Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Feedburner. Cool Name. What to do?

 I have some hobby blogs (like this one) that I have kept up on Blogger since around 1983. Or it feels that long. One one of them - (also known as ) - there is a feedburner widget which supposedly sends out my blog posts to my subscribers. 

I'm not sure it's working any more. I clicked around and found this:

 Uhg, there are an indeterminant number of people who were in that system. Feedburner seems impossible to login to. What to do now? Just remove it? Start again with what?

I just tested the signup feature to see if I could use it to subscribe. It seems that I can.
But how would I login and see my subscribers, the number if not the actual names?

I just realized that this blog also has a feedburner widget. It says it is owned by a corporate account that I still have access to. I'll try to access it.

Feedburner does seem active in that I got an email confirmation email that clicked thru properly.

BUT, the feedburner account in use relates to an old Google account and while I'd like to switch it to the new account that manages the current blogger set-up, I cannot begin to figure out where and how I would do such a thing... Help?

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Is Privacy Bee a scam or legitimate?

 I run a small company and have in the last months, received a few very intimidating legal notices from a firm called Privacy Bee.  

They've caught my and my counsel's attention because while they claim to be protecting people's privacy, they cite individuals that my company has never done business with, has not emailed, and has no records of. 

We have spent considerable resources checking and double checking our lists so we are sure that we are not keeping records of them or direct marketing to them so we don't know what to make of it. As I look at them and see that they are charging a subscription to users, I wonder more and more about them.

Privacy Bee is one of these highly automated web companies which is incredibly buckled down and private.  .No individuals are listed.  For those of you not familiar with this, it's sometimes companies that are doing something controversial and nobody wants their name actually associated with it. Specifics.:

  1. The Privacy Bee website does not cite a single individual who invests in the company or works at the company. NO executives, no president, no individual to address legal concerns to. Nothing. Even the fine print, nothing.
  2. LinkedIn shows no individuals working there.
  3. Webhosting info is carefully managed so no individual can be found (I think btw, they are not in compliance with the need to make these records transparent).
I looked at their signup process and saw this:

The letters that I've received from them talk about protecting the rights of individuals. On each of the two sets of emails that I've received, an individual whose rights they claim they are protecting is cited. A good amount of information from the individual is provided including:
  • Name
  • Email
  • Date or birth
  • mobile cell phone
  • secondary phone number
  • home address
It's of course odd that a company, protecting privacy, will circulate such information about them.

I'm posting this in hopes of finding other companies that have dealt with Privacy Bee which can help me understand what they are looking for, what sort of company or business they have.  

I have contacted the individuals that they cite and the responses are along the lines of (this one is an exact quote from an email).

"you will have to ask privacy bee why their algorithm flagged you as being a potential source for my personal info"

This of course is the problem. Privacy Bee cannot be easily contacted. There is one email that I can find for them. and a contact-us page. I'm concerned that if I do that and show that they have my attention, it will trigger another set of intimidating initiatives and wild goose chases on our side.  

. I can click on a Privacy Bee link which gives me two choices: 
The problem is if the requested action is to delete records which do not exist in the first place, how should a company respond to a request to take action on the request to delete the existing records?

Does clicking that I agree somehow admit that I had such records? In this case, I do not want to agree.
Does clicking on I refuse somehow put me on record that my company refuses to support privacy?

