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Timothy Ferriss: Blogging without Killing Yourself

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All right; good morning, everyone. I am so surprisingly nervous, it is unbelievable. So I'll start with a story, and then we'll jump into the presentation. So WordPress: I've been on WordPress for three years, from the very very beginning, and I thought it would be nice to explain how I came to know Matt. It was actually a mutual introduction through MJ Kim, who is a friend of ours, and I wanted to interview Matt for my blog. I was very, very anxious and nervous about trying to reach out to Matt. "The 25 Most Influential People on the Web," so forth and so on; and I put it off, I put if off, I put it off; and then finally, one day at lunch, I was like, "You know what? I'm just going to call him." So I called him, and he answered, and I was like, "Hi; my name's Tim Ferriss;" and I went and I went and I went, and I finished, and then he chuckled, like he does, and said very calmly like Yoda, "That is the longest self-introduction I've ever heard in my life." So despite those inauspicious beginnings, we've had a lot of fun. So the title of this talk was "Scalable Blogging Behaviors," which is really, really boring. So the content is the same, but I'm going to call it: "How to Blog Without Killing Yourself." And I'll explain some of the best practices when I write, research, track my blog, and also point out some of the things that I find fun and why I do all of this. So the first question that I get a lot: "Why do I blog?" Why would I blog? It's not for income generation, because there are much faster ways to generate income. So why do I blog? So if you look here, this is one of my posts; it's a very popular post called "Total Immersion;" how I learned to swim after decades of phobia about swimming. And then on the right-hand side, you'll see this. I posted this during the Olympics, when everyone was watching of course to see if the Spinks medal record would be broken, and on the right-hand side, this is Ron Turner who pops up (he's the USA National Team coach), offering advice, and there was a former Olympian, and a silver medalist, at the Olympics, in a separate post who popped up to offer advice, and the bigger question is, "Why do I do anything?" And this is the most important question that you can answer. And the rather new-age answer that I came up with, because I get asked a lot, "What do you want in life? What do you want?" It's a very broad question. But in general, it is to love, be loved, and never stop learning, and that sounds very fufu-wawa; let's hold hands and dance around, but it translates into very important decisions. So another way to look at that would be that I use my blog for access to people and resources. So income isn't your only currency. You have authority, you have audience, you have the right audience, not just a large audience. So in this case, it is the perfect laboratory for not only learning, learning from my readers, but also sharing and that translates into my broader goals. So that is why I blog. And there's indirect and direct income from a blog. I'm not going to get into monetization; we can talk about that in the Q&A; but most of the benefit that I get is indirect. It's from meeting people via the blog. So the overarching principle in my life, and also when I blog, is that "whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." So there are a lot of rules. There are many, many rules that you will feel obligated to follow in blogging. When I was just getting started, I was told that I had to put up six posts before lunch, and you might expect that that doesn't jibe very well with my philosophy in general. And as it turns out, posting six times a day, posting more, bringing more audience, posting times, different old wives' tales that have been passed along, in the relative short time span that we've all been sharing these practices, really don't withstand scrutiny and testing in most cases. I'll stop pointing at the screen now, I think. All right. So, let's talk about frequency and tools. So what you're looking at here is a screen shot from CrazyEgg., which I use for looking at heatmaps, and more specifically click patterns on my blog. And I will get to frequency, but I want to talk about what you're looking at first. So that I can do—this is a Confetti view— and I'll set it to a test for 5,000 clicks— and I'll do this repeatedly every time I make a homepage design change; I will run a test like this, and you just slap in one or two lines of JavaScript and it will track it automatically. And you can see here that I'm looking at my top 15 referrers, which are my largest 15 sources of traffic, and then I can select or deselect them to see where people are clicking. And you learn some very interesting things. So for example, if people come through, which is not highlighted right now, they click on the most popular of all time, on this upper-right-hand side. And this is my most valuable real estate, I've realized. Over and over again; it's almost like a reverse Google pattern: on Google, if you look at the click patterns, it seems to be generally an "F"; on my blog, it's completely the opposite, because the sidebar's on the right-hand side. So Americans and—your guys' traffic will generate clicks on the most popular of all time. Germans will click on "Tim's Favorites". Americans don't care at all about my favorites. And I'll get into more details here, but in addition to CrazyEgg, I really just use Google Analytics. I don't get too fancy, because it is true that what you measure gets managed, but it's also true that you should only measure the things that matter. And Google can often send people down ratholes, making the