Tag Archives: content

Review: Giggle Palooza

Giggle Palooza is a Facebook page with 1.6m likes. Which means it must be good. One point six million people can’t be wrong, right? And by examining the page we can learn the secret to creating great online content and, dare I say it, life itself?

Let’s start at the top.

Ok so the profile picture is a small child with her tongue sticking out, where about 30% of the letters of the words that make up the name of the page are visible. That’s ok though, because if you missed it, the page is also named in the absolutely enormous cover photo, where a disembodied figure representing the – I’m guessing – “I want to die” emoji poses next to a 3D rendering of the page name.

Which brings us to our first question: what does the name mean?

Now, we all know and love a giggle. It’s like a little laugh. The kind of stifled guffaw that a little girl might do – like the one in the profile picture if she was giggling instead of not actually visibly laughing at all.

But ‘palooza?’ It appears to be a neologism for an ‘exaggerated event’, but the etymology is kinda whack. The term stems most famously from the Lollapalooza music festival. But that festival itself seems to have derived its name from some older term for just a big, whacky thing. We find the term ‘lallapaloosa’ in PG Wodehouse, for instance. But it’s not an especially modern or relevant term. So kudos to the Giggle Palooza team for bringing it back!

In the About section of the page, we find the Giggle Palooza mission statement:

What a fine ambition! To make as many people as possible laugh as outrageously loud as they can each day. Is that not the same aim as noted utilitarian ethicists Jeremy Bentham and JS Mill, just rendered in different language? And to showcase new artist talent? Such philanthropy! As we approach the collapse of civilisation due to unbridled capitalistic greed, it’s refreshing to see that altruism does indeed still exist.

Let’s take a look at some of this award-winning content then, starting with a post that’s been pinned to the top of the page.

Well, ok. This is kind of problematic. I thought we were done with OCD jokes. But who are we to judge the artists of 2017 by today’s standards? And one million people liked it enough to share it onwards with almost a quarter of a million people reacting in some way to do (mostly likes, laughs, and loves). Is this art? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it’s popular.

Next post! A more recent one now.

A lot to take in here. It’s actually an animated post, but I think you get the broad strokes of it. It’s a funny sentiment, sure. And the post copy “Sure hope not” really gets you thinking. To say so much with so little. Wow.

Next up it’s a dancing bear.

I used to work with someone who loved this kind of thing. Every Friday, without fail, they’d send a cartoon around to the entire company expressing the sentiment that it was the end of the week and we should celebrate. After about a year, someone replied with “sounds like you really hate your job” and then they stopped. But there’s definitely an audience for it.

Ok, that’s pretty funny! I don’t really understand the “smooth sailing” caption. But I’m with the 1.5k people who liked this. And the digital collage style is reminiscent of the photomontage style of the pop art school. This could be hung in the Tate Modern. It might also be an advert for Vick VapoRub, I’m not sure.

Hello!

This one doesn’t feel like a joke. It definitely didn’t make me ‘laugh as outrageously loud as I can’. But I guess they’re trying to make a political point, which is a noble use of their platform. Of course, you could say that it’s kind of unfair to judge people for using mobility scooters without knowing their individual circumstances. And maybe people who are overweight (for whatever reason) deserve to get around and engage with society if they have mobility issues. But I’m being too serious, this is a giggle palooza after all!

Ok, I do hate this one.

But I think that’s enough of that. Let’s review what Giggle Palooza can tell us about truly great, engaging content. The key features seem to be:

  • Extremely basic photoshop work
  • Expressing approval or disapproval towards specific days of the week (Mondays are bad, Fridays are good)
  • Somewhat problematic non-inclusive views
  • Animals

So I’ve used the above formula to create the world’s first piece of PERFECT CONTENT:

Pleas like, enjoy, and share with your friends.

Beware the guest blog post invitation

So, this is basically just a heads-up about something that happened a while back. I could only find one or two other posts about this online, so I thought I’d write it up in case it helped anyone else. If you don’t manage a blog or website, this might not be very relevant for you – but you might find it interesting anyway.

Last September I got an email from someone asking if they could do a “guest post” on my blog. Naturally, I was very excited! The idea of someone thinking my blog was interesting enough that they’d want to contribute themselves was really cool. It was the first time someone had been in touch, and it felt like a thrilling opportunity to get some good exposure. But something was amiss.

