Learning More Lessons About Writing

As most of you know, I’ve been talking more lately about writing for others. Indeed, I have been making money writing articles, and I have some blogging clients also.

The thing is, there are two problems with my model. One, I’m not generating the kind of money I thought I’d be generating; two, some of the things I’ve been asked to write about have been, well, kind of impossible for me to write on.

That’s hard to admit to because when I first announced I would do writing services, I assumed there wouldn’t be a topic I couldn’t write on. What I hadn’t thought about was if there’s no information to research on, then I’m stuck. And trust me, not everything is on the internet, it would seem.

So, this weekend, I went to the Digital Point forum to ask a general question about how much research people do on topics that seem impossible to write on, especially when asked about specific keywords and the like. I got some responses, and they seemed, well, a little harsh. Still, I decided to write two of the people private messages to explain to them what I was talking about and what I was getting paid.

Both of them enlightened me. They both said that I’m basically giving my writing away; I was stunned. I did know I was underpaid, but I hadn’t realized by how much I’ve been underpaid. If I were getting paid the rates that I should, research time becomes affordable, and easier because people aren’t asking for stupid stuff.

It was something I needed to hear, and sometimes something we all need to hear. With my main business, or what up to now has been my main business, I knew how to price my services because I understood just how exclusive they were. With writing, I thought I had to compete with the low ball folks and scratch out my living by trying to write so many articles that my mind goes nuts. Nope; turns out that, based on what some of these folks have been doing, and are recommending to me, I could actually make a very good living writing as few as 10 articles a week.

Wow; that would be great! I could still write my blogs, still have blogging clients because I enjoy that, but I could drop all the low dollar writing gigs and concentrate on other stuff all around. Man, life would be sweet doing that.

I share this with y’all because most of us go along doing things that we think is the right way to do it, only to learn that someone else is doing it easier than we are, and succeeding. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my affiliate marketing either; I have plans for doing more of that, as well as plans for adding at least two new blogs into my repertoire. It does mean, though, that I’m ready to embrace a new mind shift towards bigger and better things.

Anyone got a problem with that? 😀


Team Jerseys

The Changing Face Of Spam

You know, I don’t understand spam at all, especially when it’s aimed at blogs. Well, I do, but I’ll get back to it.

Those of us with WordPress blogs, by this time, should all know about Akismet, which learns the patterns of spam and moves it into a spam filter. We can then take the time to look at it to see if there’s something good in there that we want to keep, or delete it, or allow Akismet to delete it as a later time.

These days, I’ve noticed that some spam has gotten smarter, and some has gotten longer. Back in March I wrote about spam getting sneakier, and that hasn’t changed at all. But it keeps getting smarter.

These days, I’m noticing three types of spam coming in. The easiest to spot are the one line items that have a link embedded in them. Sometimes the sentence makes absolutely no sense at all; those folks aren’t even trying.

The second thing I’m noticing is the very long spam messages. These are the types that also show up in email images, where there’s all this text that just makes no sense. But they also include lots of links, which Akismet easily picks up and sends to the spam filter. The problem with the long messages is if you’re going through the spam filter to see if there’s a legit message in there, which I do.

The third, though, is the good stuff. These are the messages that look so real that, I’ve noticed, most people totally miss it. They might notice it if they comment on a lot of blogs, and every once in awhile look at the comments on other blogs, but if they don’t, then they don’t have a chance. Earlier this evening I went ahead and approved a comment that almost looked like spam, only it used my name. Now, if someone has come up with something that actually reads names and puts out a lot of this spam, well, I just got had myself. But it won’t continue, because if one person does it and gets away with it, others will try, and then it’ll be easy to pick all of those out.

I know we all hate spam; how are you dealing with it these days?


Lots Of Blather On Twitter

I know what some of you are thinking; another post on Twitter!

Well, I can’t help it. Twitter is growing fast, and it keeps popping up in the news. Last week there was an attack on Twitter and Facebook aimed at one individual in particular, and I didn’t write about that. This one, though, needs some conversation.

