Category: blogging

Making Facebook Work for You

I write this daily blog, if you haven’t noticed. I like having a platform to express my opinions, and I really enjoy (for the most part) the interactions I have with people about those opinions. But all of that rests on one key component:

People have to be able to read my posts.

In an ideal world, everyone out there would use a feed reader to aggregate their favorite blogs (which would include mine, of course), thereby notifying them whenever a new blot post went up. (I personally use Feedly for this purpose. It’s not perfect, but it does the best job of what’s currently available. (A moment of silence, please, for Google Reader. We miss you.)) If you’re at all into following news from a certain number of sites, RSS feeds continue to be the best way to do that. You don’t need to remember all the different sites to go and visit them every day. You just go to one spot, and it automatically feeds every new update from the pages you follow.

“But wait!” you say. “I just get my news through Facebook or Twitter. There’s more then enough there to keep me entertained. Why should I use a different site?”

From a blog creator’s viewpoint, Facebook and Twitter are no longer really cutting the mustard. Twitter used to be better, but they’re now beginning to futz with the newsfeed some as well. Facebook has done this for years. It’s not invested in connecting you with the people you want to be connected to in the way you’d like to be connected. Rather, it’s invested in getting you to keep coming back to its site as often as possible, so that it can put ads in front of you.

And hey, more power to it, I guess, because it’s free. But what that means is that anything you post on Facebook gets promoted by Facebook how it wants. If some people start to interact with one of your posts? Great! Facebook starts to have it show up in more people’s feeds, and more people interact with it. A post can snowball that way, which is fantastic. On the other hand, if no one interacts with the post in a timely manner, the post can just disappear without a ripple. Because Facebook only wants to promote winning posts.

At the same time, it can’t very well promote all of your posts, because if it were to do that, then why in the world would advertisers pay good money to have their posts promoted?

I’ve seen some friends try a work around, and I’m going to give it a shot with this post. Basically, instead of sharing the content as a link directly, you write a status update and then share the link in the comments of the update. That way, Facebook’s computers think you’re just telling people about your day. Take *that*, silly algorithms!

Honestly, I have no idea if that approach even works. Hence the experiment. I do know it can be discouraging to work hard on a post, only to have no one see it or say anything about it at all. Could some of that have to do with the fact that it was a boring topic or a bad post? Sure. I don’t think I’m blameless in the equation, but at the same time, some of those topics . . . I’m very skeptical no one really wanted to read them.

Anyway. We’ll try this way of sharing and see what happens. How about the rest of you? Any great Facebook sharing tips you have squirreled away?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Facebook Alternative

Facebook is getting annoying. I know I’m not the only one to observe this, but perhaps my reasons for the observation are at least somewhat unique.

I know the common complaints: it’s a big time sink. It sucks you in, spewing out “interesting articles” that you don’t necessarily want to read, but find yourself reading anyway. It skews your viewpoint, presenting only things that tend to agree with what you think anyway. It gives you far too much information about people who you really don’t need that much information about, potentially destroying some relationships in the process.

The list goes on, but even stopping there, it’s easy to see why people are giving the service up. Why do I continue to use it? Because it also brings some strong advantages to the table: it lets me connect with friends across the country that I wouldn’t see or interact with otherwise. It exposes me to new ideas, because I’ve curated my friends list in a way to make it as useful to me as possible. I share my blog with people who wouldn’t be able to read it otherwise.

In the end, the pros outweigh the cons, and yet I still find myself wishing things were different. My biggest complaint at the moment is that Facebook is really only in this game for Facebook.

I have long noted how frustrating Facebook is for a distribution method for my blog. Some people (a very few) subscribe directly, but the vast majority of people rely on Facebook delivering my blog to them each day if they’re going to read it. (Which, I admit, perhaps says more about how they value my blog than about the delivery mechanism, but work with me.) So a blog post can sink or soar based solely on whether or not a few people “like” it early after its posting. If the algorithms decide people want to read it, it gets shared. It snowballs. It reaches hundreds more people than it would have otherwise.

If it doesn’t? It sinks into oblivion.

In my ideal world, Facebook would allow me to set up what I want to see on my wall. Who I want to see. How much of their stuff I want to see. And if you do a lot of work with the site, you can achieve some of this. But even then it’s a crap shoot. I have family members who actively want to read what I’m writing, who’ve tried to “like” my posts often, and yet Facebook refuses to show my posts in their feed, likely because we’re separated by distance or ideology or some other quirk of the algorithm. Facebook ought to let people correct this.

But it doesn’t. I don’t pay it money to advertise, and so it shoves other things into people’s feeds instead.

I’m not wishing they’d completely abandon their business model. (Though I wouldn’t mind them stop using it for snooping and nefarious purposes.) I just wish they’d give users a bit more control. A way to easily curate what they DO want to see, not just what they DON’T.

But maybe I’m dreaming.

In the meantime, if you actually want to see what I’m saying each day, don’t use Facebook. Try subscribing directly. It gets emailed to you, and then you can delete what you don’t want to see. (Which maybe is more than I’d wish, but oh well.)