analytics, at least—web site optimizers— much, much better, will send people down many different decision trees spending a lot of time on things that don't necessarily have a huge impact. Frequency: So, I've tested everything. Everything that I'm going to share with you today I have come to realize through data. The best times for my particular blog are 7 a.m. (Pacific Standard), 6 p.m. (Eastern Standard), and those times also map to submissions to, not that that is necessarily up to me. But those, historically, are the best times. And in terms of days, I get the best response— and best response meaning comments, quality of comments, trackbacks, and so forth— on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, which was very unexpected. So posting—if I post on a Friday night, I get a very, very strong response on Saturdays. So if I have an important post, something that I really want to allow to germinate and spread across the Interwebs, then I'll pick one of those three days. And I tend to post once or twice a week. I've done that since the very beginning, and while it's easy to say, "Well, your blog is successful because you had a bestselling book," the fact of the matter is that the blog has helped the book far more than the book has helped the blog. All right. So let's move on. So these are some of my random findings. And I'm a bit of a compulsive tester, so hopefully, you'll find some questions, some little tidbit of value here, even though everyone here probably knows more about WordPress than I do. So a few things that I like to point out here: Changing the "Categories" label to "Topics" in the bottom-right dramatically improved click activity and the number of average page views per-visit. So the wording is very important. Do not underestimate the value of copy. So just changing the label from "Categories" to "Topics" dramatically improved the click density in that area, which is very important to me. All of these items that you see on the right-hand side are designed to pull people who would be a one-time visitor deeper into the site. If you look at the "Most Popular" tabs on the right-hand side, which I had developed by a college student at the time, who did the entire site, and some people have asked me, "How much did your site cost?" My first blog cost nothing, because I set it up myself, and the first iteration cost, I think, $500, and this one was about $1200. So to give you an idea. It doesn't have to cost that much, but I was in a rush. Now, I have the current hits—this is very important—I have the current hits first; that is the default display; because that changes every 30 days by default. It's a running 30-day calendar. What that means is it's almost impossible for— it is impossible for those posts to stay the same over time. If it's all-time, as the default display is, as a lot of sites do, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You're basically reinforcing clicking on those posts, and they remain the best forever. Which is not what I want. Because that is one of the tools that I use. I also use the stats program in WordPress itself. If you look above the "Most Popular", those straight lines, those straight red lines indicate things that have been omitted. So I used to have my Twitter status in the top-right hand side of my blog, and then I realized I was facilitating a mass exodus from my blog, particularly of first-time users. And this is a very, very—depending on your goals— but for me, I want to build a very high-quality readership based on shared interests and so forth. That is a very expensive habit, because it is extremely costly, in time or energy, resources, to get good first-time visitors. You don't want them to leave right away. So I have for the time being removed that and put it down here. You'll see up in the top-right-hand side these 7 reasons to subscribe, so that will take you to 7 reasons to subscribe to my RSS feed. Now, there are considerations that you should take into consideration ("allow me to introduce myself"), and among them is if you are advertising, that is, if you have advertising on your site, it may not make sense for you to push people from your blog to your RSS feed, because generally, your CPM rates will be much higher on your blog. So you're basically taking someone from looking at a Mercedes and moving them to buying a Yugo. And you don't want to do that, obviously, if you're trying to monetize your blog. So RSS, I find, is for me increasingly less and less relevant, particularly as microblogging tools like Twitter become more and more prevalent. If you look to the left, there's a few things I want to point out: "Gear". If you go to the "Gear" section on my site— just go to, that's the short URL— then if you click on "Gear", there's pretty much nothing there. It's a holding spot. So I put up the "Gear" on the navigation bar to see—to gauge the interest level. And at some point, perhaps, in the future, it will be full of various goods for sale and so forth, but I wanted to test at least the initial conversion from that term to click-through, and it's very, very high. "Resources" is probably number two, "Forum" is number three. Above the "On the Shortness of Life", that red bar, you'll notice there's something missing. The date is missing. Now why is the date missing? Because this is an older post, and new visitors are biased for new material and against old material, generally speaking. So, if you're on the home page of the blog, the dates are displayed. If you come through a permalink, or a link from another site, to an old post, the date is not displayed at the top but at the very bottom. All right? And this has dramatically improved the time on the site per visitor. And last, I want to point out this particular post, "On the Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca", it's a stoic philosophy, which I think is perfect for analytical thinkers and entrepreneurs in general, the stoic school of thought, this post, if you print it out, is 15 pages long. It's 15 pages long, and it was hugely popular. So in terms of length and all these conventions, learn to test them. I have broken every single one of them, expecting to fail, and then they do well, and I've followed all the rules, and had posts that are terribly unsuccessful. One of the things that I do, however, with a post like this, and with many longer posts, is I will put at the very top of the post, in bold, "Total Read Time: 5 Minutes." 