Friday, July 29, 2005

Yes, BlogHer is here.

Although the official BlogHer Conference '05 starts tomorrow, BlogHer the social event, really starts today.

It starts at 3PM with a training/meet-up session with our speakers, moderators, audio and live-blogging volunteers. Actually we said anyone could come if they really wanted to, if they were curious about how were going to try to foster more open, conversational sessions, rather than talking head panels.

Then tonight dinner at Andiamo Cafe in Alviso. I chose the venues for today, but my trust volunteer Maria Niles has been an absolute animal about taking the whole thing on and organizing it.

There are 170 people signed up for tonight, just about the restaurant's max capacity. Pray for us!

It has been a crazy time. Lisa, Jory and I have each taken on different tasks to bring this together. After working together closely on getting the word out, soliciting community feedback, building the agenda and preparing panels and sessions, we started focusing on the financials, the registration and waitlist, and the facility-wrangling; Jory on the sponsors and the huge amount of signage and conference materials (along with team members Purvi and Katrin) and Lisa on some amazing geeky stuff she picked up just for the conference...from learning podcasting, to Drupal programming to Flash programming, and then leveraging her non-geek real-life experience to work with Renee on press-wrangling. I bow to her amazing ability to take on just one more task...milions of times.

We each checked in with the other two on everything. And we were all busy being BlogHer ambassadors...keeping track of who was talking about BlogHer and just inserting ourselves right into the conversations. We got interviewed for podcasts, submitted articles to blogzines and web publishers. And just commented on about every blog out there that talked about BlogHer.

I have had trouble envisioning the actual day unfolding. I have this fantasy that it will all magically fall into place, because that's what we worked our butts off to enable. but I know nothing in life actually goes like that, so I'm expecting tears, tirades and tantrums. (Expect the worst and you can only be pleasantly surprised??)

Sorry for this rather sentimental rambling, but you can't imagine how rewarding and how consuming planning BlogHer has been. It wasn't quite a 9-month process, but we're birthing something today!

If you were unable to get in, and many many people were, then I hope you will follow along with BlogHer in one of two ways:

1. We have given blogherships to almost 20 bloggers...we pay their conference fee, and in return they are our reporters...attending sessions and recapping them as they go along. AT 6AM tomorrow morning, a post will go up at BlogHer with links to every session and its text and photo/video-bloggers.

2. We will have a dedicated chat room for BlogHer discussions. It will be monitored to keep out trolls, but otherwise free-wheeling. You can find info at our Chat Partner, PingVision.

As shocking as it may be, I actually do not own a laptop. And I prefer to take notes on paper anyway. I don't like to scribe. I like to marinate on what i've heard and learned and comment on it later. Sometimes I miss the "timely" boat, it's true.

But I hope next week I have a lot to reflect back on about BlogHer.

And I hope to meet some of you, my 2.5 faithful readers, there.

Wanna know why I read blogs? A brief example.

For little tidbits like this.

The Merc's theatre critic has written a pithy post on her first theatre experience and how it sucked her in and fueled an eventual dream to become a theatre critic.

It's a nice, and short, little blurb...probably too short to ever make it into print.

So, why post it at all:

Because suddenly their theatre critic is human. And suddenly you're reminded that critics review things hoping to love them, not hoping to find new ways to say "it sucked" in their thesaurus.

And that, my friend, increases her credibility right there.

'nuff said.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Pheedo Interface for Publishers

I will be the first to admit that Pheedo's interface to get started as a publisher (which is what they call you and me as bloggers) is not the simplest in the world. I'm here to help, BlogHers.

If you go to the sign-up page for the Pheedo BlogHer Ad Network, it's pretty self-explanatory. You gotta fill in all your basic info.

In your 'Description' of your blog, you might want to throw in any stats or demographics you think would entice advertisers. If you get a lot of traffic, obviously that is important. If your audience is 87% women with high incomes...good to know. How any of you know all that stuff is a little beyond me, but I'm clearly not as into market research as I am into a lot of other segments of the marketing function.

Yes, they ask for info you don't typically give online, but're making money, so they have to be able to cut you checks and mail them to you. It's no different than the info Amazon Associates or other affiliate programs ask for.

Feed advertising
You can choose just to place ads in your RSS feed posts. BlogHer specifically requested text-ads-only, not ads with graphics. Yes, it might be cool to see our little BlogHer logo, but we went for understated, subtle placement :) You will enter your current RSS feed, and Pheedo will give you your Pheedo RSS feed. This is now the feed URL you should have a link to in your blog if you want people to actually get the ads you've signed up to host.

(I'm still figuring out how you change the feed that Bloglines uses...stay tuned.)

