Saturday, October 18, 2014

Status and History of the

I should update the blogosphere on the status of the  

In its day, it was a wonderful educational experience for both the newbie and experienced;  it was a warm supportive community; and it was part of an online business.  
Blog Writing Course Logo 
Still Online, Not Active. Hibernating.

I'd like to put this update on the site but since I can't seem to figure out the login, I'll work on this draft over here on, my catch-all site for online marketing notes on SEO, social media, and blogs.  
Carmen Edelson

My reason for the update is that I'm tagging along with my wife to a bloggers conference (#TBEX) so I'm thinking about blogging plus there have been a series of recent inquiries from friends of friends who are thinking of launching similar ventures and who want to benefit from my experience. Rather than tell them the story, I thought I'd post it so everyone could benefit.

Status update.  Trumpets blare. Drums role., as was foreshadowed in my mentioning of not being able to find the login, is not being updated, maintained, or marketed at this time. The courses on the site are available for free but they are more than a little out of date.  We often think about reviving and updating the course but we have better, in the business sense, things to do with out days.  By "we," I mean the Vkidz company, an edtech publisher for students in K12.

Future Plans:  None at this moment. Still incubating and....well, licking my wounds from the first set of go rounds.  Go rounds? Yes, go rounds. It's time to reveal the history of this noble artistic-business endeavor.  Note, the names have not been changed to protect anybody. Mostly, this is a mea culpa although to be honest, I'm still not sure why it didn't work.

Back Story. I'm a real person. My name is John, Needing a job about a decade ago, I started Vkidz,  an online education company for kids and I have been running it ever since. We sell both to families and schools.  We do a lot of online marketing so I was interested in Mommy Bloggers from the start. (And teacher bloggers, PLNs, and so on).  I started the company when I was in my mid 40s and at the same time, my son started taking karate at the local dojo (Yes, all these strands are relevant).  So, I started taking karate too.

Here's the last back story item you need to know.  I have a terrible memory and I am organizationally-challenged, so I had a problem memorizing the movements of a kata. For the  99% of you that are non-martial artists, think of this as:
Start by standing at attention.
1. Look Left while Blocking Left.
2. Punch Left.
3. Step Left while looking right.
4. Block Right while Blocking Right.
 etc. right up to number 50 or a hundred.

I would try to write all these steps down and then memorize them. But I kept losing my note cards. And then people wanted  copies.  So I started a blog initially for record keeping.

The first post.  I switched blogging technology a few times at the start so the very first versions are perhaps lost.  But the first post on the blog that is still up was posted on July 6, 2006. It's about a kata known as Long One. And of course, this is not the original version of the post, the pictures and videos came later.  The first year, I mostly focused on writing up all the different kata and drills to help me remember them and share them with others. It turns out that I was not the only one who needed some help remembering, the blog started to get readers.  

My karate classes were in a group and we were all pursuing our black belts: "Black Belt Excellence is our Goal, Sir!"  Yup, we really did say things like that.  Happy times.

After a year, I broadened my blog writing from just the mechanics of the kata to describing the experience that we were going through.   I became a sort of class recorder and photographer. After an intense class or sparing match, I would post on my online diary or weBLOG. This was BFB  (Before Facebook) so it was a big deal for people to see pictures or stories about themselves on the Internet. Oh, how bright they seem, through memory's haze, those happy, golden, bygone days which were less than a decade ago!  

BTW, Facebook and my company Vkidz were both founded in the same year, 2004.  And we're both still in business. But that might be were the similarities end.

The problem: My writing sucked. My blog articles were boring, even to me.  In contrast, I had started reading a blog by a young lady known as Black Belt Moma, "Not Just Doing the Commute, But Earning the Belts."  Her stories were on the same topics as mine. She too had been drawn into pursuing a black belt by taking her kids to karate but her blog was captivating whereas mine was sort of ho-hum.  So I approached her and asked : "Why is your blog so sparkling and mine so dull?"

First of all, she didn't disagree with my assessment which I appreciated since candor is high on the list of characteristics that I appreciate. She answered coherently and graciously. Essentially, she said, "I write like a trained writer with a sense of episodes, characters, themes, and plot development. You don't. But your content is solid, interactions with readers are good, and so good luck to you."

