Saturday, April 30, 2005

As a fan of alliteration, gotta love this post... for the content? Not so sure.

Shai Coggins outlines 5 types of "Bogus Blogs" in this list, and cleverly finds a way to create the following alliterative descriptions:

Fictitious (Written in the voice of a character)
Fake (Either dishonest marketing blogs or even spam blogs)
Forged (Ghostwritten blogs)
Fiction (Just like it sounds: someone publishing their fiction via blog)
Felony (Blogs used for phishing or to spread viruses.)

Here's my issue.

I think it's uncalled for to lump all the above types of blogs in this cute little alliterative bundle that pretty much put them on the same level...and starts out by calling them Bogus Blogs. Adding a little question at the end doesn't mitigate the overt accusation. And I think the five types listed above are vastly different.

First of all, for the life of me I can't imagine what quibble anyone would have with someone publishing their fiction online. Doesn't everyone extol the virtues of blogs as the great democratizers and perfect for self-publishing? Oh, did people only mean self-publishing of their personal political rants? (Which frankly can also often be fictitious!)

Second: turn your nose up all you like at ghostwriting, but then turn your nose up at every speech ever given by someone prominent...and not just major politicians. My aunt is a speechwriter for the head of the AARP. Yes, my artsy, Jewish, white female aunt writes for a black man. And turn your nose up at quarterly financial conference calls, and quotes in press releases and countless other ways that people get writing assistance. Just recently a company wrote a quote for me for an impending press release. I did tell them that one phrase didn't sound like something I would say, and they changed it. But is this truly a forgery? Forgery implies a criminal act done without the signer's knowledge.

Third: can we allow people to be as creative and fun and entertaining with their blogs if they are upfront about it and it causes no harm? Isn't the problem with the Licoln Fry site that they tried to pretend it was serious? What if there had been a big Advertisement disclaimer at top and bottom? What if the 'About' paragraph has said: "This is a blog built for your entertainment by McDonalds. Have fun." how is this different from the advertorial inserts in every magazine you get? I'm not say enjoy particularly this kind of tool, but really how do most of the above-described situations equate with blogs that are used for comment spamming and phishing?

I'm a little over the high-horse dictatorial pronouncements from people who think they own the blog ethos. I'm perfectly OK with Steve Rubel thinking, for example, that character blogs are a "waste of time." He's a marketeer; that's his marketing opinion. but for people to cast aspersions on some of this stuff reeks of arrogance and insularity.

Some people don't want to acknowledge that blogging is a tool and technology. It is not a state of mind. once again I can find a post from Shel Holtz that articulates my feelings on this topic.

We're going to be talking about this in my panel at BlogHer entitle $$ and Sense. And I expect Toby Bloomberg will have lots to say on the matter.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Latest Worker Bees Theatre Discount: Bebe Neuwirth in "Here Lies Jenny"

OK, this is pretty cool, because I knew Bebe Neuwirth's work long before you met her as Lilith Crane in Cheers. I saw her Tony-wining performance in the Sweet Charity revival back in the 80s. And I also saw her smashing work as Velma in the original cast of the current revival of Chicago.

She is hot...and so, so talented.

Now she's bringing her show exploring the work of Kurt Weill, Here Lies Jenny to the stage at the Post Street Theatre.

And you can get $10 off all tickets for Tues.-Thurs. performance. The show only runs a few weeks, opening this you better hop to it. More info here.

I mean, look at her:

Don't you want to see her live, in person and up close?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

This month's expanded Metro Santa Cruz article

Those abandonment issues that arise when a vegetarian friends starts eating meat, or a vegetarian restaurant starts serving fish.

Read all about it here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ad:Tech Keynote posts are up

The keynote posts for Ad:Tech are up, although the way they organize the content means they're already pushed off the front page. But minimal editing noticed, so that's good.

Keynote #1: John Costello from Home Depot

Keynote #2: Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Doing a little Ad:Tech blogging

Ding a little blogging for the Ad:Tech blog. I could only head up there yesterday, so not a full conference report by any stretch.

So far they've only posted my two exhibit hall posts:

On the lack of booth babes.

And on the lack of exhibitors talking about "next wave" applications like mobility and blogging.

And I may be wrong, but I think they edited for content not just typos etc. which is a little surprising.

