Erik Heels Had This Great Idea For A Funny Website Called

But Ben Huh beat him to it by launching

Two men talking in office. "It's not that you're under-performing so much as you're over-failing."[Editor’s note: Erik Heels wrote this piece in the third person, because one is first person only to one’s self.]

Erik’s Failblog Story

This is a story of idea vs. execution. Great execution of a good idea beats good execution of a great idea every day of the week. Or in Erik’s case, non-execution.

But first, some background. Because what this story lacks in quality, it will make up for in quantity. As Erik’s kids know all too well, he has never met a boring story that he can’t make longer.

  • In August 1984, Erik Heels first got on the Internet at MIT as part of Project Athena. He knew, somehow, that the Internet was going to be a thing.
  • In August 1992, Erik Heels published his first book, “The Legal List.” The book was the first to be published simultaneously online and in print. The novel print-and-pay copyright under which the book was published payed for Erik’s law school education. Framed in Erik’s office is a copy of a check for “The Legal List” from the United States Supreme Court.
  • In October 1993, Erik Heels registered his first domain name,
  • In August 1995, Erik Heels registered his first domain dot-com domain name,
  • In September 2008, Erik sold the business (high-end shoes for women) he co-founded to his co-founder.

And just like Erik’s subsequent books have been less popular than his first, Erik’s subsequent domain name projects have been less successful than

On 2007-08-24, Erik registered 184 generic domain names with “blog” in them, including Erik started with the General Service List (GSL), a list of about 2000 words that occur most frequently in English, and then he added “” to all of the 3-letter, 4-letter, and 5-letter words on the GSL. Plus a few interesting longer words. His intent was (and is) to sell the domain names to help pay for college for his kids. Erik also hired his then 9-year-old daughter to blog about each domain, to teach her about writing, blogging, business, and the Internet.

On 2007-10-10, Erik registered 24 generic domain names with “buzz” in them, with the same (lack of) results.

Ben’s Failblog Story

On 2008-01-03, Ben Huh launched the comedic blog FAIL BlogĀ  (

In May 2008, Ben Huh and Erik Heels had this very boring email conversation:

Date: Mon, May 19, 2008 at 8:03 PM
From: Ben Huh <> 

Hi Erik,

I'm interested in the domain Are you the owner?


Date: Mon, May 19, 2008 at 9:49 PM
Subject: Re:
From: Erik J. Heels <>
To: Ben Huh <>


Yes, I am the owner.

Erik J. Heels
work: 978-823-0008

Date: Mon, May 19, 2008 at 10:16 PM
Subject: Re:
From: Ben Huh <>
To: "Erik J. Heels" <>

Hi Erik,

Would you be interested in selling the domain?



Heels reports that, although he and Huh spoke later by phone, Huh never made any written offer for the domain name.

On 2008-05-21, two days after the above email exchange, Ben Huh’s company purchased the domain name for $15,750 (

By January 2010, FAIL Blog was receiving 1.1 million unique visitors per month (

In February 2016, GeekWire reported that FAIL Blog’s owner, Cheezburger, had been sold to an unnamed buyer (


On 2016-04-01, Erik Heels announced his intent to sell his 184 blog-related domain names and 24 buzz-related domain names, preferably in bulk ( As he said in his blog post, “I registered these domain names in bulk, so I think it makes sense to sell them in bulk.”

What happens next is anyone’s guess.

There are certainly multiple fails in this story. But whose is the bigger fail? Heels for registering the domain name and failing to build a business on it? Or Huh for building his business on the domain name and not on the dot-com?

Told you it was boring. It’ll be longer the next time.

Related Posts

How To Regain Your Social Networking Virginity

Simplifying your life on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks.


In 1990, I worked evenings and weekends doing programming for Cayman Systems in Cambridge, MA, both to earn extra money to pay off my college loans and to keep my brain from atrophying in my day job. One day, as the company was struggling with costs, profitability, and competition, I heard one of the founders say, “Well, this company is just an experiment.” Which is both a healthy attitude (for startup types) and unsettling news (for employees).

Life, as it turns out, is an experiment. We live, we learn, we change, we grow. So I view social networking as just one chapter in the ongoing experiment that is the book of life.

And just as I take more chances in life than most, I take more chances with social networking. Habit #2 of the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (book by Stephen R. Covey) is “begin with the end in mind.” With social networking, my end game (as modified by this article) is to have a network of people I know and trust, and to grow that network organically. My goal is not to have the most followers. Just like a gardener’s goal shouldn’t be to plant the most weeds, hoping for the occasional fruit.

But I certainly didn’t start out as an organic gardener.

