For complex evil characters to work, you’ve got to give them some screen time, as it were. Because a paragraph or two simply will not cut it.
Since evil characters are a certain type of character, it pays to give them a backstory as deep and rich and meaningful as the ones you give to your hero characters. Hence, just as you do with your hero characters, think about where and when they were born. Do they have siblings? Do their parents still live? Maybe there were early signs of trouble. Could they have been abused or neglected? Did they abuse weaker, younger siblings, or animals? Both of those signify deep mental disturbances. Perhaps there is trauma.
So, why is this particular character evil? What drives their behavior? Because real human beings don’t just do bad things for fun, what gives? Are they seeking vengeance for something? Did they lose their own true love, their fortune, their family, or their home? Maybe they were horribly humiliated.
Characters who are evil simply for the sake of being evil are boring and unrealistic. And the same is true of characters who are evil merely to drive the plot. Your terrorists need a reason why they do what they do, no matter how odd.
And for your complex evil characters to do their thing, they need some way of getting it done. Hence an impoverished character would need funds, probably. Or a disabled character might need someone else to be the muscle. And a famous character might simply pay someone else to do their dirty work.
Means for characters can potentially also be about weaponry. Your French medieval society would only have rudimentary use of gunpowder. For example, Joan of Arc lived during a time of gunpowder use but didn’t necessarily use it herself. However, your evil character might just be a jerk or a person who calls others names. If that’s the case, then you should know which slurs were used when.
Your complex evil characters have limitations if they live far from your other characters. However, modern or future characters can attack in cyberspace. Or maybe they can attack over the phone or via letter if you go back in time.
Attacks in person mean your complex evil characters are at risk. The victim might hit back. Or it could be shrapnel flying around. Plus there’s always a possibility of police involvement. People for real “commit suicide by cop”. Maybe your evil characters do something like that.
Not every character gets punished, just as not every real-life criminal is caught. How do you want your story end? Or do you maybe want to open up the possibility of a sequel?
And even in prison or under a doctor’s care, not everyone changes their ways.
There are also issues with imprisonment. During a lot of history, it was just barely this side of torture, if it was at all. Even the best-run prisons, with the least amount of corruption, have dirt and danger. Also, there’s the question of suicidal evil characters. Currently, the American prison system is supposed to have good safeguards. But suicides still happen.
Your complex evil characters might want to avenge, well, nearly anything. And even if you used that as their motivation before, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. It can still work.
Offsite sharing is a fascinating concept. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Facebook consists of the availability of the Like Button.
The Like Button and Offsite Sharing
Because the offsite Like Button dovetails beautifully with its presence on the site itself, i. e.,
“The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”
Drag and Drop
Furthermore, the site tries to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites for offsite sharing. The premise is irresistible. You add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information transmits back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. In addition, their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do, and the offsite sharing spreads even more. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process repeats on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. And with enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.
Engagement and Reach
However, engagement and reach are both going down. And Facebook actually has the gall to try to get people to pay for what it does! Quelle horreur!
But, seriously folks, how do you think Facebook pays its bills? They do it with advertising. If users won’t be charged (and Facebook would be mighty foolish to start charging all of those free sources of detailed consumer data), then advertisers will be. And of course that already happens. What gets a lot of people’s undershorts knotted is that the freebie advertising is harder and harder to implement. Facebook seems to push everyone with a page to start buying likes to get more offsite sharing.
Thumb on the Scale?
Whoa, Nelly! Because that would be kind of unethical, if the site was deliberately putting a thumb on an imaginary scale and making it harder for people to reach their fans without paying for reach and engagement.
So, are they doing that?
While the jury is still out, I’m inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a minute by minute basis. And engagement and reach dilute without Facebook having to do a damned thing.
Finally, does the site benefit from making it harder for page and group administrators to connect for free? Absolutely. But do they have to work in order to create this condition?
Nope. Life does it for them.