Entrepreneurial Flash of Insight.  I wondered if there was a business in teaching bloggers? Might I I employ her as a teacher and could I could create some courses for the thousands of struggling bloggers like me? It seemed like a good idea.  Actually, it seemed like great idea. (I still think it's a great idea).  So I hired BlackBeltMama to develop and teach the courses and started one of my first business diversifications.

Black Belt Blogger was born! Still to come:

- original concept for course. Still great idea. Creative interactive fiction!  

In addition to technology and marketing, we mostly focused on these steps:

1.  Figure out who you are and what your themes should be
2.  Pick your voice and some clever packaging for your identity.
3.  Target an audience that would care

Me as a Student of the Black Belt Blogger Course
In my case, I was a middle aged father trying to earn a black belt before I turned 50. The themes from there, pretty much wrote themselves.  

I was an x jock trying to recover some feeling of youthfulness. I was a proud dad watching my son grow into his teens and a new level of self.  I was the personification of a mid-life crisis. I was like every weekend warrior comparing ice packs to hot tubs, aspirin to motrin, and chiropactory to massage.

The whole thing was fun and funny, my tone was self deprecating. It's funny to see a 50 year old breathing heavily while a 20 year instructor encourages me "to make an effort". Funnier still is that I too felt thrilled when he says that I'm making progress. My audience was the other parents like me either trying to do martial arts or thinking about it.

So along with a few dozen other students, I figured out this out in the course which we initially offered for free to a friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. 

From there (outline of article still to be written):
- thrilling first educational  experiences in taking the course.
- commercial disaster
- repeat
- repeat
Side story of  creating Time4Writing courses, writing mechanics for students 2nd-12th. Discussion of blog technology and learning management systems.
- BlackBelt Momma goes to college, ie she gets a job at a university and so we're looking around for new staffing.  (BTW, I liked working with her and I really appreciated her efforts to get the thing going. She was great.) Still, what to do?

Morphing into

- Vanilla  Repositioning from the admittedly weird and offputting blackbeltblogger concept to the very vanilla (no more scary martial art themes). 

And, more drums and trumpets, enter the spicy and saucy Topsy Techie, homeschool mother, blogger extraordinaire, and  social media pioneer.  

And lets try a new focus: self expression as marketing  for people, non profits and businesses.  This starts the golden period for the blogging experience where we seem to hit a real vein of interest, we've got the technology and pedagogy all figured out, and we actually see some paying customers....
- thrilling educational experiences
- commercial disaster
- repeat
- innovate
- thrilling educational experiences
- commercial disaster
- repeat

- innovate - remember the big blogger partnership innovation? We would partner with people with big popular blogs but no business model. We'd do a custom version of the course with them as the guest teacher and examples from their blog. They promote it on their blog to their hundreds of thousands of readers and do other not-very difficult work.   We advance them a grand for their efforts and then split the gate 50-50.  Seemed like another great idea.....
- commercial disaster
- repeat
- innovate - blog and website promotion era of the course....
Mothballed it! 

Postmortem - Still don't know what to think....A hell of an interesting effort....I wish it had succeeded. I also wish it was my worst commercial failure but i really want to get into that?

Second postmartem for you education LMS & CMS geeks. (Kris, help? Any memory of the initial google groups and typepad sequence? When did we switch to Moodle & Wordpress? Also, I'd like to post some of the showy stuff that you built and talk about the developer role.  Is the video of moving from to up on youtube or anything? I might also write about blogger v wordpress. Old blogger (with videos that disappear) vs new blogger with youtube videos). And of course, this should be a whole separate post.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Amazon knows me better than Facebook or Google.

Who Knows You Best?

I just opened  Amazon to buy a book and I was astonished at the number and accuracy of the suggestions that they suggested to me. They seemed to have 1-2 books across all the areas that I like to read about.  It was incredible how accurate and intriguing their selections were.  And I bought a few more books.

Wife's Brand, Including Facebook Page
Facebook seems to have no idea what I want.  They keep allowing game invitations to make it to me although I routinely ignore or ban every game invitation.  And many  posts that my friends make that I would have loved  to  know about, I never see.  I am the manager on half a dozen Facebook pages and I love to read and comment on there but these posts never seem to make it into my feed. They force me to click through just to fine them.  .  And my wife's blog which I religiously comment on and like, they never seem to show me.

