Posts tagged ‘internet’

May 23, 2016

#111) Autopsy of an unfollow #3: Cover Band Central

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The challenge that social media platforms present to businesses is providing enough content to stay visible without over-saturating. The victim of my latest unfollow, the Facebook page “Cover Band Central” is guilty of the latter.

Indeed, it’s a tough balance and finding that happy medium can be like finding the exact right spot on the shower handle. Unlike the subject of my previous two unfollows, Sci-Babe and The Sound, Cover Band Central usually stays on point with their posts (no puppies or Founding Fathers quotes here) while managing a variety of subject matters: articles from other music business outlets; humorous memes, inspirational quotes and more. The problem: most of it’s just not that great.

As of the moment of my unfollowing, the five most recent posts on the page were:

1) “Top Ten Reasons Why Your Cover Band Is Not Successful” (article from Spinditty) (I take such lists, especially those titled up-style, with a grain of salt; where does someone who’s supposedly gigging enough to justify telling me that I’m not doing more shows find the time to write such an article?)

2) A picture from Musicians Unite reading, “I simply love playing people’s favorite songs for them. I’m playing music and it feels great. That’s what it’s all about.” (Yes, it’s inspirational and peppy, but my mortgage broker doesn’t accept inspiration or pep as forms of payment. Additionally, as someone who’s often been saddened by seeing people go gaga over music that I personally find rather superficial and talking over music that speaks deeply to me, I sometimes have trouble relating to this mentality.)

3) A picture of an enthusiastic conductor (Gustavo Dudamel?) conducting a symphony with the caption, “Most orchestras are just 1800s cover bands.” (Cute and witty but forgettable. I should note though that one of the user comments is on the mark: “I am sick and tired of people crying about cover bands….If they spent the time and effort that they spend on crying and hating them on their own material they would be farther along.” Well said, Jim Crise.)

4) An article by Steve Witschel for Musicians Unite: “What Is So Wrong With Playing Covers?” (Steve, if you love playing covers so much, why not just play them instead of writing about how much you love playing them?)

5) A picture with a Carlos Santana quote: “When you play from your heart, all of a sudden there’s no gravity. You don’t feel the weight of the world, that’s why people love it. Insurmountable problems disappear and instead of problems you get possibilities.” (Sure, everyone loves a good aphorism, but it’s easy to dole them out when you’re as successful and famous as Santana. A quote from him or any other legend about their early struggles and how they didn’t give up would be more interesting to me.)

Cover Band Central’s tepid oeuvre of shared content is a result of the page’s lack of a clear mission. As the self-described “#1 Page on Facebook for cover bands and musicians” they are “Designed to educate, motivate, entertain, and inspire.” I have found virtually none of the posts to be educational. When it comes to motivating and inspiring, more “show, don’t tell” would help the site and yes, I did pick up a few entertaining memes before the page ran its course, but most of them are available elsewhere online (if you’re reading this, ten bucks says one of your non musician friends has sent you “He told me he’s a musician, but he’s a ___ player” thinking they’re the first one to do it).

I have no ill will toward CBC and leave them with the suggestion of encouraging more user interaction, thus increasing the variety of perspectives and content while still staying true to the page’s expressed mission.

September 21, 2014

#86) Facebook and the NFL: When sucking doesn’t matter

Everyone’s pissed off at the NFL. Everyone’s disgusted with Facebook. Everyone will be watching the NFL this Sunday and letting Facebook know about it.  Yes, despite–or perhaps because of–their efforts to alienate their fan/consumer bases, Facebook and the NFL aren’t going anywhere.

We hate them but we can’t look away. It’s more than the car-crash-staring instinct; it’s a true love-hate relationship. Nobody hates Myspace or baseball. You can only hate something or someone that you once truly loved.

We started loving football in the 1950s and 60s. Football looked better on television than baseball.  Baseball expanded, diluting the talent pool and bringing the game to cities where it didn’t have a chance, such as Miami*. Free agency meant that baseball teams no longer stayed together. World Series games started too late but the Super Bowl was always on a Sunday and the whole family could watch it. With far fewer games than any other sport, each one was an event. We’d anticipate them and spend Monday talking about what those damn Steelers should have done differently. The NFL became so big that it thrived even without a team in the country’s second biggest market, Los Angeles. Rotisserie leagues in baseball became a thing, but NFL fantasy leagues became a bigger thing.

