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Website Owners Go On Using SEO For The Same Reason Your Grandma Still Uses AOL

Date/Time Permalink: 12/05/12 02:50:52 pm
Category: General

Allow me to put on my freelancer's hat for a minute and talk about something not only relevant to technology, but to my business as an online content creator...

A little while back, Forbes took notice of the tech entrepreneur world with an article on the "death" of SEO.

Every word in that article is spot-on, dead accurate, worthy of being proclaimed from the rooftops. Except the title. Because, contrary to all common sense, SEO, like a Lovecraft Eldritch multi-dimensional horror, will never die.

I've pointed out many times that the very premise of SEO is to game search engines, and search engines exist to find genuine content, not "optimized" content. So the very minute you start thinking of SEO for your website, you're beginning a war with the Internet, trying to steal their time redirecting them from the content they wanted to the sales-pages you want them to see. There is no such thing as "white hat SEO". It's like saying you're practicing "legal tax evasion".

"Common sense, but not common practice" indeed. Note the footer of that article where a hundred SEO cranks post flames back at the author and he caves a little, because Forbes is still a business with face to save, after all.

But I stand by every word of that article as originally envisioned, even if he doesn't. There are no "bad parts" to SEO. It is all bad, 100.1% of it. The Venn diagram is shaped like a circle.

That's why I never take any job offer for producing content for anybody who so much as mentions SEO or any of the associated buzzwords: "keywords", "SERP", "density", "meta tags", "backlinks", "landing page", and so on. Not for any amount of money, not for sexual favors from Hollywood starlets, would I do this. I'm too stinking proud, and besides, the kind of wingnut crank who blathers on about this meta-tag voodoo and keyword-density astrology is the kind of person of low morals and little sense who will attempt to cheat me out of pay, argue with me about every little detail, and expect a thousand times the effort of what they'd be paying me.

What I will do is produce organic content that I think actual humans beings at least might want to read. And then if that content has a business link next to it for an associated product or service, well, so be it, that's how the web should work.

SEO is the belief that you can reverse-engineer and "hack" a search engine using only the text on your webpage, causing said engine to magically send all the visitors to you no matter what they type. It's a kind of irrecoverable brain damage. There's a whole cult of it out there. Everybody wants one thing: To be the first result on Google. Now, how many people want that? How many number-one spots on Google are there? What does common sense tell you will happen to the 999,000 people who didn't make page one?

Now, let's logically ask ourselves, "Why do people come back to a search engine?" Why, because it gives them RELEVANT, USEFUL CONTENT, does it not? So what if you "win" your SEO game and redirect Google traffic to your one-page sales-letter full of boilerplate marketing copy? Users will quit using Google and switch to a different search engine. After all, any search engine which was so easily gamed would be a poor quality search engine and users would abandon it. So, the objective, the true, root goal of all SEO is to put Google out of business. You, with your $3/month GoDaddy domain and pirated 1996 copy of FrontPage Express.

What could possibly go wrong with your simple business plan?

Let's take a famously iconic contested keyword: "mesothelioma". It's an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling hazardous substances on the job (I've worked construction jobs and at a power plant so I have a touch of it myself, cough cough cough), which leads to a lot of top-dollar workman's comp cases and legal settlements. Hence, it's a cash cow for ambulance chasers. SEO wonks have been trying to rank #1 for this word ever since 1997 when Google first launched.

So, after 15 years of "progress" in the SEO industry, where does the search result page for this coveted keyword stand right now?

The #1 spot is the Wikipedia entry.

The #2 spot is a domain with the same name, a commercial enterprise.

The #3 spot is the US government's own National Institute of Health site.

The #4 spot is the Mayo clinic.

None of these are the result of SEO tactics, but genuine content produced to inform first. Two of them are even non-profit public services. What does this tell you about the effectiveness of SEO vs. being an actual credible source on the subject? But go to any freelance job-posting site on the web and search for that keyword. Pages and pages of keyword-crankers, all offering the lordly sum of about $2 if only someone will help them get their spam site to come out on top of Wikipedia, the Mayo clinic, and the US government.

