Friday, March 31, 2006

This blog is quoted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle...

...but it's a good thing they didn't dig into the comments.

Thanks to blogging Diva Toby Bloomberg for alerting me to the prominent quote from Worker Bees in this week's Atlanta Business Chronicle.

It's a story on business blogging, and it lists excerpts from blogs talking about Atlanta-based companies.

It quotes this post of mine, written over a year ago. As you can see the chosen excerpt is pretty positive. They didn't excerpt the part where I called Earthlink "wimpy' because at the time they didn't have comments enabled.

And they also obviously didn't notice the lengthy comment on the post from someone who signs themselves as an "Unhappy Earthlink Customer."

I have actually gotten emails form unhappy earthlink customers too. They must Google find my post and think I can do something abour it!

Not so Unhappy Earthlinkers, not so.

Anyway, thanks to Toby for pointing it out to me and sending me the file...since they never called me but just pulled the quote from my blog i would never have otherwise known it existed!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Waiting for the blog swarm to begin...

Can you hear the howls of indignation already?
Now, whenever you visit a Mobber-enabled blog (one that has that bit of javascript), your picture will appear along with those of any other readers with Mobber profiles who happen to be reading the same blog at the same time.

Now, you can view the profiles of those other readers and click to chat with them. I’m just not sure I’d want to be interrupted for a chat while I’m reading blog posts. And can you imagine what might happen to an A-lister who happens to be perusing a blog with his picture showing? How many chats would readers initiate with Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington? And, given that A-listers probably wouldn’t make themselves available for such chats, who’s left? Anybody you’d want to chat with?

Shel Holtz 03/24/06

[Bold emphasis mine; italics, his.]

Now, he makes a point immediately following that is really the crux of his argument:
Besides, blogs already come with a way to engage with the blogger and other readers. It’s called “comments,” and it’s asynchronous, a characteristic I appreciate. I can engage when it’s convenient for me, which is preferable to an interruption while trying to read a post.

But I wonder if anyone will catch that? Good luck with that!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grand Rounds is up at HealthyConcerns

Grand Roundsis the MedBlogging world's version of a blog carnival, featuring everyone's best post from the previous week. I hosted it this week over at HealthyConcerns, and I urge you to check it out.

First of all because there are dozens of links to amazing posts about real stories and real experiences.

Second of all because it took me HOURS to create, and I want some strokes, people!

Transparent enough for you?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Berkely Cybersalon: what a difference a point of view makes

Last night my partners Lisa and Jory spoke on a panel for Sylvia Paull's monthly Cybersalon.

The topic was meant to be the place of expertise and elitism in a Web 2.0 "user-created" world. lisa and Jory both come from traditional media backgrounds, and have moved into the online world with a vengeance, but they are certainly not your average born-of-the-grass-roots opinion-shapers.

I was unable to attend, and if I read the recaps I come away thinking that there were two different panels:

One, according to Tom Foremski, was "a great evening because the audience, after a respectful 15 minutes or so of listening to panel members droning on--grabbed control over the means of communication."

One, according to Geodog, "the tired old fight that some never tire of rehashing: Journalists vs. bloggers." Or even worse, according to Scott Rosenberg, like taking a time machine back to tired old discussions, which he lays at the feet of moderator Andrew Keen here: "I'm afraid his determination to tar the blogosphere as a force for anarchy and narcissism warped the evening, turning back the clock on the entire conversation about blogging and journalism that so many thoughtful people -- including many in the room tonight -- have been advancing for years."

From what I can read, having not attended, it merely reinforces 2 things I believe make for great sessions:

1. If your panelists are on different sides of an issue, then the mdoerator has to play the objective party as much as possible. There's no pointpretending to have a debate if you can't be respectful to the various positions being represented. If you can't, then just have an advocacy session, not a debate session.

2. By all means audience participation is absolutely key. But this doesn't absolve the person moderating the panel from having a basic outline of what should be addressed by both the panelists and the audience. Sessions that are free-for-alls can be mildly entertaining at best, but rarely enlightening or educational. IMHO of course. I could relate to this Geodog description: "reminiscent of a badly led graduate seminar with a bunch of really bright people mostly talking to themselves, trying to score points off each other, or trying to impress the professor, instead of having the focused discussion I had hoped for." I've been in such meetings many many times. From the discussion notes I've read at the three posts above it's hard to see how some of the commentary from the crowd had anything to do with the subject at hand.

I really wish I was there though. Although I might have rolled my eyes at some of the crap flying out of people's mouths I surely would have been nodding my head in violent agreement to some of the other crap flying out of other people's mouths!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Rounding out my SXSW experience

My last day in Austin I went to two SXSW panels that turned out to be more "traditional" and therefore, less engaging.

Now, every panel had to deal with the fact that they were up on a raised platform behind a table, and that there was no real accommodation for audience mic that could be walked around the room for example. So even in sessions like BlogHer's, where we tried to engage the audience within the first 10 minutes, it was tough because most questions had to be repeated, and long questions became frustrating for those audience members on the other side of the room who couldn't hear. Still, we did our best, and so did the other panels saw on Sunday, Bloggers in Love and Blogging While Black.

Monday panel #1 was "Cluetrain Revisited: 7 years later. Part of the reason I went to see this panel was to find out if I had really missed something big when I had a less than rhapsodic response to finally reading The Cluetrain Manifesto last year. (Here's my review.) The panel was moderated by Henry Copeland and featured Doc Searls, Brian Clark and Heather Armstrong.

This was a panel of people who attach a lot of importance to words and their meanings, and it's like they share a coded language that we are all supposed to buy unreservedly if we want to be considered "clueful." The trouble is I often don't.