We started loving Facebook in the late ’00s–April of 2008, to be precise, when it officially became the #1 most visited social network site. Myspace had shown us how easy and fun it can be to put together an online scrapbook of photos, websites, songs and pithy quotations, but it had become too messy and impersonal. Facebook made connecting with that kid you used to beat the crap out of (or perhaps vice versa) back in 8th grade simple and easy. Facebook translated better to smartphones.

Then, to use Facebook relationship status terminology, it got complicated. Facebook faced questions about the privacy of its users’ information. Naysayers pointed out that it was losing ground to Instagram and Pinterest. The user experience started to seem more about getting into political arguments with virtual strangers than reuniting with long lost friends. In the NFL, Janet Jackson happened. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress happened. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson followed. Yes, it got complicated.

Or did it?

As of this writing, Facebook is ranked as the second-most visited site in the world according to Alexa. The NFL saw a 7% increase in viewers of the first Thursday game of this season compared to the first Thursday game of last season. We may say that Facebook is dead and that the NFL only cares once its sponsors pull out. We’re going to watch anyways. According to Alexa, we’re going to spend an average of 27 minutes per day on Facebook this month. Some of us might even call 911 if we can’t log on. No number of poorly handled press conferences or allegations of privacy violations can change that.

It’s not that we buy in in spite of the fact that the NFL and Facebook suck. It’s not that we buy in because they suck. It doesn’t matter if the NFL and Facebook suck or not. We’re married to them. Myspace was our high school crush whom it was easy to leave when things didn’t work out; Facebook is our spouse.  Facebook and the NFL made good impressions on us when it counted and continued to not suck for long enough to convince us to spend the rest of our lives with them. Yes, some of us might get divorced–we all have the friend who has actually followed through on their plans to swear off Facebook and goes to the park on Sunday to feed the ducks while the rest of us watch ball–but most of us won’t. Years of marriage has taught us that fighting usually leads to great make-up sex.  Besides, is it really worth it just to have to file all of that paperwork and decide who gets what? We’ve all got better things to do.

Like watch the New York Jets and post about it on Facebook.

*Yes, I know the Marlins have won the World Series twice. Nobody gives a fuck.

February 27, 2014

#74) Ten reasons why nobody’s reading your blog (and the fact that it might just kind of suck is #6)

Does having made a little over thousand dollars from blogging qualify me as an expert on the subject?  No?  Didn’t think so.  Oh well, I’ve never let that stop me before.  Here goes.

If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you write at least one blog yourself.  According to Brandon Gaille of wpvirtuoso, there are about 152 million blogs in existence – plenty to go around.  There’s also a pretty good chance, unfortunately, that you are not getting the type of traffic you want.  Here’s why.

#1) You do it too infrequently.  In the early stages of a blog, quantity can sometimes be more important than quality.  Getting your content out there – even if you end up revising it later – is important and if you do it consistently, you will start seeing better results sooner.  According to Gaille, blogs that are updated 20 or more times per month receive an average of 5 times as much traffic as those that only post 4 or fewer times per month.  Of course once you establish a base of readers, you don’t want to over saturate them, but cross that bridge when you come to it.

#2) You have too many opinions.  Expunge me!? You might be thinking.  A blogger telling people not to express their opinions on his site where he does nothing BUT express his opinions?  What gives?  I’m not trying to discourage your freedom of speech, but in my experience, information-oriented blogs tend to rank higher in search engines than those centering around the opinions of the author.   Most of my success (and I do use the term loosely) as a blogger has come from www.nobodyhikesinla.com, in which I provide information about hiking trails in the L.A. area.  NHLA typically gets more traffic in a day than this blog gets in a year and I’m OK with that; it comes with the territory.  Your opinions may be well thought out and skilfully articulated, but nobody cares about them, at least not yet.  You yourself probably google search for information/fact oriented items more often than you do others’ opinions on issues.  If you do actively seek out someone’s opinion, it’s likely because they’ve established themselves as a credible source and have probably paid their dues to get to that point.  You have to be a journalist before you can be a columnist.  You have to be a line cook before you can be a chef.  You have to be a bottom before you can be a….never mind, on to #3.

