No One Wants To Read Your Stupid Blog

September 5th, 2008 · No Comments

Good helpers are hard to find

Good helpers are hard to find

One mistake I have managed to make over and over again in planning my online projects is the assumption that all my friends are going to rush to support it. Typically when I’m imagining the testing process, I write down all my friend’s names and assume they will all be drooling with anticipation at the opportunity to help me out. With all these friends I’ll have a baseline of twenty users a day working my system over–we’ll get the kinks worked out in no time.

This of course is not the case.

You will be shocked and amazed at how little your friends will do to help you out. This is not because they are horrible people, it is simply because even though you really want your blog to succeed, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be enthralled with it. While it’s what you’re “into” at the moment, their priorities most likely lie elsewhere (we hope!).

You kind of assume everyone would be interested to read your blog, but in the end probably most of them won’t. Those who do will probably do a cursory glance, say “looks cool,” and move on. Even though it doesn’t seem like much to ask for them to invest a few minutes in supporting your endeavor, it’s just not going to be at the front of their mind.

If you are lucky enough to have the kind of friends that will check in on your blog periodically, or post on your forum, or even just give you feedback on your theme and usability, be sure to show your thanks and help them out in their endeavors.

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Revenue Sharing Solutions

September 4th, 2008 · No Comments

I believe the time is fast approaching in the Web 2.0 world where the next logical step is to compensate people who are generating content for you. The Wikipedias of the world have already cornered the market on convincing people to freely make money for them. The next obvious step in this process is revenue sharing solutions.

While people are going to continue to give away their work for free, they are going to give it to established sites. If you’re trying to develop a new product and expect people to work for you, you are going to want to give them something in return. While links are a common source of compensation, the logistics of giving these out has become problematic. If Google is going to punish me for linking to content, I don’t want to have to vet every outbound link I give.

Ultimately what people would most like and what we’d most like to give them is money. We don’t want to actually have to PAY them, though. Obviously we’re not the first people to think of this, and the solution has been instituted by several places: Revenue Sharing.

The beauty of this is there are a plethora of ways it can be implemented, and I don’t ever have to have a financial relationship with my content generator. If I’m monetizing through Adsense, I simply rotate our Adsense IDs. If I want to give them 60% of the revenue, I use their Adsense ID on 60% of the Pageviews and mine on the other 40%. There are just a few problems with this:

  • It seems like Google isn’t wild about the idea.

    Digital Point forums is one of the places that uses a variation of this methodology and they managed to get some feedback from Google on the subject. I read that to mean that while they don’t really “like” it, they don’t explicitly prohibit it. But they warn about my second misgiving…

  • I don’t want to be liable for other people’s link fraud.

    As Google points out in the link above, pretty much everyone involved is responsible for the actions on that page. So if I have a revenue-sharing page and the nimrod I’m working with decides to get all his friends to click on his Adsense links, I’m responsible, too.

  • We have to bring something to the table.

    Sites like Hubpages already have a strong Pagerank and other content to give incentive to people to put their content on their pages. I always think there’s value in aggregation, but we have to make an appealing value proposal. Additionally once you get people thinking in terms of what their content is really worth, they may have a tendency to overvalue it. While they might be fine with giving it away for free, if someone’s being explicit about paying them for it they may want a bigger cut.

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Work-At-Home Conspiracy Theory

September 3rd, 2008 · No Comments

Can you work from anywhere?

Can you work from anywhere?
When did working from home become a conspiracy?

The more I think about starting an internet business or sticking my neck out there as a freelance consultant, the more apparent it has become that working from home–or working for oneself–is perceived by many as a scheme. People are taken aback that an ethical person like myself would consider working from home, as though it’s common knowledge that virtual employees are doing as little work for the most pay as possible and clearly fleecing their employers. There’s a sense of “unfairness” about the opportunity to work remotely.

It’s unfortunate that some folks have taken advantage of the work-at-home opportunity, building actual schemes and heading up pyramid scams. But that stereotype needs to be disproven as working from home becomes more common, and, frankly, more pragmatic.

I’d like to share with you a couple of specific experiences I’ve had recently with this quandry. It at least puts a couple of theories out there that can then be useful in re-inventing how folks perceive the virtual office trend.

The Office Party Line

“Working from home is an exception to the rule,” says the CFO of the small, 30-employee, Manhattan-based company for which I currently work. “Employees should only work from home with the express permission of their supervisor, and if it’s absolutely necessary to do so.”

This, I do not understand. Most of these employees commute at least an hour every day from New Jersey, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Many of them actually work several days a week in the field, meaning they’re required to commute to the office, then to the field, back to the office, and, finally, home. The office pays for IT support to enable remote working arrangements, which everyone is required to use when in the field. This would, you’d think, be the ideal set-up for a remote workplan environment. But working from home is frowned upon and discouraged. When asked why, the answer is often a mumbled response about being “face-to-face” and “because this is the way we choose to work in this office.”

In only one senior management meeting has the opportunity to set up a virtual office been addressed. This discussion included the potential cost savings on expensive Manhattan office rent, office and equipment depreciation costs, savings on employee commute reimbursements, overall savings on amount of hours worked by employees fighting public transportation systems every day, etc.–the list of pros for the company is long and accurate. However, the suggestion was quickly tamped down, with the only apparent reason being that it’s simply “not how we do things.”

I wonder how many companies are striving to cover unnecessary costs because of an unfamiliarity with virtual offices and virtual employees. And I wonder if this inability to move from office-based to virtual workspaces is due to ignorance, fear, or real and accurate best practice theory.

The Generation Gap

I was recently discussing with my mother the pros and cons of quitting my job and doing full-time freelance work. This would allow me to travel whenever I wanted–as long as I had internet available–and pick and choose my own work hours. It would also allow me the time to meet and explore opportunities with other entrepreneurs and collaborators.

She was appalled in the way only a mother could be. She mentioned steady paychecks, a bad economy, and several other what-ifs–all of them valid. But what was truly disturbing was an undercurrent of anxiety about my not going into an office every day. She clearly had the sense that working from home–or from anywhere else–meant that I’d be “pulling the wool over the eyes” of whoever was paying me. As though it was clearly unfair that I didn’t have to work a 9-5 job and everyone else did.

I couldn’t help but see this as a generational issue. I’m used to the idea of virtual workspaces, virtual work opportunities, conference calls, internet desktops, etc. These are new and untested topics for much of the business community–especially those members who have had to get used to the information technology era gradually.

Is it possible to prove your worth–and your ethics–as a virtual employee? Will it always be a struggle to show value and fight your way back from being considered someone who takes advantage of the system? And who exactly is the author of the system–I’d be glad to go to his office to meet with him.

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