In the era of social media should we look to take back our voice from the monetized networks of social network and go back to the roots of the internet with personal websites?
My website journey began building websites in HTML, tables and inline styles. The days of <font> tags and knowing how to craft table tags, colspan. Back when we used <b> for bold and we didn’t <em> anything just italics. Nerdy stuff like cgi-bin, perl script forms, java to make logos spin and everything was under construction for some reason.
Building websites and content management systems
Later I learned about templating systems replacing what I used with shtml files and server-side includes. Going into using PHP to build websites and then using systems like Smarty with PHP to take care of templating. Dipping my toes in to Moveabletype and then Mambo, Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. In the end, WordPress won me over but I found before that my content resided in LiveJournal and MySpace, places that I didn’t have any control over.
Why were networks important back then?
Content post you put there were looked at by other LiveJournalers and your MySpace Top 8. We found ourselves writing content not just for ourselves but for others to consume and then comment on. We made in real life social plans with one another based on what we were writing on LiveJournal and MySpace and found that it was the connection between the real world and the “cyber” that made it special. You would write a post and people commented, threads of comments would happen and full conversations would result around your post.
Wait… this doesn’t sound different from what it is now. Here is the thing, back then you knew all these people personally and it wasn’t a number game.. until it was.
The rise of Facebook
Moving forward in time when Facebook was opening to the rest of the world, not just folks that had .edu email addresses. We began posting our content on Facebook and leaving the places like LiveJournal and the new defunct / resold and pivoted MySpace to only posting our content on Facebook. No one was worried about how the content was algorithmically analyzed and packaged up for advertisers to purchase and hold ads against. We crafted lengthy posts like we did on LJ and shared links to funny memes and videos.
Mark Zuckerberg would write his posts using the “Notes” feature in Facebook crafting nice looking posts with paragraphs and inline images. No one but him really used this feature but it looked like what places like Medium, LinkedIn and the like had with block editor formatted posts which later WordPress would adopt this method for it’s Gutenberg Block Editor system replacing TinyMCE the default editor for WordPress.
Posts were written on Facebook and these items were either ignored, shared, liked or commented on or a combination of them. Slowly our moms would begin using Facebook. They would use the like button to denote that they read the post feeling that they didn’t have anything to comment on but wanted to make sure you knew she read it. These posts were shared around the network people would comment on them. It was a simpler time but Facebook got greedy wanting more data outside of it’s walls.
Facebook Like button and comment box
Later Facebook came out with the Like button allowing anyone to place a like button outside of the confines of Facebook yet keeping record of the number of likes a post would get. We’d later find out that Facebook was using this to draw in data outside of their system for analytical purposes. Slowly people ditched the native like button to using Facebook share buttons on their websites.
To combat this Facebook came out with a comment system much like the Like system allowing you the website owner to have a Facebook comment box on your website replacing your native comment box. People that had Facebook accounts could comment using these boxes and people that didn’t wouldn’t leave a comment. Think of it as a blue velvet rope – “No Facebook account, no commenting” said the bouncer named Zuck.
This comment box again allowed Facebook to tap into your analytics knowing how many people were visiting your website and how popular your fancy cat blog really was. It also tied this comment box into the native comment box on your Facebook page for your website.
Later Facebook Pixels and other such things made sure Facebook knew what was going on around the web if your reader completed a transaction and if your ads you ran on Facebook were performing well.
Facebook is always looking for ways to track engagement outside of their network also allowed site owners the ability to using their authentication system to login to your own website using your Facebook login. If you didn’t want to us the like button or the comment box they provided you could resort to using the login system so your commenters could log in to your website to leave a comment. This Facebook login method also allowed account creation to happen to allow you the site owner to collect the data you needed to create a login for the reader and the reader could have a streamlined process to create an account and login to your website.
As you can see Facebook want to be a part of your websites life but does it need to be? I want to explore with you reader how we can take back control of their content and what price needs to be paid for “rolling your own”.
What do we get out of Facebook?
We get a lot of using Facebook when we agree to their terms of service. Here is a list of the common things we get:
Eyeballs – From our friends to parents and our cow0rkers everyone on the network can see your posts depending on the security level you set of them. More on that in a bit.
Rich content – You can include an image, animated gif or even a video with your content to get your point across.
Live streaming – That rich content can be taken a step further with live streaming straight to the platform. With Facebook Live, your follower will be notified that you are streaming live and if they want they can watch it. News, sporting events, concerts, places of worship etc are all using it for Business use. A stay at home mom selling Doterra can host a party to sell her products on Facebook or someone like me can make Pancakes with my daughter live on Facebook.
