The mystery of and

I have now bid on 15 projects between the two freelance work sites and it’s all very mysterious. My complaint is not that I haven’t received any work, I can accept that, but my real problem is that I don’t know if the jobs were ever awarded.  To back up, I did get one job, which I later had to turn down. And I know one job was actually awarded, I got an e-mail saying that, but for the rest I don’t know. The bid window for the work expires, weeks go by, and I hear nothing further. Often the job description remains on-line, the site says bidding is closed, but, again, nothing more. What, then, are we bidding on? Are these real jobs or not? Or, like always, is it about the money?

Here’s what I think: the employers award work outside of the website to bypass the fees both sites charge. They exchange e-mails at some point and bail out of whatever freelance site they were on. In this manner they no longer have to pay anything to a website. Crooked but that would explain why jobs disappear.  Send me a comment if you know more or if you’d like to venture an opinion.

Closed captions and indexing: using YouTube to rank higher with Google

Videos and their associated HTML files

In my last posts I’ve wondered if a video about, say gardening, would rank higher than an HTML file with the same information. I thought I could make a YouTube video and then make a text post using the captions pulled from the movie. Well, I did all this, and found that there would probably be little competition. The video would stand by itself whereas the HTML file would be completely inadequate. That’s because the captions describe what is happening on the screen; they are totally dependent on those moving images. As a text file, without numerous supporting images, the captions do not stand by themselves and are functionally worthless. See if you can follow these five sentences. Would you be able to follow fifty more?


Dividing Agapanthus

Welcome to

This is the plant that we will be dividing today: Agapanthus africanus, Lily of the Nile. To be accurate, it is not a true Nile resident, it belongs to South Africa — and it’s not a true lily.

Nevertheless, we’ll be able to get four or five divisions out of it. It’s a wonderful blue and white flowering plant.

So let us put it on the concrete and divide it.

This is what a single flower cluster looks like. This is a little too blue, probably Photoshopped. This is more the standard color which is the pale violet, and they all look good in the afternoon shade. This is the white one; these are standard agapanthus and not dwarfs.


Captions do not make for a source of ready to use content. You’d need to rewrite this base material into a stand alone article. Having done that, you might have a way to better attract an employer. You’d be offering an article along with a video. One would augment the other. Everything I read says that content is king. Offering video as a service is something a freelancer may want to consider. Now, the big question is, how do we get paid for it?


Update on May 10, 2014. The video is past 35 views, much more than this text entry. The video is in fact getting more traffic than my blog. It’s conclusive: add video to your web pages!

Update on August 24, 2014. 363 views! I may add that my success is through YouTube. You may not get the same results if your video is unaffiliated, hosted solely at your website. And it must help that Google owns YouTube.

Update on March 10, 2015. 5,000+ views! First ranking on Google when you look up the phrase “dividing agapanthus.”

Update on November 19, 2015. 21,000+ views.

Update on April 18, 2016. 31,717+ views.

Update on May 29, 2017. 65,000 + views.


Website verification problems at WordPress and Facebook observations

Website verification problems at WordPress

I need to test my links more often. On Friday I googled the terms “Closed captioning and indexing,” the file name of my last post. Great news, the entry placed on the first page of the results. When I clicked on the link, however, this annoying dialog box popped up. You’ve seen it elsewhere: “[C]an’t verify the identity of the website. . .” What a way to kill traffic. What’s worse, a relation to Go Daddy was described. The two are related!? A friend once asked me to manage her Go Daddy domain and it was a disaster dealing with them. Never again. Yet here we are. At first I thought this had to be a server side problem, as I have done nothing unusual with that post. But it may be more complicated than that.

Google is indexing that page as one at a secure site. Hmm? Google is assigning it an ‘https’ prefix instead of the usual ‘http.’ Since my domain certificate is for a non-secure site, Google says it can’t authenticate what it now thinks is a second, secure site. Why it is doing this, and for just this post, I do not know. My other Google links are fine. Customer service at WP says, “I can’t pinpoint exactly why Google is indexing your site as HTTPS, but one possible solution would be to verify your site in Google Webmaster Tools.” I will now root around there to see what I can find. The Bing link to that post is just fine, with no HTTPS prefix.




Verification update using Google Webmaster Tools and WordPress Tools

I’ve now done what I can to verify to Google that I am the owner of my site. This should stop the invalid certificates I described above. I had to log onto Google with my account, get information there, and then log into the Tools section at WordPress. At that point I entered the Google provided information. I did not realize that there are so many sites that today require you to authenticate your identity. I’m not going to go through this process with every site, just the ones that become a problem. WordPress has provided great customer service along the way, I would not have been able to get through this maze without their assistance.

