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Seven Days of the Dog: The regal, indomitable arrogance of a healthy, normal Bloodhound

This came in as a comment last night.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be competitive and wanting to win, but, reading your posts the last few weeks, you ego is a little bit too big at times. Yes, you are a heck of a writer and you have one heck of a blog and you have assembled a heck of a team of contributors, but your ego is getting a bit cocky.

This is ad hominem, so it violates our comments policy, but I’m not averse to discussing the issue it raises in a general way.

Just not yet.

First, let’s address some general beefs I have with the world of real estate weblogging. You can regard this as an impromptu staff meeting of the RE.net, or, if you’d rather, as a Pompeii-like graffito.

Here’s one: I’m seeing more and more truncated feeds, and I am unthrilled about it. My entire purpose in using a feed reader is to aggregate everything I might want to see in one place. If I’m interested in what you have to say, I might click through to your site, but I don’t appreciate being forced to do so. I understand that you may be trying to boost your hard clicks, possibly to placate your advertisers, or you might be trying to frustrate sploggers. I don’t care. If you don’t capture my attention completely in the forty or fifty words you deign to show me, there is zero chance that I will click through to see if I might be missing something good. I can’t be that different from your target reader. You got ‘em to subscribe. Now deliver the goods. Hoarding — for whatever reason — is the economics of the past.

(Near the subject, I had mentioned a long time ago (in a comment or somewhere) that I almost never do trackbacks. If for no other reason than that it offers automatic trackbacks and pingbacks, WordPress should be your CMS of choice for any weblogs you build (or migrate to) in the future.)

Here’s another beef: This came in as a comment to Real Estate Weblogging 101:

I think you should make your URL’s prettier:

Optimize your permalinks – the default WP 2.0 installation displays permalinks this way: DOMAIN.com/?p-123. A more search-engine friendly permalink includes the post title in the link, like this: DOMAIN.com/2006/01/16/keyword-rich-post-title/. This is a simple change to make. In your WP admin panel, click on the “Options” tab, then the “Permalinks” sub-tab, and choose the option just below the “Default” permalink option. See the WordPress Codex for more on permailinks.

If you need help with that I can gladly show you the ropes.

I’m sure this is well-intentioned, and the offer to help is awfully sweet. There is really only one thing wrong with it.

What’s that?

It’s wrong.

In terms of Search Engine Optimization, the default format of a WordPress permalink is probably as good as or better than any alternative. James Brausch argues that other permalink structures actually damage search engine performance. Google certainly prefers short URLs to longer ones. And even if Google honors keywords in the URL and not just in the domain name, having the date encoded in the URL serves no SEO purpose at all.

On the other hand, coding permalinks in a way that is consistent and repeatable for human beings is of huge benefit — to those human beings. For the most part, readers are not going to type weblog links no matter how they are coded. But bloggers themselves are going to have to encode their own links again and again. The format suggested by my correspondent is far more error-prone than the WordPress default.

We go this one better by building our tools around our permalink structure. I have a keyboard macro that builds a fully-formed BloodhoundBlog link, absent only the number of the post and the anchoring text. The macro leaves the cursor flashing at the point where the number is to be typed. I can copy the text I want to anchor and remember the post number, then produce a fault-free link back into the weblog in a couple of seconds.

All that is as may be, and there is a point at which SEO debates are as interesting to me as PBS documentaries. What is interesting to me is the epistemological method that goes into making decisions. It really doesn’t make any difference how you code your permalinks, because, beneficial or damaging, any benefit or damage is going to be trivial compared to other things you can do to improve your SEO performance, notably boosting your Page Rank or writing strong posts with strong headlines (and putting your headline in your title tag).

On the other hand, coding your permalinks in a way that saves time and makes errors less likely appeals to my way of thinking. So why do so many weblogs use the format my correspondent suggested? My guess is that, rather than thinking about what might make sense in context, people mostly copied what other people were doing. Recall that the WordPress default is domain.com/?p=123. Why do people change it? Why do they insist, again and again, that duplicating a permalink format that contains eleven characters of completely dysfunctional date information before we even get to the possibly-completely-useless-or-even-harmful keywords — why do they echo, again and again, what could well be pernicious misinformation?

