Five Lazy Words To Cut From Your Marketing Copy

Take what you need sign taped to a telephone pole

Many marketers suck their readers into the bog of humdrum with over-used words and industry jargon, hoping no one will notice they’re just coasting on properly spelled words and grammatical sentences. It’s a sign of writing laziness to trot out the same old phrases and buzzwords, using them just one more time, in the hopes of getting out of yet another copywriting jam.

These words aren’t even buzzwords anymore. They’ve had the buzz driven right out of them. They’re words that every good copywriter must stop using if they want to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Needs

Take what you need sign taped to a telephone poleNeeds is the marketing equivalent of “stuff.” It’s so overused, government agencies are going to start using it. That’s nearly as bad as when your mom joined Facebook.

  • Check Teacher’s Pet for all your back to school needs.
  • Steve’s Auto Parts has all your automotive repair needs.
  • Visit Cackling Larry’s for all your old-timey gold prospecting needs!

This is the cardinal sin of copywriting. Never, ever say “needs” in your marketing copy. If you have to, torpedo the entire paragraph and rewrite it. If you can’t think of another word, switch careers.

Solutions

“Solutions” fill “needs.”

Need I say more?

Storytelling

“Storytelling” took off soon after the phrase “content marketing” did. And as the content marketing industry has become populated by the creative writing set, the word has become overused, even if the method has not.

I won’t go into the problem of blog posts written by “storytellers” that look less like stories and more like school papers or technical manuals, except to say this: if you call yourself a storyteller, tell stories. That’s different from Articlewriting, Blogposting, and Instructionexplaining.

Content marketers, stop saying you’re doing storytelling. Not everything is a story. You’re a writer, so write things. That’s a timeless, all-encompassing word that’s not in danger of becoming trendy overused jargon.

You’re not a storyteller unless you go to festivals wearing a black turtleneck and tell stories in that funny poetry-reading voice.

Rich

Content-rich, visually-rich, keyword-rich. It used to be an effective word, but it’s been so overused, it’s eye-rolling-rich. We say it when we should just say “full of” or “better.” But I’m even starting to see it to mean “meets the barest definition of.” As in “this book is word-rich.”

Why not say heavy, appealing, replete, full, packed, stocked, gorged, or my personal favorite, chockablock.

If I can get anyone to use the phrase “keyword-chockablock,” I will have lived a complete life.

King

Prince Willem-Alexander at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

That’s then-Prince Willem-Alexander at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, going for the gold.

Content is king. SEO is king. Social media is king.

The phrase “_____ is king” is as ubiquitous as those damn Keep Calm and blah blah something clever blah t-shirts. Someone’s going to say it, then thousands of people are going to repeat it, to be followed by many more thousands going, “nuh-uh, the thing I said was king is still king.”

Nothing is really king. It’s important, it’s crucial, it’s essential, it’s even critical. But it’s not “king.” The only King is Elvis. Also, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

And please, for the love of God, do not replace “is king” with mission-critical.

The world is filled — FILLED! — with overused jargony phrases that make me want to tear an Oxford English Dictionary in two. But these are the five I think we should do away with immediately. If we can start here, we can improve content marketing for everyone, making the world a bright and happy place.

(While we’re on the subject, I’m not real wild about “content” either.)

Photo credit: Itzok Alf Kurnik (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Louisville Digital Association’s 6th Annual Digital Media Summit Schedule

2014 Louisville Digital Media Summit

I’m very proud to be one of the speakers at the 6th annual Digital Media Summit in Louisville on October 16. it’s a single day event held in Frazier Hall at Bellarmine University, and it’s sponsored by the fine fols at Brown-Forman and Bellarmine University’s School of Communication. You can get tickets here.

With the tagline, Improve your business and marketing through technology, several of us will be talking about how to do social media marketing better, including my two co-authors, Jason Falls and Kyle Lacy.

2014 Louisville Digital Media Summit

Tentative Agenda for Louisville Digital Media Summit

8 – 8:30 a.m. Networking, Breakfast, Setup

8:30 a.m. Introductions Jason Falls

8:40 a.m. Opening Keynote A Decade of Chasing What’s Next
Rick Murray, former president of Edelman Digital

9:30 a.m. 10 Professional Writing Secrets
Erik Deckers, Pro Blog Service

10:10 a.m. Break

10:20 a.m. The Mobile Commerce Revolution
Tim Hayden & Tom Webster, Edison Research

11:10 a.m. Paid Advertising In Facebook, How PPC Ninja’s Really Work Founder
Jason Brown, SERPWoo

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. Bellarmine School of Communication
Dr. Lara Needham, Bellarmine University

1:20 p.m. 5 Technology Trends Disrupting Behavior
Kyle Lacy, Exact Target Marketing Cloud

2:10 p.m. Communicating at the right time, right channel and right situation in a crisis
Dr. Karen Freberg, University of Louisville

3:00 p.m. Break

3:10 p.m. Your Brand, Your Brain
Julia Roy, CoFounder, Workhacks

4:00 p.m. What Didn’t We Learn? Speaker Panel
Jason Falls, Moderator

4:30 p.m. Closing

You can register for the event here. By the way, if you’re interested in going, I’ve got a special discount code you can use. Just email me — erik at problogservice dot com — and I’ll give it to you.

What “Write Drunk, Edit Sober” Means

Ernest Hemingway

I have to correct a long-running bit of misinformation I’ve passed on for the last several years:

Ernest Hemingway did NOT say “write drunk, edit sober.”

This is something I’ve said in my talks on writing, and it’s one of my most popular tweets of the day. My Klout score will jump two points after a good “write drunk, edit sober” slide.

Except, it does not appear that Ernest actually said it.

Peter De Vries

Peter De Vries

It may have been said by noted American novelist Peter De Vries, the author of The Blood Of The Lamb and Reuben, Reuben — which, as it turns out, is not about a fat guy at a deli.

Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.

Writing coach Jeff Goins recently wrote that he had some issues with the phrase, which I disagree with. Goins didn’t like it because 1) it propagates the myth of creativity as a whimsical activity, something that isn’t taken seriously, and 2) it encourages and possibly even glamorizes substance abuse.

Regardless of who said it, I still hold with the advice, but with a couple of caveats.

