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The Ever-growing List of Ask Me Anything (AMA) Threads AMA header image

* Update * – When I started this list, there wasn’t a dedicated AMA category on Now there is. So I’ve decided to stop continuing this list.

On January 16th 2013, Ed Fry announced that would be introducing Ask Me Anything (AMA) threads, starting with the mighty Rand Fishkin, one of the founders of the site. As I type this, there have been three official AMAs to date (by “official” I mean announced by the team – I thought I’d make this point as some people have created their own AMAs). However, as there isn’t a dedicated category for them and the three so far have been submitted in different categories, there’s no easy way to keep track of them all.* So I thought I’d start a list…

* You could do a Google search such as “ask me anything”, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll pretend that’s not an option, okay? 😉

Interestingly, while researching this post, I found out that Jonathan Colman was the one who first came up with the idea for AMAs for – inspired by Reddit – in this thread (I can’t link to the comment directly, so you’ll have to scroll down).

Anyway, here’s the list, which will be updated as-and-when new AMAs take place. Please feel free to check back if you miss one or want to refer back to an old one!

Click to read more!

Interview with Ed Fry about logoBack in June, I interviewed Rand Fishkin about, an Inbound Marketing community that calls itself the “Hacker News for Marketers.” The site was about four months old at the time of the interview, as it had officially launched in February this year.

Roll on six months and the site has seen some significant changes: Ed Fry (@edfryed) was hired as the site’s General Manager in September and a redesign of the website was released towards the end of October.

The site’s nearing its first birthday and Ed and co. have some big ambitions for the site for 2013 – see Ed’s The Future of slides and the related submission/Discussion page (which itself links off to eight other Discussions which are covered in the slides) to find out more.

I recently approached Ed asking if I could carry out an interview – sort of as a follow-up to the one with Rand in June – and he happily obliged. Below we cover his recruitment, the redesign, what’s new, what’s in store in 2013 and more…

Click to read more!

An Analysis of 100 Submissions Incoming screenshot

When I interviewed Rand Fishkin about – the community-curated inbound marketing resource – earlier this year, I found his answers to be very open, interesting and eye-opening. In particular though, this answer stood out the most for me:

Steve: What’s your view on self-promotion? Should people be afraid to submit their own posts (even if they are really good, ideal for the audience), or would you much rather see people only sharing other people’s content instead?

Rand: If you’re submitting 1/100 things you produce, that’s fine. If it’s closer to 1/10, that’s probably crossing a line. We don’t currently ban/remove for self-promotion or self-submissions, but we will ban accounts that consistently submit low-quality stuff (from anywhere).

In particular, it’s that mention of the “1/100” ratio. For everyone 100 posts someone submits, 99 should be someone else’s material – not their own.

Now we’re an industry all about marketing and promotion and regardless of the industry, I think if anyone’s proud of what they’ve written and genuinely thinks that it can help others, there shouldn’t be any shame in sharing it. I think I’ve submitted close to 1/20 of my own stuff, either from SEOno, my company’s blog or in the form guest blog posts, but a) not excessively and b) only when I think it’s genuinely useful to people. Here’s an example (which flopped anyway and made me feel a little like this)!

As a daily visitor of who also regularly tucks into the Incoming page (rather than just sticking to the main page), I’ve noticed a fair few folk who do not follow this rule even close to 1/10, let alone 1/100. So I got curious…

At around 9pm (BST) on Thursday (25th October), I scraped the 100 latest incoming posts to analyse them.

Disclaimer: I’m not doing this to show anyone up, to discredit the site (which I adore!) or to highlight how Rand’s utopian view of the site does not line up with the reality. It’s purely scientific – I’m taking some data and analysing it. Treat it as a social or even a psychological experiment: i.e. here’s a site and this is what people are doing with it!

How many people self-submit?

So the first thing to check was how many people self-submit/self-promote their content. The answer? 38%. More than 1 in 3 out of the sample. Wow. Sorry Rand…

What counts as a self-submission? Some are less obvious than others, so I considered all of the following:

  • When the submitter is the owner of the blog,
  • When they’re the owner of another blog indirectly (e.g. “in association with…”)
  • When they’re the author of the post, even if it’s not on their own site (e.g. a guest blog post),
  • When they’re submitting the post of someone they work for/with,
  • When they’re submitting something from another website that still promotes them in some way (e.g. if it’s a SlideShare presentation on a talk that they’ve done, etc.)