It also shows a signed document which reads as follows

Limited Power of Attorney
 I, _______________, residing at ________________________________, appoint Privacy Bee, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, as my authorized agent (attorney-in-fact) to act for me in any lawful way with respect to the matter described below. This Limited Power of Attorney is granted only to the extent necessary for my authorized agent to submit requests under the California Consumer Privacy Act, General Data Protection Regulation, Australian Privacy Act, or other relevant privacy legislation (the “Privacy Laws”), to any organization governed by the Privacy Laws, which grants consumers certain rights to request access to personal information (as defined in the Privacy Laws), to obtain copies of the personal information, to request the deletion of the personal information, and to opt-out of the sale of the personal information. By this power of attorney, I authorize my agent named above to submit a request on my behalf, under the Privacy Laws, for access, deletion, and opt-out from organizations that must comply with applicable Privacy Laws. I agree and acknowledge that my authorized agent may withdraw from this limited representation at its sole discretion. I further agree and acknowledge that this Limited Power of Attorney will terminate automatically, with respect to any particular organization to which my rights under the Privacy Laws are being exercised, once the authorized agent submits a request under the Privacy Law to the particular organization. I further agree and acknowledge that this Limited Power of Attorney will terminate automatically upon any legal actions taken by me, my authorized agent, or any third party (e.g., an organization to which a submission under the Privacy Laws is being made) associated with the purpose of this Limited Power of Attorney. 


-----Original Message-----

From: Privacy Bee <>

Sent:  date, 2020  

To: "MY COMPANY" <emails@ "MY COMPANY">

Subject: Urgent Followup: Legal Request for Data Deletion and Opt-Out of Resale [Request ID: xyz]

Concerns:  "MY COMPANY"

Request ID: xyz

Signed Power of Attorney: Yes

Request Date: November 2020

Respond At:

To Data Protection Officer or Legal Counsel:

I am hereby submitting a follow-up to a personal data request pursuant to Section 1798.105 of CCPA (SB-1121), Article 17 of GDPR, Nevada SB-220, New Hampshire HB 1680-FN, Washington Privacy SB-5376, Illinois DTPA SB2330, New York S5462, Hawaii SB 418, North Dakota HB 1485, Massachusetts S-120, Maryland SB 613, Texas Privacy Protection Act HB 4390, or other applicable right-to-be-forgotten legislation. If you feel my data is exempt from privacy legislation for any reason, I'm still asking you to respect my wishes regardless, as I believe privacy is a universal human right and I'm hopeful the integrity of your organization will honor my request with or without legal requisite.

The initial request was sent <time and date> UTC and I still have not received a response that my request has been fulfilled.  This is a reminder that you only have 5 days left to respond!

Specifically for  "MY COMPANY":

- Data Deletion: I hereby request the immediate and complete purging of any and all information your company has on me including but not limited to: user accounts, marketing data, transaction data, behavioral data, social data, CRM records, or absolutely anything that that contains my personal information.

- No Dissemination: if any information is being or has been disclosed, resold, licensed, rented, or otherwise disseminated by your company to third parties, I hereby request to opt-out of that data sharing, and request you communicate this request for opt-out and deletion to those entities as well.

If I have given consent to the processing of my personal data (e.g. according to Article 6(1) or Article 9(2) GDPR, or other applicable legislation), I am hereby withdrawing said consent. In addition, I am objecting to the processing of personal data concerning me (which includes profiling).

As I’m legally permitted, please confirm your compliance of my request without undue delay and in any event within one month of receipt of this request.

I am including the following information necessary to identify me:

Primary Email:
Primary Phone: xxx  (Mobile)
Secondary Phone: yyy (Home)
Primary Address: specific home address
Birthday: Detailed date of birth

If you require additional information to resolve my identity, to view my signed Power of Attorney authorizing this request, or to respond to this request, please visit:

If you do not answer my request within the stated period, I and my legal privacy advocate, Privacy Bee, are reserving the right to take legal action against "MY COMPANY" and to lodge a complaint with the responsible supervisory authority.

Thank you.

This request was submitted by and tracked by Privacy Bee (

 Route::get('request_followup', [TestEmailController::class, 'request_followup']);


In reviewing Privacy Bee's Terms of Service, I note that they are NOT a law firm.
2.3 No Legal Representation. We do not offer legal representation, nor do we offer any legal advice, legal opinions, recommendations, referrals, or counseling. 

