Getting Lost Along the Way

This from ‘Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it‘ at The Washington Post:

“There was so much pressure to do things that ‘scaled,’ to use the Silicon Valley buzzword,” said Josh Riedel, the third (Instagram) employee after Systrom and Krieger. “But when you have over a billion users, something gets lost along the way.”

My first job was at a tiny grocery store in a busy vacation town. Everyone knew one another. Lots of hand written notes in the employee areas. The express check out aisle was built out of wood.

Then we moved to a bigger store. Suddenly there were people we didn’t know. The charm and grit of those small aisles was replaced by a vastness of overhead lights and neon signs.

Now years later that quaint express lane has been replaced by self-checkout lines.

Lots got lost from that progress, from the growth, from the expansion. I mean, easy to just think nostalgia, right? But same goes for this website stuff.

You’re not “succesful” unless you have a ja-gillion users, or followers, or listeners. The allure of “big enough” is rarely praised.

First Ten is Still Relevant almost Ten Years Later

I love this bit from Seth Godin, riffing on his 2009 post, ‘First, ten.’ There is no sense trying to win 1,000 fans if you can’t see the 10 right in front of you.

“Do your first 10 see your thing and thank you and move on,” asks Seth, “or do they go tell more people?”

If they don’t tell anyone, you need to work on that. Back the drawing board. No amount of tactics or tricks is gonna make it spread, you need to bake that into what you’re selling.

Please Secure Your Sites

Been noticing a handful of non-secure music sites lately. I mean, I’m no security expert, but Google has been warning site owners for years (like, 2014) to secure their sites (at the most basic level that means a site starts with https instead of http).

And, I sort of feel like it’s affecting search results. I use web search quite a bit for my day job and I am noticing some sites being left out of my initial search results.


While working at a cramped Starbucks near a busy university, I couldn’t help overhear a conversation between two people catching up. From what I heard, the one person was a personal nutritionist on the side.

She spoke of a hobby she picked up; Olympic power lifting. She got really good at it. Good enough to place well at some regional competition, apparently.

I’m paraphrasing here, but her reason was thus:

“I wanted to do something that could demonstrate my nutritionist work.”

Anyone can pick up a book and recite its contents with enough study. But it’s another thing entirely to take what you know, add your magic, and hard work, and produce a tangible result.

After leaving AOL Music in 2011 I knew I had the skill-set to help people share stories online. That’s how Skull Toaster was born! I have my resume’ sure, and that says plenty, but Skull Toaster is me showing, “I built a brand from scratch, with an engaged social media following, and a nightly email list with a 40+% open rate since 2012.” Ahem, hiring managers.

The folks at Coudal have been doing this for years. They’ve created plenty of campaigns for clients over the years, but then started making their own products. Why not? They already know how to make websites and ads and Twitter accounts. One of their projects was the Field Notes brand of notebooks, which they did with Aaron Draplin.

“There wasn’t any big corporate plan, or venture capital or a full page ad in the New York Times or anything; we printed up a batch, bought a domain name and let it grow from there.”

Just start. Find people to work with (not ask, “what do you think of this idea?”), and get it going.


On YouTube you’re the pink space above. That’s it.

With a pre-roll ad you disappear.

See those videos on the side? Distractions. Noise. All aiming to be more compelling than your video, chosen my algorithms to drive more clicks (and money) for YouTube. Cha-ching (for them, not you).

That’s the fight you enter into each time you Tweet a link to your brand new video on YouTube.

You’re bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Do this instead. That pink space? That’s yours.

Fill your space with upcoming shows, links to your merch, and / or pretty pictures of your cute face. Don’t give up that space to other bands, makers, speakers, or bullshit BuzzFeed videos (because they’re engineered to win).

It’s 2015 – start driving traffic to your stuff instead of landing pages for fancy-pant sites engineered to distract your fans.


How you treat your customer when they walk into your business.
Hello, customer.
Hello, store owner.
Nice day today, huh?
What can I get you?

When you see a customer on the street.
Oh, hello customer!
Hey! Hi there! Day off?
Yea, running errands!
Hah, it never ends, huh?
No, but that’s okay.
I’ll see you around!
Take care.

And now, how you interact with your customer on social media.
10% off today!
We close at 5pm.
Tomorrow we’ll have a special.
Don’t forget, we have gift certificates!

When it could be this:
Hey customer, great photo! That’s a great hiking spot.
Oh, thanks! Yea we love it there.
Have you done the Lake Loop with the kids?
No, we haven’t. Might be a bit much for them.
I hear you. We took our three year old on it one time, but he did okay.
Oh, really? Maybe we’ll try it sometime.
Take some photos if you do!
Hah! Will do.

Which one do you think is going to have a lasting impact?

Does it scale? Nope.
Can you schedule a conversation like this? Nope.
Can you automate it? No.

