Monday, December 29, 2008

Who wants bias? I do! I do!

Just a quick link to Louis Gray's post: Bias, Bias and More Bias. I Haz It. So Do You..

I like it. We do indeed all have bias, and while striving to be objective is a worthy pursuit, the question is how to we deal with the fact that none of us can really completely eradicate our biases. Well, I recently had a long discussion with an analyst, and I said it that how to deal with it really comes down to context and disclosure.

If you disclose enough for your readers' satisfaction, you're probably OK. And if the content you're publishing is relevant and appropriate to the context in which you're publishing it, your readers will probably be OK with that too.

One size does not fit all, because, I will repeat: There is not one blogosphere; there are many. What is good for the personal journal blogging goose may not be good for the journalistic blogging goose or the business consulting blogging good...and vice versa versa.

Context and disclosure.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

New Marketing for a Struggling Broadway

The NY Times has an interesting article today about how Broadway is turning to the Internet and new marketing as a way to try to survive and thrive in these times.

While they do cite some examples of truly innovative and creative uses of the medium, most notably by the creator/star of In the Heights, they also talk starry-eyed about some stuff that's just the same old tired marketing delivered via new web 2.0 tools.

That show's producer has it right when he says: "“Technology is the tool, not the destination,” Mr. McCollum said. “The destination is a live audience.”" He also opines: "His theory is that the more people gravitate toward technology, the more they will hunger for human interaction."

Exactly right.

And text messaging to enter a sweepstakes or contest may indeed use a new channel, but it's not delivering that promise of human interaction. Starting a walled garden social network attached to a Broadway show site is also using modern technology, but not embracing the modern concepts of distributing and participating all across the Internet where your audience is already hanging out, rather than trying to lure them to you.

When I started my Worker Bees consulting practice, I focused on local theatres because I thought blogging and other social media had tremendous promise to bring new and existing audience members backstage virtually and make them feel as much an integral part of any live performance as, in truth, they are.

Then, as now with BlogHer, I have a core belief that one size does not fit all in this new media world. I can't imagine why some of the ideas being tried, as described in the Times article, would actually bring people into the theatre, hearts racing as the lights dim.

But the creator of In the Heights using his own time and talents to develop something unique and share it with the world? Now, that could inspire a trip to the theatre next time I'm in NYC!

Cross-posted at the SF Bay Area Theatre Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The reports of blogging's death are highly exaggerated

I think there are some interesting conversations going on right now re: the "Is blogging dead (and mostly because of Twitter)?" meme.

I was quoted in a Fast Company story about this as saying that each has their place...and that “blogs continue to be the place where people introduce, explore and discuss events in their lives, ideas in their minds and the causes they care about.”

While the geek digerati may occasionally be self-obsessed navel gazers who overestimate their own importance in the scheme of the blogosphere, they are certainly having an interesting conversation about just this subject (again) right now.

Some links:

Francine Hardaway rocks my world with a post entitled: "Jason Calcanis, I Love You, But You Are Wrong"

There's so much good stuff I'm having trouble finding the key excerpt, but I do think she makes a fresh point here:
"You guys who get a lot of traffic and have tried to monetize your blogs directly have asked for the trolls. In the early days, you link-loved, link-baited, and trackbacked yourselves to death. YOU established the conventions for what constitutes successful blogging by starting and fomenting the bitch-memes during the dull times. Now you have angry mobs shaking their verbal fists at you, but you stirred them up."

I'm not exactly a blame-the-victim gal...I mean no one is responsible for really bad behavior but the person exhibiting it. Still, it's valid to say that certain sites and online communities get exactly the kind of environment they foster and allow. Complaining about it later is, at the very least, not showing much 20-20 hindsight.

Then, Mike Arrington stirs the pot and gets even more personal by telling Robert Scoble he needs an intervention over his FriendFeed addiction:

Key excerpt:
"So lots of people follow Robert on those services, but they aren’t visiting his site and the content he writes is on someone else’s server. Plus all that content is just really forgettable, compared to a good thought piece that people refer back to over time. There is no direct way to monetize any of that content, which is something that a full time blogger with a family really needs to think about.
Meanwhile, all this attention from Robert has certainly helped the valuations of Friendfeed and Twitter. How much of that value does Robert receive? Zilch."

Scoble, of course, responds...and with a blog post even!

He lists the pros and cons of blogging less and mega-chatting more. You'll have to read his list yourselves to see if you agree or to judge how you weight the pros and cons he lists against each other.