One thing to understand about “write drunk, edit sober”

While Ernest may have been quite the boozer, the one thing he never did was write while he had been drinking. In fact, he never started drinking until the afternoon. Regardless of his schedule, he was usually at his typewriter by 6 or 7 am, and would work straight until lunchtime, often standing up. He wouldn’t let anything interfere with his writing, including a hangover.

As he told George Plimpton in the Paris Review:

Ernest Hemingway

When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.

After lunch, he would write letters, edit some past work, and then hit the sauce around 3:00. He may have ended up drinking all night, but he was right back at the typewriter the next morning.

The other thing. . .

I don’t actually believe the phrase “write drunk” encourages substance abuse any more than “eat fresh” will make me a vegetarian.

Rather than ranting about trigger warnings (which I absolutely hate), I’ll say this instead.

When I mention this in my talks, I always point out that “write drunk” only refers to a state of mind, not an actual altered conscious. Alcohol is a depressant. It depresses our inhibitions, which makes us act silly, do inappropriate things, and say and do things we might not otherwise do.

We all have (or know someone who has) made bad life choices while drunk. If we can’t even make good choices about things that have a long-standing impact on our lives, how can we expect to make good word choices?

So, don’t drink and write.

Instead, writing drunk means to imagine the kinds of things you would say if you’d knocked back a few to depress your inhibitions. What words would you use? What ideas would you express? Would you speak more poetically? Use more dramatic and lofty language?

Instead of “speaking loudly,” would you “shout your barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world?”

Similarly, “edit sober” means to copyedit with a critical eye. It doesn’t mean to eliminate and undo all the great work you did while “drunk;” it means clean up your work, remove errors, and fix typos.

It means that you need to nudge your no-fun inner editor and put him or her to work. She doesn’t have permission to tone down your work, just make sure everything is spelled right.

You don’t have to be a tortured soul prone to fits of rampant alcoholism and multiple marriages to be a successful novelist. You have to sit down and do the work. You need to stretch yourself, say things you normally wouldn’t say, and go a little nuts.

Don’t undo the good work you’ve put down. Just make sure it’s error-free, and send it out into the world.

Instead, drink in moderation, and write to excess. It’s cheaper, easier, and you don’t feel like hell in the morning.

There SHOULD be a High Barrier to Entry in Content Marketing

Lightning

The downside of content shock, says Mark Schaefer, is that there will be a high barrier to entry for companies and people who want to start content marketing.

He says that like it’s a bad thing.

There needs to be a high barrier to entry, at least for those who want to be successful.

LightningThe problem is, says Schaefer, the Internet will grow 600% in the next six years. In other words, as big as the Internet is now, there will be six more Internets of content by 2020.

Yet we consumers only read, watch, and hear 10 hours a day of it, and that number won’t increase. We can’t even keep up with the current Internet now, and it’s going to grow by “one Internet” every year. There’s already too much, and it’s hard to find the really good stuff as it is.

That means we’re either going to accept more crap as “good enough,” or we’re going to hold out and trust that the best work will rise to the top, via recommendations and sharing.

The “Myth” of Rising Content

Schaefer calls this the “myth of rising content.” He says that “amazing content” — well-written, well-produced content — is the price of admission, the bare minimum to get in.

It’s a myth I prefer to believe in. If amazing content were only the price of admission, then we wouldn’t have a shock. We would have so many people just struggling to get into the game at all. But as it stands, we have so much mediocrity that, if you were to put some effort into it, could create some outstanding work that would catch people’s attention. And if you really focused, you could create some stellar work that would make people talk about you for months.

It’s like the book publishing world 30+ years ago, before the Internet was even a thing. You had to be awesome just to have a book published. Now, anyone with a laptop and wifi can publish an e-book, and the marketplace has become crowded again.

Forty years ago, when there were only a few TV stations, you had to have a great TV show to get on the air. Now, thanks to cable TV, there’s way more than “13 channels of shit to choose from.” But there are a few shows that everyone is watching — Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, House of Cards — because it’s “amazing content.” Everything else isn’t amazing, it’s just “good enough,” so these shows stand out because of their amazing-ness.

This means the only two ways to be successful are to either produce more content than anyone else, or do it better than everyone else. Since most of us can’t produce hundreds and thousands of blog posts, photos, and videos per week, we’re just going to have to be better.

That’s the high barrier. To be better than nearly everyone else out there. To write better articles, shoot better photos, and produce better videos and podcasts. The high barrier isn’t a lot of money, it’s a lot of skill. You need professional writers, professional videographers, and professional photographers.

You can’t just hire a bunch of new college grads, stick a camera in their hand or plunk them in front of a computer, and expect them to create great work. Sure, they’ll do good work, especially if you hire a creative writing major, a photojournalist, or video producer (which I highly recommend).

But that’s the go-to strategy that’s creating this mess: get the new kid to do it.

It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, kid, it just has to get done.

That’s the attitude that will get your work mired in the 600%. It’ll be buried under the thousands of blog posts, millions of photos, and decades of videos. This is where the high barrier will help. It will save people from being overwhelmed, and keep them interested in your work, whether you’re a media company, manufacturer, service provider, or artist.

You need producers who have the skill and experience to make their work stand out from the rest of the crowd. You want professional writers, photographers, videographers, and audio producers. Not everyone who can string two sentences together is a writer, and not everyone with a $300 camera is a photographer or videographer.

In my professional work, I see so much crap written by someone who thought their first draft was “good enough for who it’s for,” and they rushed to get it out in the 30 minutes between meetings. So I’ve stopped reading “good enough” blog posts, stories, and articles. This means I’ve stopped reading newspapers that fire their best writers and columnists, and replace them with rookie writers doing nothing but restaurant reviews. This means I don’t watch most TV shows, I look for the hidden gems on cable, Netflix, and YouTube. This means I don’t listen to commercial radio, I listen to two or three eclectic favorites via iTunes, or a few podcasts.

I look for people who treat their work like a craft and not a commodity. That’s where I get my 10 hours a day of content, and sometimes not even that much. I think the backlash against this new diarrheic Internet is going to be that people are going to read, watch, and listen to less. We’re going to be more selective, and that means people are just going to have to work harder.

This also means we as business owners and marketers need to change our focus about how we generate our content. We need to avoid the trap of “more more more,” and focus on being better.