I’m an early adopter of most new technologies. If I’m doing a thing that nobody else is doing, then I believe the world is wrong, and I keep doing the thing. Then comes mass adoption of the thing. And I don’t like feeling like one of the sheep in the herd. So if I find myself doing a thing that everybody else is doing, then I believe the world is wrong, and I stop doing the thing. Or I do it differently. Or I find a new thing. But not always. It’s complicated.

Here’s a timeline of when I’ve adopted various technologies, sprinkled with personal milestones for reference:

1984-06 – graduated from high school
1984-08 – got on the Internet (MIT Project Athena)
1988-05 – graduated from MIT
1988-07 – swam in the Arctic Ocean
1989-07 – soloed a jet in the USAF
1992-08 – wrote first book
1993-10 – registered first domain name (
1995-05 – graduated from law school
1995-08 – registered first dot-com domain name (
1997-03 – launched law firm website
2000-05 – had my first exit (Verio acquisition)
2003-02 – started blogging
2003-10 – joined LinkedIn
2005-01 – co-founded
2006-04 – joined Facebook
2008-10 – joined Twitter
2009-10 – separated
2010-10 – divorced
2011-07 – joined Google+
2012-10 – engaged
2013-10 – married
2014-04 – regained social networking virginity

Every three years or so, something new, cool, and seemingly revolutionary happens. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m pretty sure it’s not nothing, and I’m pretty sure I’ll give it a whirl.

Today, when the general consensus is that the more social networking the better, I’m announcing that I’ve taken a different path: less is more. I have scaled back my social networking, including deleting much of the content I’ve created on social networks. Here’s what I did, network by network, and why.

Purging Twitter

Twitter is a social network that is based on short 140-character updates. You can follow anyone, anyone can follow you. You can block anyone, anyone can block you. Anyone can sign up: individuals, brands, anonymous users. In 2008, Twitter and Twitter tools were everywhere. When functionality did not exist in Twitter, users (and occasionally Twitter itself) would create it. Twitter was so popular it was on the verge of becoming a protocol (like SMTP for email).

I joined Twitter in 2008. My first Tweet didn’t suck:

The URL ( resolves to a Google search URL (

Shortly after joining Twitter, I did everything that one can do on Twitter. I Tweeted, I re-Tweeted, I replied, I favorited, I created lists, I followed, I followed back. In short, I was fast-forward social networking. All Twitter all the time. In a very short time, I was listed among the “elite” Twitter users on all the sites that claimed to measure such status:


But then a couple of things happened.

First, Twitter started looking for ways to make money. And started closing off its once very open ecosystem. Twitter started focusing on what was best for Twitter, and that is not always best for Twitter users. It’s APIs became more restrictive, Twitter acquired popular third-party services, and tried to get more people to go to the Twitter website.

Second, I took a hard loook at my followers. And I realized that they were full of robots, spammers, scammers, and the like. In short, I realized that my kids would not be proud of those following me on Twitter. I was embarrassed by my followers. And if you are what you eat, then I think you are also the company you keep, including those who follow you. In short, I was a Twitter whore.

The unfollowing and blocking. In the summer of 2009, after peaking (bottoming out?) at 27,035 followers (or so), I decided to unfollow everybody to see what happened. Twitter does not make it easy to unfollow everyone. Twitter doesn’t want its network to have fewer connections, Twitter wants more connections. But I was determined, and two months later, I was following zero users. About 43% of my followers unfollowed me. Many of these followers were using third-party services to auto-unfollow. Just like SEO experts try to game the system by tweaking variables on web pages to get higher rankings in Google, Twitter experts try to game the system by having the “right” ratio of following/followers, the “right” number of Tweets/day, or whatever stat is believed to be important.

But many of my followers didn’t care, because they were not real followers. Many of my remaining followers (about 14,000 of them) were still robots, spammers, scammers, and the like. Unfollowing them didn’t make them go away. So I began the even slower task of blocking the bad ones. Twitter really doesn’t want you to block users and limits you to blocking 100 users every 24 hours. You can’t even find which users you’ve blocked and when! The larger your network, the better for Twitter.

On 2013-01-13, I had 14,341 followers, and I started blocking the spammy ones at the rate of about 300/week. On 2014-02-19, 401 days later, I had 605 followers. I had blocked at least 13,736 users. In other words, I determined that 95% of my Twitter followers were spam.

Spam, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. I consider an account spam if it acts spammy. There are many ways to act spammy:

  1. having a bio with spammy words
  2. having no bio
  3. having no photo
  4. Tweeting spammy Tweets
  5. sending spammy direct messages
  6. favoriting Tweets in a spammy sort of way
  7. re-Tweeting spam
  8. creating lists like a spammer
  9. spam spam spamity spam

Anything that a real user can do on the Internet, a spammer can do. And Twitter brought its spam problem upon itself. Because it is so easy to create a Twitter account, real users can signup and start Tweeting quickly. But so can fake users.

