The end of 2022 marks 3 full years since the Osint Me blog appeared online.
Let me start with extending a huge thank you to every reader and fan. I want to wish everybody a great 2023 in all spheres of life and I wish you all every success in your pursuits.
This blog post will be a synopsis of the last 3 years and the (part-time) efforts I made to develop this side project of mine.
In 2019 I left what I previously hoped to be a lifelong career in law enforcement and entered the uncharted (at the time) waters of the private sector. I had the idea of creating a dedicated OSINT and digital privacy website and I wanted its contents to be something that I myself would enjoy reading.
It has worked out more or less OK but I still want to improve, develop and expand on some of the things I write about.
This is how it’s shaped up so far:
Before delving into the stats and figures, I want to share a quote I once got from a professor, back in my university days. This one is about the ultimate fallacy of statistics and the ambiguity of metrics:
“If I’m brain dead and you’re a genius, statistically speaking we’re both halfwits.”
Bear this in mind when looking at the figures below.
WordPress enables access to a wide range of blog readership metrics – both through its internal tools or compatible plugins (I use the free version of Jetpack). I don’t want to get too granular about this, but for example there is a difference between the numbers of views vs the numbers of viewers, unique visitors, and so on. Also, some portion of the views likely belongs to bots, search engine indexers and other non-human activity.
At the time of writing, the Osint Me blog had very close to 356,000 views in total. The average daily view count is approximately 500 views – this is on days when no new blog posts are published. When new content does get published, the view count increases by multiples – on occasions with close to 10x spikes in views.
The most useful information by far is the view count of individual posts – a natural way to see what is popular and what isn’t. This is also a good indicator for me about what type of content to focus on in the future, if I want to maximise readership.
So here come 5 all time most popular blog posts – accounting for approximately 1/3 of the total viewership count on the whole blog:
I also run a simple, infrequent and irregular newsletter that typically serves the last 4 posts. No spam, no clickbaits, ads, marketing offers or anything like that. You can subscribe anonymously with any email address and unsubscribe whenever you want.
Currently the newsletter subscriber count stands just below 500 readers.
Admittedly, I’m not a big social media user and I treat social media engagement somewhat as a chore, which is evident from the fairly low message count and the (in)frequency of posts.
At the same time I recognise the importance of an amplified voice and online presence, which can only be achieved through social media.
The first and the most obvious choice for a social media platform was Twitter – this was due to the presence of a strong, organically developed and ever growing community of open source intelligence enthusiasts and practitioners. In the last 3 years I gained a total of just over 5,400 followers on Twitter – some of whom actively helped me shape this site, its contents and focus.
The second social media platform I use is LinkedIn – initially I had not intended to use it to amplify the blog posts reach, but turns out I found a pretty good audience there. At the time of writing this, I had just over 1,700 followers on LinkedIn.
I also experimented with posting content on Reddit, but that didn’t really work out as expected. Multiple posts were removed by mods and admins for no apparent reasons and none of the OSINT-related posts that made it through never really gained any major traction there. You can still find me on Reddit but my presence and activity there are fairly low key – as is the follower count of 25.
The costs & earnings
I’ll start with the latter one because it’s pretty easy – the earnings, profits, monetisation, financial benefits of running this blog for the last 3 years have amounted to the grand total of ZERO :).
Don’t get me wrong, there were actually multiple opportunities to make “a quick buck” – all of which I turned down. The reason why I did turn them down was because nearly all of them appeared to be either blatantly suspicious / borderline illegal or they would have required entering into some affiliate copywriting deal, which would have turned this side project of mine into a paid content delivery website and me into an advertisement peddler. So – thanks, but no thanks.
Up to recently, I had a Bitcoin donation address (total received donations in the last 3 years – ZERO).
I took it down because it only seemed to have invited people asking about some of the activities I mentioned below and willing to pay with BTC to a fresh, non-public address. I don’t approve of abusing Bitcoin payments for illicit activities and don’t want to encourage people asking about it.
Unfortunately, I still receive offers here and there, tempting me with “great deals”, “rewarding partnerships” and various “opportunities” ranging from shady to scammy. Some of the people who contact me with these have obviously failed to read the Who am I? page.
To summarise, here is a quick list of the types of activities I am NOT interested in:
- Doxxing people, finding people’s ex-partners, “digging up dirt”;
- Hacking Facebook or Instagram or other accounts (not for nudes, not for anything else!)
- Publishing paid reviews of any kind of products on my site;
- Publishing favourable reviews of tools in exchange for free access to them;
- Advertising of any kind, actually;
- “Growth partnerships”, endorsements, guest posts and similar nonsense;
- Being a private investigator for hire / hacktivist / vigilante / a digital Philip Marlowe.
Now to the expenditure part. The biggest cost (investment?) with this blog by far has been the time spent to research and write up half-decent articles. It takes longer than I initially expected.
The other costs are more constant and measurable. These are:
- Hosting – I use a Polish hosting company that offers relatively competitive rates for long term hosting, especially when compared to many Western providers. In October 2022 I paid the hosting fee of approximately 130 euro for hosting the website for the next 3 years.
- Domain renewal – this is a separate cost to the hosting fee and has to be paid each year to avoid the domain name expiry. This costs approximately 25 euro.
- SSL certificate – also a yearly cost of approximately 12 euro. Previously paid this for convenience only, but now I rely on the auto-renewing, free security certificates from Let’s Encrypt.
To summarise the total cost of running the Osint Me blog so far (which also includes payments already made in respect of the domain renewal for 2023 & hosting until 2025) – a total of 380 euro.
Personal brand building
As is very common for any former, non-high ranked law enforcement officer, at the time of leaving “the job” I had absolutely no personal brand, recognition or reputation either online or in the wider professional context.
Thanks to conscious efforts to reshape this, and for the large part owing to some of the Osint Me blog posts, this situation changed rather dramatically in the last 3 years:
- I appeared on national TV – RTE News – and also on RTE Radio in the context of discussing the HSE ransomware attack in 2021.
- I was quoted in multiple news articles and outlets, most notably in The Independent and The Irish Times – all as a result of the Osint Me blog posts, in connection with the HSE ransomware attack, the Facebook data leak, my investigation into the fake Irish vaccine passports sold on the darkweb and my experiences as the first foreign recruit of An Garda Siochana and why I ultimately left it.
- I took part in several industry-specific conferences, including presenting at the SANS OSINT Summit 2022 on how to to investigate phishing campaigns.
- I published my own articles in several online (and paper!) magazines and periodicals.
- I consistently appear as No.1 in Google searches for terms like “Ireland OSINT” or “OSINT in Ireland” (apart from the times when somebody decides to pay for an SEO campaign or have their link appear as an ad – then I briefly move to No.2).
- I received an invite to appear before the Irish Parliament’s Joint Committee on Transport and Communications to discuss Ireland’s cyber security (regrettably I was unable to attend due to some external circumstances).
- I was invited to appear twice on the Claire Byrne Live TV show (sadly this was cancelled twice at the very last minute before the show).
There were probably more things that did not make this list because I forgot they happened – but the main point I will make is this: if you are passionate about something and want to build your own brand that will rival the best written resume or CV – GO MAKE A BLOG. It will pay off a hundredfold.
Join communities, network, talk to more people. Or talk to people more. All of which is the advice I am going to take as well and apply it in 2023.
Big thank you once again to all of you for accompanying me on this journey.