Scammy “online entrepreneurs” and their collateral damage

Assuming because someone makes a living online that they’re frauds or scammers is ridiculous. Of course there are some, but there are also some amazing folks who do stellar work and provide real value for a price. Selling isn’t spamming. We’re not evil simply because we’re trying to make a living online if we take into consideration our customers and audiences. Most huge companies never do this. Most huge companies don’t have the human touch smaller businesses do, and yet we still seem to be getting punished.”

The enemy (Paul Jarvis)

I feel for Paul. His work is thoughtful and mindful. He’s so far removed from the online entrepreneur hustler archetype it’s hard to imagine someone lumping him in with that crowd.

But that crowd is big. And noisy. And filling your Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube with endless ads. You know the ones — about how they’ve made so much money with their easy-to-follow blueprint and, if you sign up now, for only $99/$199/$499, you too can make tons of money by following their same blueprint.

I’m just here in my garage marketing to marketers about selling marketing to marketers to make more money…

And it goes on and on and on. It’s a damn shame. Entrepreneurship is legitimate. But scammers and posers ruin it. To the point that “make money online” is almost a punchline, despite it being the dominant industry of our time. (Facebook? Amazon? Netflix? Google? Microsoft? That’s some sweet, sweet internet money, y’all.)

So, to quote Paul once again: Selling isn’t spamming. It’s not evil to try and make a living online, if you take into consideration your customers and audiences.

Online community predates the web

“While working at CERN, Berners-Lee had put together all of the elements of the World Wide Web, and it was even starting to get some use internally. But he had yet to announce the project publicly. The message above was his first time doing so. The venue he chose was the most familiar to him. In a Usenet post, unceremoniously tucked away inside another thread.”

The Importance of Being on Usenet (The History of the Web)

Online community predates the web: BBSes, Usenet, email mailing lists, IRC.

What’s nice about these early platforms — and even the software that followed on the web, like internet forums (message boards) — was that they were decentralized. They were protocols or software that anyone could use to create a new place of their own.

But that’s not where we are today. We’re firmly in Web 2.0, relying on centralized service providers like Facebook, Twitter, Slack, et al.

There’s obvious upside to using these services. They handle the maintenance, the development, the support. But they also have total control. They decide how the service runs and how they’ll use your data.

Thankfully, though, there are alternatives.

Mastodon, Friendica, and Diaspora are all decentralized alternatives to Twitter and Facebook. Mattermost and Rocket.Chat are decentralized, open alternatives to Slack. PeerTube is an open alternative to YouTube. And forum software like Discourse, Flarum, and Vanilla are all open alternatives to Facebook Groups.

You can emulate some of this on WordPress, too. BuddyPress adds social media capabilities to WordPress. bbPress adds a forum. Not to mention plugins like Memberful and MemberPress that can add a paid membership component.

TL;DR = Online community predates the web. It was built on open protocols and platforms of the early internet. That spirit lived on in Web 1.0. We lost some of that with Web 2.0 and centralized service providers, but we’re not beyond redemption.

Chaos is a feature of the online world

This chaos — this cubism, this unleashing of our multiple selves — is a feature, not a bug, of the online world. It’s arguably its defining characteristic for those who grew up there. You could attribute all the jump cuts, all the endlessly iterating memes, to a destroyed attention span. But it’s also evidence of something deeper, a mind-set people are just trying to name.”

“Arguably it is the dominant postapocalyptic vision of our digital times, the internet’s McLuhan moment, brought to us by teenagers who, as such, spend their days feeling like 10 different people at once and believe they can, and should, express them all. We all contain multitudes. The kids seem to know that’s all right.”

What Do Teens Learn Online Today? (NY Times Magazine)

When I look at the fluidity of the next generation and how they behave online, I feel a pang of nostalgia for the years I spent lurking on message boards during the early 00’s.

It’s a different landscape now. The linear discussion threads I grew up with have given way to ephemeral video with superimposed text and memes and emojis (memojis? ?)

But having a multitude of aliases and different personas to morph in and out of? Heh. That’s old news. It’s been part of the online experience since Usenet. We’re just witnessing Gen Z manifest it in a new way.

Subscriptions might save local news

Most local newspapers are simply not worth saving, not because local news isn’t valuable, but rather because everything else in your typical local newspaper is worthless (from a business perspective). That is why I was careful in my wording: subscriptions will not save newspapers, but they just might save local news, and the sooner that distinction is made the better.

A sustainable local news publication will be fundamentally different: a minimal rundown of the news of the day, with a small number of in-depth articles a week featuring real in-depth reporting, with the occasional feature or investigative report. After all, it’s not like it is hard to find content to read on the Internet: what people will pay for is quality content about things they care about (and the fact that people care about their cities will be these publications’ greatest advantage).”

