Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:51:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What happened Fri, 22 Aug 2014 04:46:51 +0000 Extreme Bed RestTL;DR: Send me mail, or e-mail me your address so I can send you mail. After I finish my fundraising duties, I’ll be stuck in bed all day with not a lot else to do:

Nick Farr
Main 3474
Grand Rapids MI 49501-3474

Trigger warnings: Images and descriptions of accidental self-harm, pictures of small rivers of human blood, experiences with Obamacare in New Jersey, depictions of prescription narcotic use, allusions to conservatives in a conservative town watching Fox News, completely non-sexual corset-like back braces, discussion of Burning Man, mandatory non-consensual bed rest.

Reason for visit: patient fell off shipping container about 10 feet. 
patient remembers falling, does not remember hitting the ground
patient woke up in ambulance 


This is the first blog post I’ve typed entirely with one hand. I’ll let that be the excuse to come back to, as if the rest of my injuries weren’t enough for you.

What happened? After about two weeks, I figure I better answer this question in greater detail. I still haven’t come up with a snappy answer to the question that always follows a glance at my arm and back braces.

Hearing a guy wearing a necktie and khakis say “I fell off the back of a shipping container” just prompts quizzical looks from doctors, physical therapists and TSA employees. Trying to explain that this was not a workplace injury creates more confusion, while adding that this was related to a Burning Man project usually gets people to stop asking questions altogether.

Many of you know I was working on a fundraiser for my Burning Man project. In addition to trying to get 70,000 people to send a postcard, I also bought a shipping container to serve as one of the three Post Offices at Burning Man.

The details aren’t important, but the container needed a lot of work. When I realized how much work it needed, I flew out to NYC and started spending a lot of late nights trying to get the thing into a serviceable condition, to make it so we could ship it out to Nevada and survive. (As far as I know now, it and all the contents within made it there OK.)

The forecast for Wednesday, August 6 called for thunderstorms. There were still quite a few fresh cuts in the container that I wanted to cover to protect the steel and let us to continue working on other tasks inside. Along with some paint and other supplies, I picked up two 16’x20′ tarps. I strapped one end of the first one down to one side of the container, climbed up on top of the container to stretch it out, then weighted it down. I bolted the second tarp to the first one, then began unfolding the second tarp by walking it back…

blood stain container

So, this is how far safety third got me.

What I thought was two 16×20 foot tarps turned out to be two 20×24 foot tarps. Granted, had I been paying closer attention, I might not have walked backwards off the container. That blood splat you see there is where the back of my head landed.

The last thing I remember was looking up at the sky, recalling how clear it was on a day that called for thunderstorms. Perhaps fittingly, they never came. The next thing I realize, I’m in an Ambulance being asked the standard questions I recall from more than my fair share of ambulance rides…

“What’s your full name?  What’s your date of birth?”

…and one I had not heard before.

“Wiggle your toes! WIGGLE YOUR TOES!”

Fortunately, I was not working alone. Mike heard the impact and summoned the ambulance that was now ferrying me to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. I remember hearing him in the ambulance, he apparently said he was my brother and therefore got to ride along.

I remember being wheeled off the ambulance and whisked around while lying on a stiff backboard. I remember the 7 staples that went into the back of my head, wondering why they didn’t hurt a lot more going in. I remember having a CT of my abdomen and head done. I remember wanting to turn off the really bad TV that was in the room they stuck me in.

Around this time, I asked Mike for my phone. A few days prior, I had installed Facebook Messenger, which pops up little faces of the people you’re chatting with. A picture of my friend Doc, who I had been chatting with on an unrelated matter, appeared on my phone. Instead of tapping his face, I apparently tapped something which took me to update my Facebook status.  What I meant as a private message to him ended up getting publicly posted:

Hey doc plz call Wendy tell her I'm in st Joseph Paterson hospital. 
Feel off roof broke 7th vertebrae surgery tomorrow maybe 
on lots of pain meds plz keep quiet

I shouldn’t have been shocked at the 138 comments that followed.

The trauma staff said at the time that surgery was likely, but ended up getting overruled by the surgery staff the morning after I was admitted to the hospital. Two weeks after the accident, all the MDs, DOs and physical therapists I’ve seen have told me I’m pretty lucky to have survived a fall like that with the relatively minor injuries I sustained.