Update: 06/10/1916. The above information may be out of date. Right now I can’t figure out how to validate my website which is hosted by

Image showing WordPress verification service page


Facebook observations

I’ve figured out why Facebook on my iPad, my mobile device, looks so much different than what I see on my iMac, my desktop machine. I usually connect to FB on my iPad with a Facebook app, which turns out to have more bugs than a swamp. Stories from seven hours ago are often put ahead of stories posted seven minutes ago. Some posts don’t show at all. The solution for mobile devices is to connect to FB using your browser, not your app. You should then see Facebook correctly. Having said this, I notice some posts displayed in the FB app do not show on my desktop browser timeline. In particular, many of my “Liked” sites show on the app and not on the desktop. And vice versa. Let me break this down to see if I can explain what is happening. Or, at least give you my best guess.

Like so many others, I have an iPad and a desktop Mac. Many have an Apple laptop and an iPhone. In both cases we are dealing with two different operating systems. OS10 for the Apple computers, and iOS7 for the iPad and the phone. There are therefore three ways to “Like” a website. With the mobile you can 1) use the app, or you can 2) like the site by going directly to a page with a browser, most often Safari. With the two Apple computers you like a site by 3) using the browser when you hit someone’s webpage. If you clicked on different sites in these three different ways, which is totally possible in our multi-tasking life, then somehow everything must be synched to work together. Ideally, when a person sees a Facebook timeline it should reflect all of their activity in the same manner, from device to device. That’s not happening.

I only use FB with friends, but if I had a business I’d be concerned that my customers aren’t seeing posts at the time and in the way I send them out. The bugs in the FB app mix your posts in a seemingly random manner, and the lack of coordination between operating systems adds to the problem. My iPad and Mac desktop do synch with many things, music and photos particularly, but obviously it’s not perfect. Has anyone else been through this? Or is a uniform FB experience for customers and clients still a work-in-progress?



Closed captioning and indexing

In my last post I lamented that the captions I made for my introductory video were too small and too difficult to produce. I’ve since discovered a good work-around as well as some tips that allows video to provide even more value to the employer you are creating content for. First, some observations on closed captioning.

Only high end video editing software allows true closed captioning. Pay $300 or more and that feature is yours.  iMovie and Photoshop’s Premiere Elements by comparison are affordable video software. But to make captions you have to insert a series of them, one at a time, into your film’s frames, here and there, hoping that your words somehow match up to the text on the screen. Play the video in my previous post to see what I mean. What you really want is fluid and continuous text flowing seamlessly by. You can have that with YouTube. Say what?

Upload a video and in a short time go back to it. Most probably you will see a pair of “CC”s in the lower right hand corner. Using speech to text software, YouTube has probably created closed captioning for you, without you even realizing it. Check on the box to see if this is so. Several options exist at this point to edit what YouTube has provided, or for you to upload a transcript for YouTube to use instead. If you decide to send it a text file, YouTube will do its best to sync the file to your frames. Magic. There’s more.

Let’s say your video had you talking for ten minutes on classic American cars. You upload it and YouTube comes back with closed captioning. Your words are now in text. And, since Google owns YouTube, Google will index your remarks, just as it would with any text file on the net. There, without much trying, your video comes alive to the search world. Previously, if you supplied the captions yourself, like I did with my video, Google would not know what you had said, aside from perhaps the title of your video. But now your remarks become a searchable commodity, ready to rise higher in the page rankings.

Ever notice how Google returns video results on the first page of search results? If a video is out there, Google usually mentions it on the first page when you query something. I’m convinced Google gives priority to videos over the dozens of articles that may be just straight text. Google can place an ad on video, after all, so video produces results for them. Which leads me to the downside in all of this.

A YouTube video is not as elegant as a video made purpose built for a site like WordPress or even Facebook. Videos at these sites stand alone. Compare my simple WordPress videos at this site to the YouTube video linked below. YouTube videos are rather messy looking and they can contain ads. On the plus side, YouTube videos are distributed far and wide and they are indexed almost immediately by Google. I think videos meant for YouTube constitute terrific value for employers. A freelancer can have his written work indexed as well as a supporting video. This combination has to draw more results than a HTML file alone. Other problems? Just one so far.

On my desktop iMac the closed caption feature is readily enabled, it works and it works well. But the CC feature does not work in my browser on my iPad. Safari does not support it. Going to the YouTube app, however, lets me see the closed captions without a problem. Try going to the app on your mobile device first to see what happens. And let me know what you think.

YouTube video: closed caption demonstration (external link)

Below is an illustration showing a YouTube closed caption text being edited by me for corectness.



Third time’s the charm?