Of course, it’s not simply a case of saying that it should be around 1%, as not all submitters are created equal (so to speak) and some people contribute more than others. I suppose it’s a bit like Dr Pete’s recent post on “X% of Queries” –  there’s other factors at play and therefore it can be interpreted a number of ways. But regardless, even if we were to say that 5-10% was a fairer figure, 38% is still considerably higher than that.

Here’s a few other random-ish observations…

Were self-submitters a certain type?

I definitely noticed that self-submitters were usually company/agency profiles. Although a few individuals self-submit (and likewise a few companies/agencies don’t), it seems the case that individuals using the site will use it as intended – sharing content that’s written by others – while companies/agencies will share their own.

Who was the most selfless submitter?

Who submitted the most posts that weren’t their own? The wonderful Aleyda Solis, who submitted 7 posts that weren’t her own. I think she deserves a link for that. 🙂

Ed Fry came second (with 4). Ed recently became the site’s general manager, so it’s good that one of’s leading figures is using the site exactly as intended.

Speaking of which, a fair few SEOmoz individuals were in the sample, including Jen and Cyrus, all of them submitting non-SEOmoz material. However you could argue that with a site like that, they don’t need to self-submit because inevitably someone else is going to do it anyway – there’s less pressure on them to consider doing so. (Note: I’m certainly not saying that they’d be that way inclined anyway, but there’s certainly a difference.)

Who was the most selfish submitter?

Who submitted the most posts that were all theirs? I’m not going to name-and-shame, and luckily for me, it was a tie between a few people, so it doesn’t seem feasible to link to them all anyway (hah)! But there were a few people who’d submitted 2 of their own posts and just that – no one else’s.

I won’t say who, but in particular, one self-submitter has submitted 20 posts in their history and all 20 have been self-promotional. Now that is a bit sucky.

Ok, so while I don’t plan to name-and-shame, in the spirit of TAGFEE, I’m still willing to pass on the data. Want to see the spreadsheet with the full sample? You can view it here.

General hat tips

I wanted to end on a few notes of thanks…

Cheers to @Andrew_Isidoro of SEOFoSho for recommending a scraper tool for me to use in order to obtain the data from the site. While I used a different one in the end, I still wanted to say thanks.

Cheers also to @ir_emery, @Nonentity and @paulgailey/ for recommending Google Drive as the best/easiest way to share a spreadsheet online.

Interview with Rand Fishkin about logoIt’s an absolute pleasure to have been given the opportunity to interview Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz fame (@randfish), about his new side-project: is a joint collaboration between Rand and Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot (@dharmesh), which has been going since February – so about 4 months now. Although Rand has already been interviewed about over at Mixergy (around the time the site was launched), I wanted to catch up with Rand about how it was going 4 months in and also ask him some questions about the site, relating to technical details, UX aspects, the site’s own promotion, etc. – mainly out of curiosity as a daily user and fan of the site.

Let’s get started…

Rand Fishkin image from SEOmozSteve Morgan: is a “fun for,” not-for-profit project. What inspired its creation? What encouraged you to create a site of its type in the first place?

Rand Fishkin: Dharmesh and I had long wanted to create something like Hacker News for folks in the marketing world, and is the result of that. We both read Hacker News regularly and love the variety and value of articles submitted there.

Steve: What were the biggest challenges in creating

Rand: Finding the time to manage the product – both Dharmesh and I are insanely overwhelmed by our jobs and lives already, so this was an exercise in patience and in delegation.

Steve: I heard there was lots of downtime in the beginning. What happened? How did you handle it?

Rand: When we first launched, the Twitter signup system failed, hence folks couldn’t register, submit or vote (making the site largely useless). It was particularly sad because at launch, it got a bunch of press and visits that never returned (due to the broken-ness).

Steve: I know that @caseyhen is the main developer involved on the site. But who else is involved? I see that you have moderators as well.

Rand: We’ve got about a dozen volunteers who help with spam, submissions and moderation. Two of the most active are Dan Shure and Lauren Hall-Stigerts. The design was done by the great folks over at We Are Fixel.

Steve: How does the site’s algorithm work? Obviously there’s a voting system, with an element of time factored in (with old posts eventually drifting of the main page as they become obsolete and less popular), but is there more to it than that?

Rand: It’s very similar to the Hacker News algorithm, with a time decay factor on votes and a feature that props up items that get consistent upvotes. It’s not tremendously complicated, but we have tweaked it a few times to get to something that feels appropriate.