Two examples:
Doc: A "consumer" is a "degraded customer."
Brian: Hates the word "amateur" and prefers "enthusiast."

Well, I think this is a chicken/egg situation. Sometimes it feels to me that the clueful community is trying to pin bad subtexts on long-standing words like "amateur" and "consumer" simply so they can swoop in and pretend it's a big deal to use their alternate words. (I'm a pretty massive consumer, and I'm sorry, but I simply don't feel degraded by the word.)

The panel is then asked to name clueful companies, and it strikes me that a company need only use clueful tools to attain clueful status. What do Microsoft and Sun have in common? Well, sure, they have tons of blogs. To be clueful, though, shouldn't they have done something within the company with the conversation generated in those blogs? No one seems to talk about that. They just talk about clued in they are to "let" all those employees blog. I've heard some anecdotes out of Microsoft and how their blogging and Scoble's position as Chief Humanizing Officer (unofficial title, of course) has had impact, but seriously I don't think I've ever heard anyone discuss clueful outcomes from all of Sun's blogs...what am I missing?

So we get some praise for companies who are blogging, Edelman, Microsoft, Sun, and we get some morepraise for Scoble and praise for Winer.

And Doc makes a statement that the priorities of companies should be:
1. Employees
2. Customers
3. Shareholders

So, I want to suggest to him that perhaps he go into politics and change the laws, so public companies actually could have such a priority list.

I learn from Henry that PETA blogs, so that was a truly useful bit of info for me. (Although I couldn't find an actual link to their blog from their home page, so one step back.) What I did find on their home page was the cute little cat vomit warning sign pictured at left, so double-thanks to Henry. You can now consider yourself to officially have too much information about my home life.

Doc brought up another topic that piqued my interest, given my former life in the cable industry. He stated that the cable and telco companies still have big bandwidth downstream and smaller bandwidth upstream, that they haven't changed their philosophy on this, and that it's going to be a big problem. Well, coming from Terayon, the company that provided the technology for DOCSIS 2.0 that was supposed to bring symmetric bandwidth to the cable household,this was our argument for years. The funny thing was that how DOCSIS 2.0 did not take off. The spec was approved, many many companies passed and were certified/qualified as DOCSIS 2.0-compliant. Product was sold. But to my knowledge most of those operators don't use the 2.0 upstream capacity. So market demand isn't quite making it a problem for cable ops yet.

Anyway, then Halley asked a question about what things would look like in another 7 years and women's role in that.

-Brian: didn't really answer the question about women's role.
-Doc: moving form the Industrial Age to the Social Age, with an explosion of independent production of media and communications and art. "Women are better at it."
-Heather: Women home with the kids have the loneliest job. Blogging helps by providing a publishing platform. Women are creating communities and influencing purchasing decisions.

I spent much of the session playing with my new laptop, listeniing with half an ear, which is frankly more than the next session I attended got out of me.

My final SXSW session was Does your blog have a business?

This was a panel with very little audience interaction, maybe in the lst 10 minutes, and it was rife with what I call "magical thinking." These panelists were not stupid people, so if given the opportunity to expand on a response that seemed magical in nature they often had smart, concrete things to say.

When audience members finally got to ask questions one asked about building an audience. How did their blogs get found?

The initial response from at least 2, and I think 3, of the panelists was to claim the old "I built it, and they came" thing. They talked about the audience "finding them."

I rolled my eyes.

Later they each got a chance to expand, and then they mentioned all the real nitty-gritty stuff that goes on behind putting something up that readers will "just find." Things like what kind of posts tend to generate more links or traffic, things like using key words extensively, things like posting often. Actual usable advice for the guy asking the question.

It only took 55 minutes to get there.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Opt-Out Boom or Opt-Out Myth?

Claudia Goldin makes the case for the latter.

Her conclusion:
Women who graduated 25 years ago from the nation's top colleges did not "opt out" in large numbers, and today's graduates aren't likely to do so either.

And provides a variety of stats to back up that conclusion.

So why the rush to trumpet woman opting out of the workplace? Goldin doesn't attempt to answer that question at all. The obvous answer is somewhat conspiratorial in nature: perpetuating this particular myth will attach a little asterix next to the name of every female employee or applicant...thus lowering their competitiveness for both hiring and advancement once hired.

Is it just men who might consciously or sub-consciously buy into this myth. No it's not. Just last week BlogSister was talking to a female co-worker about her high-energy, high-maintenance boys. BlogSister made a comment, said with humor, but probably meant quite seriously, that if she stayed home with her boys she would go crazy. The co-worker said, without a shred of humor, "well, why did you have children then, if you weren't going to stay home and raise them?" Or something to that effect.

Do we think that female co-worker would ask BlogSister's husband the same question?

I, for one, do not.

I don't have the answers either as to why the existence of this "opting-out craze" is such a widely-held belief despite the lack of anything other than anecdotal tales in the New York Times Magazine to support it. And being childless I'm hardly in a position to make personal observations.

Consider it a thing that makes me go hmmmm.

Friday, March 17, 2006

SXSW: Blogging While Black Revisited

Moderated by Lynne D. Johnson

Tiffany Brown
George Kelly
Tony Pierce
Jason Toney

The panel started with each panelists explaining what has happened to them in the intervening year since they were on the Blogging While Black panel last year. They each also described the results of a demographic survey they each (except Tony) did on their blogs pre-panel.

Not too surprisingly their audiences seem to be a lot like them, especially when it comes to being pretty well-educated and fairly aligned as far as income. Also unsurprisingly their audiences are not bothered when they talk race on their blogs. Their audiences are fairly split race- and gender-wise. A lot of 50/50 and at worst 60/40 splits. Tiffany does skew way more female, and Lynne does skew way more male. Lynne, in fact, wishes more women read her, btu since her topic is hip hop music, she can understand the reasons.

