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Something Is Very Wrong with Bit.ly’s Click Counts

I love the URL shortening service bit.ly, as I’ve written before. It’s a tremendous service, provide wonderful analytics along with the basic URL shortening feature. The service recently moved to make click counts much more visible, which is really helpful to see at a glance what got the interest of people you shared the link with. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan has a nice write-up about it.

But something isn’t right with the counts I’m seeing from bit.ly. That, or something is seriously wrong with WordPress.com’s traffic stats.

Here’s what I mean. On May 19th, I tweeted this:

Tweet about newsletter

The first bit.ly URL is to Dennis Howlett’s blog post. The second bit.ly URL links to my post Newsletters Are Still Viable? How I Approached My First Newsletter Email. This post was from last November.

Fast forward. Bit.ly dutifully tracked the clicks on my shortened URL. Total count? 125 in the past week:

Bit.ly click count - Newsletter Post

Hey…that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Plenty of clicks to the ol’ blog.

But then check out the number of views WordPress.com recorded for this same blog post the past week:

WordPress.com view count - Newsletter Post

Say what?!!! Bit.ly is telling me the post got 125 hits. WordPress.com is saying it got 11 hits. Let’s do the math:

125
- 11
114

How can the numbers be so far apart?  I mean, that’s not a rounding error. That’s a canyon of difference.  Is bit.ly borked? Is WordPress off? This isn’t the first time I’ve seen these kinds of differences.

If you’ve got any hypotheses or have seen this yourself, I’d love to hear about it. Particularly if you’ve seen the same thing for a different blog platform, like Blogger or Typepad.

Update: There’s a discussion of possible causes on FriendFeed.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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Breathe: Reflections on the Cisco Fatty Story

And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

Anna Nalick, Breathe (2 AM)

Earlier this week, I wrote the post How to Tweet Your Way Out of a Job. As it seems like much of the online world now knows, it told the tale of how a young woman tweeted her reaction to a Cisco job offer.  If I get a post that pops 2,000 views, I’m ecstatic. What happened with this particular post defies anything I’ve ever experienced.

But that feeling is tempered by an awareness of what @theconnor must be feeling.

Things are returning to normal here on the blog, and I wanted to record a few thoughts for posterity.

Original Incident

I don’t catch every tweet of the people I follow on Twitter. But I happened to be on the Twitter home page when Cisco’s Tim Levad responded to the following tweet by @theconnor:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

Tim’s responded by calling her out for this message. She had just summarily dismissed the job, and by extension, Cisco. I’m sure Cisco employees take pride in their work, and here’s an outsider dismissing the prospect of working there. So Tim responded in kind, telling her that her hiring manager would be interested in knowing her attitude before she’d even started the job.

Right there, terrible move by @theconnor. And she was penalized for it.

If this had only been the tweet by @theconnor, I wouldn’t blog that. I don’t follow her anyway, and people can tweet what they want. It was Tim’s reaction that elevated this to newsworthy status. A parallel can be drawn with the case of the Ketchum PR guy who tweeted a disparaging remark about Memphis. That by itself wasn’t newsworthy. What made it newsworthy was the reaction of his Memphis-based client, FedEx.

It’s not the original tweet. It’s the reaction by an offended party.

Viral

As I mentioned, this post far exceeds anything I’ve even seen. It seemed to get early traction on Twitter. Then it got picked up on Reddit. Then, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington tweeted about it, which spread on Twitter. Before you know, the post goes viral on both Reddit and Twitter. It then hit Techmeme.

As of the time I’m writing this, the post has been viewed 102,000 times. Here’s what the traffic graph of my blog for the last 30 weeks looks like:

im-not-actually-a-geek-weekly-trafficI doubt I’ll ever see a post go this viral again. It’s hard to describe your feelings as you watch this happen. Incredulous is a good word.

I learned the power of reddit.com. If you hit the front page of that site, the traffic is huge. I also ended up as the Hawt Post on wordpress.com, which also has a lot of traffic. Little things I didn’t know.

Cisco Fatty

This was really interesting. The story took on its own descriptive meme: cisco fatty. Where did that term come from?

In the post, I needed a reference to @theconnor’s tweet about the Cisco offer. But she had taken her account private, so I went to Twitter search. I figured a simple search query for cisco fatty would do the trick, and it did for a while. Her tweet was the only thing that was returned.