The next thing I remember is getting parked in the room I’d be in for the next 4 nights. I somehow ended up in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, as the Trauma ICU was full. I woke up sometime that night in some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced, on top of being insanely hungry.

All I got was more morphine and ice chips, as the powers that be did not entirely rule out surgery for another day. I do remember breaking a two day fast with a cheese sandwich, two packages of Graham Crackers and apple juice.

The next four days were somewhat hazy, even now. The cycle basically went, sleep for two hours then:

  • Wake up in agonizing pain, beg for more Morphine
  • Respond to messages on my phone
  • Eat…whatever was brought up to eat.
  • Have a 30 second discussion/examination with a doctor
  • Beg for more Morphine or Benadryl
  • Get Morphine and/or Benadryl
  • Wait for that to kick in, go back to sleep.

Pro tip: If you just want to sleep, get Benadryl by IV. It makes the inside of your arm feel like it’s on fire for about a minute, but its totally worth it, it knocks you right out.

Wendy, my ex, was there every day I was in the hospital. She probably knows more of what went on than I did. I’m incredibly grateful to her for taking care of me the week I was in the hospital, and the 4 days it took me to be well enough to travel back to the family members caring for me in Grand Rapids, MI.

I only really remember three things that happened outside of this cycle of pain, sleep and incredibly contradictory visits by a parade of doctors that appeared and disappeared in minutes.

At some point on my second morning in, I remember confronting the intern who came to check on me twice a day.

“Hey…wait! Did you take an x-ray of my wrist?”

“Um…no, I don’t think we did.”

“Could you order that? My wrist is in incredible pain…”

“On a scale of..”

“11. As in, there’s something clearly wrong with my wrist and I would like you to image it.”

I got the x-ray at some point later that evening after repeatedly asking about it. Apparently, the time from order to action is roughly 8 hours at St. Joe’s.

Fortunately, it only took them 4 hours after the x-ray to put a cast on my arm. Due to the lack of care with which it was applied, this cast was replaced a mere two hours after stepping off the plane in Michigan.

Maybe on my second day in, my friend Adam and a bunch of folks who are now all at Burning Man came to visit. Unfortunately, they arrived just as my pain meds kicked in and I was out cold the entire time, save for two comments I remember:

“We could totally draw dongs on his face now.”

“Do you think we could wake him up to ask him about [something Burning Man related]”

Had I not fallen off the container, I’d be at Burning Man right now.

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Postcards, Pitching, Payphones, Physics and Playa Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:06:19 +0000 PlayaPostLogoI’ll say it again, even though I may have worried you the first time: I need your help.

The things I’ve set out to do over the next month are among the most ambitious set of projects I’ve ever attempted, and they’re all related to Burning Man.

Unfortunately, when I say Burning Man, that’s basically when a really big chunk of my wonderful network of people ready and willing to help kind of tunes out and mentally walks the other way.

I understand that reaction. If I were on the other side of my friends feed, up until a few years ago, I’d have the same reaction. Of the folk I know, there’s basically three approaches to Burning Man:

  • Uh, seriously? Why?
  • It was cooler back when…

Since I first heard about Burning Man in college, I more or less was in the “Why?” camp. Through a little twist of fate and some encouragement from friends, I ended up camping with Disorient a few years ago. Build week was fun, but the event itself didn’t hold much interest for me. As it actually started, I remember thinking that I was glad I came and saw the thing, but I was not finding a Burner buried somewhere in my heart.

Then Jacqueline and Divide suggested I go deliver some mail with the Post Office. Since that first batch of mail, I’ve been solidly in the “AWESOME YAY” camp.

Delivering mail is the only way to experience Burning Man. You walk up to a post office, they hand you some mail and off you go on an adventure that will take you places if your heart is open to it. I’ve stumbled into weddings, french new wave film shoots, drug busts, clandestine swimming pools and a bunch of other magical situations too numerous to recount. Most of the time, I just stumble into a nice conversation or party that I’m always welcome in. Whether spectacular, or routine, all these interactions are why I live for the mail at Burning Man.