When the Project Blogger competition got started, I wrote this in email to Teri Lussier:

Seriously, everything is what it is because some idiot had to do something, had no clue what to do, bespied another idiot who seemed to be doing something right, copied that idiot and called himself an expert. No one has the first idea what they are doing, and they’re all as busy as hell doing the wrong things.

I get frustrated, but I can’t change very much very quickly. Here’s the cool part, though: The world is a wide open bank vault for people who trust themselves enough to think in their own behalf.

That seems kind of harsh, but stop for a moment and think of all the locally-focused real estate weblogs you have seen that feature photos of the hometown skyline. Do you get the idea that people are reading real estate weblogs because they want to buy skyscrapers? If you wander the Earth like Diogenes, questing and quarrying for the reasons motivating the things that people do, the answer you will come up with most often is: Monkey-see, monkey-do.

And that brings me to Project Blogger in earnest. I took time to read the contestants’ weblogs for the first time this week. This was a soporific experience. With a very few exceptions, the blogs read like those slap-happy brochures you find at the check-in counter of dismal little back-country motels. They sit there in their little take-one racks, defying you to read them, taunting you with their illimitable power to stupefy.

I am nobody’s micro-manager. There are no rules of any kind for the contributors to BloodhoundBlog, and I directed Teri’s efforts in the Project Blogger competition in only the biggest of big-picture ways. But I am very much interested in the philosophy of weblogging — weblogging as such, not just real estate weblogging — which is why we undertook our efforts in this contest in public, first here and then at RealEstateWeblogging101.com.

It seems plausible to me that this was time well wasted, at least as regards the other contestants.

Teri gets it, but I picked her as my apprentice because she gets it. My take on most of the other Project Blogger contestants is that they have no idea why anyone would write — or read — a weblog.

Here’s the deal, and may god help you if this comes to you as news: People do not read those brochures on the motel registration desk. They take them, thinking they will read them, thinking they might want to make time for some of the local attractions no matter how pedestrian those might be. But then they dump them in the teeny-tiny little motel trash can, or, feeling guilty for not making what in fact would be a poor use of their time, schlep them in their bags, throwing them away when they get back home.

Must I be more pellucid?: Writing inoffensive tapioca pabulum that is boring even to you as the writer will not win you an audience. You may get long tail search results from Google, but your bounce rate will be off the charts: People may find you by searching on your keywords, but they will correctly identify your stupefying prose as advertising, and they will flee at once.

You may now and then get a lead from your weblog — even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. What you will not do is build a community of people who are committed to you and you only for all things real estate. Brian Brady has been talking about viral marketing, but the essence of viral marketing is the “sneezer” — the person who wouldn’t ever think of not using you. Who, even better, won’t let friends or family members use anyone else. Who, best of all, actively recruits new clients for you. A true weblog is one of the best ways you have of meeting new sneezers. And a false one — false, as Emerson has it, in all particulars — is your best weapon for driving them away.

So who is at fault, the apprentices or the coaches? Have the nascent bloggers been badly advised by their coaches, or are all of them just self-selected victims of the monkey-see, monkey-do mindset? It doesn’t much matter, just as it doesn’t matter who wins this competition. Two or three of the contestants will come away with real weblogs, and the rest will have produced motel brochures without knowing where — or even that — they went wrong.

All of which brings us back to the topic with which we began. A Bloodhound’s virtues are genetic accidents, but that doesn’t make them less than perfectly admirable, whether evidenced in the dog or anthropomorphized and expressed in thoroughly conscious human behavior. Brought up right, a Bloodhound is a natural alpha, regal and indomitable. The dog will move with a lanky, un-self-conscious arrogance that is simply heart-breakingly beautiful to look upon: This what a thriving organism looks like.