Then you have to make some decisions:
-You categorize your blog, so that ads have more relevance.
-You decide whether to place ads in posts you've written or have them show up as separate posts. I totally recommend the former. It's just annoying (IMHO) to get an entire fresh post in your feed reader that's just an ad.
-You decide how many of your posts will have an ad in them. I think this should really depend on how often you post. I only post 1 or 2 posts a day, if that, in Worker Bees, so I just changed my feed to carry an ad every other post. If I posted 12 times a day that might feel really spammy, but I don't.
-You also can decide that you only want ads to appear separated by a decent interval of time. No more than one post per day, or once every 12 hours or whatever. Again, the goal is not to inundate people, thereby annoying them to the point of un-subbing. Be aware.
-Finally you have to choose a price per click through on an ad in your RSS feed. I got some inside scoop from new Pheed-ite, Dana VanDen Heuvel, that they recommend a starting point of $.45 a click. So that's what I got!

That's it. Signing up to host ads in your feed is pretty easy. But now I'll move on to signing up to hosting them in your blog...which I will b honest and say I found more confusing. I had the long Skype chat with Dana, so you won't have to though!

Blog advertising

First thing you need to know, the section Pheedo calls Ad Zones, means areas on your blog home page that you are setting aside to host ads. (I for some reason leapt to the conclusion that it had something to so with geographical or demographical targeted ads!)

If you're wondering how you are supposed to know where you're going to host ads, well, yes, you will have to get in there and insert some code into your blog home page template. If you've done it to add items to your blog roll, or add little "Subscribe" buttons or other such side bar accoutrements, you can do this too, don't worry.

Another thing you need to know...they will ask you for the URL where a potential advertiser can view where the ad will be. And yes, you're right, you haven't put an ad anywhere yet, so it's a horse before the cart thing. Just put your blog URL there, categorize and describe it and decide whether you want to charge per click or per week for ad space.

Once you do that it takes you to a page where you define parameters about what you want the ads to look like, the site then gives you the associated code, and you go plug that into your blog's template. The tool doesn't properly show you the ad sizes, so Pheed-ite Dana has created this page for you to see the sizes.

There you have it.

My experience of setting up my blog as part of the Pheedo BlogHer ad network was greatly enhanced by Skyping Dana with questions. And he said I could publish his Skype name for other BlogHers who needed help: dvandenheuvel

So, go for it. And let me and Dana know how it goes.

Let's compare two new blog sites

Routine Disclaimer: I have been a member of WorldWIT (don't remember if my membership is active or not) and Jory Des Jardins, who helped Third Age launch their blog is one of my BlogHer partners.

Recently two sites, both targeted to women, launched mini-blognetworks. WorldWIT and Third Age have set up blog central sites, through which you can click to multiple subject-matter -focused blogs, not unlike Weblogs Inc or Gawker Media, but more narrowly focused on the women's segment, and not exclusively blog-savvy women at that.

The differences between these two launches are pretty stark...not in content, I can't claim to have read tons of content on either site. But in look, feel and execution...worlds apart.

Let's look at the WorldWIT set-up first:

-The header explains that the blogs are meant to be a "new communication channel for professional women to share experience and read commentary and observations about the challenges, rewards and strategies of being a working woman."

-It is accompanied by this stock photo, so right off, it's slick; it's "professional"; it's brochure-ware:

-Next comes a list of the various blogs you can click to, with a brief description and a picture of the blogger. A professional head-shot of the blogger I should say.
-The first two blogs listed are about working motherhood, and the third one is about their annual conference, a commercial blog. And that's all the content that is above "the fold." And I have a big-ass screen.

OK, now, I'm only even scrolling down because a) I'm a blogger and b) I'm doing this silly comparison...why did I think this was a good idea again?

Of the list of bloggers, only 2 seem to have prior connection to the world of online social media. Most seem to have already been in the WIT management structure.

I click through to PRGirl by Aliza Sherman first, mostly because I've heard of Aliza and read her other blog occasionally. From a feature point of view at least they're doing this right...comments, trackbacks, email the blogger links, Permalinks, RSS. All good. I then clicked through to a couple of others.

But I think there are real barriers to get people to click through to any of the blogs, mostly the fact that the page that greets you for the blogs looks no different, no more personal, no more engaging than the rest of the the very formal, buttoned down site.

When you take a look at the Third Age blog, it is clearly, well and truly, a blog. You can see right off the bat, not promotional pictures and blurbs, but blog content. It's just full of the normal wealth (some would say glut) of content you expect: categories, latest posts, latest comments, extra links on what a blog is and what RSS is, links to the RSS feeds, including a feed for comments, which is a nice and emerging trend. There's a blog roll. I recognize the names of about half the bloggers because they're, well, already bloggers.

I don't need to pigeonhole myself and self-categorize myself just to start reading some content. I can browse through everyone's ideas and decide if any of them interest me.

