Posts tagged ‘community’

The power of an audience

I know Brett Slatkin from my work on PubSubHubbub back in the day. Brett wrote a great post about why he has his own website. I think it’s an interesting discussion to have in a world where increasingly more content lives on third-party properties like Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus. Brett lists his reasons as being:

1. Having a home

When I want you to know something, I’m going to talk about it here. This is where you’ll be able to find me over time and space. This is my home. People in the neighborhood used to just drop by to see folks and catch up; this site serves the same purpose for me. It’s something we can depend on so we can always be in contact.

2. Expressing myself

This blog is a creative outlet for me. I designed how the pages look and choose the content in each post. If the site is ugly or hard to read it’s my fault, but I’m proud of it anyways. I like that readers get a feeling from my site that’s unique to me. I like that my content and how it’s conveyed are a single package that I’ve created myself.

3. Internet citizenship

We call it the “web” because our sites all interconnect with links. Hyperlinking is what gives the Internet its richness. Following links has helped me learn so much. So I want to give back. I want to cite others and be cited. I want to contribute to the web’s complexity. My own site lets me do that.

Each of his points resonate with me. But for me, there’s one reason that trumps them all: the power of an audience.

I remember showing Twitter to a friend in the early days. Like many people, he told me that he just didn’t get it. Why would anyone care what he was eating for lunch? Later in our conversation my friend mentioned that he was looking for a ticket to a sold-out event that evening. Being one to never pass up the opportunity to show off, I pulled out my phone and promised I’d have a ticket for him in 5 minutes. My Twitter followers came through for me and my friend got a first-hand demonstration of the power of having an audience. He signed up for Twitter that same night.

The fact that Marissa Mayer, Mark Cuban and thousands of other people follow me on Twitter is really cool. So are the friends I have on Facebook. And the people who are subscribed to this blog. Having an audience is an incredibly valuable asset no matter where you build it. It blows my mind that almost half a million people have visited this site. I love the internet. It’s a way for ordinary people like me to have a voice in the world. I don’t take that for granted for a second. As always, thanks for listening and reading along. It means a lot.


Hey Josh, what are you doing now?

That’s the question I’ve been getting about 10 times a day lately.  It’s been 4 months since we shut down EventVue and my life has changed a lot since then.  I wanted to give a quick personal update to those of you who care about me and are interested.

After shutting down EventVue, Rob and I were immediately inundated with messages from friends and strangers alike.  I was blown away.  The outpouring of support was completely unexpected and I want to say “thanks” to everyone who reached out.  You reminded me once again how lucky I am to be a part of this community.

Next, I decided to take a month and travel around Australia and New Zealand.  The scenery was stunning and the trip gave me a much needed break.  It turns out startup life can be quite exhausting.  We’d been at it for 3 years and I was working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week right up to the end.  Going to the other side of the world gave me a much needed opportunity to clear my head.  It also reminded me that other things in life matter more than just working all the time.  I met a ton of great people and their nonchalant attitude towards their careers was pretty contagious.  I left for down under with the intention of figuring out my next startup or job, but over the month I was gone I felt every ounce of ambition drip out of me.  It was great.

After getting back to the States, I started wading through the dozens of job offers that had come in while I was gone.  I considered a few of them, but the month off left me with some serious commitment issues.  I knew I wasn’t ready to do another startup, but I could already feel that itch starting to come back.  The more I thought about it, the less it made sense for me to take another full time job.  I hated the idea of taking a full time job when there was still a high chance that I would just bail after a few months to do another startup .  As they say, you only get to leave Google once.

So instead, I said “yes” to some offers for consulting and contract work.  And that’s mostly what I’ve been doing.  It’s been a good chance to work on projects I find interesting with people I like.  It’s also given me a great opportunity to get my work-life balance straight once again.  I’ve been getting outside more and have started to get into rock climbing.  I’m loving it!  Summers in Boulder are amazing and I’m looking forward to lots of hiking and mountain biking this summer.

Another benefit of the contract work is that I have more time to play with ideas for my next startup.  I’ve realized that startups are an addiction and I’m thoroughly hooked.  One idea in particular has captured my attention.  It’s too early to say much, but the basic concept is that I want to change the way we grocery shop.  I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the grocery business and I’d appreciate any insight or introductions you can make along those lines.  I’m not planning to jump head-first into another startup quite yet, but it’s fun to start dreaming of new ideas again.

So, how’s life?  Better than I deserve.  I’m convinced we made the right decision to close EventVue — if for no other reason than I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.


Choosing your audience

For every blog post I write, I pick an audience.

For me, it boils down to two options: the first is to write for my RSS subscribers, my loyal readers, my friends, my community.  The second option is to write for strangers, random people searching Google, the people who stumble upon my blog every day because of something I wrote that matches what they were seeking.

TechCrunch writes for the community. Mashable writes for Google.

I realize that’s a pretty broad generalization, but just look at the data.  The three featured posts on TechCrunch right now are No User Updates?, Location and Comparisons.  They may be catchy titles, but probably not anything that would rank well in Google.  Mashable, in comparison, has an entire How-to series permalinked from their top navigation.  This series contains posts like HOW TO: Retweet on Twitter and HOW TO: Download YouTube Videos to Your Desktop.  Guess what?  Almost every post in Mashable’s How-to section is the top result for its title phrase in Google.  Mashable is obviously milking the Google traffic for all it’s worth.  Meanwhile, TechCrunch doesn’t seem to even consider the SEO implications of their posts.

I think it’s obvious that both strategies can work.  What I find interesting is how hard it is to write for both audiences at the same time.

If you decide to start writing for Google, the first thing you should do is turn your title into something that looks more like a search query.  If you’re really thorough, you will Google the title you want to use and check the PageRank of the existing results to make sure you can dominate that phrase.  It’s amazing how well this simple strategy can work.  Sure, your newly devised titles aren’t as engaging as they used to be, but you’ll start seeing far more traffic from Google.  Best of all, the traffic shows up regardless of whether you create new content or not.  The danger of course is that you’ll start alienating your core audience.  This happens when you give in to the temptation to write broader and broader content.  There are far more beginners than intermediates, so the fastest way to get more traffic is to dumb things down.  After all, the top “how to” result on Google isn’t “how to implement pubsubhubbub” it’s “how to tie a tie”.  Traffic is addictive.  If you’re not careful, you’ll soon find yourself writing at the intermediate level instead of expert.  You’ll slowly lose your original audience which is now getting content it didn’t sign up for, but don’t worry – you’ll more than make up for the pageviews you lose.  Heck, the new audience is much better at clicking on ads anyway.  Everyone has to decide for themselves whether it is worth the trade.

When I write on this blog, I’m usually torn about which audience to pick.  50% of my traffic comes from Google, and my posts are pretty evenly split between the two audiences.  A lot of times when I solve a tricky problem with some code I want to share my solution to help someone out there from wasting hours of their life like I did.  It’s my way of giving back to the countless strangers that have helped me out by documenting their solutions along the way.  Posts written for Google send along a good bit of traffic, but I also enjoy writing posts that will never be found via Google.  The protocols powering the real-time web doesn’t get much traffic from Google, but the discussion that post generated was amazing.  My goal for this blog is simply to share what I am learning, and that holds true regardless of who reads it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is one audience inherently better than the other?  Do you think it’s possible to maintain both?