We should hire writers who are mortified by a single misspelling in an article. We need to hire writers who take a few hours to write a single piece because they’re forging, honing, and sharpening their work, and still aren’t satisfied when it’s done. We need to work with photographers whose biggest investment isn’t a zoom lens attachment for their iPhone.

We need to make sure our work is some of the best available. And you’re just not going to do that if you focus on being good enough.

#Ferguson Shows Why Citizen Journalism Is Still Critical

If you’ve been keeping up with the news from Ferguson, Missouri, chances are a lot of the updates and photos are coming from individuals who aren’t journalists, posting live video feeds from their cell phones. When members of the traditional media were being arrested by the police, and the cable news stations were all kicked out or, in the case of Al Jazeera Television, fired at with gas grenades, it was often the alternative news sources and citizen journalists who fed us new information and updates.

I spent most of last Friday night, as well as last night (Monday), following what was happening in Ferguson through a variety of Twitter users, including Vice News, Alice Speri, Ryan Reilly, and Adam Serwer, as well as alderman Antonio French (who was arrested Friday night), his wife @Senka, and several LiveStream, Ustream, and Vine users. That’s not to say the mainstream media wasn’t there — they were. But on that first night, most of the video footage and images they replayed over and over on CNN were coming from people uploading them from their phones to Twitter and Instagram.

 

I won’t rehash what’s been happening this week — the militarized police response, the protests, the tear gas and the flash grenades. The fact that you know about it at all is thanks to the mainstream media, the alternative and non-traditional media (Huffington Post, Vice News, Freedom of the Press), and citizen journalists. (Update: The police kicked nearly all the media out of the area at 12:00 am CDT, often pointing guns, firing tear gas, and threatening to arrest them. One journalist, Tim Pool, allegedly had his press badge ripped off his chest and told by a police officer, he “didn’t give a shit.”)

Citizen journalists can range from anyone with a Twitter account and a cell phone to an independent news organization as complex as a large blog or an online news website, like The American Reporter (disclosure: I’ve been the humor columnist for the American Reporter since 1997). And anyone with that basic technology can record and disseminate news on a micro scale, or have your content seen around the world by tens of thousands of people.

While the term citizen journalists is often spoken with air quotes around that second word, especially by professional journos, they still play an important role in getting out early information. Ever since George Holliday recorded the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles 20 years ago with a Sony Handycam, private citizens have become citizen watchdogs against the police, the government, and in some cases, even the media themselves.

In many cases, they’ve been doing it without protection, at their own risk, and without the benefit of a publication’s legal team to back them up. They’re the people who find themselves at the center of the action and rather than run away, they pull out their cell phones, hit the button, and stand around a little longer than is safe or wise.

This means anyone can upload videos of things they think are wrong, or want to record for posterity and history.

Of course this means we also have to become critical thinkers and viewers, making sure that what we’re seeing is real, and not a hoax. That we’re re-sharing news from people we trust, and not just blindly retweeting everything with the trending hashtag of the day.

We Also Need to Trust Our Technology

But while we were watching Ferguson news on Twitter, it turns out Facebook’s algorithm didn’t even allow #Ferguson news to show up in our news feeds at all. On that Friday night, if you weren’t looking at Twitter, you didn’t even know anything was going on. (And if you rely on Twitter’s U.S. trending reports to see what’s happening, you were told that #ThatsSoRaven was infinitely more important than #Ferguson, as the tweens’ show trended that night, while the civil unrest in our own country was supposedly not even happening. The hashtag trended in individual cities like Indianapolis and Nashville, but not the country as a whole.)

Medium writer Zeynep Tufecki argues that this shows why not only is net neutrality important — what if Facebook and Twitter didn’t want us to know about Ferguson? They didn’t mess with the algorithm, but what if they had decided to play that card? — but even the technology used by both real and citizen journalists could be affected. California is considering legislation that will require “kill switches” in cell phones. While the technology is there to discourage violent cell phone theft, who’s to say an overeager militarized police department won’t force a wireless company to throw that same switch when they’re about to come down on a crowd of protestors?

Citizen journalism isn’t going away, despite the gnashing of teething and rending of garments by the professional journalists who look down on the amateurs with only slightly less scorn than a militarized police force. It’s here to stay, and as we’ve seen in Ferguson, it sometimes may be the only source of information we have for a while.

Five Ways for Creative Writers to Make Money (And Two That Don’t Work)

No Bullshit Social Media in New Release Shelf

I had a great discussion with a new friend, @SarahSuksiri, about creative writing, poetry — I learned a lot about poetry and poets from her — and how writers try to make money while pretending they don’t associate themselves with filthy lucre.

This attitude is especially prevalent with poets, who think they should only do poetry for their art. If this is your attitude, repeat after me:

Hello, welcome to Starbucks

For those writers who want to earn a living from your creative writing degree or MFA, here are five ways to actually make some money from writing that does not involve freelancing. Or you can at least show your parents that your 4 – 7 years of higher education were not a complete exercise in navel gazing.

1. Sell ebooks

Jim Kukral is the master of promoting self-published books. He’s made his name helping new authors and. . . let’s say, “niche” authors find an audience and sell their books. Even the unusual ones. (Books, not authors. Well, authors too.)

The numbers in self-publishing make sense. Without going too much into the entire “traditional publishing versus self-publishing debate,” let me tell you what Kukral and others say about the economics: If you sell a traditionally-published book for $20, you’ll make $1 – $1.40 per book in royalties, after you pay back your advance. If you sell a self-published e-book for $2.99, you’ll make $2. Sell it for $9.99, and you’ll make $7.

Now, you may sell more books in bookstores with a traditional publisher (plus it’s awesome to have your book on a bookstore shelf), but you have to sell 5 – 7 trad-pub books to make $7, versus selling one $10 ebook. Sell 1,000 books, and you get either $1,400 or $7,000. If all you sold is 1,000 books, you won’t get that $1,400 from your publisher; that’s all payback for your advance. But that $7,000 is yours off the bat. (Warning: this takes a lot of social media marketing and promotion.)

2. Become a speaker

Erik Deckers speaking in public

Doing this taught me to be a better writer.