You'll find this over and over again. These idiots clog the web with their search-spam, never winning, and never learning. It's a brain disease. Just like with any superstition, you can't drive any common sense into their heads about how search engines actually work. They have charts! They have keyword density formulas! They have magic meta-tag spells! "If we jack these secondary-related search phrases into our keyword probability matrix times our nofollow-tag formula and our backlink farm sends stealth links from the dark web, we get a 2.3657680012% keyword density substrate for our article-spinner."

These cranks will never die. They will never learn. They're flakes. Not just some of them or the "black hat" ones, but all of them.

Anybody out there thinking of using a website as part of a business strategy? Stay away from SEO. Google hates it. Forbes hates it. Internet users, your presumed customers, hate it the most of all. SEO, like alchemy and Orgone and flying saucers, is every kind of wrong it can be. It's broken, it's stupid, and it doesn't work.

Come at me, bro!

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My Own Musings On Content Creation For The Web

Date/Time Permalink: 11/20/12 04:32:01 pm
Category: Geek Culture

...because that's just what the web needs is more navel-gazing!

I don't normally become such a squeeing fantard over another author's work, but The Oatmeal (hereby legitimized as True Art by my writing its name in 'em' tags) put up a strip called "Some thoughts and musings about making things for the web". And it spoke to me! It touched me! It touched me in places that I'll have to show my therapist on the dolly later! He read my soul!

Despite the fact that Matthew Inman can't draw for sour owl poop and normally doesn't rise above Dave-Barry-esque fart humor (*), he's produced what may some day arrive as a classic definitive description of what it's like being an online content producer.

(*) I kid, I kid!

I've just gotta give back! So I'll riff on the theme by adding my own corollary observations here:

#1. I never run out of ideas.

I have friggin' gigabytes of ideas scribbled into Emacs textfiles just waiting to be nurtured into brilliant content. I can't stop the ideas. If a squirrel farts next to me while I'm walking in the Wilderness of Inspiration (where I go to get away from the Internet and meditate like a Tolkien elf), it gives me an idea. The trouble is coming up with a good idea.

Corollary to the corollary: Ideas suck. It's the execution that makes all the difference. Take Stephen King (the horror author, you illiterate bagheads), he writes stories about werewolves and vampires and haunted hotels. That's it, that's his big ideas. In anybody else's hands, they'd be the most yawning, boring cliche stories ever written. But it's his writing style, his pacing, his inventive techniques, and his dedication to just writing the most entertaining yarns possible, that makes him a best-seller. Ideas suck. With an idea, all you have is a story about a lost little girl. It's the execution that makes a Wizard of Oz.

#2. The web is the rottenest possible audience.

There is a gap between good ideas, and ideas that the Internet likes. Seriously, you guys have shit tastes. Sure enough, if I croak out something so gawdawful that I'm trembling with self-loathing as I click the 'post' button, you guys eat it up like Christmas mornin'. If I concentrate on one idea for months and months and craft it with every fiber of resolve dwelling in my breast, revising and rewriting and laboring mightily with creative passion, slaying the dragon of indifference and mediocrity with my sparkling polished lance of inspiration, where the hell was I, I post my completed masterpiece and not a single one of you likes it, you don't even care enough to yawn at it. But those retarded ideas I twiddle out in ten minutes on the potty? Rave reviews, two thumbs way up, Reddit front-page, reposted and retweeted and retumblered and pinterested to the moon and back.

True story: Just to blow off dumb ideas, I made my "Penguin Pete's Daily Funny" Tumblr, which I actually call my "daily stupid". It's all image memes and lowbrow 4chan humor. To this day, it is still ahead of my webcomic (where I make Twue Art) in raw page views.

The most popular joke on the daily stupid so far is this one, lowbrow toilet humor. 1,767 likes and reblogs and the total can only go up now that I'm linking to it. But when I came up with this post, witty political humor framed in the device of Weird-Al'ing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", chock fulla currently relevant memes, and predicting the outcome to the election five days in advance, I might add, and its score is currently...

--> 2 <--

That's what I get for being psychic just for your entertainment.

#3. There's always good old pandering...

