There is Nothing Like a Good Conspiracy

While many bloggers can spout a conspiracy theory once in a while, there are some blogs that specialize in conspiracy theories, from making them up (okay, to be fair, investigating and proving them) to debunking them. The top post on one such conspiracy theory blog, Above Top Secret, is The Coming Revolution:

Back in the 1940s the governing forces on this planet were warned by certain parties not from this planet, to change the course of the direction they were headed in, so that the peoples of Earth could unanimously have a better and positive future. Not only did the governing forces of this planet ignore the issues that they were warned about, they irrationally reacted by interpreting this warning as a declaration of war. They then diverted all their attention to developing interstellar weapons and systems to prepare for an interstellar war. They also systematically developed highly advanced technology that would control the populations of the world in every area of life. The governing forces were helped by certain extra-terrestrial intelligences that supplied them with the specifics of technology that this civilization was in no way prepared for.

This technology was used with the specific intent of controlling the minds of every individual on the planet…

You may laugh, but some take this very seriously, finding evidence all around them to support their positions. Read their evidence long enough, and you may start to see pieces of the puzzle clicking together as the irrational and disconnected are brought together in a way that makes sense.

As part of this ongoing series on Blogs and Conspiracy Theories, let’s look at how conspiracy theories get started and developed. They begin by trying to make sense of the puzzle pieces.
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Kindle brings premium blogs?

You’ve probably read all about Amazon’s e-book reader, the one called Kindle. It’s a nifty little toy with an e-ink screen (no colors), straining the eyes as little as possible. Lots of people are pouring positive PR on it over at Amazon’s Kindle site, in non-embeddable videos (bad Amazon, bad!).

I’m torn about the Kindle. Read more about that over at my blog if you like. This post is about something else.

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Google Expands YouTube Video Ads To Canada, Ireland And The UK

After previously launching the YouTube ads within the US, Google has decided to allow users from other nations to test drive the ads upon their own web pages.

AdSense lovers from the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland will be able to embed these video units so long as they follow Google’s guidelines–as well as “speak” English.
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I Want To Start a Controversy

Graphic copyrighted by Lorelle VanFossen - the truth is out there

Stirring the pot. Mixing it up. Making noise. Creating controversy. Attracting attention. Driving traffic stats up.

If you want to get a lot of attention, create a controversy. This has been true for thousand – maybe millions of years – of human history. It started the moment language developed into the art of storytelling. Along with stories came gossip, and rumors, and then conspiracies.

Having spent a long time living in the Middle East, I learned a lot about conspiracy theories, and the truths and lies that lie behind their creation. After all, a good conspiracy isn’t worth much unless it has a measure of truth, or at least believable fiction, within the lies and falsehoods. It helped that I’ve long been a fan of some of the best conspiracy theory fiction authors, especially authors who specialize in taking current events and exposing the dark bellies underneath the events. True or not, who cares! It makes for great reading late at night when the mind keeps asking “Why do these things happen?”, “Why me?”, or telling yourself, “They’re out to get me!”

This week, I’ll look at some of the famous conspiracy theories, on and off blogs, and how many bloggers are using conspiracy theories to attract attention and traffic, the economics of conspiracies, blog-specific conspiracies and hoaxes, and offer tips you need to know if you are going to start your own conspiracy theory on your blog.

A conspiracy theory can be anything, involving any one or any subject. There are conspiracies about war, drugs, politics, governments, health, medicine, science, history, religion, sex, economies and investments, space, animals, and even weather.

Conspiracies in History

Some of the best of Shakespeare’s work dealt with conspiracies. What was Romeo and Juliet all about if not for the underlying conspiracies. What about Hamlet? Othello? Oooh, those were conspiracy theories within conspiracy theories, who-done-its of the highest magnitude. Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, another historical classic, was a mine field of conspiracies in and out of court, still capturing our imagination after all this time.

As a storytelling (and in some cases “newsy”) communications tool, conspiracy theory is typically defined as the bringing together a wide variety of arguments, not necessarily related, and connecting them together as “evidence” to support a theory to justify, or excuse, an event, belief, or action.

In the CBC’s report on recent conspiracy theories, they cited a historical example of how a conspiracy theory was used by Philip IV of France in 1307 to bring about the downfall of the wealthy and popular warrior monk group, the Knights Templar. His accusation that the Knights were guilt of “heresy, ‘homosexual vices’ and idol worship” ensured they were blamed for the loss of Jerusalem in the sacking of the “holy land” in the Crusades, even though blame was spread all around. Hey, in war it’s always better to blame someone else other than the responsible ones, right? A good conspiracy scatters the truth with finger pointing in the wrong directions.

The article questions why conspiracy theories continue to be popular:

Some sociologists describe conspiracy theories as illegitimate and pathological, threats to political stability. Others dismiss them as entertaining narratives, as populist expressions of democratic culture.

Some have pieces of supporting evidence, some can be discredited with only a little digging, yet continue to endure.

While conspiracies are rarely true, they last because we love a good story. A well-told conspiracy makes for a great story. Add some mystery and mayhem and it’s even juicier. And gets better with the retelling.

JFK, Martin Luther King, Elvis, O.J., Princess Diana, 911, Katrina, Watergate, Irangate, Gitmogate, and something about a cigar and a president – we’ve all experienced great conspiracy dramas within our own recent history that fill the news for months and months as everyone tries to guess whose right, and whose wrong, and what’s the real truth behind the truth. These conspiracies are part of our culture.