What happened though, is that as people clicked that search link to see her tweet for themselves, they saw a search page with the words cisco fatty. And some wags began to refer to it as the “cisco fatty” incident. Soon, that term was all over Twitter. There are also blog posts that refer to the cisco fatty.

I have to admit, I chuckled at some of the tweets where the term was used. This was one of my favorite meta tweets about the meme:

bah. “cisco fatty” is no “I KISS YOU”, Kids on the Interwebs will meme anything these days. When I was young, we used to meme uphill…

If you don’t know what I KISS YOU is, click here for info.

Opportunism

Some guy sensed the meme potential “cisco fatty”, and set up a site called ciscofatty.com, complete with Google ads. Little more than a splog initially, the dude didn’t have the courtesy to link back to my post. He then has been thoughtlessly adding details about @theconnor from her now-removed personal website.

The guy was clever enough to see the potential of the term. But then he blows it by going overboard. As one person tweeted:

The dude who put up the Cisco Fatty website, plastering personal info about the Twitterer at the center of this debacle is a total douche.

The unfortunate thing is that articles and posts have linked to his site, and folks are tweeting links to it.

False Privacy of Not Being Well-Known

I can see how one could slip into an overly comfortable feeling that Twitter is like email or IM. You tweet things and get positive reactions from those with whom you interact. Or more likely, a lot of what you tweet gets no reaction. You slowly get more comfortable with the medium, and notice the wide variety of personal information are sharing on Twitter.

I can very easily see someone developing a false sense of privacy in this realm. After all, there are millions of people tweeting, and nobody and watch all that they post.

But public tweets are not email. Twitter search and the retweet protocol make anyone’s tweet accessible everywhere. With Twitter, you have to keep your guard up. It’s unfortunate, but I look at it as a small price to pay for the self-expression, learning, interacting and connecting you can do via Twitter.

The thing is, I’m sure every few minutes someone somewhere tweets something that crosses the line of propriety. The vast majority of these are never known. But as this case shows, the potential is always there.

Thoughts on @theconnor

The young woman at the center of this is laying low, waiting for of this to pass. And it will. It’s already slowing down a lot here at the end of the week.

She has achieved something she didn’t want, a measure of Internet notoriety. I’m not expert in these matters. But I’ve seen how people handle these things, whether it’s Internet fame or incidents that occur in business, Hollywood, professional sports, etc. She can embrace or refute her notoriety.

If she wanted to, she could embrace this. Here’s how I mean. She’s part of Gen Y. This is the next generation coming into the workforce. Her tweet about “hating the work” may actually be a rallying cry for many of her peers looking at their future.

She could write a very persuasive article about the feelings of her generation. Not that she hates Cisco, or the job she was going to do there. Rather, she was expressing some of the frustration of her generation. My guess is that she could actually write her essay on a widely-read site of some type (e.g. TechCrunch, Time, etc.).

I can see why she might not want to do this. She may not want any more limelight, and have concern about what employers will think if she did write such a piece. There will be plenty of people that will be critical of her if she did write anything.

But she does have the opportunity to channel the interest in the story and her own notoriety into something she didn’t have at the start of this week. My sense is that she has a platform right now.

Regardless, I wish her the best.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Google Knol: A Massive Blogging Platform

Google opened up its Knol service on Wednesday July 23. From the Google blog:

The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web. An enormous amount of information resides in people’s heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge. Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.

Allow millions of people to freely write up their own thoughts and contribute knowledge. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…

You know what Knol is? It’s a blogging platform. A hosted, multi-author blogging platform

As Mathew Ingram notes, Knol is compared to Wikipedia and Mahalo. Here’s how I’d break down the three services.

  • Wikipedia is a wiki
  • Mahalo is an editor-controlled links aggregation site
  • Knol is a giant blogging site

Wikipedia is a collaborative effort toward creating a single information page. Mahalo is handpicked information created in a top-down fashion by experts. Knol is a bunch of separate blog posts on a given subject.

I Wrote My First Google Knol

To find out more about Google Knol, I decided to write up a knol. My knol is Using FriendFeed to Increase Blog Readership. I took my old post Ten FriendFeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day, and got rid of the comparisons to StumbleUpon and Digg. The knol focuses on how FriendFeed is actually good for bloggers.

I figured that post was a good one to start with. It got Likes from FriendFeed co-founders Paul Buchheit and Bret Taylor:

The post was also (ironically) quite popular with Stumblers. So I cleaned up the references to other sites and added some things around attention optimization.