I am steadfastly, philosophically opposed to the idea of humility. I think it is one of many evil ideas foisted off on us by malefactors who love us best at our absolute worst. To say to me, “You’re arrogant,” or, “you have a big ego,” is no reproach. On the one hand, it is a statement of obvious fact. But on the other, it puts me on my guard against you. A healthy, normal human being moves and acts and thinks and speaks with the lanky arrogance of a healthy, normal Bloodhound. When people don’t behave that way, I want to know why. When they affect to preach against healthy, normal human behavior, I go on defense — and not by half-measures.

The comment quoted above is nothing, just so much word salad. People repeat what they’ve been told their whole lives — monkey-see, monkey-do — for no reason they can name. They have habituated emotional reactions to behaviors they have been told since childhood are wrong without ever puzzling out what is right, what is wrong, and what their habituated emotional reactions have to do with either. None of this means anything to me. Either you can defend your position in cogent reason, or I am occupied elsewhere. I know why my lanky arrogance is better for me, in the context of my own one irreplaceable life, and there is nothing anyone can say to persuade me to hate my life in other people’s behalf.

Even so, this makes for a good lesson in weblogging. Art is social, and a secondary objective of any work of art — even a work of art as banal as a weblog post — is to elicit a response. Not simply a comment, mind you, not the enblogged equivalent of a high-five, but an authentic, heart-felt response: “Thank you so much for saying that!” “Oh, what crap!!” “I thought I was the only person who felt this way!” “Your unwillingness to kneel to the vicious trolls I affect to worship as gods leads me to unpleasant doubts about their divinity, which I am obliged to blame on you.” Oh, wait, that last was a translation of email I get all the time…

In fact, other people’s responses to your work should never be a primary consideration to you. The writing is either good or it isn’t. But if you are not eliciting emotion-laden responses from your readers, what you are doing is brochure-production, not weblogging.

But, in any case, if you feel a strong urge to tell me that I am as arrogant as a normal, healthy Bloodhound, regal and indomitable — what can I say in reply except, “Thanks!”

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  • 30 comments

    30 Comments so far

    1. Derek Burress June 27th, 2007 7:52 pm

      First of all, I have not much of a clue what you were trying to say in your post as you kind of skipped around in a filiabuster type manner.

      Second of all, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I am the one who made the first quote. I admire your work here as I stated in my comments but there is no need to brag about how good of a writer you are and how many times you and your staff has won a carnival. People can see you are good but what purpose does bragging do? It gets you no where and personally, I see it as a turn off.

      As a coach, I have had players to go in the first, second, fifth and a dozen of other rounds. I have been to state championships, won a few of them and being only 26 that is a huge accomplishment. But you know, I do not see myself as being better than say… a coach whose team won only 2 games but yet gets better and better each year.

      Think about it… What is the purpose of going out showing off my state championship rings and talking about how many players I have had to get drafted? How would you feel if you were the opposing coach whom I talked about about?

      Maybe blogging is different, but I look at things from the coaching point of view and to me, I have learned pretty fast that I am no better than anyone else out there. Blessed maybe, but certainly not better.

      Blogging wise, I may have close to a hundred posts on my blog, but I am no better of a blogger than someone with only one or two posts on their blogs. I may have more traffic and may have even won a few carnivals myself but what good is all that? Admitting it doesn’t make me a better writer or does it? Maybe it does but I just do not see any benefit in bragging.

      Sorry!

    2. Todd Carpenter June 27th, 2007 8:23 pm

      Thank you so much for saying that!

    3. Teri Lussier June 27th, 2007 8:38 pm

      I thought I was the only person who felt this way!

    4. Jeff Kempe June 27th, 2007 9:01 pm

      Heh.

    5. Todd Carpenter June 27th, 2007 9:31 pm

      OK, enough of that.

      Greg, I have to disagree with you that,”if you are not eliciting emotion-laden responses from your readers, what you are doing is brochure-production, not weblogging”.

      I’ve never once set out with the intention of eliciting emotional responses. I built my blog to keep in touch with past clients, share what I know about the industry, and to help new loan officers become competent. I don’t identify myself as a writer, and personally don’t care if I’m considered to be a compelling blogger. “Thanks” is just about the only comment I hope to elicit.