You can also use a Feed aggregator to stay on top of blogs. My personal favorite is Feedly, and I still go there every day to see what’s going on with the blogs I care about. Cut Facebook out of the loop entirely. Just sayin’ . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.



2018’s Most Popular Posts

Greetings from the flip side of the winter break! I’m back (more or less: I’m home sick with a stomach bug I caught just in time to ruin my New Years Eve party plans.) And I figured I’d start things off with a look back at what really went over well from last year. First, I’ll do a top 10 for posts that were published this year, and then I’ll follow that up with my current top 10 overall posts of all time. Ready?

TOP TEN POSTS FROM 2018

Ten: Is God’s Love Conditional? This response piece I wrote in reaction to a lesson I heard in church got a heartening number of views and likes on Facebook.

Nine: Credit Card Hacking Update. I’m still at the credit card game, incidentally. (Though I took time off over the holidays, because life was too hectic. I’ve racked up . . . around 200,000 Marriott points and around 300,000 Unlimited Rewards points, just by spending money I was going to spend anyway. I’m not in any more debt than I would be, and I’m eyeing a Caribbean vacation for free at some point this year . . .

Eight: Eighth Grade “Graduation”. A rare occasion where I griped publicly about some school traditions. Turned out my feelings were shared by many, though I don’t think anything will come of it.

Seven: On My Mission President. My mission president was given weeks to live about a year ago. I wrote a piece about my feelings for him and what an impact he had on my life. I’m ecstatic to say he’s still alive and relatively well, judging by the updates I get through Facebook. A definite bright spot for me in 2018.

Six: Crunching the School Budget Numbers (Again). Ah, the school budget debate. This was back in April. Thank goodness we emerged from that mess (for now, at least).

Five: On the Kavanaugh Hearings. I was actually quite surprised that more of my pieces of current events didn’t break the top ten.

Four: Sexual Abuse in Church. Sadly, my religion is not immune to scandals, just as with any other. Churches, being made up of imperfect people, will inevitably show those imperfections. Sometimes much worse than others. Thankfully, some steps have been taken to make this less likely, but I do believe more can and will be done.

Three: When Your Friends are Accused of Sexual Harassment. Back in February, a number of my author friends were accused of sexual harassment. Some fairly, and some (it turned out) falsely.

Two: Performance Based Education Continues. I’m still far from ecstatic about the PBE approach to grading, though Tomas has thankfully managed the transition very well. Life is a game, and you learn the rules to do as well at the game as you can. That doesn’t mean the rules are perfect all the time, however. I personally believe PBE will be changed again in the future. Not sure how long it will take, though.

One: Thoughts on Magic the Gathering: Arena. Who woulda thunk it? My piece on Arena ended up being my most popular new post this year. I still love the game and play it daily. It’s in open beta now, and if you’re at all interested in Magic or board gaming, you should give it a shot. (Though it still only runs on PC. I’m hoping this year brings it to iPad . . .)

TOP TEN POSTS IN 2018

As opposed to the earlier list, these are the top 10 posts that were read this year, regardless of when they were written. Some fairly big surprises for me this time when I went through these.

Ten: Fishing for White Perch: I Love Maine Reason #3,204. This post was written all the way back in 2011, and it shows. It’s much more sparse than how I write today. And yet somehow it found a following online. I assume Google’s algorithms had to do with that somehow.

Nine: Performance Based Education Continues. (This gives you a sense of where the new posts fit in with the old posts.)

Eight: Going Clear: Scientology vs. Mormonism. A post from 2015 that is a perennial favorite, likely due to the sensitive nature of it. (Helped by the fact that it’s been shared a couple of times on Anti-Mormon group pages. They like to drop in now and then and take a couple of pot shots at me before they scurry off again.)

Seven: Dear Guillermo Del Toro: Please Don’t Use Racial Slurs Throughout Your Films. This one comes from 2013. Del Toro has since explained he had no idea “Gypsy” was a slur. Of course, that didn’t stop the new film makers from naming a new Jaeger “Gipsy Avenger,” but Del Toro wasn’t involved in the sequel . . .

Six: Thoughts on Magic the Gathering: Arena. (My thoughts on why my number one new post couldn’t even crack the top five most read posts of the year? Algorithms. Once Google finds something and starts directing people to it, it has a much wider audience. New posts rely on people seeing me share it through social media. It’s sink or swim. But some old posts can find their niche and thrive.)

Five: Obscure Netflix Movie Review: The Dam Busters. Written in 2012, I have absolutely no idea how this post is doing so well. Netflix doesn’t even have the film on its service anymore. That’s a shame, because it’s a really good one . . .

Four: Honda Fit vs. Toyota Prius: Fight! Back in 2017, my post comparing the two cars is still popular, likely because other people are wondering the same thing. For the record, I’m still very happy with the Prius, and I think I made the right decision for me. (Though I still see why people love their Fits.)

