Monday, August 23, 2010

Scrooped! Or, The Use of Mind-Games in the Joining of Online Sites

Tags: Saving Your Work when Filling in Online Applications to Join a Site You Think Will Be Helpful; Page Three Sending You Back to Page One; Page Six Stating Outright Costs and Allowing Customer to Skip Them; Inducements to Carry On With Incredibly Frustrating Applications; How I got scrooped.

Hey there, writers!

Ahem.  "There are two ways for online sites to win new members.  One is to make it incredibly easy to join.  This is wonderful for serious joiners, but psychologically it may actually reduce the value of the site in the mind of the hopscotching joiner.  The second way to design the application to join a site is to make use of sound psychological principals based on the idea that the more work and time and thought you put into a task, the more likely you are to value it." -- Professor Professorial, Department of Psychology,  Professional University

Enough Psych 101 for now?  Then let's have a look at how today, without hardly even noticing, I got scrooped by an online site. 

If you blog, as obviously I do here, you may want to have your blog noticed, as I do here, since I spend an awful lot of time thinking of different ways I can be helpful to writers, and then actually writing those ways up on this blog.  I heard about a thing called blog lists, or if you like, catalogs of blogs.  A number of them exist on the internet, but maybe you are seduced into thinking that the biggest would be the best for your blog.  (Big Pond. Minnow Blog.  Good idea?  Hmmm.)  Or perhaps you are primarily drawn to the fact that there are busy discussions taking place on some blog-lists, especially a site that is arguably the largest lister of blogs, and that is called BlogCatalog(BC). 

It's hard to believe there are any sites more interesting to writers and readers than, say,, but suppose you remain convinced that BC is for you as a writer of  a blog.

Please keep in mind while reading this post that I am one who only stares with dumb admiration at the Techies on NCIS or Bones.  However, I have the usual experiences of joining online sites, and if ever there was a site difficult to join, I found BC to be the epitome. 

Nevertheless, I was an obedient little scroopee, filling in this, getting bumped on that, spending about an hour describing this blog  which I then, prudently, saved to a wordpad file which I wouldn't have done if I hadn't had experience filling out things online for the government. 

(Hint #1 for today.  Anything you spend an hour or even only twenty minutes doing while applying to join a site is worth saving to Wordpad, so that when you have to start over, you won't have reinvent the wheel.)

I was hugely relieved I had saved my blog description because of all the restarting (e.g. they don't tell you what size password is valid until two pages after you think everything's okay), and so I used my wordpad file rather frequently.  Finally I got to a place where they wanted me to pay them different amounts of money to do many kinds of things, including $8 to skip the line and have my blog approved by them more quickly than ordinary people, or (I think it was) twenty bucks to have my blog "advertised" on their main page for a certain time period which they didn't specify.  (60 seconds at 3 am on a Frosty Friday in February?) 
I have no desire to either earn money or spend it through this blog, and so I thought of stopping right there.  But that blog-lister BC allowed me to skip all that buying and so, since I'd spent an hour (Pay Attention, Class) writing my blog description (writers tend to take a long time writing, unless they don't), I just skipped all that buying and carried on without paying.   They didn't seem to mind, and simply told me I was number 1,245,547,903  (a slight exaggeration) in getting their approval of this blog that Google already approves of.

I should have stopped right there just on principle, but there is something rather seductive about seeing just how much you yourself are willing to do just because you've already done so much.  And so I went on..

I got to a place where I had to prove that this blog (that's right, the one you are reading here), was my own.  I tried to think of any reason at all why Jane Doe would try to promote my blog on BC without being able to change the blog itself (other than through DeepHack -- who must exist somewhere), and could imagine none.  That, given my fertile imagination, says something.  But, hey, I'd already spent quite a lot of time on this thing... 

And anyway, aren't we all used to the idea of having to prove that online things like email addresses and bank accounts are ours?  

So, caught in the chasm between wasting more time and having already wasted time, I carried on. 

There are many ways to prove something is yours.  But BC's way of doing it is draconian.  You had to add a widget or button or meta-link to your own already classy-looking blog site, and that widget, button, or meta-link had to advertise BC

I objected to this decidedly.  It wasn't real $ money, but it was a hidden cost, and it was a big one.  Basically, you had to advertise on your own blog all the other blogs in the world competing with your blog for peoples' attention. 

Oh, and BTW, you needed a PhD in tech to do this.

"I know all this," she admitted ashamedly, "because I tried."

It's true.  I even called my business manager and doer of most thing Tech.  He advised against putting a widget in a gadget because it would ruin the look of my blog, and there is no obvious live link anywhere to do it any other way, and he really didn't want me to use a meta-link because apparently that meant search engines would find BC synonymously with finding my blog.  

And that's what really stopped me, dear readers.  Tech Frustration.  Or so I told myself. 
The truth was, I was scrooped.  Totally unsuspiciously, I went to a site without looking it up on Google or other search engines to get a consensus of this site's virtues or otherwise, and began to sign on.

I can only pity the people who actually paid their money to have their blog jump the line (in being "approved") only to get to this Palace of High Tech and finally, frustrated out of their gourds, just let BC use a metalink (or used Help and found the place that said to use a gadget for the widget.)

A long time ago I was married to a psychologist and so I know about cognitive dissonance.  Here it means you want to do something because you've had to spend so much time and energy doing it already and it's enraging to admit you wasted the time and energy, but you don't want to do it, for exactly the same reason. 

However, my time was not all wasted.  I learned something vitally important in my role as Avenging Writer. Here it is: Vital Tip #2 for the day:

Before you do something that you think will help your writing, always check it out on a search engine such as Google to see (a) how much it's going to cost you in time, energy and dollars to do it and (b) if real  people who've succeeded in getting signed up would recommend it.

I did this afterward and found:

" I only participate with MBL [My Blog Log].  The only thing stopping me from trying out BC is that they require quite a bit of real estate on the site to participate."  Too true.

"It has an annual fee that's pretty high and it costs more for everything you add to make your blog stand out."

"I 'abused' them and they banned me."

"It's too big. The discussions are interesting, but  most blogs on BC will not have any more chance of being found by the search engines than any others, unless they're all dressed up like Christmas Trees, and that costs you bigtime".  

AND: I could find no site or comment anywhere about  BC after mid-2009.   Maybe there are some, but I used two search engines, and neither found any as far down their lists as I was willing to go.  Most references to BC were in 2005.  My tech helper says that a site that isn't talked about regularly online sinks lower on the search engines' lists.  And if the main site is low on a search engine's list, what happens to the busy chatter about the blogs on the main site?  I simply don't have enough cognitive dissonance invested in this question to find out.  

Keep doing your writing.  Make it real!


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At 27 August, 2010 , Blogger Dayana Stockdale said...

Interesting post. I haven't yet tried to get my blog noticed. I'm just starting out. Bones is my favorite show. I looooove all the characters!

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