Being me, I wasn’t happy just sitting there delivering mail. I stumbled onto one of the oldest rifts at Burning Man and, being me, I set about trying to solve it. In the process, I started the Playa Postal Union, bringing together the two “rebel” Post Offices that were being denied incoming USPS mail by the quasi-official Post Office in Center Camp. After discussing it with some friends in L’Enfant Plaza, the very simple solution of getting a PO Box in Gerlach was floated, and the 89412-0149 zip code was born. While she’s been nothing but sweet and accommodating to me directly, it seems that the Gerlach Postmaster was not amused.


The single most difficult thing I have to do in the next 11 days is raise enough money to make a crazy dream of mine come true. I’ve sent a ton of postcards over the past few years, namely because of my experiences delivering them at Burning Man. I love the magic of receiving a postcard and I love creating them to share that feeling around the world.

Burning Man has a somewhat unfair reputation as an incredibly wasteful party for a bunch of rich people who like designer drugs, tacky mutant vehicles bad dance music and orgies. Granted, that happens, but it’s a fraction of the total activity and a part of the experience I’m mostly unfamiliar with.

Getting 70,000 postcards, each with a personal message, all out to the “default world” is the best way I know of to relay the spirit of this amazing thing that happens in the desert. Why tell you when I can get everyone else to put out little bits and pieces of this, to have everyone put words to what comes of a time and space where people willingly live by a different set of principles.

That, and 70,000 postcards is taller than the man. I founded a project to build something BIGGER THAN THE MAN.


Chicken John put it best:

Promotion for events or fundraising for projects sucks. Sucks ass. Even when you achieve your goals or make your numbers and there is a bright side the promotion side sucks. This isn’t an opinion.

You aren’t good at promotion. Most of you. All of you. I see you flail, I see you stall. I see your efforts and I see the waste. I’m not good at promotion either. Anti-promotion. Whatever. It’s important to remember this. Don’t be like “These other people did it, I can do it too.”. That’s not the right thinking. “By any means possible” isn’t good either. Reaching a fundraising goal is important, and I’m a BRUTAL FUNDRAISER”, but it ‘can’ take too much. I’ve seen it. The best way to have a fundraising goal is to have a good story. A fundraising campaign is a story unto itself. Like any good story, it needs a strong ending.

The big problem here is that I launched the fundraiser without much of a good story.

70,000 postcards. From Burning Man.

If you’re not a burner, why do you care?

I’m still trying to figure that out. PLEASE HELP ME.


As if I didn’t have enough to do, I figured it would be really cool for the PPU to get into the telco game. After having fun with ShadyTel at ToorCamp, I was inspired to finally do something with the three payphones lying around in my storage unit.

I brought three of these phones to HOPE, with the thought that they’d be able to get the phone chamber and the coin vaults open. Turns out, they managed to pick only one of the locks on the phone chamber.  I ended up breaking a ton of bits drilling out the rest of the locks to get them open.

Fortunately, the rest should be somewhat easy thanks to a friend I know from the BM-Wifi List. He already put together a phone for Burning Man and I’m pretty much just copying his gameplan.


After my exam and a party in my hometown, I’m flying out to NYC to build a grey water filtration solution, a sink and showers for my camp. Then it’ll all get loaded into our container and I’m off to the…


That’s what Burners call the place where Burning Man happens. (Maybe I should have led with that?)

If all this activity wasn’t enough to depress me, I’m actually a bit bummed out  this year…most of my friends aren’t camping with me as I had planned for reasons that I find completely understandable. I should have probably realized that my friends are looking for a substantially different kind of burn than I am.

Oh, you’re still with me?

So, I’m taking the next 3 days off to cram for a section of the CPA exam I’m taking on Wednesday evening. Yeah, seriously.

You can’t help me study, but you can help! Believe in my dream and believe in it with your cold hard cash or credit. Like the facebook page, follow the twitter account, retweet our tweet for cash.

If you don’t believe in it, tell me what you need to hear. Some of the best suggestions, ones that have really paid off, have come in from people who really loathe Burning Man.

Stay tuned for progress with the payphones and the physics.

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What I miss most about the 30c3 Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:54:50 +0000 It’s no huge secret that I’m usually in Germany between Christmas and New Years for the Chaos Communication Club‘s magical annual Hacker event. Most people refer to it as the Congress, the “C3″ or, mostly in the US, “the CCC”.

