Posts from Weblogs

Trolling

The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls.

Whitney says “As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present.”

We’ve had our fair share of Trolls here at AVC over the years. They are most notable whenever I write something negative about Apple.

But we also get them on posts that are more personal in nature.

Yesterday I got a Kik from William who helps me moderate AVC.

trolls

The comment in question was a tasteless comment about the Gotham Gal. William deleted it as I would have.

Had it been a tasteless comment about me, I would more likely have let it stand as I’m inclined to let everyone see how warped these trolls are.

I think Whitney is right that we are unlikely to have an open Internet without trolls. They are annoying, as is comment spam and many other things, but I’d rather have an open forum where anyone can comment, than close things down and lose all that comes from the freedom to say and do what you want.

Trolls are annoying but I am certainly happy to live with them given the alternatives.

A Comment About Comment Spam

The AVC blog has been hit with a rash of comment spam in the past several weeks. Every day we take down at least five or ten of these annoying things. And some days, we take down a lot more.

The “we” is me, William, and Shana. I really appreciate their help with this chore. They’ve been helping me moderate and manage the comments here at AVC for several years now. It’s an unpaid and mostly unnoticed job. I really appreciate their help on it.

I honestly don’t understand why these spammers do this. The Disqus system has its own filters and very little of it actually gets through and into the comments. And the stuff that does get through gets taken down by us.

These past few weeks has been particularly bad. I am not sure if the problem is an increase in spam attacks or some sort of change in the Disqus filters. But whatever is causing the increase in spam, it’s pissing me off.

If you leave comments here regularly, you will certainly have experienced getting a reply that is spam. So you know how I feel about this stuff.

One of the many reasons I moved away from Typepad comments and to Disqus back in 2007 was to manage comment spam. I could not manage it on Typepad and the old AVC comments were full of the stuff. That’s why I left all of those old comments behind on Typepad when I moved to WordPress. I am not going to let that happen again.

The fight against The Internet Axis Of Evil never stops but it does change. When I wrote that post a decade ago, it was mostly about email spam and viruses. I don’t think so much about those scourges now. We’ve moved on to getting hacked and DDOS’ed and worse. The good thing about the Internet is you can do what you want on it. The bad thing about the Internet is you can do what you want on it.

So if you’ve noticed an increase in comment spam recently, you are correct in your observation. We are taking it down as fast as it comes in. Maybe the spammers will move on to somewhere more fruitful for them. Or maybe Disqus will tighten their filters a bit. Either way, we are going to keep this bar clean of that stuff. I promise you that.

Feature Friday: A/B Testing Headlines On WordPress

AVC community member Shana Carp has been building a neat service that A/B tests headlines for WordPress posts and helps you figure out the one that will bring the most traffic.

It’s called BayesianWitch. You can sign up here and add the plugin to your WordPress.

Although I think it’s a great idea for someone who wants to optimize their posts for more traffic, I have not implemented it here at AVC.

As I told Shana, I like to write my own headlines and I am not that concerned with traffic. There’s already a healthy number of people who come here every day and engage.

But if you are still building your readership and want to make sure you’ve got a headline that pops in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, you should give BayesianWitch a try.

I am sure Shana will be hanging out in the comments and please let her know what you think about the service, how it works, etc, etc.

Tweetstorming

Yesterday, I tried Tweetstorming for the first time. It was a Tweetstorm about Tweetstorming. You can see the entire storm here.

You might think “that’s a strange way to communicate publicly when there are all these awesome blogging tools out there like WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, etc” and you would be partially right.

What you might miss, and I missed until recently, is that Tweetstorming has some unique characteristics, which I outlined in my storm, that make it different and possibly better in some respects.

But what is certainly true, and I demonstrated by missing Tweet 8/ in my storm, is that Twitter doesn’t make it easy to storm properly and Twitter doesn’t make it easy to consume storms properly. As a result many Twitter users feel that storming is spamming and they also feel like its very hard to consume and engage with storms. At the end of my storm, I encouraged Daniel Graf, Twitter’s new VP Product, to fix all of that.

There are already some good tools out there for Tweetstorming, like Dave Winer‘s Little Pork Chop.

After my storm and the engaging discussion on Twitter, Dave reached out to me and encouraged me to use Little Pork Chop.

I wrote back to him and said that I would try it, but that I would prefer to have Tweetstorming functionality built natively into Twitter and that I had been encouraging the folks at Twitter to do that.

Dave then asked why I would want Twitter to build this when the functionality already exists and that would have negative consequences for the developers who had already been building and iterating on tools to solve this problem.

I wrote back and said that I use Twitter’s Android app for almost all my tweeting and consumption and I really want everything to be right in that app and not have to mess around with third party tools to get what I want out of Twitter.

Which begs an age old question about platforms and the developers who hack around them. And, of course, this age old question has been front and center in the discussion about Twitter since it first emerged back in 2006.

So as I sit here in front of the computer using a traditional blogging platform to compose my thoughts, I see a few interesting questions and I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts on them.

1/ Do you agree that Tweetstorming has some unique characteristics that make it different and possibly better in some ways than traditional blogging?

2/ Do you agree that Twitter should productize Tweetstorming, like they have done with @replies, #hashtags, and RTs, which also emerged organically from the user base?

3/ Do you think that third party tools such as Little Pork Chop should be allowed to satisfy this use case in lieu of Twitter building it natively into their apps?

Please let me know what you think in the comments, and as always, if there are other interesting topics about Tweetstorming to discuss, please introduce them too.

A WordPress Plugin For A Books List?

The Gotham Gal moved to WordPress this week. I mentioned it in a post mid week.

She maintains a book list on her blog. She’s a huge reader, at least a couple books a week, many times more than that.

