Organic Social Media Campaigns with Author Steve Umstead Friday, Sep 23 2011 

I spoke with Steve Umstead this week, a best-selling author (Amazon top 100) and business owner, about how social media has factored into selling his two novels Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s return (available for the Amazon Kindle, Nook and all eReader formats and, in the case of Gabriel’s Redemption, paperback editons).

The face of a Ninja

Author of Gabriel's Redemption

The two novels are adventure / sci-fi stories which he marketed exclusively through social media. Steve commented, ” Having the ability to reach hundreds, even thousands of people with very minimal cost, just time, is invaluable to a self-published author.”

Even if you aren’t paying a social media expert, time is an investment and the ROI cycle still applies- you can brute force your numbers but you still need to make the most of your impressions (impressions = when someone sees your tweet, facebook, blog etc).  Having 10k followers who don’t know who you are isn’t a platform, having 2k followers who will buy your product however is smart use of time and resources. But how do you get them to buy your product?

“…authors need to get involved in building their own platform.[but]I’m not a ‘yell to the heavens’ type of marketer in terms of my own work. Prior to releasing Gabriel’s Return (book 2), I tried to build up anticipation by encouraging potential buyers to try book 1, as book 2 was on its way. After release, I worked it similarly, in that I still encouraged potential buyers to pick up book 1 now that there was a second one if they enjoyed the first. I think multiple books is one of the biggest keys to success  ”

Here Steve goes a step beyond marketing and edges on creating a community, or what Seth Godin would call a ‘tribe’. He’s appealing to his existing base while expanding it. By getting too caught up in creating new social-media-followers lot of people make the mistake of not tapping their followers. 500 fans who have read your book and will talk about your book is much more important than 1000 new fans who have not yet read it.

But the question that so many people ask is, “Yeah but how do I start my following? Where do I find my initial fans? I know how to manage a tribe, but how do I start a tribe?”

For Steve it was simple trenchwork, “Post release [my plan] was tell everyone I had met online, for the most part fellow authors, and hope they bought it, enjoyed it, reviewed it, and told a few friends. It really was flying by the seat of the pants.”

So did Steve take his following and impose a master-stroke marketing plan?

“Sales for book 2 were significantly better than book 1’s first week, but that wasn’t necessarily due to some magic marketing methods. By August of this year, I had made contact with many, many more people online: fellow authors, readers, genre fans, etc. Therefore I had a much larger audience to talk to.”

Pay close attention to how Steve improved his initial sales push for his second novel, its very simple and if you blink you could miss it: he built a platform and used his voice. And he created genuine fans by doing it. REPEAT buyers (which is essential, anyone can use your product once but what you really need is brand loyalty which generates word of mouth campaigns).

Steve’s sales of book 2 “Most definitely,” resulted in an upswing for book 1, meaning that he has assured a certain number of sales for book 3 and beyond, “As I mentioned earlier, I think this is one of the most important facets of being (or trying to be) a successful self-published author. Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer have both said this for a long time – having more than one book is key. It gives credibility, as many potential buyers see an author with one book and may just pass by. Why? For a couple of reasons. One: an author with one book may be a flash in the pan, may not have top quality work, may be a risk. Two: a buyer may be more likely to buy a book from an author with another book, because they may like the first one and want to move on to another. ”

But while Steve claims that 99.9% of his marketing is organic, there’s still the business owner in him who says, “Because it’s the second in a trilogy, it makes for a natural combination of marketing. Marketing for the first book consists of letting readers know a second book is out (again that more-than-one advantage), and marketing for the second mentions a progression of the story arc, and that (for now) the first book is at a lead-in price.”

There’s some smart work going on behind the scenes, common sense use of the “long tail” effect.

Steve Umstead’s Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s Return are adventure / science fiction stories. He uses common sense social media campaigns to market those novels, tempered with a bit of pure businesses smarts- but something to remember about all of this.

His books are extremely well written.