Open Graph – When you share a post outside of the Facebook ecosystem if a website was build in a way that uses Open Graph it will provide Facebook with a title, description, and metadata such as an image to be displayed with that link. Open Graph is important for content to be shared properly on Facebook which means web developers need to be mindful of this and website owners need to provide the data with their content on their website so Facebook can utilize it.
“Privacy” Options – As we all know nothing on social network is private but you can set privacy options for each post you make on Facebook. You can limit these posts and how they are exposed to people, locations, groups of people and list of people you have created. You can also exclude people from seeing posts too. This makes setting up a surprise birthday easy and you can exclude the birthday person from the post. None of these are foolproof but many people depend of these as a way of being expressive without starting an online riot with the excluded.
Now that we have worked out what you get from Facebook how can we recreate some of this on our own websites? Let’s explore each of the bullet points above.
How to recreate Facebook on our own website
Eyeballs – I built it but no one is showing up
This is the age-old question online, how do I get more people to come to my website? Marketing and “getting your content out there” is a multi billion dollar industry, so much so that I made a YouTube show and podcast about it, WPblab. Plugs aside getting people to your website is tough. There is technology out there that can help you such as RSS, email newsletters, landing pages, custom urls for different pieces of content and the like. Since there isn’t a thread that connects all website together other than search engines you need to work hard to get exposure. If you build it they will come isn’t really the case here.
Rich Content – images, gifs, and video
This one is easy, with most websites (we’ll focus on WordPress since I use it daily) adding in bold, italicized, strikethrough and images is a snap. What gets more difficult is video, gifs and other forms of content. The main reason for this is bandwidth. You can host your video on YouTube but you are back to using someone else’s services to make that happen. You can host the video with Vimeo which is a paid service so you get what you pay for you can also us something like Wistia which gives you more features than YouTube and is more focused on robust sales tactics to get people to buy something. All in all this can be recreated on your website without the need of Facebook.
I’ve been live streaming content to YouTube for about 7 years as of this writing and recently have been decentralizing my live streams to include other places such as Facebook and Twitter’s Perisope with the though of including Twitch to the list of places I’m streaming to. With that said streaming to these services with the hope that someone would be on your website to watch it is difficult to pull off. With no way to send out notifications like Facebook does either as a true notification on the web in the browser or their app its going to be hard to get people to, on the fly show up to your live stream. For me and WPwatercooler I’ve been sending out emails to my viewers, setting up live stream events to each of these services (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and trying to get people to watch the stream from my website (which uses a YouTube embed code of the live stream). All that said people are still watching this content on these other services and if I ever stop streaming to those services they may never see my content again.
You can roll your own live streaming using other services that are not social networks, companies like Akamai and Cachefly provide these services at a cost but this doesn’t solve getting people to your website to watch it from there.
Open Graph – making your content available on other websites
WordPress uses a system called oEmbed which allows your readers to share your content on their websites. WordPress take a url you provide it in a post and will convert it to the content to be embedded on your website. As an example if I were to put my YouTube video in this post it will show up here:
The same can be done for other websites that are included as an oEmbed supported website. I know this isn’t the same as Open Graph for Facebook but websites provide the correct metadata to allow content to be embedded on your website which you can embed. What I’m getting with this is you can customize your oEmbed data to do the same thing when your content is embedded on a website. For WPwatercooler when I share a url from a post on that site it does a special version of oEmbed.
This one is a tricky nut to crack. Grainular privacy options such as what Facebook is able to achieve requires a bit more forethought in planning out your website. First, you’d need to either set up a wall of sorts to stop people from seeing any of your content or allow some content to be private and then some of it to be public. In the WordPress space, there are plugins to achieve this such as Restrict Content Pro, MemberPress, Paid Memberships Pro and others. What needs to happen is you need to segregate your users based on whether they should see some content over others but to go through all these hoops to plan out a birthday party for your friend and you want to make sure your friend doesn’t see it is absurd. At this point you are starting your own social network and if you have that amount of clout then good on you Mr. Zuckerberg be sure to join JasonBook when I launch it in 2020.
Does all content deserve posting?
For me, this is the big question for my content. Does all of my thoughts deserve a blog post? With Facebook and even Twitter my small observations are perfect for a social network but does each of those observations deserve a full-on blog post? Back in December, I tweeted the following
I was exploring the current state of Twitter and how Twitter works for other people. Again I don’t have as much clout as someone such as Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 does
The idea of can Facebook (or Twitter for that matter) be replaced with my website. Does that mean that I end up with these small posts on my website? Matt Mullenweg worked this out with Asides on his site and how he uses them for short content.