#3) You aren’t reading enough other blogs.  Reading other peoples’ blogs serves two purposes: it can give you ideas for your own blog and by commenting on, following or “liking” someone else’s blog you increase the chances that they may reciprocate.  Of course you don’t want to be too shameless about plugging your own blog, but if you provide thoughtful, encouraging comments on someone else’s work it’s not unreasonable to expect a little kickback.

#4) You haven’t exchanged enough links.  This can be a great you-scratch-my-back type of situation.  Think about it: most blogs you’ve read probably have a list of links to related sites.  (NHLA does.)  This is not only a valuable resource to your readers but if can funnel traffic to other bloggers, who in turn might see fit to throw a bone back to you by including a link to YOUR site on theirs.  Email bloggers who write about similar subject matter and offer to exchange links.  Most bloggers don’t want their site to be too cluttered with links but if your blog hits home with them, they just might include you.

#4.5) You haven’t embedded enough links.  This can be a good one to keep in mind if your attempts to exchange links with other bloggers aren’t successful.  You can always link to their blogs through your actual posts.  According to www.bluecorona.com, “Google ultimately wants its users to find what they are searching, so when you link to other authoritative and relevant websites, you are providing a great service to Google’s users. This makes your website a more valuable resource, in Google’s beautiful, primary-colored eyes.”

#5) You haven’t registered your domain name.  First things first: I realize that since this blog does not have a registered domain name, I’m not practicing what I preach, but I basically just do this blog for the fun of it.  Most serious blogs have a registered domain name.  Doing so through WordPress is cheap and easy; I’d imagine the process isn’t too difficult for other platforms such as Blogger.  Your own domain name makes your site easier to describe at cocktail parties; it fits better on a business card.  It also appeases the beautiful, primary-colored eyes of Google; since most domain names last for at least a year, it shows that you are committed and Google likes commitment.

#5.5) Google also likes boldface.

#6) Your blog might just kind of suck.  No one likes to hear that they have an ugly baby, but sometimes it just needs to be said.  How are your punctuation, grammar and spelling?  Do you read your blog out loud to yourself before you post?  How well thought out and substantiated are your opinions?  I don’t mean to sound like a middle school teacher but if you’re going to expect people to take you seriously, you have to take your work seriously.  Don’t be like the state of California which recently informed a friend of mine that his business address was invalid by sending a letter to his business address.

#7) You haven’t found the right subject matter.  This is easier said than done: it’s a balancing act.  Blog about the Kardashians and you’ll have a lot of competition; blog about Taylor Grey Meyer and your audience may be a little more limited.  Topical subjects might give your traffic a short term bump but not much else.  It takes a while to figure out which topics are the best match between your writing style and your audience (I’ll let you know when I get there myself.)

#8) Excessive monetization attempts.  While there’s no precise rule regarding this, it’s generally understood that the amount of advertising/donation solicitations/product pitches/etc readers will accept on a website is commensurate with the quality of the content on said site.  To put it in English, if readers find your blog to be valuable and enjoyable they won’t mind  if you’re trying to make a buck or two from it; they may even contribute.  If, however, they just get bombarded by ads, they’ll stay clear.  Learn from the rise and fall of Myspace, which as Wesley Verhoeve eloquently put it, “monetized [itself] into oblivion.”

#9) It doesn’t look good on a mobile device.   How does your blog look on an iPhone, iPad or Droid?  Are the pictures formatted correctly?  Are the links visible and easily accessible?  It’s been often said that people have plenty of information and not enough time to absorb it.  Mobile devices allow readers to catch up on their favorite blogs while they’re on the run.  You never know who your readers might be: busy salespeople in between (or during) meetings; customers battling checkout lines at Costco; funeral guests stuck at an endless eulogy.  Hell, according to a recent survey, 12 percent of moms use their phone during sex.

#10) There’s no story.  You probably tell stories on your blog but does the blog itself tell a story?  Does the blog as a whole, as a brand if you will, provide a reason for readers to return?  When Julie Powell started the blog that would eventually become the book and movie “Julie & Julia”, her goal was to cook every recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within a year.  Would she do it?  You had to read her blog to find out.  My fellow hiking blogger Jeremy Jacobus did a similar thing with his hiking blog–in which he set a goal of hiking a thousand trails in a thousand days.  “Meta” stories such as these can be compelling to a reader and make them want to come back – and tell friends.