12 minutes. 15 minutes. In this case, because it was so long, I had "Total Read Time:", and then in parentheses "Bolded Parts: 3 Minutes." So it's 15 pages if you read the whole thing. I bolded about a sentence per three or four paragraphs, so total read time, bolded parts, let's just say three to five minutes, and then the total read time: 45 minutes, an hour, whatever it was. And I'm giving people very low resistance entry points to complex or long material. So this is a very, very successful post that continues to be a very, very successful post. So you can see I have the current hits: it's number three. And it's continued to do very well. So test it all. Reading time, as a side note, I'm taking 250 words per minute as the average reading speed. Americans in general are 150 to 300 words per minute; a page is about 350 words, generally speaking. All right. So writing: how I research. You'll see here I have Twitter, and then I have something called Slinkset on the right-hand side. This would be an example of analytical research., here in the middle, allows you to create your personal Digg in about 20 seconds. And people can submit, and vote up or down, various suggestions. So yesterday, as I was finishing things up and trying to determine what to include and what not to include, because we have limited time today, I threw out a tweet you see here. "What would you like to know about how I blog? Please tell me here and vote." I threw it up, and then had all of these various submissions voted up, voted down; and so you can see, "What is your ultimate goal of blogging?" Sell more books? Nah. Side effect; not really my goal. More speaking opportunities? That would be an example of indirect income. It's nice, but I don't need it. Just enjoy writing? Sometimes, sometimes it makes me want to cry into my pillow. Other monetization strategies? Not really. Blog readers are a good experiment? Guinea pigs, yes, absolutely. So here we go. Going down the process here. Twitter—as full disclosure, I'm an investor in Twitter—I use Twitter— I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it, because we're talking about blogging— but it is, I consider, a microblogging platform. I use it for polling, I use it for quick research, and then sharing that back with my Twitter followers, if there's a consensus, and really as a personal online diary of sorts. I track the things that I come across that I would then like to go back and revisit. It's fun to look at on iCal, for example, which you can synchronize. So there you have it. And then Evernote: this is a different type of research. If I'm researching anything that I want to know more about, that I'm having problems with, I will assume there's probably at least one other person on the planet who's doing the same thing or wants to do the same thing. And I will clip the entire page to Evernote, so you press one button, and it scrapes all the text and saves it in something called Evernote, which is which is basically your external brain, for all intents and purposes. You can take photos of things and it will recognize text, as well as bring searchable. And I'll just bold those pieces, and I will at any given time bold links and certain bolded excerpts as drafts. I have have about 45 drafts right now, I would say only 5 to 10 of those will ever be— 5 to 10 percent of those will ever be published. So: writing. How I write. Some of you may recognize this guy here. Tucker Max is one of the most offensive human beings on the planet. And I mean that as a compliment to him; he would take it as a compliment. At South By Southwest in 2007 I went to a panel called "From Blog to Book". His book's a New York Times bestseller, it has been for ages, he did it entirely on his own. And I went up to him, to try to politely ask a question at the end, and he said, "Who the fuck are you?" And it had a rough start, but ended up actually having a very interesting conversation later over drinks, and he said, "I'm not a good," he said, "The important thing is not being a good writer." He's very smart—went to law school—"The important thing is not being a good writer, it is having a voice. That is why my writing is popular." Which is really communicating your personality to the written word. This took me a long time to get comfortable with. I actually threw out the first four chapters I wrote for "The Four-Hour Work Week". Because it started with sort of an academician, Princetonian (I went to Princeton), pomposity, for lack of a better word, but really pretty awful. And then I went to the opposite end and it was Three Stooges slapstick, and then finally ended up somewhere in the middle, which is my natural tone. So a few things: passion beats polling and focus groups. Mark Cuban—some of you may be familiar with, billionaire, blogger, among other things— has said, "Don't write what your readers tell you to write about, write about what you're passionate about." And what I've noticed is that whenever I poll, "Would you like me to write about this, this, this, this, or this," or, "What would you like me to write about?", generally