Matt used to have these asides on his website’s sidebar until he switched to TwentyNinteen which doesn’t have a sidebar. Looking on his site he has an asides category but he isn’t showing that category on his homepage or his menu anymore but he continues to post to this category anyhow.
The question is if you are going to replace social media with your website, where does this smaller content reside? Is it an aside to your normal content? What if all your content is asides?
I have more to add to this topic but I leave you with some content we’ve done on WPwatercooler discussing this. I wanted to be meta about this so here is a video where we discussed this and many other ways your website can replace social media.
Expect more on this subject soon but for homework check out Indieweb and all the work they are doing with trying to tie websites together with and without social media.
Before you leave…
In the comments below let me know what your thoughts are of this. It’s been a year since I last posted to this site and as I’ve outlined in this post I do most of my content on social media as well as on YouTube and podcasts. I wanna change that.. are you? Let me know your feelings below.
Back in August I did a little of spring cleaning and cleaned out my mailing list for my WordPress podcast network WPwatercooler.
The idea was that the number of opens and click through’s are pretty low and the number of people that were joining the show as participants was getting smaller so what I did is I took a list of all the people that were recently on the show for the last 12 months and added them to a do not remove list and then went through and removed all the folks that have never opened one of the emails and got rid of them. I went through and looked at all the people that haven’t clicked on the links in the emails and I set them with a special tag that I will at some point clear out. The reason why I did this is I wanted to figure out who the audience actually is and by having a bunch of people receiving the email I had this bit of a hesitation whether or not my efforts were actually worth doing sending out this weekly.
So a bit of background regarding this I send out an email each week asking people if they would like to be on the show. I also include links to the previous episodes so that they can view at their leisure and watch one of those episodes. I think it pretty important considering we have had some people on the show as speaking participants who have never seen the show before. Primarily these folks are marketers looking to get the word out about their thing, which is all fine and good except they don’t know any of the in-jokes or the reason why we make fun of a particular person or say a particular thing so really we would much rather have people on the show that have actually watched the show at some point in their life.
One thing I’m not a fan of is having big numbers for the sake of having big numbers when really those numbers should equate to actions that are occurring on the thing that I’m putting so much time and energy into. So by clearing out the closet of all the old craft I am able to really talk to the people that I know are engaged in the content are willing to participate and would like to be notified of the latest posts. I’m pretty happy with the results because with my 300 people subscribed to the mailing list I am able to determine that a good percentage of them are actually opening and clicking on the links. So far an average of 23% opens and 3.5% clicks is pretty awesome.
One of the other reasons why I wanted to clear out that mailing list is because I wanted to have a good idea as to whose actually doing what on the mailing list and are they actually involved. This helps me with running house ads on the mailing list as well as looking to see if advertisers are interested in running ads for my audience too.
Early on I started running ads for my friends products on the mailing list in hopes that I can drum up some data to determine how many people are actually clicking on those particular links. So far by including offer codes and other things like that I am seeing some click throughs which is pretty good. I think overall it’s a good idea for me to run a test like this so that way if potential advertisers are interested in running ads for a very niche market which WPwatercooler to be WPblab and CommunityConnections are that the advertiser or potential advertisers Well actually know that my mailing list is worth advertising on and will hopefully want to run an ad on the show as well.
Podcasting is a business is really interesting there’s a lot of moving parts with it from creating good content distributing the content tracking to see how many people are actually cooking on or doing things through that content and then using third-party tools to track how all of those efforts are resulting overall.
If you’re someone like me that has a mailing list and you’re noticing that your click through rates and open rates are really low I would highly consider going through your mailing list and seeing how much bait you can cut. Sending out emails to people that aren’t even going to look at the email let alone click on it or do we need type of actionable thing with it I feel isn’t worth sending an email to. Obviously there are many types of million lists and content and mailing lists that this very hard and fast rule doesn’t apply to you but to me and my content a lot of it has to do with actionable items.
On New Year’s Day, my family and I went on our annual outing of going out to a local park and go letterboxing. What’s a Letterbox? Letterboxing is an activity that you do where you go to a website select a letterbox to find and go out and find it in the real world.
How does it work?
The process goes like this, you go onto a letterboxing website (we like letterboxing.org) and you find a location that you want to go to. That location can have a bunch of different letterboxes that are hidden throughout the place, these are typically areas like parks, outdoor areas, event venues and hiking trails. Once you have printed out your clues you can now go out and search for the letterbox using the clues the letterbox planter provided. Letterboxes are either hidden by themselves or in a series the clues will indicate that. While at the location you read the clues and follow their instructions to find the letterbox, some of these are very intricate and hard to find, other ones are fairly easy and they’re right off the edge of the trail where you can find the container. (I wrote about letterboxing a few years ago if you want to learn more you can check out that post too)
What do I need?