The one guaranteed road to Internet success is to pander to a niche. After all, this is Penguin Pete's, home to geek-in-blackface nerdy-minstrel STEMmer-feel-goodyness that started years before The Big Bang Theory ever wrote its pilot. Remember "How To Totally Fake Being A Geek" and "One for the ladies: How to date a geek guy?". Pander, pander, pander. Hugely popular, still StumbledUpon in the hundreds of hits per day, Digg front page - back when that meant anything, hyuk hyuk!

So if I post jokes about Minecraft on my daily stupid, they always get a tiny little bit of niche appreciation out of the Minecraft audience. Post an
Inkscape tutorial
, and that's guaranteed interest from somebody. I'll bet The Oatmeal fans are still reading this far. It's like those "aggressive yield" stock portfolios: The percentage is tiny, but it's a sure bet. I pander to the females on Pinterest, to the futurists and science geeks on Mind--Blown, and to the sysadmins and hackers and general geeks on Doomed to Obscurity.

So, yeah, pander = success on the webs.

#4. Pandering stunts your creativity.

Man alive, how is a body supposed to break new ground if they have to stay stuck in the same rut? I don't have to explain that to you, it's a very old story. TV Tropes has huge chunks devoted to cataloging the tropes of fanbase-conservatism, including "Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things", "They Changed It, Now It Sucks", "Serious Business", "Ruined FOREVER", and "Fan Myopia".

Yeah, I could go on doing the Same Formula That We Know The Internet Likes. God knows, clients ask for that by the ton. It pays the bills. But on my own sites, I'm getting less and less interested in what pays the bills and more and more interested in shaking things up, trying new things, and exploring new horizons. You know, for the Internet, the greatest enabler of spontaneous creativity ever invented, its potential sure isn't explored very much. The same old crap gets reposted again and again and again.

The Internet is changing culture. I can turn off the Internet and turn on the TV, the radio, or a magazine (yes, I read magazines by turning them on, so there), and there's the Internet anyway. Twitter polls on TV, websites quoted in magazine articles, radio DJs cackling over something going around on Facebook. All media is all just one big Internet now.

The Internet is changing art. But it's changing it by putting it in Annie Wilkes' bedroom with a wheelchair and leg casts, making it rewrite the same book over and over and over...

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Twitter Lists I'm On

Date/Time Permalink: 11/10/12 01:32:54 pm
Category: LINKS and Lists

Remember Twitter lists? Everybody was excited about them back there once. Twitter still has this feature, and apparently people still use it.

Because if you read me, you should read these, too:

author - A list with no discernible theme that I can find, but just a bunch of random accounts. But "Goddamn Batman" is on it too, so I'm not arguing there.

Tech Stuff - Well, that's pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? Great complete list, by the way!

Skypost109-Bloggers - Described as "funny yet right down snarky at times." I shall always strive to answer the call of duty to live up to this high expectation.

Important OSS supporters - Oh, now how did I get so important without really doing much?

BoycottBoys - Described as "BoycottNovell shills and minions". Whee, I'm on a hit list! Which is funny, because BoycottNovell has standing insults to me they've never corrected or apologized for. This is what happens when you judge me by the standards of the troll cave at

Iowa Tweeps - Hello, Iowa! Are there any other Iowans here? Any of you Hawkeyes care to follow this list that has only five subscribers? I know there's more than five people in Iowa who know what Twitter is. I know at least eight or nine.

WebComics - I feel bad because this list is kept by a Spanish speaker and my webcomic is in English.

Sistemas - Also in Spanish, these are computer programmers and related stuff. I can suss out enough Spanish to tell this, thanks to my previous life out in the Southwest.

Famous - Somebody's got some really, really low standards for defining "famous". I've heard of just about everybody else on that list, and I'll bet none of them have heard of me.

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Inkscape Tutorial: Traced Path Pentagram

Date/Time Permalink: 10/09/12 02:50:23 pm
Category: Graphics Tutorials

Inkscape tutorial traced pentagram

It's a plain and fast tutorial, just for one trick of path manipulation, composed in Inkscape itself! I should do this more often.

