Thoughts on a Tuesday – New Paperback Launch

‘Likes’, ‘Follows’ and so forth

I’ll admit it.  I’ve participated in a few ‘Like for a Like’ and ‘Follow for a Follow’ schemes in recent times.  Now, the theory is that you’re supposed to click on ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’, or something very similar, for everybody you track a link to.  In all honesty, at first I adhered to that rule.  Lately, however, I’ve been very naughty!  I’m afraid that if I didn’t like what I found, I didn’t do what was expected of me.  What caused this revolution?  Well, quite simply, some of the participants were ringers!  The schemes were supposed to be for authors, writers, self-publishers, book reviewers and maybe book lovers.  Some of those who jumped on the ride, however, had nothing to do with any of the world of books!  They were promoting sites/blogs/pages that did anything but talk about books.  Then, there were some that did fill the bill but I had a crisis of conscience over and had to duck away from (and no, I’m not going to say what they concerned, other than for the ‘make me rich by buying my self-help-get-rich-quick book’ types).  I have no objection to the concept, but in truth I prefer the idea of having a similar scheme where you only ‘Like’/’Follow’ those you actually have an interest in hearing more from.  It’s time for a more discerning scheme for these things!  Yes, I know that I’ve gained followers, but it’s almost by accident as I’m sure the vast majority don’t really expect to maintain any active interest, and many cancel their ‘Like’/’Follow’ after a while.

Paperback Writer

Yes, the second paperback is out there – sort of!  Following the instructions given, by FeedARead, I ordered a ‘proof’ copy of my novelette in paperback.  Now, the instructions indicated that I had to approve said proof before it would go live on their store.  Performing what I like to call a ‘security check’ by Googling my name, to see if any of my ‘to-buy’ books were in places they didn’t belong, I encountered my new paperback being offered for sale by… FeedARead!  Now, in essence, I don’t have a problem with that.  I do, however, object to having to buy a copy of my own book – surely they could absorb the cost of a complementary copy – on the grounds that it wouldn’t be put up for sale until I had done so and approved it, only to discover that it was being advertised anyway!

Well, if it’s good enough for them (and no, I won’t be using them again!), then here we are:

Shade of Evil (Being Part 1 of G1: The Guardians) is available from FeedARead, ISBN 9781782993551, for £3.99 plus Post & Packing.  To quote the blurb:

A simple man bears a terrible burden, unknowing. Now, that burden is killing him, seeking freedom from his exhausted hulk. Freedom to satisfy its evil hunger.

“A darkness dwelt there, a vile miasma of misery that gnawed at the very soul of the man. It had been there for years, growing like some parasite, growing bloated with every bit of melancholy that was sucked from him. Worse, it was taking on a life of its own, a substance that should not exist. And the man was becoming something less, something hollow.”

A novelette.

A Matter of Spam

This blog is very well protected against Spammers by a system called Akismet.  The odd bit slips through, but as I have to approve comments from anybody who hasn’t been previously approved, they’re easy to mark as Spam and disposed of.  More rarely, a comment from somebody legitimate might end up in Spam when it doesn’t deserve to, but I’m scrupulous about checking before emptying the Spam folder, so they get found and approved that way.  The same isn’t true for all blogs!  I’ve noticed several blogs where Spam comments have gotten through, which means that the blog has become vulnerable to attack, and other readers may suffer if they follow links in those comments, or click on the commenter’s name.  More worryingly, this is happening on some sites that use alleged secure systems, like Captcha, which requires that you  decipher something before your comment will be accepted.  Obviously, Captcha isn’t working!  Why?  Because Spammers all know about it and it seems they are (probably) randomly attacking sites in person, so that they can get past Captcha!  Unless, of course, somebody’s created a ‘robot’ program which can solve the puzzles.  If you’re a blogger, I suggest you keep a close eye on all comments!  If you’re a blog reader – be wary of clicking on links in comments, especially if the language is poor and the comment seems ‘odd’.

As an aside, you can find out about any commenter quite easily.  First choice: Google them!  Chances are, you’ll find a string of entries where they’ve posted on various forums and blogs.  If you’re still unsure, maybe because Google has proven inconclusive, there’s a site called WhoIs.  That will look up information on anybody who is online, and it can even trace IP addresses.

Take care out there!

~ Steve

Statistics and Lies

As a blogger and one-time student of statistics, I’m drawn to the wonderful information provided by WordPress.com.  Just what do these statistics tell us?  Are they as reliable as we’d like?  I’m going to start by looking at the colourful map showing where visitors come from.

WP 25-03-2013 map This map shows all visitors recorded here since the blog started.  Impressive, isn’t it?  A global audience is something I had never imagined attracting.  If you’re wondering, it’s what’s called a “heat map”, the colour rising in intensity according to the number of visitors.  There are figures to go with it, indicating the actual numbers for each country.  But how meaningful is it?  What I don’t know is whether these figures include visits by Spammers.  I hate to say this, but several of the countries are known to be linked to nefarious activities on the internet.  So I have to think that there is definitely some room for caution in accepting what’s being said.

Now, having said all that, the other statistics start to carry a distinct uncertainty.  In the “TAGS & CATEGORIES” pane, WordPress advises: “If you tag your posts effectively, this panel will show you which topics get the most traffic. Snapshot generated from your top posts over the past week.”  Sounds great, but if the figures do include visits by Spammers, then it becomes difficult to assess the report.  There’s no guarantee that you’ll have a clear view of what tags and categories are genuinely drawing visitors to your blog.

There are statistics included which are more reliable.  The number of followers, for example. But even these have to be treated with caution!  They are not guarantees that such folk are active readers.   Even if they do read your posts, it doesn’t mean that they read them all.  Of all those numbers, the most reliable are those from Akismet, reporting how any potential Spam messages were blocked.

The statistics reported by WordPress may not actually be lies, but they can’t be relied upon as being the truth.  In reality, they are, at best, a rough guide to how a blog is doing.

~ Steve