March 2007 Archives
March 31, 2007
Trinity Mirror's Buckinghamshire Advertiser has relaunched its web site. It's very cleanly designed. But there's something significant that is unusual about it — it's a blog. The front page is three recent stories presented in reverse-chronological order, with each one allowing comments. There's a list of categories, RSS feeds, and even a tag cloud. Each new upload of a story pings Technorati.
In fact, it's powered by Movable Type. Another piece of proof that the best blogging platforms are fundamentally lightweight, efficient content management solutions.
Image for the day: picture me stroking my (non-existent) goatee, going "veeeery interesting".
March 30, 2007
March 29, 2007
While at Blogher, I was accosted by a mad Scotsman in a kilt. This was no an entirely unfamiliar experience for me. I grew up in Scotland, and have even been known to wear a kilt myself once in a while (but not for a long while).
However, this particular Scotsman forced me to talk into a microphone.
Last Friday was not a good day to be milling around at a conference with a badge saying "Reed Business" on it. Why? Because people kept asking me about this hard hitting post by Seth Godin. I'd advise you to go and read Seth's post before continuing here, because it really does set the context for what I'm going to say. The short version of it is this: someone, within the wide and deep corporate structure that is Reed Elsevier, has been sending some ill-advised e-mails asking for reciprocal links.
If you want to visualise my reaction, imagine me bashing my head against a desk. Repeatedly. Got that? Good, let's move on.
Now, Reed Business Information is a division of Reed Elsevier, and, as head of blogging for the UK branch of the organisation, you can see why people kept asking me if I was responsible. And the answer, of course, is "no". This is not something that I would suggest to any of our bloggers and which I would actively discourage them from doing. With a stick. A big stick.
Seth characterises what happened as:
Translation: it fits our business model to be ranked highly, so we'll go ahead and cheat to get there.
Which is, indeed, exactly how it appears. However, whichever branch of our business did this, I suspect that they have absolutely no idea at all that this is cheating. While chatting to Rachel about this at Blogher, I described it as "cargo cult" blogging - knowing the form of what blogging should look like, and attempting to recreate it without understanding how it actually works. And that's exactly what's happening in many businesses right now. This doesn't in any way excuse what they did, but it does, at least, explain it.
Insurance company refuses to cover legal firm blog. Interesting.
Adobe launches a very specialist social network. Cool niche.
March 28, 2007
Oh, missed this yesterday:
"Six Apart just announced my partner for more than 10 years, Olivier Creiche, got my role as head of Europe at Six Apart. Congratulations, Olivier, and thanks for being such an amazing partner for so many years. "
I've been dealing with Olivier for the last nine months, since we've been using Movable Type Enterprise at RBI, and have found him a pleasure to deal with. Indeed, I'm sharing a stage with him next week…
Given the recent controversy around Loïc and his involvement with the Sarkozy campaign this feels like the right decision, and Six Apart's Europe office looks to be in very capable hands.
March 27, 2007
This is profoundly disturbing: Death Threats in the Blogosphere
In her latest post, Kathy Sierra reports that she has been receiving increasingly disturbing threats (death threats, and of sexual nature), to the point that she has cancelled her appearance at ETech and has locked herself up at home.
Scoble says he's physically ill at the thought of it. Who can blame him?
March 26, 2007
Finally, here's my write-up of the closing Blogher keynote. I've had this one on the back-burner, because it's very much in my field — online publishing — and I wanted to mull over the issues it raised, but also because jet lag really, really gave me a kicking on the trip back from New York. (And now I'm writing this while I wait for a flight to Dublin. Ah, the jet-setting blogger lifestyle.)
This is by no means a complete write-up. You can find one of those on Licence to Roam.
The panel were four women from the major media in various stripes: Debi Fine, iVillage president; Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Poducts and User Experience at Google; Redbook Magazine editor in chief Stacy Morrison; and WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive CEO Caroline Little.
