GSME #20 :: New Shoes

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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.

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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 ✅

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I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.

Pulp Fiction

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Its been a while, my friends, since fiction was spoken about in these parts. It is not like I’ve lost the urge to tell stories, just that life has decided there were other, more pressing matters that needed to be considered first. Now they are out of the way, it is time to sit down and consider a way forward. There is, quite amazingly for me, a plan to boot.


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First order of business is to get MMXCI complete and in a workable state to edit. You’d think after seventeen years I’d have cracked this, but a vital piece of narrative development only became apparent late last year. The plan is to try and have this finished by the end of July.

Once complete, I’d like to destroy it enough so it could be offered as a potential manuscript. It remains the best original narrative I’ve ever been able to create, and I’d like to make the most of that as a selling point.

 

 


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Then, there is Chameleon, still incomplete after my start on it during NaNoWriMo last year. I’ve now rethought the plot and have significant reason to extensively rewrite what already exists. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll edit to the current finish point and then continue onwards to completion.

This I’m planning to do through August and September, leaving October to consider what will get the nod for NaNoWriMo 2017. I already have an idea on the table, in the planning stage…

 


 

After that, I’m going to use the Internet of Words as the means to write short stories better. The call has gone out this afternoon for beta readers, and if you’ve expressed an interest you can expect to see a story in your Inbox early in July.

However, that’s not all there is to it: join my Patreon and on Thursdays you’ll have a chance to contribute to the following Friday’s exclusive fiction content! If you don’t know about this already, click here to find out details of how to pledge.

If you’re interested in my storytelling abilities, and original fiction pieces going forward, then please feel free to follow this Blog.

The Final Countdown

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I mentioned back on May 5th that I was going to have to go in for what turned out to be quite important surgery. My recovery, although fairly swift, is not as rapid as I had either hoped or planned for. As a result, my intention to go live with Patreon next week is, on reflection, somewhat optimistic. That means there will be some minor changes to project timings, to allow me a chance to get completely back to normal and present the level and depth of content that I think this entire project deserves.

With this in mind, amended timings are as follows:

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Early Adoption Patreon will now go live on June 12th, with general access available on June 15th. This also allows me to finally complete the Top Tier rewards to be photographed, and have the enamel badge rewards in hand. I’m also considering some additional rewards that I’ll let readers of the IoW Twitter feed know about starting next week. If you want to be a part of my Early Access Team, please follow @InternetofWords on Twitter where there’s already a daily dose of Micropoetry and Haiku to keep you entertained.

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I’ve decided to do a massive update of all of the various online presences ahead of the Patreon launch too, as an excuse to standardise everything across the board and organise better going forward. The physical changes for this are already in place, it will now simply be graphics and content that changes long term. Here’s a reminder of where you can find me, and that all of these places will be getting a freshen up starting tomorrow:

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I’d love to tell you more, but honestly I’d like to keep some surprises under my belt… needless to say, it’ll be worth your time.

I look forward to seeing you bright and early tomorrow morning 😀

GSME #10 :: Back and Forth

social-media-asides

Ten weeks into our journey, and there’s a moment to stop and take stock of the last two and a bit months:

April was, like it or not, my quietest month for a while, which probably has a lot to do with me taking time off at weekends and being less involved with the gaming side of of my feed overall, as I prepare for the new project. I’ve also started quite aggressively blocking and ignoring people who simply join in the hope I’ll follow them back, simply for audience numbers. Despite this, I’ve seen an up-tick in new followers. All told, I’m pretty satisfied with where things stand, even though (as I discussed in the week) the CoPromote attempt to get the new venture some publicity pretty much was a waste of time and effort. However, things aren’t as woeful as they perhaps first appear.

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I effectively took the weekend off, and that’s demonstrated by the end of graph tail off. However the rest of the week was really rather robust: only Tuesday and Wednesday had anything to do with the CoPromote push, Friday was all my own work. In fact, these numbers give me hope that my forward planning could really start to show some results. Plus, having wanted to keep my engagement at 2% or above, today’s rate is already showing I don’t need an excessive number of tweets to do that, just to use the right content when I do.