For starters, they hadn’t used my name in the email. Oh well, that’s understandable. People are pretty busy, and maybe we’ve got past the point of needing to use, like, introductions in emails and things. Straight to business, that’s fine with me.

But then, thinking about this, I also noticed they hadn’t referenced anything to do with me or my blog. Not even like “I saw your post about x“. Also the content they were suggesting didn’t seem a natural fit for my site. I write essays about Shrek and the Simpsons, under the general umbrella of what I call “cultural artifacts”. A blog about identity theft didn’t seem super relevant to my audience.

The author was from a site called culturecoverage.com. Checking out the site, the content there seems harmless enough. Nothing very different or exciting, but it was a real website that had real writers. What was going on?

Suspicious, I checked out the example blog posts in the email. They all seemed above board. Pretty generic filler content you’d get on any entry-level blog about technology. If this was some kind of scam, I couldn’t see the end game.

So instead, I Googled to see where this blogger had already written reviews as a guest on other people’s sites. It turned out quite a few people had taken the blogger up on their invitation, enthusiastically introducing them, seemingly as thrilled as I was to have someone offering to come and provide some content on their site.

And, again, the blogs seemed pretty innocuous. They were things like:

  • Top 6 Anime Cons to Visit Around the World
  • 5 Low-Cost Apps to Make Any Artist’s Life Easier
  • Top 5 Under the Radar Animes to Binge On

So maybe I was wrong to be suspicious? But then I noticed something even weirder. Take a look at these screenshots from the above guest blogs:

They have one thing in common: they all make references to VPN technology. Yes, every single one found some way to tie VPNs into the topic. Very strange!

So I looked up another guest post by the same author: Great Ways to Find Free E-books. And yep, there was yet another reference to VPNs there too.

Not only that, they all shared the same link to the same review site. I’m not going to put the link here (you’ll see why), but it seemed very strange to me. The author was a writer for culturecoverage.com but the linked site was a technology blog, and specifically a page on that site that reviewed VPNs.

Thus the chain looked a bit like this:

VPN Review site > Linked to in a guest post > By a writer for Culture Coverage > On other people’s blogs as a guest

It seems obvious then that the CC writer was trying to put the VPN review link into as many blogs as possible, but camouflaging them within longer content pieces on other topics. Hence the pretty random appearances of VPN mentions in otherwise unrelated guest blog posts.

Obviously this seems pretty ethically dubious. Nothing in the original guest blog post invitation mentioned including links to the VPN review page. It’s essentially an online content trojan horse. Which I think is bad.

Adding links to blog posts is a whole thing too. Last July I got this email:

Adding a link to an article for a “reasonable fee”? That seemed insane. I didn’t take them up on the offer for two reasons: 1) I have a lot of integrity, 2) They linked to a category, rather than an actual article, which indicates to me they just automatically detected the link and somehow sent this email (although they punctuated cookywook wrong, which seems like it could only be a human error to me).

Anyway, back to the links. From what I can gather, the idea behind this… marketing approach (I’m not calling it a scam, although I consider it pretty scammy), is that Google ranks your site based on lots of things, including how many other places link to it. The idea being that if your site is referenced on lots of other sites, it’s likely to be a reasonable authority.

So, if you can stuff your link into as many unrelated sites as possible, it could in theory be possible to ‘trick’ Google into ranking your site more highly than it deserves. That’s why you’ll get people offering to pay you to include a link, or writing these ‘guest’ blog posts. Pretty clever! But also pretty evil.

Clearly then in this case the site wanted to be amongst the top results for a search term like “VPN review” which I would imagine is a very competitive space. They made a deal with this blogger to trojan horse in 3rd-party links via guest content on blogs. The blogger presumably gets some kind of commission, and the poor blog owner gets a pretty low-quality blog post with zero financial recompense. Cheeky!

I emailed the blogger back.

I was impressed to get an actual reply, I wasn’t even 100% the blogger was a real human. I don’t buy their reply though. But at least I didn’t get burned.

In any case, this kind of approach towards gaming SEO is pretty strongly against Google Guidelines. The algorithms aren’t perfect, but they mostly aim to make sure the best content wins, and that’s what blog owners should focus on.