Professional speakers command a fee. If you’re a nonfiction B2B writer like me, you have a system or knowledge that you can parlay into a one to six hour teaching session, and people will pay for that (see #5 below). If you write about important social issues, whether fiction or nonfiction, you may be able to get a gig as a keynote speaker. Keynotes make anywhere from $500 to $3,000, and even more. (Of course, you need to almost be a professional keynote speaker and that takes a few years. You’ll know when you’re ready for that.)

Build up your stage legs by giving readings, teaching small classes, and doing small talks around town for free. Join Toastmasters if you’re not comfortable with speaking. Promote yourself with a blog and become active on social media.

3. Give readings or host organized events

Slam poets earn money through their readings (Slammings? Happenings?), because they treat their work like a musician or a theatre troupe. They sell tickets or have a cover charge, and they sell books in the back of the room. Depending on the size of your audience and your rates, you could make a couple hundred dollars in a single night. Not enough to pay the rent, but you’re certainly earning more in one night than working three shifts at High-Priced Boots And Pants in the mall.

Promote the bejeezus out of these events, and get a big crowd. If you don’t like marketing, you’d better learn to real quick. You want a big crowd that’s interested in what you have to say. Even if you want to be a purist who never accepts money for their work (do your events for free then), you still want a big crowd of people who clap for you (or snap. Do they still snap at poetry slams?), and run up to you afterward, gushing and stumbling over their words. Promote these events with social media and old school marketing techniques to draw that crowd.

4. Combine your work with another passion and travel

Writer Chris Guillebeau, who wrote The Art of Nonconformity, has the kind of job that lets him work anywhere. So he does it while he travels to different parts of the globe in an attempt to visit every single country around the world.

As a writer, you have the flexibility to work anywhere you want, and on any kind of project you want. In some cases, you can even work in strange new locales, like the African Bush, the Canadian wilderness, or Iowa. If you can leverage your writing skills into a real money-earner, like a freelance copywriter, go where the work is, or just work from your favorite coffee shop. If you can get a nonprofit to hire you for six months, rent a short-term apartment in that city, and go to work.

5. Teach classes and seminars

Writing coach Jeff Goins is making his name not only as a writer, but as a writing coach. He’s built his reputation and living by offering several online webinars and ongoing classes per year, as well as selling educational materials to budding writers. One of his multi-week classes can cost a few hundred dollars per student. Similarly, I’ve begun teaching classes for the Indiana Writers Center, and I was happily surprised when I was handed a check at the end of the first class. I had forgotten all about it.

So what if you charged $200 for a 4 week online class and got 15 students to sign up? That’s $3,000 a month. It’s not downtown-penthouse money, but for a young writer who has a roommate or spouse-with-a-job, it’s a significant contribution to the household income. And what if you could repeat that model every month, or even run it twice a month on different days, but only did it a few times a year?

Further, if you have an MFA, you’re qualified to teach writing and English at a local college or university. (Actually, if you have a master’s degree in anything, you’re qualified to teach undergraduates in that field.) It’s not great pay — I get anywhere from $700 – $1,000 a month for a single public speaking class. And you certainly don’t want to build a career on being an adjunct. But if you’re looking for beer money, or a little something to boost your income, this is a great way to use your degree and your passion.

And now for the two don’ts: I’ve seen other people try this, and it’s rough. A lot of people have started down one of these two paths only to realize the numbers don’t work, and they’re out all that time and expense.

1. Start a website or journal that relies on banner advertising

Ad sales are a hard, scary way to make money. Even big city newspapers aren’t making a ton of money from them. Advertisers only want to pay per thousand displayed ads (some even only want to pay per click). These advertisers will only pay between $10 – $20 per thousand visitors, which works out to $.01 – $.02 per view).

So if you want to earn $50 for a single article, you have to generate between 2,500 – 5,000 visitors to that one page page. But if the advertiser is paying by the click, you may get $.20 per click, but if you want $50, you need 250 clicks. And if the click-through rate on an ad is 1% (which is actually kind of high), you need 25,000 visitors to see that ad. If you could bring in 25,000 visitors a month to your website, you need to sell ebooks, not display ads.

2. Traditional publishing

(Otherwise known as “my editor is going to hate me now!”)

While everyone wants to have that big blockbuster that makes them more money than J.K. Rowling and John Grisham combined, seriously, what are the odds of that happening? I’ve written three books and ghostwritten half of another. If I tried to live on the royalties of those books, I’d have a very fancy cardboard box under a bridge.

No Bullshit Social Media in New Release Shelf

When I saw this photo, it was one of the proudest days of my life. My mom, not so much.

Even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, you need to sell hundreds of thousands of books in order to get rich; several tens of thousand per year to earn a salary. Let’s say you get $1.20 in royalties for every published book you sell. If you want to earn $48,000 a year in royalties, you need to sell 40,000 books every single year.

Don’t get me wrong. Traditional publishing is great. I owe Que Biz-Tech and Pearson Publishing a lot. So much of what I’ve been able to do has happened because they took a chance on me. I love knowing that my books have been printed, occupy a physical space in the world, and I got a thrill knowing that No Bullshit Social Media was seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of impressionable children walking into a Barnes & Noble. I encourage many writers to try to get their books published by a real publishing house before they take up the self-publishing baton.

But — and this is the point I want to stress — traditional publishing is not how you’re going to make a long-term living. The numbers just aren’t there anymore. Not at $1.40 royalties per book. You’re going to push, promote, and shout about your book to as many people as you can, whether you self-publish, or you go the traditional route. Either method involves the same amount of work. The only difference is there’s a bigger payoff in the self-pub route than in trad-pub. (On the other hand, you’ll never see a self-published book in a Barnes & Noble.)

Having said that, having a traditionally published book is an excellent way to build your reputation, which makes numbers 2 – 5 that much easier to accomplish.

Now that I’ve crapped on your dreams or given you a great idea, what are some other ideas you have for writers who want to make money? If you’re making money from your writing, what are you doing that earns a steady (or at least significant) income? Leave a note in the comments.

How to Spot (and Block) Twitter Follow Spammers

May 21, 5 days later - Following 7,965 people. Almost 1,000 people in 5 days.

Twitter is becoming a cesspool of uselessness, churning with marketers who think it’s free advertising, and people who post motivational quotes that couldn’t persuade someone with OCD to wash his hands. And I won’t even mention the people who promise to get you 5,000 “followers” for $29. (They’re the “floaters.”)