Can't wait to see what they do with my two other pending posts, both lengthy recaps of yesterday's morning keynote speakers. Damn I wish I had saved the text off myself. In case they cut them way back I could have posted them here. Hmmmmm.

Do Panels Suck? I'm not entirely convinced.

And it matters, as I plan the BlogHer Conference '05 agenda with cohorts Lisa and Jory (and the advice and feedback from both our Advisory Board and the people commenting on our site.)

Advisory Board member Mary Hodder definitely thinks Panels Suck. Okay, actually she says they're "dead."

Now, I know what Mary is talking about because I've been to a couple of the same conferences she has been to. Panels particularly suck if you've got a relatively small audience of people who could all conceivably be panelists. It's not always that they suck in that case because the panelists have nothing valuable to say...sometimes that case results in suckage because everyone in the audience is busier forming their brilliant, incisive questions and dissenting comments than they are listening. And panels particularly suck if it's clear that the presentation (usually bullet-laden PowerPoint slides) is a canned one that the presenter has given before and hasn't even bothered to customize much for the given crowd.

But I also think Mary attends a rather uniquely large number of conferences per year, and has seen the same faces, heard the same spiels and suffered through the same debates a disproportionately high number of times to the rest of the world, outside perhaps the couple hundred folks she's with now. The ennui she is suffering from is, perhaps, a luxury of the conference elite.

Of the BlogHer registrants thus far, more than 50% have never attended a blogging conference, or even individual session before. They are not over-familiar with any speaker, not even Robert Scoble.

And I also think Mary's penchant for single-leader-moderated session only works if you have a very rare commodity: a moderator like Mary herself. Because let me tell you my personal observation of other single-moderator-types at the last couple of conferences I attended that had them: it became all about them. Every question was first responded to by the leader, not the brilliant crowd. Mary's session at Bloggercon last year, for example, was the only one that didn't feel like that. So I'm not completely bought into the single discussion leader concept.

I do find her third suggestion really fun and interesting: "IF we do panels, any time there are more people lined up at the mic, than are on the panel, the panel and the people at the mic have to switch places." That sounds pretty cool. And in fact it might inspire some of the shyer folks in the crowd to loosen up and feel freer to speak up. I agree that panels set up an us/them, superior/inferior, Master/Little Grasshopper dynamic if not done well, and if the speakers veer uncontrollably into professorial patronization.

I think the decision on whether panels work or not ends up being an individual decision, session by session, audience by audience...sweeping statements don't work.

When you register for BlogHer there are a list of questions we ask...trying to understand who our specific audience is going to be. As I already mentioned, more than half have never attended a blogging conference before.

When these same registrants are asked what they've disliked about conferences they've attended in the past, two answer stick out. The first is: "Too much talk, not enough practical takeaway." And I happen to think that freewheeling interactive discussions often turn into a lot of talk, not so much heavy on the practical takeaway.

Then again the second most popular response to the question is (so far): "Too sterile, not enough passion." Funny huh?

So, the question is: can you be passionate about the practical? I think you can. And we're going to shoot for that combination. Session by session it a complicated puzzle...fitting in moderated discussions, Panels Without PowerPoints, technical training sessions, open networking sessions. I happen to think any conference benefits from a range of choices and a variety of approaches.

But what say you?

Why MarketingProfs is still worth it

I know is BlogLand one must look down one's nose at newsletters, even eNewsletters, especially those that don't provide RSS to within an inch of their lives.

Despite all the answers theoretically resting here in BlogLand, I do still find some Newsletters useful, notably today: Marketing Profs. (Actually MarketingProfs does provide RSS, but it doesn't always seem to syndicate smoothly. Today's Newsletter, for example, hasn't shown up yet.)

Two articles caught my eye, both concerning the online world.

The first, Exploring Blogs for Brand Insights, talks about some serious analysis of brand associations, and how blogs are the perfect link directly to consumers and their unfiltered, unvarnished, unadulterated thoughts on brands.

To be honest, I've never been a brand marketer or a statistical analyst, so all this mathematical talk does tend to make my eyes glaze over. But the essence of Matthew Syrett's article is this: Surveys, focus groups etc? Sure, they have their uses...go for it, but they are by their nature artificial, staged. Blogs are that direct (and unobserved) look into your consumer's soul. It does seem to me that it's unlikely to be any but the largest brands that get enough mentions in blog to be statistically relevant. But if you just want some good old anecdotal evidence? What could be better.

