Category Archives: Blogging

Let’s Take A Closer Look At Content Farms

     I wanted to a take a look at the practice, that is largely practiced by online giants such as AOL, and Yahoo.  Content farms are a way for larger corporations to increase traffic to their sites.  An otherwise “bland” practice, this content farming is aimed to generate more and more content of searcheable topics.  Basically, large online conglomerates use this practice to farm-raise content to be entered into the online community in the hopes that certains topic keywords, ideas and content reach an audience that is searching for it.  In the world of content farming, quantity plays the most important, yet detrimental role, over quality. 

     I recently read a blog post by someone who was employed by AOL to participate in content farming for them.  His article and about his employment with AOL, showed the darker side of content farming.  Something that stuck out in my mind the most was about his disgust with the content farming practice in the AOL company, was that he admitted that he was not encouraged to have ethics.  He was told to write many articles a day, sometimes one every twenty minutes about tv shows that he had never seen.   Innaccuracies were present and his “bosses” (the management at AOL) did not care about it.  They wanted bulk cashews, in a 60 million gallon container to grab the attention of anyone in the world that might want cashews.

       Let’s take a look at what this ultimately breaks down to.  Now, we can definitely argue that AOL has been struggling to find its foothold in the online industry ever since giants such as Google, Yahoo and even hotmail have emerged.  We can see their stock falling rapidly, and their undeniable ability to create a “product” or experience of less and less value.  Content farming, and the ideas behind this fast-paced, no-spot-checked material has played an important role in the fall of the AOL empire. 

    Why is this?  Well, like other sites that practice this form of content farming, they lack anything of real substance.  Their business model is aimed to increase traffic to their sites for the sole purpose of selling ad space.  The more clicks, the more valuable their space on their page is to an advertiser.  Sounds like any other publication really.  But here’s the problem.  We are starting to see an undeniable shift in the loss of journalism through this content farming practice. 

     We aren’t reading “news” anymore on sites like AOL.  We are reading what they decide is news and how they decide is by creating more and more content of no real relevancy.  We are seeing a shift from traditional journalism to a gossip-centered, watered down version of the truth.  If sites like AOL are not concerned with accuracy, then where does that leave their audience?  It creates a breeding ground of content that is not aimed to inform their public of anything of value, but simply aimed at directly the audiences eyes to their page.  AOL doesn’t care what you want out of the experience.  And for those that still frequent these types of sites, you aren’t getting much out of it either.

    It is fallacy and it is making the general public confused about what is considered worth their time to read.  It is gathering so much content that they surely will satisfy the algorythym of the search engines.  It is math.  It is simply creating enough content so as to always pop up when something is searched.  It is not out for your best interest, it is there for temptation.  We need to be more conscience of this practice and know that it is exists.  But we must keep this type of content in its place.  We must not let it aim to “inform” us from anything, rather it must be understood the content is simply there to be there for us should we want to search for it.  We can’t trust it.  I think we need to redefine this practice and there are some sites that seemingly have the idea behind being “available” right.

    Conjecture is a site that has aspects of content farming but they bring to the surface a more benefical aspect of this practice.  If the idea is to expose the general public to ideas that they would not otherwise be exposed to, this can work to the reader’s benefit. It almost works like a Pandora algorythym.  You search something, you like it, you  see other content pop up that is relatable to what you like, yet you are also exposed to similar concepts that you didn’t know about previously.  This can be beneficial.  This is the value in the internet.  For the first time in human history, we have a common meeting ground for more information that we have ever had before.  But making sure we consider that not all information is true, accurate or objective is the key.   We can benefit from the internet most when we realize this. 

  In this article, we see again the idea of compromising journalism for content.   The internet is failing to distinguish between blogging, or user content creation, with true journalism.  Journalism, although not subject to restrictions on who can become a journalist, still owes its audience a certain level of objectivity and ethics.  If we are not being informed of what content has been run through a journalistic process, we can’t possibly distinguish that what we are reading is objective, accurate, non-opinion based or true.  This is a problem. 