The panel was really engaging because the speakers were so smart, funny, engaging, open and, dare I even say it, articulate. There wasn't much of a set agenda for the panel, but truth be told, it didn'tmatter. Sometimes it's fun to just eavesdrop (and perhaps particiapte in) a really cool conversation. Some of the coolness that ensued:

-Someone in the audience asked why limit yourself by identifying and talking race. (Not so different from asking in the women's visibility panel why one would "limit" oneself by self-identifying as a woman.) The correct response: why do you equate racial identity or gender identity as a "limit" That implies that only white men are not limited by being so identified. Kinda icky when you think of it that way, no?

-Lynne: Although she may write like a journalist, she grew up in the Bronx and has authenticity on her subject. There are those who want to be the only voice for hip hop.

The issue came up about how to deal with flamers, haters, trolls:

George: You don't need to give eevrything in the world "oxygen."

Jason: Everything on the web has the same "weight" (and longevity.) If someone is lying about you isn't it important to correct that? Your silence lets the lie become the only reference.

Tony: He loevs it when haters visit. Heloevs to mix it up with them...pop 'em like a zit.

Tiffany: Doesn't want to be marginalized as an "angry black woman." Don't feed them the reaction they want.

Audience member Laina: Anger can fuel you (as per Henry Rollins.) Tiffany doesn't want to be dismissed. Laina asks if other blacks dismiss? Tiffany doesn't feel she gets that reaction from the black community.

Tiffany: Anger, when justified, is a good thing (Katrina example.) Anger in response to anger isn't.

Audience member Halley: "Google is forever."

Jason: Define "angry." There's a difference between assholes and heated discourse.

Laine: People make the assumption you're angry if you're strong or emphatic.

Tony: People are trying to write Hillary Clinton off by dismissing her as angry.

This resonated with me, as you could guessif you also read my personal blog.

Then there was the discussion of the term "well-spoken." Last year someone included that description of the panelists in her blog about the panel. The audience groaned, and the panel proceeded to paint even words such as "articulate" and "eloquent" with the same brush. Um, so how do I tell a black person I like their speaking skills and style? I use the word articulate all the time when I want to praise a speaker (see earlier in this post.)

Bonus part, though, was when the woman who blogged the "well=spoken" comment stood up and outed herself. Turns out she meant well-spoken for a *SXSW panelist*, not for a black person...apparently the panels last year were a bit stultifying and poorly prepared? Anyway, kudos to Cinnamon for standing up and taking her lumps, and to all of the panelists for letting her explain it really was praise not a back-handed compliment.

See, we ALL make assumptions.

Idealistic, optimistic white guy (self-described) in audience asks how he can help. Answer: link to them.

I made a comment that I wished people would understand that when we want to form identity-focused groups to participate in, it's to participate in in addition to mainstream groups, not instead of.

Jason rocks my world by saying he want to create something in the BlogHer model for bloggers of color.

Lynne closes by saying that she would also like to be asked to sit on panels because of her expertise.

So I promptly invited her (post-session) to team-teach the Day One web writing workshop at BlogHer with Lisa, and she agreed. :)

SXSW Recap: Bloggersin Love

This was a charming panel about couples who blog, moderated by Lisa Williams, put together by Julie Leung and featuring Chris Pirillo and Ponzi Inharasophang, Jeneane and George Sessum, and Heather Champ and Derek Powazek.

I confess I cam in about half-way through, so I missed any set-up or context, but I ejoyed what I was there for.

As always when you get more than a couple of bloggers together in one place talking about it I am reminded that blogging is not just about the tool, the is about the opportunity to communicate. And the opportunity to preserve our stories.

Some tidbits uttered by the Bloggers in Love that I really appreciated:

Derek: If you don't respect your friends (either by sharing confidential info or by publishing unflattering photos) you will have a compelling and interesting blog...for a very short time.

Chris: Hate mail usually is about projection.

Lisa: Online relationships are "real", the feelings are real.

Chris: Here's a challenge! Write 100 things you love about your partner. It's easier to enumerate what bugs you. He did it and blogged it.

Heather: Part of our relationship existed online.

Derek told a story about breaking it to Heather that he had shared a story about their dating with his email lsit...of over 100 people. When she didn't freak out he knew it had a future!

Jory shared from the audience: she's in a mixed relatinpship. One blogs, one doesn't. (He obviously doesn't.) Derek told her that actually that gave her BF more power, bcause he always had more insight into what Jory was thinking! She had never thought of it that way.

Chris: Ponzi occasionally threatens: "I'm blogging that!" And Chris gave a shout-out to BlogHer '05 for helping Ponzi a lot.(So he didn't have to.)

We had two blog-based he-said/she-said moments. The first was in the audience when it was Marc vs. Lisa Canter over something she blogged about, no surprise, money. (Check our BlogHer survey results that revealed that money is the most taboo subject according to most bloggers.

Then there is a Ponzi/Chris incident that is infamous. On vacation she blogged about he was married to his computer, and she felt alone and abandoned. From Ponzi's perspective just telling Chris did no good, and she was better able to express it in written form. From Chris' perspective it was embarrassing and if she wanted to write it down she could have sent him and email. Much love to Ponzi, but I gotta say I tend to agree with Chris on this. However, not being there and knowin perhaps it really was only PUBLIC humiliation that broke through.

Audience member Tara amusingly called herself and her PiC Chris Messina "Couple 2.0." Very cute.

I commented at the very end that I often wished that my S.O. linked to me or blogged more about his personal thoughts, or that he even read more of what I blog. It's a connection, and I think these couples are lucky to have it. Some day they (and some day further on their children) will be really glad to have a record of their love and affection (and occasional spats, even.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

BlogHer's Survey makes the WaPo

Hard not to get excited about a little MSM attention for BlogHer.