So I purged everything I could on Twitter of spam: followers, following, lists, direct messages, favorites.

Deleting old Tweets. Twitter lets you download an archive of your Tweets (under Settings -> Account). This is the only practical way to view/search all of your past Tweets. Twitter doesn’t want you to delete your Tweets. The larger your network, the better for Twitter. So when you get your archive, you can view your old Tweets, but you have to make a real effort to view them online, where you can delete them. As far as I can tell, there is no limit to the number of Tweets you can delete in a 24-hour period.

I reviewed all of my old Tweets and deleted those that had no long-term value. Many referred to services that no longer exist, had URLs that no longer work, or that I’d forgotten about, such as (FriendFeed), (Seesmic Ping), (a URL-shortener service that was much more popular before Twitter launched its own), and (a photo sharing service that was much more popular before Twitter launched its own).

Here is a snapshot of my Twitter usage from 2008-2013.


My most loquacious month was March 2009, with 952 Tweets. Yowza.

It’s not a surprise to me that my Twitter use peaked from 2009-2010, the same time I was going through separation and divorce. I was pretty lonely during that time, and Twitter was a good companion. I’m also embarrassed at lots of my older Tweets. I was always opinionated, often grumpy, sometimes mean. I sincerely apologize to those I hurt or offended. So I deleted 95% of my 12,500 Tweets. On 2014-03-20, a month after I’d finished blocking my spammy followers, I finished deleting old useless Tweets.

In summary, on Twitter, 95% of my network was spammy, and 95% of my Tweets were not worth saving.

Purging LinkedIn

When LinkedIn was launched in 2003, I don’t think anyone referred to it as a social network. It was really an online business networking service, where professionals could post their resumes and (re)connect with colleagues and classmates. If Twitter is the hare of social networking, then LinkedIn is the tortoise. Bet on the tortoise.

I joined LinkedIn in 2003, and it is my only social network that has steadily grown each quarter.

LinkedIn allows users to post status updates online, but unlike the other social networks, LinkedIn does not save updates for more than a few weeks. I only recently learned this, and, as a result, I’ve stopped posting updates to LinkedIn. You can also customize what updates you see on LinkedIn (Home -> All Updates -> Customize). I turned off everything and now see only 4 (default) top updates of breaking news stories. It’s like an information diet.

There is, of course, spam on LinkedIn, but not very much. Some users, especially those with 500+ connections and those who tag their profile with “LION” (which stands for “LinkedIn Open Networking”), will send you spammy messages, but you can easily mark such messages as spam. And if you’re connected to a spammy user, you can remove LInkedIn connections as well. LinkedIn makes it difficult to disconnect, and I’m not sure where this URL exists on their site (I’m a bookmarker), so here it is:

Removing LinkedIn Connections

I rarely give spammers a second chance (unless their account has been hacked). Once a spammer, always a spammer.

Purging Google+

Launched in 2011, Google+ is Google’s third or fourth (depending on how you’re counting) foray into social networking. It’s pretty darn good. Because it’s the newest of my social networks, it was also the easiest to purge. I didn’t have to delete many updates. And I pretty much only connect with folks I’ve met in person.

One nice feature about Google+ is that it is easy to identify whether (and, if so, how) a new follower is connected to you. From the Google+ “Added you” page (Home -> People -> Added You), you can click through to each new follower’s profile and see if you know people in common. The more popular Google+ gets, the more spammy followers you’ll get.

I opted to remove most biological info about me from Google+, since those who have my email address will be able to find me, and since I’ve been at my current job for well over a decade. I’m not sure how helpful it would be to reconnect with someone I worked with 20 years ago. Besides, I feel that my social networking resume belongs primarily on my website, secondarily on LinkedIn. I really don’t want or need to maintain more than a couple versions of my bio and work history online.

Purging Facebook

When Facebook launched in 2004, it was a closed network that was available only to certain Ivy League schools. Since MIT was among one of the early “in” schools, I was able to join Facebook earlier than most in the spring of 2006. Later that year, Facebook opened up to the world.

Facebook, like Twitter, was difficult to purge. Twitter lacks a good way to view and edit all of your content. Facebook has timeline review, which is just barely functional, especially if you’ve been posting for a few years. Nevertheless, if you are patient, you can go to the Facebook activity log (Home -> Profile -> Activity Log) to delete, hide, or highlight content in all sorts of categories (your posts, posts you’re tagged in, posts by others, posts you’ve hidden, photos, likes, comments, about, friends, notes, music, news, video, games, books, products, following, groups, events, questions, search history, and apps).