So, what do they think is needed for a media company to survive in the Web 2.0 world? Google has a fluid structure because analysts suggested that “organisations tend to mirror the process they're putting into place,” Marissa Mayer. You have a hierarchical process, you'll end up with a hierarchical company - and an inability to move quickly in a web world.
Caroline Little suggested that you have to be flexible and try different things. Interestingly, the firm had created a “skunk works” group filled with rather extreme programmers who are young and very creative, and thus able to get new things live very quickly.
Mayer suggested that Google's “free day” policy - giving employees 20% of their time to work on personal projects - lead to 50% of the firm's new launches. The message coming out of this loud and clear was that you need to free people up from the mundane routine of the day-to-day to create something special.
But what is that “something special”. Stacy Morrison of Redbook (nicely profiled on Six Log) described it as creating delight - “That's what makes people come back”. That sounds a lot like one of my pet theories; that it's magazines which strike an emotional relationship with their readers rather than a purely utilitarian one that create real relationships.
March 25, 2007
And on a Sunday, too!
March 23, 2007
Nice timing, and a cool, fun freebies.
My mood, it appears, is shifting between Emotionally Charged and Lively, Involved, Dexterous.
I'm so hyper. Too much caffeine.
Technorati is going through one of the periodic phases where it ignores my new posts.
Why does it do that?
Just back from a quick coffee with a blog friend, slightly damp (it's raining) and leaping into a session about interacting with bloggers (slightly ironic given the blogging around what some of my US colleagues have been doing. More on that later.)
I'm going to mash my write-up of two different sessions together, because they overlap in an interesting way.
Before lunch I dipped into the Metrics track at Blogher, and boy, did the organisers misjudge the appeal of this session. While the main ballroom session on "Should I Blog?" is very quiet, this session is packed. People are sitting on the floor, people are sitting outside…
Elise Bauer gave an excellent presentation which amounted to "link, link, and link some more". And it's amazing how many people wrestle with this idea — and how many misconceptions there are. For instance, some people were concerned that every outbound link neutralised an inbound link in your Google pagerank. Others worried that linking out would lead to a one way flow of traffic away from your blog.
Elise made the excellent point that worrying about sending traffic to your competition is totally the wrong mindset. You should be thinking about providing the best and most useful content to your readers, and if there's something great on the competition, link to them!
Vanessa Fox from Google was on hand to debunk some of the myths around Google's ranking system.
Notes from the opening panel:
Cisco sued Apple for publicity apparently, suggests Jeanette Gibson from the company… Legal link bait?
Captain Morgan: an example of how the Blogosphere doesn't have a sense of humour, suggests moderator Elisa Camahort.
Rachel Clarke was involved in a marketing campaign with an five week character blog based around the Captain Morgan character. And the blogosphere hated it. But they still got comments and interaction from the audience they were looking for. Character blogs can work.
Moderation is an issue. External agencies are expensive, and tend to lead to limited run blogs. Everyone advocated creating a comments policy and making sure that it matched up to legal and marketing needs.
Lots of discussion about the future of the press release and whether it can ever be replaced by blogging. People are cynical about both press releases and about the journalists who report them, but they're ignoring the legal status of press releases for stock market listed companies. Blogs are seen by many as a more authentic way of communicating, but I suspect their role is ion following and contextualising the press release, not replacing it.
Morning all. Despite a good party which I missed for very stupid reasons, the hall is pretty full this morning. As Ewan put it: “There's free stuff!” And the pastries are very good.
The session is kicking off with a round-up of what people learned from yesterday.
It's becoming very obvious that this conference is structured in a very intelligent way. Yesterday was the “bringing everyone up to speed” day. The session on Social Media was very much a primer for the uninitiated and a well-judged one, as the number of hands that went up with each “have you heard of…?” question declined rapidly. In all honestly, I suspect the real meat of the conference for me will be found today.