BlogHer ran a survey on how bloggers draw boundaries between personal and professional information on their blogs.

The results surpised us in a couple of ways:

-Money is still taboo...the most taboo subject we identified

-Despite a reputation to the contrary, even personal bloggers are comfortable talking sex.

-Again, despite what makes the headlines, the vast majority of bloggers have never received negative professional feedback in response to their personal blogging.

Check out today's WaPo, online and off, and see their coverage of our survey.

Online interview as pre-cursor to hosting Grand Rounds

If your'e an uber-host for a Carnival and really want to bring attention to your blogging segment, you shold follow in the footsteps of Grand Rounds uber-host Nicholas Genes.

After building the Rounds for a year and helping it increase in traffic and participation, Genes went out and forged a relationship with a more traditional online MedSite, Medscape.

I actually have no idea what the details are of the relationship, other than the fact that every week Nick gets to publish a bio of the coming week's Grand Rounds host, and every week Medscape links to the Rounds.

Since I'm hosting next Tuesday (Submissions Wanted, by the way) Mick has published a lovely interview with me.

Thanks're a role model for Carnival hosts everywhere!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

BlogHer @ SXSW: Increasing Women's Visibility on the Web. Whose Butt Should We Be Kicking?

This will be the last of the BlogHer sessions that I can live-blog, as it conflicted with Anastasia Goodstein's Meet Judy Jetson panel, I was unable to recap hers.

The panel consisted of:

Moderator: Ayse Erginer

Virginia DeBolt
Liz Henry
Tara Hunt
Jan Kabili

Ayse kicked off by asking each panelist is She felt she was visible, and how so.

Jan: Jan has been around for 20 years and has always believed in looking for opportunities. She has had to kick her own butt and ask for it if she wants it (whatever it maybe.) She had some presence in the offline world because She wrote books and magazine articles, so when she migrated online she didn't attempt to write about what she wasn't already an expert in. Jan writes for WeblogsInc, and she basically emailed Jason and asked for the gig. Being part of a network is a great idea, according to Jan, because she gets to benefit from the network, while focusing only on what she likes to do, which is write.

Liz: Agrees with Jan that sure, you have to kick your own butt, so she is becoming increasingly self-promotional. And she also sees the value of support from a network...and specifically a network of women. She feels a barrier to visibility is lack of focus. When she started to separate her single potpourri blog into multiple topic-focused blogs, it resulted in better visibility. But this is partly because tools suck, and findability is really hard unless you are keyword-driven.

Tara: She has worked very hard to be visible. Tara made a controversial point that blogging about marketing while living in Toronto wasn't very visible, but once she moved to Silicon Valley and blogged the same basic topics she had betetr material and became more visible. Tara also acknowledges that she has a lot of privilege.

Virginia: She is a SXSW veteran, but until this year was invisible. She sat in the back, the silent gray-haired lady. She didn't fit in and listened only. But she became a convert and believed and wanted to put herself out here more. She started down her writing path by not being able to find books that taught design properly (in her humble opinion.)
Now I'm in front of you instead of hiding in the back, where I'd prefer to be.

Audience Member, Meri: But who are you? I'd never heard of any of you before today. (Big laugh)

Jan: The internet is comprised of lots of sand boxes, the issue is being visible in the one in which you're playing.

Audience Member Lisa Canter: Shouldn't we focus on the pursuit of excellence?

Me: I have never worked in an industry where the smartest people advance and the bad ones are kept back. There's so much more than quality, skill and talent that plays networking, contacts, luck, timing. (This is my regular rant that the idea that the Web is a Meritocracy is hopelessly naive.)

Tara: There are hierarchies. The question is what is valued? And should we work on changing it. She feels that MommyBloggers aren't treated seriously...and that if she blogged more about her kid, she'd lose readers.

More than one person pointed out she'd gain others. My personal interjection: I think MommyBloggers can pretty much stop caring if tech-heads don't take them seriously, the truth is that companies and businesses are taking them very seriously and recognizing their POWER.Screw the tech-heads!!

Liz: Maybe the 23-year-old techie guy reading Tara needs to shut up and listen to something outside his experience!

Jan: Her goal is to teach and to reach as many people as possible, so yes, she cares about traffic and visibility.

Audience Member (I think Meri again): For tech it's no big secret: stay on topic, have a focus, write good content.

Audience Member Question: so how are you leveraging your blogs for professional gain?

Virginia: First she was asked to review books. Then she got the deal to write a book.

Tara: Her current job could be traced to blogging. Now she's head hunted, gets speaking engagements, writing gigs. It just raises her value in the marketplace.

Liz: Considers herself more of an outsider, so she's not as worried about what she says.

Jan: It takes a long time to write a book. Pre-blog authors go into hibernation when writing a book. The blog gives her a way to be visible during the process. She also gets more speaking and writing gigs.

Audience Member Question: Aren't there negatives to the visibility?

Tara: You open yourself up to criticism. Sometimes the people in her life are uncomfortable with her writing about them. She has a big mouth and occasionally gets called on it. No problems with her boss, because she thinks he doesn't read it.

Liz: "Obscurity through verbosity" (The most excellent quip of the panel.)

Liz: Thinks there should be specific system changes allowing people to tag and self-identify...makes it easier to be found. The patriarchy makes us invisible even to each other. (She might have said that earlier...I didn't write it down, but I was just reminded that she said it.)

Audience Member Melinda (I'm assuming I mean SourDuck): Why seek a technical solution to a cultural problem??? [Side note: I liked this question a lot.]

