About Me

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Facebook says I live in the Bay Area. Twitter boasts that I like puns and bad jokes (@The_PUNisher_SF), and then Reddit upvotes and says I LOVE puns and bad jokes. And this blog tells you about my experiences using social media sites and learning to fit them all together into my life.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 April Fools' jokes on the Internet

Growing up, April Fools' Day was an exciting day of school pranks and sibling torture.  It was fun but ultimately was a juvenile holiday that wasn't acknowledged much in the outside world.  At least, not until the Internet.  The Internet has taken hold of April Fools' Day and turned it into a hilarious day of sites playing web pranks on their own fan base.

Every year you can usually count on Google, YouTube, ThinkGeek, and various other sites to launch advertisements for fake devices and products that are so close to real that sometimes you can't tell the difference.

Without these pranks, we never would have been introduced to the term rickrolling, which became a hit when YouTube set all their homepage videos to link to the now-famous Rick Astley song.  And ThinkGeek never would have created this fake Star Wars tauntaun sleeping bag that was asked for in such high demand that it ended up becoming a real product!
This sleeping bag can be yours now, just click here.

Here are some of the best pranks released so far for 2013:
  • Google has launched a new search feature called Google Nose.  By using photons and infrasound waves, they've claimed to have created a web-searchable version of "Smellavision". 

  • YouTube has released a video confessing that their company's mission for the last 8 years was to find the best video in the world.  At midnight tonight, they will close down YouTube, delete all of its content, and start jurying which video is the winner.  The results will be announced in 2023.  The best part of this video are the interviews with YouTube "celebrities" from videos like Evolution of Dance and Charlie Bit Me, saying why they need to win this competition.

  • Google Maps has released an interactive "Treasure Maps" mode of map viewing.  Besides changing the standard view, they also changed the street view to appear as if looking through a telescope.

  • On his Facebook page, George Takei got fans in an uproar when he faked an announcement that he will be appearing in the upcoming Star Wars film.

  • Twitter announced that their site is now becoming a vowel-free zone, and anyone wanting to use vowels has to pay for their new premium service for $5 a month.  They even made a handy site to remove the vowels for you: https://discover.twitter.com/twttr/

  • Hulu is featuring shows on their homepage like "Itchy & Scratchy" and "The Rural Juror", all of which are fake shows that exist within real shows.

  • Reddit posted an announcement that they will be down for maintenance starting at midnight tonight.   Sadly for Reddit users, this is more of a heart-stopping worst-fear-realized than a lighthearted prank.  Stay strong, Redditors!
    (UPDATE: The site actually did go offline for less than 5 minutes, with a note to "Go outside, Redditors".  And the admin posted an update that he really did have to do maintenance because a database master died today.  Meeps, maybe not an AF joke after all...)
  • Imgur (an image sharing site) announced today that users can now upload photos by sending them in the mail.  A reply will be sent within 2-3 weeks with their URL, which they can call their friends and family to inform them of.

  • Google Analytics (a reporting tool for Internet traffic) claims to be rolling out new legacy tools to help share content using older technology, like CD-ROMs and telegraphs.

  • ThinkGeek has continued its tradition of posting bogus items for sale.  Sorry Batman :(

To see more jokes as the day goes on, check out the site April Fools' Day on the Web, or their Facebook group April Fools Day.  Also check out this Simpsons clip which explains the origin of the holiday.

Happy April Fools' Day, y'all!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Preparing your blog for increased traffic: Part 2

This is a follow-up post to Preparing your blog for increased traffic (Part 1)

Last month I experienced my first surge of viewers because of this blog post.  Afterward I was able to write an analysis of my blog's design and content, in terms of what lent itself to the success versus what didn't really work (check out the above link for this post).

This Tuesday I had a small but noticeable surge of viewers from a new blog post, and again have found myself analyzing my blog and making changes to enhance functionality.  Here are my 6 new suggestions after this week's experience:

1. Create a Facebook page for your blog - Since most people already have Facebook accounts, it seems logical to create a page that people can "like" to receive updates about your blog.  You can post links every time a new post is written, and share fun tidbits along the way (on my page I'm planning to share metrics and interesting stats that I come across).  You also can write comments and post on other people's walls under that account name, so you can have legitimacy and continue getting your name out there (for example, when I share a blog link on someone else's wall/page I can post as "The Big Social Picture").

Check out the new Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/TheBigSocialPicture

2. Add a Facebook "Like" button directly onto your blog -  While it's easy to understand why this should appear on a page, it was much harder to understand how to add it.  This is a social plugin from Facebook, which you can see more types of here.  Unfortunately the instructions don't explain how to add it to various blog platforms, and I got in way over my head in HTML formatting and languages I'm not familiar with.  Luckily a Google search brought up a blog post from ThatsBlogging, which gave step-by-step instructions for adding the link to a Blogger account, and I was able to add this beauty:

Actual button appears on the right sidebar along the top :)

3. Google a phrase from your blog to see if it shows up - This isn't really something to do as much as just something interesting to try out.  My Google Analytics data told me that over 1,000 people came to my page this week through a search engine.  I didn't even know my page was showing up in searches, so it was fun to Google "equal signs on Facebook" and see where my page came up.  At first it came up on the first page (which explains the traffic), but as the movement picked up more attention my site got pushed further down. 

4. Add buttons to make social media sharing easy - This is another step that is easy to understand why to add it, but harder to understand how.  Luckily, ThatsBlogging came to the rescue again with a how-to guide to add this widget to Blogger:

Actual button appears on the left sidebar

5. Add a page counter that tallies each blog post individually - I don't know how to do this yet on Blogger, but I'm hoping it's not impossible.  I think individual pageview counts would be useful to share with viewers, because it gives each post validity and can be fun to track when a site is getting a lot of traffic.  I know this data exists in Blogger because it appears in my Admin view, but I haven't found a way to share that number on my blog.  Stay tuned, I am hoping to figure something out soon!