My first Congress was the 23c3, where I spoke about the (now sadly dormant) Hacker Foundation. The legendary 2007 camp happened a few months later. That first Hackers on a Plane trip to the 2007 CCCamp is often thought of as the landmark introduction to the concept of community shared Hackerspaces.

At the very last minute, I ended up coordinating the Heralds at the 25c3. The night before the 26c3, I invented the concept of the “Mission Angel” to complement the awesome streaming that debuted that year. A few weeks before the 27c3, I took over the lightning talks and introduced the format that remains popular today. I hit my emcee comedy peak at the 28c3 with the BS Bingo and fazzor story. By the 29c3, I had pretty much completely handed over coordination duties to Chef, Lindw0rm, watz and SvenG, allowing me to focus purely on Lightning Talks, emergencies and goodwill. Throughout, I was blogging and fixing random issues before they became problems.

The 30c3 was amazing. I never imagined that I’d be around to see Saal 1 at the CCH in Hamburg completely filled with nerds, that we could have so many Assemblies that we basically had a quadrennial camp indoors. However, my favorite part of the 30c3 was something I had literally nothing to do with: The lounge (aka Revolution #9):

The video and whatever words I have to add can’t do what it was justice. Even now I’m struggling to attempt to describe how amazing it was. It’s not a great secret that those who do the real work in planning the C3s are involved with some of Germany’s most amazing music festivals. However, I could never imagine that our nerd community would be capable of creating an otherworldly magical space that went beyond an incredible set design, amazing programming and a vibe of gemütlichkeit I wish I had an equivalent English word for.

I really only got to experience it on the last few days. I took a moment to myself to watch a performance on the next to last day and partied on right up until the first signs of dawn on the last night of the 30c3. I wish I could fully explain it, but it was a cathartic experience and a wonderful cap on a seven year run at the most amazing annual event on the planet.

While it’s not a huge surprise to many of you, I think I’m going to let the 30c3 be the highlight of my Congress experience and a great feeling I’m going to hold onto for a few years. I couldn’t imagine a better note to take a rest on. I’m also incredibly grateful to the team that’s taking over the Lightning Talks, I am sure they will take my work and build immensely on it. While you’re all enjoying the 31/2/3c3s, I’ll hopefully be  welcoming my own family into this wonderful world you’re all helping create.

With the success of the #twodollars mention at the end of my last post about the disaster in Harlem (remember that?), I’m going to keep having fun and embedding surprises at the end of my posts. In honor of the lounge, the first 9 people who e-mail me with a valid postal address (anywhere in the world) will receive a special token from one of the congresses going back to the 23c3. (Edit: All 9 were claimed!) I only ask that you post the object I send you somewhere online and help promote a website where I’ll be liquidating the rest of my collection of hacker ephemera to raise money for certain causes.

If you ever get a chance to take part in something magical like the lounge, do it. If you ever get a chance to enjoy it…just drop everything you’re doing and enjoy it…even if you’re like me and need some practice at relaxing.

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Are they helping you make money? Pay them. Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:18:41 +0000 I recently hired an former colleage, artist and ace photographer to take pictures of all my old hacker t-shirts. Hired, as in I offered her money in exchange for her labor to produce pictures I need in order to market these shirts online.

I’m not saying I’m a hero or a great guy. Admittedly, the deal I struck with her was probably less than market rate for the quality of the work she’ll provide and I’m guessing that overall, the job may not even end up netting her minimum wage. She is photographing the bulk of a nearly 20 year old collection of hacker memorabilia I’m going to put up for sale  to help fund some new projects…and pay off a ridiculous pile of debt I have incurred from some old ones. However, I asked her what she’d charge, she quoted me a price and I accepted it.

I won’t get in to the specifics, but I had a separate conversation about this project with someone I’d consider an unofficial consultant on selling things over the internet. To paraphrase, they were rather shocked I’d be paying someone to assist on a project that’s essentially funneling money to charitable aims. While this “Schwag for Snowden” project may end up gaining a fair amount of attention and exposure, it’s exceptionally unlikely that any of that will lead to paid work or marketable exposure for the skilled workers contributing to it.