Jan: It's nothing new, you're right. I've run into the same problems in 3 professional careers. [Side note: me too...I've been in very male-dominated industries...Commodities, the cable industry and now Internet tech.] Why reinvent the wheel? Look to other realms where this happens and how they've dealt with it. She doesn't want to blame, she wants to work our way out of it.

Audience Member: Her mom was a female minister. She thinks women are hyper-critical of ourselves and each other and very competitive. Women are blogging and online, so we can make the difference and make the change. We are already represented, now let's do something with it.

Question from Audience Member: The web is a whole new space for society. Why would we replicate the same old categories and social structures.

Either the same or a different audience member added: The web is self-organizing. It has the potential for anti-patriarchal and anti-hierarchal-ness. (I'm sure they articulated that a little more elegantly)

Me: It's too late. It's not so new anymore, those hierarchies are already taking hold.

Jan: One obvious way that has worked in other spheres is mentoring.

Audience Member Meri: There are assumptions made about who wrote something. A white male until proven otherwise. (or unless it's Live Journal, in which case you're a 14-year-old girl.) [Another big laugh for Meri.]

Audience Member: something along the lines of no one knows you're a dog.

Virginia: She gets overlooked in the physical world, but her online writing frees her, so people don't know she's a gray-haired older lady.

Me: But this exactly explains why I think that we should self-identify. I want the world to know Virginia is a gray-haired lady who kicks ass in the technical sphere. It's the only way to change the assumption is to prove it's wrong!!

Audience Member Ronni: Blogs about aging. She can understand Virginia's enjoyment of that freedom, but she want the world to know this is what she is. And she feels it's an obligation.

Audience Member Skye: Another reason to self-identify: can't communicate certain info without self-identification. If she wants to blog about sexism for example or other issues.

[Note: I hope I got that right, my notes are a little garbled at this point.]

Audience Member who is a comic book blogger: Male comic book bloggers are always asking "where are the women comic book bloggers", but they don't really want to know how to find them, they just want people to spoon feed them.

Panelists Last Words:

Jan: I want to go out there as a respected person in my field.

Liz: We didn't talk enough about sexism or about the interruption of careers that comes with motherhood.

Tara: Send her your URLs. She wants to read the women with diverse perspectives.

Virginia: She wants to meet teachers.

Virginia and Jan will sign books.

My final thoughts: This is just too big a panel for 5 people and an entire diverse audience to cover in one hour. This was also the only BlogHer session where I do not think a single man engaged in the conversation. Perhaps it seemed like the touchiest subject? Although at least one guy blogged this panel and found Virginia's particular story very moving:
I was very One of the most inspiring and uplifting stories I've heard here. It occured to me that it wasn't so much visibility as it was the desire for meaningful recognition that was at the heart of the issue. And of course this applies to everyone, not just women. Learning to make yourself visible is just the mechanical part of it; being truly appreciated and acknowledged for who you are and what you do is pretty universal.

So I'll close with his quote, since it's so warm and positive.

BlogHer @ SXSW: Respect Your ElderBloggers

Here's my recap of this terrific session, featuring:

Lori Bitter
Ronni Bennett

Lori: The three things we want to cover are:

1. Why reaching out to the elder market is good business
2. Why it's a social good
3. What needs to change as far as products, services and marketing

Lori starts by throwing up some brief slides illustrating the size and composition of the elder market. Usually BlogHer frowns a bit on PowerPoint, but n this case it really was easier to picture what she was talking about by seeing it.

Basically, the number of elderly in our population is going way up. By the year 2030 20% of our population will be over 60.

Other key points:

-The elderly are not either poor or wealthy...there is a great middle where they may be cash-poor but have assets.

-The baby boomers did not have enough children to provide sufficient "informal" caregivers.

Ronni: Blogging and other online opportunities will revolutionaize what old age can and will be. She quotes someone I didn't catch:
If you are unsung, sing
If you are unflung, fling

That's what blogging is about.

When you retire your world immediately shrinks, plus with familis dispersing and friends dying, the world shrinks even further. Blogging and online interaction can stop and reverse that shrinkage.

Ronni mentions a neurological study that shos why blogging is good for helping elders retain mental acuity.

The Blogging Brain is engaged in:
-Critical Thinking
-Intuitive Thinking
-Analogical Thinking
-Exposure to quality thinking by others
-A combination of solitary reflection and social interaction

When Ronni polled her ElderBlogger friends the number one benefit of blogging was Friendship.

We are healthier when are minds are engaged...healthier both mentally and physically.

Some other key facts from Ronni:

-When she was young children were still dying of diseases like polio, whooping cough, diptheria etc. Now health care dollars are shifted to taking care of us in our last years.

-<1% of MDs are board-certified geriatricians

-80% of elders actually live independently, so it's not just a matter of getting a computer in every retirement community, but in every elder's home.

What could computer access be used for besides hooking them into social interaction:

-Monitoring vital signs
-Medical questions

So the market for products with imrpoved design and usability isn't just for the elders, but also for the somewhat technologically-resistant medical community.

Clinton spearheaded an outreach program (government and corporate) to put computers in every classroom. In ten years that penetration is at about 90%. Need the same thing for elders. Not just equipment, also training.

Lori: Mature work force. People don't want to retire based on some arbitrary retirement age devised in the 30s. Most of these people may quit working, but they will do something.

Microsoft had announced an initiative for Adaptive technologies, but there is no sign of it to be found on their site.

There is no rallying cry around elders like there have been around children.

Audience member Dan, a social worker: HR departments are not really equipped to handle 4 generations in the workforce. Also octogenarians think government is going to take care of them...big pitch for consumder directed health care.