Scott Buresh contributes a slightly more sales-y article about thinking beyond "search engine optimization." I've certainly learned from the PPC advertising programs I've done that clicks through to your site are a necessary start, but you better have something waiting for the clicker when they get there. And the online user expects more than a "Hi, Online User...Welcome!"

One of the first ad campaigns I did for a theatre in San Francisco is a perfect example. At first they authorized a discount of $5 off per ticket. The click-through rates were only OK, and the conversion rates from click-throughs to ticket purchases were nothing to write home about.

We then changed the discount to 40% off. and conversions went crazy.

What was the difference between $5 off and 40% off? About $10. but the perceived value of that additional $10 offer was huge.

Point being: being seen in a search engine result, whether organic, paid inclusion or ad, is a great start. But Buresh is right that it's only one quarter, hey maybe one fifth of the battle.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Humor in Marketing: Would it Work for Wendy's?

So yesterday I was getting my hair done. This event happens every other month, and my sister and I schedule our appts. back to back with the hairdresser we've been seeing for over a decade. By now we're friends, and our conversations are pretty far-reaching. But I don't typically get marketing ideas from the conversations. Until now.

As you can imagine there's been a lot of talk in San Jose these last few weeks about the Finger-in-the-Chili incident at a local Wendy's. As a vegetarian I'm not much of a Wendy's patron, nor a chili-buyer. I didn't have a personal "it could have been me" reaction, nor was there any Wendy's buying pattern to be disrupted.

But my patronage or no, this local Wendy's, and all Wendy's, have found themselves adversely affected by the incident. Now that it's been uncovered that the whole thing was a hoax, will their business return?

The local Wendy's where the incident occurred is offering free Frostys as a carrot.

And my clever hairdresser suggested that they should just use humor, acknowledge what happened and advertise this offer as: "Free Fingerless Frostys!!!" or "Free Frostys: Fingerless Now & Always!"

We laughed and laughed. And then I wondered what would happen if they really did such a thing?

Humor in advertising is not a new idea. There are two kind of ads that are likely to be among your favorites...those that bring a little lump to your throat, and those that make you laugh.

If Wendy's really put out such an ad it would make you laugh. It would probably make you admire the fact that they were acknowledging the issue head-on.

But would it entice you to eat there? Is it better to have the finger incident in the back of your head or at the front?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Latest Worker Bees Theatre Discount: The Boys from Syracuse

42nd St. Moon is opening Rodgers &Hart's The Boys from Syracuse this week. Previews start on Wednesday, and it opens on Saturday. It is a charming and very funny musical from the Classic Broadway era.

First of all it's based on Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, so it's coming from some pretty good source material. And the score is full of gems you will recognize. This Can't Be Love, Falling in Love with Love and Sing For Your Supper are three of the most renowned numbers. Supper, in particular, is a show-stopping female trio with some swingin' jazz harmonies. Swingin' jazz harmonies in a show set in ancient Greece? Yeah, I know...but it works.

I was in this show 14 years ago at Foothill Music Theatre. I have very fond memories of the shows, and the performers I worked with. The Moonies will have a lot to live up to, but I'm sure they can handle it.

As always, you can get some behind-the-scenes peeks via the 42nd St. Moon Blog.

You can also get 20% off all Regular tix for the show (excluding Sunday matinees) by using the promotion code ONLINE when you call for tix at 415-978-2787. Details are here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Upcoming Speaking Gig: Blogging Virtual Seminar for Stanford's Publishing Courses

Very excited about this one.

Going to be doing one of the virtual seminars that the Stanford Publishing Courses puts on in between their major professional workshops. The date is Wednesday May 18th from 11AM-noon, Pacific time.

The topic is, but of course, Blogging: the Next Big Thing in Marketing & Commuications.

One thing they do for the Virtual Seminars that's advantageous for a department, group, or company is that they charge one fee per connection, but you could have multiple people gathered around that computer watching.

Check out all the details at their site

My SVAMA Gig Last week: full house, lots of bloggy interest

I never recapped how my speaking gig on Blogging went last week. This was for the Silicon Valley chapter of the American Marketing Association.

They're in the middle of a membership drive, so it was a pretty full house, and initial feedback from the program organizer indicated that they felt it was one of their more successful events yet.