Their business model seems to be a subscription service of sorts:

4. Fees and Payment.

You agree to pay fees (the “Fees”) for the Services on a monthly basis (the “Subscription”), in advance, in the amounts set forth in our price list for the Services in effect at the time of payment. The Fees applicable to you are set forth when you sign up for your Account, and may be amended by us, from time to time, in our sole discretion and with advance notice to you. By signing up for the Services, you expressly authorize us to withdraw funds from your bank account and/or charge your payment card (as applicable) for the full amount of the Fees. Since the Services are on-going and are subject to recurring payments, you expressly authorize us to withdraw funds from your bank account and/or charge your payment card on a recurring basis until you affirmatively cancel, remove or stop your use of the Services. You may be provided with the option to prepay Fees in advance on a quarterly or annual basis, in which event we may offer a discount or other incentive to you. All Fees paid by you for, via, or in connection with the Services are final and are non-refundable. You understand that the fees you pay to the Company for the Services are associated with the attempt to exercise your rights under the CCPA, and not for the guarantee of results associated therewith.

They claim extensive rights to any info their subscribers provide them. 

7.3 User Content. You hereby grant to us a royalty-free, fully paid-up, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, copy, modify, create derivative works of, display, perform, publish and distribute, in any form, medium or manner, any text, information, data, materials, images, or other content you provide to us using the Services or submit or post to the Site and that is not Feedback owned by us (the “User Content”). You represent and warrant that: (a) you own the User Content or have the right to grant the rights and licenses in these Terms, and (b) the User Content and use by us of the User Content as licensed herein does not and will not violate, misappropriate or infringe on the rights of any third party. We may remove any User Content from the Site for any reason at our discretion.

In the Privacy Bee privacy agreement they both say that they don't sell (unclear if they license) personal data and won't without some sort of opt out first.  And I quote:

  1. For more details about the personal information we have collected over the last 12 months, including the categories of sources, please see Section 3 “How We Use Your Information” above. We collect this information for the business and commercial purposes described in Section 4 “How We Share and Disclose Your Information” above. We share this information with the categories of third parties described in Section 4 “How We Share and Disclose Your Information” above. We do not sell (as such term is defined in the CCPA) the Personal Information we collect (and will not sell it without providing a right to opt out). Please note that we do use third-party cookies for our advertising purposes as further described in Section 4 “How We Share and Disclose Your Information” above.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

User Experience Design: Card Sorting

 Today I learned a new user experience (UIX) design technique. It's for organizing different topics into a few top level menus.  In the simplest form, there's closed card sorting. 

It starts by creating a card for each topic that the site is going to cover.  

With closed card sorting, a set of cards are given to different potential users along with a few pieces of papers with a topic on them, and the users are asked to sort the cards onto the pages based on the topic where it best fits. This gives guidance to site designers as to where to put topics in terms of where the users expect to find them.

Surprise! The Visitors Think About
Topics Differently Than the Professionals.
So Whose View to Use?

Open Card Sorting. To get more pure user feedback on how they visualize topics and categories, the cards can be given to users who put them in piles based on the categories that they imagine they should be organized along. This can reveal a more genuine sense of the mental maps with which users approach the relevant topics. It can also be overwhelming to users and in many cases, produces haphazard sets of logic that users turn to when they get frustrated and just want the exercise to end.  

A purer sort might be to give the users a blank set of cards and a few pieces of paper, tell them what the site is about, and ask them to put a major topic on each of a few pieces of paper, and then name and organize the cards. This system does not have a name that I am aware of.

It's easy for these techniques to get out of hand. It's important to remember that they are techniques to reveal the mental maps that people approach a topic with.  But the site designer, through careful wording, should be creating navigation and topics that steers users down paths that support the goal of the website.  Websites are not libraries or wikis where users are expected to freely browse and learn. Websites usually have a purpose and while knowing the mental maps with which users might first approach the site is useful, it does not necessarily dictate how the site should present its experience. 

Stay tuned or an example which illustrates these choices...

