Social Media

Artistic Freedom vs. Crowdsourcing, Censorship, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

2 March 2015

From author Anne R. Allen:

Ruth and I often get requests to censor our posts when a word or link or piece of news has offended somebody. We usually comply. We don’t want a minor distraction to interfere with our purpose—which is to share information about the writing business in a straightforward, lighthearted, encouraging way.

But the complaints are getting more frequent, and we’re beginning to feel a little battered.

I’m not talking about our helpful readers who point out typos, errors and broken links—we’re sincerely grateful for that kind of help, and we never pretend to be infallible. Keep it up. We really appreciate our watchdogs!

But I’m kind of scared by the number of permanently “offended” groups who think their needs trump all others. They seem to believe that one offended person—whether or not an offense has actually been committed—is more important than our creative freedom, or indeed, the creative freedom of the entire artistic community.

I fear we’re moving to a sort of neo-Darwinism: survival of the whiniest.

. . . .

Our complainers come from all points of the sociopolitical spectrum, and they contact us by email, Tweet, DM, G+, FB, etc. but they all have one thing in common: they advocate censorship.

. . . .

  •  Some people think we shouldn’t be allowed to give advice to those who want to publish traditionally.
  • Others think we shouldn’t write about self-publishing.
  • Some argue we shouldn’t talk about publishing at all, since not all writers care to be published.

. . . .

  • We’ve also been asked to change the wording of posts or eliminate paragraphs because of some personal meaning or power the complainers have assigned to those words.
  • I’ve been called “ageist” for saying we Boomers have more trouble dealing with technology than Millennials who were born into it. (This is where actual Boomers are totally ROTFL.)
  • I got complaints when I compared gangs of online bullies to the Taliban—from people who believe that criticizing the Taliban is an insult to Muslims.

. . . .

It struck me recently that a lot of these complaints are examples of something called The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Dunning and Kruger are scientists at Cornell University who proved that people who are the most confident and vocal are generally the most ignorant and incompetent.

In other words, the loudest complaints usually come from the least-informed people.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being uninformed. We were all born uninformed. But some of us are more open to absorbing information as we move along in life.

Yes, of course we need guardians and watchdogs and whistleblowers. The Internet can feel like the wild west and people who work to keep the general discourse respectful are doing everybody a favor. But there are others who go way beyond this. They want everything censored to reflect their own world view…even if that view is not based on facts or infringes on the personal freedom of others.

. . . .

There are also communities created for the purpose of giving feedback. These communities, like Wattpad, Readwave, Readership and many others, allow writers to post work as they write it and get immediate feedback.

These communities seem good for newer writers who don’t have an in-person critique group, and I’ve recommended them.

But veteran publishing industry journalist Porter Anderson wrote a warning about these writing communities recently at Thought Catalog, and his piece struck a chord with me.

He asks “if it takes a village to write your book, is it your book?”

Some people take to these sites and enjoy using them for critique, and that’s great. For writers who are able to cherry-pick useful comments, and don’t feel forced to make changes by the crowd (or the most vocal members of the crowd), it’s an inexpensive way to learn to write, and I still endorse them.

But I fear all this has created a sense of entitlement in the general public, who now think they have the right to change and mold the work of professional artists to their own tastes and world view.

And of course the Dunning-Kruger Effect people are the most likely to feel that entitlement.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog and thanks to Suzie for the tip.

To Go Direct, Publishers Must Mean Business

19 February 2015

From Digital Book World:

The arithmetic of publishing is fairly straightforward: Sell plenty of books at as high a margin as you can manage, and don’t spend all that margin on overheads.

To make that sum work, there are a number of levers a business can pull in order to improve its fortunes. You can increase the retail price to the point at which demand drops off. You can pay less for your stock by negotiating with suppliers. You can pay your authors less. You can provide a lower discount to your customers.