   I think of this as a newspaper just throwing a bunch of articles from all different sources, whether fact or fiction onto the front page of their paper.  The reader has no idea what is real, or what is just someone’s opinion.  This happens with the assistance of content farms generating so much content, that is rarely checked for accuracy, and the result is a mish mosh of generalized estimations of the truth. 

   While true journalism faces strict deadlines, bloggers and content farming increases deadlines without caring about the accuracy.  The faster you go, the more mistakes you make. 

   We need to figure out the proper way to determine that what we are reading is coming from a reputable source, or not.  I am not saying that reading bloggers posts, or opinion-based material is wrong, but it is not journalism.  It has no characteristics of journalism and it most likely is not adopting journalisms’ core ideology:  To inform and educate the public through an accurate, objective process. 

    

 

     

Advertisements

Commenting on blogs

The first article I chose to critique was Brent’s Building A Better Blog for 2007: Respond to Comments.  He took a look at the value of responding to comments on your blog and considered the negative and positive effects of doing so.  I wanted to expand on some of his ideas towards commenting back, or replying with an email to other bloggers that comment on your blog.  Since we are seeing the value in blogging, and primarily see it as a source of user content generation that would otherwise be inaccessible we have to value the format of blogging in general.  I think Brent was talking about this concept.

If the idea behind the internet is to generate ideas, then we, as bloggers, would be doing ourselves an injustice by not considering how our content comes across.  Now, of course, it is easy to see a positive comment complimenting your work as a source of reassurance that what you are posting is in direct correlation with how others feel; however, we must also consider negative comments.  We are creating a community online, a community of ideas, of thoughts of opinions and unique to the internet, is the ability to create social networks through associated content.  We have the amazing ability to create a sense of community.  Now, if you compare this idea to a physical community in your home town, or at your local PTA meeting, then it works the same way.  We try out ideas, good or bad, and consider their consequences accordingly.  Dissent, or disagreement is a core foundation of community, because it allows the freedom for the community to adapt its ideas.  It is a constant reminder that although we don’t always agree, we can still shape and nurture our concepts to create a more consistent and well-rounded community.    Blogging allows us to track this.  It allows us to be able to keep records of the type of concepts, content, or ideologies that do well, those that do not, and those that strike people the wrong way.  But without considering those negative effects of our content we could not possibly begin to believe that our material is as good as it could be.

Ideas flow, they generate and develop and commenting allows us to see it, and interact with the development of them.

Brent also goes on to suggest that we may not know who we are commenting to, and we need to consider that when we are commenting back.  The internet, obviously a revolutionary networking tool, is best utilized when we understand the importance of value of respectable anonymity.  People can say what they want to say without identifying themselves for the most part.  This can be bad and good.  We see the negative effect of this concept with the blogging “trolling industry”.      I also recently wrote an article on Violentacrez and his Reddit content.  You can find it HERE.

We need to understand the importance of identifying a troll who simply wants to create havoc and reducing the value of the content of our personal or professional blogs; however, we can’t afford to skip over or block user content that simply disagrees with us.  There is great value in that content.

I almost think of it like a comment, or suggestion box at a TGI Fridays.  Every month the management will review the suggestions of every patron that has something to say about the restaurant, whether good or bad.  Without the good comment, the management would not know they were doing things well, and without the bad comments they wouldn’t know what they were doing wrong.  So, we find ourselves aiming for a balance of the two.  Human nature is get better, to improve.  Improvement is dependent equally on knowing what you’ve done right and realizing what you’ve done wrong.  This is the value in responding to comments.

Let’s take a look at the concept of growing your audience.  Brent writes about the value in going to the blogger’s sites who have commented and leaving your comment on their site, as well as emailing them.  While I think emailing truly personalizes the attempt, I do not feel that it is always necessary. Often, you might come across desperate with an email and a comment on their blog. While I do agree with Brent that it is important for your blog’s traffic to not simply post the comment back on your blog, I don’t necessarily feel that we can say that there is standard of emailing commenters back every time.