Audience member, Sue Thomas: In her university in England there is a department of mechatronics. Working on building sensors into buildings, so alerts would go off if vital signs changed. However, there is resistance bcause people don't want to feel Big brother is watching. Blogging can be an acculturation to the online connection.

Ronni: While there are pograms that give high school and college credits for training elders, a recent British study indicated that elders learned best when taught by really youngchildren, like 5-8 years old.

She then introduces Steve Garfield to talk about his mom, Millie, an octogenarian blogger.

Millie knew how to type, and after seeing an article 3-4 years ago about blogs Millie asked her son about them. So he set her up. At first when she gots comments she though "who are these people?" But those people became her friends.

Millie says: her physical friends don't listen. Everyone is just waiting to say their piece. But in the blogosphere people read her and listen to her more. Throughout her day Millie is constantly taking mental notes and always thinking about how to blog her life (as are we all, no?) but it keeps her mind very active.

All of the postive comments and emails are a kind of reinforcement and encouragement she never got as a mom or a secretary.

Audience member, Baratunde: His mom is concerned about security, but she got a PowerBook and just loved it. Now she wants to podcast...she is communicating with the world.

Ronni: Equipment elders can use already exists for disabled market:
-Foot mice
-Head mice
-ABC rather than qwerty keyboards

But they're prohibitively expensive.

Audience member, Lisa Williams: Elders and children get hand-me-down gear, when they should get the best and the newest. In her town they don't have enough children for all the school buildings, so they are turning them into age-restricted housing, and in one notable case into a half-school, half-age-restricted housing complex.

Audience member, Donna Fulton from Austin: Her parents were techy, but don't know blogging. She and her siblings have noticed that her parents are making lots of trips to the doctor's office, and they've begun to think it's more for the social interaction than that there are things wrong with them.

Ronni: Brings up Negroponte's $99's not just the cost, but the simplicity.

How do we make it happen?

Audience member, Betsy Devine: Start in one locality and show the business community that it works and has value.

Audience member, Marshall Poe: Works for Atlantic Monthly. Their readers are mostly elders. If they had a way to engage their readers' interest and dollars the business community would run. They've had difficulty engaging.

Other ideas that have been tried:

Sue Thomas: Cape Cod bank in late 90s offered free email lessons to elders.
Lori: Seniornet started out by focusing on garage sale junkies and getting them engaged with eBay.
Audience Member: Travelocity program with AARP.
Audience Member: Non-profit that offers computer training to adults, not just elders.

Ronni: I'm forgotten. Everything is about the incipient baby boomers.
I've never been smarter, but the world doesn't think I'm smart anymore.

Audience member, Sam Taylor: Media makes the Internet into something to fear because they fear it.

Audience Member Laura Blankenship: 1. Partner with colleges and universities...professors are aging too. 2. Colleges are also the place where lots of open source work gets done.

Audience Member Jim Forad: He's 64, and his mom is in an assisted living facility. Dell has a large icon touch screen. People are very afraid of seeming stupid or being treated in a patronizing manner. He has a site, (which I couldn't find) wants to use online to politically mobilize. Thinks the right wing has done a better job of mobilizing elders.

Audience Member Halley Suitt: She has had cataracts since the age of 16. Everything is so frustrating...small screens, especially on mobile devices. But even her microwave.
I cook dinner using 5 Popcorns, because that's the only lettering large enough for me to see!

Audience Member John: He's 63 years old. He manages computers for his partner's parents. They have a remote access program, so he can monitor and troubleshoot.

Lisa Williams: She applied for a grant to make her siteaccessible for the blind, not even realizing it would help elders too.

Lori: A big fan of David Wolf ("Ageless Marketing" who is a proponent of ageless design. Not so different conceptually than universal design in architecture and interior design.

Lori: The importance of storytelling...aids "neuroplasticity." Telling stories is vitall important for thsoe over 40.

Raines Cohen: lives in a co=housing development and has learned a lot from elders.

Marshall Poe: Mentions his site (For posting oral histories and stories.

Jim: MacMini is cheap. And Macs aren't prone to get inundated with spyware!

Great session! So much audience participation. I wish more dvelopers had been in the room to hear it and tell us how they're (of if they're) addressing these issues.

Coincidentally: on the plane home last night I was seated next to a 77 year old woman. She worked at National Semi until the age of 72. She goes to her local senior center to take computer classes. She's heard of blogging but isn't doing it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Blogher @ SXSW: Public Square or Private Club

Here's a recap of the 2nd BlogHer panel at SXSW Interactive: Public Square or Private Club? Does Exclusivity Strengthen or Dilute?

Moderator: Lisa Stone

Tiffany Brown
Melinda Casino
Barb Dybwad

Lisa Stone's first question: Why do you think identity-based groups form, and what can you accomplish with them that you couldn't otherwise?

Barb: It's not so different from any other club that bands together, like a cycling club ot a scuba divers club. People like to solve problems together and know they're not alone.

Melinda: first of several mentions of the Feminist Rage Page. While she agrees that this is how like-minded people congregate both off-line and in other online forums, blogging does provide some differentiation, because you have the freedom to create longer essays, and because one has more ownership over one's blog than by participating in a forum or yahoo group. When most productive, such identity-based online groups can channel talk into action.

Tiffany: Somehow it's different when people congregate about gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, because those are qualities your are born with, not opting into. Movements start with these identity based groups.

Side note from me: This is the same argument I always use with people who thought BlogHer was separatist. There is a difference between separatism and solidarity. Great movements start with solidarity. Think Stonewall. Think civil rights. Think the suffragists. (And please don't get on me as though I were Lennon talking about Jesus, I'm just illustrating a point here, not making an association.)

Comment from audience member, Al Chang (who doesn't blog!!) Perhaps identity-based groups are common online because there are precious few places where we discuss race, gender etc. in the public fact we tend to avoid such conversations in mixed company.