But back in the real world, Amazon isn’t going to bat an eyelid if you attempt to negotiate their discount down. Readers aren’t going to pay $30 for a debut novel in paperback. Printers aren’t going to charge less than their paper costs. Authors are going to revolt if you cut their royalties. While in theory you can tinker with the parameters of your business, more often than not, you’ll find yourself constrained by the habits of the industry.

So what can publishers do to make a difference to their titles’ performance? If the norms of the contemporary publishing model constrain you, then don’t work within the constraints. Approach things from a different angle.

One area where publishers blindly follow the blind is in their websites. Biztegra’s Murray Izenwasser has written recently about how crucial it is for publishers to develop a web presence for fostering strong relationships with readers. He’s absolutely right. But while that customer connection is indeed essential, it’s still a means to the ultimate goal of direct-to-consumer retail—which is retail.

It seems that as an industry we’ve given up on trying to make money through our own websites. ‘Everyone just goes to Amazon, right?’ Well, Amazon doesn’t just sell books. They sell watches, clothes, garden tools, luggage, movies and bikes. Other industries have had to face down Amazon, not just book publishers—and they’re succeeding, building online stores that do a decent job of both cultivating a brand identity and making money.

. . . .

You are being defeatist if you think your website is just about building your brand—even though it’s certainly about that, too. It’s also your most effective, most controllable, least costly means of selling books at a dramatically higher margin than you can ever hope to achieve through online resellers and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

You are being inefficient if you commission a custom-built site for thousands of dollars, with exactly the same functionality as every other publisher who also felt they needed a hand-crafted solution.

You are wasting money if you hand over 20% of every sale to a third-party plugin because you think delivering digital content is just too difficult in the year 2015.

You are deluding yourself if you blame the merciless merchant class and their exorbitant discounts and returns for stopping you from making any money.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

One item that PG didn’t see mentioned in the article was the necessity of completely changing corporate culture and management if a publisher wants to successfully sell direct.

And spending millions and millions of dollars that will take several years to generate any meaningful returns. Without any guarantee such returns would ever happen.

Tablet Magazine puts a price on comments to eliminate online trolls

19 February 2015

From CBC Radio:

Spend any time lurking in the comment boards of an online news site, and it won’t take long to witness an intelligent and courteous exchange of ideas spiral quickly downward to the lowest common denominator.

In the free-for-all world of online commenting, juvenile ad hominem attacks are to be expected… and truly offensive, racist and sexist language is all too common.

But what if the free-for-all world of online commenting, were no longer free for all.

It’s an idea that the online magazine Tablet is rolling out — putting up a paywall, not around the articles, but around the comments underneath them.

Starting last week, anyone who wants to comment on an article at the magazine about Jewish life and ideas, will have to ante up two dollars for a daily pass. It’s $18 dollars for a month’s worth of commenting privileges, or $180 dollars annually.

Link to the rest at CBC and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

The Two Sides of SEO for Book Publishers

18 February 2015

From Digital Book World:

Here’s a scenario: A reader hears about a book you publish from someone they trust. They decide they want to buy it and read it. So how do they find it? It’s possible they go directly to their favorite bookseller (let’s assume this is all happening online), find it there and buy it. Awesome, you just sold a book.

However, many other readers will go to their favorite search engine and search for the title, the author’s name or both. The question I have for you is this: Where does your book page show up in the search results when that happens?

. . . .

If links to your pages aren’t in the first couple of positions on the first page of the search results, the chances of someone clicking on them are pretty slim. And if you’re not on the first page, you have basically zero chance of getting the click.

. . . .

I’ve heard publishers say it’s impossible to compete with the bigger sites whose pages come up at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) in book searches—like those belonging to Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. I’ve heard that they are just too big and popular. I’ve heard that their search engine optimization (SEO) is just too good, if not perfect. And I’ve heard these things lots of times.

But none of that is true. You can compete with the bigger sites. They are not too big or too popular. And contrary to perhaps the biggest misconception of all, their SEO is far from perfect.

. . . .