It’s unfortunately becoming more possible than ever for folks like me to command good, skilled work for free just “for the exposure”. While it’s not nearly as much as others, I do command a certain amount of market power (i.e. privilege if I were trollbaiting). It might not even be hard for me to command a favor just based on a karmic sense of returning other favors people have witnessed me doing.

However, herein lies the problem with unpaid skilled work: Once I get you to work for free, why would I pay you? Why would anyone I refer to you pay a market rate?  Why would anyone pay a market rate knowing they could get similar quality work for free?

In the case of photography, you might call this a problem with everything going digital. There isn’t the cost of film or developing involved anymore. There isn’t material to mark up. The cost of materials for 2,800 photos on digital is still less than a roll of 28. Without materials to mark up, it’s sometimes hard to charge a friend for the value of your services, especially when a favor is easily commanded.

The problem is when we get stuck in a cycle of devaluing real labor. Frankly, it’s cheaper for me to pay a good photographer $2/shirt for a web-ready photograph than it is for me to spend a frustrating 15 minutes snapping and editing a picture with the point-and-shoots I have available to me.

But let’s say I saved this $2 and got the same quality of work for free, even if this is going towards a good cause. This depresses prices everywhere else in the marketplace. Not just for photographers, but also for web designers, copywriters and many other “creative” fields where it’s impossible to get paid work without a strong portfolio or a solid list of clients/references.

To those of you more powerful than me who can command this kind of work for free: Stop. The “exposure” you’re giving the creatives is almost never worth nearly as much as what you could afford to pay them. Not only is it ethically wrong to profit from those doing work for free, it destroys the very trade you’re claiming to help.

Skilled workers giving up labor for free are inherently devaluing their work and the work of everyone else in their trade. Even paying a relative pittance, a stipend or working in trade restores value to creative skills encourages talented folk to stick with and develop their craft.

To those creatives out there who still need to build up a portfolio and don’t feel comfortable or able to charge, I offer you this guideline: If they demand it, give a lead the first batch of work as “business development”. Figure out the cost of your materials and the amount of time spent on the project. If you get a repeat customer, or a referral from a “business development” job, charge them at at least minimum wage based on the time you spent on a similar project. Even if you “lose clients”, you’re still placing a real value to your work and others will see that. If you ever end up collecting the equivalent of a 40 hour minimum wage paycheck from your labor (not including materials) in a given week, never sell your work for free again and double your prices. Others will value your work even more and pay you the rate you command.

Granted, if you’ve read this far, I can probably safely disclose to you that this whole thing came about because I personally funded the lion’s share of the trip that Time magazine says was funded by Dutch computer hackers. While a good chunk of it was from donations collected at OHM, the vast bulk of it came out of my pocket…and I’m selling off my hacker memorabilia to pay that particular bill off.

While I’ll probably never recover close to the amount I spent on that trip, that’s still no reason to regret doing it and still no reason to stiff Becky or expect she (or anyone else) will do real skilled work on my behalf for free.

Got a comment? I’ll let you know a flame war you can jump into when it happens.

(Thanks to Melissa Gira Grant for licensing her image May Day, 2012 / Union Square / Unpaid Interns under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license, thus allowing me to use it as the featured image for this post. If she notices, I’d be glad to pay her for it.)

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Strategies for explaining cryptocurrency to your parents after MtGox Tue, 04 Mar 2014 04:57:34 +0000 If you ever have to invoke the phrase “what is required is a decentralized intermediary!” then you have failed to explain what cryptocurrency (i.e. Bitcoin) is to the average consumer (i.e. your parents). This is why the Bitcoin trolls are winning.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a “so much potential” rant from a teacher, parent or boss? If you have a reasonably solid understanding of what cryptocurrencies are and how they work, odds are pretty good that you’ve been on the receiving end of a conversation like that. If you can grasp and understand how Bitcoin is a lot like a kid with potential hanging out with the wrong crowd doing the wrong kinds of things, then odds are you’re in a pretty good position to explain to the average person why cryptocurrencies are the future of money.

With the MtGox bankruptcy, Bitcoin is now commonly thought of as not only a mysterious tool used to pay for drugs, but also as a huge “ponzi scheme” that screws innocent people out of their hard earned cash. You’re not going to counter those conclusions of Fox News and Daily Show viewers with an eloquent Austrian-school-inspired description of fiat currency. You have to keep it real…as in real dumb simple.