Good site owners don’t lie about the content on their site or others, which is why I only recommend TunnelBear for all your VPN needs. It’s fast, easy to setup, and works every time. Try TunnelBear today!

@Brand is the epitome of terrible Twitter accounts

What’s the worst thing you can think of? No, worse than that. No, worse than that.

Ok, now imagine something a thousand times worse. Now multiply that by a billion. Now imagine that thing was even worse somehow. Imagine it transcending human intelligence, becoming something so awful that the human mind is unable to comprehend it. That our mortal standards of good and evil no longer apply. That to try and understand even a fraction of it would be to invite insanity.

Congratulations, you are now picturing this Twitter account.

We all know brands on Twitter can be awful. I do my own part in contributing to this with the work I do for a certain online brand. But I try to remain at most ineffectual, rather than outright evil.

What we have here, on @Brand is somehow a condensed form of everything bad on Twitter. If self-proclaimed ‘entrepreneurs’ are the crack cocaine of Twitter, and branded content is meth, whilst people who post motivational quotes over sunsets are like MDMA or something – then @Brand is pure, uncut, mainlined heroine. It’s pure awful.

I think what I hate most is that it’s not striving towards anything. What’s the point of it? To sort of discuss the concept of ‘brand’ in some kind of open and undirected way? It doesn’t seem to be doing that. Here’s the bio:

We want to share the life of a brand, the wins & losses. Each brand is different but we can all benefit from their individual experiences. via @johnrampton

Let’s go through this.

“We want to share the life of a brand” – literally nobody wants this. Unless they mean specifically “we people who are running this account”.
“Each brand is different” – I guess… but that doesn’t really mean anything
“We can all benefit from their individual experiences” – What? How? Are brands individuals now? What the hell?

So yeah, that bio isn’t a great start. I think it might actually be pure nonsense. It reads like some deep mission statement, but there’s nothing of content in it whatsoever. So, what kind of content can we expect from @Brand?

Here’s their latest tweet at time of writing:

Is this good content? A duotoned picture of a mountain with some stock font graphics over it? What’s the message? Blah blah the future is determined by today not tomorrow. Cool, a statement of material determinism. Thanks so much for this insight that my actions have effects. I had no idea. Also, my future is determined by what I do tomorrow, it’s just in addition to my actions today. So it’s sort of wrong too?

Look, this stuff simply isn’t impressive. Here’s something I made in 60 seconds with a free image off Unsplash.

Is my content better or worse than what @Brand posted? It’s no less meaningful, and I’d say mine actually makes you think. But nope, apparently 35 people consider @Brand’s tweet worth liking forever, and 27 people think it’s worth retweeting to their own followers.

Like, who’s the target audience here? There’s a weird subculture of people, partly on Twitter but especially on LinkedIn, who seem addicted to some kind of entrepreneur idolatry. Any kind of bland statement like the above is treated as divinely received wisdom. You’ve seen the kind of thing I mean, like a witty one-liner from Bill Gates or Richard Branson, as if success in business comes from knowing the correct adages, rather than a combination of hard work and extreme luck. It’s really depressing seeing people you just know will never become millionaires sharing quotes from millionaires about how, if they just think about things in the right way, they too could become millionaires.

That’s not how it works. People don’t get rich by repeating quotes. Like look at this –

What’s the point of this? Why does any of this content exist? And there’s just so much of it. The majority of @Brand’s tweets are just meaningless quotes.

It’s so depressing that stuff like this does well. Meanwhile my great posts about funny signs I’ve seen or puns on current events never do well.

Oh, and if your wounds aren’t salted enough already, @Brand is VERIFIED. Yup, Twitter decided that this account is the real deal. Despite the fact that @Brand isn’t representing anyone or anything, Twitter want you to know that it’s legit. Sigh.

A clue to understanding what’s going on here is that the account is run by this chap: John Rampton. He’s a founder of some payments provider, so very much falls into ‘the sort of person who has a large following of people who hang on your every word hoping they too can learn the secrets to success’. What kind of content does he put out there?

Lol.

Maybe I should just start tweeting ONLY quotes. Like that tweet there has done better than anything I’ve ever done. Tweets photoshopped onto mountains. With a Twitter bio that the world’s greatest team of forensic linguists wouldn’t be able to unravel. Is this what we want to see on Twitter?

I think we can do better.