My Phantom Followers – Who Are These People?

There are any number of ways to measure success for those of us who write for the Internet. The number of daily readers seems to be the key criteria most often used as a yardstick.   *

One would expect, that the addition of a substantial number of “followers” (the number of readers following blog posts and post comments), should impact a site’s number of daily reads/visits – in a positive way. I suspect that WordPress had that outcome in mind when, a year or so ago, it introduced a meshed WordPress follow system.

Ostensibly, there are some 8,000+ followers here – at least according to WordPress. And typically, this number bumps up at the rate of 10/12 daily.

Graphic: A slice of the Dash Board from today.

image

So happy days, yeah? Maybe not.

The quandary:

Despite the exposure which one would expect should be gained by an additional 8,000+ followers – the number of daily readers here has gone down and, continues on this downward trend. A curious state of affairs, no?

This is a quick post simply to fill in some blank time (a rare commodity around here) – so, I won’t get into the mathematics of this puzzler. Suffice it to say (for the moment), that something stinks here. The real stinker is – are these people real, imaginary, spammers/scammers – or, the real McCoy  – a cybercriminal?

It’s illogical, at least to me, that a significant number of individuals would take the time to subscribe to a site and then, the majority mysteriously vanish – in most cases never to be heard from again. It’s kind of like throwing a party and nobody shows up.   Smile

I should point out that most new followers seem to have a WordPress connection – a blog, or a Gravatar. So, what’s underway here? What’s the scheme – or, is there one?

I’m more curious about this than I am confused. There’s not much to be confused about in terms of the mechanics. But, I’m more than a little confused at the lack of repeat visits from 8,000+ followers.

As Butch Cassidy remarked to the Sundance Kid, as they focused on their pursuers from a cliff top – “Who ARE these people”?

Me? I’m asking the same question.

Update: May 11, 2013.

Good friend (and very smart fellow) Michael Fisher, was kind enough to pass on the following link to an article – Beware the Followers Made of Spam – which proves beyond doubt, that this follower thing is not what it seems. It’s simply a new type of spam. The author has crafted a very funny article and still manages to make his point very cleverly. A highly recommended read.

Thanks Michael.

A quick outtake on numbers:    *

Numbers? Followers? It may surprise you to know that I have little or no interest, in either one. Numbers or followers, don’t make me a better IT professional. My self-esteem is not impacted by activity, or the lack of activity, on this site. I write here because it’s fun – as it should be.

You’ll not be surprised to know, I’m sure, that the pack that I hang with on the Net (almost all bloggers), hold a similar view. Despite a seemingly lack of concern for numbers, these bloggers run some of the most successful one person sites on the Web.

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38 Comments

Filed under blogging, Point of View, Writing

38 responses to “My Phantom Followers – Who Are These People?

  1. Here there bill i am is here!
    your info and data is always up to-date and correct. it is something i can stand by. i going to your postings before anything else. other the years i have unscripted to
    many sites, mainly i find that they can be a of my time, with all the negative things that come with the internet. i have never had to cross check or reference your material. it seems that a lot of writes come to the party late after your post.

    • Hey Kenneth,

      As always – great to hear from you. Trust all is well.

      You always say the kindest things. And that, never goes unnoticed. Thank you. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  2. [ Smiles ] Phantom followers? I am guessing that many of those followers have names. 8,000+ followers is evidence that your blog is doing very well. Many people would LOVE to have at least quarter of what you have.

    So, what is your secret for such a successful blog?

    By the way, I enjoyed your article.

    • Hi Renard,

      You’re right of course, each and every follower has a name. Some more creative than others and some, comically so (I do appreciate the chuckle :) Sure, there’s no doubt that a fair number really are regular John and Jane Doe’s. Still, I find the this disappearing thing fascinating.

      As for secrets – there are none (not really). Quality writing, considered opinion supported by exposure to the issue, and an absolute commitment to getting it right – not a secret there. There are however, two small things that I regularly practice.

      I write to the headline of the article and, I frequently leave small info gaps in an article or a review, in the hope that a reader/s will fill in the blanks and continue the conversation. It works, and building a community of like minded people in this way is an amazingly satisfying experience. Beats the raw numbers thing by a country mile.