And she lists her favorite reads for all to see. It used to be a TypePad widget on the sidebar but in the new UI, it’s an entire page linked to off the main header.

On TypePad, she could enter a book name, an ASIN, or an ISBN and the book and link to Amazon would automatically be added to the list (with her Amazon Affiliate ID attached).

I spent about an hour yesterday trying to replicate that functionality on WordPress via a plugin. I tried about five or six plugins without any success.

Has anyone come across a WordPress plugin that does this? If so, we’d love to know about it. Thanks.

 

Gotham Gal 3.0

The Gotham Gal has followed me from TypePad to WordPress and given her blog a refresh. Check it out here.

We both use the same designer, Nathan Bowers, so our blogs have always had a similar look and feel. They look even more similar now, particularly on the phone.

I love the elegance and simplicity of both blogs on my phone. It has become my primary reading device and it’s where I read AVC and Gotham Gal (and comment) most frequently.

I think Gotham Gal looks particularly good on the tablet. I’m a bit jealous of that. I may have to talk to Nathan about that :)

Anyway, we have both now gone through the typepad to wordpress conversion and all that entails, we’ve got new his and her blogs, and we are pretty happy about all of that.

Thanks Nathan.

Some Thoughts On Tweeting Vs Blogging

I thought for a second on April 1st about writing a post that said I was giving up blogging in favor of tweeting. I held back because its closer to the truth than I want to admit. And one should not dance too close to the truth on April 1st.

Tweeting is easier than blogging. It was that single insight that led me to email Evan Williams back in the spring/summer of 2007 and ask him if he’d allow USV to invest in Twitter. Thankfully he responded to that email and Ev and Jack did allow us to do that.

I had been blogging for almost four years at that point and was completely sold on the huge benefits that come from publicly sharing your insights, opinions, and decisions. I would advocate blogging to everyone. And folks would try it. And that vast majority of them (way greater than 90%) would not be able to sustain it. So when tweeting showed up, I thought “well this has most of the benefits of blogging but is at least 10x easier”. And then I wrote the email. Most good investment decisions are not more complicated than that.

So why have I continued to blog every day when plenty of people have moved to tweeting and get similar benefits? Well for one, I am a creature of habit and routine and hate breaking things that are working for me. And second, I like to work things out on the page. It’s a puzzle to me. 140 characters is a challenge but ten paragraphs is a bigger challenge. And finally, because you can express yourself more fully in a blog post than a tweet (or a tweet stream).

I see blogging as fodder for my twitter activity. I write the post, tweet it out, and, just like the comments at the end of this post, stuff comes back at me. Like these from the past week:

and

 

and

 

I really like feedback and discussion. When I give a talk, the first thing I do after the talk  is look at the tweetstream to see what resonated with the audience. It’s like a comedian working out her best material. You get immediate feedback on what was good. I always assume the rest was not.

So I could move from blogging to tweeting. And god knows I’ve been tempted many times over the years. But I don’t think I will, at least anytime soon. I’ve come up with a mechanism to make both work for me, together, and I think that combination is more powerful than using either of them solo.

AVC Downtime?

I’ve been hearing reports of AVC being down here and there over the past few days. I’d like to ask a few questions of the regulars.

1) Have you experienced downtime/unavailability on AVC since the cutover from typepad to wordpress?

2) if so, can you recall the error mode? was it a cloudflare error page? was it a 404 page? was it something else?

3) how frequently does this happen?

Finally if you experience this issue going forward, I would love a screenshot of the error page. You can email it to me via the contact link at the bottom of the About page.

Thanks everyone. I am trying to make AVC as reliable as it can be and downtime is something I want to get to the bottom of.

Feature Friday: disqus.com/home/

This is a risky post since I am not sure this feature has been rolled out to everyone. But I have it and so does the Gotham Gal, so I am hoping its rolled out to everyone here at AVC.

For the past few months, Disqus has been iterating on a service for regular commenters. It has been in each user’s dashboard at Disqus.com, but recently they moved it to disqus.com/home.

The idea is essentially to showcase all of the great content that is carrying a disqus powered comment stream to regular disqus users. This should drive more discussions, more discovery, and more activity for both publishers/bloggers and commenters. It should drive the discussion more broadly.

I do not think Disqus is finished iterating on this and of course it needs to be on more than the web in an age where half or more of all of our activity is on mobile. But I think its starting to come together nicely and thought I would highlight it today on feature friday.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Embedding Getty Images

A few years ago the senior team at Getty Images asked me to attend a strategy session they were having. I came and talked about open platforms and how they create more reach, engagement, and ultimately value. They thanked me and asked me if there was an image in their library that I wanted a print of. I chose this image of Roy Hibbert and Steph Curry when they played against each other in the NCAA Midwest Finals in 2008.

roy steph

As an aside, the CEO of Getty, Jonathan Klein, who is a friend of mine, asked me “are you sure that’s the photo you want?” He mentioned that there are photos of Presidents, Generals, Movie Stars, and many major historical moments in their library. I told him I was sure. He got the photo signed by Roy and it hangs in my son’s bedroom. We love Roy and Steph. It’s a shared thing we have between us. This print remains my favorite gift I’ve ever gotten for a speaking gig.

Note that this photo is watermarked. I did a screenshot of the photo from Getty’s website. That’s what bloggers do when they want to showcase a photo they find on the web. But it is not what is ideal. What is ideal is to get some embed code from the website and post it legally and cleanly.

Well Getty Images has made exactly such a thing available for many of the photos in their library. Sadly not that one of Roy and Steph, yet.

But this one, from the same game, is now available for embedding.

All I did was find the image, click on the embed icon, grab the code, and place it here. Easy, simple, awesome.

Getty has done a big and important thing here. They have opened up their platform. This will lead to reach, engagement, and, I believe, more value for them in the future. Well done Getty.