Author Archives: Andy Wibbels

About Andy Wibbels

Andy is an award-winning blogger and author of the book Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Wired, Business Week, Forbes, and other national and international media. He was worked at several San Francisco startups including Get Satisfaction, SAY Media, InMobi, Keas, and Mindjet. Currently, Andy is Director of Marketing at Lucidworks.

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How Pulp Paperbacks Changed Publishing

The New Yorker looks at how pulp fiction changed the economics of book publishing:

“Instead of relying on book wholesalers—”jobbers”—who distributed to bookstores, de Graff worked through magazine distributors. They handled paperbacks the same way they handled magazines: every so often, they emptied the racks and installed a fresh supply.

Pocket books were priced to sell for twenty-five cents. De Graff is supposed to have come up with that figure after paying a quarter at a toll booth. No one, he concluded, misses a quarter. Penguins sold for sixpence: Lane believed that his books should not cost more than a pack of cigarettes. This meant that people could spot a book they had always meant to read, or a book with an enticing cover, and pay for it with spare change.

This stuff was not trying to pass itself off as serious literature. It was a deliberately down-market product, comic books for grownups—pulp fiction.

The paperback presented the publishing industry with a dilemma. Many people in the business, whether they actually read books or not, believed that they should be packaged as upmarket commodities, cultural goods for people looking for something superior to mass entertainments like Hollywood movies and, after 1950, television. “Read a good book” is a phrase that has the ring of virtue. It implies that what is, after all, just another form of distraction is more than that. It recommends taking some private time away from the world to immerse yourself in a mode of enjoyment and edification that belongs to an ancient and distinguished tradition.

This marketing philosophy may have reflected the fear that, if books competed directly with the movies, the movies would win. Whatever the thinking, Pocket Books and its progeny defied it. De Graff packaged books as just another form of distraction, and one completely compatible with everyday life. He imagined people reading books on the way to work, during the lunch hour, standing in line at the bank—exactly the way that millions of people listen to music through their earbuds today.”

Full article Pulp’s Big Moment: How Emily Brontë met Mickey Spillane.

5 Ways to Increase Reading Comprehension

From a discussion about increasing read comprehension:

  • “Read for meaning rather than sound. Reading without vocalizing has a lot in common with listening to someone speak. When someone speaks, you hear the words, but you only hear them in connection with whatever thoughts and ideas the speaker is trying to convey. The same is true of reading without vocalizing: You read words for meaning, not sound. You see the word on the page and respond to its meaning without the intermediary step of hearing the word’s sound. You don’t read the words as words — you read units of meaning (like ideas, thoughts, and descriptions) whose building blocks happen to be words.
  • Try to perceive the words rather than see them. Imagine that each word is a symbol (not a sound) that conveys a meaning.
  • Turn off your ears. Pretend your ears have a volume control and turn it to the mute setting.
  • Widen your field of vision. By taking in more words on a line, you force yourself to read more words at a time, and this helps prevent vocalization.
  • Identify the thought units in sentences, not the words, and read thought unit by thought unit rather than word by word.”

Read many more tips in the discussion: How do I stop internally vocalizing words as I read them to speed up comprehension of text in books?

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Brand Voice Is Inherently Inauthentic

Cogent point from a Metafilter discussion of the Twitter account @brandssayingbae: (bae is slang for ‘my dear’ or ‘my boo’ and is an acronym for ‘before anyone else’)

“This is one of the many things about marketing that I find so stupid and so baffling. There’s so much talk in the industry about “authenticity”, yet the entire premise of the enterprise is inherently inauthentic. When you craft a made-up “persona” and “voice” through hours of painstaking statistical research, creepy data mining, customer profiling, spreadsheets, meetings, 60-page Word documents, and multiple rounds of review and debate and focus-grouping? When you pay some employee to play-act on social media as an anthropomorphized version of the ‘brand identity’ you thusly constructed? That’s the fuckin’ opposite of authentic. That’s like sociopath-level inauthenticity.

