I haven’t been posting to my blog that often, but I wanted to recap 2022 and lay out some of my plans for 2023. Overall, 2022 was a pretty good year for me, and I made some progress on business goals with my side projects.
Table of Contents
I Got a New Day Job
For the past two years, I have worked for an AI startup, Moveworks. The product is a chatbot that integrates with the company’s chat systems, like Slack or MS Teams, to provide employee support in IT, HR, Finance, etc. It’s a place to ask employee-related questions. Many of these questions could be solved automatically via API integrations, such as your account being locked out or resetting the MFA token on your phone.
The real value of Moveworks is the advanced Natural Language Understanding that allows the system to understand the intent of the user’s utterance and respond appropriately.
This is especially cool since the public finally got their hands on Chat GPT. Moveworks was already doing much of what Chat GPT does but focused on specific business domains. Since the models are trained on these domains and customer content, the Moveworks bot can respond with appropriate answers.
The Moveworks product is great, and the technology was super cool to work with. I learned so much in the two years I was there that I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else. The work was very interesting but also very challenging. I had to put in some long hours, but I was pretty successful within the company. I went from being a Customer Success Engineer to leading a team as the Regional Director of Professional Services for the Central US and EMEA.
A time came were I realized that I wanted to take a break from the grind of startup life, so I started to apply for some other roles. I only applied for things I was highly interested in because I wasn’t desperate to leave my current role.
I ended up getting a competitive offer from Meta (previously Facebook), working as a Solutions Architect in their Ads division. This was interesting because of my history with advertising and affiliate marketing and because it aligned with my customer-facing technical skills. I thought that I might learn more about how advertising works from the inside.
This did mean that I went back to being an individual contributor from my past manager role. I don’t mind being an IC, but I also think I might like to get back into a leadership position at some point.
Exactly one month after I started my new role, Meta laid off 11,000 employees. I somehow managed not to get caught in the layoff. I’m ramping up and hoping things work out for at least the next few years. The tech industry is brutal at the moment, with new layoffs being announced almost daily.
The decision to leave Moveworks was one of the toughest career decisions that I’ve had to make. I fit in with the team there, and all the people I worked with were smart, talented, and all-around good people. The management team was great, and we had amazing comradery on the Customer Success team that I will miss. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find a team as great as that, but I ultimately think I made the right decision three months later.
I’m still wishing for the best for everyone at Moveworks, especially during these challenging times in the tech industry. It was truly one of the best places I have worked at in my career, but I’m looking forward to the impact I can have at Meta.
Business and Side Projects
One thing that I didn’t get to focus on as much as I would like is side projects. In the past, I’ve always had some side projects that I was working on. Whether it was affiliate marketing campaigns, my tutorial website, or even trying to arbitrage physical products. I even documented ten years of trial and error in online marketing.
I was working too hard to find time to work on these things. I hope that with my new role, I’ll have at least a little more time to work on these side projects. Here are a few of the things I was trying to work on.
Crypto Bro Blog
For some odd reason, I thought I would turn this website into a crypto bro blog. I wrote a couple of posts about it. I even wrote a bot to bet on pancakeswap prediction games and lost a ton of money. It was fun to do some programming again, but I ultimately realized that I have no interest in being a crypto bro blogger. So I will keep this blog focused on personal updates and side businesses. Not sure what I was thinking here.
Undisclosed Niche Sites
For the past two years, I’ve had a few niche sites that generate money using the Amazon Associates program and Google AdSense. If you’re unfamiliar with niche sites, they are websites around a specific subject or niche. I write blog posts either answering questions or offering product links in which I make a commission if the users purchases through my links. Here is another good resource for learning about niche sites.
I stumbled upon a subreddit called r/juststart that happened to be on the same topic. I learned about other ad networks that pay more than AdSense. I didn’t have enough traffic for larger networks like Mediavine, so I signed up with Ezoic and saw an ad revenue increase over AdSense. Ezoic will allow sites with a lower amount of traffic.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t have time to work on these sites, so I just swapped out ad networks to see if it would increase income. For about half the year, Ezoic wasn’t set up properly, and I didn’t bother to fix it. That greatly impacted my yearly revenue.