speaking, it does very poorly. I think that people most often are quite bad at predicting what they would like. I could go into a lot of psychology, but I'll spare you. Whenever I'm really ecstatic about something, really interested in something, really sad about something, really upset about something, it always does well. It always does well. Po Bronson, who has written many different books: "What Should I Do with My Life?" He's written a number of bestsellers, a very, very good writer, and he said to me once, "When you're blocked, when you don't know what to write about, write about what makes you angry." Caveat: one thing I never do on my blog is attack other people. Ever. There's enough negativity out there. I view it as a shortcut and a very cheap way to get short-term traffic and to attract readers that you don't want. So I don't attack people, but you can write about the problem and not the person. And this is very, very effective. A few things: biorhythms: measure output. I do my best writing from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., which explains why I was stumbling around like a drunkard earlier. I was up late. That's for synthesis; I can gather notes throughout the day, but for any type of synthesis I do my best work during that period of time. Find your best writing or synthesis period. My process is: I put on, most recently, James Bond, mute it, put on music, generally, Federico Arbele, if anyone's interested in Argentine music, and I'll have a glass of wine, one (it goes downhill from there). One glass of wine, and yerba maté, which is a tea that has three times the stimulants in it. Caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. So you get a nice even-keeled experience. For important posts, edit it by hand. All right. For my most important posts, I will do a draft, whether that's in WordPress or elsewhere, print it out, and edit by hand. The goal should be to remove 20 percent—10 to 20 percent of the post every time you do a revision or edit. So for important posts, edit by hand. And then the last is ignore SEO for the first draft. (Search Engine Optimization.) When you start off in your mind with the objective of optimizing something for search, it ends up reading like something optimized for search. So you're writing a post on steak and you have steak mentioned 15 times in the first paragraph and bolded. It is awful. So write your post, and then if you want to go to, let's say, Google Keyword tool and you say, "Well, I could use 'steak house', I could use 'steak', I could use 'steak shop', I could use 'medium rare', who knows," then you can search for synonyms, sort by average monthly volume, and then you can make your choice. What I said was, you can go to Google Keyword tools, search by average monthly volume; I think it's three columns from the left; and that will generally give you an indication. It's not a comprehensive indication, but it's a good indication. Also, last but not least, one thing I do is I try to make sure—this right example's not a good example— I try to make sure that my posts can really only be described one way. So what I used to do on occasion is have two topics in one post. Bad idea. You're splitting up your anchor text. In other words, when you want people to link to you, if they link to my post on steak with how to cook steak, and everyone does that, that is generally a good thing for me. If, on the other hand, it's scattered, and there are multiple topics, you don't get the same type of impact although Matt can talk much more about this than I can. So I could be totally off, but that's my experience. Video and photos, quickly. There is no correlation to the amount of time that you will spend on a video and the results. I've spent so much time; I got a videographer, and we went to Scharffen Berger, and did a five-part series on tasting chocolate, and it did OK, it didn't do poorly. And then I shot this: this is one minute, a one-take wonder, in my kitchen with my younger brother. I was like, "Dude, help me out. Just use my digital camera and take a video." This is of me peeling hard-boiled eggs without peeling them. I'm not going to play it right now. This has almost 2-and-a-half million views. So short is good when it comes to video. Now I very rarely do standalone video posts. Generally, what I will do is have some type of bonus, value-add in the text. Why? Because nothing travels in my opinion faster than text. Text sticks around. And text gets indexed. So, I almost always have— and at the very least, this is what I talk about in this video. Because having someone come to my site is more valuable for me than someone going to YouTube and viewing the video. On the right-hand side, you see this photograph? It's a really cool photograph. Passport, all these different items; so this is another post that did quite well: "How to Be Jason Bourne: Multiple Passports, Swiss Banking, and Crossing Borders." This post received—just to give you an indication— more than 80,000 visits via StumbleUpon. 