Spammers Need To Step It Up

I think everyone has at one point gotten some spam in their life. Maybe it was an email. Maybe it was a sketchy phonecall. And if you’re a blogger, maybe it was a comment.

WordPress’s Akismet does a great job catching spam comments. I think there’s only ever been maybe one or two that have gotten through for me, and out of over 1100+, that’s really good.

spam gif

I like reading the spam that comes in to my blog. Most of it is garbage and gibberish, but once in a while there’s something funny. So I decided to screenshot all the spam I get for a few weeks, just to show you what I go through. This isn’t all my spam, but I didn’t bother screenshotting the (many, many) doubles, so just know there was a lot more than the 20 I have here. There’s a lot of sketchy links and a lot of very random, unrelated gibberish, and even some foreign languages. Please enjoy my spam! (Sorry the formatting is weird; I wanted to make it into a slideshow but the text was hard to read that way, so this way you can click the images and read them clearer or flip through them quickly).

Fun stuff, right? I’m mostly just surprised that people (/robots?) waste time trying to do this on my little blog. Surely there are more popular blogs run by dumber people. I’ve love to know the click-through rate for spammers like this. Is anyone falling for it?

Do you think i'm an idiot gif.

And what really interests me the most is just how wildly stupid and unrelated this spam is. Do I seem like I need Cialis or other online meds? Even if I did, I wouldn’t buy it through these awkward, choppy, copy/paste spam comments. I think that even if these spammers had a sketchy link, I’d be 1000% more inclined to click it if they presented it in a more relatable way. They could be like “Hey! I liked this post. I agree that Agents Of SHIELD is the best Marvel show. I write about TV too! Check out my blog!” and have some random link and I’d probably click it just in case it’s a real blogger.

My point is that spammers really need to step up their game. The internet is full of morons, and I think that with a little effort and a little creativity, spammers could totally get some more of them to click these awful, awful comments.

Do better gif.

I can’t wait to see what garbage spam I get on this post.

That’s all for now!

 

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WordPress Wants Our Money So Badly

I have been on WordPress for almost a decade. It is, in my humble opinion, the best blogging platform ever. I’ve played around with a few others before, and from what I saw, none have the same professional look, ease of use, and community. I’m very glad my blog is here.

But lately, WordPress has been rubbing me the wrong way, and it’s like finding out your favourite celebrity is a jerk: maybe my favourite blogging platform is just like every other money-hungry company.

Three years ago, I wrote this post explaining why blogging for free is more than just okay. Spurred on by the number of people I saw sharing self-hosted journey posts, I wanted to be a voice for the rest of us who use a free domain and a free theme and just do it for fun. And I still stand by this belief, but I also said that WordPress doesn’t try to extort money. Lately, I feel like they’ve been doing a lot to nudge people into putting in those credit card digits, and I’m kind of really upset about it.

Image result for it bothers me gif

In the last month, I’ve gotten seven emails from WordPress, offering a 20% off deal to upgrade my plan. Four were four days in a row. And 20% is hardly a deal when they offer it all the time. Easter sales, summer sale, New Years sales… I like knowing if there are sales and whatnot, but six in one month is annoying.

Furthermore, I’ve found that the number of ads on my blog has jumped up. (For those unaware, purchasing a plan removes all ads). There used to be like maybe one at the bottom of a post and maybe another in the sidebar. Now my blog is crawling with ads, and really crappy spammy ones too. It’s the worst if you read on mobile. I mean, LOOK AT THIS.

From email to in the post, none of the images here (aside from my beans) are images I placed or want.

I don’t know if it’s better if you’re logged in because I do all my blog reading from the Reader, but either way, it’s annoying and I don’t want my readers to be annoyed when perusing my blog.

The fact that WordPress has paid plans they want to sign people up for isn’t the problem—I think it’s good that they have several plans and can cater to serious users who are willing to pay—it’s the fact that they’re making it so free plans aren’t a decent option anymore. Let us live with our lesser options and our WordPress branding. We agreed to that. It’s what every other company/service with free options does. We shouldn’t be harassed and made to feel like our free blogs, which are just as valid as paid blogs, aren’t good enough or meaningful enough, or have to look trashy.

