February 23, 2018

Politics and Political Blogs

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Whatever your political persuasion — right, left, or center — the blogosphere is a great place for bloggers to share their political views and make plenty of friends and enemies. We try to follow the conservative, liberal, and everything in between of politics and political blogs/blogging — but only when it intersects with business blogging.

Have a read below of our latest entries on politics and political blogging…

Secrets to Success – What Are Yours?

Posted by: of BSETC on 05/12/08

Everyone has secrets to their success. It’s what makes them tick and it’s what makes them get things done. I’d love to share with you the secrets to success that I have found and would love to hear about yours.

I think that regardless of what we do in business, be it blogging, administration, bookkeeping, etc., we still need to have that secret in order to push forward.

1. The Speed of Implementation.

I can’t take full credit for this. I mean, I’ve always done it but I didn’t come up with that line. I don’t really know who originally said it but I saw it on an Eben Pagan video and it resonated so well with me. To be successful, you must take your ideas and implement them – FAST. Don’t hold back and don’t dilly-dally with details and with trying to be perfect. Get it up there and out there and tweak as you go.

2. Using Your Strengths & Delegating the Rest.

Don’t try to do everything yourself. Let’s face it – we all know you’re brilliant but to be successful, you need to learn that you aren’t the best person to do everything in your business. Read the E-Myth Revisited for a great take on what it means to wear many hats as an entrepreneur. It’ll make you realize that you should focus on what you’re good at and then delegate out the rest. Find the right people and they’ll pay for themselves.

3. Surround Yourself with a Good Support System.

This is essential. I’ve always been blessed with a great support system. My family has always supported my dreams and has never held me back (even if some of them – like wanting to be a millionaire before I turn 30 – seems far-fetched) and my husband is numero uno in terms of providing me with space and time to grow and build my business. Learn to surround yourself with positive people and rid yourself of the toxic people.

4. Only Do What You Love to Do.

I try to implement this daily. I don’t do anything I don’t love to do. Why? If I do things I don’t like to do, I run the risk (the high risk) of doing a poor job at or taking light years to turn it around to my client. We’re not meant to do everything. We’re just not. It’s the same with clients – we’re not meant to work with everyone. We’re meant to do the work where our passion lies and where our heart is because THAT makes us successful.

5. Only Work With People Who Energize & Inspire You.

This is really important. While it sounds similar to the support system, this refers more directly to your clients and/or customers. I’ve had an interesting entrepreneurial life thus far and I’ve met both really amazing clients and other clients whose styles did not mesh well with mine. I’ve come to learn that I’ve got certain characteristics that not everyone can get used to – for example, I only do scheduled calls due to my busy work schedule – and if the people I work with can’t come to terms with that, we won’t work over the long-term. So, find people that you are inspired and energized by and who embrace your talents and understand the way you work.

6. Limit Your Overhead.

Don’t do things in a complicated way. I swear to you, for everything you want to do in your business, you can usually do it on the cheap AND get a really professional result. I’ve hardly spent any money on marketing or advertising for my business. Aside from my website, I have very little marketing overhead. My websites are done inexpensively too because I do them myself. I understand that not everyone has that talent but do your research, stay in the green and you’ll become more successful. Think of how much less stress you’ll have when money is not an issue!

7. Be Aware of Your Human-ness.

I love this one. I often find that in the land of the entrepreneur, too many people forget that they are human (or that those they are talking to are also human). What I mean is that often times, things are done or said that would never be done or said if both parties were standing in the same room. Treat your fellow entrepreneurs with respect and you’ll go a lot farther. This too is something I’ve learned as I’ve grown as a business owner and moved out of that ‘corporate’ mindset.

8. Be Generous.

Don’t be afraid to give away information or help out your fellow business person for nothing in return. I don’t mean start giving away your services for free but sometimes, provide advice or give away an ebook and do it for free. Don’t ask for a favor in return and don’t ask for payment. Just do it. It feels great and people will remember you. Michael Port, a past client of mine, used to quote often “Long after you’re gone, people won’t remember what you said but how you made them feel.�

What are your keys to success?

Forrester’s new whitepaper will make business blogging easier

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 01/25/07

One of the big questions us business blogging consultants have to answer is “So, what’s the ROI here?”.  Sure, we all have good answers.  As a group we’ve all bantered this around, especially when we get together and we’re bantering over a round … of drinks, and we’re pretty much all on the same page here.  One thing that has been lacking is that all-important uber-consultant seal of approval.  I know it’s silly, but hey it’s the truth.  Big companies like to see Gartner or Forrester reports that back what you’re saying.

Today Forrester released their blogging ROI whitepaper and real-world application of the model to GM  (hat tips to Steve and Charlene).  Finally!  Now if I could just get my hands on a copy of that report …

If you’d like to read a little more in-depth analysis of the report, check out my post on the OBO blog.

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Edelman responds with a plan, will it be enough?

