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One of the Main Reasons Why You Should Thank Matt Mullenweg (and the WordPress Community) for Efforts to Increase Online / Digital Literacy Rates Worldwide

2016-03-27 in Uncategorized

More than one in four websites on the globe runs on WordPress… — but that statistic doesn’t actually matter (I will get back to this statistical issue in a moment).

Wordpress logo

WordPress logo

99.9999% of all comments on the Internet are completely worthless. This is why Google decided to create and champion the “nofollow” tag — in order to delist all comments from Google’s index. Google perhaps made a very small mistake (in throwing out the 0.0001% baby with the bathwater)… yet ultimately that comes down to 2 issues: 1. Whether you want to have any “comments” indexed at all; 2. How much you value that very small number of comments you might actually want indexed. Google was also very clever to stick the smoking gun of delisting comments into the hands of other people — perhaps there is indeed no need to cry “don’t shoot” when you’re not holding a gun after all.

In any case, the result is: Comments are not indexed. For that matter: I can’t remember if I have ever seen a facebook.com post come up in the top 10 results on any Google search. I do recall seeing twitter.com posts every now and then, but perhaps this is down to Google still being undecided regarding whether to acquire twitter or not (everything has a price). In my humble opinion, no anonymous comment is worth even just that proverbial “penny for your thoughts” — if you are not willing to stand behind your own words, I don’t want to hear them at all. In my less humble opinion, what passes for identity verification / authentication is usually completely ridiculous. Ergo, in my estimation at least 99.9999% of all online comments — perhaps even 99.9999% of all online content in general — is completely worthless crap.

Now back to the batcave — I mean: the statistical issue I raised above. The reason why maybe it is not so important that more than one in four websites run on WordPress is that most of the many millions of websites are actually owned by very few people. I myself manage a portfolio of thousands… — you might call it an investment… sort of: being long on literacy in a for the most part presently still illiterate world… and I am personally myself active on only about several dozen — or perhaps a couple hundred(?) — of these sites (including, e.g., this one). I am sorry to admit that nooblogs has yet to really catch on, enter the wider vocabulary, join the ranks of Google, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. in the list of brand names deemed significant enough to be listed in a dictionary. (yet there is still hope 😉 )

So while anonymous commentators, facebook page creators and twitterati remain oblivious to their own disenfranchisement while they surf in the most sophisticated dreamworlds of virtual reality, the plain and dirty fact of the matter — the truth, if you will — is that if you don’t manage your own website, then you are unfortunately… pretty much… nobody.

If you want to be listed in the top 10 Google results for anything, then it might help to be Google (or Alphabet or whatever — in any case: evil 😈 ) or at the very least give Google a chance to make some money (by putting Google ads on your site — i.e., helping Google to earn tons of money while you can be very proud to be listed in Google at all — at least for something).

For that tiny fraction of one percent of people who are literate enough to publish something that enables the somewhat larger population of somewhat literate users of the web to be able to read what the more literate have written, WordPress has been a Godsend. Matt often speaks about the democratization of publishing — and I feel he is right to do so… yet the vast, vast,… overwhelingly vast majority have still not attained a level of literacy sufficient to publish anything of significance on the web. The success of facebook.com is a glaring document of how widespread illiteracy still is.

Matt and other creators and contributors to WordPress have done a lot to help. You should be thankful. More than that, if you are a little bit educated, you should already be running WordPress. If not, you should presently be installing it now. Otherwise, there is a high chance that you probably paid too much for your education.

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Free Spech, Freedom of the Press and Paid Content

2016-02-10 in Uncategorized

If you think your so-called right to free speech grants you the permission to post a full-page ad on the cover of the New York Times (or on the homepage of nytimes.com), I think you are mistaken.

By the way: I also think there is some confusion about the role of advertising in the global economy. Most people think an online advertisement costs little or nothing. The truth is: It costs a lot, but companies like Google will pay very little (almost nothing) to companies like the New York Times for the right to place Google ads on the pages of the New York Times (never mind that Google also probably uses the ads to track which New York Times articles people are actually reading – in order to sell them something Google makes more money on when those people use Google to search for something else).

Yet I digress….

Back to your so-called right to free speech. It ain’t free. There’s a traditional German song called „Die Gedanken sind frei“ (i.e. „thoughts are free“) – and while that may be true, you can’t always say what you want (something people like Edward Snowdon and/or Julian Assange maybe should have thought about a little more).

Yet I digress again….