 

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Inside Stephen Colbert’s Creative Process

Master satirist Stephen Colbert describes how he runs his (now retired) Colbert Report each day:

“I say hello to the guest. I ask them the if they’ve seen the show. Sometimes they have, sometimes they haven’t. I always say the same thing, ‘I do the show in character. He’s an idiot. He’s willfully ignorant of what you know and care about. Please honestly disabuse me of my ignorance and we’ll have a great time.'”

Full interview on Slate‘s ‘Working’ series with David Plotz:

Screencap from one of Stephen’s funniest moments where he broke character.

 

Inside Tolkein’s Creative Process

Really fantastic lecture by Brandon Rhodes walking through the beginning of Tolkein’s writing and the support of a creative community of writers to evoke his best work: (via Metafilter)

While Tolkien had friends who could devise ingenious ways to critique his work without sounding critical, he had others whose remarks were merciless and direct — to the point that Tolkien simply stopped sharing new chapters as he wrote The Lord of the Rings. As programmers we share many of the struggles of writers and artists, and we often react just as badly to critique of our code. From Tolkien’s experience we will draw lessons about how to make critique generous instead of damaging, and actionable instead of personal.

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WordPress Jetpack 3.2 Lets You Post to Your Blog from WordPress.com

This is pretty damned snazzy. The latest update to Automattic’s Jetpack plugin allows you to use the same editor as WordPress.com to post to your self-hosted WordPress blog:

With Jetpack connected, you can now publish posts to your self-hosted WordPress site with the same editor available on WordPress.com giving you one centralized place from where to publish content, irrespective of where your WordPress site is hosted. Additionally, the new editor works great on mobile and tablets (and desktops!). To try it out, head over to wordpress.com/post and pick your site from the site picker on the top left of the editing window (after connecting and updating Jetpack).

Full details http://jetpack.me/2014/11/03/jetpack-3-2/

Just update Jetpack on your self-hosted blogs and give it a whirl.

This is another step towards bringing more self-hosted WordPress users into the Automattic ecosystem. I’ve said it before: they have all the ingredients of a social network – it’ll be interesting to see if they try and blend these things together or let the behaviors emerge. Basically everyone should have jumped over to WordPress.com when we had the Ello freakout a few weeks ago.

3 Ways Perfectionism Kills Innovation

broken idea

I’ve got a new post up on the Mindjet blog:

We love to cast ourselves in this drama as we huff and puff and sweat and tear our hair out — “It’s important! Look how hard we’re working! I’m an important person working on important things!’” — but the reality is that you really can’t manage people like this all of the time. You’ll burn everyone out, and eventually, riding dangerously close to deadlines will leave your team frustrated and uninspired. When you’re drinking the cool nectar of a perfectionist fantasy future, you’re missing out on the reality of what’s right in front of you, right here: a problem that needs solving, and that you might have to take more than a few cracks at. You can only start from where you are.

Full post: 3 Ways Perfectionism Kills Innovation

SaaS Businesses: What to Measure

Doing some research on core metrics for the SaaS business model – a lot of this I’m remembering from GetSat and Typepad. KISSMetrics comes through as usual with a top five:

  • MRR – monthly recurring revenue – you can’t count a year subscription all at one time – chop it into twelfths
  • Churn – percentage of customers who bail each month – KISSMetrics says if it is in the double-digits, drop everything and focus on product
  • Cost Per Acquisition – marketing cost divided by new users
  • APC – average revenue per customer – total revenue divided by number of customers
  • Lifetime Value – average subscription length times monthly average revenue per customer

Full post

All the Self-Help You’ll Ever Need

In a thread on Metafilter about The Verge‘s Scamworld takedown, a commenter reveals the ulimate secrets to personal empowerment:

Yes, you can live a better, happier, more fulfilling, wealthier life. You actually can do that.

Want to know how?

It’s really simple, and I’m going to tell you. For free. This is how.

Decide to actually do, that which it will actually take, to actually achieve what you want.

