Farewell, AllFacebook

AllFacebookLogoThere were some big changes in the work situation of your hero, 9, this week, and I hope they were changes for the better.

The blog I have been editing and writing as a full-time job since September 2011, AllFacebook, is now a part of SocialTimes, which is now part of the Adweek Blog Network. Get all that? If you really want the boring details, here’s the press release.

So, I now work for Adweek, albeit sort of indirectly. This is cool. I’m hoping that the Adweek name opens some doors that were previously tough to crack. I loved my experience with AllFacebook, but one of my biggest frustrations was the fact that we always seemed to be in the “second group” of media outlets when it came to receiving important news about Facebook. Having to write a story from scratch when a fully detailed version, complete with interviews, was already posted elsewhere was a part of my job that was tough to swallow.

This is only the second day since the transition, so it’s tough to reach any conclusions, but so far, things are promising. We shall see.

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The cats’ litter box contains more useful nuggets than my work email lately

AxComputer

I have been tempted …

I don’t dislike public-relations people. PR on the whole isn’t that different from journalism and blogging, and I understand that trying to get the word out about companies, products and services is their job. For those who don’t know, I work on a blog about Facebook. The percentage of emails I receive that have nothing whatsoever to do with Facebook has been on a steady upswing, despite my efforts to alert senders that they’re barking up the wrong tree, unsubscribe (when applicable) and pound away at the spam button in Gmail.

No matter how much I try to clean up my email box, I can’t even begin to tell you how much of my time this process wastes on a daily basis.

First off, as I have said in the past, 99.99% of emails with “STORY IDEA” in the subject line are completely mistargeted and useless.

Second, when your email begins with a greeting to my former boss (who has not been a part of my blog since April 2012), the blog’s founder (whose byline last appeared that same month, after very limited involvement over the year prior to that), or a person I’ve never heard of (common mistake when sending mass emails, but still a mistake), you are already starting off down one strike. One strike becomes two strikes when you claim to be a regular reader of the blog, yet you address your email to someone who has not been a part of it for almost three years.

Third and most important, if you are emailing the editor of a blog that writes about Facebook, how about, oh, I don’t know, actually pitching a story that is related to Facebook? When I skim through an entire pitch or press release and don’t see the word “Facebook” once, smoke comes out of my ears.

Finally, in the cases when I take the time to reply to flaks and remind them that I am interested in Facebook and only Facebook, writing back to try to push a completely unrelated story is beyond foolhardy. I actually had one person who pitched a story with no Facebook angle whatsoever write back to try to sell me on the story with this gem: “Well, the company does have a Facebook page.” Really? So does my softball league. You don’t see me writing about that, do you?

Oh, yes, and one more pet peeve of mine is the misuse and abuse of the word “expert.” I have been writing about Facebook since 2011, yet I don’t consider myself an expert. Working for a company that runs Facebook ad campaigns or helps businesses create pages on Facebook doesn’t really make you an expert, either. So the fact that you are available for comment tells me you are just trying to get your name out there, which is fine, but I’m not biting.

If I want to waste time during the work day (and who doesn’t?), I will waste time pondering fantasy sports moves, playing Words with Friends or checking Facebook, like just about everyone else does. I should not be wasting so much time on emails that are as useful as tits on a bull.

Do yourself a favor … save that press release for Monday

As I type this, it’s late on a Friday afternoon, which means that at some point in the next couple of hours, I will most likely receive a press release via email, well after my work day, of minimal to zero importance.

Don’t get me wrong: I am more than willing to do work after-hours or on weekends if news of some importance happens to break. I have never thought of my job as a 9-to-5 (or a 5:30-to-2:30, as it may be). News happens when it happens, and the timing and flow can’t be controlled.

But the key word is “news.”

I would conservatively estimate that 99.9% of the press releases I’ve received late Friday afternoon or over the weekend are of questionable news value at best, or completely useless at worst.

Again, I am not lazy, and while no one wants their evenings or weekends to be disturbed, it’s part of the job when big news breaks.

But the 200th press release about a website that offers cover images for Facebook’s timeline profile is not big news. Nor is the 500th different ad-management platform. And a contest on your Facebook page? Nope … not big news.

I’m sure I speak for most reporters, bloggers, and whatnot when I say that at the end of the work week, our brains are deep-fried. If you’re going to get our attention Friday afternoon or over the winter, you need to kick our asses. So far, you’re not doing it. Not even close.

I even got a press release about a photo contest on a Facebook page at 4 p.m. on the Saturday of President’s Day weekend. Seriously? STOP THE PRESSES! At 4 p.m. on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, Mark Zuckerberg better be selling Facebook, or Sheryl Sandberg better have resigned, or Facebook better have bought its own country, or started charging $20 per month. The chance for Facebook users to win $50 worth of dog food for the best picture of their pooch doesn’t cut it.

I’m not saying that these releases are totally worthless, and I’m not saying I won’t look into them and possibly cover them and write something about them during the week. I’m just saying that it would be smarter to just save them for Monday morning. You may think you’re drawing attention to your news by sending it at 7 p.m. on Friday or noon on Saturday or whenever, but the attention you’re drawing may not be positive.