The next couple of weeks will show a real split for focus: I’ll be setting up analytics for the IoW site once we hit early July, but until then I see no point in worrying over the details. There’s no intention to stop running or creating any of my other content either, but I will be amending posting days and content in the next two weeks. Basically, it will be all change yet with a focus on getting a better quality of response overall. I’ve decided that numbers really don’t matter nearly as much as getting a decent return on interaction and education.

I also still have some CoPromote reach to spend, and there are some new plans for that going forward.

IW Update :: Patreon

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This week has been rather overshadowed by personal health issues, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my eye on the ball in terms of preparation, which should step into high gear starting on Monday. What that has meant in practical terms is preparing my Patreon space and finally pinning down what rewards will be available on ‘launch.’

Stage One Patreon Rewards have arrived 😀 #photographer #InternetofWords

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Right now I’ll be offering what I consider as a pretty decent set of physical incentives. On  order are Enamel Badges with the IW ‘logo’ plus special ‘Thank You’ cards, with these rather snazzy wristbands already in hand. On top of that there will be 10 ‘Founders Rewards’ which represent my top tier of participation, which are being routed in solid wood and which I will hand finish myself. Having read some stories about how there are those who unscrupulously pledge only for rewards and then leave, I’m hoping what I’m giving here is unique enough to simply appeal to those with a genuine interest. It has also been suggested I wait for a month’s pledges before anything goes out and that might also be a wise move on consideration.

The nuts and bolts of the tier rewards themselves are now sketched in a notebook, and I’ll exclusively reveal them to my Twitter feed this weekend, not simply as an early incentive but to check whether people think they’d be interested in what is being offered. To see what else is on offer apart from the physical rewards it is time to

where you can be actively involved in lots of cool stuff ahead of time.

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After that, next week will see my back end planning shift up a gear, and there’ll be areas appearing on the site to cover the body of work that will be produced under the Internet of Words ‘concept.’ I’ll be introducing each ‘strand’ as we go, and looking for feedback and interest at the same time. I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank everybody who has encouraged and supported me thus far. I’ve been literally gob-smacked that not only are there those of you willing to take a chance on my ideas, but that you’re already offering help and support for the journey.

Thank you so very much indeed.

Blogging For Noobs :: Look Up

Blogging for NoobsPart Three of our Ten Point Blogging Guide deals with presentation, and the fact that it matters just as much about HOW you offer readers content as the words themselves. You would think by now that people grasp how important it is for your webpage to be legible, especially when you consider how many people now read on a screen the size of a tea mug. This is something to really keep in mind as a blogger, a fact that newspapers and publications continue to just not grasp. I don’t care how many bells and whistles you think need to be included on your Webpage, if the text is illegible or there’s too many images to load, you’re out of luck.

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The problem, of course, is that the Snapchat generation is used to a level of mobile presentation that any smaller blogger will struggle to either emulate or repeat. In these cases you’re stuck with making your words matter, and doing all the fancy stuff to sell them. That means your first point of business after establishing a Blog needs to be the means by which you sell that: we’ll talk about the Social media ‘dance’ in more detail in a few weeks, but for now you should be considering at least some of the following:

  • Twitter account in the same name as your Blog
  • Facebook page (see above)
  • Instagram Page (you get the idea by now)
  • Snapchat account

… and the list goes on, especially if you’re working in a niche market that might benefit from (lets say) a Pinterest account. You want to do this now, early on, so that as you prepare for the new wave of interest in your work, everybody gets to see what you’re writing straight away. You’ll also be amazed at how tolerant people will be of a fairly simplistic website if it a) doesn’t crash their phone and b) doesn’t cost them a fortune in download charges. If you want to be fancy with presentation, concentrate on separate platforms that promote that and keep your blog clean, simple and most importantly easy to read.

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Next up (and this will matter if things really take off) is how you format posts. One long, huge wall of text will switch people off. You can write thousands of words, sure, but if you do, break them up into small, easily-manageable chunks. Use pictures or line breaks whenever possible: you don’t need to be clever with the GIFs and the fancy graphics, but if you know that’s what your audience likes, then go right ahead. Most importantly of all, please make sure your spelling and grammar are up to standard, because there’ll be some bright spark out there ready to abuse you for being illiterate if you don’t.