Offsite Sharing: The Upshot
Beyond issues with Russian interference and how the Facebook algorithm can sometimes tamp down third parties, offsite sharing can work pretty well there. Political and other paid ads, though, are another story. They are a reminder that, every year, Facebook becomes more and more of a “pay to play” platform. Hence if you want to share something from off the site, your shared content might be lost amidst the paid stuff. So be it.
But I don’t think I ever truly understood it until now. Lee Odden has taken an almost mysterious concept and made it comprehensible. I definitely liked Optimize.
SEO, According to Lee Odden
Google doesn’t have a lot of options for its spider bots when it comes to reading your content. It can read your text. And that’s about it. While there are, I am sure, plans to try to make it so that Google can better read flash, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, Images, and Videos, the truth is, it’s currently pretty much all letters and numbers. That will eventually change, but right now that’s it.
Hence Google doesn’t know that the picture you added to your blog is an image of, say, Dame Judi Dench. It needs a caption. Sounds obvious, right? But I wasn’t doing that, not with this blog and not with my writing site or anywhere else. Oops. And that caption should be obvious, in order to serve the search bots, and informative and conversational, in order to serve your human readers/audience.
Who or What Should You Optimize For? Bots or People?
Both. And fortunately, they don’t conflict. Hence if you add keywords, tags, or categories to your webpage, blog post, etc., then if you can reiterate the keywords, etc. within the content, you’ve got it made. And you need to look around wherever you are posting, and use every available square inch for your optimization efforts. This does not mean that you cover every single pixel! Rather, it means that, if you have a space for a caption, use it. If you have a space for tags, write them. Blogs have categories. So make them meaningful, and use them. Hence I finally feel I get it. And that is a wonderful feeling.
Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!
Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.
But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?
Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.
Not by a long shot.
Traditional vs. New-Style Networking
Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.
Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at follow up, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.
LinkedIn Changes That
With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,
You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
And you ask them to link to you.
You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.
Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.
Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.
Meeting Offline Specifics
As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.
So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.
So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.
This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.
There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?
So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.
However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.
You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.
And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.
Transitioning to the In-Person Experience
My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.
After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.
With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.
I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).
Internet Afterlife and a Cyber Legacy
The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.
But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?
A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might just that cyber legacy and feel we are rather shallow people indeed.
Forums Tell a Different Story
However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.
So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind for your cyber legacy? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?
Have you tried advertising on Facebook? It’s easier and more affordable than you might think.
Keep in mind that Facebook is constantly A/B testing (e. g. checking to see if any new layouts or color schemes, etc. will make you click more), so these instructions might be a little out of date after a while. This has worked in the past. It might not any more. Caveat emptor.
About half the time, Facebook will just come to you and suggest you start advertising. I can’t say what their algorithm is for selecting a post to promote, although they usually suggest a popular one. If they are not suggesting a post you want to promote (e. g. you would prefer to promote another one), or you are new to promotions and there are no suggestions, or you just want to see how to start one from scratch, go to your Author Page and go to Publishing Tools, then, on the right, pull down on Help and click Advertiser Support. This will get you to the Facebook for Business page. In the upper right corner, click Create Ad.
For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll choose Boost Your Posts as our campaign.
Selecting an audience for a post
Audience is important; you do not want to just send to everyone, as even failed clicks are going to cost you money. You will do a lot better with targeting as that will help assure a greater percentage of your clicks are meaningful and helpful. Click Set Audience and Budget. You can choose an audience from demographics, or from preferences or from lookalikes, who are people similar to those who like your page. If you are just getting started, and a greater percentage than normal of your likes come from friends and family trying to help you out, do not use this option!
Select a location by navigating around the map and dropping a pin in your preferred location. The age ranges are also pretty self-explanatory. You can even exclude some people.
Setting a budget
Start small. You can always add. The minimum is generally $1/day. I prefer what Facebook calls a Lifetime budget, which sets a total. It’s a lot easier to rein in than a Daily budget, I believe.
Go to your analytics and take a look at when more people are on than usual. Select those days and times for your ads! Next click Select Ad Creative. I recommend allowing everything unless you absolutely know your targeted audience is not in a particular area.