The big bummer was that they didn't use my Technology buzz word quiz!!! The volunteer who was supposed to handle it couldn't come, and they couldn't find a replacement. So sad. Especially because one of the other speakers used the term "grok" and everything!

Anyway, the other two speakers were both in the mobility space, and the truth is that enterprise applications for the kind of mobility tools they were discussing aren't really sussed out yet. Hence the other two guys were focused on B2C or consumer-based applications, while blogging really does have applications for both B2C and B2B. Seemed like a lot of the audience were high tech marketers focused on non-consumer products, so very receptive.

I've already had some fruitful follow-up conversations with a couple of the attendees, so my blogvangelism is going quite well, thank you.

Oh, and I got to meet blogger Wag from Zoe's Tales, who credits me and fellow BlogHer organizer Jory des Jardins for inspiring her to blog.

So it was an evening well worth it.

Just a reminder: Still collecting BlogHer links

Just in case you want to see what the blog community has to say about BlogHer, I am still collecting link in my account.

And yes, the tag is still "bloghercon", because I couldn't see splitting my first half of tagged links from the second half.

What's really fun now is that the word is spreading beyond the blogging power brokers...who all take it very seriously and want to examine the pros and cons...and is being taken up now by a broader circle of bloggers. And a lot of these (mostly chick) bloggers have a great sense of humor about it!

The again, so do some of the men

Check out the now 180-strong list of links at my account.

Blog Sheroes...the right coast gets it started!

I know some folks are tired of all cool events happening in the Silicon here's one for you right-coasters.

This Sunday.

New York City.

The Blog Sheroes Meetup.

Be there or be a wussy girl.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Are Blogs Still Conversations?

For a long time now I've presented my "Four I's" of what distinguishes blogs from other web sites:

1. Immediate & accessible
2. Informal & Inside
3. Interactive
4. Inexpensive

I've even noticed those 4 descriptions picked up by others. (But of course stupid Technorati is misbehaving so I can't find the site I'm looking for to link to it. You try: Here's the Technorati link for this blog...will it go to anything past Page 1 for you? Grrrrrrrr.)

I'm starting to rethink I #3.

I mean comments are nice and everything, but are they really worth it?

A new blog I've been following, Blogthenticity (great name, right?) thinks comments are critical, and that as a blogger you have a moral obligation to spread your commenting seed everywhere you can. Hmmm...that sentence started out much differently than it wound up, huh?

Anyway, I wrote a rather lengthy comment explaining why I've come to disagree. Mostly two reasons:

1. The signal to noise ratio in comments is pathetic, and as I read more and more blogs I find I devote elss and less time to reading comments.

2. The idea that people will reciprocate is also dead. People mostly don't. And there are those who don't out of principal. They think you should do what I'm doing now: blog about their post, not just comment about it and expect them to come visit you because of it. Is this yet another link-loving, power-grabbing tactic on the part of wily whuffie-hoarding A-listers? Oh, maybe...but imitation is flattery and the attitude has spread.

BUt you can check out Blogthenticity's case here

Friday, April 15, 2005

Online interview with my BlogHer partner, Lisa Stone

In this New West Network online interview Lisa really expands and expounds on the BlogHer theme. If you want to hear more about our thinking behind proposing this conference (beyond the lengthy blog posts we've already written of course) this is a great place to go.

Check it out here

Why I Need to Attend a BlogHer Technology Training

Check out how cool All About George is with his BlogHer itinerary blurb in his right-hand side bar, logo and all.

I get jealous when I see bloggers who manage to personalize their blog...not just with content, but with design and layout.

I'm sure if I spent some quality time I could figure this out. I'm sure to lots of bloggers that would take 2 seconds.

I need one of the BlogHer technology sessions, as you can see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

What if BlogHer seems out of reach?

In the blog community, we have ways of getting diverse and lesser-known voices to the table.

Method #1: Volunteer
We are taking names for volunteers. In addition to any other volunteer needs we might have, we're going to have Blogherships for people who commit to live blog the sessions.

Method #2: Ask for a sponsorship
No really, several prominent women bloggers are publicly signing up to sponsor one or two blogger who otherwise could not attend, and challenging others to do the same. It started with Nancy White, but more offers have cropped up in the Comments section of that same Bloghership post. Some of these offers even come with offers to put you up in a spare room!

I've never seen this kind of grass-roots participation in a conference, have you?