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 10/21/06

I caught on Steve’s blog last night and via Jeff Jarvis this morning, Richard Edelman’s blog what is an interesting follow up to yesterday’s news about Wal-Mart (Walgate? Floggergate?).

From Richard Edelman’s blog:

  • We are undertaking a thorough audit around the world to ensure we apply best practice guidelines to every program in every market and specialty area.
  • We are requiring that all employees attend an Edelman University class on ethics in social media, hosted by members of me2revolution team as well as external experts. This will take place before the end of next week
  • We are establishing a 24/7 hotline so our me2revolution team can review, provide counsel and apply best practice guidelines on social media programs before their implementation. This ensures that programs adhere to the WOMMA guidelines or best-in-class standards around the world.
  • We are creating ethics materials that will be distributed to each office and all new hires.

This is just the beginning. We recognize we have further to go. You can and should be helping us. I appreciate all the invaluable feedback you have provided during this week–and we have taken action on at least of one of your comments. If there any other actions that you would advise us to consider, I would welcome them.

The question is then, is this enough?  On the surface, I’d say it’s a really good start.  Time is going to have to tell though.  I suggested in a comment on Richard’s blog that they need to tout some successes and start a blog with a client that really follows all the principles and ethos of WOMMA.  And hire some outside biz bloggers as coaches wouldn’t hurt either.

You can bet this is going to be talked about at Blog Business Summit next week!

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Will the Edelman — Wal-Mart saga ever end? Two more flogs outed

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 10/20/06

This is not a good couple weeks to be working at Edelman.  Okay, first we have the whole Walmarting across America thing and subsequent apology now, Edelman is coming clean that two more of the Wal-Mart blogs are actually flogs written by Edelman employees.  Yikes.  It turns out (shocker … not) that Working Families for Wal-Mart and PaidCritics.org are Edelman PR fronts (yeah there’s irony for you).

Well Shel applauds them for at least admitting it now (instead of being outed), B.L. wants their head, or at least their butt out of WOMMA, Mathew ponders if PR folks can really be transparent and do their job (good question).

I think this whole fiasco, debacle (anybody have some more words for this?) calls into question, as Mathew and Shel suggest, can PR and blogs actually co-exist?  I don’t think so.  At least not like this.  You just can’t have “corporate fronts” as blogs.  You want to reach out to critics?  You want to get feedback?  Then just have a regular old blog.  No, a “Wal-Mart employee blog” isn’t going to fly and we all know why.  I think a Wal-Mart exec blog might work, if they could take the heat, and I don’t think they could.

I have a good number of friends in the PR biz.  This can’t be a fun time for them.  Everyone is now questioning PR and blogs.  Every company blog or blog that seems to be arms-length is suspect.  Is disclosure enough?  Is authenticity and transparency enough?

Steve … man I’d love to do a podcast with you on this.  Just get your thoughts.  Are you game?

The MediaPost broke the story, follow more on Techmeme.

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  steroids pills for sale

Google’s lingering problem with editorial versus advertising

I was recently searching for “sprint broadband” and “Mac OS X” and noticed a very interesting problem: the matches I got from both Google and Yahoo were incorrect because the matching pages included “Mac OS X” in the editorial and were also matching on “sprint broadband”, but ephemerally: they were advertising or sponsor information and no longer appear on the page.

There are a couple of reasons this happens, notably the inevitable delay between when a page is indexed in a search engine and when that cached or analyzed copy is updated due to changes on the site, but the bigger problem is that neither Google nor Yahoo can differentiate between the editorial on a Web page and the advertising.

In my book, that’s a problem, and a search on the matching phrase “connect at blazing speeds with the sprint mobile broadband card.” you’ll doubtless be surprised just how many matches there are!

At least Microsoft caught the problem (or just lucked out and didn’t see the Sprint advertising on the page): their Live Search did not show the same erroneous results from Infoworld.com as one of the top three matches.

As i say in my main blog post about this subject — Why can’t Google differentiate editorial from advertising? — the problem is just a matter of expectations more than anything. I rely on Google to offer up good matches to searches and this was a failure on their algorithm, one that’s repeated at Yahoo.

What do you think? Is it critical for search engines to differentiate between editorial and advertising when analyzing and scoring the content of a page?

Is your company considering a blog ban?

Posted by: of Made for Marketing on 05/10/06

It was only a matter of time. Just as employers have clauses in their HR documentation about drug and alcohol use, it appears that blogs may soon join the ranks of contraband in the halls of some corporations.

According to an article in ABC NewsOnline, Australia, the authors of a new book “Uses of Blogs” have a detailed chapter on blogging and the law which highlight the wishes of some employers to ban blogging in the workplace. This is common sense -don’t blog on personal time. However, the lines could, and will, quickly blur as to how far this extends into the personal lives of employees.

“Employers are now considering including specific blogging provisions in employment contracts,” the authors write in Uses of Blogs, a book to be published later this year.