Yup, I was ready to rock-n-knol.

Knol = Blogging

The process of creating a knol was really easy:

  1. Go to knol.google.com
  2. Click on “Write a knol”
  3. Sign in with your Google account
  4. Start writing

I thought there might be some sort of test to prove my expertise, or some approval period while someone checked my credentials. Nope.  It was just another Google Accounts sign-up.

The process reminded me of signing up for wordpress.com and starting to write. Here’s the knol blogging interface:

Once I got in there, it was just like blogging. I wrote my paragraphs. Created section titles. Added graphics.

I did assume a somewhat more professorial tone in the knol than I do here.

Knols Allow Some Wiki-Like Collaboration on Blog Posts

The overall Knol site is not itself a wiki. But there are wiki elements available for individual knols. Three collaboration options are available, set by th author:

  1. Wide open editing by anyone who is signed in
  2. Moderated editing – all edits must be approved by the author
  3. No editing – no one except the author can make changes

So there could be knols that are set up as true community build-out efforts (#1 option above). That’s pretty much Wikipedia. The difference is that there may be several knols on a given subject – some by solo authors, some by a group of collaborators. Wikipedia has only a single page per subject.

Knols Allow Comments – Just Like Blogs

People can make comments on your knol. A good discussion can occur around a subject. This is just like a blog.

Knols Allow Ads – Just Like Blogs

An author can elect to allow ads to appear beside the knol. I did this, signing up for Google AdSense for the first time in my life. I don’t expect to earn a penny, but I want to see what ads run there.

Blogs, of course, can also have ads.

Knol Includes an Author Profile – Just Like Blogs

When you create your first knol, Google automatically creates a second one for you: your profile page (link to mine). A really nice feature that, again, is a hallmark of blogs (the About page).

Aside from a  bio, the profile page includes a listing of the knols that someone has written.

What’s the Difference Between Google Knols and WordPress.com?

Really, there’s no reason the content of knols will differ that much from blogs. I searched for “back pain” on Google Knol and WordPress.com. Here are two results:

The knol is the more scholarly of the two. But the wordpress.com blog holds its own in terms of information.

There are two key differences from what I can see:

  1. Brand. Knol is branded as an expert/knowledge site. Blogs are that, but also include a lot of opinion and first-person experiences.
  2. Ranking. Readers can rate a knol on a 1-5 star scale. These rankings will help the best content emerge at the top of search results.

Google knols may also have better “Google juice” than most blogs. Search Engine Land suspects knols will inherit a Google page rank advantage in search results.

Try Writing a Knol!

For me, writing a knol was a lot less pressure than adding to a Wikipedia entry. It was just like writing a blog post. Now I am conscious of the purpose of knol, and don’t expect to fill it with my blog posts. But perhaps over time people will be less wary of adding opinion to knols. From the Google blog post introducing Knol:

The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It’s their knol, their voice, their opinion. We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good.

Note the inclusion of opinion in there. Once you open that up, you’ve fundamentally got blogging. Knol might be good for people who don’t want to maintain a full blog, but would love to write a few articles providing knowledge and opinion.

Go take a look at the knol I wrote (link). Please rate it. Comment on it. I’m curious what all that interaction looks like.

And then go blog your own knol. If you do, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out.

*****

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Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?

I’m in the market for a new phone. And I’m pretty damn easy.

Apple has now released the next version of its phone, the 3G iPhone. With all the buzz around it, it’s hard not to consider buying one. But before taking the plunge, I wanted to understand what I’m getting myself into. I also wanted to consider what many people claim is a superior phone on the market, the Nokia N95.

But first, about my being pretty damn easy…

I’m a Mobile Phone Luddite

When I bought my current mobile phone, I really didn’t want all the fancy stuff. Just the ability to talk to someone. And that’s just what I got with my Nokia Sprint phone, pictured below:

Not much “smart” about that phone. Just cheap and functional. Any phone that does the things I list in the picture above will be a quantum leap forward for me. Obviously, I’m no early adopter.

Hence, I’m easy when it comes to smart phones.

Apple iPhone vs. Nokia N95

The crux of the argument seems to boil down to this:

  • 3G iPhone offers a superior web browsing experience
  • N95 offers superior camera and actually has video

Oh, there are other things…

Apps for the iPhone are supposed to be really cool. But I’m really not interested in Tap Tap Revenge. One thing I learned from Facebook is that most of these little apps grow boring quite quickly. However, there’s always the possibility that some interesting app will be developed.