Possibly the speaker who caught my attention the most was Caroline Little, the chief executive officer and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. She said many things that were familiar to our experience of getting journalists blogging, like the discomfort many of them have linking out or linking (heaven forbid) to the competition. They've had a few problems with external bloggers - some readers don't like seeing bloggers who aren't writers for the print product. There was also an accusation of plagiarism against one of them.
“Some journalists want the websites to reflect the newspaper,” she said. “Some think it's the coolest thing ever.” Ain't that the truth?
She said much that would have put a smile on my boss's face, such as the idea that journalists should be acting as navigators of the web, helping readers with contextual information, and sending people off to others sites in the knowledge that they'll return for more links later.
“The web is open,” said Little. “It's like a party.”
It is. Pity I missed the real one, though.
March 22, 2007
Meanwhile, at a conference the other side of the Atlantic, Anthony Mayfield is being chastised for typing too loudly…
There's three of us on this table at Blogher. We're all blogging. Just as well we're quiet typists.
I'm at the blogher conference in Manhattan today and tomorrow. I'm having connectivity issues, but Rachel's having more luck. Check her live blogging out for what's going on.
And now to the heart of this trip to New York. Six Apart held a Movable Type Summit in the Affinia Hotel Manhattan yesterday, and they'd asked me to be one of the speakers. It was a summit of two halves, with the first devoted to the technical issues and the second to use cases and the business of blogging.
I've got a fair investment in Movable Type. I've been using it for this blog for well over three years, and we've selected the Enterprise version of the tool as our blogging platform at work. I came seeking some reassurance that we made the right choice. And got it. In spades.
In many ways, the first, technical section of the day was as reassuring as anything. There are a core of good people here, doing some serious work around high-traffic sites - and willing to share the experiences they've had. I know some people believe that MT doesn't scale, but David Jacobs was able to give some solid evidence and advice about exactly how it can (and does) scale.
The afternoon sessions were more a case of bonding over common experiences. There's no doubt that any organisation that starts blogging internally or externally starts to experience some major cultural shifts - but most start from a position of fear. Again and again I hear people not liking the idea of readers being able to comment, and their position quickly changing as their experience of reader interaction grows.
Indeed, on both the technical and content front there was plenty of discussion about the best ways of taking regular commenters and giving them a bigger say with blogs.
I'm not going to blow-by-blow the issues raised in the summit, but I will go through some of them in future posts. I have a seven hour flight on Saturday. I need something to keep me busy…
Closing off the day, Michael Sippey took us through the future of Movable Type through until the end of the year. Movable Type 4 hits by the summer, with the roadmap showing two .1 releases before the end of 2007. Much of the focus of MT4 is going to be on re-engineering the platform to use the key technologies behind Vox and Typepad to make the application faster, and much better at handling non-text assets. There will be a series of add on packs that add elements that aren't needed by everybody in the core product, but which will allow people to customise the app they way their (business-mainly) environment needs. A nice concept, and one that breaks down the current distinction between Movable Type and Movable Type Enterprise.
There's no guarantee that we'll stay a Six Apart customer for our blogs for ever and I'm most certainly not going to start taking sides in the tiresome Wordpress versus Movable Type war (I'm glad there are other tools out there should we ever wish to switch). MT looks like its going to be the right tool for us for a while to come.
Another reason not to touch Alexa with a very long stick.
March 21, 2007
What a wonderful idea: Web 3.0 will be the linking of the physical and the virtual with location data underpinning networks.
March 20, 2007
The blogging ramblers are coming (or is that the rambling bloggers?).
March 19, 2007
I'm a long way from home and very, very tired right now.
I'm in downtown Manhattan, here to visit our US office and speak at a conference on Wednesday.
However, I've been up for 17 hours at this point, so I need coffee before I can write anything more useful.