24,000; 25,000 in the first 24 hours. StumbleUpon in my opinion is arguably the cheapest source of traffic if you purchase their advertising, which I've experimented with. It works extremely well. I don't do much of that, but it provides a very slow trickle IV of high-quality traffic. So this post on the left: Digg front page, did very well. And that has a value, maybe 40,000 or 50,000 views. Or rather, unique visitors in the same period of time. And it continues to do well, but it serves a different purpose. This is more of an evergreen topic. One thing I don't do is focus on topical items much. I don't chase the news. That is a tiresome, thankess job. And it's not fun to do. It has to be fun, or your readers will not have fun. If you're not having fun, it will come across very clearly in what you write. The picture here: how did I find it? This is a trick that I'm sure some of you already use, but a lot of you probably don't. You go do Flickr, you click on Advanced Search, you go to Creative Commons-only, and then you sort by most interesting. You find awesome, awesome, awesome stuff. So comments: ah, comments. How do we deal with comments? So the living room method: You can see, I get a fair number of comments on many of my posts. This one has almost 2,000 comments. Which is a lot… for me to go through. So I do read my comments, because my point—again, with the blog—partially is to learn as much as possible, and there are some gems hiding. I have a zero tolerance policy. A very close to zero tolerance policy with any type of abuse, any type of snarkiness, I just delete those. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than getting a comment that's like, "You are the white horseman to our children, ahh!" And it's like a three-page diatribe, and I just go "ooooh, he must have spent days on that, delete!" There's enough negativity in the world; you have no obligation to put it on your blog. So I view my blog like my house. My living room. I'm inviting these people into my home. If you come to my cocktail party, and you're like, "You son of a bitch! I'm gonna—gah!" You're out of my house. And you're not invited back. That is poor etiquette. So with the comments, generally, I can scan very quickly, and I can tell if it's spam, I'm fairly good at that, it gets harder and harder, but Akismet catches almost all of it, and it's not that hard. I probably spend about 20 minutes a day on comments. And I'll save good comments in Evernote or another document, because one of my objectives with readership is to have at least 10 percent of my comments on any given post to be suitable as posts in their own right. I want that quality of post. And that is very, very, very critical to me. I try to encourage the proper behavior by having comment rules, which you can see here. This is both at the top of the comments and at the bottom. I really don't want there to be any ambiguity. So this is borrowed largely—the first part—from Brian Oberkirch: "Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That's how we're gonna be—cool. Critical is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your stuff." And then there's a bolded part here, which is a recent pet peeve of mine that has been making me nuts. "Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun, and thanks for adding to the conversation." So if it's like "Free Kiteboarding Tips," and then it's John, it's like, "Please just put John in. I know what you're trying to do." Even with the nofollow's, I understand what you're trying to do. It's annoying. I put that bolded part in just recently, about a month-and-a-half ago. I expected it to have zero impact. I was like, "You know, no one's going to read that stuff." At least 90 percent of it: gone. Amazing. It's really incredible, but it does work, you just have to make it very, very, very obvious. And that is how I manage comments. I have no qualms with blacklisting people, but I don't usually bother, because if you delete them once or twice, their enthusiasm doesn't last. All right, so playgrounds and labs: quickly. I have a number of areas, a number of sites, that I use for different types of experiments, data gathering, and so forth. So long-form: this is a reference to long-form writing, Is the, which is also That, I use for my really substantive posts. Not always; every once in a while, it's something ridiculous, like the "How to Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs without Peeling Them", and that is done largely for my own entertainment. And you know what? Every once in a while, somebody's like, "oh, I really wish you wouldn't put those posts up," Sorry, man. This has to be fun for me. If it's not fun, I don't want to do it. And if I stop doing it, that's the end of the blog. So every once in a while, just for shits and giggles, I'll throw something up that's kind of ridiculous. And I encourage you to do the same. Make it fun. So long-form is that blog. Short-form is—this is actually a new site—, which is done through Weebly, which is another interesting platform, but I have a bunch of other WordPress blogs as well: would be another one that I use for social media fundraising. In this particular case, I am taking email content and converting it into blog posts. I receive many, many interesting emails. And obviously, with permissions from the people involved, I will label those in Gmail as blog material. And I have hundreds of these. But I don't think they're suitable for the long-form. They're not quite as substantive as some of my other posts, so I've been experimenting with this short-form. In this particular case, three tips for would-be dancers, from first-class to world-class. What was the advice I sent this guy? It was a really long email. Why not take advantage of that and use it as a blog post? And then micro-form: that would be Twitter. And of course you're familiar with that. In sum: Think big, but play often. You have to take fun seriously. Blogging can be your own self-imposed hell if you let it. Most people do that. They follow rules from people who are not paying them to blog. Don't do that. And if you talk to a lot of the top bloggers, they're absolutely open to breaking all of the rules. So don't take advice from people you don't want to emulate. Listen to people who've done it, and not to say that I am one of the top bloggers, but my blog is not a source of stress for me. It is not a source of stress, and it has been a huge, hugely positive thing in my life, and I plan to continue doing it for a very long time. So take fun