Tweet tweet!
id-iom via Compfight

There was a study done stating that over 40% of all Twitter statements are “pointless babble;” their words, not mine. What the study did was examine 2,000 tweets over a two week period for these categories: News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Conversational, Pass-Along Value, Pointless Babble. Babble won, shockingly, because I’d have thought spam would have been the big winner here.

What’s also weird to think about is how they were able to select only 2,000 tweets out of a two-week period when there are probably tens of thousands of tweets every minute of the day. No, they don’t tell us this, which, along with the number that were examined, makes the study kind of suspect. Yeah, I know that’s how science supposedly does stuff, but that doesn’t mean these particular numbers are all that valid.

Since I’m on Twitter a lot, and see way more than 2,000 tweets a day (man, I feel silly writing that, but so be it), is following more than 1,300 people, and has almost 2,000 people following me, let me give my opinion on the topics above.

The majority of Twitter messages are spam. Everyone is selling something, or so it seems. Many of them are selling ways of making money on Twitter, which includes getting more followers on Twitter. That’s the biggest message that keeps going by, how to get more followers on Twitter.

Next is self promotion, and I’m a part of that one. Many people with blogs have links to their most recent blog posts showing up on Twitter. Many people also advertise their businesses or services in some fashion. Some overdo it; I’m not one of those.

Conversational and Pass-Along on Twitter value are pretty equal. Whereas there are many messages that get multiple retweets, conversations have to take place first. Probably every 10th message gets retweeted at least 5 to 10 times; there’s your equality.

Twitter Babble comes in fifth, but it’s odd. This is that 94% of people who join Twitter, talk a little bit, can’t figure out what to do, then leave. By sheer numbers I could see how the poll would think these people would put out more posts, but the average number of posts for this 94% is only 10 posts, ever. So, the overall numbers don’t quite fit.

News is last, but with a caveat. When there’s something breaking, news is everywhere. Otherwise, it’s almost nonexistent. I tend to post a lot of news stories because, well, stuff is out there that I want to share, but not as many other people do it.

Percentages? My best guess would be:

* Spam, 30%;
* Self Promotion 25%;
* Conversational 15%;
* Pass-Along 15%;
* Babble 10%;
* News 5%.

Anyway, that’s how I see it; how are you seeing it?
 

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Visitors Love “Lists” Posts

Once again, it’s been proven, at least to me; folks just love posts with lists of things they can comment on, whether they agree or not.

My most recent post on sci-fi movies proves that it’s a great way to get visitors engaged. And it’s gotten lots of visits also, which is why I paused a bit before writing a new post here.

Of course, the other side of that is that list posts are popular if people know about you to begin with. I started getting more buzz about this blog around October or November, so a few posts from a period before that didn’t get quite as many visitors or comments. I want to highlight some of both types, if I man, just to bring them back to the forefront for one more go round.

Let’s start with this one, as it’s probably the one that’s not quite a full list. It was actually my commentary on another blog post giving reasons why some people should stop blogging, and I commented on a few of the points the originator brought up.

The next one to talk about was in response to something similar I saw on another blog regarding the top five presentations in history. It has to be since you’ve been alive, which knocked out Franklin Roosevelt’s speech and, of course, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, since I not quite THAT old. lol I think it would have been interesting if someone had shared their thoughts on this post and given some examples of their own; it got nothing. It might be a bit too deep, but so be it.

This next one was another I thought would get a lot of attention. Once again, I was inspired by something on another person’s blog and wanted to give it my shot. The soundtrack of your life idea was to find three songs that explained your life to others. I also added the videos to each song, which the original person did too. Was this one too scary for most folks?

This one did get a lot of attention and comments, as I basically talked about my favorite blog posts for my first year in existence. This one brought back some good memories, and helped to highlight other posts that might not have gotten much attention, but I felt deserved it.

And finally, one of my most visited posts ever on this blog, where I gave my own top 100 singers of all time opinion, based on a Rolling Stone poll that I thought was way off the mark. I mean, if they’re not singers, they shouldn’t count. There’s certainly lots of things to debate on here.

And there you go. And look, a list post about lists; what could be better than that.
 

