The Fix

Yesterday, after someone popped up on my  Twitter feed that I had blocked, I went on a bit of an impromptu exploration of my account. What I found made me stop and think about how Twitter has changed in the last few years, and that those of use using the platform for promotion purposes need to look quite closely at what it is we say and do.

The first major takeaway from this exercise was that, based on my profile and activity, the web-based version of the platform decided I was male. This is not on reflection as much of a surprise as it was yesterday and explains why so much of the advertising that drove me off using the Mac OS version of Twitter was targetted in the way it was. I’d never go back to using the web-based interface either because of the adverts, and it remains the #1 reason why I can’t ever take Twitter seriously (as is the case with Facebook.)

On further inspection, there’s a list of ‘interests’ generated on the web API which (presumably) are used to tailor the advertising I don’t look at.

The eight items that remain hidden (and unclickable) are something of an issue, but not nearly as much as the fact that there are things I’m associated with that I don’t understand:


Okay I get the majority of these (and woman’s pants/trousers are clearly an item of interest) but WTF is kaurie2 and WHY do I have THREE mentions of it? One assumes it’s a mistake or a programmers oversight… but, REALLY?


There is also the means by which you can ask Twitter exactly how it uses data in order to tailor content to you. In my case that is a 13 page .PDF file which includes all the commercial Twitter accounts the company feels I would have an interest in. Twitter ‘creates these audiences based on similarities between (your) account and the accounts included in tailored audiences’ and even by opting out of all the specific tools that sell to me, I cannot remove myself from being sold at. There’s a number of out and out spam accounts on this list, apart from a number of fairly obvious other high-profile names… and some not so obvious ones…


Yes really, I’m on her list, despite being a) not eligible to vote in the US and b) not being American. Twitter, your metrics need a SERIOUS overhaul… 


If these things matter to you and if you’re interested in how robots and algorithms already are arbitrarily labelling your future… maybe take some time today to see what companies Twitter has decided you need to be an audience for.


GSME #24 :: Stupid Girl


On Friday, I did something stupid, and paid the price by being soundly roasted to a crisp on Social media. What did I learn from this? Thing number one is that if you decide to start a fight, the benefits can initially appear more sensational than the personal trauma that results:


At its peak, my self-destruction was garnering over 25% engagement. That’s the stuff of legends and ultimately, completely unsustainable. The only way you’ll keep that amount of interaction going is to reply to every thread until your eyes bleed and you’re down to zero followers. In fact, there were so many responses and retweets the entirety of my analytics went tits up for the whole of Friday. It was only when I checked this morning that the real numbers were revealed:


The truth, in retrospect, is that engagement for the day was a modest 1.9% overall. 65k impressions means absolutely nothing, in the larger scheme of things, and tells me (if I needed to know already) that most people love to sit and watch other people having a fight. It is the same mentality that makes drivers slow down when there’s a road accident. That’s not what I started my journey for.

It is certainly never going to happen again.


I know when I’m in trouble, and gut has always served me well in instances of drama. However, what I severely underestimated in this case was the responses of those with whom I interact. This is probably the most important lesson of all when ‘doing’ Social media: not everybody is your friend, and ‘business’ is something that some people don’t like to think you’re mixing with their pleasure. Someone asked me a while ago how you know who to trust and the reply has not changed since this entire journey began.

Everybody has the potential to destroy you whether you fuck up or not.


What matters more in situations such as this is how you conduct yourself after the event. In my case, I issued a public apology on Sunday and wrote a blog post where I withdraw myself from making any contentious comments on the subject in public. This used to be my job, until I stopped writing about that particular game in order to concentrate on the Patreon. If there is a contentious opinion to express from now on, it will be posted on my Blog, where there’s a better chance of presenting my opinions with some depth. My job now, especially this week, is what should be taking priority.

Friday didn’t happen to get either views or attention, I just wanted to discuss an idea. This post however is capitalising on this spectacular failure as a basis for constructive criticism. If I wanted to use anyone as an example of how not to do Twitter, it would be me. I can’t say this won’t happen again, of course, because nobody is perfect.

I can say some very important lessons have been learnt and acted upon.

GSME #23 :: Big Log


So, I should have done this a long time ago, on reflection.


This is the true measure of progress since Twitter reset its UI in the Summer. In four months, I have picked up one new follower. This is what happens when you systematically remove the elements that exist within Social media whose sole purpose is to self-promote a chosen few. Like everything else (SEO, marketing, brand identity) there are a very specific set of rules one needs to follow to become a success.

Those can be summed up in two statements. Either you:

Are genuinely successful and organically gain an audience with a genuine interest in your life, brand or product;


You create a completely fictional representation of the exact same thing using robot followers and reciprocal follow-backs.

From a distance, most users will be hard pressed to distinguish the two.


It is the biggest and worst kept secret on the entire platform. If you pay enough money, you can be an overnight success, but if you never listen to anybody else or indeed contribute anything of note? What is the point of existing?