And I’m going to be honest with you guys: the harassment is working a little on me. I mean, sure, I’ve been thinking about buying a domain for years now and can list out pros and cons until the cows come home, but it’s the ads thing that really bothers me. I can ignore the constant sale emails and I can ignore the many other bloggers making the switch, but when there are the ugliest ads I’ve ever seen on my blog interfering with my writing, that’s where I get mad.

Image result for it's disrespectful gif

I am impervious to marketing tactics and sales for literally everything else, but my blog is one of the most important things to me, and I am just so mad at myself for somewhat falling for this and for WordPress for doing this to us free users. That being said, I know it’s okay to feel ‘weak’ so I’m not beating myself up that much.

Is anyone else feeling this push from WordPress? Or have I fallen into a drip campaign or something? Alternatively, if you’ve bought a domain/paid plan from WordPress, did you do it because of these tactics?

 

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14 Tips For New Bloggers

I’ve been blogging for almost seven years so I know my way around a blog by now. No longer am I the naive teenager who didn’t know the difference between a post and a page. I taught myself so much and I am so proud to be where I am today in regards to blogging. So I thought I’d take a second and offer some tips to any new bloggers. I visit a lot of new blogs in the weekly Community Pools and in various Reader tags, so I know what advice I can pass on as I see things over and over.

So if you started the year with a brand new blog and are looking for advice, look no further! I am by no means a perfect blogger and I hope I’m not coming across as cocky or braggy, but I want to help everyone’s blog become the best they can be in little ways. I don’t know the Secret To A Wildly Successful Blog, but I do what features I like on peoples’ blog and what I find beneficial. Furthermore, some of these tips can perhaps be useful for people who aren’t new to the game. This is a post of sharing and helping. These are all tried and true, and if I can help even one person, then I’ll consider this post a success!

  1. If you haven’t actually started your blog, take a second to research platforms. I love WordPress, but some bloggers like Blogger or Wix. Find out what’s best for you. The same goes for hosts if you want to go self-hosted or own a domain (which is not mandatory, by the way)
  2. You can always change your URL. I’m sure we all go through moments of wanting to change and rebrand, but in the end, you have to decide what’s best for your image and what’s easy for people to remember.
  3. If you do ever change your URL or relocate or delete your blog, make sure the URL attached to your username is changed too. So often I’ll get a new follower and want to check out their blog in return only to find dead links.
  4. Personalize your blog! Even free plans offer so many customizations options, so there’s no reason to stick with the placeholder images and text. Add colours, fonts, categories, a tagline, and widgets!
    Image result for personality gif
  5. Visit your blog the way a reader would. Log out if you have to, and pull up the URL to see what readers see. This is important for judging usability, clashing colours, and sizes.
  6. Edit your About page and make it easy to access. The About page is a very important part of your blog because it’s where new people will come when they’re deciding to follow you. Introduce not only yourself but your blog as well!
  7. Make sure to use spellcheck! I know good grammar is a dying art on the internet, but most bloggers do their best to avoid typos and make their posts as legible as possible for readers. A few mistakes are fine as we all make them, but not properly using commas or something can be irritating and could turn readers away. I know I’m guilty of occasionally having typos, so shoutout to my mother, who texts me every time she finds them!
  8. Learn the platform. Take an hour or two and click every setting and every option just to learn where they are and what you can use. Having an understanding of the site and where everything is makes using it so much easier.
    Image result for learn gif
  9. Definitely add a profile picture/image but remember that it’s a really small box that will cut off a lot so choose carefully so to best show what you want.
  10. In terms of blog content, I highly suggest adding images throughout posts. Walls of text is not always fun to read, especially when it’s so easy to add some visual to break it up. Not every post needs images, but they do spruce up posts. One blog I read often, The Invisible Moth, always has pictures in her posts, but sometimes they’re not even related to the topic, they’re just pretty and help break up the paragraphs.
  11. If you want to get more readers (and let’s be honest, we all do!) you will have to work for it. Read other blogs. Interact with other bloggers. Go looking for them because they will likely not come to you.
  12. Make use of the SEO tools you have. Make sure you use tags and keywords. Write catchy titles.
  13. Have a plan for your blog, not just in terms of content, but in terms of quality and quantity. What do you want to portray with your blog and how will you do it? My suggestion for complete newbies is to plan ten posts before you start so you can avoid burnout too quickly. Is my blog exactly what I thought it’d be when I started? Not exactly, but the general frame is the same. I knew I wanted to be nicheless and I knew I didn’t want to post more than once or twice a week, and those have maintained.
  14. Don’t spam your link and don’t demand traction because you’re new. If you want people to check out your blog, give them a reason to, and that reason could be as simple as a nice, relevant, meaningful comment. And most of the time, you don’t even need to manually add your link because your username will do it for you (provided tip #3 is in effect).
    Image result for you can do it gif