Choosing which post to promote
Choosing a post to promote (if Facebook has not done so for you) is easy. Select a popular one, representative of your brand. If you have a limited time offer, that could be perfect. Just make sure your ads don’t run after the offer has expired.
Three Minutes Back in Time is a sequel of sorts to a fanfiction story I wrote called Crackerjack. It is also a bit of a sequel for a second fan fiction story, Concord. But for this particular short story, I took out all of the fan fiction elements, except for the names of the characters. So it is essentially a wholly original piece.
Background for Three Minutes Back in Time
Science fiction often seems to be in the realm of today or the future. As I was also writing Real Hub of the Universe, the idea of setting sci fi in an unexpected time period became irresistible.
Hence the story takes place in the very beginning of the American involvement in the Second World War.
When Rosemary Parker and James Warren go to a fair outside Washington, DC, they do not expect to find a time machine. And they really don’t expect it to work.
But it can only work for three minutes at a time. So Rosemary decides to go to the one place and date and time she has ever wanted to – just before the death of her beloved brother, Freddie.
The characters are Rosemary Parker, James Warren, and Freddie Parker. Plus there is a carnival ticket taker, who doesn’t get a lot of “screen time”.
Memorable Quotes from Three Minutes Back in Time
At least the fair wasn’t segregated, like so many other places were. Its grounds were open to all, including James and Rosemary. And once they had determined the fair had little to offer, they had sat down on a bench and talked. He had wanted to discuss W.E.B. Du Bois and the recent allied raid on Rome. But Rosemary had wanted to talk about the upcoming premiere of Stormy Weather with Lena Horne and Fats Waller. He didn’t even want to discuss the recent All-Star game.
The story has a K rating.
I think this one stands alone rather well. And I was so happy Three Minutes Back in Time was published by Mythic Magazine.
In particular, I think it evokes something of the mood of the time, not just through music, but also how Rosemary behaves. She’s a woman of color, and she has a decent education, but this is also way before Rosa Parks, who I swear I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote the piece. In fact, it’s even before Jackie Robinson.
As for what originally happened to Freddie, unfortunately, that is all too common these days.
Employee passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.
So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?
So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the is expressly forbids it, companies can. They can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees.
As a result, they can demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. Hence a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.
First of all, here in the Bay State, legislation is pending. This includes H.B 448, which relates to student data privacy. It also includes, which relates to social media consumer privacy protection. And it includes S.B 1055, which relates to social media privacy protection.
Arkansas and Employee Passwords
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. § 11-2-124; Code Ark. R. 010.14.1-500 says:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to a personal online account; change the privacy settlings on their accounts…”
California and Employee Passwords
Much like Arkansas, employers can’t get into employees’ social media accounts. But an exception exists for investigations into misconduct, per Cal. Lab. Code § 980.
Colorado’s law is Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-127, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.”
In Connecticut, the law is Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-40x, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $500 for the first violation and between $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Employees can be awarded relief, including job reinstatement, payment of back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.
So in Illinois, the law is 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 55/10; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 56, §§ 360.110, 360.120.
“If an employer violates the law, an employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.”
In addition, La. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1951 to 51:1953, 51:1955 says:
“Employers may not request or require employees or applicants to disclose user names and passwords or other login information for their personal accounts.”
But in Louisiana, it’s okay for employers to push for a look into employee personal online accounts in one instance. This is if there are allegations of misconduct. So stop downloading porn at work!
So in Maine, the law is Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 26, §§ 615 to 619.
“An employer that violates the law is subject to a fine from the Department of Labor of at least $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations.”
So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.
And then in Michigan, the law is Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 37.271 to 37.278.
“Employers that violate the law can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000. Employees and applicants may also file a civil claim and recover up to $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees’ and court costs.”
And then in Montana, the law is Mont. Code Ann. § 39-2-307.