seriously. So if we have some time— I don't know how much time we have—but I'd love to open it up to Q&A; you can ask me about anything you'd like whatsoever: how much time to I spend on a blog post, maybe? I'll let somebody—OK. So I will let them—we'll just start here. The question was: "You have 7 reasons to subscribe; what were some of the reasons?" I haven't looked at it in so long, to be perfectly honest; I have no idea. I don't subscribe to my own blog. I don't use an RSS reader. But I honestly don't know. I find that with RSS, people unsubscribe very quickly, so again, there's a high cost involved if you put in a lot of time or effort to convert them, and that can be discouraging if you see your RSS count dropping but I find that you can take quite a long period of time off. I've taken two, three weeks away from the blog at a time and using Twitter and Facebook, if you're building that simultaneously, it's quite easy to get back on track. So I'm paying less and less attention to RSS. [question] It seems like you spend a lot of time with your blog and everything, so how can you handle to feed that in four hours a week? Yeah. That's a good question. I was going to answer this right in the beginning, and then I was like, all right, you know, let me cover the details first. So there are some very, very impressive, incredible critiques of "The Four-Hour Work Week", or of things that I actually don't recommend. Such as being idle. So for those of you who have not read the book, in the book, work is defined as something that you want to do less of. You have to fill your time somehow. Right? And the goal is to create a lifestyle you enjoy, spend time with people whose company you enjoy, and in this particular case, the blog doesn't run my life, but there are times when I will spend time on it, a good amount of time on it, and I'll enjoy it. Some posts, I would say, the shortest post will probably take me 20, 25 minutes. There are other posts, if I'm taking it seriously; I had a friend die of pancreatic cancer recently, which prompted the post on Stoicism, and I spent six hours on that. I will spend as much time on what I deem to be an important post as a guest post for The Economist. Which I did a while back, for a debate series. I view it as equally important. Absolutely. [question] What other plugins do you use on WordPress, other than the obvious ones? So this is a good question. I was going to take a screenshot, and then I couldn't figure it out. I had to scroll to make it long enough. Besides the obvious, Redirection, I think it is. Matt Mullenweg introduced me to that. For handling 404 errors and things like that. Redirection; I'm trying to think of others; If you look at the features in my sidebar, it will probably tell you. Popularity Contest, a lot of basics. Nothing too fancy. I use ShareThis, I'm not completely convinced that people spend a lot of time on it. I think it's confusing to most people. But I didn't want to list them all out. I'm trying to minimize the number of plugins. Because sometimes they don't play so well together. [question] How do you integrate Twitter? To me, it's like a firehose of information that I can never seem to get a handle on. How I manage Twitter? So I will give you an answer. I did write a post on five rules for using Twitter, how not to let it rule your life, or something like that. Twitter. I do not use a desktop app at the moment. I do think that for those people out there with more self-control than I have, might enjoy Seesmic Deskto, for example, is probably the best example, or TweetDeck. I minimize my time on Twitter. Generally speaking, I will look at my @replies. That will take just a quick scan, because of the constraints of the format, it's quite easy to scan. Quickly; I'll spend 10, 15 minutes on that every day or two. Otherwise, I don't try to follow everybody. And this has been a point of contention. So I used to follow no one. And this was taken as heresy. This was blasphemy. Burn Tim Ferriss at the stake. So I said, "Look, I follow my friends on real life, or I'll visit their Twitter pages. I don't have that many close friends." Trying to please every stranger in the world, that is a sure-fire way of being miserable. There's no one path to productivity. The sure path to failure and misery is trying to please everybody. So at first, it was like, "Tim Ferriss, the arrogant bastard. Tim Ferriss doesn't get it. Transparency; communication; conversation." Watch out for those words. They're not defined very well. And so finally, I was like, "You know what? Fine; fine; fine." Just to get these people to shut up. So I started following people. I follow like 140 people, probably 20 of which I pay close attention to, which is where something like Seesmic Desktop comes in as very useful. So what happened? Did they stop? Of course not. They said, "He's following three digits, and he has seven digits." (Not seven digits. But that would be awesome.) But the complaining doesn't stop. So just tune it out. And I use Twitter for very specific purposes. I don't—I think if you go in to Twitter as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet, you will get nothing done. Zero. Nothing. I also use, just as an side note, a Greasemonkey script that allows me to view multiple pages at the same time, and that will work for Google as well; I don't remember the details off-hand, but basically it will auto-paginate— I guess it will remove the pagination— as you scroll down. So you don't have to continue to click on More and Back. Which is very frustrating for me. Another thing that saves time, and this is very, very micro, but just open each link in a new window, because if you want to, say, direct message someone, and that takes you back up to the top of your Twitter screen, and