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Rock’n\A friend of mine has a band. They are great musicians and fun people — the consumate performers. They are busily working their contacts in the music industry and in discussions with record labels for contracts. They have a lot going for them, but when it comes to gigs… Disappointingly few people turn up. Why is that?

The band has a page on Myspace, which as been running for about 18 months. It holds about 1,500 friends, which, given how many people these guys have performed for and how many friends those audience members all have… It’s a fraction of the number it could be, and still doesn’t explain why less than 1% of them are coming out to gigs. Their events should be mobbed. So what can the band do?

1) Expand the fan base with everyone you already know. They’ll do the work for you.

This is a concerted effort, a planned attack. Make a list of every musician you’ve ever worked with, every girl who’s ever batted her eyelashes (this band is fronted by cute boys, so there should be plenty), every family member you’ve got, community members (including old teachers, parents of friends, friends of parents, etc. etc. etc.), music execs, people you chat to after gigs… You want to engage everyone you’ve ever met — and then some.

Generally, when you’re starting a band, the whole world wants to see you succeed. You just need to tap into that enthusiasm. They feel special to be involved, and you’re doing something they probably wouldn’t have the courage to. All you need to do is to make them feel involved, and they’ll rush to support you.

2) Give your supporters something to do.

Keep reminding yourself: They WANT to help. So you want them to stay engaged. When you first tell them, “Hey, we’re starting a band” (or “Things are going well, we’ve got a gig next week”, wherever you are in the process) and they say “That’s great! Well done!” (which is usually accompanied by the thought, “I’m really impressed. And so glad it’s not me! I wouldn’t have a clue how sing/play/perform!”) , JUMP ON IT. Capitalise on the fact that they’re feeling both in awe and a little inadequate by giving them the chance to get involved and help where they can.

Production in the studio - behind the scenesStart with a little status update that doesn’t have to mean much but feels “behind the scenes” (explain that you are doing your best with the recording/the rehearsing/the chasing up new drummer), but that you’d love to keep them posted on your activities. (And/or will want to let them know the second the album is released or the new video goes into production, etc.) Point them to your social networking site and tell them to become your friend… This is the ultimate WATCH THIS SPACE move. They’re now watching.

3) Give them a reason to stay involved.

They love you; show that somebody’s home at your end of the conversation. This means new content on your site every 3-4 days. Something, anything. Thoughts, plans, a silly story from rehearsal, a “this week we worked on X” rundown, frustrations with production, anything. Blogs are particularly good for this kind of chit-chat. It doesn’t have to say

anything detailed about any person or song; just that you’re still there, and you care enough about these people to keep this conversation going.

Remind them REGULARLY (once every week or two) that you’re busy working on all this. These reminders should find them (bulletins, emails — anything that lands in their lap, as opposed to them having to come to your page to find it). Create hype. Be consistent about it.

This will keep these guys engaged while you keep adding new ones to the list. And your numbers will grow!

4) Translate it into ticket and album sales.

Concert ticketsYour final goal is that by the time you release the date of your next gig, every last person on your now doubled friends list will be chomping at the bit to be there to support you. They’re going to care enough that even if they can’t go, they’ll send someone on their behalf.

The same should be true with album sales. Because they feel like they “got in at the ground level” and helped you along the way, they’re emotionally invested. They’re going to cry more than you will when you get your Mercury prize.

5) Recognise how easy this is.

Social networking sites work because you establish instant access to all the people you’d want to be talking to anyway, in the real world. You have their attention, and are giving them an easy way to showcase your efforts to everyone they know. 99% of it is just a method of keeping track of, and keeping involved, the people that your music touches in reality.

Nobody’s loyal to a band they run into online — we respond to hype. We explore suggestions from friends, we try not to get left out of a trend, and we follow through on a strong desire to help “real people” try to make it. So give your fan base a way to hype you and to introduce their friends to your music. Let them work FOR you.

And while you’ve got their attention — don’t forget to tell them how much you love them and how grateful you are. In the same way that you’d thank a friend who drove for miles to be there and cheer you on, let these people know you care. With a good effort on a social networking site, you can do that for all of them at once. You’ll quickly build a huge group who feel personally connected to you and your music.

Now that they’re listening, the rest is up to you. Give them something fabulous to listen to!

Goin to town

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Because it’s a Friday, and because this has made me laugh through the week, I’d like to share with you a bit about my blog’s spam.