I don’t want to give specifics, but I had two main niche sites. These sites use WordPress as a content management system because I find it pretty easy to use, and it powers over 40% of the web. I only made about $1,600 in revenue from these. After expenses, I think I profited about $400. I averaged $38 EPMv, which is not too shabby. That isn’t bad for not doing any work, but I want to expand these sites in 2023 drastically.
I decided to do this because I see those “how many calories are in X” sites ranking fairly well in Google with thin content. I thought I could tackle it from the “is X keto” angle and have similar results.
Anyway, the goal of this site was to generate content automatically so that I didn’t have to write thousands of blog posts. I used a food database that I found and then made some custom templates and calculations to show if a food was keto or not. The site is monetized via Amazon Associate links on the product pages like this page that tells you if Sugar-Free Red Bull is keto friendly. I think there are over 300k items on the site as of today.
I host my other sites on a dedicated server I shared with a few friends. I decided to host this project on Heroku because the platform as a service model made it extremely easy for me to deploy and administer a Ruby on Rails application. I ended up learning a lot about optimizing a Rails app so that I could minimize my costs on Heroku. I still have plenty to learn about Rails, but this ended up being one of the fastest-loading websites I’ve ever built. I’m pretty proud that it is much faster than my WordPress sites.
The site was launched at the end of 2022, so it’s still fairly new and not getting much traffic. Once it gets some traffic, I may also throw some display ads on to generate more revenue. If it takes off, I could also add a blog section to take advantage of search traffic in a way similar to my WordPress sites.
Undisclosed Niche Site #3
I started to look at purchasing some websites in niches I am interested in that I thought were under-monetized. Some of the best marketplaces for this are Empire Flippers, Motion Invest, and Flippa.
- Empire Flippers is the more high-end marketplace, making it out of my price range. Some sites sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Flippa is at the lower end of the market. They have some higher-value sites, but there is a lot of garbage to sift through. I bid on a handful of sites under a few thousand dollars but always got outbid.
- Motion Invest is the new kid on the block and currently has some starter sites, quite a few mid-range sites, and a few high-end sites.
I found a few sites on Motion Invest that I liked. Since I’m in Ohio, I was interested in this site ColumbusNavigator.com because it has significant traffic, and I could generate content for it. It’s way out of my price range and is currently listed at $270k.
I found another one in a niche that I am not in but could write about. I won’t give the niche away, but the site had between 300-400 posts, was bringing in about 50k views per month, and was making about $1,200 per month in ad revenue. They wanted around $50k for the site at the time, and I thought that was too much for me. The site has not sold and is still listed at a lower price.
I’m not sure how people feel about this, but I decided to investigate the site, learn what keywords were low competition but decent traffic, and make a competing site. I’m not copying anything directly from the site, but I compete on similar keywords. I feel this is just how capitalism works, and I don’t feel bad about it. This is a more cost-effective way to get into this niche since I don’t want to spend the asking price to acquire the site.
This new site will be my primary focus for 2023 as far as niche sites go. I want to build it from the ground up using everything I’ve learned since launching my other sites over two years ago.
Hopefully, this site will be more successful, and I can post some updates on the progress. I’m also using some additional tools to help me find higher volume but lower competition keywords to try to rank for in Google. Two of these are SEM Rush and Keyword Chef.
With previous sites, I just thought of things to write about and wrote them. I went at it blind. With this new site, I’m doing much more homework to determine the best keywords to go after to try to get search engine traffic. I hope this approach will net better results than my past fumbling.
WritersBlok – WordPress Plugin
If you haven’t heard about it, a demo application called Chat GPT from OpenAI has been making a huge buzz online. Chat GPT uses a machine learning model called GPT 3.5 that was trained on over 45TB of text from websites, books, and more.
This model can understand prompts in natural human language and craft responses in natural human language. It’s quite impressive and free to try. The responses are usually pretty good. However, these large language models can sometimes provide non-factual results because they can hallucinate.
Still, ChatGPT is impressive. Moveworks leverages a form of GPT technology in addition to many other AI models. Some of my past colleagues are now working in this generative AI space. I believe these companies are leveraging the GPT-3 API to generate text. This is the previous model to GPT-3.5 that powers ChatGPT.