Now we’re being hit with wave after wave of Follower Junkies who artificially inflate their numbers without providing anything of value.

Follower Junkies will yo-yo follow people to boost their follower count into the tens of thousands, bumping up against Twitter’s policy of only allowing users to follow 1,000 people per day, but never going over the line. So they stay under Twitter’s radar and continue to spread their infestation.

Beating the Twitter Follower Limit

When someone new joins Twitter, they’re only allowed to follow 2,000 people. This is the Twitter Follower Limit. You can’t follow more than 2,000 people until a certain number of people are following you back. (You also can’t follow more than 1,000 people in a single day). Once you reach a magical unspecified ratio, you can follow more people. (Some people speculate that the ratio is roughly 10% more than your follower count. Once you get 2,000 followers, you can follow 2,200 people. 2,200 followers, you can follow 2,420 people. This is speculation, but that’s the principle behind the magical ratio.)

So a yo-yo follower will follow 2,000 people, wait for them to follow back, unfollow them, and then follow a new batch of people. The more followers they get, the more people they can yo-yo follow, and on and on and on, until they’ve got more followers than God, but their tweets are about as complex and substantial as a high school prom.

Suspicious Twitter follower count

Fewer than 800 tweets but almost 4,000 followers? I don’t think so. Also, check the followING count — if you’re not a celebrity, it shouldn’t be that unbalanced. This is someone in the midst of a yo-yo drop.

How to Spot a Twitter Follow Spammer

You can spot a yo-yo follower because they have fewer than 3,000 tweets, but 10,000 or more followers. Or they are following a mere fraction of their followers, but they’re not celebrities. Their following numbers look like the Matterhorn.

Here’s an example: Spammer #1 is following 76,800+ people, and has 88,700+ followers. Are they interesting? Most of their Twitter stream seems to be a steady drip of one-way communication, with the #leadership hashtag on Every. Single. Tweet. (No, I’m not exaggerating.)

To check the Twitter shenanigans, I used TwitterCounter.com’s graphing capability. You can examine as much as 3 months’ worth of data with a free account. This is from April 4 through June 18.

May 27, 2014 - Following 88,162 people

May 27, 2014 – Following 88,162 people

 

May 29, just 2 days later. Following 69,563 people. A 12,463 count difference.

May 29, just 2 days later. Following 69,563 people. A 12,463 count difference.

This is someone who is — technically — following Twitter’s rules. The slow climb after May 29 is still within the “you can’t follow more than 1,000 people in a single day” rule, but they dumped nearly 12,500 people on May 27 and 28 so they could slime their numbers up some more.

This wouldn’t be so bad — hell, I just dropped 4,000 followers over several days by clearing out people who hadn’t tweeted in 30 days or more — except this person is on a yo-yo upswing, which is why their follower count keeps rising.

Here’s another example: Spammer #2 is following 7,986 people and has 12,800+ followers, but has only written 3,852 tweets. They’re all one liners that first-time comedians would be embarrassed to use, with absolutely no interactions or retweets. Just constant one liners. I’ve had better conversations with my television.

May 16, 2014 - Following 6,996 people.

May 16, 2014 – Following 6,996 people.

 

May 21, 5 days later - Following 7,965 people. Almost 1,000 people in 5 days.

May 21, 5 days later – Following 7,965 people. Almost 1,000 people in 5 days.

Again, this stayed within Twitter’s rule of “following no more than 1,000 people per day,” but you can see the effect it had on this person’s follower numbers. As they followed more people, their follower numbers rocketed too.

What about their output? How much are they tweeting? Spammer #2 is averaging 3 or 4 tweets a day, but peaked out at a big ol’ 5 for two days in the middle of May; Spammer #1 has “written” 57,700+ tweets, averaging 47 tweets per day of #AutomatedLeadershipQuote after #AutomatedLeadershipQuote.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what they’re tweeting. I won’t even speak to whether their tweets are interesting or not (They’re not. So much Not Interesting in one place. I haven’t seen this much Not Interesting since high school algebra.) What matters is that while they’re following the letter of Twitter’s rule, they’re doing everything they can to work around it and look like they’re important and/or interesting.

Except they’re not. They’re frauds. They didn’t earn those numbers, they cheated. You can’t buy value, you can’t buy your reputation. But you can apparently click your way to a false sense of accomplishment.

The Solution? Drop the Spam Hammer

I vet every single person who follows me before I follow them back. I check out their Twitter profile, and if necessary, look at their Twitter feed. If someone has a too-high-to-be-real follower count, especially if their tweets number in the very low 4 figures (or fewer), I spam-block them. If they have a high follower count, but their tweets are inane, nothing but retweets, or a one-sided conversation with no responses to anyone, I spam-block them.

I do it without hesitation, without remorse, and without pity. And I giggle with schadenfreudic delight every time I do it. I even unblocked one guy just so I could hit the Report For Spam button again.

Twitter is not going to get any better. It’s going to become the AOL of short form communication one of these days. Already, networks like App.net are coming online, ready to fill in the gap after Rome Twitter collapses. But we can extend its lifespan and its usefulness by getting rid of these Follower Junkies who are cluttering up the network for the real users who want to actually benefit from it.

The Sure-Fire Writing Process for New Writers

Novelists may have the luxury of writing and rewriting their work, but business writers and bloggers don’t. We need to get stuff out, and get it out fairly fast. But the danger is if we put something out before it’s ready, we’ll get hammered by our audience and our bosses. So the natural reaction is to withdraw and not put anything out until it’s good and ready.

My friend, Bryan Furuness, rewrote his first novel, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson (affiliate link) seventeen times.

I rewrote this once.

Search engine friendly content factory notebook and macbookIf you’re a blogger or content marketer, you don’t have the luxury of time and, well, more time. You have to get your work out fast. But it can’t be so fast that you put out schlock. There’s a looming content shock, and anything that you put out that sucks will only contribute to the problem. So follow these steps, and your writing can stand above the massive glut of content that continually spews out of the laptops of the “quantity, not quality” content marketers.

Write Shitty First Drafts

Novelist Anne Lamott gives us permission to write shitty first drafts. They don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be nearly awesome. In fact, they should be awful. Just get your ideas out of your head and down on paper.