then you have to figure out where you were, it's a pain. So those would be a few things. But really, go into it with a very specific purpose in mind. And if, however, you go into it to have fun, if you're wasting time, but you're having fun, you're not wasting time. That doesn't mean you're being productive. All right? But if you're listening to music, having drinks with friends, playing on Twitter, if you're having fun, it's not a waste of time. It doesn't mean you're being productive. You want to at least be aware that you are not being productive. [question] By having two separate blogs, aren't you splitting your readership? Do you think people go and read both of them? So right now, the shorter blog is just a small experiement. And I think that for most people, they will either only read the primary blog, which I'm fine with, or the idea of just adding one more blog to their RSS reader, so what, they already have 150, 200, 3,000; whatever it might be. So does it split my readership? There have been complaints to that effect, but there will always be complaints. Always be complaints. And the negative—the critical minority— will always be the loudest. Always, always be the loudest. So it creates the illusion of half your readership being really unhappy, and at one point I mentioned this on the blog; I thought, "Wow, you guys are really unhappy about this?" And there were just tons of responses back, like, "Hey. I never comment. But most people never comment. So chill out, do what you want to do. Most of us are perfectly happy." [question] How do you feel about having different topics in the same blog? For example, if you have a blog on hiking, is it OK to talk about dogs or cards in that blog? Yeah. OK, so multiple topics on the same blog. So you'll notice; this is a very good question. I feel like the every once in a while post out of left field is fine, just for your own entertainment, certainly. Otherwise, you want to make it clear by the branding of your site that it's fairly broad. So there's a very clear reason, a very specific reason, why my blog is not the "Four-Hour Work Week" blog. That's the URL, yes. Of the main blog, that is. But it's "The Blog of Tim Ferriss: Experiments in Lifestyle Design". OK? The "Experiments in Lifestyle Design" is fantastic, because I coined the term "lifestyle design". So I can make it whatever I want. So it is by design a bit broader. And it was specifically for that reason. I didn't want to be pigeonholed as "The Four-Hour Work Week Guy" forever. That is not my role that I want to have in life, and definitely talking about email for the rest of my life. It's not interesting. I've said what I have to say about it. So I think the every once in a while curveball, or you can broaden, you can rebrand, slightly so it's a bit broader. Travel: super-broad. So if you did hiking and travel, let's just say, hypothetically, at first glance, they appear very related, and they can be, but travel is very broad. And then people won't feel offended or confused or misled when you post on something tangentially related to travel. That's one example. [question] You seem to have done a rather lot of research on where people click on your blog. On a smaller screen like this, about half of the blog's front page is navigation and the picture. And 1/6 of it is a plug for your book. Is there a reason why you're prioritizing non-content over content? OK. No. My blog's not totally optimized. I mean, if you view it in Chrome, some people have issues with it, and on a netbook, it probably looks awful, I'm sure. But at one point, I did try to account for all these different potential scenarios, and it gets very, very time-consuming for my developers and designers, let's just say if I get a few complaints, this is what I used to do, on a beta version of a specific upgrade to a browser, and they go and try to fix it, and the non-beta versions never come out, of course. But it just ended up creating a lot of problems. So is there a reason I'm—I don't know, I don't consciously prioritize non-content over content. Most of my blog traffic comes from direct traffic to a specific post. Which doesn't eliminate the header, but I've had—with my other two blogs, there was less of that effect, it's hasn't seemed to impact it negatively. And the fact of the matter is, I mean, I use blogs as a tool for branding. So if they come there, they're like "Oh, cool post," and they have no idea who wrote it, and they have no idea perhaps of the associated projects. Is it valuable? On some level. But it hasn't hurt me. But it's not an active decision to prioritize non-content. [question] So as a social experiment, I tried some of the techniques from your book at my last job, and it worked out great. To follow suit, how can I "Tim Ferriss" my love life? And yes, I just used your name as a verb. I'm sorry; how can you "Tim Ferriss" your love life? What was the second part? Yes, I used your name as a verb. OK. Damn, that means I can't trademark my name if that happens. I've turned into the Kleenex of love life automation. How can you "Tim Ferriss" your love life? Well, for those of you who are not aware, I'll share a very brief story. So when the book was about to launch, there were a few things I did. I planned a number of stunts of sorts, and I also withheld a number of blog posts, for two years. All right? So there was a post called "Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 Pounds of Muscle in 30 Days", or something like that. Which went everywhere, and one of the critiques was well, "If this happened two years ago, what took you so long?" I was like well, "What was the benefit to me of throwing it up two years ago?" Now I've got a book launch, and it makes perfect sense. Now I'm on Wired. So that's why. But