The new writers at BoingBoing


#1

Hello everybody!

I’m not sure how to approach this subject without lighting some fires (really not my intention), but I’m going to attempt to be as delicate as possible.

There seem to be some new writers on BoingBoing that write SEO-focussed content. The style is unmistakable to anyone that knows the field - it’s not really writing as much as it is article construction.

Now this isn’t strictly a complaint, just some feedback - but for me this completely sucks all of the personality out of the content posted by these people (who are clearly capable copywriters) - I think I’ve spotted a couple, perhaps they’re guest posters or there are new staff writers? I may have missed the introduction a new writer would normally receive.

But anyway, let’s face it the stuff you post isn’t unique, which is fine! Most of us are probably here because we like not only what you post, but how you post it - the tone it’s posted with and the context behind it. Whether that be a witty one liner from Xeni or a rant from Doctorow, none of us are here solely for the content. But this new content which actually is a bit more unique just feels so hollow. What sparked me to write this was reading halfway through a video game related post and realising quite uncomfortably that it wasn’t written by Rob - it was a moment of awkwardness - I might as well have been on a different site, it’s just really generic content (even if the subject matter was interesting).

It’s just a bit of a turn-off. I’m not going to quit and never come back (flips table) and I’m not going to stamp my feet and tell you how to run your successful website - but I wanted to share my thoughts and invite others to do the same - maybe I’m alone in this, in which case I should probably just be ignored :smile: But if not then it might be useful to hear that feedback.

Please don’t be mad at me Rob.


#2

Can you provide specific examples of this SEO-ish article content? I am not seeing it myself.

Edit: @crenquis? @noahdjango?


#3

I’ve been trying to scan through old articles to see what I thought I was agreeing with, but haven’t seen anything obvious… (although I didn’t go back very far)
At the time that mcavory posted this I was trying to catch up on what seemed like an infinite list of “Unread topics” and at that time there seemed to be a lot of soulless items by non-regulars that hadn’t garnered a single comment in the topics.


#4

Who?

SEO has been dead for years at our level. It’s all social now.


#5

Here’s a funny story about Boing Boing and SEO optimization. When we reviewed the iPhone 4, in 2010 or thereabouts, we were in the first tranche of pre-release reviewers. There are lots of resentments surrounding membership of this peloton, but the truth is that it is an evolving, contextual thing and it is what it is. Foolishly, however, we went for a ‘clever’ headline that lacked the word “review.” It did OK, though!

A few months – months – later, I realized the review did not appear in the googles when I searched for “iphone 4 review”. Without much thought, given that it was ancient history, I decided to fix the dumb headline to be short and descriptive. “iPhone 4: hands-on review”.

The next morning I had dozens of emails complaining about the new SEO whoring title.


#6

eh, I don’t know the dynamics of search engine optimization, but I sure as hell noticed two or three new writers posting a bunch of stuff about popular, current tv shows and the like over the last few days. I’m not especially bent out of shape about it, I just skip it.


#7

We have been inviting guests to join us. It helps keep things fresh and takes some of the pressure of the team when someone is on vacation or otherwise out.

As Rob so clearly states, seo is not something we ask guests care about. Generally we probably give to little guidance but that’s part of the fun for us, seeing what people will offer.

Their content is more heavily edited than posts by the team, so I can see headlines being more purely descriptive for their posts. Headlines are hard, and I think I know who is editing the ones in question. I know the editor is only looking to make it clear what clicking that part will bring you.

I like the guests and really appreciate their help!


Can you please stop with Cards Against Humanity
#8

Yeah, if anything guests will adopt what they think is a traffic-generating tone or excessively clickbaity headlines and we just have to beat it out of them.

I mean literally beat them. We take them out back and haze the fuck out of them, like with pool balls in socks and shit. It’s not pretty but it’s what gets the job done.


#9

Well there’s your problem right there, you supposed to use oranges, not poolballs.

Also rargh blargh affiliate something something.


#10

for real though, when is Maggie coming back?