For a blog, keep the topic limited to a single idea. One idea, one post, one day. If you try to get more than one idea, your articles will be convoluted and hard to understand.

Shoot for no more than 400 words, but 300 is better. There are all kinds of arguments for and against 500 words, 750, or even 1,000 words. I like 300 – 400 because you can get the most important points of an idea down, and then explore them more in-depth later. (Clearly, that’s not going to happen with this piece, but I do that with my client work.)

Plus, the average mobile phone can display 100 words on the screen, and the average reader will swipe two more times to read something, which equals 300 words.

Rewrite Your Second Draft

After you finish your first draft, put it away and wait for several hours. Waiting overnight is even better. Then, go back and rewrite it. I don’t mean start over from the beginning. But don’t be married to every word on the page or think that you have to leave in every sentiment you expressed.

This is where you tear out words, sentences, and even whole paragraphs. If something doesn’t drive your story forward, tear it out. Everything should be about your topic, and nothing else.

It’s major work, and there should be drastic changes between your first and second draft, but don’t start it all over. If you do, the new version is still your first draft.

Edit Your Third Draft

While you’re still developing your craft, make sure you do a third edit a few hours later. (As you get better, you can skip this step, but plan on doing it for several months, or even a couple years.)

Fix the awkward wording, remove smaller sentences and words that don’t add any value. Remove adjectives and adverbs. (Don’t describe verbs, use descriptive verbs.) If you’re sticking with the 300 word limit, this can really make a difference. Why bloat a piece with 100 junk words? If your reader only wants 300 words total, make every one of them count.

This rewrite is not as drastic as your second one, but it’s still thorough, and we should see some serious changes.

Polish It Up

Finally, the following morning (this is a 3 day process), polish the piece up for the last time. If you’re still doing major rewrites, there’s either something wrong with your work, or there’s something wrong with you, and I’m guessing your work is fine.

Your problem may be that you’re a perfectionist, and don’t want to let the piece go. Don’t mistake perfect for finished. It will never be perfect, but it will be finished. And if you’re on a fifth, sixth, and even seventh read-through, you’re just stalling. Ship the damn thing and be done with it!

This is the copy editing stage. Look for misspellings, bad grammar, and punctuation. Make sure all the T’s are dotted and all I’s are crossed (I know what I said).

The House Building Analogy

As you’re starting out, this whole process should take about 48 hours, but spread over three days. Write the first draft in the afternoon, after thinking about and ruminating on the topic all morning (thinking about it will help you crystallize your thoughts when you actually sit down to write). The next morning, first edits. That afternoon, second edits. The morning after that, final polish.

Think of it like building a house: the first pass through, you’re putting up the walls and roof. The second, you’re shifting walls around and making some small-but-significant changes to the floor plan, but the outside walls are in place. On the third pass through, you’re putting up the drywall and painting. And on the final pass, you’re installing the drapes and light bulbs.

As you get better, you’ll find you can skip that third step. You’ll be confident enough in your word choices and writing ability that you don’t need so many rewrites. Even so, I still recommend taking about 24 hours to complete a piece. Write it in the afternoon, do rewrites in the morning, and final polish in the afternoon again.

Writing is one of those skills we all learned in school, but many never developed afterward. It’s easy to write, but it’s hard to write well. If you can do these four steps, your writing will become tighter, more interesting, and more enjoyable to read. And you’ll even like doing it.

Handshake is NOT a Verb

Turning nouns into verbs for business purposes is the Death Of A Thousand Cuts to writers and people who care about language. It kills us slowly, cut by cut. Blood drop by blood drop.

I recently heard someone say on a podcast, And when they’re really ready, we’ll handshake them to the investor community.

How do you handshake someone to someone else? What does that mean? Is that even a thing?

Yes, it means to introduce someone. They’re going to introduce people to the investor community.

So why don’t you just say “we’ll introduce them to the investor community?”

Uhh, this way sounds cooler?

No. It doesn’t. It sounds awkward. It sounds like someone tried to come up with some other name to mean the same thing they’re actually trying to say, only they want to say it differently.

I understand the sentiment. You want to introduce people to each other. When they are introduced, they will shake hands. So, you “handshake them” to someone else.

But there was nothing wrong with “introduce” in the first place. You’re taking something that was just fine, in perfect working order, and you improved it.

And by “improved it,” I mean “jumped up and down on it until it was a mangled heap, barely recognizable to even its own mother.”

The problem with business jargon is that people who use it just want to sound cool. They come up with some new term to mean something else.

People talk about “onboarding” when they mean “sign up.”

They “ideate” when they mean “come up with ideas,” or even “think.”

And they say “handshake to” when they mean “introduce.”

Hopefully you’ve never done this yourself. Hopefully you’ve never used “handshake” as a verb, at least when you’re introducing two people. (I understand it’s a term used to describe the way two computers communicate — they “handshake” with each other. But that’s the computer world.)

If you have, I won’t judge. I won’t cast aspersions on your character or demean your language abilities.

But I would ask you to stop it.

On a going forward basis.

Don’t Stick Your Finger In the Rat Cage – A Convocation Speech

Lab rat

I was invited to give the convocation speech at Ivy Tech in Warsaw, Indiana, during the honors ceremony the week before graduation. I was an adjunct faculty member there in Speech Communication for two years while I lived up in Syracuse, Indiana, so I was invited back to campus to share my words of wisdom. While it’s not Neil Gaiman’s Create Good Art speech, I think I did a pretty good job.

This is the text of my speech given to the students receiving honors and recognition, and their families.

 

I’m very pleased to be here. And a little surprised too. 30 years ago, I was not the guy you would expect to be asked to speak to a group like this. According to my high school grades and SAT scores, I was not even the guy you’d expect to be sitting out there with you.

But life gives us second chances. Second chances, third chances, fourth chances. I used all of those, and learned something each time. Eventually I got smart, and tried not to learn from my mistakes so much, but to start learning from other people’s mistakes instead. I learned how other people failed, so I could avoid doing that. And I learned how they succeeded, so I could do more of that.

So I want to talk about things I’ve learned in the last 5, 10, 20 years. Some of the knocks I’ve taken and seen other people take. I want to tell you what I learned in finding my way so you can find your own.