That’s all for now – happy blogging and may your traffic be good and plentiful.

texting during sex

February 13, 2014

#71) How do you know?

How do you know?

I mean, seriously, how the fuck do you know?

This simple, timeless question was recently brought home to me by a TV commercial.  Like any good commercial, it failed to actually instill the name of the product in my head, but its message resonated with me nevertheless.  An adult is shown some fancy new product he’s supposed to buy and hesitates.  During his hesitation we see him flash black to junior high, when he dumps a tubby blonde girl: “Sorry, Brooklyn, it’s just not working out.”  In another flashback, now at college age, he declines investing in his friend’s startup: “What can you do with just 140 characters?” Which brings us to the present; the implication being that he doesn’t want to pass on yet another thing that will end up being huge.

Apart from its amusing storyline, the commercial has hit home for me on a personal level.  Since starting my hiking blog, www.nobodyhikesinla.com, I have been fortunate to keep the company of dozens of blogging experts.  Counsel that has been given to me about how to successfully monetize the blog includes T-shirts and other swag; creating a mobile phone application; eBooks about the hikes, branching out to other cities (coming soon: http://www.nobodyhikesinwichita.com).

With demeanor ranging from polite to borderline hostile, depending on the intensity of my expert’s pitch to me, I have invariably rejected most of these ideas, not because I want to be difficult, stubborn or ungrateful, but just because in most cases, I don’t feel that the potential for revenue justifies the effort and expense of, say, hiring an app developer or handling (gulp!) physical inventory, that bane of the existence of anyone who has ever tried to develop an online revenue stream.  My hesitation to endorse these ideas is based on information I’ve gathered about my site traffic, link clicks, etc (I have been known to spend hours a few minutes here and there perusing statistics related to my blogs).  While the revenue the site has earned – mainly through advertising; also through affiliation sales, the Nobody Hikes in LA Guidebook and donations – is a little bit short of Fortune 500 status, by breaking the three-digit income threshold, NHLA stands apart from at least 81% of the blogs out there, according to Infographic.

That being said, a part of me has to ask: what if I am wrong?  Are eBooks based on hike writeups the wave of the future?  By passing on these opportunities, will I become the next Nolan Bushnell?  (In the mid ’70s, after founding Atari, Busnhell had an opportunity to invest in a startup created by one of his employees: a certain Steven Paul Jobs.)

History abounds, of course, with stories like this: numerous record producers rejecting the Beatles; board game makers  passing on Monopoly; the Portland Trailblazers drafting Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan.  Hell, there’s even one from my own family: in the mid 1960s in New York, my dad and uncle Joe were involved with the city’s thriving folk music scene.  One of the misfits hanging around the fringes was a scruffy kid from Minnesota named Robert Zimmerman, whose presence was a nuisance to everyone, be they veteran musicians who didn’t want him fucking up the songs or young women whom he was trying to bed.  One of the latter category was waiting for my uncle Joe to meet her at a cafe and when he showed up, she was laughing.  “This homeless looking kid tried to hit on me,” she said.  “When I brushed him off, he said, ‘But I’m Bob Dylan!’  I said, ‘Well, I’m here waiting for Joe Lockeretz.'”

To bring it back to my original question, strictly speaking, no, you DON’T know.  You can, however, make sound decisions based on odds and information.  I consider the fear of passing on a great opportunity to be the converse of fears such as being struck by lightning, being attacked by a shark or being in a plane crash.  Just as plane crashes make the news because of how rare they are, stories such as the Beatles’ early rejections make history because of their infrequency.  Yes, it’s inspirational to hear these kinds of tales and their positive messages shouldn’t just be dismissed.  It should just be noted, however, that these events are the exception and should have limited influence on your decisions, investment and otherwise.  And if you do end up on the wrong side of history?  At least you’ll have some good stories for the grandkids.

April 5, 2012

#40) Learning from idiots, part 5/How not to complain, part 1: Samantha Brick

I don’t hate Samantha Brick because she’s beautiful.  I don’t hate her at all; in fact, I like this latest internet phenomenon, not because I agree or sympathize with her, but because she has provided some good life lessons.