There’s also Apple’s closed platform and restrictive DRM, which means all development requires approval of Apple. But considering that I’ve been using a phone without anything that would cause such concern, I’m mostly unconcerned about this as well.

The Knocks Against the iPhone

Here are the the biggest knocks I’ve seen on the iPhone. Gotta know what could ruin my day if I buy one.

Short battery life. This consistently comes up as a negative for the iPhone. It sounds awful, especially in comparison to my current lowly Nokia phone. The battery on that phone can last for days. But it sounds like any 3G smart phone may suffer a similar battery life issue. Here’s what GigaOm said about the Nokia N95:

The battery on this device [Nokia N95] simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off.

Apple does provide tips for preserving battery life. In addition, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reports that a simple change to one feature – push email – can dramatically improve battery life.

Crappy camera, no video. There’s no getting around this one. The iPhone’s 2 mega pixel camera is woeful compared to the N95′s 5 mega pixel. Here’s a picture that Fred Wilson took with the N95:

Look at that quality! And with two young children, I think great pictures would be nice. Not to mention the ability to do easy video.

Forced to go with AT&T. This is a big one for many folks. They don’t like AT&T for whatever reason. AT&T appears to have good 3G coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area. But outside the region, coverage gets dicey. As Robert Scoble tweeted about his drive from southern California back to the Bay Area:

Out of the past 7.5 hours of driving we have had 3G for less than an hour. AT&T needs to do a much better job at coverage.

My Sprint phone actually has pretty bad coverage inside my house. So I’m not sure AT&T can get much worse, unless I was unable to get any signal. I did ask about what happens when 3G isn’t available on FriendFeed (comment on Scoble’s tweet). Here’s what Zach Flauaus said:

The iPhone’s priority is 3G, then EDGE, then GPRS. Aka: Fast, ehh… And “Oh hell no!”

So even if I can’t surf the web, I get a phone signal. OK…I probably can live with that.

The new apps crash the iPhone. Let me repeat that: NEW APPS CRASH THE iPHONE! Tim O’Reilly describes the laments of iPhone users and their crashing phones. He includes a Summize Twitter search for iPhone crash. The search reults are frightening:

  • “so it seems writing mobile applications is not such a trivial task. On the iPhone they crash like crazy”
  • “first iPhone crash since I restored it 4 days ago, I guess my strategy has worked, and coincidently it crashed on a newly installed app”
  • “Experienced my first iPhone app crash tonight. Screen turned black. After a few tries the phone came back to life but I deleted the app.”
  • “Just had my first iPhone app crash. Facebook!”

Sounds like it’s best to avoid putting apps on the iPhone for the time being. But I am hopeful about  downloading some good apps down the road.

No copy and paste. Honestly, this one doesn’t bother me so much…yet. The iPhone doesn’t support a clip board to copy things you find. My initial reaction is “so what?”. But I”ll probably want that. One example: wordpress.com’s new iPhone interface. You can post blog entries from the iPhone. As you can see in this post, I’m a huge fan of copy-n-paste. Not having this feature could chafe.

The Nokia N95 Knock: Web Surfing Is Bad

The N95 does include web surfing and email. But this is what I’ve been reading about that experience:

  • “@Jonathan – does Nokia have a decent web browser?” – Yolanda
    “@Yolanda, no, it’s crap. But there’s Opera mini (http://operamini.com) which is somewhat decent.” – Guillermo Esteves (link)
  • Question: “If you could only take one device to a tropical island would it be a smartphone or a laptop?”
    Robert Scoble: “Assuming I am going on vacation to get away from it all? My Nokia N95. Good camera to take pics and videos of me drinking MaiTais. GPS so I can get around. But hard to use for Web and Email so I am not too tempted.”
  • “After seeing, feeling & experiencing the Web on the iPhone, I Know I need one, even though I have an N95 (hate it for browsing)” (link)
  • Yes, I borrowed a friends N95for a day and they had my Blackberry. Phone quality is important to me with a hearing aid. The web browsing sux on the N95, phone was ok. The camera and video were way cool though, nice but not necessary toys.” (link)

iPhone Gets Some Real Love Though

I’m impressed by the number of people expressing their affection for the iPhone, despite its limitations.