Friday, October 02, 2020

Patent to Build Reading Skills by hearing and seeing the sounds

Even as we rolled out SpellingCity, teachers and literacy coaches asked us to do more with helping students with sounds. They asked us to convert the games to focus not just on spelling practice but on practice activities for recognizing and working with sounds.  They wanted help not just with the spelling of words but with learning phonics and building phonological skills.  So we focused  on building the tools needed for games to help students with the sounds and the letter combinations that represent them.  The goal was to give students audio visual practice with the sounds that create words helping them connect the sounds that they hear and the letter combinations that they see.  

The idea was simple: We wanted to treat words like “tooth” as three blocks of letters which correspond with the three sounds: T, OO, and TH. But, as we searched, we could NOT find a system which mapped the sounds in words to the way the words are spelled. At first, this seemed unbelievable. Surely, in some university or research center, somebody had created a mapping which connected all the common English words into their sounds and mapped those sounds to the letters used to spell the words.

We spoke to a lot of people which  confirmed our initial findings. This mapping did not exist. Dictionaries, for instance, routinely have a phonetic spelling of words using various systems for writing phonics. But none of the dictionaries mapped the sounds back to the actual spelling of the words. Nobody had ever done this. Our vision came from watching endless tutors, teachers, and parents help students by pointing at a few letters in a word and having the student say the sounds that those letters created. We watched teachers help students read the sounds to decode the word and then blend them together to write them.

So, we decided to create the VocabularySpellingCity Phonics system, a novel contribution to literacy. The phonics system can be used for building a variety of prereading phonics-related skills including phonological skills, phonemic awareness, and spelling skills. Since we knew we had created something original and valuable, we started talking to lawyers. We decided in 2015 to file for a patent on our original system.  We started with two provisional patent filings. Our permanent patent is number 10,387,543, issued on August 20th, 2019. It’s called a “Phoneme-to-Graphemes Mapping Patent”. It’s a utility patent covering our original method for algorithmically mapping the sounds in English words to the letters. The patent grant is both a recognition of novelty, a recognition of usefulness, and a grant of intellectual property ownership. What is Phoneme to Grapheme Mapping? Phonemes are the basic sounds of the English language.  Examples of phonemes from the word “cheek”, would be: CH, EE, K.

 Graphemes are the use of letters to express these sounds.  In English, here are three example of patterns of how sounds (phonemes) are expressed by letters (graphemes): 

  1. Some sounds are created by a single letter which almost always makes the exact same sound. For example, the T is “ten”.  T almost always sounds the same (except when it’s in a combination with another letter like H). 
  2. Some sounds such as the long E sound can be spelled a number of ways including a "ee", or "ea", or an E followed by a consonant followed by an E at the end of a word, a y at the end of the word, and an "ey" at the end of the word.
  3. Some letters, like the S, can make different sounds. S usually sounds one way, like in sound, and sometimes sounds quite different, like in sugar (where it makes the SH sound)
 So how can this technology help?

 Students can hear and see the sounds by mousing over the sounds in each box of VocabularySpellingCity’s Interactive Phonics Boxes. Many classrooms have students first work on recognizing the initial sounds where the Sounds Boxes are used with images to match initial sounds. 
For commercial purposes, the patent belongs to VocabularySpellingCity. Patent 10,387,543 Holders of Patent 10,387,543 (current employees) 
The patent holders who are current VocabularySpellingCity employees are John Edelson, Obiora Obinyeluaku. and Kris Craig. The two xemployees are Jose Perez-Diaz and Harold Milenkovic.


Activities with Interactive Sound Boxes (that use this technology): Sound It Out,  Initial Sound SpellerFinal Sound Speller,  FlashCardsWord Study (available for logged-in students) and TeachMe More.

Sound-Based Activities for Phonological  and Phonics Skill Development:  Which Initial Sound?, Which Final Sound?, Initial Sound SpellerFinal Sound Speller,  SillyBullsSound It OutFlashCardsWord Studyand TeachMe More




Article 1

Friday, September 11, 2020

Link Beggers...

