We now return to your regularly scheduled programming…

It’s been a hectic couple of months here in web guy HQ, while we worked on a hush hush project that I’m not at liberty to discuss right now. I’ll just say it’s awesome, and leave it at that. Now that I’m catching up a bit, I’m hoping to be able to keep up with the two or three time a week updates.

As you might have noticed, we’ve redecorated the place. I’ve changed the authentication setup, which means, unfortunately, that previously registered commenters will have to re-register. Apologies.

Now that this interlude is out of the way, I’ll get back to your standard geeky commentary.

MetaSpam: so i herd you liek spambots

Sometimes, a spammer comes along so brazen that you just have to stop for a moment and shake your head. Such was the case when I checked the inbox this morning.

Great email address, or GREATEST email address?

OK, let me get this straight: you’re spamming my comments to tell me that I can pay you to spam OTHER people’s comments? *sigh* Yeah, I’m going to have to pass on that.

First of all, I don’t need any help improving my “Google rankins”. Second, contrary to what they’re trying to pitch here, this kind of backlinking does little to nothing for your PageRank, given the typically low PR of the sites which let these comments through, and the utter lack of relevance most of the pages in question have to your content. Third, if you use these kinds of services, you’re making yourself part of the problem. SPAM sucks, and the average blogger will tell you that it is a non-stop flood, only increasing in volume as your site gets more popular.

While I admit it takes serious chutzpah (and a belief in your product) to spam spamming services, they are both a complete waste of money, and a serious aggravation. Stick to good SEO practices, and mark this crap ‘spam’.

Dear Steve Cheney: With all due respect, Facebook isn’t killing anything.

The extremely intelligent and generally insightful Steve Cheney recently posted the hyperbolically titled “How Facebook is Killing Your Authenticity“, in which he noted:

“…forcing people to comment – and more broadly speaking to log-on – with one identity puts a massive stranglehold on our very nature. I’m not too worried about FB Comments in isolation, but the writing is on the wall: all of this off-site encroachment of the Facebook graph portends where FB is really going in pushing one identity. And a uniform identity defies us.

Face it, authenticity goes way down when people know their 700 friends, grandma, and 5 ex-girlfriends are tuning in each time they post something on the web.”

Facebook, according to Steve Cheney.To which I can only reply…uh, say what?

You see, I’m one of those guys who has 700 friends and a grandma on Facebook (although no ex-girlfriends; my “cut all contact, delete from FB, hit the gym” policy precludes it), and I’ve never had any problem with authenticity at all. The reason for that is because I approach Facebook as a “huge broadcast platform” (your quote), and use the tools provided to filter my broadcasts accordingly. I lock down unfriended access entirely, and set ratings groups with various levels of access among my friends, so that my business associates see my professional work, and my friends see my posts on controversial political issues, personal musings, and mobile uploads of the ongoing pub crawl. Much like any broadcast platform, it’s important to know how to correctly use it to deliver content to the appropriate audience.

Now, I understand your point about not wanting to have to use Facebook to participate in online conversation in non-Facebook locations. I get it. Sometimes, you say things you don’t necessarily want connected to your actual online identity. The problem with that is, the web audience at large has become very tired of having 900 separate user accounts for every site they’d like to read, comment, and contribute to, and Facebook has met that need by providing a unifying authentication portal that provides a single sign-on, which roughly 99.9% of the web audience already has an account for. In fact, given that ‘Connect with Facebook’ is so much simpler than creating a new account every time, I’d argue that Facebook is increasing authentic online conversation in that it is encouraging people to participate in niche and topical environments that they might not have joined at all without that one click functionality. That simple fact makes your comment regarding motivation:

“The carrot here for content sites is clear: even with a lower volume of comments…”

…all the more puzzling; perhaps TechCrunch had a lower volume of comments last week, that seemed “sterile and neutered” to you, but thousands of smaller niche content sites have had a higher volume of comments since adopting Facebook Connected commenting, a trade off I find much to like about. (Oh, and I’ve often found TechCrunch comments to be ‘sterile and neutered’, but then again, I hang out on Reddit).

Should we be free to comment in places anonymously or under alt names? Sure! Can you still comment under alt names or anonymously via Facebook connect? Sure! Create a new Facebook account named ‘Jimmy-Jo Kerplunkett’, upload a random photo from Google Images, and voila! You now have accessibility to sites which require Facebook Connect. Too much work? Go participate in 4-Chan, or any one of millions of forums which allow anonymous or alt commenting. Create a cool username on Reddit and participate in one of the largest and most diverse forums on the interwebz. Hell, start a new blog called ‘I don’t want to tell you’s blog’, and create your own social portal centered around your content, albeit anonymously!

Centralized, third party commenting systems have been mainstream since 2008, and anyone who’s motivated can drop dox connecting everything you’ve ever posted or done online (much to the chagrin of those who have been the recipient of Anonymous ire). The assumption that using Facebook as a third party commenting system is going to cause people to self censor doesn’t even take into account the sometimes uncomfortably personal, obscene, or just plain dumb comments and posts that people make on Facebook now, without any privacy controls or content filters in place whatsoever.