I think quite a few people think that my view of literacy involves needing to pay for valuable domain names – and I think there may indeed be some credence to that point of view. If / When people then conclude that my arguments are against their so-called right to free speech, then they are (in my humble opinion) wrong.

In case you don’t know: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s no such thing as free anything. I paid to write this post – not with money, but with time… and with blood, sweat and tears. You are also paying to read it – there is an „opportunity cost“ you are paying for not doing something else instead.

Ergo: Free speech is not free.

Everything costs something. One of the basic tenets of free markets is that people can freely choose to value different things according to how much they are willing to pay for them. I bet there is even a price for placing a full-page ad on the cover / homepage of the NYT (BTW: Google has been placing ads on their homepage for many years already – but most people don’t even realize that).

If your content is worthless to you, then it seems reasonable to post it somewhere that seems to cost nothing. However: If you expect me to pay attention to it, then that seems rather unreasonable to me.

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Why Literacy Rates Still Remain So Low

2016-02-09 in Uncategorized

I often lament that the vast majority of people who are active online are still by and large illiterate. I may be right, I may be wrong, I may be somewhere in between – but why does it matter?

Perhaps it matters for many reasons, but my primary concern is that I feel personal whim – whether my own personal whim or someone else’s – should not be the judge of what is good or bad.

If more people were more literate, then the web would be more of a self-organizing system. People who write about advertising in sports might publish their ideas @ sports.com … people who share their ideas about the influence of money in politics might post these to a site like influence-of-money-in-politics.org … and so on. This already happens to a limited extent – let me describe it thusly: Over the past recent decades, the WWW-population has transitioned from being about 0.01% literate to maybe being somewhere around 0.1% literate… – and let me point out that some might rejoice at the exponential growth!

Why don’t I also rejoice?

Because there are a large number of quite influential agents who seem to be opposed to any increase in the level of literacy. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that a large portion of the literate population are indeed such influencers who seek to diminish the voice of the vast majority by
keeping them misinformed, uneducated, … basically: illiterate.

These influencers are strongly represented not only among the literate minority, but also among the world’s leading brand names … and are household brands with stronger stangleholds on the vast majority of masses living in quiet desparation than gigantic armies of grade school English teachers could ever muster. Did you mean you didn’t know that already?

Why am I not surprized?

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Get Paid to Change

2015-05-02 in Uncategorized

People want to “get paid to…” do whatever.

Nowhere is that more clearly exemplified than on “YouTube” websites. Many people create videos, movies, stories, channels or whatever in order to get paid. I recently heard some media executive (it could have been any of thousands of executives, really) argue on some news program that “we need to end free”. People like this don’t seem to realize that there is no money in digital (“on the page”) content (see also “People as Content: Virtual Content vs. “In Real Life” (IRL) Content“). Where the real money is in tracking what content people are consuming, and then making educated guesses about what type of other crap they might want to consume — at least from an advertising perspective.

From a community perspective, it’s actually quite different. In a community, members are already engaged much in the same way that they might join a club — they are willing to pay membership fees, they want to participate, and so on. It’s an entirely different mindset — and one that most people don’t understand, because they are so mesmerized by the idea of consuming mass quantities of free crap.

One thing that is fascinating to watch happening is how YouTube sites kind of bring together people who expect free content with people who expect to get paid to produce content. Maybe it is a marketplace that introduces people to the idea that payment for quality engagement might have a future. At the very least, it should introduce people to at some point realize that when they signed up for a free lunch they are in reality just being sold down the river. 😉

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Monica Lewinsky’s “The Price of Shame” TED Talk is Really About the Price of Inauthenticity

2015-03-25 in Uncategorized

Several people have shared the latest Monica Lewinsky video on Facebook, so I decided to watch it. While the topic is important, Ms. Lewinsky’s lack of authenticity makes her come across as bogus, as shilling for clickbait-based advertising campaigns.

Ms. Lewinsky has shared her story in many “mainstream” publications (such as Vanity Fair, Forbes, Twitter and now also TED)… but she has not yet published her story herself.

In her latest presentation, she states:

it’s time: time to stop tip-toeing around my past; time to stop living a life of opprobrium; and time to take back my narrative.

Again: While it is commendable that Ms. Lewinsky uses 50-Cent vocabulary, she really should deliver what she so strongly advocates: To take back her narrative.

To do that, she needs to publish her ideas herself. She should stop submitting them to other publishers who will only use them as clickbait to sell advertisements.