In contrast, Google seems to be clueless about what interests me and my history. I know this is apples and oranges but when I start to type into an email address bar, Google is as likely to suggest email addresses of people that I haven't mailed to for years as they are to suggest the people that I write to ten times a day.  And don't even get me started on the random collection of posts that make it into my Google Plus feed.

Youtube is a little better and making suggestions but their responses to searches are weird.  For instance, I like to track popular and interesting homeschool curriculum review videos but when  I search on Youtube for homeschooling, they give me a totally random collection of new and old, popular and not videos.  Why? Anybody know anything about how they make their choices?

The other social media that seems to get me in LinkedIn   Their suggestions of people are often enthralling and I find myself clicking through reading about people that I know or who I would like to know.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Youtube Search Marketing Algorithm

I continue to be confused and  intrigued by the mysteries of the Youtube search algorithm. How does it decide what to give. Here's some data, lets analse it. I'm going to a blank browser that I'm not logged into.  "home school."

Top Video in youtube search for "home school": What's the Youtube search algorithm doing?
Here's a summary of the top items, can anyone see a pattern? The full results is down below.
8M views, 1 year ago: 701K / month (approx)
55K views, 7 months ago 7.9K / month
806K views, 6 months ago 134K / month
99K views, 1 year ago 8.2K / month
102K views, 1 year ago, 8.5K / month
26K views, 2 days ago,   est at 396K /month (moving up as this number solidifies)
31K views, 10 months ago, 3K / month
77K views, 7 months ago, 11K / month
527K views, 6 months,   88K / month


Who is in the game for relevance? For this, I would have to search the tags, script, title, and so on related to each of the top 20 or so videos.

How do they get to the top of the Youtube search engine?
There's a certain thresh-hold of views per month or day to make the top?
I could do the math on each of these doing a per month view. Does it all have to do with momentum?
The top is determined not by overall history but recent trends?
Is there a random factor? How much does it shift at a given moment, over a week, two, a month?
Does relevance relate to position as part of popularity?  

My Home School Routine!
  • by SevenSuperGirls
  • 1 year ago
  • 701K / month (using 1 year)
13 year old Logan quits school and starts home schooling education system - TED

  • 7889 / month
  • by KittiesMama 
  • 6 months ago
  • 134K / month
Homeschool Room Tour Part 1
WHY I QUIT PUBLIC SCHOOL... (My Thoughts on Homeschooling) |BACK TO SCHOOL #2|
Homeschool, Rainbow Rocks and Doctor Who - Tangents Episode 1
Ron Paul, Home Schooling & Glenn Beck Discuss "The School Revolution" Broken Education System
Madison's Homeschool Routine

Public School vs Homeschool
  • by our2ndlife 
  • 6 months ago
  • 87,906K / month
10 Homeschool Morning Routine
11. Home School - A True Story (Part 1)
12 Public vs. Home School, Does the US Education System Dumb Kids Down or Help them Learn? Truth Talks
13 Video tour of our Homeschool Classroom
14 Our Home School Classroom
  • by Lady T
  • 3 years ago
15 The Whitest Kids U Know - Home School
  • 4 years ago
  • 20,443 /month
16 Homeschool Room Video Tour - part 1
17 2014-2015 Kindergarten Busy Boys Homeschool curriculum
  • by Erica Arndt
  • 6 months ago
  • 2398 / month

Thursday, September 04, 2014

More Youtube Search Questions

Youtube Search.

 Is it personalized (ie, like the modern Google) or is it the same for everyone (like Google circa 2010)?

Let's test, I just typed in "spellingcity" to the youtube search bar on my account.  My account often does SpellingCity stuff.

1.  SpellingCity App, by ck tg, 1 year ago, 3,580 views
2.   Vocabulary SpellingCity - the channel.  Active 3 months ago - 103 videos
3.  Using Iprimary 5,528 views.
4.  SpellingCity glitches - 1,744 views
5.  Spelling City Premium Membership 1,011 views

OK, never mind the question of personalized or not, I've just done a series of searches and my new theory on Youtube's search principles:
1.   Recent
2.   Hot - Has some momentum

So one marketing program might be to pick some keywords that are of interest to us and frequently (every 2 months?), add a new one for the same terms. Perhaps put it on the same playlist as the previous one.