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Script of the Day: Random Wallpaper Setter

Date/Time Permalink: 10/08/12 02:44:56 pm
Category: HOWTOs and Guides

Y'know, I get tired sometimes of dealing with all the different screens. Between several cell phones, a laptop, and several desktop PCs, I have about eight different devices that want their default screen space filled with something and eight different methods to use for filling them. Bah, I said, and also there's still no default mechanism in my favorite desktop, Fluxbox, for setting the wallpaper from the menu. Furthermore, for those times when an image doesn't scale easily onto screen dimensions, there's also no easy way to set the surrounding fill color.

This is, Which I load into my menu system and launch with one click. It picks a random file out of my "graphics/Walls" directory, slaps it onto a full-screen background (automatically optimized for whatever screen it's running on) of a neutral color picked from the image itself (composing a new image in the process), and slaps it onto the screen. And then I get on with my life...


# Step 1 - grab random file
FILE=$(ls ~/graphics/Walls/ | shuf -n1)
convert ~/graphics/Walls/$FILE ~/.temp.png

# Step 2 - Determine fill color
FILLCOLOR=$(convert ~/.temp.png -scale 1x1\! -format '%[pixel:u]' info:-)

# Step 3 - Determine the geometry of the root window
GEOM=$(xwininfo -root | grep -A 1 Width)
GEOMX=$(echo $GEOM | awk '{print $2}')
GEOMY=$(echo $GEOM | awk '{print $4}')

# Step 4 - Make a new background image with the fill color and root window dimensions
convert -size $SIZE xc:$FILLCOLOR ~/.current_wallpaper.png
convert ~/.temp.png -resize $SIZE\> ~/.temp.png

# Step 5 - Combine wallpaper and background and display
composite -gravity center ~/.temp.png ~/.current_wallpaper.png ~/.current_wallpaper.png
rm ~/.temp.png
display -window root ~/.current_wallpaper.png

exit 0

Ugly as grandma Moses, isn't it? I expect the usual commenters pointing out that I do everything the hard way.

What we're doing in step 2, is we're taking the wallpaper image and making a new temporary file where we scale that wallpaper down to a single pixel - this will produce the average color from the image. Then use Image Magick's 'info' feature to read the RGB of that one-pixel image, and that becomes the background color. The rest is just a few 'combine' statements and use of the little-seen GNU 'shuf' command, handy for whenever you want a random file from a directory.

As long as a system has X11, Image Magick, and GNU standard utilities, it should work. Feel free to snarf bits and bobs for your own uses.

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Book Review: Inkscape Beginner's Guide

Date/Time Permalink: 10/05/12 03:38:47 pm
Category: Reviews

Inkscape Beginner's Guide review

The folks over at Packt Publishing noticed that I sling some Inkscape tutorials around here, and contacted me asking if I'd be interested in reviewing an Inkscape book. They flipped me a free ebook copy for review purposes. Well, sure, I'm game!

Now, I'm a salty veteran at Inkscape. It's been one of the main tools in my graphics arsenal almost since the first release. Not only have I drawn hobby-level artwork in Inkscape, but I've also used it in professional-level graphic design in my freelance career whenever somebody needs an icon set or whatnot. So it's about time I read the full guide, isn't it?

Of course, one catch with reading about Inkscape is that I invariably open Inkscape while I'm reading about it, and then I check out features described in the guide to see how a new user would follow along, and then I end up playing with Inkscape, because its design is so good that you just can't resist idle doodling.

doodles in Inkscape

So this review got a bit delayed...

Now, the real test of a software guide is, did I learn anything from it? And I did pick up a couple of tricks I didn't know about before. Inkscape Beginner's Guide is very good at providing clear, step-by-step instructions and pacing everything so that even the rawest new user can follow along.

An example of pacing:

preview of Inkscape Beginner's Guide

By launching through a tutorial and then explaining afterwards what the point was, it helps the user to retain the information. This is an example of one of those cognitive theories you read about, though I'm not up to Wiki-fishing for it aat the moment.