While I’m not an attorney, I’m projecting that the real enforceability of a no-blogging clause in an employment will be vetted in court after someone’s fired for a breach of contract.

Would anyone say, “sorry, I have to decline your offer as working for your company would keep me from blogging.” We’ll see…

Net Neutrality and Your Business Blog

A couple days back I posted “Net Neutrality and Small Business on the Web” at flyte’s blog, alerting small business owners and entrepreneurs about some legislation that might affect their online business.

I stood up for net neutrality, the idea that all information should be treated equally on the net, and that ISP’s like Verizon and AT&T shouldn’t be able to give preferential treatment to their partners and other large corporations willing to pay a premium for such a benefit. In my mind, changing the current method (which Verizon and AT&T are lobbying hard for) hurts small business.

Within hours there were five comments at my blog (which is a lot for me): four against and one for. (And I wrote that one!)

Commentors questioned why the government should be interfering with yet another aspect of our lives (point well taken) and felt the market should sort it out. Some felt we should leave well enough alone. However, it seems to me that big ISP’s are lobbying for a change to the current system.

Just a few moments ago I got an email from Andy Wibbels — a smart guy if ever there was one — asking for support of net neutrality. Andy asks us to “imagine if the eletric company made your refrigerator run slower if it wasn’t a Whirlpool brand.”

Alternatively, imagine if the passing lane on a highway could only be used by giant corporation’s trucks, and all other traffic needed to take side streets.

What if your competition was a Verizon partner and their blog came up faster in a browser at the expense of your own? GM’s FastLane Blog might benefit from this change, but probably not your blog.

Well, now you’ve heard those in favor of net neutrality. What do the rest of you think?

Why Google is still far better than MSN Search

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You know what “ego surfing” is, right? It’s when you look for references to yourself on various Web sites, in search engines, etc. What caught my attention today in this regard is that doing a wee bit of ego surfing on both MSN Search and Google really highlights to me the fundamental difference between the two search engines and shows why Google is still the clear market leader in this space.

Wait, don’t run away yet. The issue isn’t the search results, but rather the ability of the search engine to intelligently target advertising on the results page. If you do a random search, which site produces the best, most relevant, most contextually useful advertising and “sponsored links” for you?

I content – and demonstrate – that in this one instance, at least, Google far outshines MSN, with two out of the three matching adverts being very good matches, while MSN has a far worse result, with only two of its seven ads even remotely relevant for the search.

You can read more and see the specific advertisements here: Google still beats MSN on ad targeting.

Is BlogBurst a solution for new journalists?

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 02/20/06

The question this weekend wasn’t if the Americans would win in hockey (the women just earned the bronze), but how BlogBurst (just in beta from Pluck) would compensate bloggers who sign up for their program to re-publish blog posts in MSM newspapers. A comment left on Techcrunch indicates that there will be a revenue share once BlogBurst leaves beta, so that is good news (sorta).

The larger question is, then, what will this mean for the MSM? Can newspapers re-build or reinvigorate their online readership with blog content? Blogs are certainly getting a lot of attention, and blogs, IMHO, are building and enhancing the ideas sparked in the MSM, seems to me that it would be a nice compliment to have blog posts related to a topic supplement online content.

It will remain to be seen, though, what the revenue model will be and how it pans out for bloggers.

More on my blog here

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Google China reflects a new, healthy pragmatism at Google HQ

One of the hot topics of debate in the media this week has been whether Google should have launched its new Google China service, a search engine built atop servers located within mainland China that have content filters based on the laws and requirements of the Chinese government. While many people have criticized Google’s decision, along with other firms that also opt to meet legal requirements for doing business in the Chinese market, I actually believe that this decision marks a turning point in the growth and maturity of Google as a corporation. It’s the beginning of Google the pragmatic corporation, and it’s a trait that suggests that the company is recognizing the difference between idealism and success:

    Google gets pragmatic and enters China

There are lots of interesting parallels that I draw in this article too, including companies that opted to do business in South Africa and helped destroy apartheid, and even eBay’s meeting the requirements of the German government in terms of Nazi memorabilia sales.

Advice for co-authoring a book?

My friend and colleague Paul Chaney is working on a blogging book with another author and recently asked for some advice on schedules and how to work on a multi-author book. I responded and thought it would be interesting to pull the response here into the public eye too…

Paul commented:

“The book is scheduled for release in the fall and they want a completed manuscript by the end of March. Not having had this experience I have no clue as to whether that’s a reasonable time frame, but we aim to please.”

First off, congratulations! There’s little as satisfying as publishing a book and bumping into people who have read it! 🙂

Having said that, I do believe that a perfect egalitarian coauthorship doesn’t work and that there needs to be a lead writer whose voice ends up permeating the entire manuscript. That’s what Shel did with Naked Conversations, for example.

You need to balance the rewrites and work, of course, so it’s still equitable, but books that are collections of essays, for example, are always spotty and plagued by bad writing, making it hard to find the gems.

