Sunday, June 12, 2011

Heads Up for a Pop Quiz

I get a lot of requests to advertise on this blog. It doesn't gather millions of eyeballs, but I suppose it's a niche market of people who trust me, and advertisers are feeling around for a way to reach people. I know I should just ignore the robotic linkfarm spam, but I often respond anyway, explaining briefly how vastly unlikely it is that I would ever place a link to their site on my blog. I know it just confirms me as a live one, but it amuses me to reply.

Every once in a while my "Sorry, I don't participate in linkfarms" or "Why would I link to a site scraper?" gets a response from a real human being, who isn't always a linkfarmer or a barely literate employee of a scammer. The problem with linkfarmers trying to look like legitimate bloggers is that sometimes legitimate bloggers end up looking like linkfarmers.

My first contact with John of the cleverly named Golf Hotel Whiskey was like that. I had looked at the site briefly, not parsed the name, seen something I thought was a generic travel review site, and given him a brush off. He defended himself, I took a second look, and while it still isn't a regular read of mine, I acknowledge it as original work, related to aviation and worthy of respect. Another site I dismissed as a site-scraper is How It Flies. I told him flat out that it's obvious that all the content has been scraped directly from Wikipedia, making not only the material unoriginal, but the concept. Paste a chunk of text from any Wikipedia article into Google's search engine with quotation marks around it, and you'll see how popular it is to build a site by plagiarizing Wikipedia. Keith argues that the Wikipedia material is just the seed and that his site has a different purpose. I'm still not entirely convinced, but it isn't advertising supported, so he must be doing this out of conviction. I'll let him explain.

I understand your aversion to site scrapers. I debated long and hard before incorporating Wikipedia content for a number of reasons. One is that the quality is inconsistent, but mostly because their focus is not what I'm aiming for. Their writing is for a general audience while How It Flies is oriented towards pilots. Over time I imagine that the articles will shift focus as people edit them. Their content focus is also limited. I'm looking to have a much larger collection of photos as well as videos. All of this though takes an immense amount of time and my calculations showed that, without seeding the site with content, I would never have the critical mass necessary to create a useful resource. I have been stunned at the results. Since adding wiki articles a little over a month ago, traffic to the site has quintupled.

Besides the different focus, we're also making the information from Wikipedia more useful by creating structured data. Wiki information is one big text file. I've been able to get a great deal of the information into a database which will eventually allow people to search and manipulate it in ways I can't even foresee.

A big-name company interested in grassroots marketing but completely unrelated to the topic of my blog sent me an "infographic" they thought I might like to share with my readers. It was ... an infographic. Someone with some amount of skill in information presentation had crafted it, but still, it had nothing to do with anything. I told him that if it weren't for linkfarm spam, his missive would win the award for the lamest attempt to be featured on my blog that I have received all year, and that I very nearly opened Microsoft Paint to make him an infographic he could put on his wall to commemorate that stunning failure to impress me. "I may yet sponsor a reader contest to do so," I claimed.

Perhaps this inspired me, because recently an advertiser actually associated with a vaguely aviation product enquired about the price of links or banners and instead of saying "no" I said, "I don't do banners, but I would do a contest giveway." I was thinking, "I don't want to burden my readers with ads, but if I can give them something, that's different." And the manufacturer thought it was a fair deal. So I'm just deciding what sort of contest this will be.

Fellow blogger Michael 5000 runs a weekly honour-system quiz which I always have a great time attempting, despite my woefully poor knowledge of art, American literature, and music. I think I may start a similar regular feature: only aviation-related. You would be on your honour not to use Google, Wikipedia, books, posters, roommates or other resources not already located within your own head to answer the questions posed. I think this is probably not the best choice for a contest with a prize, because it would literally reward people for cheating. I don't want to do an open-book quiz, because then it just turns into a Google/Wikipedia competition, and that's no fun.

I have been thinking for years of doing a "how well do you know me" quiz covering everything from random eggs and burrowing mammals to my most abused adverbs, and that would favour long-term and attentive readers, but seems a little narcissistic. (Wow there are a lot of ess sounds in narcissistic). And it might be tantamount to just giving the prize to my friends.