Brett Scott was on the right track with steps 1-3 of How to explain Bitcoin to your grandmother. However, he got too enamored of his own explanation and forgot about his audience. Your parents probably couldn’t explain to you what the Fed does beyond, “they print the money”. Therefore, they’re really not going to give a flying fsck about trusted intermediaries, secret keys, hashrates, mining or the blockchain…and they don’t need to.

Your parents know what cash is, they know what bank accounts are, they’re probably familiar with online banking and they know how to pay bills and buy things with money. Armed with just these analogies, you can explain to them what Bitcoin is, why it’s no more evil than any other kind of money and why it’s the future.

1. Start by explaining that “digital currency” is how banks keep track of your money. Everyone familiar with online banking can grasp the concept of “digital currency”. You can see the amount in your checking account when you log in to your bank and you can explain that money represented in that balance on the screen exists in digital form. The bank doesn’t move bills and coins from one envelope marked “Mom’s Savings Account” to “Mom’s Checking Account” when she clicks “transfer”. They issue instructions from one part of a computer to another. Same thing goes for paying off credit cards and bills, it’s just “1s and 0s as digital currency moving from one bank’s computer to another.”

2. Explain that digital currencies in banks are not “money in your wallet”. You actually have to go to the bank or an ATM to get paper cash. You have to log into online banking or link your bank account in order to pay bills with “digital currency”. You can’t pull that digital currency away from your bank and onto a USB stick, it’s not “money in your wallet” until you convert it to paper by going to the bank or an ATM.

3. Explain that Bitcoin is both “digital currency” and “money in your wallet” at the same time. Here’s where you want to keep it really, really simple. If whatever you’re saying can’t be said of paper money, then you shouldn’t be saying it. Just say that Bitcoin is true digital cash. Yes, it exists “as 1s and 0s” but it works just like cash. You can put your wallet on your computer, on a USB stick or any other thing capable of holding 1s and 0s just like you can put your cash in anything that can hold paper. You can pay people with it and not reveal your identity. You don’t need to have a bank account to hold cash, you don’t need a bank account to hold Bitcoin. Invent your own analogies to suit your particular audience, but you get the idea.

4. Explain that Bitcoin became popular with drug dealers because they could send money anonymously, like cash, through computers, like digital currency. Even if you’re naive enough to believe that Bitcoin doesn’t owe a lot of its success to Silk Road, it’s hard to argue against the power of this analogy to explain how Bitcoin is (supposed to be) used.

5. Explain that MtGox was a bank where people could convert their Bitcoin to Dollars and vice versa. For the love of everything holy, do not even think about attempting to explain transaction malleability. All your parents need to know about MtGox is “bank” and “Bitcoin to Dollars and back again.”

6. Explain that MtGox got greedy, didn’t really know what they were doing and lost their customer’s Bitcoins. Yes, yes, I know, the implication here is essentially incorrect. We also don’t (as of the time of this post) really know what happened to MtGox, other than they closed up and filed for bankruptcy in Japan and their customers are probably screwed. Your parents probably don’t like or trust banks. They’re greedy. They fail. Use those prejudices to demonstrate that what happened to MtGox is a “bank problem”, not a Bitcoin problem.

7. Reiterate points 3 and 4. Bitcoin is “digital cash”.

Is this a massive oversimplification? Yes. Then again, do you really need to know the interrelation between mortgage-backed securities on the books of the Federal Reserve as a strategy for increasing liquidity in a fractional reserve banking system to understand that a latte still costs $5? No.

If you’re feeling really good at this point, you can attempt to explain why the value of Bitcoin fluctuates so much relative to paper currencies.

Then again, if your parents don’t get it, but they love animals…well, you can go on to explain Dogecoin.

As always, please leave your trolls comments over at HN.

(Thanks to Zach Copley for sharing his photo “The money is better on the top layers…” under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.) 


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What I learned from an unfortunate incident with Social Media tools Mon, 03 Mar 2014 07:22:48 +0000 TL;DR: If you’re starting a blog, just write what you have to write and experimenting with your tech as you push your posts out. Listen to your followers and you’ll figure out the best way as you go along.

I’m really trying to write more.