Most blogging tools (like WordPress I’m using now) have a spell check service, as do most browsers. There really is no excuse for mucking it up, but if English is not your first language you can go right ahead and write in the format you feel most comfortable using, and let Google Translate do the rest (if you use Chrome as a browser.) I read a number of French language gaming blogs in this way with no issues at all. The reminder here is to pick the form of words you feel most comfortable using, and allow that format to guide your actions. It’s a global marketplace after all, something many American and English bloggers often conveniently choose to forget.

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In the end, what matters just as much as the words you write is the way they’re subsequently presented. Both Blogger and WordPress have the ability to preview sites so you’ll see how they look on both tablets and phones, and the best thing you can ever do long term for your reach is ensure that the Web is the last place you check is looking fine before you commit to a layout. We’ll go back and work out your Social media policy in a few weeks, but for now I want to get you in the habit of making the most of all this hard work you’ve now put into presentation. That means, yet again, pulling out a pencil and paper or a spreadsheet and starting to foster a regular routine of posting.

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On the window to my left is stuck this schedule, and every week at this time I’ll sit down and plan the upcoming week’s work. Next time I’ll ask you to consider when you’d like your content to be posted, and how you go about building a consistent schedule to ensure that is what happens. For now, go ahead and keep fiddling with that web template but remember to ask someone else if they can read it as well as you can, or if it works in low light or on an older iPhone.

This stuff matters far more than you realise for establishing an audience.

GSME #8 :: Your Cheating Heart

Last week, if you were paying attention, was fairly significant for this site. That means that after today things won’t look the same, but this Guide will remain plugging away at improving the reach and interest in what is about to become a fully fledged ‘brand.’ In fact, if all goes to plan, I will be updating WordPress on this account to a Business Plan. That means that SEO is going to become rather an important part of what goes on around this parish in the months that follow, but for now I’ll simply mention it in passing. For now, we have Twitter analytics to look at and some more foundation work for the months that follow.

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The peak on the Engagements graph last week was my resignation as @MMOGames’ Warcraft columnist (in anticipation of the Patreon in June) and because of illness, the effort to engage has, I’ll admit, not been as full on as in previous weeks. However, I’m definitely feeling more awake, aware and willing to go this morning: I managed to CoPromote enough posts to get me to 44k Reach, but I’ll wait for my purchased 500k’s worth to hit the account before I use it on summat worthwhile. However, my 28 day stats are looking distinctly encouraging:

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What is happening is the constant drip of what I know are genuine followers and not either a) robots or b) people with their own promotion to highlight. It helped at the weekend that a post I wrote on the Warcraft site appears to have been ‘shared’ somewhere that’s not on my radar. This normally means Reddit but as my WordPress analytics simply list the hits as from ‘search engines’ it is just as likely someone used me to mask traffic for summat nefarious. However, the number of relevant follows that could be as a result means I’ll take whatever, without complaint.

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As you can see, my Warcraft site generates only a handful of hits on any given day. Ironically, the post in question is a less than glowing review of current content, and isn’t something I intend to repeat on a regular basis. However, it gives me an interesting blip on the stats to write about, so you take your anomalies wherever you can find them.

I also considered this week promoting a post using Twitter’s own boost feature. However, when I tried to work out roughly how much this would cost, I could find nowhere where pricing was listed, except from 2012. A quick look at Twitter’s knowledge base revealed why:

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If I have to hand in my credit card details before I am even charged for the service, I’m really not interested. I appreciate this may be standard practice for other services, but as I’m not a massive company but a single person with the most limited of budgets? Nope. Yet again, Twitter are a complete waste of time and CoPromote continues to look like the best move I could possibly have made in order to extend my reach into a completely new and unknown audience. It is odd how these things work out: I’d thought the service would be a complete waste of time, but for what I’m paying (set amount, easily budgetable for) it knocks spots off the ‘professional’ alternative.

Sometimes, the biggest provider is not necessarily the best choice.

Blogging for Noobs :: I Love You

It is time, finally, to write stuff. Are you excited?

