Oct/Nov 2017 Reviews & Interviews

What I do

Thoughts by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

A visitor to my Edward de Vere was Shakespeare Facebook book page left a message for me not long ago. I replied two days later when I noticed it. My reply was helpful, it turns out, and he stopped over at the sister group, Edward de Vere, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Subjects Information Exchange, and signed on for the adventure.

The message reminded me that Facebook wants me to covet a "Very responsive to messages" badge. In the wake of this exchange, Facebook informed me that I fell well short of the responsiveness mark. The badge is awarded to page administrators who respond to personal messages within 15 minutes at least 90 percent of the time. My reply had taken days.

The administrator can turn on an instant automated reply feature but instant replies do not count toward the "Very responsive to messages" badge. Only an actual human reply will do.

In order to see when messages have arrived, in time to answer within 15 minutes, the administrator (or a hired hand) must continuously be on the advertising platform, then. There is not a whole lot to do on the advertising platform other than to buy advertising. Not only that, but all one gets is a small badge on their product/book page. There are no further rewards.

As an independent freelance author, this demand turns the attempt to write and sell quality books into primarily an attempt to meet Facebook's financial expectations for its product pages. The author is pressed to provide continuous free labor to the owner of the platform. The quality of the product is no variable in any of the company's algorithms. It is of no concern.

This is not to say that Facebook is alone in this approach to constructing a wondrous environment for independent creators to have the resources and the access to bring about the new, Internet renaissance. Compared to Google, in fact, it is among the rank amateurs. Google has thousands of pages explaining how to get better search engine rankings by spending lots of time on its platform and obeying its wishes. It's wishes are sometimes genuinely based on improving the customer's information gathering experience. At other times they seem to be just as clearly based on enforcing the purchase of advertising.

Advertising is a means that is always defined as a "fair" or "white hat" route to get in front of potential customers... as long as the advertising is purchased from Google. Other advertisers are discouraged through a range of unfavorable search engine ranking rules. Use other advertisers, get lower page ranking. More and more, for the past half-dozen years, effective "organic" means—means which don't satisfy Google's profit needs—are defined as "unfair," "abusive," "invasive," "black hat," etc. (and sometimes deserve those descriptors).

The badge in Google's case is a higher search engine ranking. Unlike Facebook's "Very responsive to messages" badge Google's "badge" brings with it a great deal. A listing on the Google search engine means that one exists. No listing equals no existence. The higher one's ranking, the better chance that one may thrive.

This is not to say that either Google or Facebook (or etc.) has furnished text fully describing meticulous, consistent, manageable rules. That kind of thing costs money. Increased expenses equal reduced profits. The rule is as applicable to pennies as it is to billions of dollars. Live on their pages as one may, one will find no precise answers or scan tools to know definitively what is approved and what forbidden.

Instead, some vague rules are implied on pages irregularly updated and in bulletins which keep the faithful breathlessly waiting for its Google (or etc.) fix. The public is then provided chat pages on which to discuss what the prevailing state of information might mean. No Google (or etc.) experts have paid time to waste on these pages. They are the musings of the prickly hordes of hopeful entrepreneurs and hackers. One is required to "join in" and spend hours pretty much daily to collectively guess at what the rules might be, what programming steps might result in improved results, who might prove to be the one-eyed man among the blind men to whom one might look for answers. Either that or accept a business model in which success is random.

Or, of course, pay money to someone to provide these functions. This has predictably resulted in a Search Engine Optimization industry: an industry of competition between reputed best guessers. Purchasing these services requires selecting a name at random or spending hours daily researching who might possibly be better at providing this service. There is no Consumer Affairs site with dependable information. The Better Business Bureau is worthless in this regard. As in all decent S.E.O. campaigns, the companies have loaded up the most reputed review sites with sterling recommendations of their service and 5-star reviews by employees, friends and contractors from the paid-review industry.

Once a marginally educated choice has been made the package must be purchased. This will require the pay from some number of hours of work every month at a day job. Getting that number of hours at any decent rate of pay will almost certainly require a 40+ hour per week job.

I have described a vast number of hours here. Success in the Internet Age requires a great deal of energy and sacrifice. What I have not described is the product in behalf of which all of that energy is being expended. That product is something that does not exist anywhere in the equation.

It barely matters—if it matters at all—just what is the product. It is assumed, perhaps, that there must be a demand for it. But, no. Every step I have described above is exactly the same for every product whether there is demand for it or not. Every canned reply is exactly the same.

Perhaps it must be legal, then. At times, yes, but generally no. While Google, Facebook, et al., marketing platforms work the same, regardless, they have had to put in safeguards against certain products that might affect their brand reputation in order to assure best profits. Where such affects need not be feared, they refuse to be an extension of police powers or enforcers of public morals.

All that is necessary is that the advertiser provide a valid credit card number. Anything one might choose to sell satisfies the variable "P," including the mere illusion that there is a product. In fact, if one is an independent freelance writer, such as myself, all of the above already requires most of the hours that are available in a day. Every day. No days off.

An attention grabbing title, a photo of a shapely, naked young woman, and a quickly dashed off handful of pages of soft porn requires as much time as may be left over for design and production. Another common product design choice is to minimally rewrite someone else's soft porn book and give it a new attention grabbing title and naked young woman. Quality assurance is a laughable thought. A bulk supply of great grandma's old recipes might just provide a cook book of some popularity. It has already pretty much written itself. When sales begin to slow, you can retitle the book as The Emily Dickenson Cookbook if her name has yet to be licensed as a trademark. If it has, Susan B. Anthony's name might not be so encumbered.

Best of all, perhaps, declare yourself a BEST SELLING AUTHOR whose tips for optimizing search engine listings are the source of wonder throughout the virtual business world. Dash off a hundred pages of vague platitudes. Contract for a hundred paid reviews on the most visited review sites. Give it a title that promises instant results for the person who applies them. Lay back and collect your royalties. After soft porn, the most lucrative independent book category is books on how to make money publishing independent books and have time left over to spend it on cruises.

Any and all products arrive at the same value for "P". If P=0, the equation equals 0. Otherwise P=1 no matter what product is offered or whether it is real or not. The process requires a product or service (P=1) in order to proceed but there is otherwise absolutely no difference what product fills the variable. To care is to introduce problems that can only make the process impossible.

I write books. They are my products. Because I can only choose not to spend hours on the advertising platforms of my "partners," or more hours still in advertising or search engine chat rooms, or work a regular day job in order to pay for purported S.E.O. expertise or to purchase paid reviews, my products don't sell particularly well. Because I don't spend those hours, I have them to put towards making my products the best in their product categories.

My purported "partners" could care less. I am either making money for them or I do not exist. Because I am not buying their advertising, the limited number of page views and product links once provided me, per our agreements, toward my hopes of "organic" growth approach zero. The word "royalty" has been continually redefined, also, until it too approaches zero. My partner support is now almost entirely provided by a computer-generated reply and no issue is ever deemed worthy of addressing. Profits must continually increase. That increase must come from somewhere.

It is ludicrous to try to sell products by making quality high. Actually, it borders on evil, on anti-post-capitalism. Without a day job it is sick, anti-social, virtually suicidal. To try to make quality products without being independently wealthy is useless to any partner I might have. I have beguiled them, or would have if they ever had the slightest idea who I was. All Ps=1. They have gone on without the pathetic likes of me.

In case you have ever wondered, it is what I do.


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