Further, I would assume that each chapter is going to go back and forth between coauthors at least twice. You brainstorm points and cases, your coauthor adds to it, you write a first draft, they add their content, you polish and send it in. (Or vice versa).

Once you’ve sent in the manuscript, remember that you’re both part of a bigger team of editorial folk and that you’ll have AT LEAST two or three more people adding their 2-3 cents worth, including a tech editor [1], copyeditor, and development editor. Value all their comments (it’s easy to get mad at them) and respond to each query with the question of “they represent the reader. How can I improve this for the reader?” rather than the more common, but wrong-headed “stupid editor. What do they know about this subject?”

Finally, once it’s all done, remember that’s when your work STARTS, not ends. Successful books are a success because the author(s) push them, not beacuse the company gets behind them. Most publishing companies assume everything will be mediocre and only put marketing $$ behind those books that are starting to demonstrate the traits of a success.

One implication: be extremely generous with review copies. Any visibility in your market segment makes it easier to get more marketing attention and, of course, is good for your book sales overall [2]

Hope this is helpful stuff!


[1] I do tech editing of books, particularly those with a business focus if anyone’s interested, and have tech edited at least 30 books in the last decade. It’s fun and a nice chance to help improve a product. [References]

[2] And this is why if any one of you would like a review copy of my nineteenth book, Growing Your Business with Google, and have a legitimate outlet for a review, even just on your well-read weblog, please contact me and I’ll forward your request along to the publicists at Penguin. I’ve sent out at least 50 copies of the book to reviewers at this point in time.
by this point in time…

Just desserts

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 11/24/05
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In the end, it works out.  Boy, Toby, Donna, and I sure didn’t think so a few months ago.  DeliciousDestinations is the blog for GourmetStation  mail-to-you gourmet food service.
As a quick side-note.  I’m not unbiased here.  Toby is a dear friend.  We talk a lot and collaborate on a few things together.  I also did some small tweaks on her blog and DeliciousDestinations.  And, since I am in California this week, took the opportunity to try a gourmet meal from GourmetStation.  Wow.  We had the 4-course Tuscan dinner.  It came, still all nice and frozen, in a insulated, nicely-packaged box via UPS.  I’m pretty handy in the kitchen, but for those who are pressed for time (or skill or both) this is a nice, nice treat.  Pretty much all you’d have to do is to pick up a bottle of wine to match (Toby, actually, took care of that for me … thank you again).  If you are a single guy and wanted to be sneaky you could seriously impress your date with this meal, hot out of the oven (from soup to dessert, even a candle, it’s all there), nicely plated.  Regardless it was a great meal.  The Italian Wedding Soup is something I have to look for a recipe for.
Back to the matter at hand … I’m glad to see that my friends and colleagues (and BusinessWeek’s Blogspotting) gave theInc. article and GourmetStation some space and positive words.  Toby and Donna certainly did work the blogosphere as the storm was whirling above them.  A lot of the discussion was far less than flattering (or polite for that matter), but they stuck to their guns.  We should all be thankful that they did too.  They pushed the boundaries.  They did it with style and panache.  Now, I think a well done character blog (can I still lay claim to coining that?) is certainly an acceptable thing.  Whew, ’cause I certainly have some characters begging to get out of me!
Thanks Toby and Donna.

Blogs, Search, PR, and a Gourmet

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 11/8/05
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I love it when a few articles come together for me into something that makes me go wow! I’m going to start with the recent article that started the tumble into the connection.
Steve commented on a SearchEngineWatch article about companies needing to include search engine monitoring in their PR programs (especially watching blogs).  Steve cited the statistic that 39% of the top 20 results on the top 100 brands were from “consumer generated media”.  Okay, cool.  The SEW article goes a little deeper, talking about how blogs can, and will, steer the commentary on your brand.  They cited WalMart and unions as an example.  Me?  I look to my friend Toby.
Toby and her clients at GourmetStation were recently profiled in Inc. Magazine (here’s the link to Toby’s post, the blog Delicious Destinations and a PDF of the article: Download: inc_magazine_november_2005_blog_gs_article.pdf) on the whole T. Alexander character blog saga.  What Toby didn’t mention was that she (and I helped a little) used PubSub, Feedster, and other search tools to track the conversation and ride it out.  This, I think, is better than the cited WalMart approach of building a site to push other sites down.  Work with those who are already talking about you, leave comments, start a blog and link to them.  Become part of the discussion and conversation, not a giant trying to squash it.
As a professional blogger you owe it to your clients and yourself to keep an eye on the discussion about your posts.  You can leverage good feedback when renewing contracts or getting new ones, and negative stuff … this is where you show your skills at being a blogger.  Remember this isn’t just an ego feed thing.  It’s making sure that you’re doing an effective job.
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Splogs, Is Google complicit?