You’ll need a stamp, a stamp pad, and a notepad or something to collect your stamps with, bring a pen or pencil so you can write your name and the date. Typically people carve their own stamps, sometimes people will buy stamps at a craft supply store or something like that if they want to be generic.
Once you found the letterbox you can take the stamp and stamp pad press the stamp onto the stamp pad to get some ink on it (that’s the stuffbrought with you) and then you open up the container of the letterbox and you locate the stamp that the person placed in the letterbox left in it along with the notepad or journal that’s in there for you to put your stamp in there. This is much like geocaching in the sense that your trading items but instead of trading the item you’re stamping their stamp in your notepad and stamping your stamp in the notepad in the container. As someone who has been involved in letterboxing for a while I will say that you’re probably better off finding a letterbox that’s close to where you live and if it requires a bit of walking maybe find a letterbox that is in a series so in case you can’t find one of them all hope is not lost in your lease get something out of the trip. There have been times where my family has gone out the letterboxing and we didn’t find a thing or we only found a few of the boxes in the series. The reason for this is that letterboxing is very much so part of the environment and if the environment erodes then the litter box may get washed away or found by someone who wasn’t intending on finding the letterbox. There are times where maintenance workers for the park or the trail will find it and throw it away not really realizing that the sandwich holder that they found is actually a hidden thing within a game and they should’ve put it back where they found it.
Let’s go letterboxing!
Now that I’ve explained to you what letterboxes are I’ll tell you a little bit about our trip on the 1st. We drove out to LA to a park that we’ve never been to before and kind of a sketchy area of town but this park had a huge trail with many many hills some of which were really fun to climb but if you are like some of my family members with bum ankles or knees it’s a little bit difficult to climb those hills. While on this journey to look for letterboxes that this one was a pretty good size series. So we parked at the park and locked up our car and started walking, the first letterbox wasn’t very far from where we parked.
After that we continue down the trail and found, even more, letterboxes this particular series had 12 letterboxes in total. While letterboxing you want to be discrete, you don’t want someone seeing where you found the box and then ruining it for the next person that is out looking for it. Once you find the box take it to a nice place away from where you found it and take some time to admire the artwork of the stamp, read through the journal of all the previous letterbox finders and take not the last time someone was there, people tend to leave the date they found the box next to their name and their stamp left on the page.
The view was incredible (but a bit smoggy but the weather added to the photos anyhow!) so I was glad I took some time to take some pictures while we were out there.
Once we found all the letterboxes we walked back to our car and proceeded to drive home. When we got home we take all the letterboxes that were found input all the information on to the website letterboxing.org and claim that you found those little boxes. There’s a good reason for doing this and that is your helping the rest of the community know but the litter boxes that were left or still there and that the next time someone wants to go look for it they can find out that they recently were found and it’s much easier for people to go back out and find them. Nobody wants to drive out to a location expecting something I never actually got to find it.
Go explore, take some pictures while you are out there and enjoy the outdoors, we do (one a year on New Years Day!)
All month long we at WPblab are hosting something we’re calling “Just Create January” hoping to inspire folks to create, share and interact with others all month long in January
Good Morning! It’s Day 1 of January the first day of the new year. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I’ve done, started and haven’t completed and have realized that I need to ditch a bunch of projects I don’t have time for and only focus on the ones I do. Most of these projects have some monetary cost to me each year in the form of a domain name, here is what I’m keeping to start:
Domains to keep
Domains to ditch
What I have realized is I haven’t applied focus on the projects that matter to me and haven’t found a way to apply a value to the ones I love, mainly in the form of monetization. I’m giving myself a year to monetize a few of my keepers and then I’ll reevaluate next year which I’m keeping.
It’s just about money?
Yes, when it comes to these they each cost money but all of them could make money but the passion for me isn’t there. The top 5 domains to ditch were show ideas that I wanted to do, most fall under the WPwatercooler umbrella anyhow. The photography one was back when gTLDs came out and I wanted to build a photography site, my photography is a hobby, stuff can be posted on JasonTucker.blog instead.
GeekFit.com was a show I did with an old friend, the domain has value and I’m trying to sell it but haven’t got much leads on it. This year I’ll try selling it again and see if I can get more than $100 for it.
Doing.church was an idea to provide churches with the tools needed to build an IT or AV infrastructure and the site would guide them on what other churches are using in this space, I didn’t have time to get it to take off but I thing the domain has value, do you?