Also, given the vast number of views for little kids, we could do something really simple aimed towards little kids but heavily branded to VocabularySpellingCity.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Youtube - My top Unanswered Search Questions

I'm a pretty big expert in online marketing and search marketing. I have ten years of practical experience and frequently attend sessions held by leading national experts. I consult with some of them.  Yet, there are some big questions about Youtube that nobody seems able to guide me on.

Youtube. Youtube is a huge search engine but I can't seem to find any info, even by original research, on how it works. My specific questions are in two categories. How does Youtube decide what video to suggest? And how does Youtube affect  Google's main search engine rankings?

 How does Youtube decide what video to suggest? 
1.  Which videos does it show in response to a search query?  How much is it like Facebook and does it tilt towards recently trending? How much does it operate like the traditional Google search engine and have a ranking that it mostly maintains?
2.   How does it categorize the content in videos? Does it rely on the keywords that we type in? The descriptions that the author puts in the "about"?  Or does it search it's own transcript of the audio content (as redacted by its own speech recognition software)? Does it look at other videos in the same playlists or by the same author?
3.  How does Google decide which videos to suggest at the end of a video? Does it look at other videos that might be in the same playlist?
4. What role does the number of started views and the number of completed views and the ratio of completed to started views play in these questions?
5.  Do links to a video increase the authority of a video's in its Youtube ranking? How about the number of times it is embedded?

Youtube as Content - What influence on the Google main search engine results? 
6.  What about the impact of outgoing links from Youtube? In the description section for a video on Youtube, there is a chance to link to another video or another site. Does Google count these links in ranking sites?
7.   If Google does count these links in the ranking, how does it grant authority to these links? Does it have to do with the number of views of the video?  Since the older the video, the more views, would it make sense for Google to weigh these links by views per month?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Facebook's Advertising Strategy

I can discern over the last three years, three phases of their messaging to potential advertising clients.

2012-13.  Big focus on taking out display ads next to different targets. The emphasis was on competing with Google by having good cost per conversion.

2013-14.  Big focus on improving your company's Facebook page and getting more followers. We were encouraged to advertise our page to get more followers. Now, businesses have lots of followers but only 4% of them see the posts.

2014-forward.  The focus now seems to be on brand building on a mass market scale.  Much like TV, the emphasis in their marketing now seems to be on creating broad brand awareness in the market about the brand and its positioning which is an investment in longer term market development, not a short-term sales generation tool.

I wonder what's next....

Friday, August 08, 2014

Website Owners and Credit Cards

Credit card processing for online businesses
Care About Getting Paid?
If you have a web-based business, like it or not, you are in the credit card business.  Here's a few important points for different stages of your business.

Keep the credit card payment system simple at the start.  You can avoid the whole area by just signing up with a vendor who deals with all of the payment processing for you. For instance, use Etsy and they include the credit card processing. Or just accept PayPal. These are easy and appropriate ways to start.  But, lets assume that your business is now thriving and going up to and through $100,000 a year. Now, you are beginning to have the motivation to look at your business and you'll probably find that it's not yet worth the hassle of changing.   But, if you can get to a $100K, you can probably get to $200K, then $400K and now it is time to think about your payment processing.

What's wrong with Etsy or Paypal or any of the other real simple solutions?
- Cost. Paypal can take 3% or 4% or 5% of your revenue. That's a lot. And their reports are really difficult.
- Credit card recovery. This is a really important question if you are built on a monthly recurring billing model. Basically, if you have a gym membership and have paid attention to your credit card, you might have noticed that even when you lose your credit card and get it replaced, the damn gym continues to bill you. How do they do that?  Go over to  to learn about it.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Facebook Cementing their Legacy or Just Another Money Grubbing Company Trying to hit this Quarter's Numbers

Chris Crum wrote a go1od article about  Facebook Says Your Organic Reach Would Be Worse If It Showed Everything In The News Feed . He starts it  like this (Paraphrased):

Facebook’s Brian Boland wrote a blog post about the decline in organic reach of Facebook  posts. It’s happening for two reasons: more and more content is created and shared every day and News Feed tries to show users content that’s the most relevant to them.

