Fake It and Flaunt It? (Even Personal Development Bloggers Do It!)

This may be old news for some of you but I thought I would write a post for the benefit of those who may not know about it. After all, until today, I had no idea that things of this nature are happening around our blogging world!

As a practice, I take time each morning to visit the blogs that have linked(trackbacked) to my blog/blog post. You must have noticed the bottom left sidebar link, "Blogs that link here". I like to see what others say about my blog. In the process, I do find some really worthy reads, which I add to my feedreader.

Here I was, making my routine round trip when I came across a peculiar looking blog. I don’t want to make any blogging enemies, so I won’t mention the blog name. In spite of everything, this person did link to my blog! (If you are really interested, have a look at the blogs that have recently linked to Enhance Life. You should be able to figure it out yourself!) This particular blog had a preposterous layout (I should know I am a software professional!) and dull content. I believe the blog in question, falls into the personal development niche. However, I felt it didn’t have much to offer to the reader.

Yes, I am aware that there are many blogs of this caliber. However, the noticeable difference between those and this blog was the FeedBurner feed count. On the top right, was a heading subscribe to my rss feeds, and along side it displayed an image with a text indicating 2621 readers. I wanted to find out how this blog managed to get so many subscribers which such mind-numbing content. I didn’t even see a single comment for the 5 recent blog posts.

Hacking the codeThe detective inside me started to come alive. Even though I don’t have that many RSS subscribers, at least someone leaves a comment on every post!
My curiosity led me to investigate the HTML code of this blog. I also searched the web and found out a way to check the number of subscribers. All you have to do is type the following, on the browser.

http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/feedname

Replace the feedname, with the actual feedname of the blog. For example, If you want to check how many readers I have, the link would be http://feeds.feedburner.com/~fc/EnhanceLife

As expected, the blog I was dissecting, returned a very low number; 18 readers to be exact. I was amazed to find out that this HTML code snippet was in the code. It took me a few minutes to realize that this person has swapped the feedname. The name of the feed was another blog’s feedname. I kid you not!

Why Do They Fake It?

I think it is because the feedcount lets the visitors know how popular the blog really is. By showing a larger subscriber count, new visitors might feel that the blog is worth subscribing to.
Statistics wise, I know it can be frustrating when you have a new blog. Blogging stardom doesn’t happen overnight! Thus, some might consider it to be a good ego boost and show off a high number of readers.

Does A Fake Feedcount Really Help Promote Your Blog?

Fake and Flaunt RSSMy personal opinion is that it depends on the blog and how fake the feedcount is. Obviously, the blog I visited had not thought of the later!

When you visit a blog for the first time, in most cases, what happens is that you read just two or three articles, and then you look at RSS count. If the content and the RSS count impress you, you subscribe.
How many times has this happened to you? When you visited a popular blog the first time, noticed a high feed count of say 10000, and asked yourself - “Why haven’t I subscribed to this blog? 10000 RSS readers mean the blog is definitely worth subscribing!”
So, if you have a pleasing blog design and some decent content, I think you might get attention from your visitors with the fake feedcount.

However, if a reader finds out that the blog they read were faking their FeedCount, they would surely unsubscribe. They may even blog about it. Which might lead to controversy. We all know that creating controversy is a great way to get publicity! Is the risk worth it? Is your conscience up to it? Also, it is a matter of trust. My mindset is, “If I can’t trust that the number of subscribers shown is true, then how can I trust anything you say?”
Looking a bit deeper into the other side of the coin, if you’re planning on selling adverts on your blog, then it can be construed as fraud or misrepresentation. If I advertised on a blog that had faked its subscriber counts, I would demand my money back!

Would I Fake My Feedcount?

Having said the above, I have never faked the feed count on this blog and will never do it. It is my belief that it is unethical and wrong. One could achieve the same (if not better!) results, and keep the readers longer, using other much more ethical social proof ideas.
As tempting as it may be, I do not think it is a healthy way to attract more subscribers. I write a personal development blog and I stand by honesty is the best policy. I try my best to practice what I preach. I am a strong believer that dishonest activities like this will usually come back to bite you!

It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the statistics. I do! I love to see my numbers grow, but I have no desire to fake the readership. Even if I just have one reader today (Thank God I have much more!), I will still be happy knowing that at least someone is reading what I have to say. I would rather have an honest, engaged and small audience than a huge, fake or indifferent audience.