Are you cleaning out your domain closets? How do you go about getting rid of them?
How to monetize a domain
Running advertisements on your website seems to be the simplest way to do any type of monetization. The other way to go about it is to write blog posts and put affiliate links in there so that when people like your idea and want to try to execute it themselves they can just click on the link in your article and purchase the product or service that you’re talking about and you’ll make a little bit of money.
The other way to monetize domain name that you no longer want is to try to sell it the simplest way to do that is just to put up a for sale sign on the domain name and then if somebody comes by and sees it they may want to buy it from you. So far I’ve used flippa.com and SEDO.com to try and sell my domain names.
Monetizing what I want to keep
As for the projects that I’m keeping most of them will most likely end up having to either some affiliate links or advertisements that I’ll run on the site myself or in the form of me speaking that advertisement on a podcast or YouTube show. My struggle here is that I’m not very good at selling so I need to figure out a good way to be able to sell ad space on my different podcast and YouTube shows so that I could make some money from them. For a long while now on the WPwatercooler we’ve never had advertisements in any form, I’d like to see if I can change that this year. Once I do I’d like to also continue to do this on WPblab so that there is some form of income that’s coming from it. Have you ever sold a speaking advertisement on a podcast?
All month long we at WPblab are hosting something we’re calling “Just Create January” hoping to inspire folks to create, share and interact with others all month long in January
This past weekend November 28 – December 3rd my 12-year-old daughter Jessalyn and I flew out and attended WordCamp US in Nashville Tennessee. As I wrote in my previous post – WordCamp US through the eyes of a 12 year old Jessalyn and I were sponsored to go to WordCamp US by the kind folks at Bluehost via Women Who WP and giving us the means of flight and lodging to attend the event. Instead of boring you with a massive post I thought I’d build a bulleted list of my observations.
My daughter’s first flight ✅
Our WordPress community is amazing.
The venue, as well as Nashville in general, is absolutely gorgeous.
I wish we found time to go to the Johnny Cash museum, it was right across the street from the venue.
At first, I was a bit mad there was a room called “The Hallway Track” not because I have a show called Hallway Track but because it was weird that we legitimized something that was so organic, meeting one another between sessions during the WordCamp, it was its own destination and felt like I was depriving the speakers of people not being in their sessions. I latter realized that legitimizing this was a good thing, it allowed people who never go to sessions and just shake hands and kiss babies to do so in a room full of swag, marketers and sales folks. I spoke to a bunch of people about this and most said it was nice not having to be outside of the rooms talking with people and to be at a place where you could hang out and chit-chat with vendors.
I loved the idea of the community bazaar, how cool is that to have communities from all over have a place to be at to showcase what they do for their local or regional community. I loved that one of my communities Women Who WP was in attendance and had a booth to spread the love and community of women in technology.
This years word was Gutenberg, love it or hate it it’s coming to WordPress like a freight train.
The food was awesome, Matt Mullenweg always brings the best BBQ to these events.
The official hotel and the event venue were walking distance away which is nice when you have a tired 12-year old that wanted to take a nap. That hotel was also really nice, we enjoyed ourselves.
My daughter’s swear jar got up to about $8 dollars. We’re not a family that swears and I have friends that don’t have kids of their own and find it challenging to communicate without swearing. Jess has an invoice she needs to send out to a few key people 🙂
Speaking of swearing I was a bit struck when I heard from the stage a poem that was said that included the word Mother F***er. It was crazy to think this happened in such a public forum almost as if Steve Jobs himself dropped an F bomb on state. Anyhow the video has now been made available on WordPress.tv has been modified to exclude an MF bomb in the middle of the poem. I gave WordPress and @photomatt some grief about this:
I think events like this need to foster the next generation of WordPress users, designer, developers and marketers and treating everyone in the audience on the same level outside of the professional norm is weird. I’m glad they have since modified the poem by blanking out the phrase used and the transcription of the poem, I feel this is in good taste given that WordPress is used by more than a quarter of the internet and countless businesses and organizations that dropping an MF wouldn’t be kosher.
The Nashville Science Center being rented out the way it was and we had full reign over the place was a welcomed addition to this awesome fun-filled event.
Jessalyn’s first room service ✅
Thank you to all the 13 women that took the time to interview with Jessalyn, 28 of you came out of the woodwork (with many of you sharing on slack, facebook and twitter to spread the word) we wish we had more time to interview you all. Thank you for taking the time and inspiring my kiddo to get involved more with technology.
You can read Jessalyn’s blog post recap along with her interviews by going to the link below.