The emphasis is on "beginner" here, so even some of the advanced tools aren't addressed in favor of being the gentlest possible introduction. The guide also keeps the technobabble to a minimum in a fresh, clear writing style that only explains what's absolutely necessary. It also provides a few nice examples for laying out a postcard, web page, brochure, and other practical applications for office-level work. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for the new user.

For myself, I'd love to see an advanced guide. Perhaps someday, I will be the person to write it.

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8 Kinds of American Problem Voters

Date/Time Permalink: 09/24/12 12:05:24 pm
Category: Humor

Problem American Voters

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Followup: It's been a month - Still No Native Steam Client On Linux

Date/Time Permalink: 09/20/12 04:23:38 pm
Category: Prophecies

Isn't it funny how the whole tech blog universe must light up with this perpetual cycle of unmitigated hype, hostility to lash out at anybody like me who calls "B.S.", and then a month later: It never happened?

A month ago, I responded to the relentless spamming of the Linux community by asstroturfers working for Valve Software and I pointed out that "Steam on Linux" has been a wolf-cry for nearly an entire generation of users now. I opined that it was nothing but viral marketing for page view ad revenue and P.R. for a game corporation. After getting a massive backlash which rated me somewhere between a Nazi and a pedophile for daring to suggest such a thing (gee, you're all such a nice, sweet audience! :)), I made the further move of dropping it into the prophecies category. Oh ho ho, how wrong I was, hooted the tech blog world.

The originator of all the hype, the Valve-run blog known as Steamed Penguins, still has exactly two posts, from July 16th and August 1st. No updates, no progress, no follow-up. The Steam stories have disappeared from the front page of Phoronix.

Most recent Phoronix story, August 29th, crowed about the old news of Left-4-Dead running on Linux, as if it hadn't already been running on Wine on Linux for two years. Entirely through the graces of the Wine team, not anything to do with Valve. As I've pointed out, you can run anything on Wine with enough determination - that's what it's for! Running on Wine is not native, and without a native Steam client for Linux, Valve has nothing more to talk about than Adobe does when somebody gets P**S* running on Wine.

Oh, what of the Open Steam Works progress? The database still barely records an attempt to show the portal client, no games on it, but lots of SQL query errors showing at the bottom - my, there's a crack team working in the background on this "active" project! What happens when you click the 'about' tab? You get one word, which kind of says it all right there.


Fell for it all, didn't you? You naive, gullible, bought-off little sheep. The hype crusade ended, all is quiet from the Phony-nix site and the full-of-Hot-Steam bloggers, and nobody has anything to show for all the angst. Year after year after year, you all fall for it over and over again. Go look up what Albert Einstein said was the definition of insanity. The Internet audience appears to have a reality slice of about a week. Anything before that is lost in the fog of amnesia.

Well, I hope I've kept this story short enough that you can all fit it into your THC-fried short-term memories. I'll try to make regular updates to this non-story until next year, when the spam-paign rolls around again like clockwork, just as it has for the past ten years.

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How To Bust A Fake AMA On Reddit

Date/Time Permalink: 09/17/12 09:57:19 am
Category: General

I never dreamed the day would come when civilization would get this naive, to the point where I have to share the big secret of how people lie on the Internet to get attention, but I guess that film 2006 Idiocracy wasn't made for nothing...

OK, case in point is this thread: "I was clinically dead for 2 minutes after a heart-attack (28/f), and death was the most peaceful feeling of my life. AMA." Posted 9/17/12, today as I type. I'll try to preserve what I can since fakes just tend to delete everything and pull the same stunt two weeks later under a different name.

Here is the post screenshot (click to fullsize):


(EDIT And it's gone already minutes later, so my post is now the only record.)

Note that the poster's story is that they had pneumonia which (heart attack?) caused them to pass out and require resuscitation.

The poster puts up several photos to back their claim:


Links (but might be taken down soon): photo 1, photo 2, photo 3, photo 4.

Now, we go to and click on the image tab...


Once you're in the image search tab, click on the little gray camera icon in the search box...


Now you have a new search box open. Find one of those images, get the URL (so it's showing just the image in your browser - the URL, in the address bar, has to be showing the image file name extension - jpg, png, gif, whatever - at the very end), and paste it into the search box...