“An employee or applicant may bring an action against an employer in small claims court for violations. If successful, an employee or applicant can receive $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, as well as legal costs.”
Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to change the privacy settings on their email or social media accounts or add anyone to their email or social media contact lists.”
But just like in Louisiana, Granite Staters will have to provide a look-see if there are any misconduct accusations flying around.
Then in New Jersey, the law is N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:6B-5 to 34:6B-10. So it says:
“Employers that violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the New Jersey Labor Commissioner.”
So in New Mexico, the law is N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-34. This one specifically extends to friend lists.
Oklahoma on Employee Passwords
In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s House Bill 2372 says,
“Relates to labor; prohibits employer from requesting or requiring access to social media account of certain employees; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to social media account; authorizes civil actions for violations; provides for recovery of attorney fees and court costs; defines terms; provides for codification; provides an effective date.”
So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
Furthermore, per R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-56-1 to 28-56-6:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit for violations. The court can award declaratory relief, damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief against the employer.”
So this is beyond the standard where an employer can’t just take a peek whenever they feel like it.
Tennessee on Employee Passwords
And per Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-1-1001 to 50-1-1004:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose passwords to personal online accounts.”
So in Utah, the law is Utah Code Ann. §§ 34-48-101 to 34-48-301. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations, with a maximum award of $500.”
Virginia and Employee Passwords
So in Virginia, the law is Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-28.7:5. It’s not too far off from Arkansas, but an employer can get employee passwords under the guise of an investigation.
Washington (State) on Employee Passwords
So in Washington State, the law is Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.44.200 and 49.44.205. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations and obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, a penalty of $500, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
So in West Virginia, the law is W. Va. Code Ann. § 21-5H-1, another Arkansas clone, more or less.
Wisconsin on Employee Passwords
And then in Wisconsin, per Wis. Stat. Ann. § 995.55:
“Employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for violations and receive appropriate relief.”
Other States on Employee Passwords
In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country.
However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states seem to have these laws. Then according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following states have pending laws (as of 2019): Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. And then in 2018, these states considered the matter: Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.
So these bills come up repeatedly.
Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.
So at the time I wrote the story, I had no idea what had happened to Rich. As it turned out, a mutual friend did some sleuthing. And so, I learned the truth. It was what I had been afraid of; he was dead.
Rich was the first gay man who ever came out to me. And I consider that to be one hell of an honor.
The Plot for The Boy in the Band
So the story is more or less accurate. Hence it wrote itself. And I was merely there to take mental dictation. And the title, of course, comes from the film.
In 1981 or 1982, my friend Rich asked me to the movies. And I had a crush on him and thought – this is great! He chose the films: Cabaret and The Boys in the Band. So I had no idea what I was in for. My innocent nineteen or twenty year old soul thought we were going to see a pair of musicals.
I swear to God this is true.
The characters are the narrator, Rich, and Paul. He was Rich’s boyfriend at the time. But unfortunately, I have no idea if they stayed together. Since I do not know Paul’s last name, I can’t even look him up.
I gamely watched with Richard. Maybe he meant for it to be artsy? I had no idea, but then the Cowboy character showed up – a male prostitute. And so Richard asked, “What do you think of him?”
I replied, “He reminds me a bit of Rocky from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“Which do you think is cuter?”
“So we will agree to disagree.”
And then I knew.
The story has a K rating.
Upshot for The Boy in the Band
So this one was highly emotional for me. And then when I learned, later, that I had been right, it all hit me rather hard. See, because of when we knew each other, it was the dawn of the age of AIDS. And I knew he was, let’s just say, a bit loose. Since no one really had any idea what was in store, and AIDS was a 100% painful death sentence at the time, being ‘loose’ was being foolish.
Yet it apparently did not kill him. At least, I can tell myself this. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. But there is only so much the internet can tell me.
He did not even live long enough to see 9/11, President Obama, or even the Red Sox win the World Series (:)). So he is frozen in time, at age 39. And before I knew this much, he was frozen at age 21. Forever young.