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My Top 16 Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time

A site called Total Sci-Fi Online came out with their Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies of all time list a week ago, and like what usually happens, people look at such a list and say “what the hey” and “hey, you forgot about” and “why is that ranked so high or so low.” I’m obviously no different, if you remember my post on the Top 100 Singers Of All Time, still one of my most visited posts.

IMG_1828
David Tang via Compfight

One of the problems you sometimes have with critics is that some stuff they throw on a list is just because they think something is cool and has to be on the list, whether they actually liked it or not. For instance, 2001: A Space Odyssey always makes these lists, yet I’ve always thought it was one of the most boring movies I’ve ever tried to watch. Also, Dune was a fantastic book, yet the movie was a mess.

Of course, my list will have my own biases in it. After all, if you know anything about me, you know I’m a major Star Trek fan, so it will be represented.

Anyway, I hope you check out the list above. Meanwhile, I’m going to list my own favorites, in reverse order, and I decided to go with 16 because, well, I just like that number this morning. Actually, I liked the number 15, but then I had trouble with which two movies needed to be near the bottom of my list, so I decided to keep them both. Here we go; and yes, the link to each one is an affiliate link to buying the movie, if you’re so inclined to do so:

Fantastic Voyage – This was one of those big time special effects movies from the 60’s that starred Raquel Welch (that’s enough to put it on my list). Someone is really sick, and these people are shrunk with this new technology and actually “fly” a ship into a person’s body to battle the disease. This was way ahead of its time; nothing like it has been done since.

Predator – For me, this was a sleeper hit, because I hadn’t heard about it when it first came out; what rock was I hiding under? This was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best performances, because he wasn’t playing a robot, was with an ensemble cast that included a future governor of Minnesota, and the Predator was so good that they brought him and his family back for at least 3 more movies.

War of the Worlds (1953 movie) – This movie freaked people out, even decades after learning that Orson Welles radio performance was a hoax. What this movie taught everyone was that you could build up terror without actually seeing monsters, and the pacing was fantastic. Okay, I’ll admit that once we saw the aliens I was a little disappointed, but before then, this movie, even though I saw it many years later since I wasn’t born when it came out, was intense.

Omega Man – I saw this movie before I saw Planet of the Apes, and it was my introduction to Charlton Heston. At the time, I didn’t equate the dark creatures he was battling with zombies, ala Will Smith and I Am Legend (which I didn’t see; I don’t like zombies), which is a good thing because I might never have watched it. Talk about scary and being ahead of its time; who’d have thought that the original protector of the right to bear arms would also be one of the first big white Hollywood stars to have an interracial relationship on screen?

Fantastic Planet – This little avant-garde cartoon movie is fantastic, hence its name. It’s about these little people who are made slaves for this larger race of people, yet one of the little people discovers a major secret that he uses to free his civilization. This movie really was deep, and way ahead of its time; check out this clip to see if it engages you in any way.

Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind – This is how most of us who love space movies hope that, if there ever really is an alien encounter, it goes. Richard Dreyfuss really played his part well, and all of us were hoping he’d make it over the mountain and get to interact with the aliens, which of course he did. This was also, at the time, the longest movie I’d ever seen, yet I could have watched another hour.

Planet of the Apes – I actually saw the second movie first, which kept me up late at night for weeks. The first one, with Charlton Heston (though he made a brief appearance in the second movie), was obviously the better movie. Who hasn’t quoted lines from this movie after seeing it? The idea that man will one day ruin the planet and that another race will step up to the plate seems plausible the more you think about it.

X-Files: Fight The Future – At the time this movie came out, X-Files was my favorite TV show. This movie wasn’t for people who’d never seen the show, because they’d have had no idea what was going on. Yet, if they just wanted a thrill a minute, this movie had lots of it. The producers took a major chance with this movie, as it linked the end of one season with the beginning of the next season, and if fans missed it then they’d have had no idea what was going on. For me, it was a perfect compliment to the series.

Andromeda Strain – Talk about a movie that was ahead of its time. No one had ever heard of ebola when this story, then movie, came out. In general, something is killing all the citizens in towns around the country, and a small band of super scientists are put together to try to figure out what’s going on. The difference this time is that each scientist has their own personal issues they have to work through at the same time. Very human movie and a precursor to the hysteria we went through in the 80’s when the real thing came to light.