There are many of these generative AI products popping up. Two of the biggest are:
- copy.ai – Copy.ai has many generative AI tools like automatically writing blog posts, sales email copy generation, and more. Most recently, they released a function that can take a LinkedIn profile and generate a cold reach-out message based on the content. The last I heard, the company had $12 million in annual reoccurring revenue. That’s pretty impressive. They also raised $13.9 million in funding.
- jasper.ai – Jasper is similar to copy.ai, and those two companies are probably leading the space. They shared a lot of the same types of features. I see Jasper advertising pretty much everywhere. It’s all over my Facebook feed. This company is currently valued at $1.5 billion.
Many generative AI companies and other types of companies are coming out that leverage machine learning models like GPT-3. Generative AI could be the next trillion-dollar industry.
I was playing around with GPT-3 for content generation in some Juptyer Notebooks. Since I work on those niche sites, I often struggle to come up with content or suffer from writer’s block. So I decided that a WordPress plugin to leverage the generative AI capabilities of GPT-3 would be cool.
I started working on WritersBlok.ai. It’s a plugin designed to help authors write blog posts in WordPress. The current version of the plugin is 100% free and offers several features, including:
- Generate ideas for blog post topics: Enter a topic or niche you are interested in and generate a list of possible article titles and topics to help get you started.
- Outline blog post structure: Take your title or keywords and generate an outline of subheadings to structure your blog post. Choose which subheadings to include in your post.
- Generate blog introductions and conclusions: Easily generate an introduction or conclusion to your blog post that can be reworded if needed.
- Paragraph generator Enter some keywords or subheadings and generate paragraphs of text to help you get started.
- Create bullet point ideas: Use keywords to generate a list of bullet points to expand on.
I do plan on adding paid features to the plugin in the future. Since over 800 million websites use WordPress, I thought this might be a good approach. So I dusted off my PHP skills and learned that you could also build WordPress plugins using React.js. I messed with React.js in a past role and thought it would be a more modern approach to plugin development, so I decided to go that route.
I wanted people to realize that you can use the power of GPT-3 in WordPress. The plugin puts powerful AI in the hands of everyday users. You no longer have to be a developer or machine learning scientist to use AI.
This will be the first product I’ve released with a paid option. It’s a bit scary because I won’t have the luxury of not supporting it if it takes off. It’s also exciting because I think this space will grow like crazy, and I could have my little chunk of the action. I’m not expecting to make $12 million yearly, but a few thousand would be nice.
I’m about halfway through the development of the first paid features, and I also plan to have an affiliate program where people can promote WritersBlok and make a nice percentage of the fees.
If you use WordPress to blog, I’d love it if you tried WritersBlok AI Content Generation Plugin for WordPress. I also need a few reviews on the WordPress plugin directory. I hope this will be a big project for me in 2023. I’m hoping to make this the best AI plugin for WordPress.
I’ve posted about my struggles with Bipolar disorder in the past. I think it’s important to talk about it because other people probably struggle with the same thing. I suffered for over 12 years or more until I found the right doctor and combination of medicine. My mood has been stable for the past four years, and my life is much more enjoyable.
I suggest anyone who thinks they may have a mental disorder talk to a therapist and a psychiatrist. For some reason, many people are against psych meds, but they literally saved my life.
As for the family, my wife and son are doing great. My son got a ton of Lego kits for the holidays and has built almost all of them by the second week of January. The Office Lego pictured above is one of my favorites. He is also really into the Meta Quest 2 that he got from Santa. I never really used VR before joining Meta, which is pretty cool. I’ll be interested to see how that space grows in the next few years.
I’ve also been staying in touch with a few ex-colleagues to keep up with how they are doing. Many of them reached out to me when they heard layoff news, and I’m grateful for that.
That’s about it for my 2022 round-up and my 2023 plans. Things went fairly well in 2022, and I hope that a few of the projects take off in 2023 so that I can do some updates on them over the next year. If not, I’ll make my once-yearly blog post in 2024 🤣.