For the love of God, respect the weekend.

Marriage, after one year and one day

Exactly one year ago today, my wife of fewer than 24 hours and I were on an airplane bound for Hawaii. Right now, as I type this, I’m on my terrace, enjoying the first 80-degree day we’ve had here in Hoboken since September, with my laptop, the leftover kosher wine from Passover, and an interesting Foo Fighters cover on AOL Radio. Hoboken will never be Hawaii, but all things considered, this doesn’t suck.

One-year-old wedding cake ... yay

Marriage after the first 366 days doesn’t suck, either. I’m very happy, and I’ve never had any second thoughts, or wondered, “What if?” The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is picking my spots when invited to events like drinking or games. I can’t just say yes to everything, because there’s another person to consider, so I’ve really tried to carefully choose when to do things apart from my wife if it’s an event she’s not interested in. I try to factor in how many nights I have plans for during the week, how much time we’ve spent together, whether I can afford it, and other factors, and make the best decisions. Have I been perfect? Certainly not, but I think my efforts have been pretty solid.

I’m very happy with our marriage, and while there are things in my life that I would like to see get better, overall, I’m pretty content. The only negative that continues to weigh on me is my job situation.

I absolutely hate the fact that I’m bringing so little money into the household. It has never been a source of friction, and I’m not conforming to the old-school notion that the husband is required to be the bread-winner, but putting in hours that are comparable to those of a full-time job in exchange for about one-quarter of what I was making at my last full-time position is really starting to wear thin.

And thanks to recent events, I don’t see it getting any better. The blog that I had been editing and writing pretty much by myself for nearly two years, WebNewser, was folded into another blog, SocialTimes, at the end of March. A bunch of people write for SocialTimes, and there are only so many stories to go around, so even though I’m putting in the same effort to try to find interesting topics to write about, I’m probably doing about one-half of the stories I used to post. Considering the fact that I get paid by the post, this is not a good trend. I am positive my paycheck for April will be much lower than March’s, despite missing an entire week of March for a short and much-needed vacation to the Dominican Republic.

I’ve had a couple of close calls on full-time jobs over the past few months, but close doesn’t pay the bills. I especially thought I had a job I interviewed for in February, but my hopes were dashed in March. It was the best I’ve felt about a potential position since being laid off in October 2008, but it didn’t happen.

Still, all things considered, the situation could be a lot worse. I really enjoy the work I’m doing, and wish I could carve out some more opportunities. And I’d be lying through my teeth if I tried to say I don’t love working from home. Still, it would make me feel a lot better to contribute more into the pot.

In closing, let me switch gears altogether and say that the tradition of keeping wedding cake in the freezer to share on your first anniversary is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever experienced. The blob of fondant in the picture hogged up much-needed freezer space for a year and, while it didn’t taste anywhere near as rancid as I expected it to, it still lost a great deal of its flavor. Good riddance to the cake, and welcome to the newly opened freezer space.

So, this is where I am, one year and one day in, and counting. Things are great, but they would be even better if this job situation would resolve itself one way or the other. Unemployment or partial employment aside, I’d do it all over again.

Damn those law makers in WAshington

Please follow the advice, k? Thx!

I received yet another gem in my always amusing anonymous tip inbox for the blog I actually get paid to write. As always, unedited:

could you please ask those law makers in WAshington. Why they don’t take a pay cut they sure want everyone else to tighten their belts, they get healthcare the rest of their lives and a big pension ,. so, if we have to cut “Why don’t they?”

The last time I checked, the word “personal secretary” does not appear in the job description for “blogger.” If you want to contact “those law makers in WAshington,” do it yourself, ass hat, and stay out of our anonymous tip box or I’ll hunt you down and feed you your keyboard and mouse.

People get dumber by the second, I swear.

Unemployment Nine: It’s 6 a.m. … I must be lonely

The Awl, a New York-based Web site with the motto, “Be Less Stupid,” published a brilliant blog entry by Josh Duboff, The Night Blogger Blogs Alone. I’m going to quote from it, but I definitely recommend reading the entire piece.

6 a.m. gets earlier and earlier ...

Duboff talks about how lonely you feel and how little human contact you enjoy while blogging. I’ve never had a night blogging job, but even working from home during the day, many of the observations he made hold true for myself, as well. And, starting Monday, I will be taking on a new assignment for my existing blogging job, which will involve being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while sitting at my PC at 6 a.m. every weekday. While 6 a.m. may not be as lonely as the middle of the night, I doubt I’ll have any company. Not only will none of my friends be online, but even the cats will be asleep.

He writes about going hours without actually speaking out loud, which isn’t a problem for me with three cats either trying to kill each other or objects in the apartment. Duboff added:

As is so often the case, this blogging took place at the desk mere feet from my bed, meaning that as I would blog the night away — fueled primarily by almonds and Diet Coke — the end of the tunnel was always an arm’s length away. The modern isolation of your standard blogging job — the lack of non-virtual people around, the relentless Internet tunneling, the lack of sunshine or regular movement — was multiplied by the lack of even having digitally present coworkers, the darkness outside, the silence.