Now I will grant you...the ThirdAge blog looks "primitive" in design comparatively speaking (doesn't help that Yvonne DiVita's silly animated smily icon is there bopping on the page!) And why, why! is lime green so in right now? I know, I know, it's even in our BlogHer logo, but it just always remind me of gastric juices or something. And it's nice that WorldWIT isn't advertising, so their blog is obviously purely a member outreach tool (well, other than the blog all about their big conference.)

I think ThirdAge could improve the look (and does a Botox ad have to be top and center, does it really?) But they're doing something right with inviting me to read the content. And if I'm not motivated to read the content that what's the point of launching and maintaining such a blog effort? Not much point.

What do you think?

Pheedo's BlogHer Ad Network

If you look to the top of my right-hand side bar you'll see an addition, space to sell ads served by RSS/Blog ad company Pheedo.

And you'll see something else, a message that says: Portion of Proceeds benefit BlogHer.

When I approached Pheedo CMO Bill Flitter about sponsoring BlogHer, I had something fairly traditional in sponsor something, we'll give you varying levels of presence on our site and at the conference.

Bill thought a little bigger. He thought that there was a way Pheedo could support BlogHer in an ongoing manner, while providing advertisers with a really attractive opportunity to: the Pheedo BlogHer Ad Network.

Here's how it works: the blogger decides to support ads in his or her blog and/or RSS feed. The blogger still gets the bulk of the ad revenues that come in, just like they do if they signed up as an individual.

But now Pheedo splits its revenues with the BlogHer organization. Pheedo is willing to take this chunk out of its revenues not only because they're stepping up and supporting the BlogHer Mission in a tangible way, but also because they believe that an ad network of BlogHers would represent a really attractive opportunity for advertisers hoping to reach a key demographic...that would be the people who read women's blogs.

I thought it was pretty brilliant myself. I had yet to run ads on any of my blogs except my sponsored blog, but it was not because of some moral objection, it was more from inertia and not knowing how to get started.

So that's the story of the new billboard for sale in the upper right hand corner of my blog. My next post will go over some the interface of getting it started, which may be instructive for any BlogHers that go over here to sign up.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

One thing Blogger does better than the rest

It tells you if you've screwed up an html tag.

I'll admit that since I've started working with other tools like Typepad and iBlog for blogging, I wouldn't necessarily turn to Blogger again for a new blog. I think of it as a great beginner's tool, but one that doesn't grow well with a blogger. I also don't appreciate that their WYSIWYG tool doesn't work for Mac users.

That being said, the one thing that Blogger does that is a big time-saver for even the experienced blogger with fast alerts you when you try to publish a post with a broken html tag.

On my other blogs, and on my friends' blogs I can't remember how many times you go to look at the blog and find italics that extend through three posts, or a link that seems to take over a post, while paragraphs of text seem to have disappeared.

The culprit is almost always a broken html tag, easy mistakes to make when you're on a creative roll and your fingers are flying furiously across your keyboard.

I don't know why Typepad can't give you the same friendly assistance as Blogger in this regard. It would be a better tool if it did.

Friday, July 22, 2005

White Paper: To Blog or Not to Blog?

BlogHer Advisory Board member Jeneane Sessum has posted a magnum opus, a white paper entitled: To Blog or Not to Blog: Blogs Help Corporations Answer the Call to Conversation.

Disclaimer: 1) Jeneane is, as mentioned our BlogHer's board and 2) She lists this very blog as a one of the "Other Blogs You Should Know About".

This was actually a surprise to me. Partner Lisa Stone forwarded Jory and me the link just because it's such a comprehensive look at a space we're immersed in right now, and written by our enthusiastic Board member.

And I guess Jeneane can now feel confident that I actually read the whole thing, since my blog is listed on the penultimate page!

The White Paper is an excellent concise overview of business blogging...focusing more heavily on the Dos than the Don'ts which I think is appropriate. Why do I think so? Because the Don'ts of blogging are the same, mostly, as business Don'ts to begin with: don't lie; don't ignore customer problems; don' get the point. Those things aren't good in a non-blogging environment either.

I know there are a ton of us business blogvangelists out there extolling the benefits of business blogging. Most of us are doing it via presentations and seminars. And that's a great one-to-some larger number way of getting the word out there. Still this white paper can reach out even further, and any blogvangelist worth their salt wants to spread the word as far as possible, right? Right.

And on just a closing note: This week I debated with a most reputable, intelligent gentleman who just couldn't understand the point of BlogHer.

I kept saying that amongst all its other fine goals, such as education and community, one of our three primary goals is exposure. That we BlogHers simply wanted a place to be exposed to other bloggers and to get that our exposure ourselves.