We want to increase blog traffic, but we also need confidence in knowing that the reason our blogs are being visited is because of the content.  When we find ourselves over “reaching” out, we find ourselves degrading our ideas that we have posted.  Afterall, they are our ideas, and although other’s comments can help shape our ideas, our idea originated the conversation in the first place, whether good or bad. We must know this.

The second article on this topic I will critique is by Seth Simmons, with his blog posting entitled: 31 Proven Ways to Get More Comments On Your Blog. This is an all out “steroid-fueled” step by step process in getting more comments on your blog.  I like his concept of not being afraid to have an opinion on your blog, or on someone else’s for that matter.  As I mentioned before,  it is of vital importance that we understand our own value in our content.  If you have something to say, even if it is not the status quo’s belief, then you must not be afraid to say it.  That’s the beauty of blogging.  We don’t all agree and we can’t possibly begin to believe that we should.  The internet verifies the world’s diversity so by holding on to our beliefs in the blogging world, simply to avoid confrontation, we do the internet and the world an injustice.

He also talks about congratulating someone or sending positive feedback towards someone else’s blog.  This makes all the sense in the world, if we can take a step back and think of it through our own perspective when we receive a positive, reassuring comment, or “like” or “thumbs up” on our blog posts.  I personally, become instantly intrigued with the person who commented.  I most definitely go to their site and learn what they are all about. If by understanding the types of bloggers my content reaches and affects, then I can define my audience much more clearly.  Plus, if the contents of our blogs are similar we can help each other define our concepts and ideas through communication with each other.

He also uses the term “disappear” to suggest the value in not posting all the time.  One of my favorite bloggers and communication experts, Chris Brogan often suggests this idea behind not “flooding” your audience with posts.  This idea looks into attention spans and relevancy within our audiences.  While we should be confident in what we post is substantial and valuable, we should not kid ourselves into thinking the world, or our audiences wants to hear our opinion on everything.  It is easy to be arrogant in the blogging world.  For one, it is anonymous and often we aren’t necessarily held accountable for our content, and two, we might think that a large readership looks at us for our opinion on everything.  What we should be doing is understanding WHY our audiences read our blogs.   It is in the WHY that shows us our niche, our most valuable content.

I do like Seth’s idea of allowing guest bloggers to post material on your site.  This is a great idea.  This idea allows you to validate your blog through other’s thoughts and expertise, while at the same time, showing your audience that you value other’s thoughts on your topics.  This is also a great way to increase the value in your blog.

The internet also provides us with a new way of reaching other platforms, sites and medias through one click on our blog.  By adding a “retweet” button on your blog you can link twitter’s network to your blog.  Then, twitter is linked to linkedin and soon you find a link to your blog on a linkedin page with a user with a 20,000,000 network.  The internet blends lines of geography and can exponentially get your ideas across a very large, worldwide network.

He goes on to say what I feel is pretty obvious, by suggesting we write about what we are interested in.  That obviously goes without saying.  Creativity is heightened when we are interested to create.

So, as I am new the blogging world, LEAVE ME A COMMENT!  I will respond, and I will get to know you and your ideas on your blog.  We will go from there!

Trolls!!!!!