Steve: Do you find that the algo constantly needs tweaking and tinkering? How’s that going?

Rand: In the first month after launch, I think we changed it 4-5 times, but since finding a sweet spot, it’s been fairly solid.

Steve: Posts can only be upvoted, and not downvoted as well. Was this implemented on purpose?

Rand: Yes. We didn’t want folks burying stuff they didn’t like. There’s been more than a few articles on the site that I’d have voted down, but removing that makes the overall experience far more positive.

Steve: It’s interesting you say that, because over on SEOmoz, users can downvote posts and comments as well, which is why I was curious.

Rand: I think if we were starting the Moz blogging system anew, we’d probably go with the thumbs-up only. It’ll likely stay due to legacy, but in general, my experience has been that positive votes only are the way to go.

Steve: What’s your view on self-promotion? Should people be afraid to submit their own posts (even if they are really good, ideal for the audience), or would you much rather see people only sharing other people’s content instead?

Rand: If you’re submitting 1/100 things you produce, that’s fine. If it’s closer to 1/10, that’s probably crossing a line. We don’t currently ban/remove for self-promotion or self-submissions, but we will ban accounts that consistently submit low-quality stuff (from anywhere).

Steve: How are you coping with spam? Has there been more/less than you were expecting? Have you found that the Guidelines and ”I Solemnly Swear…” button have helped at all?

Rand: There’s been less than I expected, though still more than we’d hope for. Since Twitter is the login mechanism, pure spam accounts get banned by Twitter before we need to worry about them (which is awesome). Folks are also conscientious that all their activity on the site is tied back to Twitter. I’ve tweeted at more than a few who’ve submitted spam asking them to stop or we’ll ban their account. It works like a charm. 🙂

Steve: I’ve actually contacted Casey a couple of times pointing out spam submission spam and comment spam. Have you found a lot of people doing this – trying to help police the site and reporting those who are causing a bad experience – even though they’re not official moderators?

Rand: Yeah, we’ve had a few good Samaritans like yourself helping out, which is awesome. Thank you!

Steve: Any funny/odd spam submissions you’ve received that you’d be happy to share?

Rand: Sadly, nothing particularly fun. A few e-commerce retailers from Turkey, but that’s about the only memorable one. Spam’s getting pretty boring these days. Honestly, if something truly fun came through, we’d probably keep it on the site, just for kicks. 🙂

Steve: I’ve noticed on your Twitter that you regularly tweet Analytics info, even recently. How’s the site fared overall?

Rand: Good, though not great. It gets solid traffic – a few thousand visits a day, lots of new folks checking it out, but overall the traffic has been growing very mildly since launch. I think we’re ~50K visits/month. The best part of the site for now is that it can expose many prominent influencers in the marketing world to great content/sites/tools they otherwise wouldn’t have found.

Steve: It’s a shame that you say “good, though not great.” Do you have any plans to push it more in the future via any PR/marketing efforts? Or are you happy to see how it goes?

Rand: We’ll probably let it continue to grow organically for the next few months, but may do something to promote/boost externally thereafter.

Steve: How many submissions do you receive nowadays, roughly?

Rand: We’ve had 10,649 submissions in 133 days, so ~80/day.

Steve: Do you have any plans to make changes to the site in the near future? If so, what should we expect to see?

Rand: No big ones right now. We’re hoping to grow engagement in submissions, voting and comments, but given it’s a side project, it’s tough to devote a lot of resources right now. Thankfully, a great community of folks are helping out.

Steve: Overall, what have you learnt from creating and launching

Rand: People in the marketing world are generally awesome, rarely buttholes and love discovering useful content. I’d also say that personally, I wondered whether something like this could organically sustain and grow without much engagement from Dharmesh and I. The answer is yes, at least a little, but clearly we could/should be doing more.

Steve: Lastly, what’s your advice to someone hoping to do something similar, perhaps a community-curated news site in their particular niche or industry? Do you think it works better with inbound marketing than it would with other industries/niches? If so, why is that?

Rand: It definitely helps to have a community that’s comfortable and familiar with portals like these (and with interacting socially on the web). I think it also helped tremendously to have the boosts from many already-existing communities and individuals (like SEOmoz/Hubspot and Rand/Dharmesh). Without that, it would have been tough to get off the ground.

And that’s it! Once again, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rand for answering my questions!