I have no idea if Jeneane knew about Worker Bees before joining our Board. Maybe so. But I tend to think that through working on BlogHer a great big crowd of women (and some men too) were exposed to each other's work...and through that exposure have found new things to draw on, reference, point to, and feature.

That's BlogHer in action. And the rest of the world gets a kick-ass explanation of why they should get in on the same kind of action!

Is Feminine Leadership a Myth?

BlogHer partner Jory Des Jardins has been writing a series of posts over at the Future Tense Blog.

Her topic: feminine leadership.

My role in this? Apparently to be the contrarian and to wake her up too early on Saturday mornings!

It's a great series, and she uses our planning and execution of BlogHer as her laboratory in which to discover that she can and does like working with women!

I tend to be the nay-sayer that women and men have conclusive, distinctive, consistent differences in management style or application of analytical skills. I nay-say because I've been told I lead like a man, but I feel just like a woman. I nay-say because I think that when both men and women buy into those major gender difference in leadership styles and skills it contributes to the "glass ceiling" effect. If we all buy into women always being/demonstrating the qualities that Tom Peters lists (and Jory references):

-Women practice improvisation better than men
-Women are more self-determined and more trust sensitive than men
-Women appreciate and depend upon their intuition more than men do
-Women focus naturally on empowerment, rather than on hierarchical “power”
-Women understand and develop relationships with greater facility than men

If we buy into women naturally "being" those kind of leaders: sensitive, intuitive, nurturing, consensus-building, not into hierarchy (which strike me as all "supportive" qualities)...then that behavior is our expectation, and the first woman who shows up who likes processes, who wants analysis to make her decisions, who has no trouble drawing boundaries, setting expectations, telling it like it is...who is, God forbid, aggressive, as opposed to assertive, then that's why she's the boss from hell, when a man who behaved the same way would be tolerated...hell, probably wouldn't even slightly annoy his and women! Oh yes, women contribute to our own problems here because we're steeped in the same culture of separation.

And what is also pervasive is the "Larry Summers problem"...which is all about looking at what might be wrong with the women first...nature, as it were, then looking at the environment women are trying to succeed in.

This preferred approach to the "problem" of diversity was demonstrated as recently as today, when someone pointed me to this article in the Economist, which included this notable paragraph:

"Why is it proving so difficult for women to reach the top of corporations? Are they simply less ambitious, less excited by the idea of limitless (albeit first-class) travel, late nights and the onerous responsibilities imposed by mounting regulation? "

Oh, yes, let's start with the easy, comfortable question: "what's wrong with these women, why can't they succeed, no matter how many diversity programs we pay lip service to?"

As opposed to saying, "What might be wrong with our educational system, with corporate diversity programs, with the corporate culture, with hiring or promotion processes?" I'll give you a clue...there are no processes. It frees people to hire and promote based on relationships and gut feelings. And I just wonder what feeds those "gut feelings?" Gee, and they say women are the ones who act on intuition!

But, you know, any series of posts that can get me on my soapbox like this? Well, it must have been provocative, well-written and interesting. So, you go, Jory...out me a a "to-the-point" early riser, I don't mind!

A Worker Bees blog is San Jose Merc's 'Blog of the Week'

The San Jose Mercury has revitalized its interactive approach. Whereas before they perhaps relied on Dan Gillmor to give them all of their bloggy cred, they have now vastly expanded their interactive approach. And it's not just reporter blogs, which are nice too...they also are encouraging reader participation. And they are creating interaction between their online and print editions.

They're doing this in a variety of ways, from encouraging readers to review the same cultural events and restaurants that their reviewers do, and giving prizes to those who get chosen for publication (either print or online.) They're encouraging people to send their blogs in for inclusion in the blog roll and are choosing one a week to highlight, both online and in print.

Today the 42nd St. Moon blog that I write for the San Francisco theatre company of that name was chosen as this week's Blog of the Week.

I actually really like the qualities that web editor Jon Fortt chose to highlight:

-It's not just an ad for 42nd St. Moon
-I post often and regularly
-I try to serve the interests of my reader community

I feel vindicated by Fortt's comments, and I don't mind saying it.

Last night I had a rather long chat with new Pheedo-ite Dana VanDen Heuvel blogging as a marketer. And how I saw that it was an easy meme for people to repeat that marketers can't make good, authentic bloggers. As though marketers aren't people too, with real thought and opinions and feelings. As though marketers don't have to spend most of their careers adapting as it is! now that I've virtually "met" Dana, I feel doubly bad about always reverting to Swedish Chef-voice when I've said his name out loud. Like telling Jory and LIsa, "Yeah, I'll talk to Dana VanDen Heuvel von Feufel later this week."

As a woman whose had her surname bastardized with references to animals, bodily emissions and I won't even tell you what else, I should really be ashamed. (Or have simply figured that Dana must have developed the same sense of humor about it long ago as I have...hope so anyway.)