Then there’s the moments when the robots try and convince you they are human, and the humans think they’ve been clever when really, they’re dumber than rocks. However, in amongst the trash are some real treasures. Anna was one of them last week: she’s been trying to follow me for a while, and with 16k followers you’d think she might be worthwhile, but her Twitter’s a stream of quotes and pictures and little if no reality injected. Looking at her biography, she appears ‘real’ enough:

Student. Writer. Gamer. Slytherin. Bookaholic. Dork. Programmer in Training. Founder of [Account 1] and [Account 2] Part of the Response Team at [Online Employer]

[US LOCATION] · [Website here]

The two Twitter accounts she’s founded have no content, plus the company she works for is involved in curating automated content for Twitter. When I followed her, the first thing that was sent from her account was as follows:


She almost had me, until I followed her from my Patreon Twitter and the exact same message was sent there, too. For a second I hoped that maybe I’d found someone who wasn’t playing the game, or simply here to show how easy it is to manipulate people into following but no, I was wrong. Anna was the straw that broke my social media ‘back.’ Fictional popularity is probably is the most insidious concept I can imagine, but has become a perfect metaphor for the current state of humanity.

The saddest thing of all is that Anna may well be real; going through her website there’s a response form, details of her education… and that she’s training in computer forensics. Ironically, right now, she’s reading 1984, which is particularly apposite with the level of doublethink operating here. If my investigations have awoken the real Anna’s interest, and she’s come here to read about what I have to say, I wish her luck in this future career, but I’ll keep you blocked. I have enough mindless crap on my feed without promoting any more.

The time has come to promote only reality in my journey.

GSME #22 :: Too Much


Apologies, it’s been a few weeks, and I’ve not been giving Social media the attention it once had, at least in terms of numbers. There’s a couple of reasons for this, and it is probably not a bad idea at this point to break those issues down. After what was eight months of pretty much concerted effort to improve my presence by artificial means, it became apparent at the start of September that this is largely pointless. My market is so niche it has proved really tough to sell to, and I need more experience at understanding Twitter’s advertising setup before any more cash is dropped. What I’ve learnt from three days has provided significant pause for thought.

Let’s break down what I was able to conclude from my brief flirtation with Twitter Advertising.

1. Too Much Noise


So, I spent £26.04 before I called a halt to my campaign, because it was abundantly apparent that nobody cared about my post. Of those 9,325 impressions, not one resulted in a website interaction. Of course, I am as much to blame as anyone else for not making my ‘campaign’ attractive, but honestly I shouldn’t be selling myself anyway, its the work that matters. There is just too much noise on this platform for someone like me to get heard without having someone famous expound my ability, or a major magazine or publication picking me up. As I won’t sell myself? I’m effectively screwed.

However, there was some peripheral interest in the contents of my feed and yes, I’ve picked up a few followers in the process. However, I’m more likely to just luck out organically over time, because my ‘product’ is not something that can be conventionally sold. If I changed that, there would be more luck. I’m just not sure I want to just to take advantage of what Twitter can do.

2. Talking to Real Users


Last month I went to some length to remove people I believed weren’t actual human beings from my feed. I’ve since seen a virtual halt to follower increase, based (one assumes) on the fact I refuse to deal with the bots. Ironically a lot of the people I know are human are far more annoying than any of the robots, who often post quite useful filler material for my feed on dull days. It just goes to show that not everything is as black and white as people would like.

I’ve reconciled myself to having to find alternate means of advertising in the next three months and getting ready to start again effectively in 2018.  It is no big deal, and I’m prepared to rethink lots of things to improve my chances. What I don’t want, however, is to compromise what I’m becoming just as a means to create an audience who isn’t human. Sorry robots, it is nothing personal I assure you.

3. Creating Content over Advertising


There was an important epiphany after my advertising ‘investment’ and that’s that being a company of one person means that sometimes, it doesn’t matter that you’re not being read by tens of thousands of people. Right now I’ll take a regular, dedicated audience who care and whose names I can remember. I’ll spend some time working hard to build up a following and not expect everything to happen tomorrow. After that? We’ll see where things stand.

What is most apparent in the nine months since I began this journey goes back to a basic understanding, that true success isn’t necessarily years of hard work. Sure, that helps, but often it is the sparks of unexpected brilliance along the way which allow this to change the entire course of your journey. I need to stop worrying about trying to control everything, and let some of the unexpected be just that, good or bad.

With this in mind, as of next week, the GSME will be undergoing something of a redefinition in terms of scope and objectives…

GSME #20 :: New Shoes


The more astute amongst you will have noticed that this site has changed appearance. It’s not a seismic shift by any means but… the header image is now different, there’s some stuff organised behind the scenes and (by the time you read this) there will be an archive area for all the Books of the Month we will be trailing and then writing about, plus poetry associated with each month. As we discussed last week, this is all wrapped around my acceptance that if I want to ‘sell’ a Patreon that revolves around the cerebral world of poems and non fiction, I need to be targetting this to people other than those currently following me.


In the revolving bird feeder that is Social media, I already know that keeping up with trends matters rather a lot. Unfortunately, making my content right now is taking up far more time than I’d like, which is leaving the brain less than optimal for self-promotion. Therefore, the plan is to try and improve the site little by little until the end of the Summer Holidays, and then when I’m on my own again in early September (and therefore able to dedicate a bit more time to the promotional side of things.)  Therefore during month I want to try and up the Patreon subscription count from existing followers before I start trying to hook them from other places. That leaves the rest of August to trying to optimise myself effectively.

