Has the Bee Lost Its Buzz?
GRUMPY AND GROUCHY TAKE A CRITICAL LOOK AT THE HONEY FACTORY...
Preface: When Jim Murray and I first agreed to do this series, we never envisioned it would gain as much traction as it has, let alone be in its 36th installment some three years later. But here we are.
We think that one of the reasons readers like the series is that we've developed a knack for not pussyfooting around sensitive subjects or avoiding sensitive toes. Indeed, the term "politically correct" is not to be found in our lexicon. However, that does not mean our ruminations are negative. Quite to the contrary. I believe it's fair to say that we critique in a spirit of goodwill and well-wishes for most of those at the business ends of our barbs.
We also endeavor to remain faithful to the idea that these exchanges are not just about us and our idiosyncratic ideas and opinions, but more importantly, about the exchange with you, our readers. We once again invite you to join the conversation. So please don't hesitate to tell us what you think.
PHIL: Jimbo, you and I were among the earliest adopters of beBee, you even earlier than I by several months. In fact, we gave beBee USA some of its earliest exposure on LinkedIn in a He Said He Said installment in which we interviewed Javier Camara Rica about his newly-launched platform, beBee USA. And together with a number of established LinkedIn writers and digital self-publishers, we then literally threw ourselves into creating a mountain of content for beBee’s fledgling Publisher sub-platform.
I believe those were pretty heady days, during which I for one came to strongly respect a raft of writers and thinkers who were publishing on beBee. People like David B. Grinberg, John White, MBA, Paul "Pablo" Croubalian, Pascal Derrien, Milos Djukic, Ian Weinberg, Gert Scholtz, jesse kaellis, Don 🐝 Kerr, Kevin Pashuk, then somewhat later Lada 🏡 Prkic, Don Philpott☘️, Sarah Elkins, Claire L Cardwell, Charlene Norman, Gerald Hecht, Melissa Hughes, Aaron 🐝 Skogen, Todd Jones, Zacharias 🐝 Voulgaris, and really so many more I am moved to apologize to for not listing them here.
Lately, however, I’ve been saddened — or, more accurately, depressed — by the increasing flood of absolute crap that is appearing in the beBee feed — nominally by authors who appear to be bots or not much more skilled than bots who can’t manage to put a few hundred words together in anything that even resembles decent writing or interesting thinking.
Like the two "buzzes" I saw recently on how to give yourself an enema. Or the dozens of articles recently that were so scrambled by robot-translators they were effectively incomprehensible. Not to mention the hundreds of posts that had the initial appearance of being legitimate but which, in fact, said absolutely nothing substantive at all.
And this is not even to mention all the clearly fake profiles on the platform, the number of which cannot be minimized once you look at the following sampling compiled in just an hour of scanning the feed (there are likely hundreds if not thousands more):
This could all be the result of waning interest in the platform on the part of strong writers. Or it could be the result of The Attack of the Bots. Or it could be the result of beBee hiring half-assed content creators at below bargain-basement rates to fill the feed so it appears more active than it really is. I just don’t know. What I do know is that beBee appears not to be doing anything to stop it
I’ve always felt that a writer is known by the company he or she keeps. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some of the company I am being forced to keep on beBee. And I’d like to know what you think — if for no other reason than to give me a reality check.
JIM: As you know, my long format posting on beBee has petered off significantly. It will pick up during the long cold Canadian winter.
But I do believe that something happened when the decision was made to close the US office, effectively putting our pal John White out of his job as chief brand ambassador and bottle washer. It felt like a lot of people, who were maybe counting on beBee to bolster their American readership were suddenly thinking differently. I heard a bit of chatter about Medium and a couple other blogging sites.
A while after this there were all these posts on how beBee is getting involved with some sort of blockchain company, which promised to put content control back into the hands of the people or something like that. This is probably inaccurate because when I hear things like this my eyes kinda glaze over and I start worrying more about going into a coma.
I don’t really interact with beBee as much as I probably should. Mostly I go there to answer comments on my posts and to seek out posts of many of the people you mentioned previously. But I have noticed that scanning down the titles of the posts on my wall I come across a lot of what you like to refer to as ‘insipidipity’.
Since I am almost completely cynical about social media, especially in light of what some of the big sites like Facebook & Twitter have been up to lately, I have no trouble empathizing with your point of view on the decline of or, at least significant change in beBee.
You may be more concerned about your intellectual property here than I am because, as you well know, I am a major league attention slut, and will post anything anywhere, any time. I’m also too old now to give a shit about any possible ramifications. My worst case scenario is just walking away and going for a swim or a bike ride.
I can understand your concern, and the case you make is certainly evidence of some weird shit going on. As far as a reality check, I don’t really have one, because what you have described in your own inimitable style, is the reality of social media today. Bots are everywhere. Cheap, low rent content is everywhere too. People generally only look at it briefly and then move on, so in a way, it really doesn’t matter to me at least.
And judging from one of Javier’s recent posts, I think they might be starting to enter into some sort of re-examination phase, where they can actually get a handle of what’s real and what is not on their site. Which is a lot more than anyone can say about Facebook or Twitter or probably even LinkedIn.
From my perspective, social media activity these days involves mainly memes of different kinds, my perennial obsession with (getting rid of) Trump, and now Doug (The Slug) Ford, the new idiot premier of Ontario.
But, Phil, honestly, as beBee has never really been any real source of true business audience for you, I would ask you this simple question…. Beyond the old ‘company you keep’ chestnut, why would you care?