 It's amazing to me that link beggars are still out there begging...

I get a few of these every week despite all the spam tools that should screen them out.


From: ****<****> 

Sent: Friday, September 11, 2020 1:44 PM
To: T
Subject: Guest Post Request on :https://www.*****.com

  Hello dear
Sir/ Madam

I Need Guest post at Your  Site: 
With do-follow back link Permanent
Post and Insert link let me Know how much
price for each post
Waiting your good Reply

Sometimes I answer saying that a million dollars in bitcoins would do it.

Since I work for a legit corporation, this bit of humor will probably get me in trouble some day. Still, I think it's funny.

I was in an SEO meeting this week where we discussed link building and a suggestion was made to start asking for links. I was in disbelief but it turns out, they were talking primarily about contacting people who had written articles about us or were mentioning us. In these cases, you can sometimes turn the mentions into links, even sculpt them a little. And legit press will actually treat that as a profit opportunity and sell those links.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

What's with all the links?

 To manage the process of optimizing our sites for the search engines (SEO), we license a tool called Conductor which helps us with tracking, ranking, and all sorts of the nitty gritty of SEO.

Mostly, the relationship is pretty minimal. We send them money, they let us use their tool (which is great).

This week we heard from them. Apparently, an unusual and alarming number of links were appearing aimed at our site and they worried that we were spamming or being made to look like we were spamming and were we aware of it?

Our answer:

"It is back-to-school season during a major pandemic and many parents are trying to figure out what to do for their children's education. Homeschooling is a school choice option that is now of interest not just to the ~1 million families that were doing it at this time last year, but all ~30 million families of kids with school age kids. The press as well as the public have picked up on this. Time4Learning is the leading homeschool online service. Yes. WE ARE TRENDING"

Nothing nefarious or devious about it. We're just getting a great deal of attention.

Thanks for checking. Oh, you too have children and have some questions? Well, check our website and look at the demos and videos, visit our facebook groups and ask some questions, download our free guide to starting to homeschool, and good luck to you."

Here's today's joker. It commemorates the 1934 World's Fair. It's part of the Americana collection of jokers. 

Monday, July 06, 2020

The Business Case for Podcasting

Lets assume that you are a business who runs an information site that makes its revenue on selling advertising to a specialized niche of people interested in that information.

For our purposes, the info could be anything. It could be about poodles. It could be about coffee mugs. It could be about business education for dentists. Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that the site is about poodles.

So assume there is an info website in place with people who visit it, people who write for it, people who sell ads on it, and people who buy ads on it.

Not Poodles but poodles is easier to spell!

As a growth and brand strategy, the info site would like to grow into all the places that people might want this info since people like to grow. But that is a lot of places. In some places, it might not make commercial sense. Overall, it would make more sense if the content could be created once, used everywhere. It would make less sense if the articles, videos, social media posts, podcasts, and so on were each an independent creation effort so there is no leverage and synergy.

In addition to a website full of articles info about poodles, the business might:
- syndicate its best content onto other platforms related to dogs, pets, families, and parenting.
- solicit other content writers about poodles and get their content onto the poodle website
- create videos about poodles and put them on Youtube
- create emails and newsletters about poodles
- hold conferences about poodles
- create social media accounts about poodles and fill them full of poodle info. This could include Facebook, Pinterest, Instragram, Twitter, and more.
- create ebooks about poodles and put them on kindle, iTunes, Google Play, and other channels
- create podcasts about poodles
- create new content on the new platforms as they emerge such as tiktok and interactive speakers (Alexa) and others that have not yet emerged

Is more always better? No, there is an optimal amount of expansion and content creation. You can  overspend on content creation.  You can over extend and put too much effort into too many media. You can create content around topics where there is no real advertising or business opportunity. Novels, for instance, are a powerful media but with NO opportunity for advertising. The color gray has a lot that can be said about it but virtually none of it attracts any advertising.   You can accumulate an audience but not monetize it.