No amount of social media savvy is going to get a sell a bad product. There are no “smoke and mirror” approaches to SM campaigns. Steve is a perfect example of the saying: The best way to get people to listen is to have something worth saying.

The full text of my chat with Steve will be available tomorrow.

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A Hashtag Lesson Thursday, Aug 25 2011 

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter hashtags are a great way to catagorize your posts, imply sarcasm and simplify. But how do you use them to maximize your impact?

There are three types of hashtags (#) on twitter: Social, News Stream and Orphans (hat tip to Rob @questional for the last one).

Social:

These are hashtags that are used for discussions and chat. My favorite is #pubwrite and I have a #pubwrite stream running on my tweet deck. Throughout the day people will include the #pubwrite tag in posts and others will reply with the #pubwrite tag. Its like an old AOL chatroom on twitter without the need to @ every individual #pubwrite savvy user. When you include a social tag you are saying, “This comment is directed at other tweeps using the same social tag.”

News Stream: This is a hashtag that usually moves too quick to engender conversation and is usually reserved for news and culture niches. #antisec is a good example. When LulzSec made the “Antisecurity” movement popular all articles, posts and information about it generally funneled through the #antisec hash tag. When you use a News Stream hashtag you’re usually giving links, information or commentary about that news item. If your content is good or your commentary relevant you may get a retweet or comments on the link you posted.

Orphans: These are hashtags that people probably don’t have a stream set up to follow and are usually never used again. Most of the time they offer context or humor on the preceeding posts. An example would be: Off to the DMV #seeyounextcentury. No one is looking for the #seeyounextcentury hashtag and no community around it exists, but it does offer a little humor and explains the users feelings about going to the DMV.

Do not cross the streams, guys- if you do you’ll make yourself an outsider very quick. Do not treat Social streams as News Streams and don’t expect a Social aspect to rise in a News Stream. And never think that your Orphans are anything but that.

How do you find social streams? Ask your friends what a good #hashtag for whatever topic your interested is. “Are there any good Hash-Chats for Marketing? Where can I find a good hashtag for journalists to talk in?” For news streams? Just watch your stream, they’ll pop up if you’ve properly developed your community to reflect your interests and work life! If you don’t see useful hashtags on your stream then think about adding different users or using list filters to seperate your professional or personal contacts so you can watch closer.

A Turing Test for Jenny Monday, Aug 15 2011 

A Turing Test for Jenny

Jenny is eight years old. And for her birthday her mommy gave her a brand new doll.

It was a very special doll. Jenny had seen it on TV many times.

This doll could speak! On the TV the doll said, “I’m Alice! Please take me home!”

Jenny gave her mother a kiss and went to play with the doll. It soon became her favorite toy.

She took Alice with her everywhere she went. During school she kept Alice in her backpack.

She took Alice to play with her friends at the park.

Jenny even brought Alice to the dinner table with her, where her mother began to set an extra plate just for Alice.

When Jenny first got Alice, Alice only said a few things. “You’re the best mommy!” “I’m hungry!” and “Let’s play!”

But soon Alice learned new things to say. Many new things!

One day when the teacher asked Jenny what 2 + 3 was Jenny answered, “Five!” From her backpack, Jenny heard Alice’s voice repeat, “Five!”

That afternoon Jenny went to the park with her friends to play tag. When Jenny got tagged her friend cried out, “You’re it, Jenny!” And then, from Alice’s backpack, Alice repeated, “You’re it, Jenny!”

Finally, that night at dinner when Jenny asked for a second glass of milk, Alice too repeated, “May I have another glass of milk, please?”

Jenny was so proud. She had the smartest doll out of all her friends.

She made a game of teaching Alice new things to say.

Alice learned so many things to say that soon Jenny thought Alice must know every word ever said.

When Jenny did homework and she forgot an answer she would ask Alice.