But I digress.

Which is what one is wont to do in a person or not!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blogs can be a powerful medium..even when they're a business tool

I've generally praised GM's blog efforts. I'm one of those who believe that the execs writing it are actually writing it. I'm one of those who believe they've executed smartly, allowing comments, even very critical comments to stand. And every few posts they use a post to respond to something form the despite the fact that they don't respond to probably hundreds of comments, they make the readers feel like they're being listened to.

But today the GM blog demonstrated how powerful blogs can be fore humanizing and reaching out to customers.

Today a GM Director of Vehicle Architecture told us about his son...who was in an auto accident in April, this April, and has been paralyzed from the shoulders down. And how suddenly something he never thought much about, mobility and disability issues, became something he had to personally deal with.

it doesn't matter what equally great solutions the other car makers might have for those with disabilities. Any person who reads this post who has a child, a parent, a spouse or themselves have a disability will gravitate toward GM to help them address their problem. Because they know their needs will be understood from the inside.

It doesn't feel like a cheap ploy. It's not like some commercial with heart-tugging, tear-jerking string music. It's a real guy telling his real, personal, and tragic story...showing that there are human beings behind the cars at GM.

And where else would he do this and be able to reach so many people, than in their blog?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

This month's Vegging Out for Metro Santa Cruz

If you ever wanted to make a trip to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, but feared that as a vegetarian you'd feel left out in the cold (and not just by the brisk ocean breezes) than this article will allay your fears.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Should product marketing "solve a problem" or "scratch an itch"?

I just wrote a mini-rant on my Personal Blog about what I saw as Microsoft's marketing cluelessness.

But as I wrote it I realized that the problem is that the Microsoft vs. Apple conversation is really oranges vs. apples. And in their case it seems to be that one company is developing product to meet that traditional goal of "solving customers' problems" whereas the other is developing products to "scratch customers' itches."

You can tell that Microsoft product management is well-trained in seeing product development's goal as problem-solving. How else to explain their reaction to the fact that PCs running Microsoft Windows are so susceptible to spyware and other malicious/intrusive software program? That reaction? To go into business selling more software to combat spyware etc.

Clearly spyware etc. is a major customer problem. For Microsoft OS users. Some might say that customers are having this problem because of a "bug" in the OS, or perhaps a design flaw. In any case, some might say...hey. fix your OS. Microsoft might argue that the reason the Mac OS doesn't have the problem is not that it's such a great, secure OS, but rather that it's such a niche market that the spyware folks don't spend the time to figure out how to inundate Macs the way they have PCs.

That argument doesn't really help the PC customer. And there's no getting around the perception that Microsoft is finding a way to make money off a customer problem that only their customers have.

If we look at Apple marketing, it's much more about solving problems you didn't even know you had...or scratching an itch, rather than bandaging a wound.

How so? Well, great design is something that obviously one needs in furniture, art, any number of items in your home. One could argue that great design doesn't make a computer more functional or useful. Yet, great industrial design is the hallmark of Apple products.

In fact most innovations Apple brings to the market scratch itches. I had a million ways to listen to music...I wasn't sitting around thinking, "Gee, I wish I had a way to take the music from all 1200 CDs I own with me at all times." I didn't realize that inside I really did want to take pictures, if only someone would make it easier to organize, edit and publish my photos, and to turn them into attractive photo albums with a click of the mouse rather than a visit to a scrapbooking store. I never imagine I would have some big desire to play with music samples and create my own compositions...and certainly never would have imagined that lots of other folks would have that inner musician itch to scratch too.

Is this why Apple is really, market-share-wise, a niche-product rather than a market dominator like Microsoft? Probably.

Has dominating a niche market made them unsuccessful? Don't think so.

Do Apple products also solve problems? Of course. Although you'll pay a premium.

Will greater numbers of people ever be willing to pay a premium to have comprehensive coverage of both their problems and their "itches"?

Now, if I knew that...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Monitoring blogs to find the good, the bad and the ugly

Recently Shai Coggins complained about some weird entries that were showing up in her ego-fee subscriptions.

What an ego-feed subscription? Well, I've talked about this before. I subscribe to various keywords at Technorati, Feedster, Blogdigger, PubSub and Google to be notified when any blog or site mentions me, my company, my clients, my blogs etc. I get a lot of repeat notifications, but I don't feel any tool is the leader yet in being both fast and comprehensive.

So, Shai was noticing an entry that repeatedly showed up for a site called "The News Show."

I have noticed the same thing, so I went over to her blog and commented that it seemed like an advertisement being inserted into key word subscription feeds by Feedster. I said I thought it sucked and was annoying. (It's annoying because when things show up in your ego-feeds you naturally go to the site and try to find the reference. And of course you can search and search, but you won't find a reference on these inserted sites.)

