blog comments? A comment from the CEO of the company I supposedly want to hurt. He seemed to be saying that he understood my original comments, and could see how I had the opinion I had. He said he didn't see any controversy, but was happy that traffic to his site spiked because of all the fuss. 
  12. So there is no problem. There is no controversy. The author and I are in agreement. The CEO of the other company understood what I was originally trying to say. But you won't notice any of that based on how the original blog post is written. If you go down the writer's path, you are left thinking I'm a total loon, out to hurt some small company so I can protect eBay. NONE of this is even close to true. Zero.

There's one thing I have learned throughout my life, and that is that it's very hard to defend yourself against something you never said or did. If you can quote me, or I actually did that, then I can explain it. I can clarify it. Or I can retract it and apologise. But what do you do with something you NEVER said? Should you apologise or retract something you never said? Then people will think you said it, so that won't work. I want people to know I never said that.

I'm talking about this because I want people to be really careful when they read things. Everything has an agenda. My agenda here is to ask you to really think for yourself. Watch how things are written. Wonder what people gain from what they write or how they wrote it. Look at how information is presented… even if it seems factual, can you notice a path or storyline that is meant to make you feel a certain way about a certain person or topic?

Practice this by watching Dateline on NBC. Many of their shows have the exact same pattern. That pattern is specifically carried out to make you feel certain things at various points in the story.

  1. They start by introducing you to a person. What a good person with a good family and good future. Nothing bad should EVER happen to this person!
  2. Something bad happens to this person. As the viewer, you are outraged. They didn't deserve that! They are so good and had a good future!
  3. Dateline will continue to show you how they or their family fought against some larger system (investigators, police, military, big corporation, etc…) to try to make things right or better.
  4. It will look like the victim or his/her family is winning, and justice will be served.
  5. And then the victim or his/her family gets f***'ed by the larger system! Pwned! You are OUTRAGED again! How could this happen in today's world!?
  6. Sometimes, Dateline has the happy ending. Sometimes the ending hasn't come yet. But you are often left feeling outraged rather than satisfied and happy that justice was done.
  7. You went for Dateline's ride. :)

The blog post author wanted me to drink his Kool Aid too, DM'ing me on Twitter before he posted this. As for what he said, well I'd LOVE to tell you since it's freaking outlandish. But thanks to the ideas of good internet etiquette that I'm choosing to follow, I won't quote what he said in private messages. I'll just say that based on the notes he was sending me, I knew he was going to post something that would make me never speak to him (again… he was already on his second chance after a previous situation that made me lose trust).

Getting one blog post in search results can't be worth so much that you're willing to hang me out to dry. A real friend wouldn't blog in response to something I blogged, and start out with links and quotes to another blog post that served no purpose other than to try to make me look bad as a person and a professional. If you need to respond to something I wrote, you point counterpoint. You state your case, you quote what I said, you don't make assumptions (ask me first if you're not sure what I meant), and you can close with your own argument. I think that would have been fair. This post lacked fairness in many ways.

I'm sorry that this author wanted to manipulate you, the reader, with how he laid things out. I'm sorry that this is the way a blog post gets written about a "friend." I'm sorry that this author is sacrificing his own integrity with posts like these. And to the author, they say turnabout is fair play, but I won't do it to you. I never have, and I'm very unlikely to choose to do it. I could easily do it. I have so many negative comments about you from other people that I could build a post JUST like yours… introduce you as my friend, quote some of these people who sound like they don't really like you, hint at something you may have said somewhere (but don't quote it), mildly agree with you, make it look like you're hurting a good, small company, and then have that heart-to-heart on the docks where I try to remind you you're a good person, and so much better than the bad guy who's trying to hurt that poor, small, helpless company.

To my readers, I just hope you'll notice when people lead you down paths. A good writer leads you down paths. The question is are you left thinking for yourself, or have you been lead into a manipulated opinion or frenzy?

It's amazing that all of this fuss is about my post about astroturfing. Astroturfing is all about manipulation… getting the public to believe campaigns for or against something through manipulation, shills, and/or unethical practices. And then I read a blog post like that. I guess the whole idea comes full circle.


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