Lisa Stone: 2 examples of building following within identity group then pushing into the mainstream: the Indigo Girls and Spike Lee's company 40 Acres & a Mule.

Lisa: But what of the argument that we're isolating ourselves, which is actually disempowering?

Melinda: Well, if a group stays too insular you can get the head nodding syndrome...and you won't let any ideas in from the outside, but not only that - your ideas won't get communicated to the outside. Her example: Radical Feminists who advocated living without men altogether.

Comment from audience, Ruby Sinreich: When you ask about "disempowering", aren't you making the presumption that power is associated with straight white men? You don't get power by hanging out with white men.

Question from audience member, Marshall Poe from the Atlantic Monthly: If their readership is 95% upper middle class and 90% white, is there any way for them to create a "private" online community for their target demographic without seeming totally offensive. And should they?

Side note from me: Jory and I spent quite some time talking with Marshall post-session. He felt like he didn't articulate his question well at all, and that may be driven by his general discomfort with the idea of such a "gated" online community.

Liza: Lots of people trying to get into the Web 2.0 game...whether developers or, like Marshall, media, make the assumption that all users are upper class, English-speaking etc.

Barb: Congress already exists for Marshall's demographic.

Me: A representative dry quip from Barb :)

Another interesting audience member was Joe Yoswa (sp?) who works in communications and on the web for the U.S. Army. They're trying to figure out whetehr they should create a private online community for soldiers. They already know some of them are blogging, and their only policy thus far has been "don't compromise operational security."

To the question of whether to actually restrict participation:

Tiffany: She doesn't have actual barriers to participation on her site, but her focus is clear.

Lisa: If you do shut people down, they'll find another way to make it happen.

Audience comment from Grace Davis: As a member of BlogHer she appreciates that there are rules of engagement. it's easier to have civil discourse in a safe space. Mentioned WoolfCamp, where it wasn't just feminists who attended, and it had to be a safe space for everyone there.

Audience comment from JW Richards. He is behind, which is for African-influenced podcasters. Notice he said African-influenced, not African-American. So he's trying to provide openness.

I actually said out loud: That when Digital Drums or BlogHer makes it clear what our focus are, anyone who shares that interest can participate, but there are those who decide it means they're not welcome and self-select themselves out.

And I continued in my head: and if you're welcome, but choose to self-select out because you don't share that interest or focus, that's fine, but then don't you dare misrepresent said open site or organization as exclusive.

Tiffany: She uses the term "blackness"to represent "the Other", not nevessarily just black people.

Lisa: So, how and when do you open up to the mainstream?

Barb: Just because we want an exclusive space doesn't mean we don't also want to interact with the mainstream. If the identity group decides on goals it might be a good time to approach mainstream groups and articulate those goals and ask how they can help.

On to a discussion of anger:

Tiffany: Tiffany avoids anger and doesn't want it to get in the way of her message. She also thinks that anger from a woman, and even more so a black woman, is dismissed as hysteria or over-reaction.

Question from audience member named Ron: So, they have an angry user on their site who objects to some content being behind a "premium member" should they deal with it?

Tiffany: responding to anger with anger makes it worse.

Melinda: There is good disagreement, which can result in constructive engagement, and there is bad disagreement, which represents the "asshole factor." But anger can be a useful tool, and a motivator to action.

barb: Weblogs inc has no set guidelines on how their many editors should deal with flame threads.

Comment from audience member, and Blogher meet-up hostess Paige Maguire: The aforementioned Feminist Rage Page is controlled and edited, and she doesn't like that; she thinks it is not organic.

Melinda: She likes the content, but didn't know that (and wants to learn more offline.)

Comment from audience member and Blogher Liz Henry: Anger can be productive. If people in power have framed the discussion the purpose of requireing politeness and civility can really be to preserve the frame. Try not to be so afraid to get angry.

Comment from audience member and Blogher Nancy White: Sometimes it's easier to work thru anger in a safe space. She helped create an online group for parents of abbies in the NICU (Neonatal ICU.) Those parents know that their disagreements over politics or abortion or other hot button issues are less important than working through issues about their children. If they were in a room together outside this situation they might erupt into disagreements, but it takes lower priority.

Comment from audience member Belinda: We need to learn and teach our children to be discerning. So they don't get stuck in an echo chamber.

Comment from audience member Simon: He runs two very large tech-focused online communities. The online space is just a projection of human life. He actually hires a full-time community manager to manage issues.

Side note from me: This reminds me of something I often say: I know it's more hurtful when someone we perceive to be within our identity group rejects us or our ideas, because we want support from that person. When a woman disses BlogHer it bothers me way more than when a man does. I recently got an email from a vegan who hated one of my Silicon Veggie columns for reasons i thought were totally invalid and irrational, and it totally ate away at me. but we have to remember that jerks or dopes come in every gender, every race, every everything. Even some of my fellow veggies can be jerks. Yes, I realize I'm sort of equating disagreeing with me with being a jerk, but from my perspective it does kinda mean that. It's like when you play a villain in a can't approach the role knowing you're a villain; you have to find the motivation and believe that character has reasons for what they do.

But I digress.

Lisa closes with a bonus question to each panelist: We've talked about evangelizing our interests into mainstream culture. Who from outside your identity should you maybe get to know and understand better?

Barb: Robert Scoble. Because I believe he means well somewhere under there.

Melinda: Didn't like this question. There's a BlogHer panel tomorrow, "Increasing women's visiblity on the web: whose butt should we be kicking?" This question begins to sound more like whose butt should we be kissing?! So instead Melinda gives us 4 blogs that we all should know about:

Women of Color Blog
Marian's Blog

Tiffany: LaShawn Barber and Dave Winer

Lisa: Tony Perkins from Always On, given what she wrote about their conference last year. (Side note from me: you can't even look at this profile on the Always On site unless you lame is that?)