There you go. I just saved you $10,000+ each for seminars and prayer breakfasts and self-empowerment weekends and whatever. However, like most people, you probably think that’s way, way too simple for you. It doesn’t appeal to your inner attraction to complication, and you need it explained in more detail. I’ll throw that in, ‘cos I like you and want you to succeed. (Yes, I really do.)

Think about yourself in five years. Where do you want to live? What do you want to be doing? What do you want to have? Who do you want to be? Now write all that down in detail.

Next, back-port that, a year at a time, to a year from now. If your life plan doesn’t make sense, or there isn’t enough time to achieve what you want, or whatever, edit it. It’s only ever a draft. Stuff will come up that necessitates re-drafting it; inability to accept that we cannot precisely determine the course of our lives is one of the major barriers to self-improvement. It will help with this if you subdivide your life plan into areas such as family, career, fun, money, health etc; whatever makes sense to you. You can google for example goal-setting lists.

The purpose of this exercise is to clarify what you want, and in turn, clarify exactly how, as in by what real actions, you are going to get what you want. If there’s a logical gap, fix it.

Having done this, frequently review your plan. You need to become somewhat obsessive about it. Your subconscious is powerful but it is lazy; unless you become subconsciously driven to achieve something, you probably won’t. You’ll find excuses to avoid it.

The “Law of Attraction” is a mystical name for what are basically three real things. The first thing, is clarity of intention. If you’re sitting around wondering who you are and what you’re going to do, thousands of opportunities and possibilities will pass you by unnoticed. The second thing is confirmation bias: if you’re clear that you want this, any opportunity that you see that in some way approximates to this, you will notice. Same way that if you drive a red Honda, you will see red Hondas everywhere. They were there all along; you just didn’t care. The third thing, is motivated action. The scope of your possible actions is enormous. You are overwhelmed with choices and consequent analysis paralysis. If you just pick something you want, even if it’s a bit silly, and it’s motivating enough to prompt you to some action, then you will greatly increase your chances of getting it.

There you go. Simple as that. If you don’t get it, or having got it, wish that there were some “easier way”, by all means pay the snake oil salesmen to re-explain it to you with different metaphors and in greater detail and including money. Also it is a proven fact that most humans value their experiences and possessions more, the more they paid for them, regardless of their actual utility, and accordingly paying a snake oil salesman thousands of dollars to receive advice you could get from reading an internet forum, may actually have the genuine and real effect of making you more likely to take that advice.”

Full thread on Metafilter.

How to Find People Impersonating You Using Google Image Search

Any image you see online can be easily copied and put somewhere else online and there’s not much you can do about it. Google recently updated their image search to allow you to search for images similar to one that you upload or one that is already online.

Here’s their video for it: (the drag-and-drop kinda made my jaw drop)

Most of us use the same set of pictures for our avatars and profile pics online. I put a few of the profile pics I’ve used into Google’s new image search to see where those photos showed up online. I used this one – taken at Fisherman’s Wharf with Ron and his dad after exploring the retired sub USS Pamapnito on a hot summer day:

This had been my Facebook profile picture for quite a while and I use it on Twitter and Gravatar and Disqus. So I uploaded the image into Google’s new image search. The first few pages of results were as expected: my blogs, profiles and avatars across social networks and blogs. No big schmeal. But on the third page of search results was this gem:

Which led to a blog about cross tattoos with lots of keyword stuffing and links to affiliate-based products and crap:

Now I’m totally pro-tattoo and am planning a nice Celtic/polynesian blend shoulder or chest plate, but this is bullshit. I left a comment to that effect, it’s still awaiting moderation:

Here’s how you can do the same:

  1. Find one of your profile photos – either the URL to it if it appears online or your local copy on your hard drive.
  2. Go to http://images.google.com/
  3. Drag-and-drop the image onto the search bar. Google churns a bit and then returns search results containing that image (and images of similar composition and palette).
  4. If someone is impersonating you, let ’em have it.

And for those singles out there – this will also be useful to anybody that has personals profiles out there.

Update: I’d emailed the email address in the WHOIS record for this domain. The site is currently down.