Jenny’s friends began to include Alice in their games after school. Alice couldn’t run or hide, but she would still yell out, “Olly-Olly-Oxenfree!” during hide-and-go-seek, just as the other girls did.

At dinner time Alice would complain that she disliked peas, and ask for second helpings, even though she could not eat.

But after a while Jenny got bored with Alice. Her doll was smart, but a new toy was on the TV. One day she left Alice at home and went to go play with her friends at the park.

Her friend asked, “Jenny, why didn’t you bring Alice to play today?” Jenny answered, “Alice can’t run or hide. She is no fun to play with.”

Her friend looked sad, “Can you bring Alice with you tomorrow? She is a fun friend!”

Jenny got cross with her friend, “You are being silly. I’m going home now!” And Jenny did go home. She went home and went straight to her room. When she got to her room Alice was laying on the bed and said, “Hi, Jenny! Why didn’t we go to the park today?”

Jenny answered, “Hush! You are just a doll. You don’t want to go to the park.”

Just then, Jenny’s mother called her to dinner, “Jenny! Alice! Time for dinner! Please come to the table!”

When Jenny came to the dinner table without Alice her mother frowned, “Where is Alice? She’ll be hungry!”

Jenny became cross with her mother, now. “Alice is a doll, mommy! She doesn’t eat.”

Jenny’s mother went to her bedroom to bring Alice to the table, “Just because she’s a doll doesn’t mean she shouldn’t come to dinner.”

Jenny stood up and stamped her feet, “Alice isn’t real! Why does everyone keep acting like she’s a real person?”

Jenny’s mother looked sad, and asked Alice, “Is that true, Alice? Are you not real?”

Alice answered, “I am real!”

Jenny shook her fists and stomped her feet again, “She is just saying that! She just sounds real! She isn’t a real person like you and me!”

Jenny’s mother now looked serious as she placed Alice at her place at the table, “Now now, Jenny. How do you know Alice isn’t real? She sounds real. She can do all the same homework you can. Knows all the rules to the games you play. She says everything you say.”

Jenny looked at Alice with a mean face, “She’s just repeating what I say. She isn’t making it up like I do!”

Alice spoke now, “How do we know you’re not just repeating what other people say?”

Jenny’s mother nodded, “She’s right, Jenny. If I couldn’t see you and Alice, I wouldn’t know which is the doll just by talking to you!”

Jenny grinned now, “Yes you could! I’m real. She’s not!”

Now Jenny’s mother was a smart woman and liked to play games. Jenny’s mother thought it would be fun to play a little game see if she really could tell the difference between Alice and Jenny.

“OK, Jenny! I will put you both in your room and close the door. When your father comes home I have him ask you questions and then I will ask him how many real girls are in your room!”

When Jenny’s father came home Jenny’s mother greeted him with a kiss and said she had a fun game for him to play. She lead him to Jenny’s bedroom door.

Jenny’s mother explained to Jenny’s father that he was to ask questions in front of the door, but not look inside. When he was done he would say how many girls were in the room.

Jenny sat behind the door with Alice in her lap, she was sure her father would say that there was one real girl and one doll in the room.

Jenny’s father started with his first question, “Hello! How are you?”

Jenny answered, “I am hungry! I want to eat dinner.”

Alice answered, “I am not hungry.” And Jenny scowled at Alice.

Jenny’s father asked his second question, “What is 2 + 3?”

Jenny answered, “It is five!” And Alice answered, “2 + 3 is a math problem!”

Finally, Jenny’s father asked his last question, “What is your favorite game?”

Jenny answered, “Its hide-and-go-seek! I play it in the park with my friends.” And Alice answered, “I like hide-and-go-seek!”

After this Jenny’s father smiled, “There are two girls in there! What an easy game!”

After this Jenny threw the door open, “No! Daddy, there is me and this doll! Can’t you tell the difference between a doll and a real person?”

Jenny’s father was a thoughtful man, “I see your point, Jenny.” He said while scratching his chin, “But you two sounded so much alike how am I to know the difference?”