#11

This was the article that tripped my generic content sensors, for what it’s worth: http://boingboing.net/2015/05/01/peasant-simulator.html

Importantly I don’t think it’s badly written - it just felt very empty, like it could belong on literally any website. Pretty mild complaint I know (and I actually hope the author doesn’t see this thread) - and I appreciate it could just be me, I just thought it was a shame, because I know if it had been written by @beschizza it would have likely been shorter and not as well written, but much more entertaining to read. Or of course Leigh - who is somewhat of an authority on such matters.

Was just a little feedback though - if something new content-wise was being tried then that’s my feedback - if not then feel free to stick it in the pile!

And I second the @maggiekb question @jlw - when’s she back??


#12

It’s a pretty obscure and boingy post subject (indie game in the style of a 1980s’ hi-res mono mac title), but maybe too descriptive and not opinionated enough.

This is interesting feedback because I do think new guests/editors–and ourselves, too–are often wary of posting strong opinions. Especially the last few months. The result is professional, well-written copy on the perfect subject matter that nonetheless doesn’t stick with the reader.

Check out this post by Laura and tell me if you find it more to your liking, @mcavory:


#13

It was very much the way it was written rather than the subject - which ironically is right up my alley, although maybe that’s why it stood out so much.

The Bloodborne article reads much better in my opinion (and I’d missed it, so thanks!).


#14

I have to say that I don’t quite see what you’re seeing. It’s like Rob said,

SEO was always kind of a scam, a voodoo practice like mental healing that worked mainly by placebo. I always assumed SEO (beyond common-sense practices) was dead by now. I don’t think BoingBoing lags in the search engine rankings at any rate. But, even if its search ranking bumped up for certain posts, the Internet has gotten a lot smaller. Let’s be honest, Google “new iPhone review” and there’s no way BB is going to beat other sites like Endagadget to the front page of results. BoingBoing gets the best search results when it’s covering something distinctly… well… BoingBoingish. The value of me clicking a BB search result is dwarfed by the value of me throwing up a post on Facebook and having my friends share it.

Even if you take a case of something that clearly seems to cry out for SEO, like my blog, content matters more. You can barely find it if you Google it directly, yet its content is directly relevant to certain kinds of searches (“What is an acid…” “Acid versus base”, etc.) I still get a lot of “Glass is a liquid” type queries, but I would kill for someone to share something particularly awesome about my blog on Facebook. The problem being, of course, there’s nothing particularly awesome on there prone to going viral.


#15

@jlw
Oh, I forgot to say: I noticed that the new writers all post from their named accounts rather than the generic “BB”-icon one–good looking out! thanks!


#16

Yes, and just in the interest of institutional knowledge being carried forward in as many brains as possible, here is what is needed:

  1. Author must have a BBS account

  2. The name on that BBS account must match the name of their WordPress account

  3. The BBS account must be in the “authors” group so they have permission to create topics in the Boing category

So… if there’s ever “oops, a BBS discussion topic was not created for {x} BB post!” in the future, you know where to look for typical causes, same as we do…


BoingBoing Store comments are auto-closed?
#17

Yes, Laura should be less professional and more opinionated like Leigh.

Wait, no, Leigh should be more professional and less opinionated like Laura.

OMG, that’s tone policing, isn’t it?

Don’t mind me, I’ll show myself out…

Sarcasm aside, I love the new voices of 0FFworld.


#18

Yeah all of this, but it’s important to differentiate between white and black hat SEO.

SEO is still a thing that companies charge large sums for but, as you pointed out, this advice is now largely something like “just do it right, fill in all the metadata fields, add alt text”. Black hats are still a thing, but large companies are not likely to use those any more because the punishment for being caught is being taken off google altogether.

PS cool blog!


#19

Asking the folks at Google for an intro to “White hat SEO folks” got me the response “There is no such thing.”


#20

Ha, that’s true, but that doesn’t stop marketing agencies from selling SEO to people in the form of telling them to use best practices. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of the web spam team, is both an extremely friendly dude and the guru when it comes to these matters. His blog also has many a thought on the matter.

https://www.mattcutts.com/blog/