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Proprietary Domain Names as Brands: Branding / Promotional Strategy (Case Study)

2015-02-20 in Uncategorized

Proprietary domain names (also know as “new gtld” [ngtld — from the common abbreviation for “top level domain = “tld”]) apparently need a sophisticated branding strategy in order to establish what Howard Lefkowitz refers to as “brands” in the online marketplace:

Simply having the name vegas.com, upon which Lefkowitz has built the bulk of his legacy, is not enough to launch a brand. The relationship that brands build with their audience is what will launch the business into success.

http://tech.co/whats-domain-name-howard-lefkowitz-stresses-brand-strength-2015-02

Color me “not impressed” — but the video is at least a little entertaining. 😉

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Conversion Technology

2015-01-30 in Uncategorized

How do you convert men with a wimpy, limp dicks into a full hardon hungry-for-some-vagina animals? Mother nature has already been working on that technology for many millions of years, so I need not go into any details here.

Here I want to talk about the Internet, the World-Wide Web, and machine-readable information. But first let me give you a little piece of eye candy:

eye candy

Please go ahead and “mouse-over” that image to see the link to its source (it’s at this website: sunnyskyz.com). A machine cannot tell that this is a picture — or rather: two pictures — of three naked boys and three (pretty much) naked men… — but I presume you (whom I also presume to be human) can. The string “sunnyskyz” also means nothing to a machine — in contrast, for example, to the phrase “bright future”. The promise of the “computationally” meaningless (and “misspelled”) string may — in contrast — be very meaningful to the foolish and gullible human seeking some satisfaction this very moment.

During the 20th Century, a lot of marketing and advertising was about getting and converting the attention of foolish and gullible humans. In the 21st Century, we now also seek to convert another animal: the machine.

Today, many machines exist — and they are used by humans quite often to help make decisions. One very well-known machine goes by the name of “Google”. The Google machine comprises many things, including what is known as “an algorithm” but also the less well-known servers that suck up huge amounts of energy to keep the complete system running like a charm. Most people see Google as an empty box that wants to be filled with words, or brand names, or at least something… but behind that box is a whole bunch of technology, some of it being software, but also a significant amount being hardware.

Information scientists sometimes refer to such machines as if they were humans — for example: ascribing them the ability to read. The stuff such machines are considered to be able to read is called “machine-readable information”. This set of information is not forever fixed in time, but I can confidently say that it will probably remain limited to what is commonly referred to as “text” for the foreseeable future. The way most machines can tell the difference between the meaningless “sunnyskyz” and the meaningful “bright future” is by having humans describe the difference to them (for example: linguists like Noam Chomsky have described “rules” for what humans consider to be meaningful expressions, and these rules are then converted into “machine-readable code” — another type of text that machines can understand).

Different machines will apply different algorithms to “figure out” different answers to the same question. And increasingly, many of the most popular machines will even each individually give different answers to the same question posed by different users (aka humans), or even by the same user at different times or in different locations. Some of these machines even work together in groups — such as “Facebook” and “Instagram” (and a bunch of other related machines, including e.g. “internet.org”).

The crux of the human-computer-interface in the online space (i.e. the parts that are “connected to the internet”) is natural language (which has been “taught” to machines via hardware and software algorithms). Humans talk to machines — they “call them up” — by calling them by their names. They usually ask different machines different questions… — and the questions they tend to ask follows a similar semantic language. They might ask “Cars” about a car, they might ask “Hotels” about a hotel, and so on. At the moment, 9 out of 10 (or even more) humans ask only one machine — or perhaps only a couple machines — almost all of their questions … much in the same way as people in ancient times would ask an oracle, or maybe a religious leader, all of their most pressing questions of the moment.

Yet there are many signs on the horizon that this level of naiveté will not last very much longer. Competition among machines is increasing and will continue to increase, and machines will develop their own specialties — much in the same ways as smiths became know as “Smith”, and millers became “Miller” — and humans will increasingly go to the specialized machine that best suits their needs at any given time, in any given location, and according to the language humans have devised their machines in.

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Over Time, Blog Post Titles Will Transition from Click-Bait to an Invitation to Engage

2015-01-13 in Uncategorized

The transition from click-bait blog post titles to blog post titles that invite the reader to become engaged and participate will be due to a different motivation to write blog posts.

Today most blog posts are made in order to make money from advertising something else, so the main motivation is to get someone to read or at least visit the blog page. Such advertising is usually quite worthless, and therefore will ultimately also pay very little or nothing.

In the future, the motivation will be all about engagement — about participating in the author’s own interests, projects, opportunities for collaboration, etc.

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