      Does this make my blog a brochure site? I would have to say, “brochure for what?”. Having you writing skills would be great, but most of us aren’t there. It doesn’t matter though. If you write about something good, it won’t matter if your writing isn’t.

    6. Senectus June 27th, 2007 9:45 pm

      Geez Greg…how fast do you type? It would take me a week to pen a post this long, and you do it consistently! That ego makes your fingers fly!!! LOL

    7. Austin Realtor's Wife June 27th, 2007 9:48 pm

      So here’s how I see it- Greg’s cocky. So what? He’s never hidden that (and now he breaks down his beliefs about it being healthy). Greg’s an amazing writer (whether he brags about it or not) and is talented in finding other amazing writers.

      Discussing the Carnivals is not personal back patting(it’s usually Kris Berg that wins anyhow). I’ve always taken it as a pep talk! Before I was a contributor, I would strive to not be a lazy blogger. So Greg- be cocky, I support that. I’ll be SUPER cocky in private (as Jeff Brown knows) and will continue my own personal blogging behavior of lacking modesty when merited and violently attacking my weaknesses when THAT is merited.

      If you have championship rings, show them to your players and tell them they’re next. If you’re a Bloodhound and have Carnival trophies, show them to your contributors and readers (as Greg does) and motivate them!

    8. Derek Burress June 27th, 2007 9:48 pm

      With my blog, considering the fact that I am now back in school to be a teacher and stuff, I do not have much of a motive for blogging about real estate, but I do it to learn. I learn best by writing what I know and even when I do not understand something, I learn by writing what little I do know of the subject and expanding on it through my writings. I guess for me, when I write, it gets me thinking and it just leads to a better over all understanding for me on a personal level.

      A lot of my blog articles come from my class notes in real estate. When I review, I write, and when I write, I retain more and more information on that subject.

      The non-real estate articles such as those about history, well they are mostly class stuff I did. I am a history major and I write to learn. My blog is not just for others but for me as well. It also serves as a place to store all my past work – such as those old history essays, etc.

      My current articles are on home inspections. It’s all part of learning for me. I have some books I am reading on home inspections and to aid my learning, I am blogging about what I have learned. I may sound like I am writing the same old stuff you may have read on some home inspector’s blog, but for me, I am no home inspector. I have no background in home inspections, but guess what… I am learning and I am blogging and in this world, if what I blog about is wrong, I am sure with the amount of people I have viewing my blog, someone will correct my blogging mistakes. That’s the beauty of learning by blogging.

      Yes those articles/essays help in terms of traffic but I don’t care about traffic to my blog. I have no purpose for driving traffic to my site. Real estate speaking, I may put my license to use one day, but it will be a while. If I ever do activate it, I will have enough to be ahead of most agents starting out that is for sure.

      As for blog comments, I actually delete half of them. Other times, I turn the comments off or require my commenters to register before they post. Like a few months ago, I turned the comments off simply because I had so much school work, I had no time to moderate them.

      As for the permalinks, I change them so much it is not even funny. But I change my blog address even more than I change the permalinks. The reason… because I am still un-decided about what I want to do with my blog. I am experimenting. I may be making errors but this is another part of learning; by trial and error. I am discovering what works for me. I may be following the crowd at times, but if I don’t see the results or if following the crowd makes my life harder, I’ll simply it. Just like last week, I changed the address to my blog. The reason – so I can have my main domain free if I want to do something other than blog (static content, etc). With adding /blog to my domain name, I freed the home page for the future and I still get to keep the blog.

      Following the crowd, doing it all wrong, etc…. well lets just say, that we all have our reasons. They may not make sense but we have them!

    9. Derek Burress June 27th, 2007 9:56 pm

      Lani: Showing rings to players doesn’t work. I tried that already. :-)

      I left the school which I won a state championship and immediately started wearing the old ring there as we had a much better team at the new school than we did at the school where we won the state. I thought showing the ring off would motivate and inspire the new guys to want their own and inspire them to work that much harder, but it didn’t.

      It made me feel little wearing that ring. It made me feel like my best days were behind me – like I was living in the past with the old team.

