Behind the Scenes – HISHE

October 31, 2015 9:14pm
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I’ve been a fan of How It Should Have Ended for years, and I also enjoy tours to see other creative people’s working space, so this video was a lot of fun for me to watch even without the cool rollerboards considered!

FOCUS!!!!!

So I stumbled across this website called the Library of Babel last night, and it’s kind of freaky.

Essentially they’ve created an algorithm that has created every combination of letters … ever. Or at least up to 3,200 characters, for starters. But it’s all indexed, so whatever you type, there’s a page in this vast library that already says whatever you were going to say…

Like – this last paragraph that I just wrote – it can be found here:

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Or even just completely made up nonsense that’s disappointingly not actually true:

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Apparently the site is based on a short story by an author from Argentina written in 1941, well before the Internet was ever a public notion, which is kind of crazy to think of the notion prior to the architecture being available to actually make it a reality … a futurist in the true sense of the word!

Now granted, despite having a computer that can literally generate any text that could ever be conceived, it still takes the creativity of humans to bring the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to be consumable by mankind … the crux of having everything is that you’ve got the literary classics surrounded by an almost infinite amount of garbage unless you already know what you’re searching for.

Even looking at only samples of 3,200 characters, the library currently contains 104677 books of information, whereas there are estimated to be approx. 130 million books published in modern history today … to say that the meaningful texts available represent only a fraction of a fraction of the everything that this algorithm creates…

…but it’s still kind of a neat concept from a technical perspective, nonetheless.

I have some really good memories about my earlier years of working on Just Laugh, and the last couple of days I’ve been revisiting some of them as I’ve been slowly adding in some of the older content from Just Laugh magazine to the new site’s archives. It’s kind of awesome to think of how many great humorists were all contributing to that site back in the day – I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get there just yet, but I’m really looking forward to rekindling a bit of that spirit with a new team of contributors once I get to the point where it makes sense to add more content.

Anyways, this pass had me going through the works of Linda Sharp, Kim Burke, Michael Buonauro and Jeff Lofvers of Dr. Lobster, our resident advice expert Savannah Lawless, the great Deep Fried, Live! animated series from 8 Legged Entertainment, Ink, Paint & Tears… courtesy of myself and my sister, as well as the rest of my own humor columns that hadn’t been imported into the new site yet. It’s a little crazy to think that all of this stuff was produced over a decade ago, but nonetheless here are some of my own personal favorites…

And believe it or not, I’ve still got over another dozen left to go through, so I’ll be sure to share more of my favorites as I continue working through the pile every couple of weeks until everyone’s back together on justlaugh.com right where they belong! 😉

So I’ve been doing a lot of pondering about my writing career as a whole and how do I quantify all of this suffering via keyboard over the weekend-ish, and one of the ideas that’s been kicking around inside of my head is that maybe it’s time for me to spruce this particular site up a bit to better highlight all of the writing everywhere that I’m presently doing.

Mind you, my first thought was that maybe I needed to create an all new site to give me a place to feature special content that feels like it belongs somewhere bigger than just my blog, and then I realized that I already have too many other dwindling sites that one more might not be the best idea at the time…

The whole point of this site is really supposed to be two-fold:

  1. MY BLOG, which is just me rambling on about whatever in that classic style that I came to know and love from LiveJournal, circa 2003
  2. A COOL HUB SITE, set to feature writing everywhere – as it happens – which right now pretty much consists of RSS feeds on the front page and that’s it…

The thing is, I don’t know exactly how in depth I want to make this change because I don’t want it to take up an exuberant amount of my time and there are actually certain parts of the site that I already like quite well. Still, this theme conglomerate that I’m running now was slapped together some 4 years ago, and it’s 2015 now and responsive design is all of the rage, and there’s a part of me that likes to think that for some of the prettier posts that I’m writing with photos and whatnot on the other sites, I should somehow be able to pull those in here to make this one look all swanky and awesome and more enticing to your random clicks to those other sites, too!

…somehow…

Anyways, I guess I need to start flipping through magazine themes and see if I can find anything that jumps out at me because that’s probably the direction that I should be looking. For what it’s worth, I really like the theme that I ended up with for Just Laugh and it didn’t cost me a fortune, so I’m definitely open to paying for themes if I can find one out of the box that fixes more problems for me than it creates.

It’s tricky because there’s a part of me that likes the simplicity of something like Medium and is intrigued by the idea of a site that’s more centric on the writing than other flashy stuff … BUT I also have books to promote and I do a lot of photo posts about Disney and whatnot, so in the end I don’t really think that a one-size fits all solution is going to work for me here. Not to mention the fact that it somehow needs to incorporate posts from all of these other sites like they were live on this one … I have a feeling that might be tricky and what I don’t want to do is start importing posts from all over the place just to have them populate on my hub site correctly.