Shai responded to my comment by saying she too found it annoying, especially because what looks like the same entry keeps showing up as unread again and again.

Well, as is only fitting given the business they're in, Feedster obviously tracks their own mentions in their own version of an ego-feed (I wonder if they insert ads in their own ego-feeds?) Co-Founder Scott Rafer also commented on Shai's post and it's textbook good customer service communication:

-He apologized that we felt annoyed.
-He said that they're constantly trying to increase the relevance and decrease the intrusiveness of their ads
-He explained how it's supposed to work, and asked us to send him a screenshot if we were getting something outside that scope.

This last point is interesting because he said that theoretically the new entry/ad is only supposed to show up as unread again if you have something else new in the ego feed. I will keep an eye on that because I feel like sometimes the ads just show up on their own, but of course I have nothing new in there right now.

But let's recap: sure it's nice to monitor your web/blog presence to find all those time people call you a genius. And yes, sometimes you're going to find someone snarking away and decide that they are better ignored rather than engaged. (You can argue with me, but I'm not inclined to engage with someone who's behaving in a purely troll-like manner.)

But, think about the good Scott did with this brief interaction...he elevated his company several notches just by engaging.

I've posted laments about having trouble with Flickr, with Haloscan, with NetNewsWire and other products/services on my Personal Blog before...and while individual users have sometimes posted to help me, the companies never bothered.

Good on Feedster is what I'm trying to say.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

UPDATED REDUX: Someone is very very angry

I usually wouldn't link to anybody who thinks it's constructive to call any general group of people "morons", even if he is talking about P.R. people. (Kidding, my PR cousins, kidding)

What I find fascinating about this post and the one to which he does link is the sort of duality that exists between the supposed ethos of the blog community that theoretically Russell and others want to uphold, and their responses when things don't exactly fit into their preferred framework.

Example #1: Blogging is all about freedom of expression; and the concept that information wants to be free...and yet these posts are full of 'don't do this' and 'don't do that'...instructions not just to the morons they are excoriating, but to other bloggers who theoretically they approve of, but obviously feel still need their guidance.

Example #2: Don't tell me that Russell and Anil and others aren't perfectly pleased that via their blogging they have established themselves as voices of expertise about a particular market segment. They are perfectly pleased to publish publicly to achieve this reputation, and are perfectly pleased to get mucho traffic and job inquiries and speaking opportunities etc. So, yes, not everything associated with being an industry expert is fun. I can appreciate that, but jeez, the whining. Suck it up guys. Delete your spam like the rest of us do every day without having to make such a big deal about it. Isn't there just a tiny element of: "Look, look, I'm so important I get spammed constantly" buried amongst these rants?

Example #3: I find it tremendously ironic to complain about the degradation of the "quality" of conversations within a post that is filled with so much venom and pejorative terminology. I'm not sure this screed adds any more quality than meaningless product pitches...or talks about the color of the

I've met Russell once, maybe twice. He's the friend of a friend. He has always seemed like an affable, upbeat kind of guy. I mean look at the picture on his blog. Man, the anger seems all out of proportion.

Nobody owns the Internet really. Nobody owns the blogosphere really. People are going to start to use it in ways you will not approve of. Let go guys.

But, by all means, tell those PR people who send you crap to never email you again, block their emails/comments and report them as CAN-SPAM violators if they continue. You absolutely do have the right to try to control your own life!
UPDATED: there really is an interesting online conversation ensuing as a result of Russell's original post, so I guess we can thank him for that. Steve Rubel defends PR folks.

Russ says, "Hey, that's're exactly the guy that got me so steamed!" (Yes, I'm paraphrasing.)

Commenting ensues on both posts, and on both sides of the debate.
UPDATED REDUX: Alice Marshall has some pretty harsh words on the subject. She writes one brilliant paragraph:

"News flash, reporters are looking for real information to inform and entertain readers. Moreover it is a job for them and most have shareholders to answer to. That is why they cannot afford to write rants about the horrible press release they receive."

But I'm not sure I agree with her entire premise:

"Every new product announcement is a concrete example of where companies think the market is going. Only by consistently scanning press releases can you get a feel for an industry. This is a very time consuming process; that is why you need professional journalists. Moreover only an expert can separate the wheat from the chaff."

Sorry, but as someone who worked in product management and had both executive staff and sales breathing down my neck, I know there are plenty of press releases that are not such noble things. And I also disagree it's the "only" way to get a feel for an industry. Still, you gotta love a woman who writes this:

"Yes, it would be nice to only receive the wheat and none of the chaff; but life is filled with little disappointments."