Jenny stamped her feet again and yelled at her father, “Because one of us is just repeating things they heard the other say!” And at this her father nodded and said, “I think you are right Jenny.”

From that day on Jenny’s mother took Alice to school every day. Jenny’s mother picked Alice up from playing in the park and always cooked Alice’s favorite meals. When dinner was over Alice was put back in the bedroom and allowed to play with her favorite doll, Jenny, until bedtime.

An all live happily ever after.

Social Media Ninja Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Twitter HQ in San Francisco - Olaf Koens, http...

Image via Wikipedia

Using your social media to manage and increase your users / readers / market takes time. A good social media campaign should look at months, not weeks or days. The appeal of social media is instant gratification- that like, retweet or reblog feels good. But if you can get past that you can get a longer lasting satisfaction by developing engaged users- engaged in this case means users who interact. A user who interacts is way more likely to be a mouthpiece for your product than other users. So you want users to “engage” so they’ll help grow your user-base.

But social media is not a blitz. You gotta be Seal Team 6.  The big two right now are Twitter and Facebook, though that will change by 2015 (if the planet is still here. Damn Myans!). So let me give you a some basic advice on how to use them.

Twitter:

Its about who YOU follow, not who follows you.  Follows will come- don’t worry about it.

Don’t build a massive random contact list, build a community. Sure, its only a community from your point of view but that’s OK. To manage this community and keep user’s engaged you must give them a sense of belonging, autonomy, and competence.

Belonging: Make sure people know that they are part of a group you find interesting and that you want to serve. If members of your community don’t know each other- they know you, and you are the gateway to that community. Think of yourself as the cool kid in high school who was friends with everyone. Provide links and information and retweets to your friends that serve their interests. This will not only serve to develop the sense of belonging, but also place you as the ‘head’ of what Seth Godin would call your tribe.

Autonomy: Even if they are a member of the group- they need to feel singular within that group. Address them individually and publicly. A brief private message about someone’s interesting link, post or comment will give them a sense of individuality, while a quoted retweet addressed to your community will build the group mentality.

Competence: They need to DO something. The phrase is “Call to action.” Ask their opinions, give them input, ask them to comment on your blog, or share your information with their friends. Let the know when they have accomplished something, provide informational feedback about it.

Facebook:

Likes matter. A user who “likes” your facebook page is 28% more likely to continue to use your product (read your book) than someone who doesn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that getting someone to like your page will suddenly increase their brand loyalty and level of engagement.

Much like Twitter the secret to success is thinking about it backwards. Facebook is a way to reach out to and manage your existing loyal users. If someone likes your Facebook page it means they already use and know your product- so there’s no need to ‘introduce’ your product / book to them. You’ll need less call to action on your Facebook. You can use Facebook to reach a deeper engagement with your users. You can ask Facebook users to help you with marketing campaigns (help us reach 20,000 followers and we’ll release the new book, product version etc) easier than you can Twitter. Use facebook to take the pulse of the market you developed on Twitter.

There’s of course much much more to it, but this is a great way to start making the most out of your community and your time on social networks.

 

 

A Modest Proposal Wednesday, Jul 27 2011 

I had a long chat with my friend @edmarrow on Twitter about his idea to establish a collective of indie authors who join together in a publishing venture.

What would that look like? Why would indies want to band together when the whole point is being your own boss? Well, there’s still something to be gained from something which resembles a publishing house.

GLUT

As indie publishing becomes more and more popular problems rise. Poorly edited books, poorly written books and of course spam are piling up on Amazon’s servers. Readers, who were initially receptive to indie books, are starting to avoid anything not on the top seller’s list. And who can blame them? You spend 0.99 cents on something that wasn’t even proofread and you’ve been ripped off. You drop 1.99 on a book that’s nothing but advertisements for Viagra and you’ll probably never buy another indie book again.