This is by no means anywhere near my top priority, but as I try to get myself posting regularly everywhere in the second half of the year, I’d like to have something that can better showcase all of my thoughtful writings. 😀

We’ll see…

Now that I’ve started being a bit more public about Just Laugh’s return, the other big focus that I have right now besides just making good content is also in trying to rebuild an audience to enjoy said content, as well as also help to promote other humorists as well as eventually hopefully driving some ad sales so that I can pay a few other people to write funny stuff along with me.

Marketing is honestly something that I’ve never really been good at before, which explains why I still have stacks of humor books sitting on the shelves behind me! When I first started Just Laugh more than a decade ago, there really wasn’t much we could do for online marketing at the time. We submitted our site to Yahoo!, which was a surprisingly big deal when it got added (I actually got something in the mail!). We tried to build linking relationships with other sites, and when that didn’t work we manage to trick a few of them into linking to us via the Just Laugh Weenie Awards… 😉

But a lot has changed since then … a lot, and so as I’ve sat here contemplating new ways to build traffic when I don’t really have much to offer just yet in return, I stumbled across the advertising options on Facebook the other day and it turned out that they were just simple enough that I decided to give them a try!

I created a new campaign that’s just shooting for new Likes to Just Laugh’s Facebook page, though apparently you can advertise all sorts of stuff with them. In fact, for about an hour and a half I had an ad running specifically to promote this post, but soon after I killed it when I saw that it cost me $1.28 for a single click through to the article.

That said, so far I think I’m pretty happy with how the original ad campaign is going, though admittedly it’s a little weird to watch as the Likes slowly creep in as my ad budget decreases in unison. It kind of feels like I’m buying Likes, which I guess is technically true to an extent, although not really. It’s not like one of those scam sites where you pay a guy $50 for 10,000 Likes – most of which aren’t even real people. That’s one thing that I have to remind myself – that these are real people who are seeing an ad for Just Laugh, and because of that ad they’ve decided to Like the page because they’re into funny stuff!

It’s something that the stats Facebook makes available helps to reinforce, to the point where I couldn’t even imagine buying ads from something like TV or newspapers that are based on market surveys instead of the real data about its users that Facebook is unique to be able to offer to help tailor the experience for both the user and the advertiser!

For example, one of the things that I had to pick for my add was Interests, so instead of just giving typical demographic info like Males age 25-39 who live in the US, I can also tack on there who also like pages such as The Onion and CollegeHumor because those types are more likely to enjoy Just Laugh as well.

Anyways, I’m a very data-driven kind of guy, so it’s neat to be able to see statistics more or less on the fly that tell me things like…

  • My ad has been served to about 3,700 people, and of those impressions I’ve had a success rate of a little over 5%.
  • In the last two and a half days that’s translated to almost 200 new Likes for Just Laugh (I think we were only around 25 of my friends and family before that?).
  • 99% of my ad impressions were on mobile devices, and 100% of the new Likes received came from there as well.
  • Ads were split fairly evenly between men and women, however women were about 25% more likely to respond to the ad.
  • 75% of the new Likes came from people ages 25-34, with the remaining 25% being 35-44 (for true transparency’s sake, the age demo I picked was 25 – 38 … honestly just as a guess because I figured people around my age are more likely to enjoy my jokes!).

It’s definitely interesting to watch develop, to say the least, and the idea that maybe a few more eyeballs will be on my posts in the future is certainly encouraging. Of course, that’ll be the real test because at this point I have no real idea what a realistic conversion rate is for fans clicking through posts over to the actual website where I get to run ads of my own. At this point I’m not entirely sure how long I’m going to run them, or even how long I can afford to run them, though I’ve got some numbers in my head that aren’t too crazy to give myself some things to experiment with.

I really want to make Just Laugh BIG this time, and I know that most of that really rides on having a respectable volume of web traffic, so as long as I can reasonably fund it I’m ok with making some investments to try and help things along. In a way, it’s neat just that we have a system that even makes that possible here in 2015 – where I could tinker with some settings for 20 minutes, enter a credit card number, and another 10 minutes later random strangers were viewing my ads and clicking on them to boot!

Granted, the next chapter of our advertising lesson will be The True Value of a Facebook Fan where we’ll get to see if the $0.20/Like was a worthwhile investment for Just Laugh or not… 😛

P.S. Go Like Just Laugh on Facebook if you read this post and haven’t already … mainly because I don’t have to pay for those Likes if they happen organically!