I noticed that a few events that were created before Facebook’s latest events interface did not show up under the “events” section but did (if you were patient) show up under your timeline. I found events (with photos and videos) that I had long since forgotten about and deleted most of them. Similarly, I have a couple of “phantom” likes: pages that I liked that later merged with other pages, and I cannot unlike the page because the original URL no longer exists. As such, my like count is not zero; I’m assuming Facebook will eventually fix this bug.

In any event, I deleted most of my content, unliked everything, and deleted most of my biological info (as I did on Google+).

Purging Websites, Email, Newsletters

I removed the numerous (and colorful) social networking icons from my email signature and replaced them with this:

Patents, Trademarks, Boston

The above simplification was based on a LifeHacker article about minimal email signatures.

And if you have ever called my cell and gotten voice mail, then you know it sounds a lot like the above looks: “My name is Erik Heels, and this is my voice mail.” That’s all you need to know.

Each month, I review email from 10+ years ago. I star and save the good stuff, I delete the rest.

On my website and blog, I removed the social networking plugins that added those “share to Facebook” (and the like) links to each of my posts.

I removed all SEO plugins from my WordPress blogs. I think SEO is largely deceptive. If you write one title that is visible on Google, and another title appears on the website, how is that better? Besides, my business is B2B, not B2C, with my website/blog being used to validate a referral, not generate a lead. Most SEO consultants will tell you that I’m wrong, but consider the source. SEO works best for SEO consultants. You want good SEO? Write good content, good SEO will follow.

I also had to remove the newsletter signup pages from my blog and website because my newsletter signup forms were being spammed! Besides, I don’t publish my newsletter very frequently. And I don’t really want to use one service to promote another. It’s quite annoying to follow someone on Twitter and then get an auto-DM saying, “Follow me on Facebook too!”

I want to use my website to drive website traffic.

I want to use my newsletter to drive newsletter subscriptions.

I want to use each of my social networks to grow each of my social networks.

I want to garden organically.

Going Forward: What To Write About

I write primarily about law, technology, baseball, and music. Going forward, I am limiting my posts to those that cover at least two of these categories – or one in depth. More signal, less noise. My recent blog post about Shane Victorino’s intro music is a good example, as it is about both baseball and music.

One thing I noticed about my old Tweets: many were about Twitter.

Many early Facebook posts were about Facebook.

Early Google+ posts were about Google.

And that’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, they like it!

But I can tell you this definitively: Apple, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter don’t need the press. If you can avoid writing about them, then your content will be better. And, yes, I’m aware of the irony. This may very well be my last post on this topic. I feel I owed an explanation to those who may have been wondering where I’ve been, and an apology to those I hurt (sorry).

My Following/Blocking Rules and Content Rules For All Social Networks

As far as who I follow, who I don’t follow, and who I block, it’s pretty simple:

  • I follow people I know and trust. You know who you are.
  • I don’t follow brands (not even my own). I want to connect with the people behind the brands.
  • I don’t let brands follow me, unless they are directly connected to me (like my own companies).
  • I block anyone who acts spammy.

In terms of what content I post where:

  • I use LinkedIn for my resume.
  • I use YouTube for videos that contain original music and videos that do not contain music.
  • I use Facebook for videos that contain music (except original music). Facebook does copyright fair use way better than Google/YouTube does.
  • I use Facebook for photos, so I can easily share pics with those who are not on Facebook. At least until Facebook eliminates this feature.


At some point in our lives, we start valuing our space more than the things that take up that space. That’s partially why my parents initially downsized from a house into a condo. But just like there is no house that is ideal for all, there are no universal social networking rules. There is no right, there is no wrong. You don’t have to over-think it (as I admittedly may have done), but you should definitely think about it.

A parting exercise. Go to your Twitter followers page. Scroll down to the middle. Take a screen shot. Do you like what you see? You’re looking in the mirror. What would the king of pop do?

You can’t plant a garden and reserve a spot for weeds, the weeds always win.

Erik J. Heels is a patent and trademark lawyer for Boston startups, Red Sox fan, MIT engineer, and musician. He blogs about technology, law, baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll at

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Valentine’s Day Confessions of a Shoe Blogger

Long tail is long.

From 2007-2008, I cofounded (along with Eric McCoy) the women’s shoe store. One of my initial jobs was getting the blog online and writing the initial content. Over five years later, many of the 99 blog posts that I wrote (see list below) are still generating traffic for In search engine optimization (SEO) language, this is called the long tail of ecommerce. The store has also expanded from about 43 brands of shoes to about 144 brands of women shoes.