SEO has two sides to it: what I call the ‘mechanicals’—on-site elements that search engines look for—and the ‘content envelope’—all the available off-site content about your site and your products, like book reviews, blog posts, videos, social media posts and all the other content that envelopes your site.

You don’t have full control of the content envelope. If you had a really outstanding content generation and social media program you might gain a little more. But you really can’t control everything that happens outside of your site.

On the other hand, you have complete control over your site—after all, it’s yours.

That means you can shape the mechanicals entirely as you wish. Search engines are fairly explicit about what they are looking for when they crawl and index your site. Of course, they don’t tell us everything, but we know enough to be able to ensure your site itself is highly optimized. And just by focusing a little effort on the mechanicals you can start showing up at the top of the search results. Above Amazon, above Goodreads and above Barnes & Noble.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG is always interested to read SEO articles directed at publishers. Like this one, they are kindergarten level discussions — for 2002.

PG would love to see some quality studies of the online habits of those who purchase books regularly. He would bet that Amazon, not Google, is the most popular search engine for books.

Google is king of almost everything in the search world, but if someone is purchasing books on a regular basis, it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t prefer Amazon where you can find the book and buy the book at a low price instantly.

If publishers are not going to spend significant money to build a really good ecommerce experience with good prices — a mini-Amazon that directly competes with Amazon and all the other online and offline booksellers — PG wonders why they care about search traffic when readers search for the title of a book.

If publishers are doing SEO to send search traffic to their retailers, that’s fine, but they’re going to run into complaints from retailers who aren’t included in the SEO program. Plus, it’s hard enough to do successful SEO when you directly control all the online content. Putting together an SEO program that involves multiple third-party retailers and actually competes with Amazon is a really, really difficult challenge.

Finally, if you want to beat Amazon in the Google search rankings, you have to spend serious cash to hire real SEO executive talent and pay substantial amounts of money to one or more outside SEO service providers. And even then, you might not be able to do it.

UPDATE: PG just took a tour of the websites of the major New York publishers. They’re about two trillion miles away from platforms that would support successful SEO.

Facebook ‘Legacy Contact’ Will Manage Your Account When You Die

13 February 2015

From PC Magazine:

It’s hard to imagine the world still turning after you pass away. But the sun will continue to rise and set, the oceans will continue to ebb and flow, and Facebook will still be home to cat videos and politically fueled arguments.

But what about your social media profiles? Unless you’ve shared your passwords, your family or significant other will likely be locked out of your accounts.

Facebook has been grappling with this issue for a number of years; in 2009, it allowed people to turn the profiles of deceased users into memorial pages. But Facebook is now adding a new option that users can select prior to their death: a legacy contact.

Pick your “legacy contact” wisely: Be it a family member or friend, they’ll be able to post announcements and messages on your memorialized timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update your profile picture and cover photo.

. . . .

Facebook also redesigned memorial profiles by adding the word “Remembering” above the deceased’s name and will allow a legacy contact to pin a post to the top of their timeline.

Other settings, however, will remain as you left them. The legacy contact, according to Facebook, will not be able to log in as the deceased, or see their private messages.

On the other hand, if you’d rather your social media life die along with you, just put in a request for your Facebook account to be permanently deleted after death.

. . . .

Visit the Facebook settings page to choose a legacy contact. Tap Security, then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page.

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

Facebook Can Cause Depression

4 February 2015

From TechCrunch:

Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have found that being envious of your Facebook friends can lead to depression, a finding that should give some of us pause. Based on a survey of 700 students, the study found that users who engage in “surveillance use” – “brows[ing] the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives” – versus simply using the site to contact friends and family can experience symptoms of depression.

“We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression,” said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the MU School of Journalism. “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

If Don Draper Tweeted

25 January 2015

From The Muse:

You’ve heard it said that storytelling is an essential element to drawing the reader into your content and driving more engagement.

So how can you add this element to the blogposts you write?

Can you fit a captivating story into a social media update, even one that’s 140 characters long?

Here’s the great news: There’s a formula for that.