Quick background: let me help you boost your search ranking
Google ranks web pages based on a formula which includes their popularity (measured by how many other pages have links that point to it — see the classic Google paper Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Search Engine for more details). Consequently, the more pages out there refer to yours, the better your chances are of ending up near the top of the Google Results list when someone does a search. If you’re out to artificially inflate that ranking, planting links to your site around the web will boost your ratings. The higher your ranking, the more users will notice you, the more traffic you will get, and the more advertising revenue or potential sales you’ll land by getting them (figuratively) through the door.

And where to plant links to your site? Blog comments! Most blogging software will let you post more or less what you like, in HTML, on endless pages within the millions of blogs out there. (Note: at press time, Technorati is currently tracking 69.2 million blogs. And they haven’t got the whole blogosphere. The field is vast.)

We do have anti-spam software that filters spam comments, for example by the number of links a post contains. We blog-holders are not captive to the wills of blog spammers. But my spam filter, Akismet, kindly holds the spam comments it detects for my review. It is from this week’s list of Akismet spam from my blog that I pull the following trends.

Spam for my blog!
This past week, I’ve kept a particular eye on my blog’s spam. Since I delete them and you never get to see how funny they are, I thought I’d pull up a few to share with you.

Because they’re just out to get their links up on my site, the spammers have to convince me to post (or not delete) their comment. Each spam post begins with a little commentary around the links they are promoting, a feeble effort to catch my attention or fool me into thinking it’s a legitimate comment. These are what amuse me, and what I want to show to you.

  • A number of them are complimentary to my site or a particular post.

Hi! Guys how you manage to make such perfect sites? Good fellows!
(This was for debt consolidation services. I like the idea of being called “fellows”. Apt for a lone female running the site.)

With posts like this how long before we give up the newspaper?!!
(This was a site just trying to generate traffic. But I like that they’re referencing the whole Web 2.0-threatens-mainstream-media debate.)

This is a cool site! Thanks and wish you better luck!
(This was a comment selling replica handbags. It was posted on my Privacy Legislation and Teenagers post. It’s nice of them to, er, extend their sympathies… but I didn’t find that article so difficult to write! I imagine this was written with a more emotional blog in mind.)

That was a very nice post, I’m proud of you.
(Now that’s sweet. It recurs regularly, and even though I’m not interested in the loans and refinancing it offers, the comment always makes me feel good about the hard work I put into my blog.)

  • Some are just unrelated to the links. I got this romantic text under the subject heading of Cheap Shopping:

Lorsque la main d’un homme effleure la main d’une femme, tous deux touchent a l’éternité.
(Rough translation: “As the man’s hand brushes the woman’s, both of them touch eternity.” It may actually be syrupy enough to warrant the painkillers they were touting.)

Another tries to play the sympathy card:

My life’s been generally bland. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me. I don’t care. I’ve just been sitting around doing nothing, but eh.
(This came with a gmail address, and just to be sure I sent them an email asking if everything was okay. Hey, I’m a nice person! Not surprisingly, the message bounced. I then discovered that the link URL was a pointer which resolved to a site selling Viagra.)

  • I got one yesterday that was actually honest. No preamble, just a long list of links titled Greats from me: . I still didn’t post it, and I don’t need the sleep aids that were listed below, but I do appreciate the forthright approach.
  • For sheer creativity, as well as honesty in marketing, my current favourite is this one:

Hello.
If your site getting constantly spammed, then you are in urgent need of a new folding table
Check these: folding poker tables
Sincerely yours,
folding tables seller

That did catch my attention. I had to laugh. A salesman who knows their market! I’m impressed that they thought about what drives me as a consumer. It’s too bad that I can’t see how a folding table would solve my spam issues, but if they want to come back and leave a comment about it, I will be happy to approve it for posting.

table

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Circle of friendsDeveloping an adolescent network of friends

Being a teenager, for me, was largely a trial-and-error process of figuring out how to be an adult. I wanted autonomy, I wanted to succeed, and I wanted to be able to ask for help — but only on my terms. I created a “family” of friends, relying on them for the moral support and frames of reference that I had previously looked to my relatives for. We muddled our way through adolescence, as I imagine most teens do, trying to work out together how to handle our uncertain futures, new relationships and the stress of achieving good grades. We learned together.

Underneath that bonding and grouping, I distinctly remember not just drifting from my family but actively setting up blocks. “I want to do this my way, by myself!” was a big mantra of those years. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in the 1890s that the US Constitution guarantees “the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men”. I was pretty positive Brandeis was writing right to me; as a (self-declared) civilised almost-adult, I thought that right was sacrosanct. I wanted to be let alone with my friends.

