Adapting to Tectonic Shits in Marketing And Technology
by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 03/06/2012
I am at a crossroads. I can either go wishy-washy, and stay in the field of SEO as yet another prestidigitator, or I can help define the new coming order of earned media in online marketing. I am going to dump the title of SEO and take up Earned Media Marketing. EMM… google that… okay, there’s some overlap with some enterprise management stuff… I can live with that. I’m from this point forth, an earned media marketer.
To be an earned media marketer, you need that “hook”… that “thing”… that reason people know you. Sometimes, it’s just the sheer power of your personality and opinions. But that probably isn’t going to do it for me. I’m a walk-the-walk before you talk-the-talk sort of guy. And I walked the walk in SEO by creating the HitTail Web 2.0 application, but that’s been sold, and I’m no longer the HitTail guy. It’s in much better hands, because I can’t have the ultimate responsibility for a 24/7 tracking pixel service, when I have a 16-month baby as my top priority.
My “thing” needs to be less mission-critical and have a higher tolerance for latency. I am in effect, going from ACID-compliant to BASE-compliant—perhaps the biggest geek reference you’ll hear today. ACID-compliance is a relational database integrity thing, insuring perfect data. BASE is a NoSQL thing, ensuring eventual consistency as all the parts have a chance to catch up. Maybe I’m helping to pioneer NoSEO? This very much represents the change in my life, my field, my thinking, and the virtual-machine-based new killer app I plan on releasing upon the world.
So, in short, I’m getting out of SEO and into Linux education. Linux education is that “thing”. It’s the earned media-worthy hook that I’ll be hanging my hat on, but adding my unique flavor. I have a very prescribed way of going about it, involving your existing computer with a virtual machine, and then onto home hosting with the SheevaPlug, Raspberry Pi, or other microservers like them.
Sure, I’ll remain in my field. I’m at a great NYC agency, and so long as those “top-10” results are lurking somewhere under all those inserted ads and custom feeds on obscure searches, there will be an SEO field. But like Dilbert said, SEO’s are the pants-less weasel you hire to do ethically questionable marketing. http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2012-02-17/ I recently had the experience of being blocked in Twitter by someone I followed, because my job title made him immediately assume I was a spammer.
Plus, that old PageRank model that drove the industry for the past 15 years is getting mighty crusty. The old “top-10” SERPs view of the world is under attack from all angles—technology, revenue models, societal expectations. AdSense spam networks are on the decline, due to Google’s “Panda” updates. Their “Vince” update gave Brands a sort of safe haven under their Fortune 1000 golden halo reputations—and even so, are being compelled to pay the gatekeepers with new advertiser “offerings”. Each front would justify an entire article, but instead, this article is about why mastering a certain subset of Linux is a viable way of dealing with the turbulence and disruption.
We are undergoing tectonic shifts in online marketing and search bigger than anything since the emergence of Google and marginalizing of AltaVista, and most Internet “portals” (remember Lycos, Excite, Infoseek, HotBot, and others). Attempts at game-changers are being pitched at us as if from an automatic pitching machine. Social and mobile will certainly be key components, but we just don’t know what shape the landscape is really going to take, and what skills are going to be most valuable. Knowing where to place your bets is harder than ever—especially regarding your career.
These are the issues I deal with in keeping myself relevant no matter how the landscape evolves. But now with my 16-month old baby, all these concepts are blending together and I realize I’m talking about components of a technology education curriculum that will (eventually) be equally applicable to my child as it is to myself. In fact, it’s not so much about technology, as it is about core knowledge and literacy. How powerful can you get at technology without binding yourself to a particular technology? How you you just generically become awesome at tech?
Solving this question is my killer app. Allowing a vast collection of followers… my “tribe”… to thrive in amidst uncertainty is my killer app. Being able to do so is the killer skill in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Adaptability is the magical tool in anti-obsolescence toolbox. You will become obsolete on any platform that either: 1) goes away, or 2) is aggressively “upgraded” beyond recognition.
So in my world, learning the “core” Linux that is in common to every distribution, from desktop to embedded systems is the answer—plus a programming language to serve as your first and primary language. This is the closest thing we’ve got today to that generic-ness. I say so for a variety of reasons that are echoed in the fact that Unix has lasted over 50 years, fought of clear heir apparent (Plan9), is evolving with the times, lurks underneath nearly all info-tech but Windows, and is generally the subject of computer science courses in college.
Two counter-arguments immediately occur. You should always use the absolutely BEST tools available. So, if propriety software is best, maybe you should just use that for as long as it lasts—Xcode, Visual Studio.NET, whatever—then adapt later. The problem with this argument is that it isolates you from the core, fundamental knowledge and know-how that will make retraining and adapting easy. You will, in effect, become a Microsoft or Apple lackey.
The extreme other argument goes, if cloud servers are so ready-made and easy to provision, just use those—Rackspace and Amazon EC2—and never have to get into the nuts and bolts again. The isolation from “the things that matter” counters this argument too. Provisioning new server instances will shortly become no more difficult than making a new document in Microsoft Word. Anyone can and will be able to do it. Differentiation, and indeed raw unstoppable Juggernaut force-of-nature type power is going to come from artfully creating that original server that is later to become an option under the cloud management software. The nuts and bolts are important.
A third argument against embracing stripped-down Linux / Python as the one virtuous path is the computer science perspective of knowing the fundamentals… in an intellectual and not necessarily particular implementation way. ,The reasong goes that armed with deep familiarity with the reason for things, you will always be able to adapt, because unlike your peers, you truly understand why things are the way they are—and that is in-part true. But it is not optimized to reduce time wasted relearning and relearning and relearning. It doesn’t take muscle memory into account, or the benefits of having a native speaking language of programming.
I say to all the above arguments, why not just follow a single, righteous, “good enough” path that you will never have to relearn, which will always serve you well, and which will at least serve as a fallback and safety-net while utility dabble in the trendy stuff.
So, how do you learn Linux starting out on a PC, Mac or even another Linux desktop system like Ubuntu? First, understand that there are two different types of “Learning Linux”—the trendy way based on the recent crop of incredibly polished Linux desktops like Ubuntu, or the hard-core old-school way, which I am proposing here. When you learn a Linux “desktop” like Ubuntu, you are really only learning a particular windowing environment, just like Windows or OS X, and the expiration date on the value of your knowledge and know-how is set… and much too short.
When I talk about learning Linux, I mean the text-based type-in command line Linux that is in common to every single Linux machine, be it a remote control helicopter, wifi router, or supercomputer. It is the generic plumbing of information technology these day upon which all else (except Windows) is built. Learning it—indeed, mastering it—can be started directly from the desktop of your current system without even installing any software. And you can use it for productive, fun things… today!
Eventually, we will move on from your virtual machine, and do a little home-hosting on a $35 computer that will hang off the back of your home WiFi router. Once we have single-server home serving, we will add 2 more microservers, so we can have a load balancer and second server running the same app as the first. You will therefore have the magical 3-computer combo which is the backbone of all modern enterprise: an application made scalable and fail-save through distribution and network traffic shaping.
Your total expenditure on your path to high-tech Juggernautiness: $35 x 3 = $105. That’s cheaper than one month of cloud hosting under the Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud… which you will be able to use now as well, thanks to your deep understanding. And all this will be done against the backdrop of an industry in transition, and me repositioning myself from SEO to EMM, figuring out how to work the same material into the educational curriculum of a toddler who is tomorrow 16 months old.