The blogging road trip, which has led me to today, hasn’t been easy. It has been hard work every step of the way. So I take great joy and pride in watching my subscribers grow- naturally. I admit, it is a slow process, but I am not going anywhere! If you like what you read here and have not subscribed to this blog yet, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed ;-)

Would You Fake The RSS Feedcount?

What about You? Have you ever considered faking the feedcount? Would you do it? Please leave your comments.

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19 comments:

Nishadha said...

Thats cheating and if you don't have quality content its unlikely anyone will subscribe

Enhance Life said...

Indeed it is cheating!

Queen from Another Planet said...

That is so bizarre - everyday we learn how low we can go.

I had my blog for almost a year with just 2 or 3 readers - only now is it picking up.

Perseverance, not cheating, is the key.

Enhance Life said...

Perseverance.. yes, that the word I was looking for!

Hilal said...

OK. It is imperative to note and understand the purpose of 'Feedcount' It is to boast of a large readership but it rarely lures people into signing up? Some blogs I frequent have over 300,000 subscribers and I'm not one?

Enhance Life said...

Hi Hilal,
Good to hear that there are a few people out there who are not
influenced by large subscriber base.

Shamelle

Jim | SevenActions said...

That's some detective work! Like you, I've also wondered about some of the feed numbers I've seen on blogs. Now I know not to trust everything I read (hm, should have learned that a long time ago). Great post!

Enhance Life said...

Hi Jim,
Yes, I was also wondering about the feed numbers for a while. But I suppose I didn't take the time to investigate it up until now.

Shamelle

Desika | I Am My Own Master said...

Hi Shamelle,

I found your blog through a comment you left on mine.

Very nice article indeed! Until I read this article, I did not even know that one could fake the feed count. Isn't it a crime to hijack somebody else's feed count? If not, it should be.

Thanks,
Desika

Enhance Life said...

Hi Desika,
Starting from "stealing" content to faking RSS count. So many "crime" activities!

Shamelle

Cornelius said...

Thanks for providing an informative post. Is a feedreader really that important?

d.edlen said...

Well, you always could get addicted to "Stumble Juice":
http://digg.com/tech_news/Is_SU_a_Performance_Enhancing_Drug_for_Blogs

The tip I'm following now is to not show the number of subscribers until it's a reasonable amount to me. I want people to be interested in my content, but image and packaging are definitely part of that. Being a self-promoting artist, I suggested for awhile in my "About Me" that trust might be irrelevant since visitors can be brought in by hype upon hype upon basically lies. My point was that content is ultimately what's important and what will keep subcribers loyal and actually enjoying your site. There's got to be quality as well as quantity of reader connections. I'd probably pay more attention to a testimonial widget that subscriber count, but then those could be fake too!
Peace.

Sonia Simone said...

Amazing what people will do, isn't it? There are all kinds of games people are trying to play out there.

Cornelius, I would suggest that a feed reader is very important (to allow readers to subscribe), but that displaying the number is not all that important. Once one's number is fairly high, many bloggers do display it as a kind of proof of quality. But of course it can be faked.

Conrad said...

Hey Shamelle...Great post!

I had no idea that people were actually highjacking feednumbers! That is pretty desperate if you ask me, not to mention that it won't help much if your content is lacking.

Very interesting blog....keep up the good work!

Enhance Life said...

@Cornelius: To answer your question "Is a feedreader really that important?" I think that it depends on now many blogs a person reads and how important it is. I know a few people who read about 200 blogs a day. I am not joking! A reader help you organize your daily reads and mark them in a sensible manner.

@Edlen:"There's got to be quality as well as quantity of reader connections" Very well said,couldn't have said it better.

@Conrad: Thank you very much for your encourage words and also your email.I hope you visit here soon ;-)

SD said...

I have heard of other blogs doing this, but it's just not something I would ever do. Even if a person were able to do it well and give off the impression of having a high feed count, their would still know the truth. What would be the point of convincing others you are great when you already know that's far from accurate.

syamsulariff.com said...

hey, i put a your link as a credit regarding this issue..thanks for sharing ya :D

Deborah said...

Thanks for sharing this on the blog carnival for The Rhythm of write!

Deborah
http://www.therhythmofwrite.com

Natural said...

Hey Enhance Life, thanks for stopping by and pointing me toward your link. Very interesting stuff....that's sneaky to switch out the feedname...would have never thought of that. I'd be too afraid to fake it. I always get caught

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