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 10/24/05
Jim Turner (a fellow BBC-er) posed an interesting idea to me today, is Google complicit in the whole splog problem?  This question turned into a great blog post.  Jim isn’t pointing fingers per se, but let’s lay out the premise here.  Google owns both Blogger and AdSense.  A splog can put AdSense on their blog pretty easily and quickly.  Then the splogger scrapes content from legit folks like us, then people visit the splog and click an AdSense ad.  Google makes money.
Hmm.  Personally I don’t think Google is complicit in all this.  Granted they are probably reaping some significant monetary benefits from ads on splogs, but I think Google is just as pissed as we are at this.  Google is trying to be a big, yet cool, company and being labeled a purveyor of online vermin doesn’t help one’s bottom in the long run.
As Jim points out, splogs are a big problem.  Hopefully the recent changes to Blogger will make it harder for sploggers to get their work done.  Now if we could only smite the trackback spammers.
Orginally published on the Qumana Blog.
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We need a great metaphor to explain RSS

Over on my Ask Dave Taylor Q&A blog, I received a most interesting question that I believe is a good example of just what’s wrong with the state of RSS and, perhaps, is one of the great challenges facing the blogosphere too:

“I know this is a really stupid question, but how do I go about subscribing to your blog? Does subscribing to your blog mean that I would be subscribing to an RSS feed? If so, how do I get hold of an RSS feeder? I have Internet Explorer 6. Can I handle an RSS feed with IE6? Or does subscribing to your blog mean that I would receive an email from you every time there is a new entry to your blog?”

There’s a lot about this question that I find interesting, not the least of which is that it reflects the never-ending exclusionary aura of the tech savvy and “tech stupid”. But even in the more mundane world of the Web as it exists today there’s a lot here to chew on.

Those of us mired in the blogging space often forget how confusing and difficult most of the technology – and jargon – really can be for people who are coming into it without experience.

This is hardly a stupid question at all, actually, but a reflection of the fact that we, as bloggers, really need to do a better job of explaining what all of the buzzwords and confusing acronyms are to the general computer using community. And no, I’m not talking about some superficial renaming of RSS to webfeed; that won’t solve the problem either.

What I believe we really need is a strong, coherent, relevant and understandable metaphor for the entire concept of RSS feeds, syndication, subscriptions, and so on.

I’ve been trying to figure one out myself for a couple of years, truth be told, and the best I can come up with is the old AP “news wire” where there’d be a scrolling paper feed and reporters would literally “rip the story off the wire”. I can force the round peg into the proverbial square hole, but it’s not a great metaphor, I admit.

Part of the problem is that I don’t think that we, as a community, agree about what that means when we talk about “subscribing” to a site anyway. To me, the real value of RSS is the “subscribability” it offers readers, by the way, not its value to us publishers.

Remember also, RSS != blog, so any metaphor we’d come up with would need to encompass how the NY Times offers RSS feeds of its movie reviews, for example, even though it’s not a blog.

After all, conceptually, RSS is actually just a specially formatted version of a Web page that makes it easy for computer programs to “parse” and analyze. Just as we don’t “print to PCL5” even though that might well be the underlying language of the printer and just as we don’t buy “hot water poured over recently ground Arabica beans” but rather a cup of coffee, why are we still talking about RSS at all?

So, dear reader, where do we go from here? People are most familiar with magazines in this sense: what of the magazine subscription model is relevant to the Web and RSS? Business-folk are also familiar with newspaper “clipping services” but that doesn’t really describe the RSS subscription space either.

I can see the need. I just can’t quite capture that great metaphor that lets us truly communicate the essence, concept and value of RSS. Can you?

This article about RSS metaphors is republished with permission from The Intuitive Life Business Blog and is © 2005 by Dave Taylor.

Sifry’s State of the Blogosphere: Splogs

Posted by: of A View from the Isle on 10/17/05
David Sifry has the latest installment of State of the Blogosphere reports ready for our perusal and commentary.
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Let’s just start with the top-line summary:

  • As of October 2005, Technorati is now tracking 19.6 Million weblogs   
  • The total number of weblogs tracked continues to double about every 5   months   
  • The blogosphere is now over 30 times as big as it was 3 years ago, with no   signs of letup in growth   
  • About 70,000 new weblogs are created every day   
  • About a new weblog is created each second   
  • 2% – 8% of new weblogs per day are fake or spam weblogs   
  • Between 700,000 and 1.3 Million posts are made each day   
  • About 33,000 posts are created per hour, or 9.2 posts per second   
  • An additional 5.8% of posts (or about 50,000 posts/day) seen each day are   from spam or fake blogs, on average
Not bad!  Oh yeah, blogs are a fad … Not!  Fine, enough cheerleading.  The important parts of this post is the attention paid to splogs (spam blogs).  Steve zeros in on this and I think I will continue from this morning’s discussion that I’ve already posted.
Note the red sections of the next two charts.  I’m going to keep them full-size so you can see the detail:

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According to Technorati, then, splogs are the huge plague that they seem
to be.  I disagree, to a degree.  I agree that the majority of blogs
and blog posts out there aren’t splogs and don’t generate comment spam
or trackback spam, etc.  Fine.  But I also think Technorati is under
counting, David
to his credit acknowledges this, and I am more concerned with the fact
that the red portions started recently and don’t seem to be slowing.
Of course it is hard to quantify the rate of splogs and splog posts
because a big news item will swamp them out (which is a good thing).  I
am also concerned that sploggers will use available tool to see that
something on is hot on the blogosphere and spam targeted to that.  What
if all our efforts for Katrina were matched 2 for 1 with splog?  These
are bots, they can be switched on and off.  Cranked up and down.  That
worries me.
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Is David Cronenberg’s new site a “real” blog or not?

I’m privileged to be part of the Business Blog Consulting team, sharing weblog space with fellow experts Rick Bruner, Jim Turner, Debbie Weil, Tris Hussey, Paul Chaney, Rich Brooks, BL Ochman, Des Walsh and more. It’s a darn smart group.

Our shared weblog – and individual efforts – comprise much of the best thinking on the state and future of business blogging, but behind the scenes it turns out that we also have a mailing list where we volley about questions, ideas and our thoughts on specific topics (yes, it’s true. Even the most hardcore business bloggers sometimes don’t blog every thought in their heads).

Recently on our list we had a long, thoughtful discussion about the “Free Movie Blog” for A History of Violence, a new movie directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen. Cronenberg has directed over twenty films, including eXistenZ, Crash, Dead Ringers, Videodrome and Scanners. For his own part, Mortesen was splendid in Lord of the Rings and many other films.

But our discussion wasn’t about the actor and director, it was about their ostensible blog and whether what they had up at the A History of Violence site really qualified as a weblog or whether it was co-opting the name and surrounding buzz unfairly.

With permission, here are some of the most cogent excerpts of our discussion:

Toby Bloomberg: From where I sit, David Cronenberg’s site is not a blog. He has no RSS feed, no comments, no trackbacks. New Line Cinema is using the platform of a blog to tell the story/create buzz. Perfectly valid but not a blog in the “traditional” sense. We really need more words in this new industry of “blogs.”

Jim Turner: I have to agree with Toby, when I looked at it I wondered if it had actually been written by David Cronenberg or perhaps a copywriter on staff. I didn’t get the transparent feel.

Rich Brooks: Even though it purports to be from the mind of Cronenberg, the writing is in the third person. Only the video clips are “from his mind.” … Is it interesting? If you find David Cronenberg interesting, perhaps. … But I don’t think it’s a real blog: The communication here is all one-way; there’s no interactivity, no way for a community to grow around this “blog.” This is not a blog, but rather a photo of a blog. It also seems to me to be a missed opportunity. [as blogged]

Rick Bruner: It’s an interesting, if contentious discussion as to what exactly is a blog. Frankly, when I first discovered this movie “blog,” I only glanced at it, and at first glace it appeared to pass the test. Now that I look at it more closely, however, I’d agree it’s more of a general website feature cashing in on the buzz of blogs than a genuine blog.

The biggest problem with it … is that it’s not really written by Cronenberg, although the blurb at the top of the page says that “Cronenberg shares his thoughts” (albeit via video clips, it seems). Reading the posts, references to Cronenberg are in the third person, so it’s obvious he’s not writing the posts.

I would take exception, however, to Toby’s objections. RSS, comments and trackbacks are all optional features. True, anyone not using RSS on a blog is stupid (unless someone wants to suggest a good reason not to), but I would hardly say that RSS is a definitional feature of a blog. Ditto comments and trackbacks, both of which can be a liability more than a benefit, particularly until someone really fixes the comment/trackback spam issues.

I’ve turned off trackbacks on several of my blogs because the spam was so bad, and using TypeKey has all but killed legit comments on my blogs where I use it, because that’s such a kludgy fix. Also, for really popular blogs, moderating comments for flamewars and the like is all-but a full-time job. Instapundit doesn’t have comments, and Gawker sites only recently implemented them, but to a closed community of elite readers. Are those not blogs? Not to mention, are you liable if someone slanders a company on your blog’s comment thread? I don’t know the answer to that.

Another feature the Cronenberg “blog” lacks is permalinks. Again, whether that’s definitional or not I think is an open discussion, but I’d say permalinks are more essential than comments, trackbacks or RSS. If you can’t even point to an individual post, you’re not really part of the conversation.

Toby Bloomberg: Good comments Rick; this topic would make a very lively discussion. I still maintain the heart of a blog is its ability to create community which can only be established with the ability to have a dialogue. Turning comments/trackbacks off becomes a monologue that turns the blog into an online newsletter. We need more words for what we’re morphing into!