The lesson for law firms? Start writing relevant content now for your blog. Blog a little or blog a lot. But blog regularly. It will pay off in the long run.

Oh yeah, and disregard what the so-called “experts” say. On the Internet, there are no experts. There is only change, and change is constant. (FWIW, I have blogging for ten years.)

Erik J. Heels is a trademark and patent lawyer, Boston Red Sox fan, MIT engineer, and musician. He blogs about technology, law, baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll at

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99 Posts (on

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  4. Zinc Shoes (03/10/2008)
    Zinc shoes at
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  8. Steven by Steve Madden (03/08/2008)
    Steven by Steve Madden shoes at
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  10. Pour La Victoire (03/07/2008)
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  11. Sam Edelman (03/07/2008)
    Sam Edelman shoes at
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  13. Report Shoes (03/06/2008)
    Report shoes at
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    Poetic Licence shoes at
  15. oh…DEER! (03/05/2008)
    oh…DEER! shoes at
  16. Not Rated (03/05/2008)
    Not Rated shoes at
  17. Nine West (03/04/2008)
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  18. Nicole Shoes (03/04/2008)
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  19. Naughty Monkey (03/03/2008)
    Naughty Monkey shoes at
  20. Natural Comfort (03/03/2008)
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  21. N.Y.L.A. (03/02/2008)
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    Dollhouse shoes at
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  48. Diba (2/19/2008)
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  53. Cindy Says (1/30/2008)
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  70. Store Update (1/15/2008)
    New arrivals and on sale shoes even easier to find.
  71. Blog Overhaul (01/14/2008)
    Change is constant.
  72. Founders Tell Their Story (11/12/2007)
    Plus a discount coupon code!
  73. Columbus Discovers Shoes (10/08/2007)
  74. Why Do Women Wear High Heels? (09/11/2007)
    The answer may surprise you.
  75. Putting Comfort Into High Heels (09/10/2007)
    From A Podiatrist And An MIT Rocket Scientist.
  76. Heels and Bags Mashup (09/09/2007)
    Match game.
  77. Decorations For Your Feet (09/08/2007)
    Party on!
  78. Slingback (09/07/2007)
    A thousand words.
  79. GameBoy Shoes (09/06/2007)
    Do not want!
  80. How To Deal With Broken Heels (09/04/2007)
    Don’t ditch ’em, fix ’em!
  81. Love Of Fashionable Footwear Brings People Together For Shoe Club (09/03/2007)
    Social networking for shoe lovers.
  82. Girls Say Wearing Heels Makes Them Happiest (09/02/2007)
    Agreed. High heels = happy.
  83. Stepping Out With My Baby (09/01/2007)
    Nice Flickr photos.
  84. Red High Heels Video :: Kellie Pickler (08/31/2007)
    The original music video.
  85. Red High Heels Video :: Kellie Pickler on The View (08/30/2007)
    Pick Pickler!
  86. Metallic Silver Sandals (08/29/2007)
    Look, something shiny!
  87. Video Teaches How To Walk In High Heels (08/28/2007)
    Because we were all newbies once.
  88. Adjustable High Heels (08/27/2007)
    Shoes that convert from flats to high-heels.
  89. Blogroll :: Shoeaholics Anonymous (08/23/2007)
    Your Shoe Addiction Secret is Safe with Us!
  90. Blogroll :: Teenfashionista (08/22/2007)
    By a nineteen-year-old aspiring fashion writer who is determined to make it big in the fashion world.
  91. Blogroll :: ShoeBUYTES (08/21/2007)
    The official fashion blog of
  92. Blogroll :: Chic Alert (08/20/2007)
    Designer Clothing, Shoes, Handbags, Jewelry.
  93. Blogroll :: ShoeBlog (08/19/2007)
    The ShoeBlog is a site dedicated to women’s shoes.
  94. Blogroll :: I Love Shoes, Shoes, and Shoes (08/18/2007)
    A personal space to rant and rave about shoe-mania.
  95. Blogroll :: “The” Shoe Blog (08/17/2007)
    Because shoes don’t judge.
  96. Blogroll :: Soles4Souls (08/16/2007)
    A nonprofit that provides shoes for the needy.
  97. Blogroll :: Sole Satisfaction (08/15/2007)
    I can’t get no … sole satisfaction!
  98. Blogroll :: Shoe Queen (08/14/2007)
    Hail to the queen, she’s the queen and so we hail her.
  99. Stop Making Sense (08/13/2007)
    Gotta love that big suit.