Having your own little slice of the Internet is a wonderful thing, and I highly recommend blogging to all, though I know it’s not for everyone. But if you do have a passion for it and you are new to the game, I hope these 14 tips helped you. And for seasoned bloggers reading this, if you have tips of your own to share, leave them in the comments!

That’s all for now!

 

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Empty Followers: A Problem Plaguing Social Media

A few weeks ago a friend asked how many blog followers I had. I told him I had 776, as that was the number at the time, and he was impressed…until I added that most are inactive and really shouldn’t count. It’s easy to measure one’s followers with that number, but a lot harder to measure engagement. And because I’ve been meaning to do it anyway, I decided to take some time and go through the blogs of my followers who I don’t follow back. I follow about six hundred blogs, but they’re not all my followers. I often get followers who write about things I have no interest in, and as much as I feel a bit guilty for not supporting them the way they support me, I shouldn’t have to put up with things I don’t care about in my Reader. I am under no obligation, and anyone is free to unfollow me if they don’t dig my posts either.

Anyway, I went through probably close to four hundred blogs over two nights. And you would not believe how many of those blogs were inactive. I wish I counted and had an exact number to share, but I did not. Some were straight up deleted, but most were just left abandoned. I’m going to assume that if a blogger hasn’t updated their blog for whatever reason, they’re probably not going through their Reader to read my posts either.

My followers didn't even say goodbye

I have hundreds of followers but on average I get maybe twenty likes on a post and maybe ten comments. I am so grateful to the people who take the time to interact with my posts, especially those who do it regularly (I do try to interact with posts I read too, but I know I kind of suck at it. I will be better.). I think the level of interaction I get is quite low considering the number of followers, but considering how many inactive blogs follow me, it’s really not surprising. But of course, no one can tell. WordPress says I have 776 followers and anyone who sees that number can and will judge based on that because it’s all there is. The same goes for other social media platforms like Twitter. It says I have 231 followers, but how many do I really have?

And then there’s this whole issue about fake followers. I haven’t heard of it being a problem on WordPress, but it definitely is on Twitter and Instagram. If one wanted to buy ‘followers’ so that it makes them appear more popular so others feel like they need to follow them too, they legally can do that if they so choose. I don’t think it’s ethical, and I think most people feel the same, but it is an option out there that some people do use.

Related image

It’s unfortunate that this is a problem for social media. I will admit that I do use one’s follower count to quickly judge their quality. Of course, I’ll read their work and all that, but the first impression is made by whatever number is shown. Imagine if social media instead showed the number of active followers? Imagine if instead of 776 followers, we saw ‘392 active followers’ or ‘103 followers who interact with this person’s work’. Imagine if platforms could just delete all those inactive accounts from our count so we stop celebrating milestones that are completely fake. That one YouTuber, Pewdiepie, has almost 60 million subscribers, making him the leader, but how many subscribers does he really have? Does someone have a lower number of subs but regularly gets more views and thumbs up?

But I guess WordPress has no business going around deleting blogs just so I can be happier with my blog stats. And do I really expect Twitter to get a handle on their spam problem? Yes, but that’s my mistake.

What are your thoughts on empty followers? How many followers do you really think you have?

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7 Things Online That I Can’t Believe Are Free

Who likes free things? Everyone. But especially me, because I don’t like paying for things. Things are expensive. So that’s why I’m so grateful for free things. As for the internet, yes, we have to pay for the internet and a computer, but once you have that, there are so many amazing things online, and so many that cost zero dollars and zero cents. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these, maybe you haven’t. Maybe you use some of these. Either way, I’mma tell you about them and express my love for them and their availability. Oh, and the best part? These things are all 100% legal. Enjoy.