Finally, Steve Rubel has his own take:

Key excerpt:
"In 2009 I think we're going to see a lot of the old guard return to their roots - their blogs. The reason is home field advantage. Why build build Twitter or Friendfeed's equity, when you can invest in the turf you spent so much time on? That said, there are tremendous advantages to doing all of the above.
Louis Gray, Chris Brogan and Jeremiah Owyang all seem to have the right model. They do it all. How, I don't know but they do. I have been blogging more lately too. I missed writing long form. My roof has a leak and I am fixing it. Scoble should do the same and I bet he will.

I wrote a post on this earlier this year: Should You Rent or Buy Social Real Estate. The answer - both. But ask first which helps pay the bills. In my case it's my blog. Twitter and Friendfeed are steroids.

As personal branding becomes a weapon in a down economy, look for blogging to make a return run."

The interesting thing is that I don't follow any of these last three guys very closely anymore, and certainly not very passionately. Their work has become less and less relevant to my daily life. I scan their stories in my feed reader, and have certainly noticed how Steve and Robert barely blog anymore. Because I am a Twitter/FriendFeed participant, but by no means an addict who must keep track of everyone's river of information and opinion, I've lost touch with the people who rely mostly on that as their means of expression.

This is a macro conversation worth reading, and I think Steve is right that more and more bloggers are going to think long and hard, and ask themselves these questions:

-What fulfills the goals I have for my online presence?
-What serves my long-term plan?
-What delivers short-term value?
-How do I weigh the different answers and decide what to prioritize?
-Perhaps most importantly: what does not deserve the mental space and hours in the day that I've giving it?

I know that some people will abandon their blogs for a mega-chat life.

But I do think 2009 will see many people return to their online roots: Blogging and reading their online community's blogs.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I do hate lazy conclusions

Especially when they seem drawn simply to discredit social media and its commercial viability. Today's annoyance:

A Marketing Vox article: Older Women More Purposeful Online than Younger Peers

Actually I think the data is pretty good, and maps quite closely to the insights we were able to draw from our own March 2008 Benchmark Study of Women and Blogging [PDF], conducted with Compass Partners. One such example being that younger generations are more interested in each other's lives, older generations more interested in actionable information.

Here's what made me cranky:

Like findings in other studies, the SheSpeaks research also found that advertising on social networking sites is largely ineffective. Among those surveyed, one-quarter (26%) of respondents say they actively ignore such ads and 20% say they are annoyed by the presence of online ads on social networking sites.

My firsy question: Are those two stats additive, and could people choose only one? Meaning: Does that mean 46% were annoyed or ignored the ad? (Which, by the way, indicates that over half over respondents had no such negative reaction>)

If they're not from the same choose-only-one question of the survey, then I'm not sure how 26% ignoring an ad = "largely ineffective". That means that three quarters of the respondents do notice ads. Do we think TV viewers, newspaper readers or magazine readers are drastically different?

"Largely ineffective" is a completely subjective (and I might venture unsupported) conclusion.

Know what I mean?

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twitter, APIs, and becoming lax on security

Recently I was testing out various iPhone apps for accessing Twitter, instead of simply going through the web browser on the iPhone. I finally settled on Twitterfon. I downloaded it directly for the iPhone from the iPhone app store.

After using it for a while it started inexplicably crashing. I tweeted about my issue, and then noticed a Twitterer with the handle twitterfon started following me. When I checked out their profile, they appeared to represent Twitterfon and had a link to post explaining a way to fix the crashing while waiting for Apple to approve their software update for the App store. The solution included providing your Twitter log-in. Now, here's the thing: Twitterfon is apparently created by Naan Studio, but I didn't know that. So, when I saw a page on some site based on a domain with which I was unfamiliar, and asking for my log-in info...I got suspicious. I did not provide my info and decided to wait for the update to be made available via the App store. (All this took place on my iPhone of course, so perhaps if I'd been on my laptop withe a larger screen and faster connection I would have explored more, but I didn't.)

I don't know quite why someone would do it, but it wasn't hard for me to imagine that someone could see the tweeting about Twitterfon issues, and create both the page to collect people's twitter log-in info and the Twitterfon Twitter handle and collect away.

I was reminded of this after reading this TechCrunch article on a new Twitter service, offered by someone TC proprietor Mike Arrington finds suspect.

The kicker is the final paragraph:
None of this matters that much for users. Except that they must type their Twitter credentials directly into Twitblog to test the service. That’s iffy at the best of times. But when a service is run by someone who’s shown questionable ethical behavior in the past, it’s a non-starter. The service also lacks terms of use and a privacy policy, so users won’t know how their private information may be used, sold or exploited.

No "terms of use and a privacy policy"????

I now a lot of us don't read those things carefully, if at all. Usually it's on sites where you need to register to use that create an account, including your email address, and hope and pray it doesn't end up generating loads of spam or something else like that.