BlogHer makes it onto MSNBC

CNN and MSNBC both have daily blog-watching segments, so the issue of getting one's voice heard..the issue BlogHer is designed to discuss...seems to have more and more at stake.

CNN mentioned BlogHer over 3 weeks ago. Today MSNBC follows suit, courtesy of David Weinberger.

Clearly BlogHer is going to be the place to be on July 30th, 2005. Have you signed up yet? :)

PS-Thanks, Political Teen, for the video clip.

Keeping me most real

Lest my head become even slightly inflated by all the attention our announcement of BlogHer has generated, I also just got hit with a bunch of comment spam over at my political blog.

Nothing like deleting crap about cialis, texas hold 'em and live p0rn sites to keep you grounded.

This week's extended Silicon Veggie column for the Santa Cruz Metro

Sometimes I take the column I write for Silicon Valley and extend it for Santa Cruz, and that's what I tried to do for last week. BUt different regions do have different goals sometimes.

Last week's column for Silicon Valley was about a San Francisco restaurant.

If you read the San Jose Merc you know that they run pretty far afield when reviewing everything from restaurants to theatre. I actually do get annoyed when they review yet another little theatre in SF or Berkeley and ignore good theatre going on in San Jose or on the Peninsula. But it's definitely a fact of life at the Merc.

I have to confess I don't really read the Metro very often, so I think they do stay closer to home. Nonetheless, the SV edition didn't mind my trip to the City.

Santa Cruz on the other hand didn't like it and wouldn't run it. (Granted, it does probably take another half hour to get to the City from Santa Cruz.) So I re-spun my article completely. Rather than raving about a particular restaurant I took all the attributes that made me rave about the restaurant and turned it into a tutorial for non-vegetarian restaurants on how to properly tend to their vegetarian patrons.

Here it is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Official Announcement: BlogHer Conference '05 is coming...July 30th, 2005

Where are the women bloggers? We’re right here…

BlogHer is pleased to announce its first national conference for the women’s blogging community:

Date: July 30, 2005
Location: TechMart Meeting Center, Santa Clara, CA
Official BlogHer Site:

This flagship event is open to all bloggers—including men and beginners—interested in enhancing their online exposure, learning the latest best practices in blogging, networking with other bloggers, and specifically cultivating the female blogging community.

BlogHer Conference ‘05 will provide an open, inclusive forum to:
1. Discuss the role of women within the larger blog community
2. Examine the developing (and debatable) code of blogging ethics
3. Discover how blogging is shrinking the world and amplifying the voices of women worldwide

In addition, educational tracks will be available focusing on:
1. Best technology practices, newbie to advanced: how to use technology and tools to achieve text, photo, audio and video blogging goals
2. Best industry-specific practices: Why are journalists, marketers, lawyers, academics, technologists and many more blogging? And how do you find the ones you’re interested in?
3. The rights and the responsibilities of the blogger

BlogHer Conference ‘05 will be the first of its kind, an opportunity for the female blogging community to meet in person. It will set the agenda for future BlogHer networking and enhance women’s influence in the blog community.

The event will include onsite mixers and informal meet-ups for attendees seeking to network in their areas of interest. BlogHer will even set aside a "Room of Your Own" to enable attendees to form impromptu sessions. A pre-event mixer will be held in close proximity to the conference site the evening before. Also, BlogHer will designate space for vendor demonstrations, where bloggers can explore which solutions work best for their needs.

For more information on BlogHer Conference ‘05, including lodging options and registration information, visit BlogHer online:

For questions on the event scope and planning contact:
Elisa Camahort: elisa at workerbees dot biz
Jory Des Jardins: jorydj at yahoo dot com
Lisa Stone: Lisa dot L dot stone at

To view our esteemed Advisory Board check the left-hand sidebar of the BlogHer site.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Second half of Sound of Vision podcast

As promised, Part 2 of my podcast interview on Sound of Vision is here.

I'm on this one more briefly than in Part One. I join partner Lisa Stone in a discussion of the BlogHer Conference that she and I have been working on (somewhat silently for the last few weeks, I might add) over the last month or so.

Since our official and public BlogHer announcement is imminent (check back tomorrow morning...that's how imminent it is) the timing of the posting of this podcast is just perfect.

Check it out.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A truly inspiring new client: Peninsula Community Foundation

I spent much of Friday morning at the Peninsula Community Foundation, a local charitable organization.