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So I’ve been very reluctant to announce anything and hereby completely jinx ever updating it again, but I recently sort of brought Just Laugh back from the dead again.

It’s one of those things that I’ve tried to do several times before and it’s just never stuck, to the point where this time I’ve actually been writing since around Thanksgiving but I kept a lot of the posts private on the test site I was building to make sure that I was actually serious about doing it this time before shaking things up again on the main site. I finally got the new site to the point where I pulled the trigger on 2/25.

Admittedly it’s a big change from what the site used to be before … hopefully that’ll contribute to actually making the difference this time. I ended up getting rid of the joke database (because I didn’t want to get sued) and the game downloads (because all of the developers are out of business now and none of them run on modern computers anyways), as well as a bunch of the other random stuff that never entirely fit anywhere. The new focus is entirely on original content, all of which I’m currently writing myself. It’s been tricky to stay on top of, but realistically it’s not a ton of work every day as long as I don’t let myself fall behind and occasionally do things in advance when the opportunity arises.

And for what it’s worth, I personally think that I’m writing some of the funniest stuff that I’ve written in a long time!

Eventually I’d love to bring some other people on with me again, both to explore some of the fun collaborative pieces that we used to do on Just Laugh in the past as well as to have more than one post a day, but for now I’m just trying to keep it slow and steady as I commit to writing on the schedule that I’ve already set for myself.

Of course, it doesn’t help that already I’ve found myself yearning desperately to re-start my humor column once again now that the main development is done for Just Laugh, but I’m really trying to take it slow so that I don’t do what I usually do and drop one thing for another just when things finally start going…

ONE. THING. AT. A. TIME. SCOTT!!! 😀

Reading is fundamental

March 3, 2015 6:15pm
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I’ve always felt kind of bad that I’m a writer who doesn’t really read nearly as much as he probably should.

I mean, I read articles and posts online, but I don’t think I could even tell you the last time I read an actual book from cover to cover.

At least not one that has more than 32 pages and isn’t mostly pictures! 😉

So I’m trying to change that a little bit here in 2015, first inspired by the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about hiking the Appalachian Trail because it reminded me of A Walk in the Woods by the great humorist Bill Bryson. That was a fun book and I remember really enjoying it when it was first given to me, circa 2002-ish, so for $6 I picked up a quick copy for my Kindle and the last couple of nights I’ve been trying to get a chapter or two in during times when I’d normally be vegging out in front of the TV in the evenings or before bed.

I don’t really want to set any goals for myself with this new mission, per se, because I really just want it to be fun and relaxing the way reading should be in my mind, but it’d be neat to look back on this a year from now and see what all I managed to go through. I’ve been out of the game for so long, the list of stuff I’d like to read is admittedly pretty big if I really stop and jot them all down, but just as a quick glance for the sake of this post, here’s a few that I’m considering for when I’m done with A Walk in the Woods…

Once I get done with these, maybe I’ll start to solicit some suggestions, but this ought to keep me busy for a while! 🙂

Slapstick for Babies…

February 10, 2015 11:14pm
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I hope that it’s always as easy to make my son laugh as it is right now, and vice-versa!

Being the aficionado of humor that I am, I find myself particularly intrigued to watch Christopher’s sense of humor developing because right now it very much beckons back to the times of slapstick comedy and silly voices and situations, as opposed to more complex forms that take the form of actual words. He loves The Muppets, and to an extent Sesame Street – I think at this point simply because the characters are big and colorful, and sometimes they flail around crazily like Kermit the Frog.

And hearing somebody else laughing is almost a sure-fire way to make him laugh, almost as if the laughter itself is contagious!

I often feel like I’m channeling a bit of The Three Stooges because it’s such a simpler form of comedy and it’s so much different to explore. I’d sound like a crazy person if I were to talk in random voices and “disappear” around doors in the adult world, yet to an 11 month-old all of those things are hilarious, and I might be biased but my little guy has a wonderful laugh that just makes the whole experience very rewarding.

Maybe it won’t be as much fun in a few years when he learns how to heckle, but even then I suppose that’s just another opportunity to teach him something new… 🙂

Why copy editing is important…

February 9, 2015 11:16am
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Because there’s a considerable difference between:

“Eminem wins 6th best rap album Grammy Award for sequel to 2000 release”

And:

“Eminem wins 6th Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for sequel to 2000 release”

My first thought when seeing the former … What an award – 6th Best Rap Album of the Year?!

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