PHIL: I get where you’re coming from on this, Jim. And I appreciate the question you pose, namely, “Why would I care?”, because it throws some cold water of Reality into my face.
First, however, I’d like to clarify a side issue, if I may, one on which I’ve tried in probably half of the 36 installments of He Said He Said to get through to you, bud — namely, that the term I coined several years ago on LinkedIn to describe much of the content there is “insipidipity”, I-N-S-I-P-I-D-I-P-I-T-Y, not “insipidity”. The difference is important as my word is a play on “serendipity”. Just for the record, of course.
Anyway, my being concerned with that might lead you to conclude that I care about all manner of things which are less than world-shattering. Which, I guess, is probably true.
But I care about what’s happening on beBee because, as a writer and a small-business person, I publish on various social media platforms, including beBee, in large part, not only to build an audience but also to raise my marketing profile — or to use the PC jargon, strengthen my personal brand.
And it’s been working reasonably well. For each month that passes, I receive a greater number of queries concerning the marine industry consulting services I offer.
I grant you that I have, at times, noted the lack of B2B response on beBee, as well as the dearth of posts genuinely concerned with business topics. (Those other than posts extolling the virtues of staying positive as an entrepreneur, and so on, ad nauseum.)
However, notwithstanding that fact, beBee’s publishing platform is comfortable to write on and offers excellent tools for sharing to other social media platforms. As well, Javier and crew have apparently done a good job of dealing with Google in terms of its page and site authority and, consequently, helps guys like you and me with our author-authority.
Although I can’t say for sure, I believe that publishing more than 200 articles on beBee has helped me build my author-authority with Google — and an indication of which you can see by searching on Phil Friedman Yacht.
Now, as you can well understand, building author-authority under Google’s search optimization guidelines involves a lot of time, a lot of digital publishing, and a lot hard work. Years of it, in fact. Among other things, author-authority ranking depends on the connections (cross-links and back-links) an author has to websites and pages whose authority ranking is strong. Therefore, there is indeed a potentially detrimental effect on my branding if beBee loses a significant measure of its own authority because its website is filled with garbage content. And if you doubt the importance of whom you’re seen as keeping company with, you need to read Google’s latest update of its SEO guidelines.
JIM: Ok. So insipidipity it is. BTW, I have corrected it in my previous section as well. And also, BTW, it's a good pun.
I think anybody who is serious about playing the personal branding game on social media would be wise to read your last section again, because though I may be a bit of a luddite (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I can understand just where you are coming from.
And that really is one of the significant differences between your business and mine. You are in what people like me call a vertical silo named ‘Marine’. And quite honestly that makes things a hell of a lot easier for you than it does being out on the fruited plain called Marketing or Creative Development or Advertising.
The only way significant business comes to me is through client referrals, face-to -face networking or meetings arranged through warm calls. Very little, if any, of this business has to do with any my online activity other than the fact that my portfolio is all posted on my WordPress site.
But having said that, I want to have readership, and beBee, warts and all, is still the consistently best network and readership I have been able to achieve, outside of the odd completely disruptive newsfeed post on LinkedIn.
So in answer to your original question, “Has The Buzz Left beBee?”, I would have to say no with extenuating circumstances. The main extenuating circumstance is stamina. The majority of people still posting frequently on beBee are those who are actual writers or chroniclers of their industry, profession or interests.
I have always maintained that if what it is you do does not include writing on even a middling level, you will eventually tire of it and your frequency will drop and you will become a lurker, like the vast majority of people on social media actually are.
I’m hoping for the best for beBee because I really like a lot of the people I have met there. And I think it’s a good place for us to foist our opinions on people.
But I also believe that Javier and company really need to keep their eyes peeled for scammers and hacks of every sort, because they are out there. I’m not sure that many of them really know what they’re doing, but the few who do can be dangerous.
So there you have it. I’m going to go lay down now and read the final chapter of my daughter’s first novel. (Past Tense by Star Spider).
PHIL: Granted, Jim, perhaps I am somewhat over the top about what I’m seeing in the beBee feed. And I cede your point about my inhabiting a “vertical silo”.
Certainly, I thought at first why not just “mute” those crap-content fakes and bots? But then I answered myself — which is often dangerous, even if it doesn’t cause me to go blind — that simply me not seeing what was happening would not stop it from potentially degrading whatever site-authority beBee has developed and whatever author-authority I or any of my friends and cohorts on beBee might have accrued.
The irony of the situation is that I’ve published a number of harangues about the scourge of plagiarism on social media platforms like LinkedIn and beBee. As it’s always pissed me off to see people stealing writers’ work and presenting it as their own.
What I never fully realized until recently is that if someone plagiarizes good work, it’s still good work (even if it isn’t theirs) and doesn’t create an environment of bad writing that sullies everyone’s “rep” as an author in the eyes of the internet search Gods — however much it might create an atmosphere of distrust among readers and writers.
Understand that I still harbor some affection for beBee, even if this latest iteration seems to mangle and refuse to load many of the images that originally appeared with the articles I’ve published on the platform. So, I for one am keeping my fingers crossed that Javier’s recent article, “1-99”, signals a recognition of the problem on beBee’s part and a coming effort to deal with it. Hopefully, well before the buzz turns into a disturbing hiss of a deflating balloon.
— Phil Friedman and Jim Murray
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn
numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and
business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and
communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht
surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and
experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous
life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic
and philosophy at university.
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