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Number one in our Ten Things to Learn guide is, I’m afraid, NOT how to write gud. That I can try and help you with but, to be honest, you are mostly on your own. If you’ve reached this stage anyway the desire to write already very much exists (which remains half the battle on any given day) but developing a strong, individual style takes both time and effort to perfect. If, like me, you write for other people, their style will vary greatly from your own. That’s why learning to be your own Editor is great practice for when you end up having to deal with somebody else critiquing your work. There are however, certain things you really shouldn’t do, and it seems only fair to provide a list of those:

  • Take the first person out of your work. I did this and I did that is perfectly acceptable, in certain circumstances. The first person pronoun makes for a deeply personal insight, but often not for great writing. I’m going to use myself as an example of this: I think this post would be far better re-written without the excessive use of ‘I’ within it. The content’s sound, but the execution needs work. Using ‘we’ is a better idea for a lot of reasons, and it will make your whole blog resonate better with people you do not know.
  • Use a spell checker. Most blog interfaces provide one as standard anyway. Try to avoid abbreviations or excessive use of jargon/abbreviated speech. Imagine you’re talking to whoever you know personally who doesn’t have a clue about all this stuff and make it so they’d understand what’s going on. If you want people to notice your work, it isn’t just about what you write, but as much about how it is presented. 

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  • Don’t make it personal. There’s going to be a whole week on this, because there’s been some notable legal events in the last couple of months that prove if you are libellous or slanderous to people, there are consequences. I’ve notably used a blog post to stop someone stalking me, but I can attest this is not to be recommended, especially not in the current climate. If you can’t keep it civil and pleasant, don’t write it. Go shout at people on Twitter instead… no, don’t do that either. Just be nice.
  • Explain yourself properly. The point of good blogging, at least for me, is making one point per post. After that you’ll find the retention rate of your audience tends to drop dramatically. Sure, you can make long complex arguments in blog posts, but the best work is when you set yourself a question to answer in X words, or you show your reasoning for something in Y words. Don’t waffle. Learn to work out what is useful in a sentence, and what’s just repeating the same point again.typing3.gif
  • Formatting is everything. If I had a business WordPress, which may well happen by the end of the year, SEO is a thing. If you have no idea what that means, here’s a guide Google made explaining how Search Engine Optimisation works. That, coupled with using formatting for improved readability (which the business version of WordPress will also offer as an option) gives you a better chance that people stay with your article and read until the end. For now? Don’t write massive blocks of dense text. Split it up, and stick pictures in between.

Having said all of that, I told you that ideas matter a great deal, and they do. A combination of information, entertainment and inspiration seems to be why people keep coming back to what I do. There’s stuff on daily events, things that matter to those playing the same games as me, and who maintain a comparable set of interests. I use the GIF as art, whenever possible, as a cheap laugh or to reinforce a bigger point. The fact I’m attempting self improvement via exercise, and that I suffer with mental health issues that I’m happy to discuss and dissect all form part of a complex landscape, that has become an online extension of my real-life self. I’m not expecting you to do all this when all you want is to help people play a game better or share your art. However, there should be a distinct part of you in every word you write. The passion is what matters most.

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The enthusiasm and passion is what keeps the desire to write moving forward, even on the days when you seemingly have nothing to offer. For me, I’ve found a way to counter my lack of enthusiasm by creating a series of weekly ‘topics’: a banner headline under which I can write about an aspect of the general subject matter. That means, that once a week (unless a more important topic supplants it) I’m writing about my time in Warcraft, chronologically, from beginning to the present day. I have the headline, under which I’ve planned several months worth of potential subjects. What this gives me is a chance to both think ahead and know I have work to do even if the game is not particularly active and I don’t have a lot to say. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm for work moving forward, by planning a larger subject to break down in parts. In fact, this Guide itself is being written on the exact same principle: weekly parts that will form an overall whole.

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The other way that blogging is incredibly effective is if you have something in your life that you can react to/talk about. That trip to the end of the Earth, your battle with cancer, the problems starting a business, becoming a successful writer… all these things are subject matters someone will want to read about. It might be something that happened to you in childhood, or perhaps your attempts to find meaning in an increasingly complex world. If you have the time to talk to someone, you could write it down. If you find yourself spending more than three tweets in a day ranting about anything on line? That’s blog material, right there.

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Blogs can do many things, the only limit being your imagination. If you have ideas, the best thing you will ever do is not just jump in without giving them form and focus. In fact, planning may sound utterly pointless but it is more likely to keep you from just giving up and not bothering. It is, for me, the very foundation of effective blogging. You have the passion to write, and all the ideas required to do so and now it is time to give yourself a framework on which to hang them. In that notepad that you’ve been using for recalling inspiration, you now need a planner on which they can be placed

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Feel free to copy this and print it out on a sheet of A5/A4 or whatever size your notebook is. This is your first month of blogging. The launch date for your blog isn’t top left either: next week, using April 1st as our start point, I’ll show you how to prepare and plan a Blog launch in advance: from scheduling posts to engaging an audience before a word is even written. I hope, by suggesting this as a way forward, I’ll be able to keep enthusiasm going well past that first four weeks, and help you create and form good habits for years to come.

