I’ve had a profile at LinkedIn for a long time, but never really used it. So I was finally getting around to completing and updating it this week, and I stumbled across this from the experience section of a connection of mine, a former colleague claiming to have done all this great work for Foreign Policy Journal (which, as my regular readers probably know, I own, webmaster, edit, etc.):
Whoah! Since this individual — I’ll just call him “M” — is publicly claiming to have been pretty much single-handedly the reason for FPJ’s success and supposedly rescuing the site, I need to set the record straight. There are a few elements of truth to the above, but it’s mostly B.S. First, it is true that M collaborated with me for a time at FPJ. He was not my employee, but volunteered to help out with taking over some of the load with editing. To each of his bullet points:
- It is true M contributed content to the site. However, that ceased after I found he had lied to me and had been fabricating stories. (Long story short, he told me the stories were written by contacts of his in other countries as part of a series about other cultures, and that he helped them to edit and clean them up, English not being their first language. But it became clear to me after a few of these that he was writing them himself, and when I confronted him about them, he admitted he was just making them up and falsely attributing them to other people).
- It is true that I taught M how to use WordPress (the content management system I use for FPJ, as well as this site). However, he most certainly did not “manage” the site. I have always been solely responsible for that. The only thing he did was to take article submissions, edit them (more on that momentarily), paste them into the system, categorize them, and input SEO stuff like keywords and an article description. I would then review them and publish them myself. The idea was that I would train him to take over some of this editing work to help me sustain the effort. However, another reason I ended my collaboration with M was because he proved incapable of following simple instructions about what I needed done and how to do it. The whole point was that he would come on board to help me, but it turned out that I was spending so much time trying to train him and having to redo his work in the end anyways that it was better just to go back to doing everything myself. Furthermore, his claim to have begun in December 2008 is a lie. I had only launched the site in November of that year, and didn’t bring him on board until a couple years later. And our collaborative relationship with him in training to be assistant editor only lasted a couple months, most certainly not nearly two years.
- It is true that M did bring up with me an offer to use his connections to get advertisers, and it’s true that I said, sure, okay, if you are able and willing to do that, feel free. However, that was not a task I had brought him on board for or otherwise assigned to him, and he never followed through on his offer (he didn’t bring a single advertiser to FPJ, much less help make it self-sufficient).
- Finally — and this is the part that really irritates me (I would have let all of the above slide if it wasn’t for this last whopper) — it is true that just prior to my bringing M on board to assist with editing, I had considered quitting FPJ. However, the reason for that was certainly not because the site was failing. On the contrary, it was because it was doing so well, it was becoming more than I could manage alone. The time required to continue FPJ came (and continues to come) at a high opportunity cost to me (e.g., I could work more hours at my paying job), and I came to a point where I nearly decided I couldn’t keep it up, given the site’s success and the accompanying increasing hours required to keep it going. M certainly did not help to “turn it around” — again, I ended my collaboration with him because he was more a liability than an asset. As for the claim about Alexa, it would be nice if FPJ was ranked in the top 100,000, but that’s another lie. It has actually, to my knowledge, twice broken the 100,000 rank, briefly, due to huge temporary spikes in traffic from a popular article being published (one of them my own), but both of these times was long after M was gone. (Apart from that, Alexa is not a very good measure in terms of site traffic. It fluctuates wildly even when my other logs show consistent traffic over time, i.e., just a month or two ago, my rank in the U.S. was in the top 200,000, but right now it’s showing 356,982. These numbers mean nothing to me. Alexa offers decent insights into demographics, but is lousy in terms of measuring traffic.)
After that whole experience, I did decide to keep FPJ going, but that had nothing to do with M, who, again, ended up being a liability to me rather than an asset. It was because other colleagues of mine, including editors of other independent media outlets, gave me a lot of really wonderful encouragement and praise for the work I had been doing, which made me change my mind and commit to keeping it up. As for M, he seems to be doing well for himself. I am happy for him and wish him the best, and it is unfortunate that he has made it necessary for me to set the record straight by making these false claims about his work for FPJ and effectively trying to take credit for my accomplishments with the site. Not cool, man.
There is one other individual who has contributed to FPJ (apart from content contributors, that is), whose assistance I do appreciate. Nima Shirazi for a time took over the FPJ Newsletter for me, and did a great job of it, which helped me free up time for editing duties, which helped me to sustain the effort during one of those periods when it was difficult to juggle with my other responsibilities. I want to give Nima a shout out both out of appreciation for his willingness to help me out when I needed it and to direct others to his website, www.wideasleepinamerica.com. Nima does really brilliant work, which I sometimes republish at FPJ (with his permission), and I encourage everyone to check it out.
I’m currently trying to raise the funds to cover the costs for web hosting for the first half of 2013. If you are a reader of FPJ, please consider making a donation to help me sustain the effort and continue to improve the site. If you aren’t already a reader, please check it out: www.foreignpolicyjournal.com. And here are some other ways you can support my work.