The Local News Business Model (Stratechery)

I’m bullish on local news. It’s just taking a while for the next generation of local news properties to pop up. Thanks to projects like Newspack, Substack, and others, I think we’re going to get there soon. Hopefully.

The blurring line between UGC and branded content

“Gen Z kids have never known a world where their private browsing data wasn’t commodified. They’ve grown up surrounded by brands tweeting memes, partnering with influencers, and angling to profit off their attention. That’s probably why they’re no less likely to share content if it was produced by a corporation, or if it has a promotional or advertisement bent. The line between UGC and branded content has gotten blurry.

The Latest Insights on Gen Z (Contently)

When marketers talk about UGC and working with micro-influencers, are we talking about the online equivalent of street teams? From the Wikipedia entry:

“The now ubiquitous “street team” model was originally developed by urban record labels […] labels found it affordable and highly effective bridge to their target audience that did not require the traditional outlets found in print, radio, television mediums and elusive large scale record distribution deals.”

Rally a bunch of fans together and give them an incentive to promote a product they already like or use. It’s like a refer-a-friend program with kickbacks.

Of course Gen Z is going to be all over that. Heck, I’d be all over that if I was a teen looking to make some money on the side.

The value of local biz websites for SEO

“Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.”

Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019 (Moz)

Small businesses need websites. The website is a single “source of truth” that they control. Everything else they do online — Facebook, Instagram, Google My Business — should point back to it.

I’m biased of course — I work at GoDaddy, we sell a website builder, and we sell WordPress hosting — but I was an advocate of getting local businesses online long before I joined GoDaddy. It’s why got into web development as a career.

Let’s make simplicity the default

Eminently usable designs and architectures result when simplicity is the default. It’s why unadorned HTML works. It beautifully solves the problem of presenting documents to the screen that we don’t even consider all the careful thought that went into the user agent stylesheets that provide its utterly boring presentation. We can take a lesson from this, especially during a time when more websites are consumed as web apps, and make them more resilient by adhering to semantics and native web technologies. As it stands, we’re serving heaps of burgers on silver platters of JavaScript with a generous helping of layout framework sauce not everyone can choke down.”

Make it Boring (Jeremy Wagner)

My dev chops are getting rusty. It’s time for a refresher.

Rather than dropping headfirst into new frameworks or build tools — as I’ve tried before, many times, with limited success — I’m rethinking my approach:

Start with the basics. Clean markup. Plain ol’ HTML. Figure out the semantic structure, then add from there. Bolt on new pieces as needed, only if needed.

Millennials and Gen Z were born on the wrong side

” Britons who came of age in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 will, in many cases, be worse off than their parents. Born on the wrong side of skyrocketing property values, 30-year-olds are only half as likely to own homes as baby boomers were at the same age. A third are expected to rent for their whole lives.”

The Making of a Young U.K. Socialist (New York Times)

I recognize and am grateful for how lucky we are to be millennial home owners. I grew up in basement apartments and the notion of buying a house felt like a lofty dream well beyond my reach.

But that’s still the reality for most people our age. Aside from us lucky outliers, the system failed our peers.

Those who came before us — not all, but broadly, as a generation — climbed a ladder to higher ground, and knocked the ladder over once they reached the top.

Procrastinating through research

“In my experience writing books, it isn’t just a “resistance” thing or a “perfectionist” thing or a fear thing, it’s more about research and wondering if you’ve done enough of it. Research becomes your way of procrastinating, because, let’s face it, research is just more fun than writing. (Me, personally, I became a professional writer so I could be a professional reader.)”

Start before you think you’re ready (Austin Kleon)

I feel this. So hard.

My reading queue on Pocket is a mile long. Nevermind the stack of books in my office, the endlessness of my “Read This” tasks in Todoist, or the lists of URLs in Notion pages that, at some point, I need to review and consolidate into notes for future projects and professional development.

Sigh. There just never seems to be enough time.

Chickpeas are so hot right now

“Chickpeas are inexpensive and broadly available, and the global cuisines they commonly appear in are ones that de-emphasize meat in ways that Americans are starting to see as more valuable.”

In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas (The Atlantic)

Can confirm: chickpeas are awesome.

Hummus? Falafels? Buddha bowls? Yes to all of it.

+ Chickpeas were a must-have item in my cupboard, along with frozen mixed vegetables and Uncle Ben’s Fast & Fancy, while I was a broke freelancer.

+ Chickpeas are a staple in vegan recipes, from savoury dishes to sweet desserts. Reducing your meat consumption doesn’t mean giving up flavourful meals. Check out Minimalist Baker for some inspiration.