Ryan Spoon blogged: Confessions of a Blackberry Addict – I’ve Moved to the iPhone 3G

Yahoo EVP Jeff Weiner was raving to Tim O’Reilly about his new iPhone, urging him to write something that explains why the iPhone is such a paradigm-shifting device.

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker wrote this in a generally negative piece on the iPhone: “But Mobile Safari’s tabbed browsing convinced me to trade in my principles for convenience. This job requires me to be online everywhere I go, and as far as I could see, the iPhone was the best way to do that.”

And here’s the Twitter search for “love my iPhone“. Look at all that love!

What About You?

So I’m close to making a decision. My use case is more web browsing than picture/video taking. But there are definitely issues with the iPhone.

If you’ve got thoughts about the 3G iPhone or the Nokia N95, I’d love to hear ‘em.

UPDATE: ReadWriteWeb covers the Apple vs. Nokia issue this morning as well here.

*****

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Could WordPress.com Create a Disqus Killer?

Disqus is an application that hosts comments for blogs, applying some nice features to improve and make more social the commenting process. Here’s what Fred Wilson said recently:

Since I converted from TypePad comments to Disqus last August, the number of comments I regularly get have gone up by a factor of at least five and maybe ten. It seems that each week I have a post that gets over 100 comments (not this past week though). That never used to happen. And the discussions in the comments have improved dramatically.

Fred Wilson, A VC, Three Reasons To Use Disqus

Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, has not enabled disqus to work on its blogs (including this one). Here’s what Robert Scoble reported about that:

I’ve been talking with Toni Schneider, CEO of Automattic (the folks who run my blog) and they are looking at a raft of things to do to make commenting better for WordPress.com users.

So, let the commenting wars begin!

Robert Scoble, Scobleizer.com, Seesmic & Disqus add up to video comments and more

Scoble’s update is intriguing. Commenting wars? Might WordPress.com have something in the works that could undermine Disqus?

What’s Cool about Disqus

Because I don’t have disqus implemented on this blog, I’m a bit handicapped in my assessment of disqus. But here are the things I like:

  • Easy to track where you’ve left a comment
  • You can follow others, and see their comments across various blogs
  • You can create an RSS feed for your disqus comments, and pipe that into FriendFeed. Vastly increases the social nature of blog comments.

Here’s a screen shot of my comments on several blogs with the disqus commenting system:

Four comments, across four different blogs. Really nice to see that. You’ll also see a couple people that I’m following, on the left hand side of the disqus profile.

And here’s what a disqus comment looks like as it comes through FriendFeed:

As a commenter, you can extend your conversation outside the blog. Notice the ‘Likes’ and Franklin Pettit’s comment. And as a blogger, all the conversatin’ showing up in FriendFeed gets your blog post much more play.

Alas, disqus is not enabled on WordPress.com.

WordPress.com Snuffs Out Disqus?

Which brings us to Robert Scoble’s update. Sounds like the folks at Automattic aren’t sitting still. And that could be bad news for disqus. Why?

Volume, volume, volume.

On disqus’s site, they say that over 4,000 blogs are using their commenting service. Fred Wilson said it was over 10,000 blogs using disqus. Neither number compares to all the blogs hosted by WordPress.com.

If Automattic turned on similar commenting capabilities for its blogs, you’d have a sea of comments on that service. Take a look at the number of comments made on WordPress.com blogs each day:

Imagine if a lot of those folks streamed their comments into FriendFeed. The viral nature of FriendFeed would be an accelerator on that volume. A WordPress.com commenting system would dwarf disqus.

WordPress.com has the built-in advantage of already hosting millions of blogs and comments. Disqus is still in its infancy in acquiring new blogs.

If Automattic is serious about this, they should enable a new commenting system to work on non WordPress.com blogs as well. As a blog reader, once you have a profile set up, you’d like to use it everywhere.

Final Thoughts

Disqus has done an amazing job of customer service so far. That’s worth a lot of goodwill right there. I also love the upstart companies who show the world new ways of doing things.

And who knows? Automattic might be thinking of integrating disqus as one of the “raft of things to do to make commenting better for WordPress.com users”. I know I’ve requested the addition of disqus.

But if Automattic smells a good opportunity here and recognizes the value of its huge user base, then as Scoble says, “let the commenting wars begin!”

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/e/b0d09b39-26e0-2681-7b58-8fc234709b30

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