Tris Hussey: Although I am loathe to dive into the whole what is a blog and character blog debate, I’m with Toby …comments and trackbacks are absolutely essential to any site calls itself a blog. RSS, well it should have, but I wouldn’t actually non-blog it for a lack of those.

Rick Bruner: Blog is short for “weblog” as in journal. Not forum. We have had bulletin boards forever online. What makes blogs different from BBSs
and forums is that they have a central editorial voice. So long as you have permalinks, other bloggers can engage you in dialog on their own blogs.

Are you saying Instapundit is not a blog? MarketingVox? MightyGirl? PaidContent? Romenesko? None have comments. (I’m sure I could find more; that was a quick search.)

Rick Bruner: One thing I’m sure we can all agree on is that “blog” does NOT mean blog post. It drives me crazy when people use “blog” this way, but novices do all the time. For example, in this Bloomberg News item on the Weblogs Inc. acquisition, the story says that Weblogs Inc has 85 “sites” and “publishes about 1,000 blogs a week.” Grrr.

Fabulous insight from a very smart group of people on the cutting edge. And now it’s time for me to come clean with my own opinion on Cronenberg’s weblog effort too.

To do that, I have to admit that my original working title for this discussion was going to be Behind the scenes with the blogging police because it had struck me quite forcefully how much of the early discussion seemed to be the purist “if it doesn’t have feature X it can’t be a blog”, but I was pleased by how it evolved into a much more interesting round-table about what really makes a weblog a compelling medium for communication.

Interestingly, none of us talked about the film community, talked about whether the History of Violence “blog” actually promoted the film or even enlightened any of us regarding the topic of the movie itself. If Mr. Cronenberg called me up and asked what I’d advise, I would have to say that blogging the production of a movie would be darn compelling, particularly interviews with gaffers, special effects people, set decorators, the script writer, and, of course, the lead actors and director, anything to let us get into the production of the film. Something deeper and more compelling than the banal “Making Of” advertisements that are the latest vogue in Hollywood.

The opportunity of blogging is to establish a dialog with your community, whether you’re a film director, an actor, or even a market communications strategist. And you cannot possibly have a dialog if you don’t allow some sort of comments. Does it mean that a site without comments is, perforce, not a blog? No, but it does mean that the opportunity is being missed.

Personally I don’t care about “permalinks” or “trackbacks” or any of those ephemera that are so near and dear to the blogger world. For techie geeks these kind of intertwined technologies are intellectually interesting, but to the average business person, to the typical blogger, they’re just more computer Greek and safely ignored.

An RSS feed, however, is something that, while not required, is just a smart addition to any site. Legitimate (see, there’s my bias coming through) blogging tools automatically produce an RSS feed making it a complete no-brainer for business bloggers. To not have one suggests that they’re not using a weblog system and aren’t interested in having people subscribe to their articles.

But the most important question is: do I want to go see the movie, having read the blog and seen the trailer?

Wait! Quick, go watch the trailer and come back.

Okay. What did you think? A pretty interesting plot line and a film that might be worth seeing in the theater. But does the blog convey the curious and thought-provoking story line? Does it make you want to go see the film or, at least, make you feel like you have some insight on what director David Cronenberg was thinking as he put the movie together?

Ultimately, I think that blogging is a toolkit for better and more engaging communications with your marketplace, your customers, your community. To use it as a broadcast-only “bully pulpit” might arguably be true to the original spirit of weblogs as diaries, but completely misses the potential for the blog to be something more, something much more, to the marketplace and to the world of ideas. And that, Mr. Cronenberg, is an unforgivable gaffe in your own marketing efforts for this movie.

This article about Is David Cronenberg’s site a real blog or not? is republished with permission from The Intuitive Life Business Blog and is © 2005 by Dave Taylor.

Now that privacy’s dead, is Gator the killer app after all?

Years and years ago I worked with the team that produced a very slick little downloadable application called Gator. Gator would watch what Web sites you visited and pop up contextually relevant adverts and coupons in its own window, along with easy form auto-fill and a digital “wallet” for payment information. Gator was vilified by the online community and paraded about as the ultimate triumph of commerce over information, of the evils of capitalism crushing the eager egalitarianism of the mythical “open network”.

Gator, the company, still exists today, and still garners controversy, albeit under its new moniker of Claria Corporation and Gator, the application, has spawned two progeny, Gator Wallet and Dash Bar.

Today my colleagues at LinkedIn told me about a new system, LinkedIn JobsInsider, and rather to my surprise it’s another standalone app that keeps track of where you surf and pops up useful information based on what you’re viewing in your Web browser.

At this point in the evolution of the Web, though, we don’t even think about these tracking applications. The Alexa toolbar, the Google toolbar, the Yahoo toolbar, etc. etc., all dutifully track where you go and report back that information to a central server, and far from people being upset by that violation of privacy, most are eager to download and install one or more of these toolbars on their computer.