But I bet your coffee shop doesn’t have a self-checkout line, either.
Your tattoo shop doesn’t have an auto-ink booth, right?
As a photographer, you don’t send your Robo-Photo-Bot to a wedding, right?

No, because every one to one interaction is priceless. It’s valuable. It can’t be outsourced, and you can’t just get some unpaid college intern to do it.


Goodbye “blogs as media empires.” The signal to noise ratio is too high, and the buckshot approach (more content = more page views) is doomed to fail. You can only carry so much coal on the locomotive of “content is king.”

And the idea that an app or HTML5 or social media is going to save your media outlet or business is wrong. If you don’t have customers you are doomed. A coffee shop can’t stay open if people just come in for the smell everyday; it must sell a cup of coffee on occasion.

You need to read ‘Don’t “design for mobile”, design for your customer relationship.’ If you don’t have people who will actually buy something from you, you can’t last.

Do you think companies are going to keep throwing money at media outlets that aren’t bringing clicks and engagement?

This was dug up from the Wayback Machine here.


I remember December 29th, 2009. I was checking email around 12:30am while laying down to sleep when I got the news that Avenged Sevenfold Drummer James’The Rev’ Sullivan passed away. A few emails later we had a post up at 1:15am.

This year, on Christmas Eve, I saw some Tweets that Netflix was down. That meant some editors and bloggers had to mobilize. A post had to be written! Hurry!

Dec 24, 11:06pm – Netflix Hit by Outage, Blames Amazon
Dec 24, 9:46pm – Amazon AWS Takes Down Netflix On Christmas Eve

The same happens with my celeb / pop writer friends during the holidays, hoping that no movie stars get caught kissing someone that ain’t their significant other.

In 2009 this worked. It works today, late in 2012. But it can’t continue. There’s too much. When everything is a story, nothing is a story.


My friend Lisette Voytko landed on Reddit, a popular user-generated site of interesting & newsy links. With the expected spike in traffic, I replied, “monetize!” Meaning, turn that traffic to your blog into cold hard cash! But then she called me out and asked, “how?”

Well, here’s a few ways I’ve monetized my blog(s) over the last few years.

I’ve sold stuff on my site and people have bought it. I’ve sold hand-drawn robots at my Willed From Wires Robot Shop, and I’ve got two ebooks detailing my bike adventures from the past year and a half. Skip the affiliate links on Amazon – create something of your own – something you can stand behind – and put a price tag on it.

I’m not so huge that I can just sell stuff everyday, but I could sure use extra storage space on DropBox! So I wrote a post about how awesome DropBox is, and encourage readers to sign up for an account, which gets me more storage space.

When I was writing on The Bike Nerd during my daily bicycle adventures around the US, it showed something; I can write about bikes. It’s not about “lots of traffic,” it’s about the “right traffic,” and that’s how I got a paid writing gig for a bike shop in NYC. Write to your audience, not a “general audience,” and see what happens. The hard part? Figuring out who your audience is.

Okay, so you don’t have anything to sell today, and maybe cloud storage isn’t your thing. But you just know that someday you’ll have something that people will love. Well, make sure you have a “subscribe to my email list” box somewhere on your site. If you don’t have anything to sell today, maybe you will two months from now. The best time to start that is 10 years ago, but the next best time is now (hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk for that one).

Monetizing your blog isn’t just ad networks or e-commerce, it’s about opportunities that come your way just by writing great content day after day, year after year. I did Buzzgrinder for six years before I got my foot in the door at AOL, and then it was another year and a half before I started Noisecreep for AOL Music.

HOMEWORK: What’s the one thing you just KNOW? It doesn’t even have to be an internet skill. Maybe you work on motorcycles, or you have experience finding great places to fish, or maybe you took over your parents business. Trust me – there’s an audience for all of those things on the internet. If you want to be a pop-culture super blogger, well, good luck with that. But if you want to be the #1 Google search result for “how to take over my parents bakery,” or “where to camp in Utah,” well, I bet you can own that audience.

So, who is your audience?


If your business wants to abandon Twitter, that’s your choice. But maybe you should remove the cute “Follow us on Twitter!” messages from your ads in the local alt-weekly’s.

Recently, just for the heck of it, I figured I’d look up a local business on Twitter from an ad and saw this – updated 238 days ago.

This reminds me of Van Halen’s “brown M&M” clause, about removing all the brown M&M’s from the bowl of candy backstage. If they showed up at a gig and saw brown M&M’s, well, that meant their rider wasn’t read very throughly. If the promoter shrugs off the M&M part, what else could they have skipped? The safety measures? The power requirements?

It’s not being pompous, it’s paying attention to the details.

If a business shrugs off social media thing like this (thinking perhaps,”it doesn’t matter, no one will notice!”), that’s your choice. But it’s my choice to consider what other details you’re skipping over.