They're celebrating their 40th anniversary and looking to tell some of their most compelling success stories from the last 40 years to commemorate the milestone.

The meetings reminded me why I started our Worker Bees focusing on non-profits and arts organizations: you feel good helping organizations do good. (And, yes, I think theatres contribute to a community...defining its culture, perhaps even its soul.)

The PCF project is going to take some weeks, and I really can't tell the stories until they're done, but I can tell it's going to be very satisfying working on the project.

Check out their site. They're doing a lot of fascinating work...and they're involving donors in new ways. The Center for Venture Philanthropy, in particular, has an approach that is innovative...getting donors involved in a more hands on way than writing a check.

Pretty cool stuff.

This Week's Site of the Week: A Shameless Plug

Here's a reminder: I'm speaking on a panel this Wednesday evening for the Silicon Valley chapter of the American Marketing Association (SVAMA.)

The panel is: Everything You Pretend to Know About Technology...and Hope No One Asks!

And of course my topic is Blogging and RSS. This is a variation/combination of the presentations I've given before to the CSix Marketing SIG, the EBIG Blogging SIG and the Stanford Digital Vision Fellowship. It's sort of a speed-thru of what and why. No easy feat in 10 slides/20 minutes!

in addition to the panel I had fun this morning creating a little quiz for participants pre-panel. It's a multiple-choice quiz on 20 technology terms they might want to know. For some questions I threw in at least one obviously incorrect answer, and for some I created three answers that sounded reasonable. This was especially fun for the acronyms: you come up with two alternate, believable alternative definitions of WYSIWYG!

And no, I can't post the two alternates I came up with until after the panel.

BTW: I have 2 free passes for the event, only one of which is semi-spoken for, so if you're interested, let me know.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This month's Silicon Veggie column

An actual restaurant review, of Cafe Andree in San Francisco, here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ajarn's Top 15 Business Myth

Ran across this list of the Top 15 myths about starting and running a successful business.

Now some of these aren't myths I've heard anywhere: who actually says "To be successful, you have to be cheaper."? I think most people recognize that being the low price leader is a hard row to hoe, and that if price is your only differentiator, you're in trouble. I would also question whether there is a real business myth that "I'll just open my store and people will stream in off the sidewalks and buy from me."

If Ajarn were saying that these are myths, well really fantasies, that would-be business owners make the mistake of indulging...that would be one thing. But he's actually saying that people perpetuate these myths in print and publication...and when it comes to those two above I don't think those are generally accepted pieces of business advice.

But leaving that aside, there are other myths that are important to be busted, notably that cool ideas necessarily make cool (and profitable) products, that quality necessarily wins out, and that customers are always right and all equal.

This last one is the only part of the post that might generate a little controversy. It is really the conventional wisdom these days that the customer is everything, and that everyone is a potential customer.

BUt having been in business quite some time, as part of larger companies and on my own, I can understand the reasoning that some customers are just not worth it, and losses should be cut along with the ties that bind.

The only point I would add is that a company has to acknowledge their own role in creating monster customers. Did you over-promise and under-deliver? Did you sign on to a contract you weren't happy with figuring you could adjust it later?

Unhappy, demanding, angry customers usually are created by something going awry between expectations and reality. You have just as much of a role in setting expectations as the customer does. Be clear. Protect yourself. And DON'T think you can work around unfavorable or undesirable contract terms once the work is underway.

Converting from just a "user" to being part of a "culture"

Lois Ambash, who I met earlier this year at the NewComm Forum contributed an article to this month's New Communications Blogzine.

The topic: Talking to non-techies about blogs and blogging.

She offers much of the standard advice and reiterates a point I think is really important: don't just evangelize blogs, evangelize feed reader applications. The quickest way for someone to try and then abandon blog reading is to quickly become overwhelmed...information overload. Reader apps are the only reasonable way (currently) to manage lots of blog reading comfortably. As I've recommended before: help people set up accounts with Bloglines or other apps. Get them started. It is a much easier way for them to see for themselves how addictive blog reading is, and how naturally you can grow your blog library.

