A Parade of Names

Congrats! The Other Stuff is getting noticed. herekittykitty and 3,898 others have started receiving updates.

Yay, a new follower.

A parade of names, thousands of them. Are any of them real? They arrive, a steady drip, three, four, seven a day.

Names lacking an account, just a string of letters—sometimes numbers—linked to nothing, maybe there’s a name in there: isaacmwangi09, rishikajagota. Maybe not: karisd49b9c1ca7.

Names that link to that generic first post: “Welcome to WordPress! This is your first post. Edit or delete it to take the first step in your blogging journey.” Christopher Portland, veronica110, Zeeshan Haider.

Names that link to business accounts, a dozen posts, serious sounding content, but just one follower: ThePhotoApp, pawneeleasing1, generationalequity11

On occasion, I get a follower who actually has a blog with a collection of posts to read and consider. Do I like the writing? Do I care about the topics? When the answer is yes, I hit follow.

I planned to write this post when I hit 4,000 followers, but I got anxious to get it done. Plus, how do you even count followers? Do the people who signed up for only emails count? How about the 18 people who follow my blog’s Facebook page? How many of those are duplicates? When I look at the WordPress reader compared to my website, the number of followers drops. The tally on my stats page is different too. I have no idea how many followers I actually have. Where ever I’m at now is close enough to make my point.

So what’s my point? Where are all these people? More than a hundred new followers a month, every month, but the number of people who read my blog never changes. Sure, there’s variability between months, but the average number of views is the same as it was two years ago even though I have hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of new followers.

Caution: Conspiracy theory alert. I figured it out. The more frequently I check my stats, the more WordPress creates followers. Their algorithms recognize that I need a small win several times a day to keep me engaged, to keep me happy with WordPress as a platform. These four thousand followers aren’t real, they’re vapor. They’re bots. WordPress manufactures these accounts to keep me happy. WordPress is playing me.

No one does righteous indignation quite like me. When these followers show up, my brain screams out “Oh, come on! That person isn’t real.” Anger simmers. Above all, I want my stats to be accurate. A few years ago, I published my second book—Bad Ass – My Quest to Become a Back Woods Trail Runner (and other obsessive goals). I made it available on Smashwords for free and watched the ‘sales’ take off. Several each day, a dozen a week, this went on for months. Well beyond six hundred downloads, it stopped. Completely. No downloads for weeks. I sent a message to support asking if their tracking system broke. “We discovered that all of that activity came from bots. We manage to block them now. No one was really downloading your book.”

I’ve only sold a handful of free books in the two years since then. Now WordPress is doing the same thing to me. All of my success is really just a lie. Fortunately, Smashwords prepared me for this.

So isaacmwangi09, rishikajagota, karisd49b9c1ca7, if you’re out there, let me know. Christopher Portland, veronica110, Zeeshan Haider, if you read this, leave a comment. I need to know if you’re real or a marketing ploy invented by WordPress. I’d love to write a blog that attracts dozens of new readers each week, but if I do, the old ones are tuning out just as quickly. I don’t know which is worse.

Is it just me, or does anyone else suspect this?

36 thoughts on “A Parade of Names

  1. I confess… I’m actually a very clever Bot. I don’t even hang out in WordPress itself very often.

    Me and all my Bot friends like to “Follow” a bunch of random sites just to see how many people will “Follow” us back.

    It’s all just a game we play to entertain ourselves. Bot Lives Matter too, ya know.

    I admit that it is kinda wickedly funny when a person, like a human person, gets all agro and confused by our Bot games.

    Liked by 2 people

      • A request for a plain spoken response – wow.
        I feel at a disadvantage when it comes to plain speaking, but I’ll try.
        Some points from your piece may help to explain how this Senryū (poor cousin of the Haiku) emerged.
        The phrase ‘a parade of names’ gave me my first line (lazy_mini’mist) a cypher of a name, a mystery and a zero. It is also a set up for the dreadful pun in line three, where ‘missed’ is misspelled so that mist hints at the inaccuracy of the tally and at people you can’t see because they are lost in fog. But I get ahead of myself. Line 2 was also inspired by your phrase ‘sometimes linked to nothing’. In my case it is a tiny readership, a readership so small that I have to write for myself for motivation. There is a hint in my use of the pun ‘self ~ ish’ that I am aware that I write in a selfish way and, as you pointed out, I write in a way that does nothing to further plain speaking. Nevertheless, I put my hand up to identify myself as a one of your many readers who has ‘but just one follower’ (well, okay, it’s a handful of followers for me. Hooray!). As to line three, it deploys a hard-working pun based on your phrase ‘no idea of the number of followers’. It is also a comment about WordPress missing people in the count and it hints at a system that uses ‘smoke and mirrors’ (or mist) to mislead.
        There you are Jeff. This is the best plain speaking I can do. I hope it helped.
        Thanks for asking.
        Kind regards,
        David Don (aka DD)

        Liked by 4 people

  2. You could be getting some bots. I see them on Instagram, but I haven’t noticed many of them on WordPress. I don’t know if the frequency you are checking your stats has an effect. For measure I check my stats about 5 times a day, and I certainly do not pick up the followers at the pace you are picking them up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I check mine far more than 5x per day (unfortunately). The whole thing is really weird. They really seem to ramp up when there is less activity on my blog. Like right now, it isn’t happening, but tomorrow, I’m likely to pick up five new followers (who I’ll never hear from again). By the way, I’m really impressed with your ability to come up with fun gags day after day. Do you have any plans to ‘go pro?’