LinkedIn JobsInsider is actually quite brilliant and worth a quick explanation, before I go back to the main theme here of software that tracks your surfing. I asked Konstantin Guericke about this new system and here’s his explanation, a day in advance of their demo at Web 2.0 in New York:

“The LinkedIn JobsInsider works with Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, Craigslist and Dice. We noticed that those of our users who are currently looking for a position (between 5-10% of our membership) tended to flip back and forth between LinkedIn and these job boards. They would look for jobs on the major jobs destination sites, but then didn’t bother to apply there since the chances of landing a job without a referral are about as high as a chimp writing the next great American novel. Well, maybe a bit better, but the reality is that it’s really helpful to speak with people at the companies where you are applying, and you are unlikely to find people willing to help you if you just Google them.

“However, when you have the LinkedIn JobsInsider installed (and it takes no screen real estate unless you are on a job board) and look at a job, then it automatically fires off a search to find out if any of your contacts know people at the company that is posting the job.

“Even better, it narrows the results down to those people working at the location where the job is posted and who have indicated they are willing to help people land jobs at their company. With any luck, the person you contact will not only provide you with some good insights into the company’s culture, prospects and hiring process, but also pass on your resume to the hiring manager.”

I think that’s a brilliant intersection of professional online networking and the ingredients that produce a sucessful job search and would like to congratulate LinkedIn on this innovation.

But isn’t it doing the same basic thing that Gator did all those years ago? Isn’t it yet another application that watches what we’re doing, keeps track of the sites we visit and what we view on those sites, then does “something useful” on our behalf?

If I visit a site with the Google toolbar installed, I can instantly see its Google PageRank, a rough but interesting indicator of the relative importance of the site on the Internet. Another toolbar includes Alexa ranking numbers, offering a similar insight and letting me distinguish popular sites from new, unpopular sites.

So what exactly is still upsetting to the people who don’t like Claria’s tracking application? What differentiates a useful, valuable application like LinkedIn JobsInsider from a heinous piece of malware like a spyware application?

Perhaps it’s all in the definition of “something useful” in my earlier comment, after all. Surely something useful is measured on a continuum that inevitably varies for different people. Some are happy to report back information in return for discount codes, coupons, and highly targeted advertising that helps them find the best bargains possible, while others hate the very idea and wouldn’t install and enable a third-party toolbar if you paid them.

Yet in a lot of ways, it was the “reporting back to the mother ship” nature of Gator that caused so much controversy when it first appeared on the scene, a characteristic that is so pervasive now that we are blasé about it and don’t even worry that various companies have the (theoretical, at least) ability to track our every mouse click.

After all these years of Web evolution, after the breathless hype about combining existing technologies in new ways that goes by the moniker of “Web 2.0”, everyone’s just starting to get what I believe the Gator folk figured out a long time ago: tracking what sites I visit and utilizing that data in real time enhances my experience.

LinkedIn had another announcement at the Web 2.0 conference too, focused on a new partnership with America Online. Please read Alex de Carvalho’s cogent analysis for more details.

This article reading about Gator was the killer app after all? is republished with permission from The Intuitive Life Business Blog and is © 2005 by Dave Taylor.

Blogs Effect on ROI

Posted by: of Blogging Systems Group on 10/3/05
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Lately, I’ve been focusing on the effect blogs have on business in terms of ROI (affecting the bottom-line), particularly those used for marketing purposes. To date, I’ve found no studies that quantify such data, just some occasional mentions like that of the Audi blog success, but that was more blogvertising. I’m interested in companies that actually use blogs as marcom tools. Anybody know if such a study exists?

Online Professional Networking: Quantity or Quality?

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Though I’ve written this article focused on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, it’s exactly the same set of questions you need to consider when you’re thinking about how many sites to include in your blogroll or exchange links with. Read on, you’ll see what I mean…

One of the discussions I’ve been watching with great interest in the greater LinkedIn community and with professional networking sites in general is whether it’s a better strategy to have a small number of quality connections, or a large number of relevant but varied connections.

This discussion is so common, in fact, that some people have started to abbreviate it as QvQ.

But what are the pros and cons of each strategy? Let’s have a look…

First off, like much else in life, the connect / don’t connect decision is one that you have to consider anew for each potential professional connection, regardless of your individual connection criteria. Specifically, even if you decided that you’d only link to very high quality people (that is, people who you have know for at least X years, or worked with on at least Y projects) you’re still placing yourself on a continuum of networking connection restrictions where one extreme is that you won’t connect to anyone and the diametric opposite extreme is that you’ll connect to everyone, their Mom and their dog.

Clearly both of those are pointless strategies, the former because you quite literally don’t have a network at all if you only have a single node, you. It’s the “no man is an island” revisited for the digital age. The latter strategy doesn’t work either because if you have no method of screening potential contacts then you might as well pick up a phone book or randomly dial your telephone hoping to make a good connection.

To understand the relative value of different points on the continuum, then, I think it’s important to understand why you’re networking in the first place…


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