Something else Lois said really struck a chord with me:

"Do all people who rely on e-mail, conduct simple Google searches, and engage in the occasional IM exchange feel a part of the online culture? My guess is, No way. Most people who go online view these digital functions simply as necessary business tools. They no more consider themselves part of “the online culture” than they consider themselves part of “the auto-repair culture” just because they take their cars into the shop every few months. We may be enthralled by the social and business potential of blogging, by its mechanics, its vocabulary, and its auxiliary tools. But we delude ourselves if we think most other people share our enthusiasm."

So true! And I often use my own story as an example:

Up until I got my iMac (my first Mac after a lifetime of PC use) about three years ago I saw the computer and the Internet as pure efficiency tools. I used them almost exclusively for work, and on the personal side I used it for email and nothing else. If I played games it was on my Playstation. If I listened to music, it was on my CD player, or car stereo. I didn't own a camera, and I certainly didn't write for pleasure.

When I got my Mac I started out messing with iTunes and my new iPod. Then I got a digital camera and started messing around with iPhoto including posting my photos to a web page that my dotMac service made incredibly simple to set up. Then, the critical juncture: I got iBlog as a free download when I renewed my dotMac membership.

Where I was once using the computer and the Internet as "necessary tools", I soon became someone who was part of an online culture.

Ever person is going to have a different interest or passion that drives them to appreciate what the blog culture delivers. Perhaps for some it will be the new NASCAR enthusiast blogs, maybe for some the foodie blogs, maybe for some my very own theatre blogs, maybe for some it's political blogs. For one prospective client I spent some time recently finding out that there is a large medical blogging community. Who knew? UNtil then, not me.

if someone gets personally drawn into reading and commenting on blogs, they are far more likely to understand how a blog might be right for their business. And given the breadth of examples I was just able to toss out with very little effort, it seems that nearly every kind of business can figure out a way to leverage these tools.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Blog design and usability

Tom Foremski over at Silicon Valley Watcher makes a valid point in saying that there really haven't been any usability studys of blogs specifically.

One could argue, as I often do, that blogs are simply a sub-set of web sites, so one could wonder, as I hadn't until now, whether a usability study on blogs would unearth anything wildly surprising.

But blogs do have some differences in typical format that do beg the question: are we doing this in the best possible way. The way post after post appears in reverse chronological order...down past many "folds" in some cases. The navigability that relies on much simpler and more limited options...usually only by date and maybe category.

Tom asks two specific questions in his post that do provide food for thought for me personally.

The first is about posts and clicking to get complete posts. On this blog and all of my other blogs based on the Blogger app, what you see is what you get. All posts are there, in their entirety. On my Personal Blog (powered by iBlog, and my Political Blog, powered by Movable Type, you can have only part of a post display on the page, with a click through to read further.

Well, when I write a long post like this one I think it would be better to be able to provide an abstract/teaser and let people decide to click through to the rest of the story. This is pretty critical on a blog like my Personal Blog where I'm writing about a broad swath of topics, from American Idol to Blogging to get the picture. On the other hand there is no arguing that making people click through to get a single line of text, or maybe a link, does seem anti-user-friendly. So clearly, one must use common sense and discretion.

The second issue is about how to display links. Do you embed them in words like this, or do you actually show the link,for example like this:

Tom Foremski over at makes a valid point in saying that there really haven't been any usability studys of blogs specifically in this post:

Frankly I think the latter example would make blogs miserable to read. I don't mind the idea of listing Sources at the end. And I agree that while sometimes embedded links are pretty can figure out where that link is bound to be going, in other words...other times links are mysterious and annoying. Here's an example:

In this National review piece the author links to someone else's blog post, embedding the link in the word "self-parody." While the author may think she is being obvious, there's actually no explanation of what qualifies the post as self-parody, and it just becomes hit-and-run snarkiness without context. I think that's unfair, and treats readers with as much contempt as the blogger. It's as though she's saying, 'if you're cool you'll understand why this is self-parody.'

BUt the occasional link embedding that is obtuse or unfriendly aside, I find it hard enough to read blog posts on screen...especially ones as long as this one. If I had to look at a bunch of URLs, it would really put me over the edge.

Perhaps, it's a matter of trust. If you've been reading me a while, then you presumably believe the quality of my links is good...relevant, trustworthy, comprehensible. And when you roll the mouse over the embedded link, don't you see the URL displayed anyway? Or is that just in Safari?

These are good discussions to have as blogs move from being a tool used primarily for self-expression to a tool used for a broader range of communications to a broader audience.

Shel Holtz happens to agree with me here.

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