Terminator – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second movie on this list, and his best movie ever. Talk about capturing the imagination of the world; robot comes back in history to kill the person who’s eventually going to give birth to the leader they’re fighting in the future. Can one change the future? This movie, and the three that followed it, seem to indicate that answer is no, but they still keep trying. The second movie was great also, but this one started it all. Yeah, tell me you’ve never said “I’ll be back.”

The Matrix – This movie was just cool. Imagine the premise; everything we see and feel right now isn’t real, just something forced through our bodies by a race of machines intent on eliminating anything else that’s real, which is a dark place instead. If humans created machines, doesn’t that mean that at least one human has the capability to overcome them? “I should have taken the blue pill.” And I’d have loved it even more if it had been this version:

5. Jurassic Park – The build up for this movie was intense; the movie didn’t let me down. Imagine; science realizing that they can actually make dinosaurs via DNA from the past. Then they take a shortcut; what could go wrong? This is science that some are talking about doing today; I think it’s a mistake, but what do I know? This movie was so intense when I saw it that I had to go back 3 days later to watch it again so I could finally get to sleep. It taught me to never, and I mean NEVER, go to any more movies of this type at midnight.

4. Star Wars III – Revenge Of The Sith – In my opinion, this was the best movie out of the six… I think I’m the only person in the universe to think so. lol It was dark, action packed, and definitely the one movie that was more for adults than for kids or swooning little girls.

Even though we all knew what was going on, we were captivated in seeing how it all went down. From Yoda battling the Sith to Obi Wan Kenobe and Anakin Skywalker battling to the almost death on a volcano planet, I felt like this movie had the most intrigue of them all. Never had the forces of good and evil been to definitely drawn out and illuminated. It was so good that I easily overcame my one gripe and the one thing I hated most, which was Anakin so immediately giving his life over to the Sith with no qualms whatsoever and, of course, Hayden Christensen being in it at all (worst acting performance ever, but at least he was good in the final action sequence)!

3. Star Trek II – Wrath Of Khan – This was the first movie that almost made me cry since Brian’s Song. They brought back Ricardo Montalban as Khan from one of the best TV episodes, and he was the perfect choice for this movie as well. William Shatner as James Kirk uttered a line in this movie that’s one of my mantra’s these days: “I never believe in the no-win scenario.” That they killed off Spock almost crushed my spirit; I was so glad they brought him back, even if the 3rd movie overall wasn’t top notch. And Kirstie Alley was still hot. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.” For some reason the speech part is against copyright, so this is a clip that’s somewhat different, yet you still get the visual:

2. Armageddon – This movie makes the list because it almost made me cry near the end also, which, from what I understand, a lot of other guys felt the same way. The premise is that a super asteroid is heading towards Earth, and NASA decides to hire some guys known for drilling oil wells to do the job of digging into the asteroid so they can blow it up with a nuke. When Bruce Willis tells his daughter that he won’t be coming back, even though I have no children, that was a tough moment, but when he actually does blow himself and the asteroid up, fulfilling his words, and then they show the wedding scenario with his picture and the other guys who didn’t come back,… well, it took all the reserve I had not to fall out like a baby.

1. Independence Day – This one makes the top of my list because it’s the one movie that I can go to when I need a boost even now. The premise behind the movie is that, just before America’s Independence Day, we’re visited by an alien race that’s intent on wiping out humanity so they can scavenge the planet for all its resources for its own people. And their technology is way beyond ours; how can we overcome it? With Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, and a rousing speech from Bill Pullman, that’s how.

This movie is personal for me. For 2 1/2 days after the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC on September 11th, 2001, I was glued to the TV, changing channels every so often looking for something new on what was going on. I didn’t sleep for more than 60 hours. Finally, I knew I had to get away from it. So, I got up, went into the bedroom, and put this movie into the DVD player and went to the speech.

I watched the movie from that point 6 or 7 times in a row before I started feeling good. That’s why this movie is number one on my list.

And there you go. I’d love to hear your comments and see which movies you feel belong on the list. And maybe you’ll put your own list together, and let us know; I love this stuff!
 

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