March 14, 2007
So, we have a little video-making contest on the go here at RBI. The Flight Group have put up this little effort of two of its journalists flying a 737-NG flight simualtor, which is interesting viewing:
And the truly masochistic amongst you might just enjoy the Travel Weekly team singing Hotel Tropicana:
(Or you could check out their blog, which is a lot less likely to make your ears bleed.)
March 13, 2007
I know I'm rather late to this, but I'm finally starting to get into the social side of Flickr, rather than just using it as a photo host / dumping ground..
I think the combination of my new scanner, the sudden arrival of spring and a couple of on-going photo projects have reawakened my dormant love of photography.
I wonder if there are enough photographically-inclined readers of this blog to start up some form of social group with challenges?
Those Facebook semi-naked pics may not ruin your future career…
March 12, 2007
Aaaargh. There's nothing worse that starting to get on top of your RSS backlog, when your reader suddenly starts to refresh and you see your count starting to shoot up again.
I will get there.
Jeff Jarvis takes a walk around the new Telegraph newsroom. The results are good readin'.
March 9, 2007
How do you measure the social impact of social media? And how meeting people at events is most of the reason to be there.
This is an interesting tool
Another magazine dumps paper and goes online-only
March 8, 2007
Nice to see that someone else is suffering the same "too busy to blog" problem I am - and for the same reasons.
My long silence here is due to the fact that every spare minute of my day job has lately involved building a rather complicated WordPress installation. More blogging on my own time would probably drive me a bit mad.
Yes, yes, I know I've fallen all silent again. My work load has hit the stratosphere and helping people at work to blog is leaving precious little time for personal blogging.
However, I can't resist pointing to a post entitled Kill It, Cook It, Eat It on Food for Thought, one of our farming blogs:
Over three nights, food journalist Richard Johnson, butcher John Mettrick, slaughter man Steven Mettrick and chef Rachel Green will bring together two moments the public have separated: the death of an animal and the consumption of its meat. An invited group of guests will watch the team slaughter and butcher the animals - then be served a variety of cuts.
17 comments and growing. Nothing attracts controversy like pointing out that meat is dead animals. How insulated from reality our culture is sometimes...
March 5, 2007
This blog is exactly four years old today.
How things have changed since those early, tentative steps on Blogger (which followed an earlier blog-which-I-didn't-realise-was-a-blog on Livejournal). Now, and for the past nine months, blogging has been at the centre of my working life, as I work to promote blogging right across my employer's portfolio of titles. More and more of my friends are blogging, and it's becoming a far more central part of the way I take in news and communicate with friends, family and working colleagues.
I wonder what it'll look like in March 2011, when it hits 8 years old?
March 3, 2007
I've recently acquired a new scanner, which can handle film and negative scanning. This is a direct scan from some black & white negatives taken while I was at university at the early 90s.
It was shot on Ilford HP5 Film. I haven't been able to identify the band yet.
Expect quite a few images like this over the weekend…
March 1, 2007
I've not been having a good technology day. We've had a couple of issues with both our internal and external blog servers that have sent my blood pressure in what could be described as "a non-positive direction". The "split bill" service for my corporate mobile phone (no, I still don't have a Blackberry) was refusing to work in Firefox. My work PC laptop was crashing repeatedly. I was, in short, having a bad IT day.
In fact, I found myself wondering how my job became so technology-centric. And then it hit me, my job has always been technology-centric. After all, magazine publishing is based around the twin pillars of Desktop Publishing and Printing Presses. But they don't really register as technology to most people, and that's because we tend to use the word "technology" as a shorthand for "new technology" - which is technology which has come to prominence within our adult lifetime.
What will this industry look like when the digital natives enter the workplace? What will journalists who don't remember an age before the internet create with the tools that people are building already?
And it's thoughts like that which allow me to keep wading through the technological morass of corporate life towards whatever it is that's coming next.
(This post might be taken as evidence that I need to cut down on the coffee)
A really good argument in favour of linking out.
How to get "professional" online video right and wrong