#lifegoals It can be done ✅

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.

GSME #18 :: Wake Up


This week’s cautionary tale has very little to do with reach and engagement, but instead is a warning. I’ve been considering ‘boosting’ some of my IoW Essays via Twitter’s own promotion feature, to see if there is any merit in extending my remit. That can’t be done until I have some actual content to promote, and as of tomorrow there will be three essays from which to choose. I’ve been waiting for this point to arrive, and whilst doing so I’ve been trying to find places where I could also hawk myself about without the need to shell out some cash. I’ve realised today that I should be very careful not simply with what I choose to promote, but also when that happens.

Someone needs to stop me posting anything unless I’m 100% awake.


I’ve now made a complete fool of myself in several places over the last week, all by the simple expediency of posting before I was paying sufficient attention. That means, effectively, any communication with anyone before 9am BST is now off the cards. I need to have drunk at least one cup of tea, possibly several. Most importantly, if I wish to continue to communicate with those I do not know or who don’t follow me, I cannot say ANYTHING confrontational AT ALL. If I see summat I disagree or have an issue with?


Social media might work best with brutal honesty, but sometimes it is better served with silence. Knowing when to say nothing at all is possibly the best life skill you ever learn. Whether it’s that bloke you know is trying to be genuine but just ends up sounding creepy, or the girl dealing with her breakup by making every tweet about how horrible her ex was… they don’t want to know the truth, your opinion, or indeed any point in between. What they need is the belief that the sanctity of Twitter allows them to shout into the void on this occasion and not get a reply. This is not the time for reminding them that they have 325 people who could all be listening, and getting mightily hacked off, or who disagree with their stance.

Most importantly of all: learn when to pick the battles, and understand that even with the best will and all the planning in the World, sometimes you’ll just screw it up regardless.


Apart from shooting myself in the foot, it has been a pretty decent week, all told. Once I’ve done my first promotion, there’ll be stuff to report. Until then? I’m making sure I’m fully caffeinated at all times.

The results are already considerably better than when I wasn’t paying attention.

GSME #17 :: What’s my Name Again?


Before we begin the regular weekly dissection of my engagement numbers, I feel duty bound to point out two things: you’ll see this post posted Tuesday, but the following tweets are dated Wednesday. That’s scheduling, folks, and why you should always check the HTML/headers of your webpages to ensure they’re not lying to you. The reason why I’m preceding all of this? Twitter have added some new, shiny filters to improve your browsing experience:

The first four have been with us a while, but the last two are new, and rather disturbing. Suddenly, you can stop listening to anybody else who might be bothering you, for whatever reason, just as long as they don’t follow you. It is obvious why this would appear attractive as a measure to stop trolling (as is the case with a new account) but just stop for a minute and think about the consequences. Click all of these options and BOOM you’ve created a virtual gated Community, where only you control what comes in and out. Now, initially that might sound great… but then stop and think about how much noise that will effectively remove. It doesn’t just filter out who you consider as the bad people, IT REMOVES EVERYBODY.

It won’t just be newcomers: you won’t be able to talk to a celebrity unless they unclick the option designed to protect them from pondscum like you. If an organisation wants to respond to your Tweet because their product sucks, you have to ensure you follow their feed for that to happen. However, this is nothing next to the horrible realisation that all you’ll ever hear are the people you choose to follow, on the assumption they then choose to follow you. Your gated utopia will be lovely though, right up to the point when someone fucks up royally, the whole thing falls apart, and you’re forced to put a Private lock on your account. In fact, the notion of privacy looks a bit lame now, because if you then refuse to listen to any dissent outside a carefully curated circle, you may as well just go back to Facebook.

The problem with filters, of course, is that there is no indicator at all if you’re being ignored or not. That’s why I’ll be blocking far more aggressively going forward, so that people can be very much aware I don’t listen to them for a reason. I’m not pretending to be supportive and open with one tweet, whilst filtering out all the grief I pick up as a result of the terrain on the side. Of course, nobody should have to suffer abuse and trolling, but if that really does bother you then lock your account and stop building an audience. Choose to walk this path right now and, like it or not, abuse is part of the package. I’m not saying that’s right, and it certainly isn’t fair, but just turning off all the noise is most definitely not your answer.

Now that rant’s over, let us look at how the push to increased engagement is going.


This is the first time I’ve hit above 3% since the Experiment began, and all it took was a Poll on the other side of MMO verbal abuse to do it:


There’s now no doubting that Polls are an easy, quick and free way of generating interest in your feed. Following this up with a blog discussing the results is also a decent way of making two days worth of content on the cheap, I won’t lie. I run a Tuesday poll to end Thursday, and then one to stretch from Friday to Monday.


Overall, everything’s a bit more volatile with the polls in place, and what is really needed is a good dose of consistency. That’s the plan for the next few weeks, and I’ll have a more in-depth look at what’s planned next week.