That summer when Scientology tried to sue me

While having a bit of a clear-out recently, I came across a bundle of old documents I’d saved from an interesting period of my life – when I was involved with, and writing about, a series of worldwide protests against the Church of Scientology.
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How to check your bank balance by tapping your phone on your wallet

One simple (yet apparently unachievable) thing I’ve always wanted from my bank is an Android widget that displays my current balance. The Lloyds online banking system is an abject horror (as I’ve detailed at length before), and their mobile app is little more than a front end for their equally dire mobile site (as well as a chance for them to sell you shit you don’t need).
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What are social share buttons really counting?

Every article online these days will sport the web-doohickey du jour,  social sharing buttons. Their purpose, ostensibly, is to let readers share that piece of content easily on their social network of choice – but they’re increasingly used in Internet dick-measuring contests to boast about ‘share counts’. However not all shares are equal.

Each social network has its own features and actions, some of which contribute to share counts, some of which don’t. The share counts for this very article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are mostly likely over to the left of this text. Outwardly this would appear to show, quite logically, the number of times this piece has been shared… but it’s not quite that simple. Here are some handy tables explaining which actions on the “big four” networks contribute to each social share count.

Twitter

Action

Effect on share count

Tweet a link +1
Manually Retweet a link +1
Retweet a link +1
Favourite a link 0
Reply to a link 0
Favourite a reply to a link 0
Retweet a reply to a link 0

Facebook

Action

Effect on share count

Share a link +1
Like a link +1
Reply to a link +1
Like a reply to a link 0
Recommend a link +1
Reshare a link +1
Reply to a reshared link +1
Like a reshared link +1
Like a reply to a reshared link 0
Share a link in a private message *see below +1

Updated 3/1/14 to add in details of private message sharing – apparently Facebook use that in their counts too (although I’ve not tested it myself).

Google+

Action

Effect on share count

+1 +1 (obviously)
Share a link +1
+1 a shared link +1
Reshare a link +1
+1 a reshared link +1 (Unless already +1’d)
Comment on a shared link +1 (Limited to once per user)
+1 a comment 0

LinkedIn

Action

Effect on share count

Share a link +1
Like a link 0
Reply to a shared link 0
Reshare a link +1
Like a reshared link 0

Disclaimer: This is all based on my own testing – let me know if you’re seeing different counts.

You can see from these tables that Facebook has the most laissez faire policy when it comes to boosting share counts, while LinkedIn is the strictest.

An important quirk to consider is that on all networks, a single user can contribute multiple points to the share count.

This is especially troublesome on Facebook, where a user can share their content privately (using the “Only me” option), and add comments ad infinitum to artificially inflate their count. Twitter counts multiple tweets from the same user – although given how content is promoted on Twitter this makes perfect sense. Google+’s policy of capping an individual’s ability juice their +1s seems a sensible policy. LinkedIn’s is perhaps the most puritanical approach – you get a point for a share, and nothing more (although you can still share your stuff multiple times).

Perception

The main problem with this system, as I see it, is that Facebook mixes both the most freewheeling counting method with an emotive call to action (“Like”) – controversial articles will often pick up large Like counts from people commenting on sharing activity, many of whom will most likely not agree with the content at all. These users are commenting to express negative sentiment, but are inadvertently contributing to the popularity implied by a large Like count.

A Facebook argument between two people that runs and runs could add 50, or even 100 Likes to an article’s count, even though those two users may be the only people to ever read it.

So next time you see a controversial article with a Like count in the tens of thousands, just remember there’s a good likelihood that a large proportion of that number actually don’t “Like” it at all.

My Content Marketing Show slides

Last week I was lucky enough to speak at the Content Marketing Show, a free bi-annual event in London for people working in content marketing / PR / social media / editorial (and anywhere in the fuzzy middle ground between them all). I spoke about the editorial planning process we use at Crunch, and how we’ve moved away from software back to some pen-and-paper planning methods.

My slides are below –

And you can see the video of the talk here –

Smoking solder at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire

Despite being rather involved with the Brighton Digital Festival this year, the entire first week of September went by without me attending a single event. At the weekend, finally with some free time on my hands, I attended the Mini Maker Faire.

Now three years old, the Mini Maker Faire is an eclectic mix of old-timey craftsmanship and bleeding-edge technology. The only condition you must satisfy in order to exhibit is that you must be a “maker” – i.e. someone who makes something. Due to this gloriously broad brief, there are all kinds of projects on display. Everything from finger-painting to 3D printing was on the agenda this year.

A tiny model of BBC journalist Bill Thompson is slowly printed

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More whining about SEOs and link building strategies

A favourite sport of mine is to watch the continual twists and turns of the SEO industry. An interesting phenomenon I’ve encountered recently amongst fellow publishers is a fantastical weariness of the SEO industry chasing links, especially in “high value” publications.

I think it’s always good practice to link to a company when you mention them by name – it gives the reader the opportunity to gain a little more context. If I’m writing about a company which has released some research or done something newsworthy I’ll almost always link to them, unless it’s a company that have done something to annoy me in the past. I’m childish and fickle like that, and I think a lot of other writers are too.

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Eight tips to avoid commuting like an asshole

Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a happy commuter. Many people I know have had their revulsion dulled by years of appalling train services, long journey times and antisocial fellow travelers, but I’m not there yet. Small problems still enrage me, people behaving badly on trains maddens me, and of course the cost is ridiculous. I can’t just accept these things as par for the course. There must be a better way; there has to be.

The easiest way to improve the experience for everyone is for people to start behaving like reasonable humans towards each other. So, based on my own experiences, I’ve cobbled together some top tips to prevent enraging your fellow passengers, and to hopefully make the commute that little bit more bearable for us all.
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