Go ahead read the whole post.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Book review over at my Personal Blog

I review the books I read over at my Personal Blog, but the latest book review is one that is absolutely relevant to Worker Bees readers, so I'm cross-posting:

Read my review of Susannah Gardner's Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Shai Coggins posts some pretty good rules of thumb

I'm not one to advocate the need for global, universal blogging guidelines. I think PR blogs should adhere to the ethics that the PR industry adheres to, and journalistic blogs should adhere to journalistic get the idea.

But if I had to sign off on 10 Tips for basic blogging courtesy, I would sign off on Shai Coggins' list here.

The guidelines are pretty universally applicable, and are more about respect, fairness, plain old socially acceptable and polite behavior, rather than imposing some idea of what the blogosphere should be on everyone.

It's sort of like that book, Everything I Know I learned in Kindergarten...but for the Internet:

Don't spam.

Give proper attribution.

Correct and update incorrect information.

So on and so forth.

Who can argue with that?

Chris Nolan with an alternative reason to go to BlogHer for the BlogHims

Gotta love Chris Nolan's alternative motivation for men to come to BlogHer:

"If you are a man who likes code and software and things that plug in, and is perhaps having trouble finding a girl who likes Java (and knows it's not just a coffee) and undersands your inner Geek, this might be the PERFECT place for you to spend a summer afternoon."

Too true...the ratio for a hetero tech guy at a conference will never be better than this: ~75% female attendees!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Silly cable customer for you!

I've ranted about this before. Unable to resist ribbing my former industry I continue to be amused when I see each additional story about how this or that cable company practically begs a customer to just walk away.

The latest person liberating themselves from cable is Shelley Powers.

It's interesting because it's the first Charter Communications story of this kind I've read. This policy of charging cable customers who decide to cancel the video portion of their services and just keep the data more for that data than they were previously paying is a favorite of Comcast's. This is the policy that drove my parents to DSL.

There is no additional cost to Charter to let Shelley keep her data going. It travels over the very same wire, that wire that they're obviously not going to come rip from her house. .

I've said it before; I'll say it again: sure, go ahead, entice non-customers to your services with bundled pricing. But when you penalize existing customers for unbundling, in this day and age when they may actually have a choice, they will simply walk away.

You are a monopoly no more cable guys, when will you realize it?

This month's Silicon Veggie column

This month's column is entitled Something's Fishy and chronicles what happens when vegetarians go to a seafood restaurant.

I already got one complaint email, and you can read it and my response over at my Personal Blog.

When customer loyalty gets you nothin'

Recently I had an employee of one of my client's express dread that somehow, some way, some number of existing customers might get access to one of our theatre promotions, and would buy a ticket that they likely would have bought anyway.

Now, we're not talking a big 40% off discount on this one, but rather $3 a ticket...or less than 20%. Meanwhile most existing customers already get a mailer for each show offering them $2 off if they mail in their advanced order.

Now, I assured this client that the promotion wasn't just there for the taking on either the online box office site or the general theatre site. You had to get it from the blog, from an online community, or even from a cast member directly. Or sure, someone who did read the blog could tell someone else about it.

Hey, that's word-of-mouth right? Which is the goal.

I also acknowledged that there would be definitely be some existing customers...cast member family for instance...who might take advantage of the discount when they planned to come anyway.

But, I added, you accept some of that because you hope the blog and the discount feeds more word of mouth than no blog and no discount.

But I left one response completely unsaid, and that was: why are we so intent on sticking it most to the customers who are most loyal to us?

You've probably seen the cell phone commercial that has the little kids being told they pay more because they're loyal customers. Or take Doc Searls' post about the WSJ today. He learns that being a loyal, long-time customer earns him the worst price. Worse than just going online. Worse than a code he got from a promotional mailing. So ultimately he cancels his existing subscription and re-ups as a "new" subscriber.

Where is the sense in that?

Many retail establishments do quite the opposite. They establish frequent buyer programs. To inspire loyalty; to motivate people to come back again some time, y'hear? And perhaps not tops in the retailer's mind, but tops in the customer's mind: to reward them.

As I did explain in my response to the worried client: you would consider me a long-time customer. I've been coming off and on to shows at this theatre for over a decade. but I certainly don't go every time. I still need that extra push to not only open my wallet, but devote the three hours of my life. If an extra buck of a discount motivates a "regular" to become a never-miss-a-show customer, that's all good...isn't it?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What am I learning from BlogHer?

Well, besides learning to have a whole new respect for event planners. And learning that my anal retentive side really comes in handy sometimes. And learning that when you ask people what they think then, by God, they will actually tell you.

But best of all I am learning something else. I am learning that myths are meant to be shattered. Like the myth that women can't work together. Oh, you say, who would really say that? Well, as I expressed in an email to one of our Advisory Board members when she was looking for messaging around which to blog about BlogHer:

"It is appalling how the myth is perpetuated (frankly by men and women) that women can't work together; that women sabotage each other, that women suck up to men, that women love to have coffee klatches, but can't move beyond talk."

