Jed Cohen

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Paralysis

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I’ve got so many things that I want to write about that I start a ton of posts and don’t necessarily finish them.  I’ve got drafts in WordPress.  Virtual sticky notes on my computer and phone.  Voice memos that I recorded on my phone (some taken while driving, which probably wasn’t the best idea).

Yet I haven’t posted anything in a month.

Why?  Because work has been crazy.  Because I start something here but forget to finish it as this blog is low in my list of priorities (it really should be higher).  Because I’m a little too perfectionist when it comes to posting.  Because I spent more time proofreading and editing my posts than writing them (thank high school essays for that one).  Because I forget about this blog.  Because I’m paralyzed by the routine of my schedule and don’t adjust for the things I want to accomplish but don’t.

Sadly, almost posting doesn’t count.  It’s yet another one of those areas where showing up is what matters.  So I thought I’d start by listing all of the things I’ve been thinking about writing about lately.  It’s a way to jump start writing posts about some of these ideas.  It’s also a way to make sure that I actually follow through, as putting this out in public places imaginary social pressure on me to start writing.  So without further ado, here’s a few lot of seed ideas:

  • Symbols allow us to inhabit a shared reality (see Walter Lippmann).
  • Why time isn’t fixed despite the fixed nature of the second.
  • There is so much information online we need to rely on the Internet to process and store it (think exocortex).
  • How the branding of commodities isn’t that different from the branding of general retailers.
  • Why I have way too many profiles on way too many social media networks/websites/platforms.
  • How being on the inside often means we can’t communicate with the outside – even though we know everything about the inside and there’s nothing stopping us from talking. (Expanded a bit in Inside, Outside, Upside, Downside)
  • Overriding Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a defining aspect of free choice.  Also why every single professor I had who mentioned it in class thought it was inaccurate (except for my Intro to Psych professor).
  • Tweeting like a pro isn’t that different from playing video games like a pro. What does it mean to be a power user?
  • What quantum mechanics teaches us about Russian Roulette and our understanding of success.
  • How going from a user to a marketer on a platform allows for the possible growth of a kind of code of ethics of marketing in that space.
  • Twitter = microblogging = tiny blogging. How does the Twitter ecosystem change our definition of blogging? Or should we redefine our definition of Twitter (note that Twitter did this a little bit today)?
  • How ritual allows us to access personal and cultural memories, leading to a continuity of expectation and ability to surrender the decision-making process to precedent.
  • Plan your dive, dive your plan.

And last, but most definitely not least:

  • How I work best when extremely busy (as in every hour of the day accounted for and filled with some kind of activity).  How I need a new side project (five to ten hours a week).  What I’m looking for in said side project (social media, community outreach, marketing, etc).  Why I like working virtually (and generally for free).

I know that not all of these make sense right now.  They don’t necessarily make complete sense to me either.  Which is why you’ll probably never see full posts on all of these topics.  You may see mini-posts focused on one or two ideas from a bullet point.  Or what’s written above (kind of a micro-post) might be it.  We’ll see.

I am the Long Tail

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You may have heard of the long tail.  It’s one of those Internet buzzwords, but if you haven’t, here’s Chris Anderson’s original Wired article on it.  Here’s a quick description: the cost of storing and distributing small quantities of a variety of slightly popular goods becomes economically feasible thanks to the larger audience the internet provides.  If a retailer were to stock these same products on their shelves, they would not be able to sell through their inventory because their shoppers are bound by the need to physically travel to the store to purchase the item.  Some say the long tail is dead.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  Regardless, the mathematics behind the long tail (the Pareto principle) apply to a variety of circumstances and phenomena.

Including this blog.

How so?  Well, I imagine that the Pareto principle (or the 80/20 rule, or the law of the vital few, or whatever else you call it) applies to Internet traffic too.  Think about it.  If you run a website, how many visitors do you get?  And how many do you think the most popular websites in your field get?  If the 80/20 rule holds true here, then statistically speaking you probably fall within the 80% of the Internet that provides only 20% of the total web traffic.  But chances are there are a few sites within your field that dominate over the rest, at least traffic wise.

Let’s use my blog, this website, as an example.  Here’s my Google Analytics statistics from July 1st to today:

Google Analytics Statistics

I also had 395 visitors when this blog was hosted on WordPress.com, and most of those were from one post – Twitter, the Psychology of Reciprocity, and Self-Reinforcing Micro-Networks.

Anyway, it’s safe to sat that this is not one of the most visited sites on the web (even if we exclude porn and spam).  I’m okay with this.  Here’s why:

I am not here to tell you how to do whatever it is that you do.

I’m much more interested in having a conversation with you than telling you to do things the way I like to do them.  I want to create content that you find “valuable,” that makes you think or exposes you to something you haven’t heard about before.  Yes, I do try to be timely and interesting and witty while doing this, but I truly hope that I do not come off as preachy.  I am not an expert.  I truly hope that you do not get the impression that I’m trying to be one.

I don’t promote this blog very much.

Okay, so this is related to the point above.  I use some simple WordPress SEO, I tweet about my posts, and I have set up accounts on StumbleUponTechnorati, and so on, but I don’t spend hours trying to increase the number of eyeballs that take in the content here.  I’d like to think that you like what I write, and I hope you leave a comment with your thoughts, but I’m not going to freak out if only eight people read this post.  Sure I have Google Analytics enabled, but that’s because it appeals to my scientific data geek side, not because I run marketing campaigns designed to increase traffic.

I’m not here to make money.

Seriously.  There are no ads or sponsors on this website.  I’m doing this because I want to experiment and learn what works for me, not because I’m expecting to make money.  Maybe one day, but not today.  (In the meantime, at least I’ve got that whole “personal branding” thing covered).

So what’s the point again?

This post was supposed to be about web traffic, not an explanation for why I blog or a justification for why I’m okay that only a few people read this thing.  I was going to make a point about how the Internet allows me to find an audience for my writing (and the writing of others) that traditional media would not be able to.  And I was going to discuss how we shouldn’t necessarily expect the proportions of the 80/20 rule to change.  That just because the Internet is the “great equalizer” doesn’t mean that the majority of people won’t still read the same content, especially in light of the low time investment involved in surfing the web (aka if you don’t like something you close the browser window).

Obviously that didn’t happen.  Sorry about that.  Maybe another post?

In the meantime, let me leave you with this:

Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, describes herself as “the Internet.”  To give you a frame of reference, Alexa gives her websitetraffic rank of 48,998, while this blog is ranked 3,586,457.  So if Justine is the Internet, I guess that makes me the long tail.  And maybe you too.

Written by Jed

August 18th, 2009 at 9:28 am