But I do think it's something we ought to be especially careful about when giving up private information like log-in information to a different, entirely unconnected service! Services like Twitter and Facebook have created an environment where third parties are gaining access to our log-in info. Facebook seems more secure, because it all happens within the Facebook universe, and because there is the assumption that Facebook has some authority over third party apps that are written for their site.

Not so with the various apps making use of our Twitter log-in info.

I realize it's a bit ironic that I handed over my log-in info to the Twitterfon app to begin with, but again: accessing it via the iPhone App Store gave it credibility.

How do you decide when or whether to share such info? Do you read terms of service and privacy policies? Do you notice when they aren't there? Are you getting cavalier about your log-in identities?

Most important of all: Are you one of those people who mindlessly lets Facebook apps send themselves to your entire friend community, rather than skipping that step? 'Cause you shouldn't be.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sigh. Sometimes I don't get it.

It's the holiday season, and like lots of people this is the one time of the year that I do a lot of shopping. And like lots of people I'm increasingly doing as much of my shopping online as I possibly can.

Today I tried to buy my S.O. a bunch of jeans and tees form The Gap. Nothing's his software developer uniform, and his collection is getting a bit worn and frayed around the edge. I'll be honest: I'm 44 years old, and I don't shop for myself at The Gap anymore. BUt I do have a Gap Card, which at one time I used semi-regularly.

And they are happy to end me marketing emails every other week, you can be sure of that.

But today I discovered that because I hadn't used my card in 2 years as of October 2008, they closed my account. I discovered that because when I tried to check out using my account information, they couldn't process it.

I called and spoke to someone, and she confirmed that they had closed my account less than 2 months ago. She claims they would have sent a letter informing me. It could be true. I don't recall receiving such a letter (and October isn't that long ago) but even if they did send such a letter it was to inform me they had closed my account, not to ask me if I wanted to keep my account open.

She said i could re-apply for a card. I asked, "can't we just re-open this existing account? None of my information has changed."

No, no we couldn't. I'd have to re-apply.

As I told her: I have lots of credit cards, and in fact: There are lots of places I can buy jeans and tees.

So I cut up the Gap Card I still had been carrying, and I closed by browser window, abandoning a cart with almost $200 worth of jeans and tees in it, and I decided that I had really and truly outgrown The Gap.

Hey, I get why they'd be concerned about me not shopping in two years. But they basically ensured I will never shop there in the next two years...or deciding I didn't shop often enough to be their customer.

Alls I'm saying: These are tough times for retailers, and I just don't see how they can afford to cut customers off, customers who have a long, clean history of purchasing and paying.

Meanwhile, I ran my free credit reports recently ad discovered that some stores I had cards for when I lived in NYC (18 years ago now) still consider my account open and in good standing. I guess they are ever hopeful I'll return. And honestly, knowing they feel that way makes it just a tiny bit more likely I'll stop in their store next time I'm in NYC.

But The Gap, with an outpost in every mall in every city I ever might visit? I'm done there.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

More Me Rambling On...

OK, not really, I'm usually quite lucid.

In this video, shot by Emily Goligoski for the Women 2.0 folks, she does get me to go beyond the usual spiel about BlogHer and how it all began. So, if you've never heard me reference my "checkered past", this is the video to watch :)

Enjoy. And thanks Emily.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm a little behind, but here's some key info abut BlogHer '09

You know that dream where you're running really fast, but never get to the end of the hallway? That's me and my to-do list.

So, some of this news is a bit old, but, in case you haven't heard:

We announced the dates and location for BlogHer '09.

It's July 23-25 in Chicago, IL, and you can learn all about why we chose Chicago at the link above. In addition, you'll learn that day one, July 23rd, is actually the third annual BlogHer Business Conference, newly compressed and re-scheduled to coincide with the two-day annual conference on July 24-25.

Subsequent to our big announcement, hotel reservations became available to make, and then finally: We opened registration for both conferences. Early bird pricing is in effect until 02/28/08.

Next steps: We'll be announcing the skeleton schedule for the conference on 12/15/08.

As you all may know, this is our fifth anniversary conference, and we've sold out each of our previous four conferences (plus our two previous Business conferences.) I mean, no pressure or anything.

So, will I see you in Chicago?

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This month's Silicon Veggie

Is the story of how one restaurant disappointed me, and another stepped up and made my night.

It doesn't take much:

-If you say you're open at a certain time, how about you stay open? Meet the basic expectations any customer should be able to have!
-If I have a special dietary requirement, but am willing to spend money in your establishment, treat me like I'm still a valued, paying customer...not a pain in your butt
-Know your stuff...and make sure your staff does too

Words for any business to live by.


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