      Maybe it is me, but I just do not see eye to eye about bragging about carnival wins or stuff, and as a coach, I’ll call it like I see it. Maybe bragging works for Greg (his coaching style) by inspiring you guys (fellow bloodhounds) to be better writers, but for me, it has just never done anything for me!

    10. Brian Brady June 27th, 2007 10:11 pm

      Have any of you ever read a Greg Swann post about raising the bar? I hear the collective yell from the volunteer authors. Yes, we are volunteers. It’s not the groan of weary slaves but a moan of gritty determination that comes from knowing you can do even better than your best. That you can dig deep down and aspire to greatness and achieve it.

      Any coach knows that to inspire greatness is to ask weary players, when they have left all they have on the field, to run just one more play, even harder than before. Greg Swann does that.

      And when the players do that, he celebrates with them and lets them have the credit. Greg Swann does that.

      Everybody celebrates each others’ success here. We walk a little taller, smile a little more knowingly, and try even harder to make this place great. Anything less would just be wasting time.

    11. Brian Brady June 27th, 2007 10:12 pm

      “If you’re a Bloodhound and have Carnival trophies, show them to your contributors and readers (as Greg does) and motivate them!”

      Lani, welcome aboard. You’re next.

    12. Greg Swann June 27th, 2007 10:57 pm
    13. Todd Carpenter June 28th, 2007 12:52 am

      There you go again. Waiving around that superior vocabulary!

    14. Robert Kerr June 28th, 2007 3:12 am

      “So here’s how I see it- Greg’s cocky. So what?”

      Right. That’s like saying “the sky is blue.” It’s obvious to us all, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

      But I’m getting some bad vibes after learning that Greg considered that posting a violation of the blog’s ad hominem policy.

      At the risk of being a violator myself, I have to say: It seems that Greg has proved Derek’s point about his ego.

    15. Katie Huebschen June 28th, 2007 7:32 am

      I too am a little surprised the “cocky” comment would have been considered a violation. We are just starting our blog and had much discussion about allowing negative comments – and decided the main red flag would be profanity. And that “negative comments” would be our opportunity to fix a problem – but we’ll see how fun that is once we get one… (Honestly, the blog is so new we are hoping for any comments at all!)

      As for cockiness, my take is Gregg is extremely confident and passionate. I am amazed at the prolific postings and wonder how late into the night he types away.

    16. Greg Swann June 28th, 2007 7:49 am

      > I too am a little surprised the “cocky” comment would have been considered a violation.

      I draw a hard line on ad hominem attacks because they tend to deteriorate into flame wars almost immediately. I’m an armadillo, impervious to attack, but people somehow feel themselves at liberty to say the most amazingly insulting things to me. The comments policy detailed on our About page has worked very well for BloodhoundBlog. But it only makes sense, as a policy, if I enforce it across the board. If I were working alone, I wouldn’t have a comments policy — my background is Usenet, where anything goes — but I would also flay, eviscerate, stuff and mount anyone who presumed to tell me how to live my life. The bargain of civilization is that it works better, overall, for everyone.

    17. Geno Petro June 28th, 2007 8:31 am

      By the time I finished the G.S. post, then read all of the comments, and finally ended up here, I don’t have much to add or subract except that maybe it is concedable that a writer creates for reasons other than what an audience of judges may think. To me, with very few exceptions throughout civilization, most writers suck–almost all really, if you include the dead and the internet.

      Blogging simply amplifies the voices of several million previously silent fragmented thinkers without a medium, vanity houses notwithstanding, but too much free time to publish. All criticism, mostly in rebuttal postings and comments, is ex post facto, anyway. Hey, self-edited subjective content has to move toward the objective to be worthwhile to anyone except the author himself and his most ardent doctrinaires. Even Brian Brady knows that!

      As for those back road country inn brochures, I use them to clean the chicken-fried steak from my chops when a toothpick isn’t handy.

    18. Michael Cook June 28th, 2007 10:04 am

      As a writer here, I do have to agree that the site can be a bit cocky. However, I think it is important to note the purpose of why people write here. As an investor, if I see a realtor, who has won a variety of awards and has a bit of a swagger, I would definitely sign him/her up to work for me. That persona makes a great agent.