Finally, because there are so many smart bloggers in the room, Lisa suggest we all put our URLs up in the comments of a post which Tiffany has put up on, so please do so here.

Blogher at SXSW

One panel down, four to go.

My visible work at SXSW is done, because the panel I actually moderated was the first BlogHer panel to go. Of course since I worked with all of our panels and handled logistics, I feel like the mother hen and am far from ready to breathe a sigh of relief.

In conjunction with Panel #1: We Got Naked, Now What? Blogging Naked at Work, Blogher conducted an online survey about the boundaries bloggers draw. We'll be putting it out on the wire on Monday morning, but you can get a sneak peek over at BlogHer right here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chris Carfi highlights why BlogHer is not passe...yet again

And how much do you wanna bet he gets more attention for doing so?

Here's his post.

What's he pointing out?

That in a roster of 113 speakers, women number only 12 at the currently ongoing O'Reilly etech Conference.

Comopare that with the 120 or so speaking at SXSW this coming week (out of about 300 or so according to organizer Hugh Forrest.)

10% vs. almost 40%

What I love is Chris asking people to ask themselves this:

Here's what I propose: next time you choose to invest your time in going to a conference, think about what that investment of time is getting you on the following scales:

I guess first people have to buy in to the fact that insularity and lack of diversity of perspective actually has a cost or negative impact.

And here's what I say: if you want to build a product or service that is a niche, early adopter product or service, and if you want to get cred for that and props for that, and that will put food on your table and shoes on your feet...then nah, stay in your insular world. But if you want to actually build or make something that people outside the circle of people you already know might possibly buy and love? Then start to venture outside your circle.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wal-Mart, Edelman & Bloggers. A peek into the Worker Bees Newsletter

I'm just wrapping up my latest Worker Bees Newsletter (which you can sign up for here) and just had to cross-post one of my commentary items to this blog:

In the News: A Blogging "Scandal" that's really a Tempest in a Teapot

This morning's New York Times features a story that stirring up the blogosphere: Wal-Mart has been feeding bloggers information about their company, and some bloggers have been using that information to write blog posts. Actually, that's being kind: some bloggers have been re-posting the Wal-Mart info word for word in blog posts...without attribution. Now, normally the person who doesn't like bloggers cribbing from them without attribution is the originator of said content. But in this case the originator, Wal-Mart, and its PR Agency, Edelman, are happy indeed. Other bloggers, though, are stirring up a blogswarm over the issue.

I'm not exactly pro-Wal-Mart, but I have to agree with Jeff Jarvis that this story is a tempest in a teapot. This is exactly how reporters in the mainstream media get a lot of the information they write about too. Now a good reporter or blogger isn't going to just parrot press release information word for word. And sure, I think those bloggers would have been smart to disclose the source of their information. But Wal-Mart as a company is free to spend their P.R. budget trying to influence the media, whether reporters or bloggers. I send emails to bloggers all the time with information about clients. I don't expect the bloggers to write a post using my exact language. But if they did, I guess I'd think I'd done a particularly good job of providing effective messaging! Last comment: this is not, I repeat, not, the same as when the government spends tax dollars trying to buy off the media. And anyone who wants to hear me rant further on that topic can contact me offline!

Here's one thing I will say: I am honestly a little bit shocked that fairly new Edelman employee and perhaps the most prominent PR blogger, Steve Rubel, as not uttered a word abot this on his blog yet. Even to say he can't comment yet. He is so often a vocal advocate of transparency and responsiveness that I think his silence is the only somewhat scandalous thing about this story!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Technorati doesn't just NOT care about me...

Now I think they're really out to get me.

Today Technorati is featuring my BlogHer pal Ronni Bennett's Favorite blogs, of which my Personal Blog is one (Thanks, Ronni!)

Only all the links that are supposedly from my blog in this Technorati-provided aggregated feed of Ronni's favorite blogs are really going to the Entertainment Weekly Popwatch blog. I thought I didn't recognize any of the post titles!

That's just weird.

So ironic. I was sitting in the NewComm Forum morning keynote with Charlene Li this morning, hearing her talk about companies who "listen" to the blogosphere and rectify customer problems. Various examples were made of consumer companies who read something on someone's blog and made things right. I would guess that most of the people in that room assumed that said companies used a tool like Technorati to do the listening. Meanwhile I have blogged about my problem with Technorati ego-feed SPAM many times (and exchanged email with their then-Community Manager) to absolutely no avail.

Now they won't even let someone pick me as a Favorite and actually properly represent my blog.

I feel...well, not surprised, to be honest. But a tad scared that this is still considered the industry standrad for blog tracking.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

BlogHer on the cover of the Austin Chronicle

Read Lisa's run-down of the entire issue here. The article that Lisa, Jory and I specifically were interviewed for is here.

My favorite quote, that I knew was a soundbite as soon as it exited my mouth:
"As though so much of our great literature and art isn't about family relationships," Camahort points out. "When Arthur Miller wrote All My Sons, nobody said, 'Oh, he's just a 'daddy playwright.' Nobody calls him a 'male playwright.' I think that's why women are rightfully apprehensive."

There's much more, so check out the article, and Lisa's links to other articles focusing on women at SXSW Interactive.

This Month's Silicon Veggie: Fast Food Nation

Can a vegetarian eat well at a fast food joint.

Well, if well means "healthy"? Not so much, but there are options at most of today's fast food emporiums. Find out which ones are the best and the worst at accommodating veggies in this month's Silicon Veggie column.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?