I did a giveaway a while ago where I asked contestants to explain why they were the most deserving of the prize, but you were all so nice to each other that you all just awarded the prize to the first cute kid entrant. Another option is to ask for your creative work, such as your speculation on what the dot was asking me. (Let me tell you, after five hours of keeping it centred, the dot is usually asking me to do unspeakable things).

I'm leaning towards a game of "nosewheel roulette". I make a chalk mark on the nosewheel, normal to its low point on the ground, then I taxi out and do a flight. After shutdown I get out and see where the chalk mark ends up. The pockets on the roulette wheel correspond to the number of centimetres around the circumference of the tire from bottom dead centre to the chalkmark. Whoever guesses closest wins a prize. The downside is that it's purely a game of chance, but the upside is that it's easy to judge, impossible to cheat, and someone gets free stuff. I'll let you know the circumference of the nosewheel when the contest is on.


TgardnerH said...

I'm not sure about your other readers, but I rarely feel burdened by adverts. If they're done carefully and tastefully (ie, neither loud nor in the way), they just kind of sit there in the sidebar as an invitation to click on a hopefully relevant link that happens to give you money. Strikes me as a way for you to gain a little bit of cash reward for all the wonderful content you generate, and not so much a burden on your readers.

This is my favorite read in my RSS feed, and I feel that looking at and occasionally clicking on a relevant ad is the least I could do to say thank you.

majroj said...

Do as you will, and what you need.
"Scrapers" come in different degrees, some use it to springboard or find a subject, others plagiarize as only cut and past allows. The trouble with the internet in this regard is that material can be disseminated widely, rapidly and attractively without going through professional editors and fact checkers. It's a big game of "he said she said you said no I didn't say". No ethical boundaries enforced by that editorial dope-slap. The poor little cultural pygmies think they are ok and even clever...pity.

Anonymous said...

I have been a regular reader for the last 7 months or so. I started at the beginning and read all the way through. Unemployment provided me with the opportunity.

On subject, in all honesty, I think you should maybe try pursuing some aviation or related companies to post ads on your blog.

You put a lot of effort into it and have for quite awhile. As long as they dont effect the reading, I see no reason to if I were you. A little extra cash never hurts.

Just my humble opinion, but I am sure many of your long term readers might feel the same way. Surely you deserve more of a reward than our praise for doing such a good job on your writing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes. The old 'everyone write your name on the nose wheel and after we return from the mission, whoever's name is closest to the ground , buy's the beer'.

Funny how often the 'new guy' has to buy the beer. Of course, the pilot is in communication with the ground crew while parking the plane. I'm not sayin'...

Edu said...

You could make a contest on who can ask the most interesting question (maybe related to aviation). That would maybe require some help separating questions from senders to make it fair, but probably that's is not a problem.

This would mean some work for you, but probably of the kind you like. :-) And all the miserables who didn't win would at least get another interesting blog post to read.

Cedarglen said...

With the above comments noted I'll offer this: Your site does seem to have a substantial following and you could, perhaps generate a few dollars by incorporating some ads. I hope that you do not. Need I list the many reasons? As long as you can afford the minimal fees to continue in the pure state, I hope that you will do so. If a few ads become necessary, please retain the absolute right to accept, reject or edit any ad, including any embedded links and for all time. Frankly, ads on specialty blogs are an annoyance. One expects them on 'big' blogs or sites, but not here. Exactly as with your flying, I know that you will make the right choices. Your blog does not need commercial enhancement. -C.

Aviatrix said...

Nah, it's not necessary. I just like the idea of being able to give you guys something.

Anoynmous said...

Our eyeballs might not break any great quantity barriers, but the [b]quality[/b] is demonstrably high. Tabitha could attest to that.

Ad income is tempting, easy, and a lazy way to do things. If you ever find yourself thinking of doing it, please consider instead a fund drive. That would serve your readers better.

fche said...

"Another site I dismissed as a site-scraper is How It Flies."

Ditto. It does not provide appropriate copyright/link credit on every page containing copied "seed" material. And as for database/searching future whatnot, perhaps Keith should investigate or improve the wikipedia "infobox" mechanisms instead of splitting the community.

Michael5000 said...

Or, you could just repost my old quizzes without attribution. What am I going to do, sue you?

I experimented with ads for a while, mostly just as a gag, but found that even the possibility of (as Blogger so quaintly puts it) "monetizing my blog" immediately began to turn a hobby into a job.