stock-illustration-8093543-trollThis article is about the online troll Violentacrez and his undeniable ability to become very quickly and well known for his anti-societal antics on Reddit.  With Reddit being a free content website, users are able to post whenever and on whatever topics they want.  Trollers like Violentacrez show the ugly side of this privilege.  Content is basically arranged in “upvotes” which means that it is moved to the forefront of visible content on Reddit.  The more people “upvote” a certain posting, the larger network it spans and the more people are able to read it and have access to it.  It creates content prominence.
One of the more prominent postings Violentacrez created was about underage teenage girls, and people posting pictures of them in bikinis or swimsuits called Jailbait.  This became a very searchable posting on Reddit and soon rose to a very popular search item on Reddit as well as the internet it general.
Once this type of content was notoriously known on Reddit, the mass media quickly grabbed a hold of it, including Anderson Cooper who shamed Reddit and Violentacrez for aiding in this obvious exploitation of minors.
Because of media pressure Reddit officially banned the posting on their site.  Personally, I realize Violentacrez’s case about infringing on free speech by denying certain post subjects; however, other areas, such as child exploitation and underage semi-nudity are protected in other laws that are intertwined here.  I get the concept.  No matter what the content, America cannot censor it; however, to what extreme?  Is posting the most obnoxious foul and politically incorrect topic online the best way to prove the effectiveness of free speech, or is it simply a misguided attempt at trying to explain the importance of preserving it?  I think it’s the latter, and trolls like Violentacrez are shooting themselves in the foot when they are bringing sensitive issues such as child pornography to the forefront of their Freedom of Speech arguments. 
Some things are off limits not to censor America, but to protect its citizens.  After all the US Constitution is about protecting the welfare of its citizens.  You can’t argue that the exploitation of the innocent youth is protecting them, nor is it proving a case for censorship.
It relies on shock value and disassociates itself away from the intentions of the Constitution.
The article goes on to talk about Reddit’s involvement in providing Violentacrez a professional network of other Reddit employees.  So, while we see that Reddit takes the heat for a lot of what Violentacrez writes about, they also almost secretly (or completely open about it), support his right to do it.  In my opinion, this type of association might be detrimental to Reddit in the long run.  They are attaching their “honor” to a man who is anything but honorable and the only real thing he brings to the table is his right to be offensive.
So just what is the benefit of outwardly supported him?  Reddit benefitted from his administration skills.  He cleaned up a lot of postings that were illegal and seemingly helped to clean up Reddit content in general.  Eventually we see him leaving Reddit and occasionally resurfacing in subreddits here and there.  But the content is not the same.  Was society, or other media entities successful in infringing on his right to Free Speech?  I think that’s the point of this all.  Maybe society proved that although they can’t censor free speech they don’t necessarily have to approve it either.  Public outcry and pressures from other media outlets can effectively curb content, and, in this case, it is curbing the content away from material that the majority found offensive.  Why are the posters of such content so quick to quote the First Amendment whenever they are criticized for posting such material?  So fine, quote it, remind society it is your right to do it, but don’t get upset when the outcry becomes more of a hassle than anything else as it did for Violentacrez.  Your idea of Freedom of Speech gets lost in translation and obviously, the intentions or “mission” of trollers like Violentacrez isn’t to protect Freedom of Speech, but to be offensive.
The second article is about the first and what it really means to out someone who is posting such content.  They speak about public shaming, in that it has a way of regulating society, curbing content and protecting its citizens.  Brutsch feared being outed for the sake of his personal well being, including the health insurance gained by his employment that helped to pay for his wife’s medical care.  I think this is bullshit.  I think of the young girls who were “outed” by Brutsch and the all the women that were subjected to being photographed while they were in public in sexually arousing positions.  It is so childish to continually out people for your whole Reddit career, then exclaim your discontent for being outed for doing so.  We need to take responsibility for the content we post.  That is Freedom of Speech.  Taking responsibility in an otherwise anonymous internet era is tricky, but in cases like Violentacrez, it is justice.  He did not care about the young girls he was posting about, nor did he care about their parents.  Their parents were outed in their local communities when neighbors, or teachers or classmates saw pictures of their underage children in bikinis on Reddit.  Why are we not mentioning this aspect of it? The contents of Jailbait personally outed thousands of innocent people who had nothing to do with Reddit, nor gave their permission to use the material.  And we aim to protect the man posting it?  That’s the problem.
There was more defamation occurring that just Brutsch’s outing.  This was just the finale in a long line of posts that directly affected many lives on personal levels.  This is the tough love of internet anonymity.  It’s about social responsibility and consequence.  It is about dealing with the consequences of being outed as the creator of such content.  If you were to go the school board meeting with these types of ideas or photos, the people would be outraged.  Just because you can make up a screen name and say the same things anonymously, doesn’t mean you should receive sympathy when you are revealed for the content.