The Beal Deal Interview Channel

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The Beal Deal with Michael Gray (@graywolf)

If you love your Saturday mornings with a dose of conspiracy theory and mashed potatoes, you’re going to love today’s Beal Deal interview.

Michael GrayI’ve known Michael Gray for many years, and have yet to fully figure him out. If he’s not using Twitter as a soapbox, he’s using it to share recipes. When he’s not posting thought provoking images on Facebook, he’s sharing pictures of his house remodel. Graywolf truly keeps you on your toes–you never quite know what you’ll get from him.

I asked him about all of the things that I, and I’m sure you, want answered. Here’s what he had to say.

1. OK, first question. How do you make money? Seriously, you keep your cards close to your chest, so spill some beans.

I’ll let you in on a little secret I’m currently part of a Top Secret Google Disinformation Team.

I’ll let you in on a little secret I’m currently part of a Top Secret Google Disinformation Team. Google has rouge operatives spread out across the globe to provide criticism but to do it with a crazy conspiracy theorist editorial viewpoint. This way the viewpoint of the public is anybody who disagrees with Google has to be insane. It’s brilliant and based on the model of Air Force employing UFO believers to keep people from looking too closely at their experimental test planes.

However I suspect your readers are looking for something a bit more actionable, so I’m actually a mix of boutique SEO consultant and Affiliate Publisher, and I think the two compliment each other. When someone is looking to hire a consultant they want someone with some “in the trenches” real world experience. Unless you are currently running real sites at some level, it’s hard to give up-to-date real world advice to your clients. I know some people who are pure affiliates and ask why do you bother with client work, and my response is it grows my skill set and lets me see problems you won’t see in affiliate spaces. Affiliate spaces are heavily polluted with SEO spam, but some industries don’t work for affiliates, and having clients in those spaces lets you see how the search engines operates without having to sort through the muck. For sites I build, SEO wins every decision, for clients websites that’s not always the case. So client work forces you to up your game to find a comprimise that solves the problem.

2. Is there really such a thing as white hat and black hat when it comes to SEO? Where do you stand?

Right now unless you are heavily automated and scale that automation really quickly it’s not worth playing the blackhat game

Yes, I think there is absolutely black hat and white hat SEO, although I think the number of people who practice the far ends of the spectrum is pretty slim, a lot of people are in the gray middle. I look at SEO the same way people look at taxes. Every year when you do your taxes you can decide to lie/hide things from the IRS and hope you don’t get caught. Or you can hire a tax professional who operates within the system and minimizes the amount of taxes you pay. So you can break the rules and not pay any taxes or use a really good creative financial planner who knows how to work within the system and have nearly the same result, the choice is up to you.

I like to try some crazy stuff to see what happens, but I don’t do that for client work, and really try to keep them a safe distance from the edge of the cliff. I know a lot of people who keep their clients within the lines but get a lot closer to the edge. I’ve also seen those sites take a nose dive when Google arbitrarily changes the rules. Right now unless you are heavily automated and scale that automation really quickly it’s not worth playing the blackhat game–there’s not enough profit in it and it lasts for a very short time.

3. You love getting on your Twitter soapbox. Are you really that cranky, or is it part of some brilliant marketing ploy?

My grandfather used to say there’s a reason the church rings its bell every Sunday, to remind people it’s there. Social media is the same way if you don’t remind people you are around they will forget you. That’s not to say I argue just to argue, I like to pick my fights, and choose the things I really believe in, and have a passion for. Twitter has taught me the power of brevity, the ability to make a point in less than 140 characters is a really good skill to have.

https://twitter.com/graywolf/status/309642277859520512

At some point in college I read a book on how to argue more persuasively, and some of lessons from that book really stuck with me. I love using visual analogies because people can relate to them, they work even better if you can work in a shock factor

https://twitter.com/graywolf/status/116161086352396288

4. Tell us about a stance you’ve taken on an issue where you’ve gone on to discover that you were completely wrong. What did you learn from that?

It’s my belief that unless you’re making mistakes you’re not learning new things

Oh my, I’m wrong and make mistakes on things all the time, in fact it’s my belief that unless you’re making mistakes you’re not learning new things and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. However I suspect you are looking for something more specific, so let’s take my favorite person to argue with Rae Hoffman. We argue all the time, sometimes it’s about serious stuff, sometimes it’s about nonsense like whether the new Taylor Swift song is any good.

She really got on board the whole framework and premium theme aspect of WordPress long before I did, it took a good six months before I actually had that lightbulb moment and saw what she saw. Of course it was still a few months before they got out of that clunky awkward stage, but they did get there, and by that time I had switched the majority of my sites over and was doing some really clever things on the platform.

5. Your home was devastated by Sandy and you’ve had to practically gut it and start again. If you were given the keys to Google+, would you gut it and start again? What would you change?