Google will find every other page on the web in its index with the same, or similar, images. Note that in this specific case, it even finds another matching photo from the same case, killing two birds with one stone. We find the exact same images on this blog from November of 2011. Note that this gal has Multiple Sclerosis, and reports the occasion where her heart stopped and was brought back in a very similar story. She even reports that the hospital PA system said "Rapid response to 3 North rehab! Rapid response to 3 North rehab!" while our faker says the hospital PA says "rapid response to 4 North, rapid response to 4 North." A clear case of plagiarism as well, just editing the text slightly because, duh, everybody knows that Google can find text...

That's the end of Google image search's helpfulness, as it couldn't find matches for the other two photos. #4 isn't hard to fake, since it's just a shot of a common form which I tracked down to here. Since there's no handwritten marks on the form indicating whom it belongs to, this could be anybody's photo from any where.

Now, photos #2 presents us with a poser. Google image search comes up dry on the alleged photo of the person's face, but does not look like the same person with MS shown in the original blog post from November 2011. A Caucasian female with red hair, to be sure, but otherwise no match. And yet wearing the same shirt!


Note that the nails are painted in photo #2 but unpainted in photo #1.


What's going on here? We have two different sets of photos from two different time periods. This post, dated from September of 2012, shows more the same gal from our photo #2. The discrepancy in her facial features is explained by "moon face", where steroid therapy makes your face fill out (yes, steroids are used for more than just male bodybuilding). And a year's time is enough to re-do your nails and get a new hairdo.

But here's the trump card: The owner of that blog also has a Reddit account, and also posted an AMA just 25 days previously under her own account name of "Gimme_Danger". Here is her submission history, and she links to her own blog here.

Note that this girl is confined to a wheelchair and the faker account, red__head, posts comments about things like working at a strip club (with motorcycles lowered from the ceiling???).


We'll call this one solved for now.

Why do people DO this???

Money! High-karma accounts are worth money on the social media asstroturf circuit. See my three posts about the underground big-business of social media asstroturfing here, here, and here. Note that red__head's account at Reddit, at the time of my writing, is just two days old. Do you know a quicker way of growing a lot of karma in a short time? Never mind the "self-posts don't give you karma" dodge, comment karma always counts and it's obvious from looking at scores that successful self-posts do give you some karma.

The rest of the karma comes from this post, also by red__head, claiming to have adopted a kitten. Here's the same photo at OMGCuteThings (retch!) with one small detail: the logo in the bottom right has been edited out! It's a simple trick, I use Gimp's resynthesizer plugin myself.

An account like this is most likely hacked into existence over a few days then sold on one of those sites that does "social media marketing." They're most likely done in batches. What matter if this one gets deleted? What matter if a moderator catches one account and bans it? It's like pulling up a dandelion.

WHY does this keep happening?

Dear reader, I hate to sound harsh, but this is your fault.

It is your fault for being gullible and taking everything on the Internet at face value. Those few of us who do this kind of legwork could not possibly keep up. I have spent years on this site alerting people to scams, shams, fakes, lies, swindles, and cons, from the corporate CEO level down to rank flim-flammers like this, and all of you just shrug and go "Duh, whatever LOL!"

Clearly, you don't care.

Clearly, you couldn't care less if these hospital photos were exploited by a fraud who asked for donations - this happens all the time as well. Millions of dollars trade hands over the Internet every day, spurred by people posting asking for donations, and no fact-checking happens. Clearly, I could be rolling in money using these same tricks to scam all of you. I am, after all, a professional writer. I could concoct a load of bull and put up a kickstarter can or a PayPal link like anybody else. All of you are so uncaring that you're probably now asking "Well then why don't you? I'd donate to you even if I knew you were faking!"

Apparently that's the world we live in today. Everybody but me does this just because nobody but me has any idea that doing this is wrong anymore.

Yet, you're here now, aren't you?

Don't waste time on my site, readers! Go back to your RSS feed and your social networks and spot the nearest fake to you RIGHT NOW! Investigate, hunt for clues, question everything, find them out, and post the evidence for all to see!

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