If I were really clever, like Neil Gaiman, the British science fiction writer, I’d tell you to “make good art,” and how you’re allowed to make glorious and fantastic mistakes. He didn’t say how many though, and I’m still trying to find the limit.

If I were David Foster Wallace, the American novelist, I’d tell you the story about the three fish, how “this is water,” and how it relates to the importance of being well-adjusted.” Well, I know what water is, but I haven’t been well-adjusted in years.

There are three lessons I want to share with you tonight, in the hopes that you can learn them now, rather than learning them yourself the hard way.

 

Lesson 1: Help Others Achieve Their Goals

The first is to help others achieve their goals.

When you do a lot of networking, you meet people who need something. They don’t necessarily need something from you. They just need something.

One day, you meet a Realtor who wants to fix up a rundown house to sell. The next, you meet a retired contractor who’s looking for something to do. You introduce them, and in a few months, he becomes her go-to-guy on all her fixer-uppers.

Or, your friend from high school is now a wedding planner. Two months later, your cousin opens a specialty cake business. And her best friend is a wedding photographer. You send a couple quick emails, and they’re having lunch and have passed enough business between themselves to book their entire summer.

Or your chiropractor tells you he’s trying to grow his practice. Three days later, a friend complains about her back pains. You refer her to your chiropractor, and she’s feeling much better, and is very grateful.

I have a friend who’s a professional photographer, focusing mostly on commercial and corporate work. He’s got another photographer friend who focuses on family portrait work. So the two of them trade leads constantly. Paul tells me he gets anywhere from 2 to 6 inquiries a month directly from Kristeen.

Why should you do this? What’s in it for you? You’re helping all these people, but what should you expect return?

Nothing. You should expect nothing. And that’s as it should be.

Because a little-known secret to success is first to help other people achieve their goals, their dreams, and their wins.

You don’t have to give up on your own goals. But in the course of your day, as you’re working on your own thing, you’re going to have a chance to help other people find the things they need. Introduce them to people they should meet. Share opportunities that don’t fit your own plans, and plug your friends in.

But — and here’s the kicker — don’t ask for a return favor.

That’s right, don’t ask for anything back. Nobody owes you one, you don’t have a favor coming to you. You don’t get a finder’s fee, a commission, or a free lunch.

If they insist on returning the favor, tell them about the people you’d like to meet or the opportunities you’re looking for. But explain that you’re not doing this so they’ll pay you back. You’re doing it to be helpful, because you hope they’ll do it for someone else some day.

Don’t keep track, don’t call in favors, and never call them and say, “Remember that one time I introduced you to that guy who did that thing with the stuff at the place?”

Because keeping track is petty and mean. Keeping track is lonely. Because people know when you keep track. They remember when you call in favors, and they know you keep an exact count of who owes what. And when they’ve paid you back, they’ll stop accepting your help because they know it comes with strings.

But if you’re the kind of person who just helps, they’ll remember you forever. If you do it enough times for a enough people, good things will happen for you.

Call it Karma, blessings, God’s favor, “The Secret,” or the universe doing you a solid. Whatever you call it, if you help enough people, your generosity will be returned to you in ways much, much bigger than if you kept track.

 

Lesson 2: Create Your Own Luck

By creating opportunities for other people, and helping them reach their goals, you’re going to accomplish my second lesson: create your own luck. You are going to create your own opportunities and your own lucky breaks.

Most people don’t like to do this is because it’s hard work, and the payoff is slow. Any time you try something new, like searching for a job, you won’t see success right away.

It’s very rare to try something for the first time and win a contest, get published, get recognized, or close a sale. There are no brand new singers who go on American Idol or The Voice and win the entire thing. Very rarely do we get that lucky. If you do, you’d better hope it’s because you bought a lottery ticket.

But you can create your own luck. You can create the circumstances where you get the thing you want, and the things you’ve worked for.

Maybe it’s getting that first job interview. Or the job offer. Or landing a sale with a big client. Or even running a 5K race. Trying out for a play. Publishing a magazine article.

But it’s not just blind luck. That didn’t happen the first time you ever tried to accomplish your goal. It happened after you applied to 50, 100, or even 200 jobs. Ten years ago, I applied for over 400 jobs in a single year before I got one.

Creating your own luck is not a matter of rubbing a rabbit’s foot, or having a four-leaf clover, or not changing your socks until your hitting streak ends.

Creating your luck is a matter of doing the thing you want over and over. It means applying for as many jobs as you can find. It means meeting as many people for coffee as you have time and a bladder for. It means making as many sales calls as you can, or sending as many emails.

Because the law of averages says someone is eventually going to pay attention to you. The hiring manager will call you. Or the purchasing manager will finally buy something. Or the newspaper or magazine will publish your article.

Lorraine Ball, Kyle Lacy, and Me

Me, Lorraine Ball, and Kyle Lacy. Lorraine introduced me to Kyle, and we started writing books shortly thereafter.

Or, if you’re like my friends Kyle and Lorraine, meeting someone will set off a long chain of events that lead you somewhere else. Kyle met Lorraine when they both attended the same networking group.

Kyle ended up working for Lorraine as an intern, and she taught him about marketing and networking. He left after a year and started his own business. I met them both through the same networking group, and Kyle and I eventually wrote a couple books together. Lorraine became my mentor and taught me about business, and I learned enough to eventually own my small company.

Now Lorraine’s business is the biggest it has ever been, I’ve written four books, and Kyle is a high up muckity-muck at ExactTarget in Indianapolis.

Our accomplishments all happened because we met someone who introduced us to someone else who introduced us to a third person, who introduced us to a fourth person who did something awesome. We constantly refer people to each other — “Oh, you need to meet Kyle,” or “you should really talk to my friend Lorraine.”

Sometimes those introductions pay off, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, they pay off five years later when someone calls one of us and says “we met a few years ago, and I just had something come across my desk that you would be perfect for.”

This isn’t just luck, this is serendipity. Being in the right place at the right time to meet the right person holding the right opportunity. This happens all the time in all our lives, we just have to be willing to be open to the idea, and pursue the people and opportunities that come our way.

It’s a direct reflection of the amount of energy and effort you put into other people and into the work you want to do. And the more people you meet, and the more energy you put in, the more successful you’ll be.