If I had to fix Google+ … first day everyone who is currently involved with Google+ would be fired

Yeah the flood was pretty brutal we had nearly 4 feet of water in the street and 18″ in the house, we had to gut the entire first floor. On the positive side we did get to remodel everything, and a lot of the “stuff” that had accumulated and nobody wanted to throw out was damaged beyond repair and had to go.

If I had to fix Google+ … first day everyone who is currently involved with Google+ would be fired. Not just reassigned and move to another department, but F-I-R-E-D for gross incompetence, and if I had my way they would never touch anything more complicated than a headset at a McDonalds drive through window ever again. What would I fix? Here’s the big list:

1) Google apps customers wouldn’t exist as some crazy second class citizens in limbo in the Google+ ecosystem, the fact that Google wrote both systems and they still don’t merge with zero friction is mind boggling.

2) Stop designing Google+ for tinkering techno weenies who want to be Google employees, and start designing it for real people. It’s designed to be a shiny cat toy for the navel gazing bloggerati who judge your social status by the number of times you have been on the homepage of Techmeme. Stop it … it’s pointless and embarrassing.

3) If you want to get “regular people” to use the system find ways to drag them in, incentivize them coming over. Facebook has huge edge because everyone’s friends are already there so there’s no need for them to leave and come to Google+ unless you offer something Facebook doesn’t. The obvious answer is stop data mining the people so much that you can accurately predict their preferred toilet paper brands to them. I know this would be REALLY REALLY hard because most of the Googlers secretly about the singularity when they can merge their consciousness with them machine and become one, but really thats not a good thing.

4) This cloud computing thing it’s nonsense. I know in Mountain View and San Francisco it may be unicorns and rainbows and always on free wi-fi but that’s an anomaly. The rest of the world doesn’t live like that and quite frankly doesn’t want to. Having cloud based backups is awesome if your house gets destroyed in a natural disaster you are covered, but you should always have local copies and access and not NEED the internet to get stuff done.

6. You love to cook. Care to share with us your all time favorite recipe?

It’s taken me years to get my mashed potatoes to be just this side of perfect

Hmm one of my most popular requests for the big family holidays is a spinach mushroom lasagna with roasted red peppers and béchamel sauce. I’ve also been liking some of the recipes from the Momofuku Milk Bar like compost cookies, but it’s taken me years to get my mashed potatoes to be just this side of perfect, and it’s now to the point where everyone in the house agrees, ok those are really good and you should make them more often.

Take one head of garlic, slice the top off so you take off the top 1/3 of the individual cloves. Take piece of foil big enough to double and wrap around the head of garlic. Before you close it drizzle generously with olive oil. Bake in oven set for 350 degrees for 45 minutes, allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Take one small onion, dice it into tiny pieces no bigger than 1/4 inch. Sauté in small oven safe pan with 1 TBSP of unsalted butter for 15 minutes until onion starts to turn a light golden color. Place whole pan in oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. You want a nice golden dark color but you don’t want the onion to burn, so use an oven mitt to take the pan out and stir the onions around 2-3 times.

Peel 1 1/2 – 2 potatoes per person, and cube them into 1/2″ size pieces. Season the water with kosher salt to the consistency of just below salt water, and bring to a simmer. Place potatoes in and wait for them to boil and get to the point where they are soft but not mushy. Have all the other ingredients ready before you drain the potatoes.

For every four people use 1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into slices and brought to room temperature

For every four people use 1/2 cup of sour cream or cream cheese.

While the potatoes are still hot mash them using a ricer. You can use the grinder kind but I really like this one from OXO–it gives you a super smooth velvety consistency that you can’t get with a masher. Mix in the room temperature butter and sour cream. Lightly fold the mixture till the butter is nearly melted. Mix in the onions. Open the top of the tin foil and squeeze the baked garlic cloves into the mixture. Use a little salt and your favorite seasoning blend, I like Beau Monde or Rocky Mountain Seasoning from the Spice House. You will need a little milk to smooth it out to the consistency you like but add it a little at a time no more than 1-2 TBSP.

If you want to make it a little more interesting mix in some bacon bits or a few drops of tobasco sauce.

These potatoes are so good you don’t even need gravy.

Many thanks for to my #eviltwinbrother for sharing his thoughts…I’m off to make mashed potatoes!

  • Matt McGee

    There are few people I know of that are as entertaining on Twitter as Michael Gray.

  • williamwallace99
  • http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.boris Cynthia Boris

    “My grandfather used to say there’s a reason the church rings its bell every Sunday, to remind people it’s there. Social media is the same way if you don’t remind people you are around they will forget you.” Brilliant.

    And can we please give him the keys to Google+, his fix-it plans are perfect

  • Valerie DiCarlo

    Love, love, love this! :)