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, that’s interesting. I don’t know if it is worth the time, but maybe contacting WordPress about it will get some answers.
        Thank you very much. Short Answer: Yes, I would like to make a living from this. Long Answer: Yes, but I have not found many opportunities to do so. I had another blogger suggest submitting comics to the New Yorker. I did that at the end of April and again this month. They have to be original comics, so nothing I’ve already posted. It takes up to 8 months for the New Yorker to reply. I’m hoping to get some selected and then I will try submitting to some syndicates. I think it will help a lot to have comics accepted by the New Yorker. Thanks again. I hope you get a solution to the followers situation.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I think it really comes down to quality. I’ve got about 15 people who engage with me regularly on my blog. It’s been that way for years. ever rotating. I think that’s good with me. I was once featured on “WordPress Discover” and for a few weeks I got fifty or more comments on every post. It was unmanageable.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t have anywhere near 4000 followers, but like you the number of visits remains the same even though I now get a new follower almost daily. On average 0.5% of my followers visit each blog post (assuming only followers are doing the visiting). Yet occasionally I’ll receive many hundreds of visits in a single day, usually to my home page but sometimes to a specific post. No rhyme or reason. And how come on some days does the number of visits from a single country exceed the total number of visitors? WordPress at times feels like an enigma wrapped up in a mystery.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sometimes I think if I upgraded my stats tracking program, I would have a much better idea about what’s going on with my blog, but it already gets too much of my attention and it seems foolish to add in features that will further my obsession. For the size of the platform, I really would expect wordpress to be a bit more sophisticated, but as a non-techie, that’s just a crumudgenly feeling and not actually based on anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure whether to say congratulations or oh, dear. My stats, if they are accurate, only number 372 followers. Being inspired by your post, I tracked back to 2014 when I began, only to find that many of my followers either don’t exist or possibly never did if your experience is anything to go by. There were lots of white silhouetted heads, presumably because they’ve dropped off the planet’s surface, or even that world I fondly know as WordPress or blogland. So, I’m still none the wiser – for all I know, I could have less than 99 followers, but then, does it matter to me? I want to say no, but I can’t help feeling a bit miffed. I’d like to say it’s quality and not quantity, but that little bit of me still gets a thrill when I gain a new follower. Will I ever see them again? Some, definitely yes (and I appreciate them), but others, probably not. Thanks for a very interesting read, Jeff. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmmm. I’m impressed with your number of followers and I’m not sure a buy your bot theory, Jeff. But I always enjoy reading your blog, because as you know “no one does righteous indignation like me.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Not on WordPress, but I have felt this on Facebook for my blog page there. The profiles seem to be real, but it’s just seemingly random new followers even though I’ve posted nothing there in years. And the portion seeing the posts is miniscule. I don’t bother with that anymore.

    WordPress hasn’t done this to me though.

    Sad that tech can be so manipulative…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I, absolutely, agree.
    Keep getting likes from people who want to sell me stuff.
    Or want money to read their blogs.
    In foreign languages.
    Or, when you try to got to their blog, it does not exist.
    You are not paranoid.
    Or, maybe we both are!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I get a fair number of emails from people who say they want to ‘collaborate’, and when I ask what they mean, they want me to pay them to post my stuff on their blog. I guess we should expect scammers everywhere. It gets tiresome.

      Like

  8. On the Vinyl Connection home page, it invites you to join 3588 other subscribers. On the stats page, it says there are 974. Both are kinda correct, though the first is mischievously and self-delusionally misleading.

    The home page number includes followers for other social media accounts linked to the WordPress site. I linked VC posts to Tumblr for years, so my Tumblr following is added in. There is also a FB Vinyl Connection page with over 1000 ‘followers’ (or ‘like’s. What’s the difference?). So these are certainly inflations as I’m certain there is significant overlap.

    The 974 shown on the stats page is certainly much more accurate. It seems like a pretty modest return for almost ten years of weekly blogging; hundreds of posts and uncountable thousands of words. I get perhaps one new follower every couple of weeks, btw. Some seem genuine bloggers others appear to be following something from ‘On-line marketing 101’. Who knows.

    One thing is certain, Jeff. Readership, engagement, even cursory visits have dropped. The community of the early years has faded. My 17 year old son says that WordPress is in its death throws. Too old style, too static, too 20th C. A bit like me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, and like me too. I know few people have the patience to read a thousand word essay any more that was simply written to be written. I seem to be the only one reading my blog with this phenomenon. I probably pick up a ‘real’ follower every couple of weeks too. Not sure what I’ll do with my spare time after WordPress finishes it’s death rattle.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I used to follow you under a different username–then I rebooted my blog but still was able to follow all the same accounts if that makes any sense. Always read your posts, but don’t always comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My curiosity is piqued. I had to retrieve your comment from spam, not sure why it went there. Thanks for your comment. It’s nice to hear that some of the page views stick around and read. I always envision some guy in his easy chair, beer and cigarette at his elbow, surfing into my page and saying “Huh, what the hell is this?”

      Like

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