There’s an old saying that if you want to split a rock, you need to hit it 1,000 times. When it breaks, it’s not the thousandth strike that did it, it’s the 999 times before it.

When I was a kid, whenever I lost something, my dad always said, “It will always be in the last place you look.” I never understood exactly what he meant, so one day, when I was trying to find my basketball, I tried to shortcut the system.

I stood in my bedroom and declared, “The last place I’m going to look is my closet!” Then I looked in the closet and. . . no basketball.

I was so annoyed. I had told God and the universe that this was the last place I was going to look, but that didn’t put the basketball there, which meant this wasn’t true. It also meant I had to keep looking, which meant it really wasn’t the last place I looked. (It was in my toy box out in the garage.)

Your goals don’t work that way. You can’t stand over the rock and declare your first strike to be the thousandth. You can’t declare your first job application to be “the one.” If things worked that way, I’d be filthy rich.

Instead, you have to stand over the rock, sweat in your eyes, shoulders aching, swinging that stupid hammer over and over again. When you want to quit, you take a little break, get a drink, switch arms, and swing some more.

Just when you think you’ve had enough, and your arms are going to fall off, that’s when that last strike comes. You hit the rock and there’s a different sound. It’s deeper, and you feel it in the ground. That’s when everything starts to change and all your work starts paying off.

Not only do you get one phone call for a job interview, you get four. Not only did you close the sale, you got a year-long contract. Not only did you land the part in the play, you got the lead. Not only did you run the 5K, you won your age group.

It happened because you kept hitting the rock. You worked hard, you practiced, kept writing, rehearsing, running, and calling. And that’s why you succeeded.

None of this is going to happen for you every time. Just like every economy has an up and down, and every civilization has a high and low, our own lives have their own ups and downs. It’s what you do during the ups that prepare you for the downs. And it’s what you do when you’re down that makes your ups higher and longer.

 

Lesson 3: Don’t Take NO For An Answer

One of the reasons you have to keep trying? One of the reasons it’s going to be hard? Because you’re going to hear NO a lot. Which brings me to my third lesson, don’t take NO for an answer.

I was a troublemaker when I was a kid. I was constantly causing trouble, getting into trouble, and making trouble, and my teachers and parents were worried that I wasn’t going to do much with my life. I had “a lot of potential,” but so did every other kid. Turns out making trouble was the best thing I could have done for my future.

There are people who study this kind of thing. One interesting thing they found about troublemakers is that we make the best entrepreneurs and artists, because we never take NO for an answer.

“NO” is not the final word. It’s not even “No, dammit, now cut it out!”

We hold out for “Fine, do whatever you want.” Because in our minds, “See, I told you so” is our final word. We never want to end something on someone else’s terms, we end them on our own. If you tell us NO, we’re going to push and push until we get to our version of Yes, with or without you.

Lab ratIt reminds me of the time my dad made me get my finger bitten by a lab rat.

My dad was a psychology professor at Ball State for 45 years (in fact, today is his last day; he finally retired). When I was four, he did a lot of work doing behavioral testing on lab rats. One day, he took me to the rat lab so I could see where he worked. He bent down, looked me straight in the eye, and told me the one thing guaranteed to get me to stick my finger in a rat’s cage.

He said, “Don’t stick your finger in the rat cage.”

We spent the next few hours at Ball Memorial Hospital where I got a shot in my butt and a bandage on my finger.

Troublemakers never do what we’re told. In fact, we do the opposite of what we’re told. That’s what makes us such good entrepreneurs. People tell us to forget about a problem, or to just live with it, but we can’t. In fact, the best way to get us to fix a problem is to tell us it can’t be solved.

But we’re going to hear a lot of NO while we do it. We’re going to spend a lot of our life hearing NO over and over.

No, you can’t go to this college. Fine, I’ll go to another one.

No, you can’t take those classes. Fine, I didn’t want to take your stupid classes anyway.

No, you can’t have a job here. Fine, I’ll start my own job. And then you’ll contract with my company to do that job better than the person you hired.

This also means that life is going to knock you down. A lot. Many of us have been knocked down a few times already. That’s life’s way of saying NO.

But to the troublemakers and the entrepreneurs, that’s not the end. It’s a dare. That’s life pointing at its chin and saying, “come on, give me your best shot.”

The troublemaker will get up again and again and again. Eventually we’ll stop getting knocked down. We’ll be the ones knocking life on its backside for a while.

Many of you have already done something that 60% of the people in this country will never do — you went to school. And many of you are planning on going on to something bigger. A new job, more opportunities, maybe even more school.

And you are already — as motivational speaker Les Brown says — blessed and highly favored. I hope you all realize that, because I think all of you can do great things. All of you, not just our graduates.

And it really all will just come down to doing the three things I’ve discussed tonight: Help others achieve their goals; Create your own luck; Don’t take NO for an answer.

It’s that simple, but it’s not that easy. It’s hard work. It means doing a little more every day. Doing a little more than the person next to you. Working a little longer. Watching less TV and reading more books. It means getting up 30 minutes earlier, or staying up 30 minutes later.

I can tell you that even though this is common sense advice, it’s not as common as you might think. Because no matter how many times “the experts” tell people this is what it takes, most people won’t do it. They don’t want to put in the extra effort. But you can, and the payoffs will be huge.

Even if you do just 30 minutes more per day than anyone else — 30 minutes more practice, 30 minutes more sales calls, 30 minutes more job searching — you’ll be 2.5 hours ahead of the game at the end of the week.

That’s 10 hours in a month. That’s 120 hours in a year. That’s three extra weeks of work in reaching for your own goals. And if you can put in that three extra weeks of reaching for your dreams, you’re going to be miles ahead of those people who show up at 8 or 9 and go home at 4 or 5.

Because when you get down to it, by helping others, creating your own luck, and never taking NO for an answer, you too will be blessed and highly favored, and you’ll be in a position to do awesome things for yourself and your family.

Thank you, congratulations, and good luck.

After the ceremony, a woman came to me and said her grandson was a fellow troublemaker, and she wished she had a copy of the speech she could show her daughter. I happened to have a hard copy of the speech, which I gave to her. She was so pleased with that. Best. Thank you. Ever.

 

Photo credit: Erik, Lorraine, Kyle Toni Deckers Lab rat, Rick, Eh? (Flickr, Creative Commons)