      My apologies for the long response – but, you got me started……… :)

      I appreciate your comment. As you can see, it has expanded the conversation. How cool is that? :)

      Best,

      Bill

  3. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    You’re right, large numbers of followers don’t make anyone a better anything. You just need to consider Twitter – ‘too many tweets make a tw*t’. I think it’s more a case of ‘if you build it they will come’ (Field of Dreams).

    As for your phantom followers, it could be that they get more than they bargain for. There is so much in your blogs, and they are of such quality, that it takes a fair amount of time each day to cover everything. I have to say I don’t read everything in Tech Thoughts because it’s not all relevant to me.

    It’s obvious that you enjoy what you do, otherwise you wouldn’t bother. Those of us who do follow you regularly (call us the discerning few), are very glad you do.

    Kind regards,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Yes, your right – ‘too many tweets make a tw*t’. lol!

      Good that you’re using the News column as a smorgasbord – that was the intent actually. Pick and choose – take what you want – choose what’s relevant to you. So, it saddens me somewhat to see that more “followers” don’t take advantage of what’s on offer.

      Where’s that whip – I’ll get these people straightened out. :)

      Good luck with that Registry rebuild.

      Best,

      Bill

  4. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    I’m not sure how the “follow” system works, I would assume that once following, people would get emails about new posts. Maybe they read all your latest articles in emails, so maybe they don’t need to come back to the site itself.
    But, I could be completely wrong (wouldn’t be the first time).
    Have to agree with John too, not everything written here is relevant to me, so I tend to pick and choose what interests me. And that’s ok too lol.
    Now I’m off to cook a bbq on this lovely, sunny Mothers Day. And drink lots of grog too.
    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      You know, I don’t particularly mind if you Aussie blokes are a step or two ahead – but a whole day! Damn man – there’s something amiss here. :)

      Great to hear that you’re celebrating Mother’s Day with a barbie and a beer. Knock back a couple for me while you’re at it. I mean that. :)

      Nope, on the “Maybe they read all your latest articles in emails.” Only the first two article teasers are in the email and RSS feed (although I didn’t mention the couple of thousand or so feed folks).

      Michael Fisher just passed on a terrific article that shows beyond a doubt, that I’m on the right track here – most of these people do not exist. This is simply another form of spam. I’m going to update the post in a few minutes with a link to this article. It’s brilliantly funny, yet manages to make a very serious point.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Mal

        Hey Bill,
        That is a very funny article. Funny how a different light (opinion) can make things so clear.
        Cheers

        • Hey Mal,

          Very true – a little humour in the education process sort of oils the gears, I think. One reason I tend to run Cracked.com articles from time to time. Funny – but man, they get the message across.

          Best,

          Bill

  5. Laurence

    Hi Bill,
    I have been following your blog for over 3 years and why do you think I visit your blog everyday? A trustworthy information and it’s just fun being here. I don’t want to say to you anything else but would like to see you tomorrow Bill.

    Best regards,

    Laurence

  6. Michael Fisher

    Are some of your followers via facebook Bill? I read somewhere that some bloggers had a broken link between their blog & fb without realising it. The cure was to unlink & re-link… something like that anyway

    THIS is an interesting read too

    • Thanks Michael!

      I can now safely shut the drawer on the paranoia pills. Well, maybe not quite yet. :)

      Totally brilliant article – laughed my ass off the whole read. The author proves beyond a doubt this whole thing is a scam.

      I’ll post this in as an update in just a few minutes. As well, I’ll post it into tomorrow’s TNN.

      You’re a life saver dude!! :)

      Best,

      Bill

  7. Ann Fosso

    Hi Bill ,
    Paranoia is a good thing it has made evolution possible. Everything gets better if we worry about it. lol

    I enjoy your blog and usually save it for late at night, It is usually the last thing I read. (No I don’t sleep a lot.)

    You have an interesting Blog and do a great job as a writer. Keep up the paranoia it works for you.
    Ann

    • Hi Ann,

      Agreed – paranoia, along with the ability to run like hell, has served us well on the way up. :)

      Same here on the sleep front – 6 hours or so. Although, that may be the new average.

      I’m very glad that you find it useful to drop by here and, I thank you for saying so.

