Why “Bob on Books” is Now on Facebook

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Screen capture of Bob on Books on Facebook 9/10/2018

You might have noticed in yesterday’s post that there is now a “Bob on Books” Facebook page. Facebook kind of forced me into it. For as long as I’ve had my blog, Facebook allowed scheduled automated sharing of my WordPress posts on my Facebook profile. Facebook blocked this capability at the end of July but allowed scheduled automated sharing to Facebook pages.

I suspect this is part of Facebook’s approach to dealing with “fake news” and “fake account” sites and the propagation of this material. But it was at least a minor inconvenience to many of us who connected our profiles to our WordPress blogs. It is still possible to manually post links from a blog to your profile, an extra step. Harder than that is that when Facebook broke the connection, it also cut my “follower count” on my blog by 2500 in one fell swoop. Now that may not be all bad, because I suspect a good number of my Facebook friends don’t look at my blog but were still counted as “followers.” But it meant taking the time to set up a page and inviting people to “like” and “follow” it. That certainly has the advantage of people “opting into” your content, and perhaps is a better indicator of interest. Maybe it is more honest.

There are several advantages beyond this of a page:

  • People interested in blog posts and other material can access this quickly.
  • It allows me to post polls, articles, photos and quotes, and a “question of the day” facilitating ongoing conversation to a greater degree than the blog.
  • Facebook provides a variety of metrics for pages that you don’t have access to on profiles. I can also get another indicator of the interest in individual blog posts.
  • It is easier to post on Facebook than the blog, which anyone on Facebook can do. On the blog, people need to set up a WordPress account (not necessarily a blog) to post comments, something not everyone wants to do.
  • For a relatively low expense, I’ve added 100 followers beyond my own circle of contacts in the last month. I tried promoting the website for the blog, but this led to very few additional blog followers. I haven’t promoted posts.
  • I don’t have a good sense yet whether the page has translated into more traffic on my blog, although my summer stats usually decline, and this year have been on the rise. Unfortunately, WordPress stats aggregate all “referrals” from Facebook, so clicks from my profile, my page, or posts in other groups (which I do a fair amount of) are all lumped together. It certainly hasn’t hurt, from what I can tell.

The big minus that you just have to deal with is that pages are a revenue stream for Facebook and they are constantly inviting you to promote the page, an individual post, and your website. For some reason, I find the page loads more slowly than my personal profile, perhaps because of all the extra analytics. I would like to see Facebook streamline this (it may be better for visitors than admins who see extra content).

This might be more “inside baseball” than some of you may like. What I hope might be the case is that the blog and the Facebook page complement each other and maybe foster a bit of a “Bob on Books” community of people interested in interacting about good books, their reading experiences and how all this relates to our pursuit of the good, the beautiful, and the true in our lives. Blogs allow more extended development of an idea or review of a particular work. Facebook pages afford the chance for briefer but more frequent posts and interactions. I hope you will visit both

I’d love to hear your feedback. Even after five years of doing this, I still feel I’m making it up as I go….

 

Reading Better in 2015

"Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 018 v1" by Guillaume Paumier - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Zuckerberg_at_the_37th_G8_Summit_in_Deauville_018_v1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mark_Zuckerberg_at_the_37th_G8_Summit_in_Deauville_018_v1.jpg

“Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 018 v1” by Guillaume Paumier – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mark_Zuckerberg_at_the_37th_G8_Summit_in_Deauville_018_v1.jpg

“Reading more” seems to be one of those resolutions people are making right now. Perhaps the most famous to do so is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who wants to read 26 books “with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies” (according to this article on Mashable). Mark would like us to read along with him. He’s set up a Facebook page where he is posting the books he is reading and hosting moderated discussions of the book. Based on the first title he has selected, it appears he won’t be reading fluff! (I understand that the book he chose, The End of Power, by Moses Naim, has spiked in sales since Zuckerberg chose it.)

I think this is great! I love the idea of high profile people encouraging reading, sharing what they read, and encouraging the rest of us to join them.   Zuckerberg is joining tech leader Bill Gates, who  has long been know for reading good stuff and sharing it with us. You can find reviews of what he has been reading on his blog. I discovered in checking out his blog that there are two of us on the planet who have actually read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century!

One thing I’m afraid of is that “reading more” will go the way of “exercising more” and “eating less”. That is, we look back at wistfully at the end of the year and say, “maybe next year.” What I want to recommend instead is “reading better”. I’m convinced that when we read better, we may read more. But the numbers of books matter less than having your life enriched and world enlarged by the books you read. Here are my ideas for “reading better.”

1. Read as you can, not as you can’t. It may be that you are an active person who can’t sit still and read for more than 15 minutes at a time. If you read 15 minutes a day, you can read 15 average size books in a year. Trying to read when you really want to be doing something else is miserable and isn’t going to encourage you to read at all, let alone more or better.