By writing, I mean “blogging” and by “trying” I mean, “I have a list of about 313 ideas and links I’d like to write blog posts on, but I’m feeling really self-conscious about coming across like an idiot.”

So, naturally, I completely botched my first tweet-turned-blogpost.

I have the NYPD to thank for the encouragement to pick up my toy megaphone and say something somewhat meaningful, as opposed to simply tweeting vines of oddities in the art world, pictures of my cats or other such nonsense. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent following on Twitter, mostly due to emceeing a lot of hacker events since before Twitter existed. With a few thousand followers and some righteous indignation, I began figuring out how exactly to get my words out to more than the handful of people internet stalking me.

I wrote that post only a few days after having experienced it. I went through an initial edit, posted it, then let it sit for a while. Then I spent a few hours a day through most of February brushing up on the strategies and tools of this week’s social media landscape, along with a little bit of Facebook/Twitter consultation on the topic. After all that, I settled on the following:

Platform: The Writr theme for WordPress. It’s clean, sans-serif, and not incredibly boring looking. There are some more impressive themes out there, and I’ll test those out when I actually have some posts to test with. In the mean time, this gets the point across and is less likely to be buggy.

Comments/Engagement: Livefyre. One of the most consistently annoying things is having to engage in three separate conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other random places. I really hate how it’s difficult to bring really awesome threads from each venue, and nearly impossible to bridge conversations. I believed Livefyre would solve this inherent problem and get folks talking all these platforms.

Analytics/Post Scheduling: Buffer. My idea was to write as many posts as possible on the weekends, then share them spread out at varying times throughout the week.

Sharing: I’m using 2 Click Social Media buttons. My goal was to have no trackers at all, but the theme implements Gravatar and Livefyre is a tracking nightmare of its own. Ah well.

I also turned off post duplication between Facebook and Twitter since it seemed best to engage these audiences entirely separately.

Having put the finishing touches on that post and pushed it out there via Buffer…I learned 10 things really quickly:

1) ALWAYS double check the link to your blog post. This was the first thing I botched. I accidentally Buffered the link to the draft, rather than the link to the post itself. Which led to tweets like:

2) You don’t really know how to do social on your site until you’ve actually reached your audience. Turns out most of my East Coast US friends took to Facebook right away, and most of the West Coast folk and people I know in Germany took to Twitter. However, most of my traction came straight from Hacker News, which led to a very vibrant comment thread. On that note…

3) If it’s at all hackerish, use Hacker News for comments. I didn’t even know that my post had shot up to #7 on Hacker News until Ryan clued me in via Facebook and that’s where the most intelligent commentary has emerged from. I should have listened to him when he suggested it via Facebook and now I’ve learned my lesson. I’m also removing Livefyre’s trackers in the process.

4) Comments are overrated. There’s basically no point trying to bring comment traffic back to your site if people are actively engaging elsewhere.

5) Don’t duplicate within or between social networks. I thought I had disabled Facebook duplication of my Tweets, but I found out I hadn’t the hard way. After realizing the same post was showing up four times in my facebook feed, I managed to somewhat bring everyone’s comments into the same post by reference…but the results were messy and many likes were lost.

6) If you’re blogging about security and social justice issues, use secure tools and avoid trackers. I use a Ghostery plugin, so I was aware of the Gravatar, Livefyre and other trackers present on my site. I shouldn’t have put myself in a position to have people point it out to me. Comments aren’t that important, and I’m handling everything social through other services, so I shouldn’t have any trackers. Unfortunately, Gravatar is pretty deeply embedded in WordPress and it’s the last remaining tracker. It’s a pretty benign, but in the interests of a perfect privacy score, I’m going to have to go digging into the WordPress code at a later date.

I’m sure there’s a ton of other lessons I’ve got to learn in the mean time, but I’ll gladly accept any others you’ve got in the interim. For what it’s worth, I know I had a pretty good post that hit a lot of buttons and interest. I know I’m going to have to keep stoking the commenting fires on Twitter and Facebook over the next few days to broaden the reach a bit. I know my time in the HN spotlit has faded.

All that being said, having knocked out two posts in the past two days, I’m only 58 posts behind my goal of hitting one post per day in 2014!

As always, please leave your comments on HN.

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