one of the other things I did was I was like, "Man, how can I get into at least the local paper?" I had no resources related to media and PR guys. None. I was—it was very, very guerilla in the beginning stages. So I was like, "How can I get into the San Jose Mercury News, or the San Francisco Chronicle, so that then sites like FARK could potentially pick something up." And probably the highest-traffic site that most people have perhaps not heard of here: a really, really great site. "How can I get on FARK," or whatever. Digg. That was another reason I did the "Geek to Freak" thing. And I figured out that if I took the outsourcing and outsourced my love life for a period of time, that could be interesting. So what I did was I was living in San Jose, nicknamed Man Jose, for good reasons, at the time, and what I did is I went to Elance, and I posted a project which was setting dates for me, coffee dates, in an online calendar. And recruited about half a dozen teams from around the world: India, the Philippines, there was a team of Americans in Jamaica working for like 4 dollars an hour, which I thought was very unusual, Ukrainians, what have you. And they all had the spec sheet. It was very professionally done. And I had, this is tremendously offensive to some people, please try to have a sense of humor, and then I had links to like, this girl I find attractive, this girl, no, not so much. And it was very specific. These are good interests, like, you know, tattoos and heroin, not really my thing, maybe. And really made it detailed. As if I was sending out a project, a request for proposal. And I signed up all these teams, and they competed, so there were performance bonuses. For the number of dates they could set up for me, initially, it was going to be all over the map. Like, "I'm available on Thursday from this date to this date. This time to this time. Monday from this time to this time." I was like, "Man, that's going to be a nightmare. For 20 minute coffee dates? That's going to be a disaster." I'm really interruptive, so I was like, "Well, why don't I try to batch my dates like I batch my email?" So I had all of the dates set for one weekend. And not only that, but I was like, "How far can I push this?" Obviously, I'm not recommending that everybody do this. But I was like, "How far can I really push this? OK; let's say I'm particularly uninspired to put forth a lot of effort. Let me have all the dates—all the coffee dates— at three coffee shops on my downtown street, which was 5 minutes' walking distance. It was like, 20, 20, 20. 20, 20, 20. 20, 20, 20. And they ended up booking more than 20 coffee dates in 2 days. And it was confusing. It was really confusing. And then there were some—there were some glitches, there were some bugs. One of the, so for example, I gave them a discretionary budget of something like 50 dollars each, to, what did I say, be creative— this is terrible wording— I was like, be creative, if there's another site or profile that I'm not currently using. Because I delegated a profile to each person. Or each team, rather. So I was like, "All right. Match goes to this team, this goes to this team, Yahoo! Personals, let's say, and then Plenty of Fish, whatever," and then some teams would get two, because I was like, "All right. You have to take the weighted average," like Match is a huge advantage, so I'll give them two or three profiles, and I gave them this discretionary budget, and they had rules of things they couldn't do. But the Filipino team really ignored this. And what I found funny was first they said they were Canadian, and they were using French names and stuff, and they were like "Sorry we got to you a little late; the bridge in Manila was down." I was like, "What?" Warning sign number one. And then warning sign number two was they forgot to put a date in the calendar, and this poor girl shows up, and I had my headset on. There was nothing scheduled. And I was just listening to music. And she's like, "Hey, Tim." And she started throwing out all these inside jokes, and I was like, "Ahhhh, yeah..." And the team had been impersonating me. They hadn't—their instructions were very clear; they were supposed to be like, "Dear Beth, this is like Fincatish Neracul writing on behalf of Mr. Timothy Ferriss, and whatever." So part of the litmus test was like, do these girls have a sense of humor? You have to. When you get something like that. But what they had done is had these elaborate—they'd done all this research, I mean— done these elaborate IM conversations, and all these inside jokes, and she's like, "You've forgotten all about our, you know, conversation about this," and I'm like, "Ahhhh..." That was the only real glitch. But I ended up with, at the time, a long-term girlfriend out of it. And that is something I've not been able to do, as depressing as it is to admit, in like 6 months of going out to bars and clubs and parties and so forth. So can it work? Yeah. If you wanted to "Tim Ferriss" your love life, caveat emptor. Watch the French Filipinos. But that would be one approach. [question] Who do you use for web hosting on your long-form blog? I actually use MediaTemple. On my long-form blog, I use MediaTemple. I'm on a Nitro, so I'm on a dedicated box. And I've been extremely impressed with the response time on any issues. That's who I use. All right, guys. Well, I think my time is up. Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.

Video Details

Duration: 50 minutes and 52 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
Producer: Dave Curlee
Views: 1,126
Posted by: wordpresstv on Aug 10, 2009

Bestselling author Timothy Ferriss delivers his presentation on effective blogging at WordCamp San Francisco 2009

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