For those of you who haven’t been online in a few days, Samantha Brick is a British woman who recently published an article about how tough it is to be beautiful.  She points out that she’s never been asked to be a bridesmaid because she’s more attractive than most of her friends; she’s lost out on promotions because of other female co-workers’ jealousy, and so forth.

Needless to say, there’s been quite a backlash, to say the least.  In fact, one might say that Brick’s fate is parallel to that of Alexandra “Asians in the Library” Wallace (remember her from last spring?) in that at best, she is ridiculed; at worst she is hated.  But unlike her American counterpart, Brick’s plight has some pretty good teachable moments.  The problem wasn’t entirely the point that she made: it was how she made it.

Right or wrong, Brick ‘s essay was based around an idea: sometimes, “having it all” isn’t as great as it seems.  In the right hands, perhaps it could have been developed into a piece that made readers open their eyes instead of roll them.  Brick’s problem wasn’t that she complained.  It was that she complained without any kind of humor, without taking any kind of responsibility, or without any kind of solution or elevation.

Humor is important, and you want the laughs to be with, not at you.  Brick doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about herself; she speaks resentfully of her husband’s suggesting that she “laugh off bitchy comments from other women.”

She also has a double-standard when it comes to responsibility.  Apart from the fact that she apparently has never heard the phrase “you take the good with the bad”, she bemoans being judged “harshly on what I look like”, even as she describes her clothes in detail and seems to take enjoyment in bartenders paying her tab or strangers picking up her cab fare.

The main problem, however, is that, at the end of the day, Brick is really just complaining.  Even if she was ugly as sin, throwing herself a pity party probably wouldn’t have gotten her much sympathy.  Sorry to break it to you, Sam, but you’re not the only person in the world who has problems.  If you want to play the “my life sucks” game, there will always be someone who can beat you at it.  Complaints about life do not a story make; it’s when someone transcends bad circumstances and betters their own life and the lives of others that something has truly been accomplished.  The closest thing to a solution that Brick presents is the clock: she concludes by saying that she as she enters her 40s, she welcomes the “wrinkles and gray hairs that will help her blend into the background.”

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.  I don’t wish Brick any ill will; she could be smoking hot or completely ugly, and my life would be the same.  However, I can’t help but speculate that, for whatever she may feel like she’s learned from the last few days, in the years to come Brick may experience some teachable moments of her own based on two of the world’s time-honored truths: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and be careful what you wish for.

April 2, 2012

#39) Learning from idiots, part 4: AWC never says die

How long would you keep emailing a prospect who had expressed interest in your services?

In the case of AWC, it’s three years and counting.  When I was starting www.findmymusicteacher.com, I looked at a variety of possible web designers and programmers.  Although I went with a different bidder, AWC continued – and continues – to follow up with me by email, on an average twice per week.  As somebody who has a habit of giving up when I don’t seem to be making much progress, I can’t help but have a certain weird admiration for that kind of persistence.  No, they haven’t gotten my business; I haven’t even gotten around to writing back to them and telling them that their service is not required.  (Yes, I know that begs the question why do I have time to write a blog about it?)  I also realize that the emails I get from them are undoubtedly automated; not the work of an impassioned copywriter who will stop at nothing to win new clients.  But the lesson is the same: enough persistence will get you noticed, one way or another.

A friend of mine told me that his dad always said, if you hang around outside a night club long enough and ask every girl who comes out if they’ll sleep with you, eventually one will say yes.  You’ll probably get smacked in the face a couple of times, and perhaps have to deal with an irate boyfriend or two, but ultimately, stubbornness will carry the day for you.   Whether you’re trying to get paid or get laid, sometimes you just can’t take no for an answer.

So will I use AWC next time I need a site built?  Possibly.  How long will I continue to let myself receive their emails?  I don’t know.  How long will they keep sending them?  Can’t help you on that one either.  But even though they never provided the service about which I had originally contacted them, in their own unique way, AWC has inspired me.

August 1, 2011

#19) Selling It Old School

A New York Times commercial shows people relaxing, enjoying the Sunday crossword puzzle; listening to the crinkle of the pages as they spread them out.  A telephone land line commercial shows a family, all talking on their own extensions, listening to their soldier son calling from the Middle East, allowing them to share the conversation in a way that a cellular phone wouldn’t allow.