What does, given all these possibilities, a business case for a podcast look like?

  1. Envisage success. If all goes well, in 12 months:
    1. What is the size of the audience that is following the podcast?
    2. What is the value, in terms of advertising, of this audience?
    3. These are easily answerable questions since we are buyers of ads on these platforms and we know what the revenue opportunity looks like. To think about it, a monthly advertising revenue estimate should be made.
    4. In 12 months, to maintain this audience, what are the monthly costs of producing and publishing this podcast?
  2. Measure progress.  Find some comparable successful podcasts and look at their history.
    1. How big was their audience after the first quarter, the second quarter, etc.
    2. Compare that growth pattern with the growth pattern that our podcast is showing.
    3. Are we going slower or faster than our model of success?
    4. Any adjustments we can make?
    5. What is the current expense to maintain the current growth rate?
  3. Create a spreadsheet and add it all up.  Does the business case make sense?  Is it a high ROI?  Is it a money pit?  
    1. What's the alternative? Could we for a certain amount of money sponsor some other podcast creator?
    2. Could the postcasts be published at the same time as videos on youtube and elsewhere?

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Hotwire Fision TV: Worst User Interface Ever?

I believe that when professors put together courses on designing user interfaces, the current Fision Hotwire remote interface should be used as an example of how awful an interface can be.

They obviously spent a lot of money on their slick remote gadget as it is thin and has a huge light up high res screen. But it is a nightmare to use each and every day.  It's so bad that you can spend hours arguing about what is the worst aspect of it and in the meantime, figure out that things are worse than you think.  
Hotwire Fision Remote: Worst Ever?

Problem 1.  The hardwired buttons are vital to using it. But they have this tiny tiny print on them. Plus, they are awkwardly placed and hard to remember. So whenever you use the remote, you have to turn all bright lights on in the room to see the tiny print.  Since the remote is often required to turn on the lights, this results in people taking out their phones to use the flashlight to see the remote. 

Problem two, for anyone over their mid 40s, using the remote with that tiny print means having your reading glasses on.

Problem three The touch screen on the remote starts out being pretty interesting. The icons are large and bright and clear. They are so bright that once your eyes get use to seeing the icons, you can't see the lightly printed physical buttons.

Using the remote means shifting your eyes constantly between three areas: 
- the big TV screen where much of the navigation happens
- the small screen on the remote which is also vital to the navigation
- the tiny buttons on the remove which is also vital to the navigation

I know that sounds stupid but it's true. Here for instance are the steps to go thru to watch a program on Amazon prime.

1.    Locate the Power On button. It's a physical button on the remote to turn something on.

2.    Now the little screen on the remote lights up. In my case, it is asking if I should "Turn off Room"?  No, I want to turn on the TV. Does it always light up to a different place depending on who was using the remote last and for what?  Does it reset after some amount of time or does it just keep whatever arbitrary state the last person who used it left it in.   So I touch the little touch screen to "Cancel". But now what? This turned off the little screen again. So now I've gone around this with the power button and this screen about 5 times when I decided to write this piece.

3.    I now see that after I hit cancel, the screen lights up with four icons: Watch, Lighting, Shades, comfort. But it only stays on for a bit and I need to act quick.   I'll click on Watch. Good, I now have a choice between Hotwire Fision TV and SmartHub.  Since they know that I'm going to the TV, why isn't this choice on the Big TV Screen instead of making me stare down at the little touchscreen? duhh? So I'll pick Smart Hub.  SHIT, I took too long. How to get the options back?

4.   I picked power again but this time, it gave me the choices that I want:  Hotwire Fision TV and SmartHub. Hurray!  After a year with this remote, I still don't know how to control  what choices the power button will give me when I use it to turn it on. I'm now guessing that it has to do with whomever used the remote most recently. So sometimes I hit the power button and all I see is some controls for the AC. Sometimes it only shows other stuff which I have no idea what they are about. I have not figured out how to get it to go from where ever it is back to the choices about TV.  On the remote, there are a Back and a Home and Menu (three buttons) as hard small little buttons on the remote but, when it's in AC and other modes, these buttons do really weird things.