The fact is, Facebook commenting offers an easy way for content sites to encourage participation with a familiar interface, without the need for an additional account, and with an added bonus of automatically filtering the vast majority of spam-bot activity. This isn’t currently, nor will it kill online conversational authenticity, and it strikes me as needless hand-wringing to suggest otherwise.

P.S. Hey Steve, you haven’t responded to my friend request yet.

Well, thanks for the constructive criticism, spam-bot.

I woke up to this in my comment queue:

Literary criticism from an automated script.

Well, I apologize “Joanne”. I do strive to provide entertaining and informative content while writing (%BLOGTITLE%), and it cuts me deeply that I have failed to live up to your hard coded expectations. In particular, this observation was dead on:

“(%COMMENTCONTENT%)”

I will attempt to rectify that shortcoming in my upcoming (%POSTTITLE%), so keep an eye out!

Trying to encapsulate your value proposition with a winning slogan? Stop it. Just stop it.

Good God, that slogan perfectly encapsulates the value proposition!I ran across this graphic on the endlessly hilarious “Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising“. It got me to thinking about how distracted small businesses can get when they’re putting together their marketing plan. Many make the mistake of attempting to use “corporate” marketing methods, which completely undermines the biggest strength small businesses have: The Personal Voice.

A while back, a professional mentor of mine told me something I’ll never forget while reviewing a business plan for me:

“No matter how good your business plan, no matter how good your product, the selling point of any small or start up business is you. They’re buying you.”

It really rung true to me, and I’ve seen it played out time and time again in my business. My best clients are the ones who know me, who trust me, and who approve of my design and development ethos. To get to that level with people outside of my immediate friends’ circle requires that my marketing be a reflection of my personality; that I use my true voice when describing what I believe, and what I do. What that explicitly does NOT include is attempting to create some “power copy” using techniques that companies spending millions on advertising use. In good organic marketing, no one cares about your call to action. They care about the quality of the conversation you’re having with them, whether it meets their needs, fits their budget, and whether they feel they can trust you personally to deliver what you’re promising. Trying to inject some hackneyed sales technique into your web presence is as awkward and jarring as if you’d attempted the same thing in a conversation down at your local watering hole. At best, it earns teasing; at worst, it leads to you being ignored.

If you’re a small business or start up, stop trying to pretend to be a mega-corporation by dressing up in ill-fitting suits of marketing jargon and “slick” ad copy. Tell the people who you are, what you do, and what you believe. No one likes to be sold to, but everyone likes being in a conversation. Use your true voice, and start one.

Go ahead. Be one of the cool people.

Topdraw: The Top 5 Biggest No-No’s in Web Design

Every one of these is something that I’ve been asked to do. Since I’ve said it a dozen times, I’ll let TopDraw say it again:

“The most important thing you can do is build your site for its users, making it easy for them to find what they’re looking for; be it contact information, company news, products to buy, or any other identified objective. So in the spirit of awareness, here are the 5 biggest no-no’s in current website design (in no particular order).”

Read the whole list.

Facebook Like Sharing: Not a grammatical error, but a new way to cross promote content.

Hypebot posted this update on the new Facebook like method, changed with little notice on Sunday:

“Before the change,  “likes” appeared in a stream or on a wall as an action grouped with other actions and containing no detail other than a small notice that the user had “liked” something. “Shares” were more prominently displayed and contained more detail. Now the entire post (or whatever is being “liked”) is shared on Facebook without warning.”

*jaw drops*

This, my dear website owner, is brilliant news for you, and here’s why:

It’s much, much easier for someone to simply click Like to share your content, then it is for them to go through the entire link posting process. Much easier. Did I mention it’s much easier?

Now, instead of hoping that you have written an inspiring, entertaining, interesting, or amusing enough piece to motivate someone to copy and paste your permalink somewhere, you only have to get them interested enough to think “Meh, like, whatever. *click*” Additionally, the critical beginning process of getting friends and family to participate in your link sharing becomes much simpler. No more hassling your Facebook friends list to repost your link…but could all of you kindly click the ‘Like’ button below?

What’s more, since we now know that the ‘Like’ button has such a direct effect, it gives us an additional target to consider in our design, taking greater care for placement and using additional methods to draw attention to it.*

This whole scenario is win-win for Facebook, who has long said that they want the internet to be relevant by friendship more than keyword. Giving webmasters such a direct way to spread their content encourages further adoption.

In the war for eyeballs, Google and Facebook have been battling fiercely for the shape of the internet’s future. Given the enhanced services Facebook keeps ruling out for webmasters, I wonder if we may one day see a ‘Like’ button on the Google home page?

*for instance, a snazzy banner like the one below:

Go ahead. Be one of the cool people.