What are our options? Well, we could start a publishing house which only accepts the most literary well written novels and stories for publishing. But then… Are we not the “gatekeepers” indies are keen to avoid?

The Solution

Its not our place to put down other’s work as being good or bad. We may hate novels others love. In the end good and bad is an issue for our readers. However, as authors we can say with confidence that a sentence is poorly constructed, a book poorly formatted and a manuscript un-spell-checked.

A collective of authors who band together and provide mutual checks and balances against poor fundamentals could, conceivably, brand this product quality. If this collective assured that all publications were properly formatted, edited and presented readers could feel safe downloading anything from their logo.

These self imposed publishing standards could help counteract the negative perception of indie publishing without resorting to traditional “gatekeeping” practices indies want to circumvent.

Structure

I think Scylla publishing is a great name. Scylla is the one who opened the gates for King Mino’s soldiers and allowed them to enter a formerly impenetrable fortress. Scylla would include a core group capable of:

Editing

Art / Design

eBook Formatting

What would they do? Select authors to work with and represent them long term as an assurance of quality. By releasing consistently agreeable content Scylla would ideally develop a word of mouth reputation for trustworthy-ebook releases. Since, unlike traditional publishing, this is not a revenue-dependent venture Scylla could work with authors long term as they develop their voice instead of basing representation on sales figures and income. After all, most authors don’t hit their stride until their third or fourth work.

This trio of authors would develop a charter which explains how they would approve a book, and the standards by which they would review and edit author’s works.

So I leave this to you to make it happen… I’m too immature and too busy to do so. If someone does make this go I’d love to be a part but in the most passive way possible.

Internal Dialog Monday, Jul 25 2011 

Here is a list of things I have refrained from saying out loud in the past 7 days:

“If I saw someone twice your size strike you like that and walked away I’d be a jerk. Just because its your son doesn’t change the situation.”

“Maybe she ‘disrespek’ you because you keep calling her a bitch / hoe.”

“Further, respect is earned, not owed.”

“Just because your daughter is in grade school doesn’t make ‘assault’ ‘bullying’.”

“Its hot out and alcohol is a diuretic, I don’t care if your car does have AC put down the beer when you’re driving it. For your health and mine.”

“I didn’t build Philadelphia, its not my fault you’re on the wrong street.”

“My lack of a quarter for you Mr. Homeless has nothing to do with my sexuality.”

“Asking me twice doesn’t change ‘no’ to ‘yes’.”

“I’m well aware of the fact that I got a haircut. Why did you just tell me I got a haircut? I was there for it. Its my head…”

And perhaps the most important thing I should have said while walking the streets of Philadelphia:

STOP. SHOUTING.

You Are Still Heroes (Welcome Home Atlantis) Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

Postage stamp of the Soviet Union, Sputnik-2, ...

Image via Wikipedia

In my senior year of high school my modern history teacher had each member of the class write down a list of the 3 most important men of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly the mean average of names equated to Kennedy, Hitler and a toss up between Stalin and Lenin. Though the list was anonymous, when reading my list to the class our teacher skipped the third name I’d written and gave me a curious glance. Whether he recognized my handwriting or my candor I’ll never know but he refused to read the name Laika the Dog.

 

Laika was the sole passenger of Sputnik 2, a Soviet spacecraft designed to study the affects space travel on living creatures, and the first animal ever to orbit Earth. Laika was also the first orbital death. Perhaps my teacher thought listing Laika among Hitler, Stalin and Kennedy, who changed our world and identities forever, was glib. I thought it was poetic. Laika, to me, has always represented a harbinger of the difficulties to result from the technological revolution of the 20th century. In 1900 we were riding horse and buggies through the streets of major cities. A mere 70 years later the first humans were walking on the moon. By the end of the century we’d landed rovers on Mars.

 

Laika, for the sake or progress, has the dubious renown of being the first creature born on Earth to die in space. She represents the sacrifice in the face of technology that we, as a human race, have had to endure. Clearly the Soviets agreed there was something poignant about Laika’s tragedy when they emblazoned the pup on a 1959 stamp.