I normally ignore or fast forward (thanks, Tivo!) over commercials, but I liked these two: they’re taking print media and land line telephones, two things that many people think are doomed, and finding new meaning in them.  They’re not necessarily saying that the traditional products are better than their modern counterparts.  They’re just reminding us that while modern inventions can make our life easier, sometimes the older way can have its place too.

Of course, singing the praises of the “good old days” isn’t exactly a new concept, but these ads place a new twist on it.  Often, the subject of a “good old days” take is something very obsolete, but here, we see them in their decline, not in their extinction.  I’m sure the makers of these ads know that, despite their best efforts, in this day, far fewer people will ever read the Times in its print form than online, and that mobile phones will be more popular than land lines.  But still, these ads aren’t letting their products go down without a fight, and I like that.

April 5, 2011

#11) Learning from Freakouts

Call me crazy, but I find Stephen Quire to be much more entertaining than Charlie Sheen, or just about any tantrum-throwing celebrity for that matter.

Stephen Quire is the kid who was caught on camera freaking out when his mom cancelled his World of Warcraft account.  The video has, in Internet jargon, gone viral, with over 45 million views as of this writing.  There has been much speculation in cyberspace on whether this video–and several other filmed meltdowns that follow it–are real.  Whether or not it is, the video says a lot about what makes a video go viral.

Many more videos, sad to say, go viral for bad reasons than good.  (Think Miss Teen South Carolina or Alexandra Wallace of “Asians in the Library” fame).  I read somewhere that for many, the appeal of reality TV is being able to point at the characters and laugh at them, or to feel superior (how else can you explain Springer being on the air for 20 years?)  We all have that gene that loves to ogle disaster, be it a crash on the freeway or tattooed rednecks duking it out on stage.  Viral videos often have that same appeal.  Sure, cleverly written sit-coms can be funny, but as the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.  The best screenwriters and directors in the world couldn’t manufacture what came out of Miss Teen South Carolina’s mouth, or Stephen Quire’s tirade.

It’s been also said, especially in difficult times, consumers seek escape in their entertainment.  After a long, stressful day at work, not everyone wants to watch “Masterpiece Theater.”  In the case of Quire, it seems entirely possible that many of his viewers vicariously live out their revenge fantasies against idiot bosses, annoying co-workers and maybe even difficult spouses through him.

One more element of pull that all this stuff has: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  For my part, I didn’t exactly have the greatest temper on the planet growing up, and I was into both video games and Dungeons & Dragons.  Had World of Warcraft been around in the ’80s, you can bet that it would have had a loyal subscriber in me – and had my mom cancelled the account, which she probably would have to stop me from playing it 24/7, the result might have been eerily similar to the famous video (especially had my brother decided to plant a camera in my room, also a definite possibility).  They say that in psychology, if you spot it, you got it, and it’s a good bet that many of Stephen Quire’s viewers see themselves in the video.  Real or fake, it’s addictive.

Besides giving us the opportunity to laugh at others and feel better about ourselves, viral videos can have positive effects on those involved.  When she appeared on Tosh.O, Miss Teen South Carolina said that the whole experience was the best thing that could have happened to her.   “Wafflepwn”, the force behind the World of Warcraft freakout video, has started an online business, advertising T-shirts, iTunes downloads and more.  Just as Jerry Springer has kept his crew employed for 20 years (he even got Steve his own show!), one could make an argument that these Internet celebrities are doing their part to stimulate the American economy.  Temper tantrums can not only be a great release, but they can also be patriotic.  However you look at it, I’m sure that….WHAT!?  HOW THE F@*K DID I LOSE MY INTERNET CONNECTION?  I LOST ALL THIS F*$#ING WORK THAT I SPENT A F*#KING HOUR ON!  “UNABLE TO OPEN PAGE” MY ASS.  SUCK MY #*@, GOOGLE CHROME!  F*#KING CHARTER, I’M GOING TO CALL THOSE A$$HOLES UP AND GIVE THEM A F*#KING PIECE OF MY MIND!  MOTHER F*#@ER!  ASFOXOFDSAWDNSVC!!