. . . .

Why might you trot out a copywriting formula each time you need compelling copy?

I think one of my favorite perspectives on it, from someone who knows copywriting better than anyone, comes from Copyblogger’s Demian Farnworth. His take: Copywriting is the most productive way to get your writing done.

This is what it means to be an efficient writer: keeping your tools handy. You don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.

Finding a great formula that works for you—whether it’s a storytelling formula, a headline formula, or any other—can be a big-time productivity boost.

. . . .

1. Before – After – Bridge

Before – Here’s your world …

After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved …

Bridge – Here’s how to get there.

This is our current go-to formula for the Buffer blog. Describe a problem, describe a world where that problem doesn’t exist, then explain how to get there. It’s a super simple setup, and it can work for blogpost intros, social media updates, email, and anywhere else that you write (or speak, for that matter).


. . . .

2. Problem – Agitate – Solve

Identify a problem

Agitate the problem

Solve the problem

You’re looking at one of the most popular copywriting formulas out there. Copyblogger calls this formula the key to dominating social media. It’s ever-present in copywriting lists and tips.

Compared to the first copywriting formula in our list, it’s nearly an identical match with only one difference: Instead of describing a life without the problem (the “After” part), PAS describes life if the problem were to persist (the “Agitate” part).


Link to the rest at The Muse

Facebook Offers Authors A Call To Action Button

24 January 2015

From author Donna Fasano:

Lately, Facebook hasn’t done much to enamor me as a user. However, they are offering authors a new feature on author fan pages that I think is fabulous and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. It’s a Call To Action (CTA) button. It’s easy to set up, easy for visitors to use, and a great thing about the button is that Facebook tracks how many CTA clicks your button receives.

. . . .

To find out how many CTA clicks your button has received, simply look on the right hand side of your author page (marked on the image below with red arrow #2).

As annoyed as I have been with Facebook recently, I have to give the company a standing ovation for this new feature.

Link to the rest at Author Donna Fasano, In All Directions

Here’s a link to Donna Fasano’s books

‘Twitter Rage’ Study Correlates Social Stress With Fatal Heart Disease

23 January 2015

From the Huffington Post UK:

Twitter rage could be bad for your health.

Researchers say there is a correlation between people who are often angry on the social media site and incidence of heart disease in the United States.

The study analysed language from public Tweets sent between 2009 and 2010, and compared it to existing public data on where heart disease is most prevalent across the country.

It found that communities who frequently used ‘negative’ language had a greater rate of death from heart disease – indicating wider problems with stress in those areas, which could contribute to cardiological problems.

The opposite correlation was found in communities which used positive words like ‘wonderful’ more frequently.

. . . .

The Twitter rage study looked at Tweets sent from 1,300 US counties, and compared an automatic ‘sentiment’ analysis with heart disease data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

. . . .

“These people are the canaries of the psychological profile of their communities,” Johannes Eichstaedt, the study’s lead order, told WaPo.

Link to the rest at the Huffington Post UK and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Comment Moderation Problems

19 January 2015

A few visitors to TPV are having their comments held for moderation because of some sort of bug in WordPress.

To help avoid spam comments, the blog is set to hold the first comment by a new commenter for moderation so PG can see if the commenter is trying to sell male (or female) enhancement products. Once the first comment is approved, all subsequent comments are supposed to appear without being held for moderation.

The only exception should be if a comment contains three or more links – multiple links are a common indicator of spam.

A few visitors, including some long-term visitors, are having all their comments held for moderation. Understandably, this is very irritating for them.

PG made some settings changes earlier today and will probably be experimenting with some WordPress plugins to find a solution to the comment moderation problem. This may change the appearance of the comments section.

One thing PG has learned from his research is that if you post a comment directly from Facebook (instead of from TPV), the WordPress moderation system may not recognize you as an already-approved commenter.

If anyone has had a comment approved, but additional comments are still being moderated, let PG know through the Contact page.

PG apologizes for the frustration.

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