2. Read when you can give your attention to what you are reading and enter into the world of the book. Different books need different levels of attention. “Beach reads” take less attention than a serious book on climate change or a Tolstoy novel. Attempting to read a book when you can’t give it the attention it requires is just an exercise in frustration.

3. On a related note, I don’t recommend reading on a phone or tablet that has other applications running besides your reader. If we see we have mail or a text, we are already distracted. If we read them, our reading becomes disconnected.

4. Read what interests you, not what you think you “should” read. I know nothing that will put you off of reading more quickly that trying to trudge through a book that you really don’t like because someone thinks that all the cool people should read that book! One way to find books you might like is to read is to follow reviewers who seem to have similar takes on books you’ve liked.

5. If you find people with similar interests, forming a book group can not only help you read more but the discussions will take you more deeply into the book as you hear others “take” on the book. One book group I’m in has wrestled through some good but challenging books and helped each other make sense of books I’d probably have given up reading alone.

6. Reflect on what you read. Maybe it means keeping a “commonplace book” to jot down quotes you like. I started writing reviews to reflect on and remember what I read. Goodreads is a great place to do this and has the added benefits of discovering what your friends are reading and think of what they’ve read.

reading challenge7. While I’m talking about Goodreads, they have this thing called the “Reading Challenge”. Set goals that are realistic. Zuckerberg’s is a book every two weeks. More is not better. Better is better. Compulsively reading to reach a goal is not better. Choosing short, easy to read books just so you can “catch up” seems beside the point.

8. Read at least one book that differs from what you usually read. If you are a die-hard liberal, read a thoughtful conservative writer, and vice versa. If all your books are written by Americans, read something by an author from a different country, preferably a non-Western country. If you are religious (or not!), read something outside your tradition, or even something from another religion. I’ve found this both strengthens my own beliefs and enlarges my understanding of the world.

9. Read one intellectually challenging book on a topic you care about deeply . I’m not suggesting you read intellectually challenging books that hold no interest for you. I love singing and sing in a choral group but never had any formal training. Reading about music theory has helped me begin to appreciate more deeply what is going on in the music I sing which feeds my love for it.

10. Read something just for fun. I read a baseball book in the summer of each year. No profound reason except that I like baseball–and there are some great baseball writers out there and some great writers who are baseball fans.

I’d love to hear your ideas about reading better!

Are You Seeing This?

Obviously, the only way to answer this is yes! Otherwise, you don’t know that this post exists. Why do I mention it? The basic reason is that one of the ways I seek to publicize the blog is through posting it to my Facebook page (and sometimes to other Facebook groups I am a part of). And the statistics that show up on my dashboard indicate that Facebook is one of the principle routes through which views of my blog occur.

Why is that a big deal? For one simple reason: lots of people post material and Facebook wants to post the material that it thinks its viewers want to see and that will keep them coming back for more. It’s a business thing: more views means they can charge advertisers higher rates based on greater traffic. Also, most people will only scroll so far down on a feed and so it may be the case that if you have 2,000 friends and other pages you have liked and there are 500 posts in the last 12 hours from those pages, you may see 30 to 40 of them at most. This is because Facebook employs algorithms that look at your interest in post creators, how a post is performing among others, performance of past posts by the creator, the type of post (status, meme, photos, article links), and how recent the post was made.  The blog TechCrunch gives a great overview of this process.

Facebook is honest about the fact that it does this, as you can see in News Feed FYI: A Window into NewsfeedIt makes sense in many respects to try to provide its end-users the content that their own habits and other factors suggest that they’d be interested in. Amazon does the same thing with book recommendations and other product recommendations. The critical piece is to be aware that Facebook is doing this for you and that as a result you may not be seeing some of the things you might want to see and that to do so, you may have to take additional steps to ensure you see that content.

It appears that one of the simplest things you can do within the Facebook environment is to “like” and “comment” on the stuff that you really like. But for the things that you really do want to see, you may want to subscribe to or follow them directly, without the Facebook filter. Most provide the ability to subscribe via email and there are also other direct ways to be alerted to new content you like to see. For WordPress blogs, if you have a WordPress account you can follow any other WordPress blog as well as other blogs and have new posts show up on WordPress’s reader. There are also ways to set up RSS feeds to an RSS feed reader. If you do not have a WordPress account, on all my blog pages there is a little blue button that allows you to sign up to receive email versions of new blog posts. You don’t have to read them but it does let you know there is something new on the blog.

I am not presumptuous enough to think that lots of people are waiting with baited breath for the latest “pearl of wisdom” to appear on my blog! Not everything I write about is of wide interest. Some of it may appear pretty nerdy to some. I also follow some blogs where not all the posts are of equal interests but where the blogger writes often enough about things I care about that I want to know about it when they do. So what I would suggest is that when you find sources, whether of news, or whatever else interests you that you want to follow, you may want to consider subscribing or following directly.  Do you really want to limit yourself to the content Facebook’s algorithms decide will keep you coming back for more?