Substitute Snackwells for almonds and iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts for Diet Coke, and this is a very familiar feeling. Before Facebook and Twitter became mainstream, I always used email from friends as a way to take quick sanity breaks between stories, often leading to snarky responses like, “Do you EVER work?” when, in fact, I was utterly swamped.

During my normal work day, I constantly take breaks to read personal e-mail and check in on what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter. As I said in a blog I posted earlier today, anyone who claims that they don’t do this is full of it. The only way anyone can be 100% focused on work and nothing but work for several consecutive hours is if it’s fueled by the adrenalin of a crucial deadline, or a large sum of money at stake, and even then, sanity breaks help.

But for people who work at night, or, in my case, for people who will be starting before the sun rises, the e-mails, status updates and Tweets are few and far between. And for me personally, one of my favorite diversions will pretty much be rendered useless, as no one will be making any Facebook Scrabble moves at that hour of the day. More from Duboff:

Now that I’m working during the daytime hours again, I feel like I have returned to the land of the living — back in the sea of hyper-stressed, closed-off New Yorkers. While I’m generally happy about this, I have to admit there are certain mornings where I catch myself feeling sort of wistful when the alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m., and feeling sort of ordinary on the subway at 8:25 a.m. I miss the Starbucks barista, Kevin, who would hand me my drink at 6 p.m. every night with the resigned look I imagine he reserved for people who order venti iced coffees past sunset.

I had a freelance job from May-September that required my presence in the office during work hours, dressing like a human being, commuting and all that stuff. I felt a lot of the same things Duboff did, although I’d have to replace Kevin, the Starbucks barista, with Punjab, the Dunkin Donuts clerk. At this particular job, one of the things I missed most was reliable Internet access: Both my PCand the Web connection were horrible, which made me miss the comforts of home that much more.

As I said in my post earlier today, there are plusses and minuses about working from home and, if this relates to you in any way, read Duboff’s post. You won’t be sorry.

Unemployment Nine: A little clarity in an otherwise-confusing situation

My confusing work situation is a little less confusing, but I’m still very confused. Confused? Good, join the club.

confusion

It appears that I will spend two more full weeks at the freelance copy-editing job I started practically seconds after my return flight from Hawaii landed. After that, I will come in for the publication’s two busiest days, Thursday and Friday.

The good news: I will regain some of the flexibility and free time I’ve gotten all-too-accustomed to in the past 20 months, allowing me to resharpen my focus on my blogging gig and giving me the time to interview for the elusive full-time job I’ve been chasing since October 2008, as well as to get things done around the house and run errands. And, most important, the hours I put in on Thursdays and Fridays at the copy-editing job bring in more money than an entire week of blogging, so I’d be a fool to turn down the opportunity.

The bad news: For as long as I have this Thursday/Friday gig, I basically have no life on Thursday or Friday nights, which happen to be two of the most popular nights for things like games, cocktails, dinners out and the like. I’ve been here for three weeks, and my departure times have ranged from 9 p.m.-9:15 p.m. on Thursdays and 7:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m. on Fridays. Even though Fridays don’t end that late in comparison, by that time of the week, my brain is completely fried and my body is totally exhausted, and I’m not great company (Note: To anyone who was about to comment, “When are you EVER great company?” go get bent.) Only coming in two days per week will definitely help the energy level, but it’s still pretty draining work.

Plus, I still can’t get used to one aspect of working on a freelance basis, although it’s perfectly logical. I hate the fact that taking time off, or even a holiday, means forfeiting potential earnings, unlike working on a permanent basis, on salary, when holidays and vacation time are built into the compensation structure and don’t eat away at my bank account.

One might say, “You’ve been out of work for 20 months. Why do you need time off?” And I might tell one to go fuck one’s self. While I may not have a “full-time,” permanent job right now, I’ve been working pretty damn hard, especially recently, while trying to juggle two jobs.

And summer happens to be my favorite time of the year. I love going to Yankees weekday-afternoon games, or even the occasional 11 a.m. Newark Bears game. I love the idea of a long weekend at the beach, especially since I’m no longer part of a beach house. I believe it’s healthy, for both the body and the mind, to recharge and spend some time outdoors while the weather permits it.

I never liked the feeling that I was wasting a vacation day when I was working full-time. But it makes the decision even tougher when I have to factor in not only the money I’ll spend during the day, but the money I won’t be making. There’s a huge difference between spending about $100 for a Yankees ticket and beer, and quadrupling that amount when subtracting my pay for the day. It’s really not worth $400, give or take a few posts or copy-edited stories, to see a ballgame, as much as I enjoy baseball. But I seriously need the break here and there.

So, we’ll see where the next step takes me. As I said earlier, it will be good to have some of my free time back, and to have a much-less-hectic schedule. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the life of a freelancer, but after 20 months and counting, it’s hard to remain optimistic about finding a full-time gig, and it gets harder and harder as the weeks go by.