And last but not least...

6. Add UTM parameters to track your links - This is only relevant if you are using Google Analytics to measure your traffic, and if you plan to share your link on a few different sites.  If you are about to share your link to a new location, you can append some text to the URL that will track how many people click on that specific link.  This is known as Campaigning and it is helpful in telling you what locations were the most successful. 

To add text to your URL, copy and paste this exact text to the end of your link (or use this Google URL Builder link):

    The red text is variable, and can be swapped out for anything you want to say, as long as you don't use capital letters or spaces.  When all is said and done, you should have a painfully long link like this one:


    Once you post this link somewhere, Google Analytics tracks who clicks on it, and breaks it down in your GA view:

    I don't have a lot of experience tagging links, but I'm excited to give this a try.  For more information, check out this blog on how to add UTM parameters.  Or watch this SEOmoz video on the importance of tagging your content, which my sister made after my first post went viral.

    I hope these tips are helpful for you, please let me know if you have anything to add.
    Happy blogging!

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Equal signs for equal rights

    Today on Facebook, you may have noticed people changing their profile pictures to a variation of this image:
    This profile pic is to show support of marriage equality for same-sex couples, while the US Supreme Court hears arguments this week for and against DOMA and California's Prop 8. 

    As we've seen before, changing your profile picture can be an effective way to raise awareness and get people talking about an issue.  This movement was started by the Human Rights Campaign on their Facebook page, and already has been shared over 30,000 times in 10 hours.

    George Takei also posted about this movement on his Facebook page.  With over 4 million followers, he has an influential voice on the Internet which is certainly helping to spread awareness.

    What is Prop 8?
    Prop 8, which passed in California in 2008, is meant to restrict a marriage to be between a man and a woman.  It won by a small margin and took away rights for same-sex couples to marry under California law.  Even though it passed, opponents have not stopped advocating against it, and it is now being evaluated by the US Supreme Court.  Arguments for and against the act will be heard on Tuesday, March 26th, and a ruling will likely be made sometime in June.

    What is DOMA?
    The Defense of Marriage Act was a federal law enacted in 1996 which, like Prop 8, defines a legal marriage as between a man and a woman.  Under this law, a state is not required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.  Because it's a federal law, it affects large issues like tax, financial, and welfare benefits for same-sex couples.  Although it was signed into effect by President Clinton, he is now a supporter of its repealing act, RFMA (Respect For Marriage Act).

    What can you do to help?
    Change your profile picture to raise awareness, and check out the HRC's website to learn about local events and other ways to help.  If you're not willing to help, you might enjoy this video.
    Ariel and Joey Owens-Barham celebrating their nuptials

    Other links to learn more:
    The Human Rights Campaign website
    The HRC's Facebook page which started the profile pic change
    CNN article about the complexity of the issue
    Guardian UK's comprehensive write-up, including possible outcomes
    Wikipedia pages:   Prop 8    DOMA    RFMA

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    How "House of Cards" is changing television

    Recently, you may have heard some buzz about the new show House of Cards.  If you haven't, the one-line summary is it's "The Sopranos meets West Wing", it's produced by Netflix and is only viewable with a subscription.

    The show has quickly gained a big social media presence, which is how I was first introduced to it.  I saw a friend post about it on Facebook, and then saw a Reddit thread a few days later.  I went from never having heard of it to thinking it was all around me and that I must watch it.

    So imagine my surprise when I learned that the show has only been out since February 1st (5 weeks ago)!  From the buzz on the Internet, I had assumed it was out for a few months already, since usually that's how long it takes to build up that kind of momentum.  So how did they do it so quickly?

    To answer that question, I did some "online research" (yes, that includes watching the show, but I also did some real research too).  I discovered that this show's success is anything but luck.  Netflix mined data from their own website metrics to create a formula for a successful show that would be geared towards their subscribers.  With a combination of actors and director, and the moderate success of the originl British version of the show, House of Cards seemed to fit the formula, and so Netflix set their sights on it.

    The appealing criteria that motivated Netflix to outbid the other networks for House of Cards.
    Image from the New York Times

    They also made an unprecedented choice to release the entire first season all at once - all 13 episodes.  By giving people the ability to "binge view" the entire season (don't pretend you don't know what that is), they condensed 3 months of content down to a possible 13 hours.  This created what Techcrunch and Outbrain call a hyper-engaged audience, and led to stronger advocates speaking on behalf of the show and ultimately an explosion of social media engagement.  A pretty great viral marketing strategy, in my opinion.

    While Netflix had enough information to make an informed decision, it was still a risky move.  They signed a 2-season contract for $100 million, and then released half of their content all at once, all without knowing how any of it would be received.  The jury is still out on how successful the show actually is, since Netflix doesn't have to release its numbers to the public.  But they have mentioned that it's the #1 watched show on Netflix, and their stock shows a promising spike in the last 2 months, presumably as a result:

    Netflix NASDAQ (NFLX) stock chart shows gains over last 6 months.
    Image from Google Finance

    All in all, Netflix saw favorable odds and bet their hand on House of Cards.  And I'd say they won, not just by creating a successful show, but by rebelling against industry standards and introducing a fresh, new way to view content.  In doing this, I wouldn't be surprised if they've changed the scope of television as we know it.

    Read more here:
    What Netflix Can Teach Us About Online Marketing (Techcrunch)
    Giving Viewers What They Want (New York Times)
    Netflix's House of Cards Seeks to Redefine Television (Marketplace)
    Sorting Through 'House of Cards', post-binge (Variety)
    And just for fun, the parody trailer for 'House of Cardinals'