Wednesday, June 28, 2006

From the email bag

I am probably one of the worst people when it comes to answering email. I just glanced at my IN box and it's currently got over 1100 messages, most of them NOT spam (I delete spam constantly). Every time I clean out the IN box, it just fills up again.

People write to me about many different topics. I get occasional inquiries about search engine optimization. I turn down most of them, or discourage most of them, because too many people just want link building. That's not only NOT search engine optimization, it's pretty inefficient. Of course, once in a while someone comes along with an interesting and challenging situation and I take the contract (or offer to -- I once had a guy decide it wasn't so important after I started talking money).

My specialty in search engine optimization is RESEARCH, folks. Link builders are a dime a dozen. Some of them are quite good. That's all they do. I don't know who the best link builders are, but there are plenty out there. Check out Rand Fishkin's recommended SEO firms at SEOMoz. He recently invited more people to apply for inclusion in the directory. I'm sure there are plenty of link builders in the group.

White cheese dip remains my most popular email topic. I get so much white cheese dip email I despair of ever fully updating the site with listings for restaurants and stores that carry the cheese dip or the ingredients. I could automate the process easily, but I'm afraid that someone would figure out how to abuse it for Web site promotion. We get quite a few abusers at the Internet Authors Network, where I've had to shut down all but one of the free services, and that one requires close monitoring.

Why do people abuse free services? They just ruin things for everyone. Search optimizers can be really bad about abuse. Many of them seem to think the World Wide Web was created to put money in their pockets, which is just plain stupid and selfish. And it seems like everyone and their brother wants to become the next big Net Entrepreneur by setting up an ecommerce site that resells merchandise you can get on a thousand other ecommerce sites. And then they hit all the SEO forums asking why they don't get good rankings at Google....

But I was talking about email. I received an interesting inquiry tonight about where a couple of people could go for Salsa dancing in Houston this weekend. It turns out there is a Salsa competition at the Melody Club this Friday and Saturday night. Some great Salsa dancers will be there, and I noticed there was a floor show scheduled for 11:00 PM Saturday. There is a security guard in the parking lot so it's generally a pretty safe place go despite being on a side street.

Paypal spoofers have my email address. Hardly a day goes by where I don't get 1-2 notices from these criminals about how my account has been compromised, etc. I immediately forward the messages (with full headers intact) to I've reported dozens of these spoof sites over the past year. I hope many other people do, too.

Dixie has actually been sending me email lately. Always good to hear from the partner, who Alas! is not feeling well right now. Best wishes, Dixie. do have the server backed up, right?

We get a lot of email about SF-FANDOM, mostly from people who have trouble registering. Sometimes the system gets a little goofed up and one of the admins has to nudge the confirmation process along. But some of the funniest emails come from trolls and abusers who sign up for free accounts, start spamming the forums, get banned, and then write us indignant messages demanding to know why they cannot log in. Um, we have MODERATED forums and that means someone is always looking at the new messages and user accounts.

People write to me about Salsa dancing, SEO, Tolkien, the Inklings Roundtable of Houston, and occasionally about my books, essays, and blog.

They also write to me asking me to hawk their merchandise on Xenite.Org. I guess I've created too many affiliate pages through the years. I've almost stopped updating them, as doing so is a time-consuming pain. The merchants make it more and more difficult to incorporate their listings into content each year, and I can see why more and more people turn to Yahoo! and Google ads. It's just not worth the time and effort to set up a custom affiliate merchandise store.

Family and friends write to say "Hi". I rarely reply to them. I know I should, but it's like, "Okay, they know me. They know I'm busy." I'm lucky to have family and friends, so I should pay more attention to them. I've started using my cell phone to text more people. Hate to say it, but I think the day of the 10-word Michael message has arrived. I spell out every word, too.

No one ever writes to me about my reviews at Epinions. I just posted a review about 'The Incredibles'. These are essay-length reviews, but no one trusts me over there (sniff). I guess I should write more reviews. I used to write a lot of revies at Amazon, but I got mad at them because they wouldn't enforce their abuse policies and stopped writing reviews and carrying their merchandise. We finally started carrying Amazon ads again last year and have earned maybe $20. Not like the old days when Amazon almost paid the hosting fees.

All they had to do was enforce their abuse policies.

Well, anyway, I may or may not contribute more reviews to epinions. Never made any money off them, but it's an interesting site that seems to have survived the dot-com meltdown. They offer comparative price shopping along with tons of (seemingly honest) consumer reviews. There is a community-based editorial structure, I think, that hasn't acquired a reputation for abuse and stupidity like those at DMOZ and Wikipedia.

People do post comments on the reviews at epinions, and I usually get some (generally positive) feedback there. But it would be nice to hear something in email about those reviews, too.

And, yes, I do make it difficult for people to email me. You have to find the form on Xenite.Org's Contact us page and fill it out because my email addresses get swamped with spam. So, maybe some people feel like that's just too much effort for a casual question that may or may not be answered, or a happy comment.

Sorry, but I've got 1100+ messages to sift through right now. I need a break....


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