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Meet TwitShowdown

This post was generated by Dashter

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really been trying to pay attention to the pro’s and con’s of Twitter. Part of that’s due to the fact that I shut down my Facebook account, in an attempt to see what the non-Facebook Internet still felt like.

Kelly and I had an interesting back-and-forth based partly around the idea that we follow people at odd intervals. Sure, it’s easy to add the first 20-100 people you follow on Twitter because you know them in real life. But then you start following people you’ve never met. And even the people who we know (or know of) don’t always tweet how we expect them to.

So this idea started forming – the notion of giving a way to easily swoop in to your account for the express purpose of unfollowing people. It wasn’t a “Dashter” feature – this was a unique little activity that needed a unique place to go.

Lose the Losers is right! Continue reading →

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The WP Feedback Dilemma

So I was thinking a bit about what keeps us all from posting more frequently on WordPress. Though obviously there are numerous reasons, a couple of basic ideas came to mind…

You know… This is one of the most compelling reasons I started working on Dashter, and it gets forgotten (or more correctly; overlooked) by me so frequently. The bridge between blogging and modern social media seems more related to the time to get a response + engagement than about anything different in messaging. On Twitter, you post a tweet, and either something happens or it doesn’t. In 5 minutes, you’re over it. Essentially the same is true on Facebook… Your “friends” will like or comment on the things that they like or find comment-worthy. The other stuff will just drift in to the abstract. On a blog post – well, for most of us – we click the “Publish” button and then go in to some sort of odd purgatory. We’re banished to the realm of marketing and self promotion. We’re wondering which keyword phrases Google will pick up in 5 months. We’re stuck.

This tweet caught my eye just because it both proved my point; and also happened to be titled something I reasonably agree with. In this case, the author is apparently either (a) planting the seeds for his audience or (b) just wanted to share that he wrote a post. Both are legitimate uses for Twitter. Again, publishing on WordPress is a strange double-edged sword. You’re creating WAY more content, you’re likely articulating a vision or an idea, and you’re able to add rich media elements to amplify your point. But, unlike social channels (which typically don’t let you choose layout & style, don’t let you cross-pollinate media types, and generally have some sort of limitation (either strict or etiquette-driven)), blogging doesn’t provide that fast-feedback mechanism. Creating after-publishing immediate gratification + immediate feedback is kinda a big deal. But it’s so frequently overlooked as a subject of concern in the WP development field.

The Life of Publishing Posts

And then once it’s published; time to wait for it to get read! The waiting never ends.

Ahh, the famous “I’ve forced myself to be compliant with myself” problem. Featured images are a double-edged sword in WordPress. The better WP themes should provide clean support with or without, so you can just get through the writing process.

Thanks for Reading!

Let me know what you think – is WordPress post publishing too arduous?

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Social Scheduling

Social Tools Should Be Useful

Name any social or online content platform, and you’ll likely hear a great debate raging about scheduling. The problem with the always-on 24/7 digital lifestyle is that all too often, you end up with tools that aren’t focused on delivering results… They’re just delivering special effects.

This is a great point – social scheduling is helpful under certain circumstances, but in general you will want to also maintain an active and robust dialogue online. It’s one of the reasons we designed Dashter with the Auto-Post hold feature. Certain automatically-generated tweets can now be postponed until after you’ve posted a “human” message on Twitter. That prevents the automated part of Dashter from overwhelming your human followers.

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Jeff, You’re Wrong… But for the Right Reasons

So I just finished reading Jeff Turner’s (@Respres) post on his site: Kenya Exposed More Than Just My Emotions and I felt compelled to deliver a response. Jeff has that effect on his audience – part of what makes him worth following and paying attention to. But I’m a snarky sonofabitch who can’t help but speak up.

The gist of his post was this:

It’s been a week since I’ve updated my public Twitter or Facebook stream. I don’t think anyone has noticed. It’s noisy in both places, lots of people are vying for attention. And I have no desire to broadcast this post on either one of them. I’ve unchecked the “Publish to Twitter” box on this post. I realize that will mean fewer people will ever know this post is here. I don’t care.

And that’s fine. But you’re wrong. For the right reasons, to be sure, but you’ve fallen for a fallacy that I can’t help but call out. Correlation is not causality. People (well, at least myself) noticed your absence, but also respected the fact that you were on a legitimate adventure. That’s worth experiencing in its entirety because it’s not something you get to experience every day.

But imagining that the world is better because you’re NOT adding to the collective conversation is… well, it’s false logic. You’re blaming the network for the noise, but then not adding signal to the stream. That’s backwards. You choosing to disable the “Publish to Twitter” button means that the quality of dialogue is diminished; not improved. [And besides, that one checkbox took me hours to figure out how to build - have some appreciation! Hehehe...]