Well, BlogHer has been completely grass-roots. We saw something we wished was different and said, hey, maybe we should just make it happen. And then we thought, we really can't do this all by ourselves...let's see if other people would want to help. And it grew from there, almost uncontrollably. The BlogHer effort has seen a very diverse group of women come together and work together.

We asked for help, and people delivered.
We asked for input and feedback and got it, unconditionally.
We have dealt with conflict and respectful disagreement and kept moving forward.
People have both praised us and buried us, but we, as a group, just kept going.

All we had to do was make the slightest effort, and we found not just competent women voices, but diverse, competent women voices...talking technology, talking culture, talking identity, talking business.

And it's not just women stepping forward for glory-work. We have cool women who have agreed to do some of the nuts and bolts work or some of the less than glamorous work. They want to help. And none of them, I repeat not one, asked "what will I get in return?"

When you see women interact in groups in most media/culture-based examples, if it's a positive interaction it's some kind of kumbayah sisterhood of the traveling ya-yas. Either that or they're deciding the only solution to escaping the oppressive ways of "the man" is self-immolation. But I'm talking about women getting stuff done now. Getting down to business, whether that business was designing logos or planning a Friday night dinner.

The competent and collaborative spirit of women has been ignored by the media and by pop culture, traded in for Melanie Griffith vs. Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl...the good girl vs. the ice queen. And those messages, that women will be at odds in the work place, have been absorbed and generalized by many women.

It makes me sad every time I see it. And it's not just young, don't-know-any-better women, who may have had but one bad boss in their life! No, a seasoned recently elected San Jose City Councilwoman can perpetuate the same negative messages.

I grant you I've never had a female boss, well in the last 10 years anyway. But I have had me some bad male bosses, and it never occurred to me to say, "wow, men suck as bosses." Those men sucked, definitely. But my two greatest mentors were men. I have also been the female both men and women, and I save to this day a year-old excerpt from an IM exchange I had with a woman where she told me that she and a guy who were on my team were agreeing I was the best boss they had ever had. But I know at least one man and one woman who both probably think I sucked as a boss...people tend to think that when an employer and employee part ways.

I veering dangerously close to rambling now, but I've been meaning for some time to take that email I wrote to one of our Board members and expand upon it here. Forget the generalizations; it's really pretty simple: when you've got a good team working toward a shared goal, that team will work well together.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Business blogs and comment spam

Hey, look, I know comment spam is a terrible scourge, and gosh darn it why can't all the blog application providers out there make it go away.

You know like the email providers have? Oh, wait a minute...yeah even they, who've had years to work on it, can't make it magically go away.

But here's my opinion: if you have a blog, specifically one that's meant to be a part of your business and reflect your business...then suck it up and spend whatever annoying amount of time you have to to get rid of your comment spam.

If I visit your blog and you don't care enough about your readers (and existing and potential customers) to get rid of the spam in your comments section, then that tells me something about, well let's be blunt: your attention to detail, your customer-service attitude, the level of care you devote to your business.

Yes, I agree, removing it within minutes isn't always feasible. Sometimes even hours could understandably go by.

But you know who you are out there: the people who never bother. The people who leave it there for days. The people who give up on posts older than a couple of weeks.

Well, I find a lot of blogs via Google searched on specific topics of interest...and yes, as hard as it may be to believe...I may not actually follow your blog yet. I may find it, and an old post on it, via a search, and yes, the post might be a few weeks old. If I see a slew of Texas Hold 'em and cialis comments, well, it tells me something. And it means I probably won't start to follow your blog.

Yes, I'm cranky because I just spent some time this morning purging comment spam from my political blog. (Which is the only blog I write on Movable Type and is the only blog I write that does get plagued with comment spam...very annoying.) BUt if I can do it this fine Saturday morning. Then you can find a way to do it sometime too.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hmmm...From Blogs to Books?

Welcome to The Friday Project, basically a publisher that promises to troll the web to find their authors.

Although the hyperbole would certainly lead you to believe they had if nothing else, reinvented the wheel, but perhaps even the car engine that runs on water.

"New publishing house promises to unlock the web’s creative talent "

"Key to the company’s success will be its ability to combine the creativity and dynamism of the Internet with the authority and flexibility of print."

I certainly hope the project delivers on its promise. And I also hope that bloggers remember one thing: no one is coming to you with a business proposition because you're doing what you love. If someone comes to you with a business proposition you do not need to be grateful, you need to be aware of your own value and talent. They are coming to you because they hope you can make money for them.

Just make sure you get your fair share of the deal, that's all.

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