Social Networking – the online models of our groups of friends

Feet of friendsSocial networking platforms like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo allow teenagers to intensify their relationships with members of their group. In creating a profile or home page, they can create and re-create their own identities, experimenting with who they are and how they want to be seen. They get to identify themselves with social groups, be seen as belonging (through displaying their friends) and discover who else belongs with whom. And best of all — the parents aren’t invited. This is a world of their own, ideally suited to the adolescent’s social development.

The tension: Protecting the kids or invading their privacy?

If we can extrapolate my experience to a majority of Internet-using teenagers, social networking sites are supporting them in the social development they’re already doing. The challenge comes in building new relationships, where the lack of context can make it easy for someone with a nefarious agenda to mislead the unsuspecting. (See previous post.) The quick intimacy teenagers build can mask the fact that they don’t actually know who is on the other end of the conversation.

Recent US legislation has attempted to minimise the risks to kids. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) prohibits site operators from collecting personal data from kids under 13 without verifiable parental consent, and removes their liability for disclosing information to the parent about the child. In a previous post, I have discussed the proposed Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, and this week the Georgia Senate has begun to consider a bill that would raise the age of parental consent to 18. No minors in Georgia would be allowed to engage in social networks without their parents having full access.

At the same time, the chief privacy officer for Facebook, Chris Kelly, maintains that they are restricted from sharing activity and profile content with parents by federal law. “Under the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, we cannot give anyone access to or control of an individual’s profile on Facebook”, Kelly said. In addition to the overhead if they were required to open up all that data and verify which parent belongs to which kid, the inevitable response would be diminished site activity. If kids knew that Mom and Dad could listen in, they would find somewhere else to talk.

(Facebook of course has an interest in keeping activity levels high and therefore maintaining its revenue stream, which appears to be advertising-based. But it would fall short of its goal of “helping people better understand the world around them” if everyone restrained their contributions to each other’s world views because they felt they were being spied on.)

How do we sort this out?

Biking - shadowsIf we go back to my assertion that social networking is modelling interactions and social development that we all do anyway, then the dangers aren’t actually that new. As an offline teenager, I was certainly taught not to give my address to anyone I didn’t know, and not to talk to strangers. I knew to look both ways before crossing the street. I knew how to listen for conversational cues that I was talking to someone with bad motives, and to recognise that friends of friends aren’t necessarily okay just because they come with a “reference” from somebody I know. All these messages kept me safe in the big bad real world, and I knew them because I was taught.

Teenagers need to form groups, to share information and to grow with their friends. And to establish a bit of independence from their families. Social networking can support this growth, but someone needs to make sure that online safety is included with the “surviving in the real world” lessons every kid gets either at home or at school. Particularly because parents are less involved in the conversation than they were when the children were younger, teenagers must be well prepared to make good decisions on their own. Unfortunately, legislation restricting access or allowing parents to “eavesdrop” won’t teach good judgment. Nor will applying privacy legislation — many kids wouldn’t figure this out on their own. Parents, teachers and role models are still ultimately responsible for these almost-adults, and it should be up to these adults to prepare them properly.

HikingDown

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I didn’t intend for this blog to be quite so adult in its themes, but this was just too funny to pass up. (And I swear, I found it legimitately, searching for social networking resources!)

The porn community, one of the largest online group of content sharers and *ahem* common-interest enthusiasts, have taken up the banner of social bookmarking.

PornCabi.net (yeah, don’t open this at work) describes itself as “a lot like del.icio.us, but it’s strictly for adults, which means if you want an endless stream of constantly updated free porn sites all in one place, sorted by popularity among other users, this is absolutely the best place to be!” Just like del.icio.us, when you find a site that intrigues you, you bookmark it to PornCabi.net, tagging it with the keywords you find relevant. The more tags a site gets, the higher up it goes in the rankings, so that when another user searches for that particular word they’re likely to find what they’re looking for. (Probably more so than through Google, which can be manipulated by creating lots of extraneous links to a site and embedding keywords in it that boost its PageRanking.)

To make this a truly effective knowledge-sharing method, it seems that they even allow their users to form organised subnetworks around a particular topic or shared interest. This is particularly important because I’d bet that one man’s great porn isn’t necessarily also another man’s (or woman’s, to be fair), which means that the popularity rankings are only so useful across the entire population.

Kudos to them for the creative URL. And it’s almost a pity that they couldn’t take “del.icio.us”!

Many thanks to Julie for playing research assistant and filling in some of the details.

[This post deliberately has no pictures. Images of bookmarks were too innocent, and everything else… Well, it’s out there already and far more graphic than I’m willing to post in my blog!]