I’m rambling, so let me get back to the point. The simple fact of the matter is that we’re all participating in a connected environment that has never been imagined. We’re still building it – and there’s a lot of junk to sift through. There’s lots of noise. Our attention spans are pulled in a thousand directions at once. Focus & presence is at a premium. But the reality is that once you have that attention – the attention of an audience – it’s your responsibility to raise the level of discourse to new heights. Abandoning your audience doesn’t provide value for anyone – you or them.

You have the opportunity to educate us. You have the opportunity to share your journey, to share what it meant to you, and to share what you want us to take away from it. You have the opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges and obstacles that exist for the girls that you’ve made part of your life – and to empower us to support them and the millions like them. You have the opportunity to tell a story that compels positive action. Or, you can choose not to. Those are your choices.

You’re part-owner in a piece of social media software designed to create better conversations – to build better dialogue. It shouldn’t come at the cost of looking people face-to-face and discussing what matters. It should compliment it. It should improve upon it. It should broaden our horizons and raise our perspectives. This software isn’t perfect yet; but that perfection is worth striving for. It’s why I keep chipping away at the boulder. If your trip has inspired ways of improving how we pay attention to each other – let’s build it.

There are all kinds of communities. Should we spend more time in the physical ones and perhaps better focus (and reduce) our attention while in the virtual ones? Absolutely. And, should you have paid attention to Head Mutha while she was talking with you? Damn straight.

Welcome back.

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Why Schedule Tweets?

Over the last couple weeks I’ve had the chance to have several good conversations about social scheduling. One of the areas of discussion (specifically related to Dashter) is – why schedule tweets?

It’s a good question – and requires having a little familiarity with Twitter, but here’s my short answers…

Etiquette: When someone logs on to Twitter, they’re going to see a stream of the latest tweets in their “home” display. This is true for most clients like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck as well. Generally, there’s an implicit assumption that when you log in you’ll see a stream of the latest tweets from around your social circle. But, if someone you’re following logs in and posts all their tweets all at once, that tweet stream fills up with just them. It’s not particularly courteous.

You’re Missing the Spread: One of the best advantages to spreading your tweets out throughout the day is that you can cover the whole audience. Remember – 7am on the East Coast is 4am on the West Coast – and that’s just in the US. If you’re trying to reach / appeal to a global audience, the clock never stops – and twitter adoption continues to rise globally. Remember, Twitter is attempting to position itself as the “universal” social network thanks to the low adoption threshold (140 text characters can be managed by just about any cell phone on the planet) – so global audience & reach is essential. Assume that your audience logs in to Twitter once or twice per day and scans 20-30 tweets, and that’s it. Wouldn’t you like to increase the odds that they’ll see your tweet?

Tweets Don’t Last Very Long: There’s a couple schools of thought in terms of “how long” a tweet lasts on the network. That’s because of the signal vs. noise challenge. In general, I’ve heard that Tweets have a “lifespan” of anywhere from 5-15 minutes; all the way up to 2 hours. After that, it really has run its course. By and large, people don’t interact with Tweets older than a few minutes.

Maintain Multiple Conversations: If you get involved in a couple simultaneous conversations on Twitter, suddenly you will be posting multiple replies over a span of a very short period of time. By scheduling tweets, you can spread out the likelihood of holding one conversation at a time – allowing you to carry on better one-on-one conversations than if you have to have many at the same time.

The Signal vs Noise Challenge: There is a lot of noise on Twitter. Even the best selected group of people to follow will result in a wealth of conversations and “starters” that really don’t matter to you. The same will be true of the people who follow you… Some people will be deeply engaged, but generally few will be interested in your individual messages. That’s the advantage of the short lifespan of a Tweet. But how do you overcome the noise? By seeding your tweets throughout the day via scheduling, you’ll have more chances to have your message reach its audience and provide true signal than if you posted all your messages simultaneously.

Heavy Active User Paradox: It would make sense that your messages will be more effective if the people you engage with, follow, and follow-back were all heavy active users on Twitter. They’d be ready to spread your message, right? But the paradox is that active users on Twitter tend to interact and engage with heavily active users on Twitter. So the signal processing gets overrun again…

Here’s what I mean: If you are followed by someone who follows 10 people (and each person posts 1 message per day) you have a 1/10 (10%) chance of being “read.”

But if the person who follows you follows 100 people, and each person posts 10 times per day, any single message now has a “read” chance of 1/(100*10): 0.1%.

That’s the challenge with Twitter – as people find more interesting people to follow they end up hitting a wall of signal. So how do you improve the likelihood that your message will at a minimum get viewed (and hopefully RT’d, quoted, replied-to, or curated)? You schedule your tweets to spread them across the potential audience-online timeframe.