Neither article makes the point of what Facebook should do if they were a customer driven player who wanted to be popular, useful, and around for the long term. Instead, I feel that Facebook is acting like a money grubbing firm more worried about the next quarters earnings than cementing their potential long term legacy..

Here's more free advice for Facebook:

1.  Give the people control over their own news feed.  This is easy, just put in settings a new section which gives users some parameters and choices:
- How many items do you want a day (this could be a percent, a number, just a slider towards more or less).
-  Rate which of these people/groups/pages you want to see more or less of?
- Are you OK with the current number of ads you are seeing? If you want less, pay here.
etc etc

2. Find a business model which is not built on selling privacy and on intrusive ads. I know you covet Google's advertising-driven model. Yes, it's good. But it's best for search. Advertising plus search, natural fit.  Advertising and information selling plus social, BAD FIT.  While there is room here in some ways to make money, your aggressive behavior in this area is pissing us all off and making us think about how we can get rid of you.

My first idea for Facebook's business model was to turn into an archiving service where we store our pictures and videos.  For $10 a month, store all you want. It's a great ongrowing business.  Plus you can buy/create a little shutterfly / cafe press - type business. If you do it right, you can be profitable like all those game companies that give out free games but live well off the 1% who want to spend money on all of them.

My new idea is that as social merges with mobile, there's something in the GPS / Yelp / Find friends area that can be very profitable.   I actually have some good thoughts here but I'll let them percolate for awhile

Monday, May 05, 2014

Marketing Apps: my Pubcon take-away

I just attended the Ft Lauderdale Pubcon conference and heard Anna Talerico talk about marketing apps.

I had expected to hear about apps for phones and tablets but that's not at all what marketing apps are about. As she put it, there's nothing more tired, passee, and ineffective than offering a white paper to customers who have to first give you their email.  ( Editor's note - we have a whole business built on this apparently archaic technique.  Call me a dinosaur!)

She says that the current hot marketing technique is to take the content from your white papers and repackage it an interactive experience for your visitors.

  Examples of marketing apps (and I'm paraphrasing Anna here...)

Don't offer them a guide to vacations, provide them with a wizard or guide that asks the questions and recommends places to go.

Don't offer them a white paper about standardized tests for college admissions, create a wizard that helps them decide which test or tests they should take. And in the process, you can gather info on them including their email.

I have been thinking about this and was very amused when I received this marketing email today, a practically farcical example of "Do what I say, not what I do". It was sent to me by ClickZ. It turned out to be promoting Anna's white paper.
Marketing apps are interactive, browser-based digital experiences designed for user participation and engagement. They’re the types of things that people want to use to learn, have fun and explore. They’re engaging experiences that live within the browser, regardless of device. They’re desktop, mobile, tablet - any device, any time. As an added benefit, they can also provide your marketing team with highly valuable segmentation and sales enablement data. There are several ways you can engage with your customers through marketing apps:
  • Content Wizard
  • Conversion Path
  • Quiz
  • Calculator
  • Configurator
  • Game
  • Contest
  • Voting
  • Survey
Download this whitepaper to learn more about each of these engagement forms and get inspired to take your marketing to a higher level. Learn how to provide more value to your customers and collect more online leads and sales as a result!
Btw, since I quoted them, here's the link to their download (complete with a lot of tracking code stuff). Marketing apps are interactive, browser-based digital experiences designed for user participation and engagement. They’re the types of things that people   to use to learn, have fun and explore. They’re engaging experiences that live within the browser, regardless of device. They’re desktop, mobile, tablet — any device, any time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Facebook strategy regarding the tradeoff of engagement and fan base size

There's an interesting Facebook question asked by  on WebPro News.

Chris asks whether a smaller fanbase of more involved fans a superior strategy to a larger fanbase of less involved fans?

He doesn't  ask but it seems to me to be a related question:
Would less posts with a higher level of engagement be better than less activity with a lower level of engagement?

And a key to both of these questions would be:
What is the metric for success on FB?  I would guess a good one would be how many impressions are delivered.

If you are interested, I could show you the numbers which would answer these questions. Chris Crum doesn't actually run the numbers but I'm not sure why.