Three: BYU Scavenger Hunt. This one was technically made by my awesome niece, Alexa, in 2017. I got her permission to post it online, and it’s been crazy popular ever since. (Likely because BYU students are often looking for goofy Family Home Evening activities, would be my guess . . .)

Two: A Mormon Explanation of the “I Believe” Book of Mormon Musical Number from the Tonys. From 2011, this post still gets a ton of traffic, for obvious reasons. Still glad I wrote it.

One: Getting Into BYU. I wrote this one back in 2014. I really don’t know how much of it still applies, but Google thinks it’s great, and it keeps sending people to check it out. It got almost twice as many views as the I Believe post. That’s how popular it is. Not even close. (And likely a sign of just how desperate so many people are for their kids to get into BYU . . .)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When Clicks Begin to Sway Your Content

Having blogged pretty much every weekday for going on 11 years now, I still haven’t figured out what causes a post to be popular and what causes one to just not get read. Some of this is, no doubt, due to the way I publicize my blog. It goes up on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and that’s about the extent of it. Every now and then I’ll share something on an appropriate sub-Reddit, but for the most part, I just write the entries and let them loose into the wild.

Some of them soar, some of them fall flat on their face. And I can never quite guess which will do what.

Because I want all my writing to succeed, it can be tempting at times to resort to tricks to try and increase those clicks. To write misleading or inflammatory titles. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll use a great title when one comes to me (“Heaven is a BYU Game” was a perfect fit for the article itself), but I won’t push the boundaries too much. “Donald Trump is a Terrorist” would, no doubt, have gotten me way more views than “Stochastic Terrorism,” but at the same time, I felt like that was crossing an important line for me.

My blog isn’t here to make me oodles of money. (Though it does bring in a bit, thanks to my lovely, wonderful, fantastic Patrons. I’ve had a couple leave lately–maybe you’d like to join the ranks and get me back above that $10/month mark? I’m just one $1/month donation away, really.) It’s mainly here for me to have a platform to write about things I care about. To think different issues through, and then share those thoughts with anyone who wants to read them.

I personally feel that one of the reasons our political climate has deteriorated is due to the continued quest of news sites to get clicks, not just present content. I understand why this happens. All it takes is for one site to start resorting to tricks, and it snowballs into a sort of article weapons race, with all the sites doing it to try to woo readers.

After writing posts and watching my statistics, I know full well that an inflammatory title will tickle Facebook’s algorithms far better than a tame one. And it makes sense, since Facebook is driven, ultimately, by clicks. I’d much prefer people to subscribe to my blog and get via email or a feed reader (like Feedly). Because I spend time on each post, and I’d like to think each one’s worth reading, and not just the one that Facebook happened to think would be better for its site that day.

But in the end, I just write the posts and sit back to see what happens.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

An Update on the Future of the Blog

I just have a minute or two today to write, but I wanted to let you all know how the blog is looking these days. As you’ll recall, I began to question whether what I was writing each day was a good use of my time. To put that to the test, I created a Patreon page, trying to see if I could get 10 people to commit to donating $1/month. If I could get to that level, I’d take it as sign enough that I should keep at it.

So far, I’ve had 6 people pledge a total of $8/month, so I’m 4/5 of the way to my goal. Honestly, the most surprising thing to me has been the people who have donated. I thought it would be mostly personal friends or family members, but instead it’s been people at my work or in the community. I’m humbled to accept their support, and so grateful for their generosity.

I look at some of my author friends’ Patreons. Some are bringing in thousands of dollars each month. I know $10 isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a sign to me, and it means a whole lot.

I’m planning on making my Patreon page into something more. I hope to use it to post special, exclusive content, as well as peeks into works in progress and books that ended up being set aside. I’ve written 17 novels, after all, and only 8 of those are still at some point in the submission process. I’ve got plenty of material to share, some good, some just a good example of what not to do. I’m planning on making tiers to my Patreon, giving different content to different levels of supporters.

But I’ll say this. Anyone who’s an official supporter as of the end of March is going into a special “Founders” section. They’ll always have access to all the tiers at whatever rate they choose to pay. As long as they remain Patrons, they’re there. And I will thank them personally in each and every novel I publish, as long as they remain supporters. I’m not kidding when I say how impressed I am by their generosity, and I hope that will pay it back at least a little. If you’re still interested in supporting me, the page is ready and willing to take donations.

In the meantime, I’m also adding back a small bit of advertising to the site. Just a simple link to THE MEMORY THIEF on Amazon. You’ll see it over there on the right of the page now. That takes you to Amazon’s site, and while you’re there on that visit, anything you buy will send a portion (about 2-4% of the price) to me. It’s kind of a “Finder’s Fee” incentive program Amazon uses. So if you’re going to buy something on Amazon anyway, and you’d like to support the page and me as an author, you can click that link first and do it without paying a dime.

The one trick is that I need to have three people use that in the next three months. After that, I’ll have to reapply for it. If three people use it before then, then I’m good to go, I think. So if you’re buying something from Amazon, please consider using that link to get there.

In any case, thanks to all for reading and for your comments and support. They’re all much appreciated!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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