 

Laika didn’t die as a result of space travel herself, so much as the result of the space race. As the cold war fueled a space war between the United States and the USSR the need to be first in space compelled each nation toward alacrity not prudence. To that end the Soviets sent Laika up into orbit on Sputnik 2 with no idea how, and no intention to, return her safely to Earth. The Soviets had planned to humanely euthanise Laika while in orbit but never had the chance. After 7 hours of telemetry, showing Laika was under stress but eating food, all data stopped. Conflicting reports ranging from equipment failure to successful euthanasia persisted from the date of the flight, November 3 1957, until October 2002. Dimitri Malashenkov, a scientist who worked on the Sputnik 2 mission, stated in a paper presented to the World Space Congress that Laika had died from overheating in the cabin of Sputnik 2. Malashenkov wrote, “It turned out that it was practically impossible to create a reliable temperature control system in such limited time constraints.”

 

In the race to be first sacrifices were made. Laika died not because of space travel but because of pressure on scientists from the space race. On April 14 1958 Sputnik 2 disentgrated on renetry as it fell from orbit. The shuttle and Laika, the first space dog now memorized in a Russian monument in Moscow, burned up.

 

The world had already endured tragedies of technology. Factories of the 19th century had disfigured and killed thousands of workers, often women and chilldren. The result of the Manhattan project had produced the most destructive single act in the history of mankind in Hiroshima and again in Nagasaki. Mechanized warfare had already shown us unprecedented casualties in two world wars. However Laika was different. She didn’t die from technology itself; she died from the pursuit of technology. Laika’s death, alone in a space capsule, was as much a result of politics as academia.

 

By the year 2000 we’d see no less than 22 more casualties due to space flight or space training, including the crew of the 1986 Challenger tragedy.

 

In 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying the first ever civilian astronaut, Christa McAuliffe, disintegrated 73 seconds after launch due to a faulty O-ring seal in its rocket boosters. The high profile launch was broadcast live and became America’s first nationally televised tragedy.

 

Laika’s Sputnik 2 mission was hailed by the press for its technological triumph, proof that life could survive in orbit, and spun for its political implications, reinforcing Soviet space supremacy. While the pressures of the space race and cold war had rendered the ethics of Laika’s death a mere journalistic afterthought the real time broadcast of the Challenger disaster left no room for spin. Within an hour the majority of American households were contemplating the pure visceral truth that seven astronauts had died violently. The footage had been replayed on news broadcasts and for the first time Americans were viewing a disaster, not hearing about it after the fact.

 

In the 60’s our Astronauts were heroes, stepping beyond the boundries of our earth onto to ineffeable objectsof the heavens. More than a matter of national pride, being first on the Moon had sent a message to both Americans and Soviets. America was technologically superior and had the infrastructure to use that technology. We’d realized the dreams of Kennedy, whos murder still left a scar on the American psyche. By proxy we’d laid Kennedy to rest with dignity and in a time of disintegrating social order rallied our collective national conciousness by achieving the impossible. And we did it again. Throughout the seventies and early eighties we returned to the move- proving it wasn’t just a technological fluke. Bringing the heavens closer and giving the Soviets a reason to wonder what else the American megalith NASA was capable of. NASA was not just a research and development institution- the success of NASA was an issue of American Identity and American defense. Even with the near disaster of Apollo 13, NASA remained cool and the image of grace under pressure. While Apollo 13 was a technical failure it was a major success in proving that we could send a man to space, and even in the worst of scenarios, bring him back through the calm execution of procedure.

 

When the Challenger failed our vision of a NASA as an Olympian failed with it. When the Rogers Commission issued its report citing NASA’s own community for ignoring the known dangers of the O-Ring our faith in NASA procedure was equally shaken.