Ron Swanson saying

Canva

If you’re a blogger, you may have heard of this before, as it’s fairly popular in the blogosphere, and if you’re into graphic design, you may also know of it. Canva is a super easy and functional graphic design creator. No matter what you want to create (from resumes to Twitter headers to postcards and more) or what you have in mind, Canva can do it. And you have complete control over every aspect. While you do have to have an account to use it and there are premium versions, the free account is more than enough. I mean, I love Microsoft Paint, but Canva is a lot more useful and simpler than that. Don’t worry if you can’t afford or work Adobe InDesign, because Canva should be your new go-to. I made my current Twitter header and this blog’s header on Canva, among many things.

Hootsuite

Again, some bloggers may have heard of this. Hootsuite is a social media scheduler. I’m not one to schedule my blog posts on Twitter every hour and I’m online enough to post most things right away, so I admittedly don’t use this too often for myself, but I do use it for Popwrapped, and it’s great. It’s easy to use, can handle several social media platforms at once, and even has dashboard feeds for them. The best part is that right now, it’s allowing you to schedule basically unlimited messages. This feature was taken away for a little bit a few months ago and reduced to ten, but now it’s back (hopefully forever). I know a lot of businesses use Hootsuite because it’s really great and easy to use.

Spotify

I love music. I am always listening to music. Apparently so does everyone else because music streaming services are all the rage nowadays. But I’m not about to give Apple more money on a monthly basis so Apple Music is out of the question. That leaves me with Spotify, and luckily for me, Spotify has a free version and it’s great. Of course you need wifi to use it and every few songs there’s a short ad or two but that’s no different from YouTube. What makes Spotify 1000 times better than YouTube, though, is that all the songs are official top-quality. No fake sound-less videos, no off-key covers, no blocked-in-some-countries videos, no nonsense. And it’s all organized and available. I love being able to listen to full musical soundtracks or albums with Spotify.

Spongebob snapping his fingers as he listens to headphones

WordPress

So obviously you’ve heard of WordPress because you’re on it now. This blog is a WordPress blog, and I’m proud. Here’s why WordPress is great: for zero dollars, I am able to write as much as I want as often as I want, on a site that I basically made myself. Though there are paid options, I’m still able to thrive without that. I have followers! I have a platform! And it’s free! There are so many themes to choose from to make your site unique, and the community is like no other. Our Reader is great, it’s so easy to go through tags, and there are free Blogging U classes and Community Pools that are always a pleasure to be a part of. WordPress is great for more than just blogging, and I can’t believe it’s offered to so many for free!

Wikipedia

This may be obvious, but we are blessed to have Wikipedia in our lives. It’s so easy to find information now. No longer do we need heavy encyclopedias to look up dates or info, when Wikipedia is just right here, a few clicks away. And all its information is so organized, making it so easy to use. I know teachers and professors warn against fake information, but in all my years, I’ve never had an issue. I can’t believe that we have millions of Wikipedia pages available to us for free. Amazing.

Fanfiction

So while technically you can read fanfics on Fanfiction.net or Archiveofourown.org, the concept is the same, and both sites provide hours of entertainment. Can you believe that for zero dollars and zero cents you can read well-written and in-depth stories about your favourite characters from basically any show/movie/book? There are stories longer than novels and stories shorter than this blog post. I know fanfiction isn’t for everyone, but you can’t deny that whether you read or write it or not, the fact that it exists for free is amazing.

Yahoo Answers

No matter how dumb your question may be, you can probably get an answer on Yahoo Answers. This place is a treasure trove of information. And since most people don’t delete their questions, you can search their questions to find similar ones instead of asking your own. I have, in the past, asked a few questions on Yahoo Answers and had success with answers. This is a great example of people coming together to help one another in a mostly good-natured way, and a good example of the collaborative economy.

Aziz Ansari saying

We truly are privileged to live in a time where so many amazing things are available to us online for free. We don’t appreciate it enough. This post is my way of paying tribute to these seven services that make my life so much better. What are some free services/sites that you love that I didn’t mention? I’d love to know, so share the goodness!

That’s all for now!

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