5.    I hit power again, then Smart Hub. But the TV did not go on. I don't know why. Usually it does. So I hit power off again and tried again.

Again, I'm sick of this. I'll do what I usually do which is either switch rooms and see if one of the other TVs can be coaxed into showing me what I want to watch. Or I just go read.

If I get around to it, I'll write about the incredibly finicky process of trying to pick either Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime.  While it appears for a second to be a simple choice, the problem is that it keeps kicking into some sort of universal app and I have no idea how to use it or how to get out of there. Sometimes the Back button (the hard button on the remote) will get me out of the univeral app. Then, if I'm careful, while staring at the big screen, I can coax the indicator to get out of the default pick-a-video menu that it is in, down to the pick-an-application mode, pick it, and then go. 

Mind you, neither the Home nor the Back button are of any use in these areas, they just do weird things. Often, the screen has four big colored rectangles across the top and I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how they work. I've recently decided that they are just distracting decorations that some idiot added thinking that while people puzzled out how to use things, a few colored useless buttons might help.  

Saturday, March 28, 2020

How Facebook Decides What to Show You

Sometimes when I'm on Facebook, I see these posts about the secret to seeing more of your friends posts.  They seem silly to me but many bright people repeat these things. So, hmmmm.

So I thought I'd share what I think I know about how Facebook decides what to show you.

My hope is that people will stop believing in what sounds to me like superstition and magic and start thinking rationally about it. Maybe, this breakthrough will light a fuse and all of the public discussion about tech and algorithms work will start getting more sensible.

Let's start with how Facebook decides what to you show you.

If you only had six friends on Facebook, Facebook would probably show you all their posts.  But, once you have sixty or six hundred or six thousand friends, Facebook must make lots of systematic decisions on what to show.  A good starting point to think about this is to ask yourself, how should Facebook decide what to show you. I'll start with three questions.

One, how does Facebook decide which of your friends you are interested in hearing about? Let's assume that  you obsessively visit one of your friend's Facebook pages, do you think Facebook should take this as a signal that you are interested in that person and show you more of their posts? Of course, the answer is yes. Similarly, what if you like, comment, and share a large number of a certain friend's  posts? Again, Facebook will take that as a signal of your interest in seeing more from that person.

What about the opposite, ie some friends whose pages you never visit and whose posts you ignore? Should Facebook take this as an indication that you're not interested in those people and show you less of their materials? And of course, the answer is that FB does note your indifference and tend not to show you their stuff.

Second question: do you think Facebook should show a preference to show you the most recent posts over ones that are a week or a month or a year old?  Are you interested in "last week's news?" Probably not.  So there's a time decay concept that FB follows and they are more likely to show you posts by your friend if you are online exactly when they post them than posts that the same friend made two days ago.  

Thirdly,  if a post by someone seems to get a lot of engagement in the form of people commenting on it, liking it, and sharing it, do you think they should show that post to more people?  Again: YES. A post that everyone seems to think is worth commenting on or liking or sharing is a very important signal to Facebook that something interesting has been said so it  should be shown to more people.  If a single person tends to always get lots of interaction, FB might even decide ahead of any signals for that specific post, to show it to lots of people based on that person's track record.

As far as I know, those are Facebook's big three foundation policies in their algorithm of what posts to show. To summarize:

1.  Who do you appear interested in, they'll show that to you more. This is called affinity.

2.   If you are online at 3 am and one of your friends posts at that unholy hour, FB is very likely to show it to you and the other handful of people who are on FB at that time.  This has two reasons. One, immediacy is preferred by most people.  This is the principle of Time decay. However,  FB also uses the first handfuls of people who see a post to decide how interesting that post is. If none of the first viewers engage, FB might conclude that this post is a bit of a dud of a post so it'll be shown to less people. But, if lots of people in those first handfuls engage with that post by commenting and sharing, FB now has the signal that this post is hot and the showing of it will trend upwards.