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These are from the Yahoo! Time Capsule, a fascinating bit of collaborative art. The capsule is accepting contributions from any and all from the 10th of October to the 8th of November. This electronic anthropology project will be preserved by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in Washington D.C.

These are a couple of tiles that caught my attention: they’re intriguing. I’m impressed at how much contributors have been willing to share of themselves. (To see them in their original layout, click on the picture or the text. Or go check out the site — The swirling ball motif that organises all the entries is quite impressive.)

Determination pic

d text

 

Honesty pic

Honesty text

Another pic

Another text


je t’aime pic

je t’aime text

The Yahoo! Time Capsule is the brainchild of internet artist Jonathan Harris, who has also produced (in collaboration with Sepandar Kamvar) the endlessly fascinating We Feel Fine project, which graphically displays sentences that include “I feel…” from blogs all over the web. It uses a data engine to search all the usual blog sites (including LiveJournal, MSN Spaces, MySpace, Blogger, Flickr, Technorati, Feedster, Ice Rocket, and Google) for the text strings “I feel” and “I am feeling”, then maps them against a list of 500 emotions and assigns a colour to each. They become a universe of bouncing coloured balls; as a user you dynamically ‘generate’ the whole scape and then investigate whatever area (or colored ball) you’re interested in. It’s amazing to see what people are writing about.

Many thanks to Julie for introducing me to the Yahoo! Time Capsule.

We feel fine logo Yahoo! Time Capsule logo

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Intellectual Property

10 days ago, Jimmy Wales at the Wikimedia Foundation issued the world the following challenge:

Dream big. Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase
copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you
like to see purchased and released under a free license? Photos libraries? textbooks? newspaper archives? Be bold, be specific, be general, brainstorm, have fun with it.

The main list of suggestions has been growing and is listed here. (Slashdot, Digg, Metafilter, Meneame, and Heise all began lists of their own to support the effort, though they’ve been combined into the main list.)

Suggestions thus far include a range of topics: textbooks, dictionaries (in particular the OED), satellite imagery and geodata, technology standards like mp3 and PDF, encyclopedias, academic and research journals, news archives and first-person historical artifacts, sheet music, pictures on the web, Microsoft software and online translators. (There was also lots of talk about drug formulations, though those are patent protected rather than copyrighted.)

A few that struck me (all direct quotes):

  • Some photos taken by Ernesto “Che” Guevara when he travled around the world (at least one photo from each country he visted) or all photos depicting him.
  • Photos of endangered or recently extinct species
  • Legal documents: West Publishing holds the copyrights on the legal reporters (volumes of caselaw) that contain the published opinions of state and federal courts in the United States. (In some cases, West can’t claim copyright to the opinions themselves, but does claim copyright to the pagination system and the headnotes that to some extent are the basis of the most common forms of legal citation). Making this information publicly available could make it easier for people who do not have easy or affordable access to Westlaw or Lexis/Nexis to research legal points.
  • Classified Information: I suppose the CIA probably wouldn’t overtly start handing over juicy secrets for cash, but there are some private intelligence agencies that might have some pretty interesting dirt that could be made public.
  • Something like a chunk of the video archive of the BBC might be nice to have. (This is already in progress… see here)
  • Make wikipedia easier for elderly people and people with age related disabilities to partake in. Think of all the knowledge that the elderly contain ‘because they were there’ that they cant share because of an obfusticated geek designed interface prevents them.
  • The song “Happy Birthday to you…” is still under active copywrite which is why you will never hear it on TV, Radio, etc. If there is any cash spare this would be a good one to purchase.
  • Medical quality photographs and diagrams of the human body and its organs etc both in health and disease (all too often we have to fall back on a single image from Gray’s Anatomy when any article could benefit from more than one diagram and photographs with different focus/perspectives)
  • All the archives about the murder of JFK

Is there anything you’d add?  $100 million free a lot of information, knowledge and processes to the world.  What do we need to know?  The site is still open!

Wikipedia logo

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logo1.gif
History Matters – pass it on is run by the main heritage organisations in England and Wales including the National Trust, English Heritage, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Council for British Archaeology, Heritage Link, Historic Houses Association and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

They’re gathering a blog of what England and Wales are doing on the 17th of October (today) to be stored in the British Library. They want details, the more mundane the better, to help historians of the future understand what day-to-day life was like in 2006.

This should be a rich storage of minutae — I’ll be curious to see what people admit to!

To contribute an account of your day, you can find the project at http://www.historymatters.org.uk.

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