      Best,

      Bill

  8. Windows ME Guy

    I’m not a “follower” but a regular visitor. Facebook and that “following” stuff doesn’t work on my Windows ME computer… since I’m browsing using Netscape 9 and K-Meleon 1.5.4 with javascript disabled.

    I like scanning your blog for all the latest, easy-to-find tech stories. It’s like one stop shopping for computer news without all the BS that most other pages have.

    • Hi ME Guy,

      Interesting set of tools you’re running with. No worries on your end when it comes to malware, I expect.

      I hear you – I find the BS just intolerable. Like you I want the meat – hold the side-order of BS. :)

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      Best,

      Bill

  9. Hey Bill,
    I was wondering too about this weird stats on mine and it was good you wrote about it before I did! Is there really no way to know who among these are spammers? WP should be ashamed of Twitter because it has an app for unfollowing spammers.

    • Hey Pochp,

      The only way unfortunately, would be to follow each link. It was by doing this, that I first noticed the spam nonsense.

      You’re right – WP should provide a method to disconnect from a “follower” spammer/scammer. Given that this is a relatively new problem for bloggers, I wouldn’t expect action anytime soon.

      Best,

      Bill

  10. Reblogged this on Poch Peralta and commented:
    This is happening with my stats too

  11. Well, I have some interesting followers too…. but the spam ones are fun. Like the one called “acne cyst” that visits faithfully every day.

    • Hey Rumpydog,

      Have to agree – the spammers are always good for a laugh.

      Super job you’re doing over at your site for an admirable cause. I salute you.

      Best,

      Bill

  12. Hey Bill,

    I’m still here, your still here. It’s all good. :)

    Keep up the great work Bill

    TeX

  13. Bill,

    I just wanted to thank you for passing along my blog post “Beware the Followers Made of Spam” to your readers. I’m willing to overlook the fact that you thought I was a guy because you called my writing “very funny”, “very clever” and “highly recommended” :)

    Take care,
    Linda

    • Hi Linda,

      Well, when I make a mistake I go for the gold. :) Seriously though – I enjoyed the half hour or so I spent on your site.

      You’re a super writer with a very nice touch, and I wish you well.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Bill –

        A half hour? Wow. I can’t even get my husband to spend that long reading my writing!!

        Thanks so much for the sweet compliments and the ego boost – both are very much appreciated.

        Take care,
        Linda

  14. Hey Bill
    RSS is the thing robbing our traffics!
    From WP.com forum:

    in response to the topic “Traffic and Followers”:

    Because people are following them on the Reader, rather than reading them on the web. Reader views don’t count in the stats.

    Reply
    View forum topic

    • Hey Pochp,

      It’s simple really.

      If one chooses to publish the entire contents of a post via RSS, it’s unlikely that the reader will engage with the site. Ultimately, such a setup will lead to a drop in site hits. Makes sense, no?

      Typically, only a teaser (the opening sentence/paragraph) should lead off the RSS feed. In that way, should the reader choose to continue, engaging with the site becomes necessary.

      Hope that helps.

      Best,

      Bill

  15. HI Bill, it is my contention too regarding the desing uncontrollability of followers, especially when WordPress.com does nothing to foolow up on complaints…The way Twitter, You Tube and Face book deals with this issue is the normal way, of allowing blog admins to decide who, and whom follows whom. It is a deliberate, I think, design, for reasons that may not be so innocent. Akismet failed to address all spam followers, and such their pyramid scheme evolves at our own expense (effort and burden). I do not buy the idea that we should buy our domains to become entitled to a freedom we are entitled to to star with; Further more, when was the last time money bought freedom?
    I do not agree with many of the statistics, google, alexa, and wordpress value, because they are all invested in profits, while the blogs I value, are inspired, and inspire through idea sharing, not pyramid, non-profit-for-profit, and other rackets…
    In other words: The value of the blogosphere should be implicitly intrinsic and away from the profiteering!

    Thanks for your accurate report!

    George.

    • Hi George,

      Agreed – a focus on profitability, while admirable in the broadest of context, should be limited in its scope in the blogosphere.

      You’re right of course – WP needs to recognize that admins must have the ability to control so called “followers.”

      Best,

      Bill