Blogging for Noobs :: Say My Name

Last week, I told you to think up a great name for your blog, and now you’re staring at the bit of paper with this written on and wondering what your next move is. Blogging does not demand you to have cash to begin (though the assumption you have a computer and reliable access is a given.) However, I do know someone who, for many years, possessed neither and still blogged successfully via the wonders of a Library. It is possible, if you want to write badly enough, to manage with nothing and still get the words out. Having established this, there are some things to note before suggesting a domain purchase is the way forward.

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Any brand marketeer worth their click-throughs will tell you that as a successful website you’ll want a domain to match your product: however, with a finite number of sites available to purchase (and by definition the same with physical addresses) you are and will be somewhat limited in choices. HOWEVER I need to state here that as a blogger, a personalised domain is not necessary in the first instance. Many sites currently provide free, basic hosting at no charge, and you don’t need anything other than yourself. If you want to dry-run your writing experience and are worried that all this cost up front won’t be worth it, then it does not need to be spent. Assuming the name you chose is still available and you don’t mind the name of the hosting platform tacked on too? We can stop having this conversation and you can skip to the next part of the Guide.

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For everybody else? You can buy a custom URL in all manner of places, and sites such as Worldpress will happily pretend they own the domain and point your webpages at it. Google’s Blogger service remains free at the basic level but will insist if you have an address that GoDaddy host it: for me this was the final straw to change providers after a seven year relationship. This is not the place to go into details about how huge companies do their business, but my shift to WordPress was a lot to do with having more personal control and owing/registering domains via a third party I choose and that isn’t forced on me. You don’t have to do this either: WordPress will do that job, Blogger’s perfectly acceptable as entry level publishing as indeed will any number of ‘independent’ website construction sites.

The bottom line is simple: if all you want to do is write? Get a free space and get started, and worry about registering a domain later. If you are serious about doing this long-term, initially register a domain via a third party for 12 months and pick a website provider that uses ‘web forwarding’ as a means of pointing that to your site. If, after a year of being ‘free’ you’re still happy with the situation and want to continue, then you can look at more concrete solutions. What you shouldn’t at this stage be doing is worrying about the mechanics, or throwing wads of cash at something you might give up at a later date. For me, WordPress’ choice of themes, their own hassle free setup and the fact I’ve used them since they were established was all I needed to finally consolidate all my online homes in one place.

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There also needs to be a mention made of webpage suffixes. You don’t need a .com to be cool, kids, and if as I know some of you would like to remain as anonymous as possible online, having a US-based suffix may cause issues if registered elsewhere. When you register a domain, you will be asked for your name and address, and in most cases this cannot be spoofed to avoid people looking you up using ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) However, if you register UK suffixes in the UK, Nominet (The Official Registry for UK Domain Names) will give you the option to hide personal details. I could hide my personal information but considering my .net’s been in the public domain for over a decade, it’s probably saved on so many cache pages as to be not worth the hassle. However, please bear in mind that registering adult stuff like domains means a measure of responsibility, which might be another reason to go free first before committing long term.

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Okay, that’s the mechanics of the process sorted, but there’s one more question to ask. Does it matter what you call yourself? Did you not read last week’s introduction? Yes, OF COURSE IT DOES, but as we will discuss next week you are not necessarily doing this to become an overnight sensation. What the right name does is give you the opportunity to create your own brand, which is basically what everybody else in the World who wants to be noticed is also attempting to do. The difference between them and us is simple: we’re smart. This is, ultimately, your first lesson in branding, but right now what is far more important is CONTENT, which is where we start now. Your name, ultimately, will help get the word out once you’ve established a reliable content stream you are comfortable with controlling.

Next up therefore, you’ll need a word processing programme and something to type on. It doesn’t need to be flash or fancy, and all it really needs to be able to do is record your thoughts.

Next week? WE START WRITING SHIT.