Remember – if someone logs in to Twitter and browses through their last few messages, they’re only 1-click away from your profile to view all your latest tweets, so your tweets should always be interesting and a reflection of you. You want your messages to be quality and consequential, but you ultimately want them to be read and ideally engaged with. By using scheduling, you can reach a broader audience, have better engagement with the people who follow you, and improve your objective outcomes on Twitter.

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Showing off Curation

This post was generated by Dashter

There’s a contest!

Here’s another curated thing! :)

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The Freelance Life (Part 2)

So this post is a follow-up to my article yesterday – My (Simple) tips for Freelancing. I wanted to go collect some more ideas to share that I think can amplify the conversation beyond just my basic ideas. There are so many people freelancing and calling their own shots these days that there’s plenty of interesting insight to be found.

… The Couch is Calling …

One of the best / worst parts about freelancing definitely has to be when you’re not running at 100%… The upside is exactly what Michelle mentioned here – you can just post on the couch and tinker. The downside? You’re responsible for your own healthcare. Definitely a mixed bag – but believe it or not self-coverage isn’t that expensive. Gets a lot more pricey if you’re covering kids / family – but it’s still pretty reasonable.

The downside of Freelancing is that if you’re not focused on projects – it can be really easy to get distracted by things at home. Of course – anyone who’s been in a corporate environment knows that an office is full of distractions too!

Dude – I love this. That’s so true. Freelancing is definitely a legitimate enterprise, but older generations sometimes look at the online business world as a bunch of smoke & mirrors (and spammers). Sometimes it takes a good conversation with the family to really show & share what you’re up to. Great point Salman.

That’s another thing often overlooked in freelancing… You really have to do everything by hand. There’s no “mail room” no shipping supplies, and you gotta foot the bill for all the postage. Direct mail (especially like pointed out here) is so effective if you’ve got an engaged client / prospect base, but it can add up really quickly. Look for deals on shipping products when you can – Staples or Office Depot usually have clearance racks for shipping supplies that can save you a ton of money on envelopes, packing material, and even weird-sized shipping boxes. If you’re sending more than a dozen pieces of mail a week, I definitely recommend checking out Stamps.com or similar print-stamps-from-home solutions.

There’s definitely some truth to this. Freelancing IS very similar to being an employee, since your clients will often place similar demands on you as they would an internal employee. Though if you prove your expertise, I think you can often establish more of a peer-to-peer relationship, rather than a client-vendor one. It’s tricky, but quite possible – especially if you’re providing skills that truly support the clients’ business that they don’t have internally.

Had to include Alexanders’ response, because it’s absolutely part of the reality too. Like I’d written before – the project & the client selection process is so crucial! If you find clients who are looking for skilled service providers to help amplify their business and meet their goals – it feels much less like an employee relationship and much more like a pair of business professionals working together towards a common goal.

And finally, I think Brian has conveyed what many freelancers feel after a period of time. There are two worlds when it comes to freelancing: People who freelance because they want the freedom, independence, and ability to call their own shots. They typically leave stagnant work environments to strike out on their own. Then there are also freelancers who are doing it because the job market is rough.

Thanks for reading! Again – if you want to check out the original post check out My Tips for Freelancers.

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My Tips for Freelancing

A friend wrote this question, and I just felt like it was good blog-fodder…

When dealing with clients, whats the best way to set time restrictions for yourself so you can have a social life or be able to hangout with your kids? Are stating you have a hardstop later in the day the wrong way to go about it? What if something comes up? I’m conflicted going from a 9-5 office gig to working for multiple clients from home.

Dude. I have so many opinions on this.

Freelance Clients aren’t Corporate Clients

Freelance clients come in every variety – so be forewarned. Even the most stable-sounding client could turn in to a nightmare headcase if you’re not paying attention.

For starters, I’d suggest you pick clients who share your value system. If you believe that a work day should start and stop at certain times, make that part of your client onboarding process. Ask them when they expect deliverables from you – morning, afternoon, evenings, weekends?

Secondly, make sure your clients understand your circumstances (to a degree). If you set aside 4-8pm each evening as “playing with the kids time” make sure your client understands that ahead of time.

Also, especially in this economy – cashflow is king. If a client is asking for payment terms or flexibility in paying for services, either decline them or make them one of your “when I’ve got the time” clients. You should have 2 classes of clients: Those who are paying the full run rate – so you better get running! … and those paying the “jog” rate – where you just have to get to the end eventually, no sprinting required.

Just remember – there’s a reason why your client will consider you rather than a corporate alternative. What would inspire your confidence if you were in their shoes? What would you be willing to accept? Typically, they want a freelancer because they can get more for less, and often (in creative industries) a much more dynamic set of ideas. But just realize part of that proposition is that they expect to be able to demand your time under certain circumstances. Just be clear up front what you think is fair. Continue reading →