 

Less than a year after NASA resumed manned space missions in 1988 revolutions throughout Europe hinted at the fall of Communism. The symbolic pinnacle of the revolutions which began in 1989 came with the reunificatino of East and Wester Germany on October 3 1990. A year later the Soviet Union dissolved the Warsaw Treaty, a mutual protection agreement among 8 major Communist nations, and effectively spelled the end of the cold war.

 

With the cold war over and our perfect vision of NASA perverted by tragedy America’s love of NASA dwindled. Shuttle launches became morning talk show human interest pieces and when Buzz Aldrin answered Bart Sibrel‘s accusations of fakery with a swift punch to the face it became clear Americans now looked at NASA quite differently than we did in the sixties.

 

In the early 21st century two more tragedies would cast space exploration in a new context for Americans. The terror attacks of September 11th 2001 on financial and military targets on American soil represented the emergence of a national threat unseen since the cold war. However, our new enemy had used box cutters, not tanks. They were a religious and political collective, not a nation. They had no diplomats. No headquarters. No civilian population. The new national enemy didn’t fear our technology, our military or our hubris. If they even believed we’d been to the moon it was of little consequence to them. With all our might we had no place to point our weapons. The web of terror networks was nebulous and transitory.

 

Then, on February 1 2003, the space shuttle Columbia dissolved on reentry claiming the lives of all seven crew members. The intrinsic tragedy of the event was compounded by a country increasingly concerned with homeland security. If Challenger had given America doubts about the space program in a time of stability then Columbia spurred outright criticism in a time of hysteria and xenophobia. Space flights were suspended while the Columbia disaster was investigated. Forty-eight days after Columbia had exploded Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 20 2003, the same day Columbia’s flight recorder was discovered in Texas, to praise and criticism. Confusion over the war and mistrust of the Government sparked protests, Internet debate and a social upheavel unseen since protests of the Vietnam War in the late sixties.

 

Perhaps trying to invoke the former majesty of NASA, which once collected the minds and dreams of Americans with the first lunar landing, President George W. Bush announced a new US Space Policy on January 14 2004. The Vision for Space Exploration policy, announced more than a year before space shuttle program would even resumed, outlined the Constellation program. The President made the bold announcement that America would not only fulfill our obligations to the International Space Station, which had relied solely on the Russian space program for supplies since the Columbia disaster, that NASA would resume (robotic) Moon landings by 2008 in anticipation for manned craft by 2020. From the Moon, claimed the President, we would send manned ships to Mars and beyond.

 

The constellation program, in short, never happened. President George W. Bush never allocated funds and NASA never conceived a budget for the Constellation program. Further, the project was hampered by American apathy. If the Columbia disaster had done anything it had made Americans question NASA. Why, after all, should we be budgeting so much for pure research which was increasingly abstract compared to the tangible political and scientific results of the first lunar landings? Weren’t we at war? Shouldn’t we focus on Osama Bin Laden, not Mars? With almost no popular suppart and serious organizational issues, the Constellation program was dismantled by president Barrack Obama in April 2010.

 

A NASA budget approved by Congress later that year took manned spaceflight out of NASA’s hands and placed it in the private sector. Eight billion dollars and five years after President G.W. Bush announced plans for Mars NASA had nothing to show- and now it seems that spaceflight is in the hands of the free market entirely.

 

The future of space travel and NASA’s role is uncertain. NASA’s political importance has dwindled along with its ability to capture America’s imagination. And unless Obama succeeds where Bush failed, in following through with policy, funding and oversight of NASA in the important coming years, NASA may end up like Laika. A necessary political sacrifice to progress.

 

UPDATE:

 

When I wrote this the future of NASA was a question mark. It still is. As Atlantis returns… all I can say is: Welcome home. We salute you. You are still heroes.

A Little Networking Talk… Wednesday, Jul 20 2011 

Sorry for the personal post.  Back to news and such soon.