Here’s my third try at an introductory video. I’ve added captions in case people with hearing problems can’t access the audio. And sometimes you just can’t hear well on a mobile device; so it makes sense to provide subtitles. Producing them in iMovie is fairly difficult, however, and I am not sure I could put them in a five minute long video. But I may figure out a way, perhaps with a different program. My one regret? I now see I should have made them bigger? Oh, well. Next try.


Some thoughts on local reporting

Fellow writer and friend Linda Dubois (external link) recently made the news. Not as a reporter, her usual role, but as someone being reported on. Daryl Fisher of the West Sacramento News-Ledger (external link) quoted Linda at length in a piece discussing the decline of local newspapers. A link to the article is here (internal link). Linda has been in the journalism trade for 30 years but says it is getting harder and harder to make a living in the field; she may be losing her career. Daryl contends that newspaper and magazines have shed 20% of their staff since the year 2000, and that this number is only going up.

One reason for this cutting back is that so much news is available for free on the net. People no longer subscribe to newspapers like they used to. With that decline in revenue comes a decline in advertising and a decline in staff. What, then, is the future for local reporting? Especially for investigative pieces that take weeks or months to develop? Who will be left to report? The News-Ledger is proposing something novel: fashioning the newspaper into a non-profit organization that will organize a grass-roots reporting network that will employ the internet, radio, and the printed word. Stay tuned, and please read this thought-proving article. (internal link)

Update (January 31, 2016. The longtime editor of the News-Ledger, Steve Marschke, died in April of 2015. Daryl Fisher resigned from the paper in September, 2015. The newspaper is now under new ownership.)



Throwback Thursday: An Acceptance Letter from the past

An acceptance letter from a national magazine that pays well is the goal of every freelancer. When I was last active in writing, back in 2005 through 2008, three of my articles sold for over $2,000 apiece. I’m trying to work back to that level again. But does that world still exist?

I’ve seen pay rates at freelance sites of less than a cent a word. And the last magazine article I sold barely covered my gasoline and the price of photograph release fees. Producing quality writing remains as difficult and time consuming as ever; I think most people would be staggered by how many hours it takes to produce a feature article. It does seem that, judging by the last few months, that the magazine wage floor may have collapsed and the market for good hard copy articles is shrinking.

I remain positive, however, to the world of work promised by producing on-line content.  And in my next post I will have some thoughts on another possibility for the freelancer: overseas publications.



Adding value to your web writing

Adding video where possible to your writing might make your proposals more captivating. I took and edited 30 seconds of video on my iPad to demonstrate what is possible in less than fifteen minutes. Right now I am changing many of my container plants to cactus and succulents. I could write about this, certainly, but along with my article I could demonstrate it. The video you are seeing is the roughest possible job, it could certainly be made better with more practice and time. But it shows that, given a photogenic topic, one should be able to offer an employer more than just words.


Freelance sites continue to baffle

The three freelance sites I’m using continue to baffle me. Here’s what I’ve found out so far.

Jobs may be closed to bidding but they may not be awarded. Of the ten jobs I’ve bid in the last few weeks, only one seems to have been awarded. The rest? The job descriptions are still on-line, they are listed as closed to bidding, but there is nothing to indicate that anyone has received the assignment. I know people are notified because one job clearly states that it has been filled, with the winning bidder named.

Many assignments are impossible to bid accurately. Descriptions commonly state that they need writing help, they throw out a budget, say two or three thousand dollars, but they don’t say how many articles they want, the word count, the subject, or a deadline. How can one possibly bid this way? Query the employer? At you are not allowed to private message a job poster. There is a public message board, which some people use, but you must first have a favorable review before using the board. Which counts me out, as well as all others new to the site.

Accepting a bid can be risky and expensive. Freelance sites typically take a 10% arrangement fee. With, that money is due immediately upon accepting a job. If you are awarded a $3,000 contract you owe the site three hundred dollars. Now. Before any work has begun. You had best know, therefore, every detail about a job before you take it on. Mistakes are hard to correct. When I had to back out of a job I was given credit to apply to site charges, but not a reversal to my credit card.

Summing up? I still think freelancing sites are a good idea. The work is there, seemingly. Ever-the-optimist, I will keep submitting proposals a while longer. Another ten bids? Two things seem obvious. It will take as much effort getting work on-line as it does off-line. And, as with job hunting on the street, the hiring process, unfortunately, may remain hidden and mysterious.


Down the rabbit hole  — Amateur-Kunoichi

Another video introduction to my site

My second video introduction is much better than my first. I need to sit back further, get better lighting, a non-shiny background, and a better mike, but I think I am on the right track. This clip took less than fifteen minutes to produce; I continue to think video proposals are a good idea and I will continue trying to develop a model video that will show what I mean. I also need to get back to pitching proposals at the freelance sites, I will do that in earnest starting next week.