      On the other hand, if I was looking for an investment partner, some of those characteristics would turn me off immediately. I would want someone smart and award winning, but a bit more conservative and open. I had my fill of cocky people in business school.

      All that said, Greg really represents the site. Additionally, the site is more realtor than not. Therefore, while I agree with Derek I think Greg’s persona is actually good for the site and for the many agents here.

    19. Orange County, NY Real Estate June 28th, 2007 10:18 am

      I didn’t read all of your posts (or even the original full post by Greg) but arrogance and ego could be considered an issue by many just based on their perception of how Greg’s writing reads to them. One of the gifts few of us have and always take for granted is the ability to speak to others on all levels of understanding without evoking insecurities or giving off the impression of superiority. I don’t see anything wrong with the way Greg writes or the way he acts because it’s who he is and that’s his nature. You will never please everyone! But even I, someone who can get accept just about everyone, do find some of Greg’s posts/videos to be a tad self-indulgent. What do I do? I skip them and move on to the next post because at least Greg is exploring new things and innovating in a stagnant market all the while sharing his experiences with us all. To me the value in that alone supersedes any quirks in Greg’s personality.

    20. Russell Shaw June 28th, 2007 11:23 am

      Yes.

    21. Tom June 28th, 2007 2:20 pm

      So, calling Greg a cocky, arrogant son of a bloodhound bitch is the highest form of flattery.

      That is why I love the guy. “He be like me and writes a bunch better.”

      On a serious note, to be a great blogger you have to be cocky. You are not writing what a boss hands you.

      You are writing what you feel and after a year you have drawn 1,500 lines in the sand . That is 1,500 positions that the Gods of Google will force you to defend with passion and integrity when detractors come knocking.

      Tell me that anyone without a great ego and a tremendous sense of self could do this and enjoy it.

      Keep it up Greg, because I am expecting a better year for 2007-2008 and the previous first years campaign.

      And I know you and the Bloodhound gang will deliver.

    22. [...] Comes news today that a keyword-packed fake weblog is every bit at attractive and satisfying as an inflatable spouse. I don’t doubt it for a minute, but if the objective is to snare random morons by deception, I think a “stealth” web site is a better-yielding joy-doll. [...]

    23. Teri L February 20th, 2008 5:44 pm

      My God.
      A comment from my inbox today compelled me to revisit this.
      One year after joining up, after days of I-don’t-know-what, I think this is beginning to take hold. ;-)

    24. Greg Swann February 20th, 2008 6:13 pm

      “Art elicits a response” in there, too. I hadn’t remembered saying that. Thanks for bringing me back here!

    25. Teri Lussier February 20th, 2008 9:42 pm

      It was helpful to come back today. It means so much more to me now than when you first wrote it, I can put it into some context, and look at it with some real experience under my belt.

      The last few days have been really instructive to me. I don’t want to bring that up to start it up, but I’ve learned so much about how the blogiverse ebbs and flows. If you hadn’t written such an audacious post…Well, for one, my inbox wouldn’t have driven me back here to consider the true meaning of arrogance ;-) , but also I would never have seen how the blogiverse, the RE.net in particular, is hyper connected and kinda moves en masse. It’s been a great year! :-)

    26. [...] Teri was talking about it last night: Monkey see, monkey do. [...]

    27. [...] nice-guy call wondering why BloodhoundBlog uses post numbers instead of keywords in our permalinks. I’ve written about this before, but the short answer is two answers: 1. I live by the least principle, so I tend not to change a [...]

    28. [...] Realtors do what they do for the worst of all possible reasons: Monkey-see, monkey-do. Why does your yard sign look like all the others? Uh… Why does your flyer — if there [...]

    29. Teri Lussier September 13th, 2008 6:43 pm

      Geno-

      >As for those back road country inn brochures, I use them to clean the chicken-fried steak from my chops when a toothpick isn’t handy.

      That *still* makes me laugh out loud.

    30. [...] linked today to a post I wrote more than a year ago. Like this post, it has that strangely disorganized cohesion of a weblog entry — part essay, [...]