Superstar users? Some people just seem to be born with it. If you’ve ever spent some time on forums, you immediately know who they are.
Their topics rarely go without a response for long. And their contributions are routinely applauded (either using available site software or via written praise) by the other users. Their absences are lamented (and noticed!). Their returns are celebrated. In addition, people rarely forget their birthdays and membership milestones.
They are the superstar users.
They can be made by the community or they can be nudged along by you, the Community Manager. The community can sometimes choose stars that don’t promote your company’s vision very well. But you can combat this by selecting some superstars of your own.
Converting Users into Superstars
How do you make superstar users? Almost the same way that the community does. However, you may have some added tricks up your sleeve. First of all choose, choose a few likely candidates. Go into your member list and sort by number of posts, from most to least. Select your top 20 posters.
You probably know who they are already. But if you don’t, if you have a posts/day statistic, copy that down. Put all of this into a spreadsheet. Add in the dates each user joined the site and the dates of their most recent posts (which may be the day you compile this information).
If anyone has overwhelmingly negative social signals (vote downs, ignores, complaints or reports against them), if you can put your hands on that information quickly, discard that member from your list and replace him or her with the next one. Ignore sock puppets and second accounts, if you have good proof that two accounts belong to the same person. Again, just move to the person with the 21st-most posts/day, etc.
Now look at your list. Who is the member with the most recent post (gauge that by day, not by hour, so if two posters have a last post date of October first, consider them to be tied even if one posted at 1:00 AM and the other posted at 11:00 PM), with the highest number of posts/day, who has been a member the longest? Rank that person #1 and rank everyone else in order behind him or her. Ties are fine.
Now you’ll need to do a little more research. If you have this data readily available, use it: the section(s) of the site where your 20 users spend the most of their time. This could divide into tags or subforums or categories. It really depends on however your site is divvied up. However, if this information is not readily available, research it by investigating everyone’s last 10 posts. Of course their most recent 10 posts could potentially not be perfectly characteristic of their behavior on the site. So you take that chance. Nothing is set in concrete; you can always revisit this later.
If your #1 user’s last 10 posts are all on message or in the section(s) of the site devoted to your company’s message, that person stays at #1. But if not, weigh them as against their 19 competitors. And if #2 is close to #1 but a lot more on message, switch their rankings. Also use this measurement of being on message (or not) to resolve any ties.
Now look at your list again. #1 should be the user who is most on message, with a lot of posts and recent activity, who has a long history on the site and whose negative social signals (there are usually some, particularly for long-time, popular posters. That’s fine; just try to stay away from universally reviled people). This is the first person you want to approach.
And, how do you approach them? Handle this both indirectly and directly. Indirectly by promoting their posts, topics and replies, with up votes, applause, positive ensuing comments and making their topics sticky – whatever your software allows which provides them with attention and positive reinforcement. Don’t do this all at once – spread it out over time. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint here. Provide the same indirect positive reinforcement to your other candidates, but less as you go down your list.
The direct approach: engage them, both openly on the boards and in private messages (most sites have the means to do this). You should out and out flatter them. Instead, offer encouragement or point out their posts that you find interesting. Or tell them about others’ posts that you feel might interest them. Again, don’t do this all at once. Offer these little tidbits gradually.
Every few months or so, review your list and consider whether to add or drop anyone. If you’ve made friends with these users then of course don’t drop them from your personal life just because they’ve gone off message too much! But certainly curtail your official Community Manager messages to them if there are others who would be more receptive.
Why do you want to do this?
Superstar users can help to bring your site out of a funk. They can (and do) make you aware of spam. Superstar users create and promote good content. They help trolls lose their power. They can help to calm the site down and ease it into and out of transitions. You can count on them.
However, they need to feel valued. And, even more importantly, they need to feel that you don’t just call on them when you want something. Provide positive reinforcement when there is no crisis and you’ll be able to call on them when there is one. And the corollary is true as well: superstar users, if unappreciated, will leave, and other users will follow them out of your forum. Ignore them at your peril.