3.  So the third big rule is the appeal of each post: The Weight. Or the overall track of the individual.

So those are the basics (I think) of the Facebook decision making.  I suspect the next set of issues that FB considers are:

1.  Ads. FB sells ads, Much of what you see is paid advertising. People pay to show you ads.  Also, on pages of businesses, FB could extract more advertising dollars by only showing it to a few percent and charging money to get it shown more broadly.
2.   Pages and groups. FB has special policies around different affinities you've shown by signing up with pages (not of people but of companies and things) and groups.
3.  Look-alikes.  FB will for many decisions reason that you are behaving and have demographics like some group and will make decisions based not just on your shown preferences but by thinking that you like what other people similar to you (family, friends, look-alike groups) have been shown to like.  I think they are particularly prone to show you what your friends are seeing since that seems to create a special type of back and forth
4. Types of posts.  FB probably does not like posts with links to other sites that lead people to leave FB.  So they prefer posts with videos that are uploaded to FB, they probably don't much like posts that include link to videos on Youtube. This is probably simple self interest that FB wants to keep people on their platform so they can show you more ads. Probably, FB likes original graphics on FB and other internal to FB links.  Does FB prefer long or short answer posts? This is a trick question because of what we know: FB will take its cues on whether to show you graphics or long posts probably based on your personal history of engaging more or less with long posts or with images.  Again, this is what I think. Unlike the big three at the top, I haven't really researched these questions.
5.  Outrageous stuff. There is a lot of news about how FB prefers to show you views that are slightly more extreme than yours or the total opposite since both seem to produce a certain type of reaction which results in higher engagement. But this is an advanced question that we'll leave aside for now despite it probably being the reason that the world is not getting along and why WWIII is just around the corner. It's so FB could make a little more money and incidentally, build a hateful unstable world. But let's not get into that now.

Does this help you understand Facebook's decision-making?

If you are interested in learning more, this subject is called the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm.  Many businesses and social media people are obsessive about trying to understand and manipulate this algorithm and there is a lot written on it.

Other interesting algorithms to think about to help understand your  daily media experience:

- How does Google decide what to answer your query with?
- How does Youtube decide what videos to suggest?
- What about Instagram and Twitter? How is Facebook different than Twitter in showing?
- What will the stock market do tomorrow?
- And what mood will my wife be in tonight?

BTW - if this article helped you, would you leave a comment? I see that there are about 100 visitors a day of this site but I don't hear much from you.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

SEO Issues - Jan 2019

Your Money, Your Life - This principle is being used by Google to crack down on spammy industries in which predatory practices are rampant in the consumer world. These industries have been facilitated by the web and aggregators on the web. Examples: credit counselling, pay day loans, rehab centers, etc

Google is tightening them up by adding a manual review of sites using a Quality Rating Guide in these challenging industries in which Google screens and manually evaluates sites based on EAT:
  • Expertise - does the content have meaningful additions and direction. Are there quality links out to quality sites?
  • Authority of writers and staff. Are they listed? Can they be found on LinkedIn or other sites? Do they have expertise relevant to what they are writing on? Obviously, the first step is that writing needs a listed author or authors. Maybe also a board of advisers.
  • Trustworthyness - 
IS T4L team a good enough author? I don't think so...

Tools he uses:  SEMRush, MAZPro, and Spyfu.  He likes BrightEdge but it's expensive!!!

Newer schema. BING API. - datachecker in chrome.  Other ways of checking all the cookies and trackers on your computer?

For us, Tandem does dynamic google ads, remarketing, and critero display ads.

Data Studio set up. What is it?

Here's the Google Rating Guide.

Friday, January 24, 2020

SEO History

I aspire to writing a better SEO history than I have yet read.

Here's a good source one: Search Engine Journal on Search History.

More later...