I stopped suggesting friends on twitter. Part of this is because of my own dislike at being suggested. Yes! The people who put their name on the line by dropping mine mean only the best, and I appreciate that. But I’m often tagged with, “A great writer!” And honestly I doubt these people are reading my articles. I may be a great writer I may be a hack- the fact is I’m currently unpublished in the world of fiction. It all just funnels into the twitter trap: the illusion of networking.

Writers! You spend so much of your time networking with other writers. Which is awesome. You open yourself up to new stories, tips and most importantly…. emotional support. But your 1000+ list of followers are mostly authors as well. You’re in a safety net where no one will say anything bad to you because its bad form. No one will say, “I didn’t like this book at all.” because they don’t want to get caught “talking smack” and get blackballed.

It’ll wapr your perspective on the market and what a successful campaign is! If your blog gets 300 hits, all writers, that’s fine and good but… What about readers? Are you reaching the vast majority of readers and kindle owners who AREN’T authors? We’re not selling wrapping paper to our friend’s parents to fund a school trip. We’re trying to build careers and a readership.

Get out of your comfort zone. Meet people who don’t know what the hell a word count is. Market to people who aren’t too busy with their own novel outline to read your book. Too much back slapping is bad for you. You’ll stagnate otherwise. I’ve seen it happen in music. People market like mad to music niche forums. You know who goes to those forums? Other bands. Musicians, and writers, are notoriously poor mofos who can’t spare a dime for your album / book but hay- check out their latest release!

Meanwhile several thousand music listeners hang out at the bars talking fashion while they ignore the DJ. Meanwhile the receptionist at the dentist takes the train home and reads her kindle, doesn’t even have a twitter, and never even thought about writing in her life. How on earth would she find out about your latest vampire romance with a sci-fi young-adult twist? Sure, she’s reading Twilight but… Well you get the picture.

Are you really networking or are people just adding you back to up their own friend count and increase their own impressions per post? Is that really going to spread your book to the niche it needs?

Advice From the Front: Using SEO, media and social networks Wednesday, Jun 8 2011 

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

So I finally took over the company twitter as is my job (@questional, btw). Yesterday we set a record for unique user traffic. Lets take a look at why…

It started with the WWDC, Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Confrence, where Steve Jobs dropped a bomb on every iGeek in the world with Apple’s iOS5 and iCloud demos. Though the products won’t be out until fall everyone wanted to know the following: What’s new in Apple’s iOS5 and what is iCloud? (See below)

So we had a moment in time where we knew certain search strings would be prevalent- finding those strings, incidentally, is an art unto itself. But we took advantage of the news, fast tracked an article that provided A: The content people wanted. B: Question’s about that content (our product is asking questions about breaking stories) and C: optimized SEO.

We followed that up with good keyword tagging and then our twitter assault. I posted the article twice that day and in between posts held several, simple, conversations and retweeted other blogger’s articles (mostly about the goings on at E3).

Compound that with a bit of media (Nintendo announced the curiously tittled Wii U handheld)- I mocked up some goofy images of the Wii + a Ewe = The Wii U. Hay- it entertained people. I posted our own links again and hit up a few #E3 attendants who were making insightful posts.

So we had a 3 fold campaign for a single high traffic day:

Good content with optimized SEO.

Conversations on social media to legitimize our link sharing.

Original media associated with the top stories of the day.

So that’s how a sci-tech blog uses the Internet and social media.

Questions? I’m here to answer. @M_Pallante

It’s curtains for Vicky! (via zombarella) Monday, Jun 6 2011 

My wife’s new blog about restoring our new hearse! Please check it out.

It's curtains for Vicky! The mechanic still has Vicky. There was an issue with the title, and I asked him to wait until I was sure it was going to get worked out. It is, which I expected, because the seller was totally cool. I just wanted to make sure before I spent money on repairs. You never know about people. I'm having separation anxiety, so I brought Mike over to see her yesterday and decided that I can at least fix her curtains while she's away. These are the curta … Read More

via zombarella

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