In the newly released version of the movie Hairspray, dragged to the television to watch something “amazing”, the mother says to her daughter’s best friend, “I read all about it. It’s a big Hollywood set… you want me to actually believe he’s really up there…” referring to the popular conspiracy theory that in its rush to get into outer space and to the moon, NASA faked it. This conspiracy theory is a part of our recent collective memory, so it’s familiar, and funny.

Graphic copyrighted by Lorelle VanFossen - the truth is out thereTelevision shows like The X-Files entertain the world with conspiracy theories every week, even in rerun. What better story-telling device than an ongoing conspiracy which involves governments and aliens. A very popular conspiracy theory movie and book, The Da Vinci Code, continues to incite the imagination with “what if” mixed with “hey, it’s possible”.

Bloggers are not exempt from the need to take two or more disparate facts and bang the drums of conspiracy in order to attract attention to their blogs.

Tomorrow, I’ll cover some examples of some conspiracy theories and why we are so fascinated by them, then later, I’ll cover the economics of conspiracies, how blogs use conspiracies as part of their blogging purpose, and finish with tips on how to write your own conspiracy theory on your blog.

Article Series on Conspiracy Theories and Blogs

5 Content Theft Myths and Why They Are False

When it comes to content theft, there is a great deal of confusion.

Not only is copyright law almost impossible to understand, even by most lawyers’ standards, but the technology used to steal content on the Web is often confusing in and of itself.

This confusion has given rise to a series of myths and misunderstandings about content theft, many of which have very negative implications for Webmasters concerned with the rising tide of scraping and plagiarism.

To help dispel some of those myths I, along with Lorelle from Lorelle on WordPress, have put together a list of the most common myths in content theft and explanations for why they are false.

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KickApps releases Single Sign-On plugin for WordPress

WordPress Bloggers Go Social with KickApps

KickApps, an on-demand social media platform, today released the Single Sign-On (SSO) plugin that enables a seamless member login experience between WordPress blogs and KickApps hosted social media sites. WordPress bloggers can now easily integrate social media experiences, such as social networking, user-generated content, programmable video players and Widgets for content syndication, to their blogs to fuel audience growth and engagement.

When publishers enable the KickApps SSO plugin between their WordPress and KickApps powered social media sites, registered members of the WordPress powered site will be auto-registered into the site’s KickApps powered community during sign in, requiring no initial user import by the publisher. Once logged in and clicked through to the community site, the member is brought over to his or her profile page, where they can start uploading video, photos and audio, and manage their media.

The Value of Meeting Your Fellow Bloggers – Offline!

The great thing about blogging is connecting to other bloggers and building relationships. What about extending these relationships and meeting your fellow bloggers… offline.

There a lot of web services or online communities such as MyBlogLog or Blog Catalog that will help you connect to your fellow bloggers and blog readers. While this is an effective way of connecting to other bloggers we often tend to forget that we can meet people offline as well. Meeting your fellow bloggers can be interesting for various social and professional reasons.

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Breaking: Google Drops EVERYONE’S PageRank To ZERO?

I was alerted (thanks Jordan) that across all many some data centers, many sites now have their PageRank dropped down to zero, including such prominent domains as the New York Times and TechCrunch, but also Yahoo, and strangely enough Google itself. With this change in PageRank, one does wonder whether or not PayPerPost has truly been singled out, or this is an attempt to destroy (and perhaps rebuild?) PageRank as a metric once and for all.

More as it comes in.

Update: Ionut from Google Operating System has chimed in below — what we see on the toolbar is probably the official pagerank. Perhaps the PageRank zeroes have more to do with datacenter updates than anything else.

Update: In hand checking some of IP for data centers at, it seems like many data centers are not in fact down; the conflicting results, coupled with the persistent zero level at the tool-bar level of previously “zeroed” blogs suggests that this is likely, in fact a data center issue.  Thank goodness there’s a question mark at the end of that title. ;)

Google Selling Links For $1995?

In light of the Google PageRank correction to what is thought to be paid postings — and in the recent past, paid links — its ironic that Google might be selling links of their own.

That’s right — although Google has created the perception that it is actively punishing those blogs which are doing things to pollute organic listings, Google itself may also be an unwitting participant in said “pollution” by selling links … at almost $2k a pop.

How is this?

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Is Google Making An Example Out Of PayPerPost (… er, Izea)?

It seems like Google isn’t satisfied with not just “doing no evil”, but actively continuing to punish those it deems to *be* evil by pounding some blogs to a PageRank of zero. Just this past month, for example, Google went on the rampage against those who were selling links by lowering their PageRank (the BlogHerald included), and it looks like they’re not quite done.

While the scope if this most recent “correction” has still yet to be fully completed, it seems that the target of Google’s ire are those who are doing paid postings from PayPerPost Izea. Andy Beard, of course is keeping an active track of things, and Ted Murphy, CEO of PayPerPost Izea has gone on record on his own blog, by claiming Google is actually targeting small time bloggers who are using his service to make a humble income. Furthermore, he tries to make the case that larger players are no different, such as TechCrunch, as advertising usually brings a free in-post link at the end of every month.

Now, what’s interesting, of course, is that many bloggers (and blogs) have noticed that after their pagerank drop — indeed, after their pagerank went to zero — their hasn’t been much change, if any, in their traffic levels. In light of this, EatonWeb is recalibrating is algorithm so that it now takes PageRank out of the equation (indeed, it devalues it).

But if there’s been no change in traffic levels, one does wonder what the purpose of this recent action is?

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