While some numbers are cited from a "Komfo" study, it's not really quantitatively explained in the article in terms of exploring how less fans with more engagement would have positive results. I might work out the numbers on a few examples if anyone is interested.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Google Search and local resources

Much of my business is selling online to homeschoolers and the number one term in our market is "homeschool". I've noticed something really interesting this past week.

When I search on Google from an account which I'm NOT logged into, I now find that 3/10 of the results on the front page are locally relevant.  Now here's the interesting part.

When I search from home (we use Comcast), Google provides three results which are specific to the state of Florida.  Local means the state level. For example:

Florida School Choice | Home Education

When I search from the office (NO idea who our ISP  is), Google provides three results which are specific to my municipality.  Local means very tight, like my part of the county or my part of Fort Lauderdale. For example:

Anybody else notice a correlation between the ISP and granularity of the local search results?
Do you think that it's a question of my ISP or just how my computer is cookied?
I suppose I should also compare browsers (I did both of these on Firefox which I only use for such tests) and how it works on my mobile devices.

BTW, here are several pages of info on homeschoolers and their curriculum:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

What Social Media Links does Google Count?

Google says that they rate sites based on whether other sites cite them as in, are there meaningful natural links.  I wondered how his applies to links on social media so I dug into Webmaster tools and found the following:

Youtube links - reported in Google's Webmaster tools. Not clear whether it's just in the original post or the comments too.

Facebook - Google apparently doesn't list them. It's been much reported that Facebook blocks the Google spiders.

Twitter - same as Facebook

Linkedin - I expected to find Linkedin reported but I did not. This is surprising to me and counter to what I've heard.  Anybody have any reaction?

Pinterest - Goolge reports these.

BTw, what you do you think of they way that our social media icons are working on Science4Us?  We have both the shares and the likes up.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Learning Today

I've had a site called Todays-learners for awhile.  At times, I used it with Google Adwords and as a landing page. It has 9 years of history.

Nevertheless, it is somewhat neglected and has not done well in the last four years. Annoying!!!!

It does however have some of the best writing from a few years ago.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Amazon Pissed me off this morning...

Thank you for purchasing from
Your recent order D01-0358276-5xxxxx entitles you to a promotional credit which we have added to your account. This credit can be applied to your next qualifying purchase.
Promotion details:
Additional information on this offer can be found here.
Your recent purchase has qualified you to own or gift select science fiction or fantasy Kindle books for $0.99. The promotional code has already been applied to your account. For redemption instructions, and additional information including offer restrictions, please follow the link above. Your promotional code expires at 11:59 pm Pacific Time on January 31, 2014.
The promotional credit must be used by January 31, 2014. This offer is subject to Terms and Conditions.
Thanks again for shopping with us.
Earth's Biggest Selection

My answer:

This was an annoying email. Just crappy marketing.
If you look at my amazon account, you'll see that I spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars there a year.

Are you really going to send me an email, interrupt my day, to say that I have a $0.99 credit but it must be spent in the next 12 days?
Did you think I'd hustle around due to your promotion to find some $0.99 thing to read just so I didn't lose the credit?
Did you think I'd feel great about Amazon because they gave out a highly restricted $0.99 bonus?

DON't BE STUPID. Send me emails appropriately, spare me annoying near-spam promotions.
I run a small company with a fair amount of email marketing. One of our principles is not to send out stupid promotions that annoy people.


AMAZON's Answer:

Greetings from

We're sorry.  You've written to an address that cannot accept incoming
e-mail.  But that's OK--this automated response will direct you to the
right place at to answer your question or help you contact
customer service if you need further assistance.

You will find the answers to the most common questions here:

 Where's My Stuff:
 Gift Certificates:
 Shipping Options:

If your question is not answered by the above links, we invite you to
search our Help Desk at

If you need to modify an unshipped order or make changes to your
account or subscriptions, you may do so online at any time via
Your Account:

We hope our online resources meet all your needs.  If you've explored
the above links but find you still need to get in touch with us,
please click the "Contact Customer Service" link on our main Help page.

Thanks for shopping at

Sincerely, Customer Service

MY ANSWER - I've been to Amazon's Home Page. There's NO "Contact Customer Service" link (that I can find).